Light Moves Festival of Screendance this wknd

light_moves_bookinIreland’s only festival dedicated to dance on film and video art with movement as a central theme—The Light Moves Festival of Screendance—takes place in Limerick this weekend (19-22 Nov) and will screen 55 works by 92 national and international artists.

Highlights of this year’s programme include the European premiere of 24 Frames Per Second, a multi-arts commission by Carriageworks, Australia’s leading contemporary arts centre; Performance artist Nigel Rolfe; Renowned UK choreographer Siobhan Davies in a public interview; a special screening of Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, a screendance symposium & lab, and children’s workshops.

Now in its second year, Light Moves “is a response to the vibrant and expanding area of dance film/screendance in Ireland”.

light_moves_drawing_restraint_9Curated by Jürgen Simpson and Mary Wycherley, the festival combines feature films, invited works, open submissions and explorations of screendance with some of the most respected figures in this field.

24 Frames Per Second sees 10 discrete artworks presented at Dance Limerick, LSAD (Limerick School of Art and Design) and an outdoor installation on Lower Cecil Street.  This partnership with Light Moves, which is a European premiere, embraces an expanded notion of dance, with the selected artists practising embodied movement in a variety of forms.

Among the feature films presented this year, a festival highlight will be the special screening of Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, the most complex instalment in an ongoing series, begun in 1987, which seeks to explore “resistance as a pre-requisite for development and a vehicle for creativity”.

A new addition to this year’s programme is the invitation to leading figures in the dance/screendance and performance world to share their experiences through a guest talk. Seminal performance artist, Nigel Rolfe, will give a talk entitled The Caught In Between and Nigel’s works Track and Into the Mire will be screened as part of the Invited Works programme. Renowned British choreographer Siobhan Davies will be in public conversation with the Light Moves curators.

light_moves_carriageworks_gapsIn addition to works invited to the festival, almost 40 open submissions with movement as a central theme will be presented.  Over 140 submissions were received from 30 countries in response to an international open call, with those to be shown selected by the festival curators.

An important element of the festival programme will once again be the Light Moves Screendance Symposium, which takes place over two half-days during the festival. The theme of the symposium is ‘Peeling Away the Layers’ and there will a keynote address and various speakers.

Speaking at the launch of the programme for Light Moves 2015, festival curator Mary Wycherley said:“We present a festival of opportunities which offers new and thought-provoking ways of engaging with performance and movement on screen. The works presented explore and expand the notion of choreography, enabling the body to take centre stage whilst advocating screendance as a way of both making film and thinking about film and dance.”

The event is produced by Dance Limerick, in partnership with DMARC (Digital Media and Arts Research Centre) at University of Limerick. Light Moves was established in 2014 as a legacy project under Limerick City of Culture.

Full details and booking information from www.lightmoves.ie

Movies meet Dance at Light Moves Festival from Nov 6-9

LightMoves cover_ Beach Party AnimalLight Moves, Ireland’s first festival celebrating dance on film, is taking place in Limerick from this Thursday, November 6 to November 9.

Hot on the heels of the very successful Richard Harris Film Festival, this innovative new festival—supported by City of Culture—will see “beautiful, funny and engaging films for all ages” screened at 69 O’Connell Street and Dance Limerick.

Featuring over 60 works from 18 countries, the festival programme includes short films, full length films and family screenings, plus installations and documentaries selected from an open call—all designed to entertain, provoke and invite discussion.

Light Moves is curated and directed by Mary Wycherley and Jürgen Simpson in collaboration with Dance Limerick and DMARC (University of Limerick), with additional support from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.  Light Moves is a Limerick City of Culture legacy project.

Absent InstinctsThe Light Moves programme highlights include the comical ballet Playtime, directed by Jacques Tati, which will be the Irish premiere of the newly restored digital version of the classic film, as well as Alexander Sokurov’s masterpiece Russian Ark.  The programme will also include a series of free screendance installations running daily at Dance Limerick, in addition to special family screenings of Disney’s Fantasia and Mad Hot Ballroom for young and old alike at 69 O’Connell Street (formerly The Belltable).

Light Moves will also include a Symposium running over two days of the festival.  Entitled Rooting/ Rerouting Screendance, the symposium will feature a keynote address from the seminal figure in screendance, Douglas Rosenberg, whose works Here Now With Sally Gross and Circling will also be screened.

