“This is a very exciting day for us all,” said Byrne, introducing Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland programme at the Performing Arts Presenters Conference in New York City.
“It’s taken many, many trips back and forth across the Atlantic, and many meetings and discussions, to come to this point where we can offer a ‘wee’ definition of contemporary Irish culture,” Byrne said.
“Many people in America are familiar with WB Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and U2, but may not know a whole lot more beyond that. But Ireland has an ever-evolving culture, one that has seen a monumental re-imagining of the English language in the past, and is seeing a new wave of young artists embrace technology to express themselves in the future.”
The Imagine Ireland programme will see more than 1,000 artists and producers from Ireland create over 400 individual events across 40 states in the US throughout 2011. These will be in all forms, including theatre, music, literature, dance, film and the visual arts.
Among the theatre companies which will tour are the Abbey, Druid and the Gate, along with newer groups such as the Company and the Performance Corporation. There will also be a series of Irish film festivals in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and Seattle.
Writers such as Colum McCann, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín will present readings throughout the year, while musicians such as Julie Feeney, the Chieftains and the Irish Chamber Orchestra will tour across the US with support from the programme.
Imagine Ireland received an investment of €4 million from the Irish Government in Budget 2011.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister for Culture, Mary Hanafin, said: “Culture is the means by which most Americans encounter Ireland. It connects with the deep sense of pride and belonging of more than 40 million Irish-Americans, and also with the many millions of Americans who love art. We have invested in Imagine Ireland because the arts and culture are so vital to Ireland’s recovery, and it will bring Irish culture to new audiences and generations across America.”
Culture Ireland chief executive Eugene Downes spoke of his hope that the Imagine Ireland programme “will, by presenting renowned artists and ensembles alongside some of our most exciting emerging voices, seed relationships with new audiences and partners that will grow in the coming years”.
Speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn, was a guest at the launch.
“I applaud the Irish Government for its steadfast commitment to Irish arts abroad and I encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of Imagine Ireland’s wide array of upcoming events and enjoy the richness of Irish culture all year long.”
- Further details of the Imagine Ireland programme will be published in the Irish Examiner on Tuesday, January 11.