Funding for the Skibbereen Arts Festival doubled this year, just in time to help the annual event celebrate its ten-year milestone.
Festival co-founder and director Declan McCarthy, speaking at the festival’s opening moon-themed fancy dress street party, said the budget increase, from €10,000 to €20,000, meant a significant gain for the festival.
“Now, we certainly see the festival as something sustainable that we’ve built,” said Mr McCarthy.
“Hopefully you’ll be able to attend events at Skibb Arts Festival in 10 or even 20 years’ time, although hopefully you’ll be talking to someone else if you’re here in another ten years. The time will come to hand it over to a new generation.
“The festival started very small and grew organically. The extra funding has been great, but we’re still a small festival and heavily dependent on the work of our volunteers, and we always aim to programme lots of affordable and accessible events to attract festival-goers of all kinds.”
Following an opening lunar-themed street party on Friday night, where residents and businesses stepped out in style to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, the festival continues until August 4.
Highlights this year include musical performances by internationally renowned Malian pop duo Amadou and Mariam performing alongside Grammy-winning gospel choir the Blind Boys of Alabama, a visual arts trail at venues throughout the town, and the popular Blindboy live podcast, with one half of satirical rap duo the Rubberbandits.
Mr McCarthy said the decade the festival has been operating for has coincided with a period of regrowth for the town that has seen it become a much happier place than it was 10 years ago.
“Local support for the festival started very small. There was probably some suspicion there of some of the artier elements of it, but events like the annual pageant are great for getting the local community behind it. Even with that, the first couple of years people were slow to start dressing up and getting involved. Now, people show up and say they feel silly for not dressing up.”
The street party event saw hundreds of residents and visitors enjoy entertainments including a specially commissioned Moon Band, comprising members of St Fachtna’s brass band, Island Vibes Women’s choir, and a four-piece rock band, performing on an outdoor stage on Bridge St.
Anne-Marie Naughton grew up in Skibbereen but now lives in Bishopstown with her husband and their children Aisling and Davin; the family were on hand with Aisling and Davin in fancy dress. She said the arts festival is now an eagerly anticipated feature of the annual calendar, and something she travels from the city especially to attend.
“We go to a couple of events every year, and so do my parents, who still live in the area,” she said.
“Next weekend, my husband and I will come down specially to go to a music event.