Peter Hurley is known to Romanians as the “Irishman who organizes the Festival in Săpânţa”, in the northern Romanian region of Maramureş.
Peter Hurley says he fell in love with Romania forever in 1994 when he first visited the country. He learnt to speak Romanian perfectly, he wears Romanian traditional costumes quite naturally and in 26 years of living in Romania he came to the conclusion that Romanians have extraordinary positive energy despite the many difficulties they have been facing. Peter has also persuaded his relatives from Ireland that Romania is the best choice for living one’s life, so, upon his advice, one of his sisters, a nutritionist from Dublin, spent a year and a half in the Danube Delta as a volunteer. She enjoyed her stay so much that later she returned to Romania together with her husband, this time as a tourist.
Here is Peter Hurley with details on his first encounter with Romania: “I could say that I have spent more than half of my life in Romania. My granddaughter, who came here to see me 2 years ago, told me that I looked more Romanian than Irish. That’s what I believe myself, I think that I have become a Romanian. When I came to this country, I didn’t know much about it. All I knew was that I wanted to emigrate and go to any country in Eastern Europe. At that time, a friend of mine, an Irishman, was working in Romania and asked me if I wanted to go there too. That happened more than 22 years ago when we were both very young. It was only later that I looked for the location of Romania on the map. This urge to go and live in Eastern Europe materialized in the summer of 1993, when I went to Prague for a few days. It was then that I realized that I knew very little about the world I was living in, because I had never asked myself what was going on behind the Iron Curtain.”
After having worked in advertising for 15 years, Peter Hurley decided to set up an intercultural association focusing on traditions, and he started to promote Romania, a country that became his second motherland. So, in 2010 Peter Hurley managed to set up the first intercultural festival in Romania called “The Long Road to the Merry Cemetery”. He used all his savings to organize the festival, which made quite an impression, especially through the symphony concert given on a meadow in Săpânţa by 120 artists from Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Romania.
Here is Peter Hurley back at the microphone: “I thought that I could do something here, I could promote Romanian culture myself. So, in the first 15 years of living in Romania, I did was I used to do back in Ireland, namely advertising. It was in the past 6 years that I took up things that I really believed in. At the beginning of this new experience, when I decided that I should promote Romania, I asked myself how that strong spirituality could be born out in the Romanian space, and I realized that its roots were in villages. That’s how the idea to hold a cultural event in a village crossed my mind, in 2007, when I was still working in advertising. It was a memorable evening, when I met Nicu Covaci, the leader of the band Phoenix, who told me about the resemblance between Dacians and Celts, about the similarities between our cultures. It was then that I thought of exploring the similarity between the Irish and Romanian music as part of a cultural event. Since 2007 I have been looking for a concept to suit our ideas. And in 2009 a famous Irish composer, Shaun Davey, composed an extraordinary piece inspired by the inscriptions on the tombstones in the Săpânţa cemetery. And since Shaun Davey is considered the most important living Irish composer, and his music, inspired by the Săpânţa epitaphs, was highly appreciated, I thought I had to do something to promote it”.
The 7th edition of the festival entitled “The Long Road to the Merry Cemetery” will be unfolding between August 14- 21, starting from the concept “The United States of Maramureş”. Peter Hurley says that in an impressive and remarkable community effort, all the 63 villages in the Maramureş Area have mobilized to bring their contribution to this festival, each contributing a smaller or greater event. The festival will give participants the opportunity to discover the authentic values of the Romanian traditional village, Peter Hurley added. (translation by Lacramioara Simion)