Midsummer Festival rewards initiative

Artists are invited to submit ideas for development, reports Colette Sheridan

THE Cork Midsummer Festival has announced a potentially exciting new strand: ‘We Live Here’ will provide a platform for artists living in Cork to produce their work as part of this year’s festival (June 21-30).

Interested parties are invited to apply for the initiative which will see three or four companies or individuals developing innovative new work in the performing arts. They will be given modest financial support as well as significant artistic, technical, marketing and production back-up. This platform will have a strong focus on theatre and dance but it is also open to live performance in music, opera, the visual arts or outdoor arts.

Artistic director of the festival, Tom Creed, points out that the midsummer event has always been a catalyst for the development of emerging artists in the city and says that he has been “part of that story”.

“My career as a professional director started at the Cork Midsummer Festival with productions such as Soap and Dark Week. It’s really important for me to try and present opportunities like that for a new generation of artists.

“The festival has had such success for artists like Ray Scannell, Lynda Radley, Ursula Rani Sarma, Enda Walsh and Hammergrin Theatre Company. ‘We Live Here’ is an opportunity for us to try and identify the most exciting artists living and working in Cork who might benefit from the support of the festival.”

While the festival’s Solstice residency programme has been a big success for up-and-coming artists presenting their work, the ‘We Live Here’ initiative aims to be more hands-on regarding the support it gives.

“We’re looking for artists involved in new work who are making a commitment to working in the city. We’re scraping together what money we can. It’s something that could be very attractive to a sponsor interested in being associated with discovering exciting new work in Cork.”

A couple of thousand Euros will be made available to each of the successful artists /companies accepted onto the programme. Box office profits will be split between the artists and the festival. “We’d like to have a lot more money to give people but given current financial circumstances, our resources are limited. However, we’ll be providing venues, technicians and marketing advice as well as mentoring.”

Creed says the artistic scene in Cork is thriving: “A whole generation of artists came out of UCC twelve or thirteen years ago and started making work for the festival. Then a lot of us moved away after the Capital of Culture year in 2005 as there were other opportunities elsewhere.”

Creed worked as the associate director at Rough Magic in Dublin and as a theatre and dance curator for the Kilkenny Arts Festival. His freelance work included directing a play for the Abbey Theatre. He returned to take up the job with the Cork Midsummer Festival a year and a half ago.

In a city like Cork, “things happen in waves. You had a generation years ago that gave rise to Corcadorca Theatre Company and the Gare St Lazare Players, and there were people like Fiona Shaw and Graham Norton who were in Dramat (UCC’s Dramatic Society) before that”.

Now, Creed detects “exciting work that’s happening in theatre in Cork involving people just starting out who could really benefit from our support. It feels like a lot of artists are staying in Cork and that’s one of the things that ‘We Live Here’ is responding to.”

Along with most other arts organisations, the Cork Midsummer Festival suffered a funding cut, albeit a small one, this year.

“We’ve been cut by 2.85% so now our grant from the Arts Council is €170,000. Fáilte Ireland and Cork City Council are also incredibly supportive and have really worked at maintaining their level of grants to us. We’re working hard to raise money from new sources of sponsorship such as philanthropy. We haven’t yet confirmed our budget for this year. We are getting additional funding from The Gathering and the EU presidency. We’re also trying to raise sponsorship money.”

Thanks to The Gathering, “we’ll be able to present a big Bonfire Night event. That event is about creating a focal point for the festival. It could become as iconic for the festival as the Macnas Parade in Galway”.

While there has been criticism of The Gathering, Creed sees it as “an opportunity to promote what we’re doing and to invite people back to Cork for the festival. I think it could be invaluable. ”

*The application deadline for ‘We Live Here’ is February 1. A CV and cover letter as well as examples of recent work and details of the proposed project should be sent to Tom Creed at info@corkmidsummer.com or Civic Trust House, 50, Pope’s Quay, Cork.

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