The Light Moves Screendance Lab, Screened Dance and The Dance Screen, takes place on November 5 and 6 at UL.  The lab will be led by some of the most respected international dance film-makers: Douglas Rosenberg, founding editor of The International Journal of Screendance, the award-winning creative team behind GOAT media Katrina McPherson and Simon Fildes, and Light Moves co-curator Jurgen Simpson.

Full programme details and tickets at available at: www.lightmoves.ie.

New performance at Belltable!!!

shitcreekDon’t get too excited but it’s a comedy of errors called Up Sh*t Creek Without A Paddle and will be starring the board of directors and senior management…if they can be tracked down for comment, that is. And of course, the audience is cast adrift in this mire of effluent too.

In better news, I have a feeling that the garage owner in the laneway behind the venue can cut back on having to work at unsociable hours. Every cloud…

The Limerick Leader reported this week that the company running the arts centre will be liquidated and debts are over €750,000, which is a colossal sum. The bulk of it is owed to the building contractor who carried out major refurbishment works. Worse, money is owed to local arts practitioners who put on shows there in the latter half of 2012. There must have been signs that it was heading for trouble by then so engaging those people was pretty despicable.

G.U.B.U anyone?

Less than two years after it reopened after €1.26 million worth of works (or maybe more?) the Belltable is closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Local playwright, Mary Coll, was on Radio One arts show, Arena, the other night talking about it. I’d urge people to listen to the podcast. She said that serious questions need to be asked about this and I agree, along with just about everyone with an interest in the arts in Limerick.

So, what happened? I don’t think there is a single individual or factor in this case but more like several. Responsibility lies with the Belltable’s management and board as well as Limerick City Council. The buck has to stop somewhere and it lands squarely at the feet of the people making the decisions. You could blather on about human nature, collective consciousness, peer pressure, diplomacy et al. It’s always hard to know what’s the right thing to do. But the state of affairs at the Belltable didn’t develop overnight; this slippage has been going on for years and left unchecked. Now that it’s all gone to pot, there’s not much point in blame. All we can do is hope that lessons are learned from the mistakes.

And there’s no point blaming the recession by the way. The economic climate is poor but then again I don’t hear of other regional arts centres closing in these circumstances. Bear in mind that the Belltable was one of Ireland’s first regional arts centres when it opened in 1981. In the Celtic Tiger years a lot of new, multimillion euro facilities were built i.e. the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise, An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny, the Civic Theatre in Dublin and the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge to name but a few. You’ll note that all of them, and many others like them, are still open for business. It’s not all sunshine and roses but they’re doing their best.

170711121655--IMG_1013Even the dogs on the street know that the Belltable hasn’t been doing all of what it was supposed to be doing. The mission statement and artistic policy on Belltable.ie reads as follows:

“A space for arts development, excellent arts provision and social engagement in Limerick and beyond. This is achieved by:

  • Presenting work of calibre across the art forms: Visual Art, Live Performance*, Film and Literature
  • Fostering, developing and nurturing local, national and International arts practitioners and encouraging innovation in their practice
  • Making space and resources available to create new work across the art forms
  • Fostering Partnerships, networks and create debate and dialogues with arts practitioners, local communities and audiences
  • Being a focal point, a vital resource and social space for the arts in Limerick and Beyond

* This includes but is not restricted to: Theatre, Poetry, Circus, Music, Comedy, Dance, Opera, and Traditional Arts.”

Of course, it was fulfilling some of its remit but there was a dearth in some areas. I’ll let you decide how efficiently the Belltable was meeting these goals set out by organisation itself. I wonder how many of the people involved in running the place read and really understood this statement of intent. At no point does it say, “Enduring persistent noise pollution no matter how much it damages the experience of artists and patrons”. Seemingly most of the “debate and dialogues” revolved around getting paid i.e. ‘Where’s the money I’m owed?’ There hasn’t been a public forum to seek audience/practitioners’ views in quite a while.

What now?

The local authority owns the building itself so that cannot be sold. Is someone going to dismantle all usable equipment so these assets can be sold to settle some of the debt? I don’t see how that would be productive in the long term but it is possible. The contractor no doubt has sub-contractors and staff to pay.

According to the Leader’s latest article “Kieran Lehane, director of service with responsibility for arts, culture and sport in Limerick City Council, said this week that the local authority “fully understands the value of the Belltable to the city and to the wider public and also to the various groups that have played there over the years. It is an important asset in the arts infrastructure in the city and City Council is trying to work to resolve the issues with the Belltable as soon as we can.”

