Tedfest organisers plan to 'raise a glass' to late star Dermot
The organisers of Tedfest are planning a collective toast to Dermot Morgan this weekend as hundreds of Father Ted fans flock to the Aran Islands ahead of the 20th anniversary of the actor's death.
Tedfest, the annual madcap three-day celebration of the classic Channel 4 sitcom, is being staged for the 12th successive year from today in its spiritual island home of Inishmore.
More than 300 fans of the cult comedy are expected to flock to the Co Galway outpost for what has become one of the island's most lucrative weekends of the year.
Dozens of zany Craggy Island-themed events have been planned, including old favourites such as Ted's Got Talent and a Lovely Girls Competition.
However, organiser Peter Phillips said the main focus this year will be to commemorate in style the sitcom's late title star, Dermot Morgan, ahead of the 20th anniversary of his sudden death.
The Dublin comic, who starred as Father Ted Crilly, suffered a heart attack while hosting a dinner party in his London home on February 28, 1998.
His death came only a day after the 45-year-old had finished filming the last ever episode of the timeless sitcom.
Phillips said he expects the anniversary will add a special poignancy to this year's festival.
"It's hard to believe it's 20 years since we lost Dermot Morgan, and without him Father Ted wouldn't have been the classic comedy that it remains," he said.
"So we owe him a great deal, and everyone who's coming over will be acutely aware that his anniversary is approaching.
"When the time is right, we'll be paying a massive tribute to him and raising a glass. It should be the highlight of the festival."
Phillips, who is from Wales, also admitted he never expected the festival to become as popular as it has.
"I expected it to work, but I could never have imagined it would still be going 12 years later," he said.
"We owe a lot of its success in the early years to Gerry Ryan, as he plugged it a lot on his radio show.
"But I think the fact it takes place on an island has a lot to do with its appeal. It just wouldn't work as well if we had it in Dublin every year.
"It takes a lot of effort to get over here, so once people arrive they're hell-bent on having a good time.
"Father Ted is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.
"It was brilliantly written and acted, and I think in its own gentle way it encouraged people to question the Church and therefore made Ireland the more secular country it is today."
Tedfest XII will run until Sunday.