IRELAND has always been known as the island of a thousand welcomes. That moniker might soon be replaced by the land of a thousand festivals.
In the last number of years every town, village and hole in the ground has found an excuse to celebrate something unique to their area. With so much going on it can be difficult to separate the wheat festivals from the chaff.
Here we ask five experts from the world of arts and media to give their cultural recommendations for the final weeks of the summer. We also ask them what reading is on their bedside table.
My reading recommendation is Glenn Patterson’s The Rest Just Follows. The book follows the lives of three Northern Irish friends from their 11-plus exams in the 1970s through to where they find themselves in post-peace process Northern Ireland. Yes, the Troubles are in the background throughout but political allegiances and religious denomination are incidental to the lives of all three. Patterson shows that even in one of the most politically-charged periods of Northern Ireland’s history the ordinary lives of ordinary people had to continue and it is that ordinariness that becomes extraordinary.
I’m very much looking forward to the Dublin Theatre Festival which starts this year on September 25. There are two plays in particular. Vardo which is the fourth part of Anú Productions’ Monto Cycle. The previous three, World’s End Lane, Laundry and The Boys of Foley Street were hard-hitting, site-specific performances where the line between acting and reality was very difficult to spot. I’m also excited about Mark O’Rowe’s new play at the Abbey, Our Few and Evil Days, directed by the writer himself and which has a very strong cast in Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Sinéad Cusack, Ciarán Hinds, Charlie Murphy and Ian Lloyd Anderson.
There are so many free events nationwide on Culture Night which is on Fri September 19 this year. Arena will be broadcasting a three-hour extravaganza live from Meeting House Square in Dublin. The RTÉ Concert Orchestra and a host of bands will be joined by the best of Irish acting, comedy and writing talent. I guess I’ll have to be there as I’m presenting it but if I wasn’t I’d either be in the audience or listening on RTÉ Radio 1 from 7:00pm.
I have a pile of books on my bedside locker waiting to be read. I am half-way through John Kelly’s From Out of the City which I’m really enjoying and I loved Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent. Next up is, Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner. Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars during the 1940s and 50s. Gardner asked Peter Evans, a veteran journalist she had never met, to ghostwrite her memoirs. This is the result but it had to wait for publication until after her death, because Gardner feared it was too revealing. Then 23 years after her death, her estate agreed to let Evans finally tell his tale. Sadly, he died just after completing the manuscript, but the book has finally been published.
Dial M for Murder (Friday August 15 National Concert Hall) sees the RTÉ Concert Orchestra accompany excerpts from Hitchcock’s most famous films. For any Hitchcock fan, this will be a real treat. The evening will feature excerpts on the big screen from classic murder, mystery and & suspense movies, with live orchestral accompaniment, including To Catch A Thief (Lyn Murray), Strangers On A Train (Dimitri Tiomkin), Dial M for Murder (Dimitri Tiomkin) and North By Northwest (Bernard Herrmann). Suspense, mistaken identity, sinister plots and wonderful music.
I’m really looking forward to Ballyturk in The Olympia in Dublin. An Enda Walsh play is always an exciting event. Add to it three brilliant actors, Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea and it sounds like a match made in heaven. I wondered if this play would live up to all the hype but the reviews have all been superb. nwww.olympia.ie
I’m planning on re-reading Factotum by Charles Bukowski, because it seems like a lifetime ago when I first read it. There’s also a book called Bake In Black that’s about to be published. It’s described as a Rock and Heavy Metal-inspired baking cookbook. How cool does that sound?
I’d love to get to University College Cork to take a look at the Sir Henry’s exhibition . That place saw the birth and early years of so much great music, and its cultural importance is vastly overlooked.
It’s the obvious one; The Electric Picnic. 2fm will be there again, so I’m looking forward to being part of the coverage, and catching as many acts as I can.
It’s always a great festival, and this year’s line-up looks pretty damn good: Portishead, Bantum, Jungle, The Blades, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Outkast.
There’s a long list!
If I get the time to actually read one I think it’ll have to be a How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. I was disappointed to miss her recent Vicar Street gig. She’s an English author and journalist and she is very ‘now’. She’s very much the working class girl and grew up in a family of eight. I have friends who have met her and say she is brilliant in the flesh. Her articles in The Times of London always make me laugh. How to Build a Girl is loosely based on her difficult teenage years growing up and I think it will be a must read.
