The Happy Days festival has a budget of £300,000 (about $474,400), of which the greatest part comes from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, with smaller contributions from London 2012 and the local Enniskillen council.
“On the one hand, it’s a very tight budget for the diversity and scale of the program,” Mr. Doran said. “On the other, to get that funding in this part of the world is amazing.”
Enniskillen certainly seems to have embraced the festival with wide-open arms. Barbershops proposed “Beckett haircuts”; a local coffee shop offered “Endgame” (“Hamm and Clov”) and “Krapp” (“banana and Nutella”) sandwiches — all in-jokes for those familiar with the character names and actions in these plays. A fringe festival sprang up, to Mr. Doran’s astonishment, and the performances and events I attended all over town were consistently packed. Even a 5:30 a.m. reading on a small island that had to be reached by boat had around 50 people turn up.
“I think that Northern Ireland needs great cultural events for an international audience,” Mr. Doran said. “People don’t think to come to places that have the names and associations of Enniskillen and Belfast, but in using these spaces, all the different churches, the arts create places and encounters of natural conciliation.”
He paused. There was a lengthy Beckettian silence. Then he added: “My agenda is not about the politics. I want to do a world-class festival every year that, like Shakespeare and Stratford, or Mozart and Salzburg, will simply mean Beckett and Enniskillen.”
The funding will need to be maintained, at least in the short-term, if that amibition is to be achieved…