In an emotion-charged night a year ago, hundreds of delegates cheered to
the rafters as the Kinsale Awards Festival came adrift in a sea of
Murphy’s Irish Stout. Were they cheering Tony Kaye’s latest award? No.
Was it for a scintillatingly witty speech from John Hegarty? Not this
They were cheering the amazing Steve Collins beating all kinds of
bejasus out of Chris Eubank. The big fight had coincided with the final
awards evening, and the Kinsale organisers had arranged for delegates to
view the fight on a big screen immediately after the awards ceremony.
Imagine that happening at D&AD. Kinsale is different. Different in so
many ways from other advertising festivals.
Take the juries. Over the years they have been packed with some of the
most statesman-like figures in advertising and films. People like Ed
McCabe, Jerry Della Femina, Jay Chiat, John Hegarty and Tony Cox. The
juries are tight, compact, usually about six people, so there’s no block
voting. And they don’t arrive with any preconceived ideas about who
should get the awards.
But awards are not the main reason people go there. Most people go
because they’ve been before. They arrive and pick up conversations where
they left off the previous year. They come to renew old friendships. To
meet like-minded colleagues in the industry. To enjoy the finest seafood
on the planet and to quaff the local brews along the most beautiful
coastline that God created.
Undoubtedly the delegates themselves are different. Calmer, kinder,
cheerier, wittier. And yes, I must say it, drunker. The majority of them
come from the UK and Ireland. A plane-load usually comes in from
Australia. And, for some reason, the place is hugely popular with Finns.
The festival is usually completely devoid of posers - probably because
anyone who gets out of line is thrown into the sea - a policy that would
improve Cannes no end, except there wouldn’t be any delegates left.
In comparison with other awards events, I would say the judging is, at
the very least, equal to the best of them, and better than most. The
social side is leagues ahead of anything else I’ve ever attended. And
the place itself? Well, as they say locally, it’s where God goes on
Other things, like workshops, talks, etc. Well they’re there too. And
people tell me they’re pretty good.
Does Kinsale have a downside? Yes, it most certainly does. It comes to
an end. But that’s only to give you time to recharge the batteries for
Ian Hutton is deputy creative director of J. Walter Thompson