LGBTQ+ ‘queen of matchmaking’ draws 1,000 queer folk for Valentine’s weekend

Eddie McGuinness and Paul Ryder pictured in promotional images for the 2019 Outing Festival.

Eddie McGuinness describes himself as “the queen of matchmaking with an Irish twist”, having spent thee past decade setting up people at a one-of-a-kind festival.

Since 2013, Eddie has been running the Outing Festival on an annual basis in County Clare, Ireland. It’s a matchmaking event that brings queer people together from all across the world.

“I wanted a festival that would bring people together from all different parts of the LGBTQ+ community,” Eddie tells PinkNews.

“Pride, in a way, does that – but it’s more of a protest and a stance of who and what we are. I wanted something fun and engaging.”

It’s not just about finding a romantic partner – the Outing Festival is also a chance for LGBTQ+ people to get together, have fun, and make friends. 

There’s music, laughter and plenty of craic at the Outing Festival. Each year they get famed Eurovision performers in to sing to the crowds. They’ve had Johnny Logan in the past, and this year Niamh Kavanagh will be taking to the stage.

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A crowd watching on at The Outing Festival in 2019.
A crowd watching on at The Outing Festival in 2019. (Supplied)

They also bring people on hikes, surfing, and on shopping trips, and in the evenings people can enjoy drag, bingo and spoken word poetry. 

If that’s not enough, there are Irish dancing classes and a bit of karaoke for good measure. On the romance front, there are blind dates, speed dating, and runs competitions like Mr and Mr, Mrs and Mrs and Mx and Mx.

“What’s most important is that this isn’t about finding someone to love, but more a friendship and breaking the ice,” Eddie says.

“It’s very difficult nowadays – especially those who are 30 plus and find it very difficult to find someone online. There’s no interaction, it’s all about the visual, but here it’s more about the talking, and believe me, we get people talking.”

He adds: “The festival itself is very much embracing. We try to encourage people of all different backgrounds – we have people of disability, of neurodiversity as well. It’s a very relaxed zone.”

Outing is responsible for at least one wedding, with another set to take place later this year.

Eddie McGuinness pictured in a promotional image for the 2019 Outing Festival.
Eddie McGuinness pictured in a promotional image for the 2019 Outing Festival. (Supplied)

It’s in that context that Eddie has earned the moniker “the queen of matchmaking”. 

“It was Willie Daly, the fourth generation matchmaker, who gave me the title ‘the queen of matchmaking’… naturally, going into his late seventies, he felt that he didn’t understand the LGBTQ [community], all the different aspects. He just heard the word ‘queen’ and instantly, he called me a queen,” Eddie laughs.

People fly in from all over the world to attend the Outing Festival. This year they’ve got people coming from Scotland, the United States, Canada, Sweden and Germany to find love and forge new connections. 

In total, they’re expecting more than 1,000 people to come through the festival during its run from 10 to 12 February.

“It’s a very big mixture of people,” Eddie says.

Eddie McGuinness on stage at the Outing Festival in 2019.
Eddie McGuinness on stage at the Outing Festival in 2019. (Supplied)

The Outing Festival was vital when it was set up a decade ago, but today it feels more important than ever. We’re living in a society where LGBTQ+ rights are too often under attack and where hate crimes are surging.

Eddie wants queer people to have a respite from the harsh realities of everyday life – a space where they can come together with others and sing along to Eurovision hits.

“Society can be very negative – let’s put a really good, positive twist on things. And there’s nothing like a little Irish jig in between.” 

The Outing Festival 2023 runs from 10-12 February. The 2024 festival will run from 8-11 February.

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