A great year laid bare for Cork arts and entertainment scene

By Des O'Driscoll

Some of the movers and shakers of the Cork arts and entertainment scene tell Des O’Driscoll about their highlights of 2018, and what they’re looking forward to over the next 12 months.

William Hammond

Cork Folk Festival

What was the best show/event you were involved with this year?

The Cork Folk Festival this year was a huge success, thousands of folk followers invaded the city for four days of busy music making. The highlight, no doubt was the charming Kate Rusby from Barnsley at the Opera House, not forgetting Seamus Begley and Jim Murray who nearly stole the show that night.

Máire Ní Chéilleachair also featured at the festival is having a great year, she was awarded Singer of the Year at the TG4Gradam Ceoil awards in February and in November won Corn Uí Riada. There is new wave of interest in folk music today with the likes of Lankum and Ye Vagabonds. These groups are bringing new audiences to folk music and new ways to present old songs.

What was the best show you saw elsewhere?

I was involved in running a massive concert to celebrate the life of Folk Festival founder and Set Dancing Master, Timmy ‘the Brit’ McCarthy who regretfully died last October. On Sunday 29th April, Timmy, his family, his friends from far and wide and 30 musicians all congregated into the Oliver Plunkett Bar for a day of fabulous songs, music and memories.

Timmy’s enthusiasm for real music started the folk festival and his influence will live on for generations to come.

Major issues in the arts world, or your own sphere, in 2018?

The passing of some of Ireland’s most creative musicians was a major event in traditional music. Micheál O’ Súilleabháin, composter, academic and pianist, Tommy Peoples gifted Donegal fiddle player, Liam O’ Flynn, world-class uilleann piper and member of Planxty and De Dannan bouzouki player Alec Finn all died in 2018. These four musicians who played with great passion and intensitywill godown in the annals of Irish music as great innovators.

Also in 2018 the movement Fair Plé, was mooted, it began earlier this year out of a need to address the gender imbalance in traditional and folk music by Karan Casey.

Event you’re involved in that you’re looking forward to for next year:

The Folk Festival will be celebrating its 40th year. We will be going back to our roots by presenting musicians who played at many of the 40 festivals since 1979. Everybody will be invited to take part including, Andy Irvine, Eliza & Martin Carthy, Granny’s Attic, musicians from Sliabh Luachra, Cuil Aodha and abroad. It will be a massive celebration and look out for surpriseevents and sessions.

Other event you’re most looking forward to for next year:

I’m looking forward to the Michael Dwyer Festival in Allihies in June. Michael was a renowned tin whistle player and composer from ArdgroomCo. Cork; he tragically drowned in Kenmare Bay in 1997. Each summer hundreds of musicians,singers and friends of Michael invade the little village of Allihies nestled in the Beara hills

Tony Sheehan

Triskel Arts Centre

Best event you were involved with this year?

Triskel was 40 this year, and we commissioned an array of projects across all the genres by artists from Cork and from around the World. Among the stand out concerts for me was Alternative History by tenor John Potter and lutenists Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Herringman — our 40th Birthday Concert, which had to be cancelled for its original date in March because of the snow and the Beast from the East.

We did it instead on Culture Night, to the delight of the packed and at times overflowing house that got the rare chance to hear this world-class music for free.

Best show you saw at another venue?

Pharaoh Sanders at the National Concert Hall. At 77 years of age he had lost none of his power, and so uplifting was his music that I thought he truly is a man sent to us by God to remind us about the beauty of the world especially in the hard times.

The Perspective series is one of the Concert Hall’s most brilliant, progressive and significant events, certainly in Jazz music, and long may it continue.

Major issues in the arts world, or your own sphere, in 2018:

Brexit. Our Gavin Bryars Ensemble beautiful Concert at Triskel in November also saw the launch of our new partnership with The British Council, which we hope will foster links beyond March of next year with artists, community groups and organisations of all kinds, regardless of what happens.

Gavin’s appearance — as one of Britain major living composers and a huge influence in the world of music— symbolised for me the depth of connection between our two countries, and certainly Culture and the Arts must lead in ensuring these connections are fostered and expanded, something fully supported by the British Council.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at your own venue:

In 2019 ECM – the renowned Jazz and Classical Record Label – celebrates 50 years, and, as their partners in Cork, Triskel will work with ECM tobring a celebration to Cork of some of the finest musicians in the world, with the support of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival – now reinvented and a highlight in the Irish music calendar. Event you’re looking forward to elsewhere:

The Crawford Gallery is delivering a truly world class programme of exhibitions and I’m particularly looking forward to the new solo show by artist Daphne Wright

Julie Kelleher


What was the best show/event you were involved with this year?

It was a huge thrill to give young playwright Rachel Thornton her professional debut producing her playBluetooth, as it was to stage John O’Brien’s phenomenal opera The Nightingale and the Rose. It meant a great deal for us to be able to take Kevin Barry’s Autumn Royal on a national tour, and for me personally to direct Martin McDonagh’s The LonesomeWest, as it’s a favourite of mine.

But for audience impact, reaching new audiences and being able to stand proudly on the national stage having premiered in Cork, our co-production with Landmark of Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It is the crowning achievement.

Best show you saw that you weren’t involved in?

CLASS by Iseult Golden & David Horan at the Peacock Theatre; Conor McPherson’s Girl From North Country (based on Bob Dylan songs) at the Noel Coward Theatre on the West End; and Tara Flynn’s Not a Funny Word here at the Everyman were all superb and really blew me away, albeit for very different reasons.

