Written by Orla Egan
The 1st Cork Women’s Fun Weekend was held on 13-15th April 1984. The Fun Weekend is still running, and is now held during the first weekend in May each year in Cork.
Commenting on the beginnings of the Cork Women’s Fun Weekend in the 1980s, Helen Slattery says that “there was a lot of heavy-duty political women’s conference and discussions going on, and as an antidote we decided to have a weekend of just fun.” (Deirdre Walsh interview with Helen Slattery in LINC Cork’s Lesbian Magazine, Issue 2, May 2001)
A report on the 10th Cork Women’s Fun Weekend in Munster LGCN discussed the beginning of the Fun Weekends in 1984: “That was an era of serious politics. Struggles around contraception, abortion, divorce and the most elementary rights for lesbians and gays were the focus of virtually every meeting then. The Fun Weekend aimed to provide a space to recognise and celebrate the identity, culture and community that women were creating. A measure of its success has been the emergence of similar events in other places.” (“Fun Weekend” in Munster LGCN June 1993)
One of the interviewees in Jacqui O Riordan’s study of the WomensPlace notes that the fun weekend started off as a fundraiser for the Women’s Place library but then became a separate, self-funding project with any money made going to fund the weekend the following year. (Jacqui O Riordan The Womensplace B.A. Thesis, Sociology, Arts III, UCC, 1992.)
A number of Cork women’s bands were formed in the 1980s and they played at the Women’s Fun Weekends in the mid 1980s. These included bands called Brazen Bitch and Standing Ovulation.
Writing in 1988 Deirdre stated that the Women’s Fun Weekend was a time “when women from all over Ireland, and the rest of the world, come together in Cork to celebrate women’s culture and generally to have some fun. It’s a time to take a break from meetings, campaigns, housework, homework, all work and any kind of daily drudge……We intend it to be a weekend off for women and it is hoped also that it is an effective way of recognising our strength as women and of appreciating ourselves.” (Deirdre “Women’s Fun Weekend” in Women’s Space Issue 2, May/June 1988, Cork)
The Women’s Fun Weekend is still running, having skipped only one year since it began. Women travel from many parts of Ireland and from abroad to participate in the Fun Weekend. It helped to forge and foster relationships between women from Cork and elsewhere: Belfast,Galway,Dublin, London etc. I remember literally busloads of women travelling down from Belfast to attend the Cork Women’s Fun Weekend in the 1980s.
While initially the Women’s Fun Weekend was a mixed (lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual) event, it gradually became an event which is attended primarily by lesbians and bisexual women and a small number of straight women who are comfortable at lesbian events. It has been held in various venues over the years, with varying degrees of welcome! For many years the Women’s Fun Weekend socials were held in Moore’s Hotel on Morrison’s Island. More recently they have been held in the Silversprings Hotel.
The Cork Women’s Fun Weekend has become one of the key events in the Irish lesbian calendar. In a presentation at the 2000 Lesbian Lives conference in UCD, I noted how “every year in the middle of May lesbians come out of the woodwork to join in a weekend of fun and frolics in Cork.” The Cork Women’s Weekend is one of those “events and opportunities we create for the exploration, expression and celebration of lesbian culture – the kinds of events which recharge our batteries and give us the strength and motivation for political activity and for negotiating the daily stresses and perils of living in a society which does not support us as lesbians. Events which are time out from that, time that is lesbian centred and, most importantly, time that is fun.” (Orla Egan presentation at the 2000 Lesbian Lives Conference, WERRC, UCD, Dublin, February 2000)