Festival review: Quarter Block Party

North and South Main Streets, Cork
****

Quarter Block Party. Sing Along Social at BDSM. Pic: Bríd O'Donovan

By Eoghan O'Sullivan

Now in its fourth year, Quarter Block Party, an arts festival that takes place around North and South Main St in Cork, has a newfound confidence.

Weekend and day tickets are gone early, free gigs in the middle of the afternoon have queues out the door, and the programme itself is ready to try new and adventurous ideas among what it already does best.

The new ideas start with Alison Spittle, one of the rising stars of comedy, who tells us she fought to get the word ‘shift’ into her RTÉ show Nowhere Fast.

The suits weren’t sure, but Spittle says she was willing to walk if she didn’t get her way, also revealing her first shift, as boys lined up by a telephone pole to kiss her in order to get to her friend.

Focusing on the little things is what Spittle, born in London before moving to Westmeath, does best.

Her parents are a focal point — Spittle’s idea of ‘pregnancy notices’ to rival the radio’s (and her mother’s) death notices will sound good to some.

Her frankness about counselling — and standing your ground over money, when it comes to missed sessions and phone calls from said psychologist — shows that finally Irish comedy is ready for a new and different kind of hero, the Worrier Princess.

Rado Mná is a multidisciplinary event where none of the attendees really knew what they were getting into.

Alison Spittle performing at An Spailpin Fanach for Quarter Block Party arts festival in Cork's Historic Quarter. Pic: Bríd O'Donovan

The event, according to its programme, “seeks to reclaim lost voices and frequencies between women and the world”.

Mixing poetry, dance, soundscapes, and pagan-style rituals, the event takes place in Triskel Christchurch at midnight and is powerful, and timely.

“Who will march for us?” pleads spoken-word artist Felispeaks, in between poet Róisín Kelly’s invocations and Inma Pavon’s wrestling/smothering with a wedding veil.

The imagery doesn’t take much parsing.

The music programme at the festival is Irish-focused, featuring myriad genres, new acts and returning heroes.

O Emperor fit in the latter category, drawing a big crowd of admirers to the versatile Amp venue on Hanover Street.

New single ‘Make It Rain’ offers a groovy glimpse of what their next album will hopefully sound like.

Powpig, meanwhile, are something else entirely.

A teenage four piece from Limerick, they sing some songs about not wanting to go to school and others influenced by the (terrible) cult film The Room.

“Are you happy now?” they shout in unison — the answer, after a stellar weekend, is obvious.


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