Although the sentiment is nice, it’s the same tired line trotted out all the time (I spent three years writing it in local news articles ffs). There has to be a will to address this situation. The city council played a role in allowing these problems to develop, even by maybe taking a hands-off stance. It was one of the main sources of funding and had a responsibility. Now, its arts service and relevant personnel can lead the push for recovery by approaching the Arts Council and asking for help/collaboration etc AND fast.

What happened to the proposal for the new and improved Daghdha Dance Company? There was an invitation for applications for a new director last June and then…nothing! The company’s former home, the extensively refurbished church in St John’s Square, is still sitting there—waiting for activity. That will happen to the Belltable if action isn’t taken. Local companies and audiences will go elsewhere while a top class facility gathers dust and eventually falls asunder.

I’m not a legal expert…

14563018-new-brand-stampI presume a new company needs to be founded to run the Belltable and a new board has to be appointed along with a CEO/Artistic Director. All avenues for funding should be explored but the Belltable is mostly at the mercy of the Arts Council. I hope that authority will be sympathetic and not leave the local audience and arts community without this resource. The form, structure etc will probably change but hopefully, for the better. Also, the City of Culture 2014 committee needs to play a part in this process—a reinvigorated arts centre could be the lasting legacy left by the event?

In the last post I wrote about the Belltable, the playwright, Mike Finn, suggested in a comment that the facility needs to re-open under a new banner as well as a new outlook because “it could be argued that the brand is so badly damaged as to be beyond repair”. Mary Coll also pointed out that the Belltable has met a very “undignified” end.

Maybe there should be a public meeting with all the relevant stakeholders in the Belltable and other interested parties to talk about what can be done and throw around ideas? I think the same drive and enthusiasm that got the Belltable off the ground three decades ago still exists if only it could be harnessed.

To quote Paul Smith in ‘Apply some pressure’: “What happens when you lose everything? You just start again. You start all over again.”

Unfringed Festival 2012 starts tonight, Oct 16

The Limerick Unfringed Festival 2012 kicks off tonight (October 16) with a specially commissioned play, Siege.

The festival will run until October 28 and will include new and established theatre, music, dance, cinema and literary events. This year’s festival is curated by Duncan Molloy and the theme is ‘Darkness on the edge of town’.

The Unfringed used to take place in January but I think the new timeslot is a good move and spreading the festival events over 12 days will hopefully encourage audiences. There are a few ticket bundles available too, which might soften the financial outlay for some. The prices for events range from €7 to €22.50. The programme is a heady mix, with a lot of local input, so I would encourage people to support the festival by attending at least one event if they can at all. I’ll get to (and review if possible) a few things myself.

Siege is a local affair—written by Ciarda Tobin, directed by Marie Boylan and starring Aidan Crowe, Erica Murray and Joanne Ryan. The plot outline is as follows: “Pa is missing, Mouse is on the warpath and the houses are burning. This new short play, set in Limerick and inspired by the Trojan war, follows the exploits of Helena and her daughter as they discover Mouse’s secret and are forced to escape his fury. This is a highly charged urban play, which swings from karaoke to chaos and comedy to tragedy. It is rough and ready; it is savage and familiar. The production will be fast paced and physical.” The venue is the Belltable and it runs until Thursday.

Thursday lunchtime marks the first of three shows tying in with Lunchtime Theatre at the Savoy. Bandit—fresh from the Dublin Fringe—is on at 1pm on Thursday and Friday this week. On Friday (October 19) and Saturday nights, the multi award winning, Silent, by Pat Kinevane, is on at the Belltable. Act Without Words II by Samuel Beckett is on this Saturday and Sunday (two shows a night). The venue is site-specific but audiences meet at the Belltable.

Also on Sunday, Molloy’s own work—Mass—is on in the afternoon in the Limerick City Gallery of Art. Mass is on again on Sunday October 28. Interactive dance performance, Chimaera, by Angie Smalis is on Sunday and Monday night. On Tuesday October 23, there is a screening of the George Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead.

Mimic by Raymond Scannell is on Wednesday and Thursday night (October 25). Also on Thursday and Friday, Payback and The Wheelchair on my Face will feature at Lunchtime and Teatime Theatre at the Savoy respectively. On Thursday, The Loft will host Under the Influence where comedian/actor Pat Shortt and playwright, Mike Finn, will discuss their inspirations. Later that same evening, there will be a celebration of Richard Harris presented by Bottom Dog Theatre Company and The Little Apple.