Name one or two of the major issues in the arts world, or your own sphere, in 2018:

The situation for performing artists and other freelance workers in the performing arts trying to make a living has never been more dire. The precarity of the work and the low pay relative tohours worked, compounded by the current housing situation and cost of living is causing severe burnout in the arts world and decimating our capacity to make great art. Connect with the National Campaign For the Arts to learn moreabout how we might change this – I know I’ll bedoing whatever I can on this in 2019.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at a different venue:

I’m really looking forward to The Stalls at Cork Opera House during Cork Midsummer Festival, the third instalment in a trilogy of hilarious and brilliantly performed short operas.

Ashley Keating

Cork Opera House

What was the best event you were involved with this year?

It would have to be Wizard of OZ. Seeing something so familiar from my childhood take shape from scratch and to be presented in such a different way whilst remaining true to the original was hugely emotional. The work that went into it was mind-blowing and director Wayne Jordan is a massive talent. The way the cast, crew, creatives and everyone in the Opera House rowed in behind it, made it a golden moment!

What was the best show you saw at another venue?

I saw Hadestown, a folk musical by Anaïs Mitchell in the National Theatre in London and it was great. The actual staging of the show was incredible. I walked into the show without really knowing much about it, something I rarely do these days, but it made it all the better because of that.

Major issues in the artsworld, or your own sphere, in 2018:

Trying not to repeat myself: I naturally have an affinity with music gigs and find these the easiest shows to book and run. But you need to push yourself into other genres and disciplines, even those you may

not be hugely familiar with. I’m into my sixth year in Cork Opera House now and I like to think I have an appreciation and understanding of most things, but it has been a huge learning curve.

View this post on Instagram

Introducing the stars of this years Panto - Aladdin! Opening Nov 29th 🧞 Frank Mackey returns as everyone's favourite Nanny Nellie, new to our stage are Kian Zomorodian as Aladdin and Caoimhe Garvey as Jasmine. We warmly welcome back Michael Grennell as Abanazar and the hilarious Adam Colbeck-Dunn returning for his fifth Cork Opera House production, playing Wishee Washee. Barry Keenan who plays our Genie is even turning blue for the occasion! Have you booked your tickets yet? Full press release here on our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. A big thank you to panto sponsors @avivaireland and our media partners @corksredfm. #Panto #pantocork #aladdin #aladdincork #LovePanto #CorkTheatre #ChildrensTheatre #LoveCork

A post shared by Cork Opera House (@corkoperahouse) on

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at your own venue:

It’s so hard to pick just one but I’m going to go with John Grant in March. His current album is amazing, I think he’s an incredible songwriter, one of the most honest lyricists working at the moment and I can’t wait to see the new songs in a live setting.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at a different venue:

New Order in Trinity College in July. I’ve been a huge fan since the beginning but they don’t play Ireland that much so can’t wait for this.

Mary McCarthy

Crawford Art Gallery

What was the best show/event you were involved with this year?

It was a big year for me starting in Crawford Art Gallery as director. We had many extraordinary moments here in 2018 — my personal highlight was the Naked Truth: The Nude in Irish Art opening night in July. A room full of energy — artists engaging with audiences.

What was the best event you saw at another venue?

Gavin Bryars’ recent concert at Triskel Arts Centre. They performed an unforgettable version of ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’. I’m still haunted by its beauty.

Major issues in the arts world, or your own sphere, in 2018:

Representation and relevance. How do we represent the Ireland of now in our organisations and how can we be relevant and actively contribute to the debates and discourses of now.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at your own venue:

The Recasting Canova project @Crawford from February 15. Our sculpture galleries are being reconfigured, repainted and reorganised to highlight Crawford Art Gallery’s amazing Canova Cast Collection. These sculptures have been in Cork for 200 years, have witnessed a lot and generated a lot of art works- now we will focus on their history and stories. It will be fun.

Event you’re most looking forward to fornext year at a different venue:

Next year’s Cork Mid-Summer Festival. The festival just completely animates the city with thought-provoking creative interventions. 2019 will be poignant, as we all miss the recently deceased chair Jane-Anne Rothwell and anticipate the programme for 2019 will capture her effervescence.

Joe Kelly

Live at St Luke’s

What was the best show/event you were involved with this year?

Crosstown Drift as part of the Cork Midsummer festival is always a very enjoyable day.

Hearing the O Bhéal poets and the Gab storytellers read and recite in beaming sun at Nano Nagle place was superb. The magical mystery bus trip with Pat McCabe and Doireean Ni Ghrîofa reading in Vertigo at county hall was spellbinding.

The finale in the Crawford Art gallery where we used five different rooms with poets, writers and musicians.

What was the best show you saw at another venue?

I am Tonie Walsh produced by ThisIsPopBaby and directed by Tom Creed was very enjoyable. I had never been to the Project Arts centre in Dublin so it was both great to see a new space and see Tonie strip himself bare.

A brilliant one-man play about Tonie’s life in Clonmel and Dublin as a gay man in a backward Ireland. Hopefully we might get it down to Cork next year.

Name one or two of the major issues in the arts world, or your own sphere, in 2018:

Popular music. It does more for Ireland culturally as an export product than any other musical form , yet it gets very little funding.Its unbelievable to see some of the funding that goes into other musical genres. I would look at the Canadian and New Zealand models where they support the export of their creatives and popular musicians.

It is deemed here that popular music is viable because it can sell. Trust me, there is a handful of musicians making a very good wage. Most struggle.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at your own venue, and why:

We have a lovely line up on St Patricks weekend, including Lankum joining forces with Jimmy Crowley. Also, the second It Takes A Village at Trabolgan in May, with Gilles Peterson, The Herbaliser and many more.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at a different venue:

Sounds From A Safe Harbour in September. 2016 was so good, and hopefully this one can come close.

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