Indie Week Ireland kicks off this Wednesday

Siobhán O'Brien Indie Week2Indie Week Ireland will kick off in Limerick from this Wednesday (April 23) and at least 45 bands will perform in four different venues—Dolan’s, Cobblestone Joe’s, The Blind Pig and The Crafty Fox.

The four-day music festival—a celebration of independent music—will run until Saturday April 26.

Door prices for each gig range from free to €10 BUT you can buy festival passes for just €10 from www.dolans.ie. This will get you a festival wristband (access to all gigs every night).

The opening night and launch party of the festival takes places at Dolan’s Warehouse on Wednesday (doors at 7pm) and will include performances by Limerick bands, Going 90 and Raging Sons and Indie Week Canada 2013 winner, Sumo Cyco.

Thursday night is the first competition night of the festival, with each venue hosting a headline act and 4-5 competing acts. Headlining at The Blind Pig is Kai Exos; at The Crafty Fox is Silent Noise Parade; at Cobblestone Joe’s is Protobaby and at Dolan’s is dREA.

Going_90_2Friday night is another night promising a huge selection of music for festival-goers to choose from with 22 bands performing across the four venues. The headline acts are: Limerick’s own Siobhan O’Brien at The Blind Pig; Fox Jaw in Cobblestone Joe’s; Dead Red Light in The Crafty Fox and The Hot Sprockets in Dolan’s Warehouse.

Saturday night is all in Dolan’s Warehouse and will comprise of the festival competition finals and performances from Vesta Varro, Leading Armies and Sumo Cyco. Seven bands will be selected from Thursday and Friday nights to play in front of the judges. One band from these will win the grand prize of flights, accommodation and a gig at Indie Week Canada in October.

Doors open for each venue at 7.30pm and the full schedule of listings is available at ireland.indieweek.com.

Indie Week Ireland is now in it’s sixth year and is organised by Darryl Hurs, who also co-ordinates Indie Week Canada. Indie Week Ireland 2014 has moved to Limerick city with support from Limerick City of Culture 2014.

Indie Week Ireland for Limerick in April

ANIMAL FOR INDIE WEEK IRELAND from Piquant on Vimeo. Loving the promo!

There was some good news for music fans last week when it was announced that Indie Week Ireland 2014, a celebration of independent bands and musicians, will take place in Limerick from April 23-26.

After three years in Dublin, the Irish leg of the top Canadian music festival will feature up to 30 bands spread across four of Limerick’s most popular music venues: Dolans, Bourke’s Bar, Cobblestone Joes and The Blind Pig. The strong local music scene, combined with support from Limerick City of Culture 2014, swung it for the Treaty City.

Indie Week Ireland is inviting independent bands from all around the country to throw their hats into the ring. One band will be selected by a panel of judges to win the top prize of flights and accommodation for Indie Week Canada in October 2014, where they will support the festival’s headline act and have the chance to connect with industry professionals from North America.

Leading Armies, who won the Indie Week Ireland competition in 2012, and launched the 2014 event last week.

Leading Armies, who won the Indie Week Ireland competition in 2012, and launched the 2014 event last week.

Bands have until March 15 to apply online via www.sonicbids.com or www.reverbnation.com and the line-up will be selected by music executives at Indie Week Canada. A panel of judges, drawn from the Irish music industry, will select the winning band.

It should be a cracking few days of music and fingers crossed, some local talent will win the competition again.

Limerick Independent Music Committee, a local voluntary group, will run the event. Committee member, Monica Spencer, said: “Locating Indie Week Ireland in Limerick, during Ireland’s inaugural National City of Culture, gives Irish and international bands opportunities for synergy and offers music fans from Limerick and beyond a chance to celebrate this significant, international festival in a city that is hungry for a distinctive music festival.”

For further information on how to apply for the Indie Week Ireland 2014 programme see ireland.indieweek.com, www.facebook.com/limerickindependentmusiccommittee or www.facebook.com/indieweekireland.

Coming up! Elemental Festival/Culture Night

September is a busy month in the arts community in Limerick with two events of scale on the calendar.

1009841_546270225421045_2075562295_nElemental Limerick Arts and Culture Festival will take place this weekend (Friday September 13 to Sunday 15). The festival will encompass the arts in all their guises including visual art, street theatre, literature, music, crafts, film, photography and more.

Programme highlights include the premier of film, The Summit—a feature length documentary about the deadliest day in modern mountain climbing history on K2 where Limerick climber, Ger McDonnell, lost his life—and Shannon’s Way by Helena Enright, which is a  promenade theatre/walking tour/audio experience celebrating the River Shannon as it flows through Limerick.

Bedford Row and Lower Thomas Street will come alive with all sorts of street performance on Saturday. There are two photography exhibitions running, several film events, author talks/readings and a gig in Dolan’s featuring Purple Earth Theory, Raging Sons and Windings. From a HighNelly Bike Tribute to forgotten skills demonstrations, there is something for all interests.