On Friday night, French jazz musician, Tigran will perform and on Saturday, band Scullion will perform. Unique live game, Day Zero, is taking place, every 20 minutes from 1-4pm on Saturday. The idea is that the city has been overrun by zombies and you have to find a way to survive. The venue is site-specific but audiences meet at the Belltable. On Sunday, the festival will conclude with a production of David Mamet’s Oleanna.

Find out more about the Unfringed programme at www.belltable.ie or download it here.

Film reviews: Shut Up and Play the Hits/Shadow Dancer

I saw two really good films in the cinema during the week and I’ve decided to write about them because they are not the type of films that most people wouldn’t necessarily think to watch. The first is the music documentary, Shut Up and Play the Hits and the second is a film about ‘The Troubles’ called Shadow Dancer.

Shut Up and Play the Hits

This film was premiered simultaneously across 40 odd screens in the UK and Ireland on September 4. There was even a live red carpet intro with some cringeworthy interviews beforehand. Shut Up and Play the Hits is a combination of a documentary and a concert film. It features the last show by the American electronic/punk outfit, LCD Soundsystem cut with before and after footage following the band’s frontman, James Murphy.

One of the other elements is Murphy being interviewed by pop culture journalist, Chuck Klosterman, which answers a lot of questions fans might have about a band deciding to break up at the height of their success. It seems that fame is a young man’s game and Murphy wants to just get on with the business of living.

I have to confess that I knew very little about LCD Soundsystem before I saw this. I imagine I would’ve felt differently if I hadn’t liked the actual music but thankfully I did! Aside from that, James Murphy is an interesting guy. He’s musically gifted and has a knack for intelligent lyrics but also eccentric, which made the scenes where he woke up alone in his apartment in a post-gig haze amusing. He did mundane things like shaving, playing with his pet bulldog and making coffee—obviously self-conscious at having nothing specific to do—and the filming made it seem like everything was taking place in a strange vacuum.

The close relationships between the band members and management also got attention, which give an insight into the dynamic. The final concert filmed in Madison Square Garden in New York revealed that they were a pretty spectacular live act. The whole film was beautifully shot but the concert scenes were exceptional. A selection of cameras and angles captured the energy of the crowd and the musicians. It made you want to be there, which I reckon was the aim. The pace swung between frenetic and quiet reflection but it worked well.

Overall, it was good documentary. It’s a must-see for fans of the band and a should-see for music fans in general. Hats off to directors, Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace. It is still on limited release in cinemas but a good one to watch on DVD. Here’s a taster…

Shadow Dancer

This film is a tense thriller set in 1993 about Collette McVeigh, a would-be IRA bomber who is caught and then recruited by intelligence agency, MI5, as an informant. She is caught between the desire to protect her young son and loyalty to her family, particularly her IRA leader brothers. The audience also sees the viewpoint of the MI5 agent, Mac, who literally holds Collette’s fate in his hands.

The film is slow moving; everything has a washed-out and dreamlike feel as the plot works itself out. Some of the complexities of the so-called “Northern question” are in full flow. How do ordinary people plant bombs and carry out executions? How are families affected by politics? Do the authorities care about the pawns they use to gather information? There seems to be little room for sentimentality, which might be because of director, James Marsh’s, skill for documentary filmmaking.

Shadow Dancer—written by Tom Bradby, based on his own novel—is a joint Irish/British production so the cast is made up of some of the best and brightest actors from both countries. Andrea Riseborough gives a very composed performance. She gives the impression that emotions are churning below but won’t break the surface. Clive Owen, as Mac, is his convincing in his sincerity in the face of his cold-hearted boss, played by Gillian Anderson.

Aidan Gillen and Domhnall Gleeson play Collette’s brothers, Gerry and Connor. Gillen is referred to as the harsher of the two but is rarely seen as such. Given his steely performances in the RTE series, Love/Hate, he could’ve been used to better effect. Gleeson does better as the baby-faced enforcer. He’s in everything at the moment; definitely a star in the making. David Wilmot does well as their devious, looming IRA boss while Bríd Brennan is jaded and understated as the family matriarch.

The best thing about the film is the suspense, enhanced by an evocative music score. You’re always waiting for something bad to happen and the two plot twists near the end are masterful. The subject matter is difficult and the film doesn’t fulfil its potential somehow but it’s worth a watch.

PS: I also saw an utterly sh*te film called The Escapist. If you like prison break movies… still don’t lower yourself to watch it. Ever. That is all.