Picnic In The Park

The Undertones headline a family-friendly day out in Derry, writes Garbhan Downey

While Londoners finish their summer season with the Last Night of the Proms at the Albert Hall, the people of Derry celebrate theirs with a massive family party in Brooke Park.

It’s almost three decades since the Undertones hosted their first gig here – a CND concert, which was serviced by a 60ft electric cable strewn across a major roadway into a friendly neighbouring house. And there’s three reasons the city’s favourite sons would have been particularly happy with this fifth Picnic in the Park in 2010.

One, they now have their own electricity supply. Two, the majority of the dancers up front wouldn’t even have been born when the Undertones reformed. And three, John O’Neill has now acquired the coolest yellow shirt in rock and roll history.

Oh, and they also sound better than ever. Paul McLoone, who replaced Feargal Sharkey in the late 1990s, is an energetic and theatrical frontman, and a damned good singer to boot. He’s not a bad looking fella, either. When he sings ‘I wanna, wanna be a male model’, you don’t get the same sense of irony off the lyric as you did when his predecessor was singing it.

There’s always a lot of fun with the Undertones too. They read requests for birthdays, josh happily with promoter Eddie Kerr about the damp weather and then all point up ruefully, mid-song, when the sun briefly appears. They even crack a joke about poor old Man United’s disastrous day out at Everton [which, it has to be said, reflects badly on them according to some CNI staff].

In a nice segue, they dedicate ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ to second-on-the-bill Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas, who sang the hit on BBC Radio Foyle’s morning programme in a pre-bash promo the previous day.

The Enchiladas set is also wonderful, if too short. But thankfully opportunities to see the Nashman & Co deliver are becoming a lot more plentiful. And the smart money says that this band is going to get busier and busier still.

Other acts who light up the greying skies in this one-day festival include the Wonder Villains, the Border Blues Project, the City of Hope Choir, the Cannibals, classical musicians Sarah Murphy and Sean Woods, and the multicultural drummers of Harmonicity.

In between times, there is lots to keep the younger children entertained, including organised sports, clowns, jugglers, balloon modellers and samba bands - all in a safe, alcohol-free environment.

For those who didn’t pack a picnic, the Changaro Trust fired up their now legendary barbecue to feed the masses and raise a few pounds for their street children’s refuge in Kenya.

Special nods must go the Friends of Brooke Park group, Seeds and Derry City Council for establishing this event as a permanent fixture on Derry’s cultural calendar. And none of it would have happened without Sharon Meehan, Jim Collins and Ollie Green. Well done to all.