A free spirit, a bike and a festival.

Although the Why Not? Adventure Film Festival (WNAFF) is a relatively new festival, 2012 marking the first year, the idea for it actually started about 10 years ago.

Stephen Hannon, a lecturer in the Outdoor Education BA in GMIT Castlebar and past lecturer of mine first conceived of the idea of running the Irish Whitewater Shorts Film Festival in 2004. Films entered could be no longer than 10 minutes. The idea for the festival grew out of a desire for people to see a wide selection of kayaking adventures (and misadventures) from Ireland and abroad.

Stephen and students (including me) ran the festival for four years during which time it evolved to include professional and amateur films from all adventure sports genres. Over the four years what we wound up with was a great grassroots festival with a variety of films, often an introduction from the filmmakers and pints in the bar afterwards.

The festival finished up in 2008. Not for any particular reason. It was a good festival. It had just run its course. It needed to be taken to the next level and there was no one available or willing to do that.

In the interim the Wee Adventure Film Festival had started in Dublin. This was fantastic. There’s such a good pedigree of adventurers in Ireland. Both past and present, the hardcore and the weekend warriors. It seemed a shame not to be sharing that with the world. Sadly the Wee Adventure Film Festival ‘shuttered’ in 2012. It too had run its course. All of which was very serendipitous for me.

During the summer of 2011 a good friend of mine Daithi, a legend of a man and the definition of a free spirit announced his plans to cycle from Ireland to India. One day during his daily 20km round trip cycle to work as a barman at his cousin’s pub in Spiddal (county Galway) the daft bugger got it into his head that he should cycle to India. Sure why not? It would be mighty criac! And that was that. When his work season ended Daithi, man of action, picked up his bike and cycled off towards the sunset and India.

WNAFF in the press. 2012
Press clipping from 2012

One cold November morning, not long after Daithi had announced his plan to cycle to India I was bobbing about in the line up at Easkey left daydreaming about Daithi’s pending adventure. To be able to drop everything and embark on such an adventure!  I found it really inspiring. It was so accessible. So doable. So brilliantly simple. All Daithi needed was some money and a bicycle. True, not everyone could do what Daithi was doing. Everyone’s life circumstances are unique. People have children, mortgages, box sets of Game of Thrones to watch. But everybody, e.v.e.r.y.b.o.d.y, is capable of challenging themselves and undertaking their own adventure. No matter how small. My wife recently completed a 2,200km cycle in tough conditions through challenging terrain in South East Asia. Before that ‘cycle’ she had never cycled more than 5km. Ever. Every adventure starts with a few small steps. Every adventure starts outside your front door.

Bobbing about in the surf I thought to myself that more stories like Daithi’s need to be told for one simple reason. It may inspire someone to get outside more. We will all be dead one day. It’s rather final. On our death bed’s we are unlikely to ever wish that we had spent another day in the office. Life is brief. Wonderful. But brief.  In my experience far too many people in Western cultures defer their lives.  Many of us, myself included, unconsciously wind up with a ‘deferred life plan’. One in which we say to ourselves that life has to wait. Once I’ve finished establishing a career, raising the children, retired, earned enough money or paid off my mortgage then I’ll start really living. Then I’ll go explore, embrace the outdoors and seek out my own adventures. We put things off. We get over whelmed by the urgent and forget about what’s really important.  

So with this fresh inspiration courtesy of Daithi I went about setting up an adventure film festival. One I hoped would inspire people the way I had been by Daithi and many other adventurers.  I wanted to start an adventure film festival that reflected the passion and creativity that adventure sport documentary filmmakers pour into their films.

One of the speakers fom 2014capacity crowd 2014
2014 speaker Mike O'Shea                         Capacity crowd Galway 2014

And here we are, coming into our 4th year as a festival. We’ve quite a ways to go before the festival fulfils my vision for it. In its current format it’s less innovative than I’d like.  But those obstacles are born more of time and money.  Not lack of visiion.

By far the biggest reward for me, joking!  No, by far the biggest reward for me has been the feedback we’ve gotten. The people who have told us that they feel inspired after attending the festival and talking to other like minded people and that they’re now plotting their own adventures for the year ahead. That blows me away. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I hear that. That’s not to say  we haven’t gotten some less positive (but constructive)  feedback either. For instance last years rather ambitious film marathon and subsequent late finishing time frustrated some people. However these are mistakes of ambition. Not sloth. And importantly, are easily fixed.

  I’m really looking forward to our 2015 events in Galway, Castlebar, Dublin and Cork. I feel that 2015 will be an important year for WNAFF. And I’m excited about what the future holds. It’s all one big adventure!!

What people have said.

Special Mention
A special mention  needs to go out to all the volunteers how've helped over the last 3 years. Over 20 in total. Especially Stephen Ward, Martin 'Maverick' O'Donoghue and Charlotte Haffner who were instrumental in making WNAFF a reality.

Got something to say? Suggestions for the festival? Or maybe some inspiration you'd liike to  share. We'd love to hear from you in the comment section below.

You can flollow us on Twitter @whynotadventure or Facebook /wnaff.

GMIT Outdoor Education Degree (Hons) course
Castlebar Adventure Film Festival

Last modified onSunday, 06 September 2015 12:26

1 comment

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