It’s got to be Electric Picnic the end of August, or EP as the young people now call it. The Pet Shop Boys are playing and I have never seen them live. I was a huge fan growing up in the 1980s and I’m really looking forward to seeing them. Songs like ‘Being Boring’ ‘Domino Dancing’ and ‘Rent’ were a fabric of my childhood. As I get older I’m embracing outdoor festivals a little more which is strange really because in my 20s I ignored them. I’m borrowing my friend’s dad’s camper van. What Have I, What have I, What have I done to deserve this....
For me it’s the Horse Show in the RDS If you have visited the RDS for a Leinster Rugby game or a rock concert the layout doesn’t really make any sense. But everything comes to life during the horse show and all those empty stables and paddocks are full of stunning horses. For me it isn’t the showjumping but the craic and the trade fair. There is a real buzz to the event which would put a smile on anyone’s face, not to mention the pretty horsy set in the champagne tent.
Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation is a new book by world traveller and West Cork based Elizabeth Pisani. Her previous book The Wisdom of Whores explored the hidden agendas and anomalies behind the fight against AIDS world-wide. In her new book she opens up an amazing country, Indonesia, with a mixture of political analysis and direct observation from her extensive travels within the country. It’s an enthralling read.
&I’m a big fan of the Firkin Crane in Shandon, Cork. They have consistently high quality dance performances and their summer programme Blank Canvas Intensive 2014 invites people to come along for lessons. That’s on at lunchtime and it’s free.
There’s a fascinating event in Waterford called Beasts of Lismore. It’s an exhibition and self guided tour of Lismore, with various imaginative interventions by New Zealand- born artist Nicky Deeley. Much of the fun is working out what is real and what has been invented by her very fertile imagination. This is great for kids and adults.
Arts, comedy, puck, beer, and much more
A shoe in. Slickly produced and always good value for money, this festival has now been going for 10 years. Highlights for this year’s festival include artist Kathy Prendergast’s first solo exhibition in five years while we can also expect something weird, wonderful and thought-provoking from artists Heather and Ivan Morrison. Elysian Quartet make their Irish debut while Tommy Tiernan and David O’Doherty will provide the laughter at this year’s event.
Now in its 401st year Puck Fair has something of a mixed reputation.
It’s inevitable there’s going to be a bit of a knees-up at an event where a goat is crowned king, and yes, people are known to have the occasional refreshment, but in recent years organisers have done a great job in turning this age-old festival into a fun family event. Officially events last for 12 hours a day. Unofficially, Killorglin turns into a village version of New York — the town that never sleeps. Don’t miss the horse trading. Mighty.
The Connemara capital has been hosting an arts festival of some sort for the last 37 years.
Hidden away behind the beautiful Twelve Bens for a long time, the festival has begun to come to the fore in recent years. This year’s event features poetry from Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Paul Durkan while Jimmy MacCarthy and Rob Strong are just some of the musicians among an impressive line-up of mainly home-grown talent.
Any excuse to go to Doolin is a good excuse. The town’s Craft Beer Festival is back for a third year with great beers from craft brewers all around Ireland, Clare’s best musicians, and plenty of food from local producers. The main event will run from a marque in the Gardens of Hotel Doolin but you can be sure there will plenty to do around the town.
According to one source this festival started off as a farmer’s market and a day when men proposed to their fiancee. This year’s festival includes pig racing, busking, a town treasure hunt, a car treasure hunt and a children’s fantasy football event. If that doesn’t float your boat there’s a peat stacking competition. Five days of good family fun in one of the remotest parts of Mayo.
Now in its sixth year, the Harvest Festival takes time to celebrate and enjoy the bounty of the harvest. The festival market, which will run over three days, will showcase the fantastic produce of the region. With plenty to tickle your taste buds, tantalising smells and toe tapping sounds, this event is one that the whole family will enjoy. There will be demonstrations, tastings and even movies about food.
Another relative new comer, this festival is only in its fourth year but is already causing something of a stir. It features live comedy, which this year includes a visit from Pat Shortt, music, street theatre, discussion panels and the very best of short film both in comedy and social commentary. There are also events for children including circus acts and theatre workshops. The festival concludes with yet another world record attempt for the largest number of Charlie Chaplin look-a-likes in one place.