Festival promoter Sharon Alston is bringing the 1980s back to Kildare after life-changing injury
WHEN Englishwoman Sharon Alston landed a job in Ireland as a vet five years ago, little did she know she would become the promoter of the country’s biggest 80s music festival.
This weekend, enterprising Sharon will stage her second Forever Young three-day festival in the idyllic surrounds of Palmerstown House in Co Kildare.
A variety of 80s favourites, ranging from Marti Pellow and Bananarama to Paul Young will whet the appetite for nostalgia from a wonderful decade and will have thousands of fans reliving their youth, with camping, glamping, caravan and parking facilities all on offer.
This will be the second such festival relative newcomer Sharon has put on, and she has even won the plaudits of one of the country’s biggest promoters, Denis Desmond of MCD.
“He said, ‘Well young lady, you turn up on my patch, launch a festival on my turf without me even knowing about it and what’s more, it was brilliant’,” she laughs. “That coming from Denis is a great compliment.”
But there’s more to this festival than meets the eye as all proceeds go to an animal welfare charity Dr Sharon has set up.
“Our main focus is to provide surgeries that animals wouldn’t normally have because they’re out of reach or the owner doesn’t have the budget,” she explains.
“Basically, I wanted to launch the charity and we needed a big fundraiser and nobody was doing charity veterinary work and there wasn’t an 80s festival. I had been to loads (in England) and I thought Ireland needed a great party, so I set about setting it up.”
Sharon’s family hails from Liverpool and she’s lucky to be here — she had a horrific accident in 1984, when she was aged 14.
“I was riding a friend’s pony in her front garden and I fell into a rosebush. A piece of wood went through my head and my brain. It went in through my temple. I don’t remember any of it. I broke my arm and [had] lots of damage and woke up six months later. I’m very lucky to be alive,” she admits.
She struggled to catch up in school and left at the age of 16, finding a variety of jobs in sales and management. But her dream was to be a vet. “So I went back to school and put myself through school and college and got into vet school.”
The animal lover visited Ireland, the land of her ancestry, and soon fell in love with the country. So much so, that she started looking for a place for her and her coterie of pets to live here.
Sharon bought a pad in Mallow, Co Cork, and was also in a relationship with a local man there, but that came to an end.
Soon after, she turned into Ireland’s greatest show woman and now lives in Co Laois with her 12-year-old son, Ben.
“Running a festival is a full-time job for three people and I do most of it on my own,” she explains. “I cover for local vets when they are off to give them a break, but I’m not full-time veterinary at the moment.
“Once the charity is up and opening, because we have three festivals, I will be doing surgical work in the charities. So that’s the plan. I will be doing more veterinary when we have stronger roots for the festival and I have got more of a team to take care of a lot of the things I’m doing at the moment myself.”
Being a festival promoter has its bonuses — like getting to meet her idols.
“Like all young girls at that time, I had hundreds of posters on my wall,” she smiles. “But my biggest loves were Nick Heyward and Nik Kershaw, absolutely. They were the pin-ups.
“We have a great line-up with The Christians, Paul Young, OMD, Holly Johnson, Wendy James, Then Jerico and that's just off the top of my head – it’s just going to be amazing. Come and join us.”
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