For more information, see www.elementalfestival.com or check it out on Facebook or Twitter, @ElementalLmk

1185284_549730368408364_2121697298_nThe nationwide event, Culture Night 2013, takes place on Friday September 20 this year and there will be events all over Limerick City and County.

Late night opening and free admission to cultural institutions is always a great thing but this is coupled with workshops, demonstrations, tours, performances and more.

There is always a buzz around for Culture Night so break out and take advantage of our wonderful heritage, artistic and cultural facilities.

The packed schedule is available here or more information on Twitter, @CultureNight.

Angela’s Ashes: The Musical

Yes, yes; it sounds like the most inappropriate idea for a musical since Rent but Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes, has been adapted for the stage and will very soon make its local debut. But Rent was a smash hit and its creators are hoping that this show might follow that lead.

I’m sure many people will be sceptical after Alan Parker’s film adaptation of Angela’s Ashes, which truly captured the ‘misery lit’ aspect of the book and left us all pondering, ‘how many rain machines does it take to make Limerick look that uninviting?’

I recently spoke to composer and lyricist, Adam Howell, and the actress playing Angela herself, Sarah Ayrton, about the musical—which will run in The Lime Tree Theatre next week from July 17-20.

-1It will focus on the uplifting, life affirming moments in the book, which has incredible “warmth and humour”. For Adam, the show is a real labour of love.

“I read the book first when I was 15; I’m 26 now. I was quite inspired to think it would make a good stage adaptation, purely because I thought Frank McCourt’s writing was so lyrical and funny. There is obviously great sadness in the book but also quite a lot of humour as well. It really sang to me; I could see songs in certain scenes and thought it would flow quite nicely,” he said.

“It went on hold for quite a while because many people told me I probably wouldn’t be able to get the permission to do the production. About five years ago, myself and another graduate from the University of Derby set up a theatre company called Uncontained Arts and it gave me a bit of leeway to put on a production. We put it on last November and I collaborated with Paul Hurt, who adapted the book into a script, and very kindly worked around my ideas because I had some very strong opinions and feelings on the show from having worked on it for 11 years. He was very sensitive to that, which was great.”

Uncontained Arts is producing AATM in association with Theatre Works, which is also based at the University of Derby, and brings together student performers as well as professionals, lecturers, community actors etc.

The musical debuted in the Derby Theatre, putting on five shows late last year. Frank McCourt’s widow, Ellen, and his brother, Alphie, were in the audience along with Una Heaton and her team from the Frank McCourt Museum on Hartstonge Street. Though “daunting” according to Adam, it got a seal of approval from everyone. They were all “so positive” about the interpretation. Every show got a standing ovation and audience members gave great personal feedback.

He emphasised that there was a feeling of being involved with “something special” and “touch wood, that’s what we’re going to get in Limerick”. He welcomed any feedback audiences here could give and was very much looking forward to local people seeing the show.angelaashes

“If we can handle the Limerick audience as this is a Limerick story and a Limerick man, I think we’ll be able to handle any audience in the world”.

Adam confessed that he is both a little scared and excited to stage it here because an English company is bringing what some see as a “controversial” book to a local and Irish audience.

“We’re either brave or stupid. One thing that inspired me with this story is the fact that I do have an Irish background with my grandparents. I wanted to write something that had an Irish feel in the music because of my own heritage. I feel I can say I can write an Irish musical because of that,” he added.

“We say a lot, ‘Is it that the book appeals to Irish people, or to Catholics?’ But I just think it’s a pure human story. The things he goes through, even though he goes through them on a very dire level compared to most of our standards now, the whole thing with his first love and loss and ‘the excitement’, they are all aspects of the human experience. That is why audiences relate to it on that level. With musicals, not to be derogatory in any way, but there aren’t that many modern musicals that have that kind of pull-in. As a musical theatre fan myself, I don’t think there is anything at the moment that kind of pulls me into the story like that with a real core to it. I hope that’s what we do really.”

Sarah, when asked about her leading role, said: “When I first got the part I didn’t think about that but then about a week before the show I thought ‘Oh my God, I’m Angela in Angela’s Ashes!’ I am a bit nervous about coming to Limerick but also really excited. I’ll try and do my best.”

After studying musical theatre, she worked in several productions and played leads before but thinks there is “something a bit special about this role”.

“It’s challenging acting wise and singing wise as well but it’s so great to be able to play the role. There’s a lot of comedy in the musical and the book as well but Angela’s not very comical. I have to be the one who is quite sad all the way through but it’s a great role. I come away after the show feeling very exhausted.”

Website_image_largeBoth Adam and Sarah remarked on “how many characters” they met in Limerick so they have gotten a real local taste and feel for the place.

“We’re going to go back and tell the chorus in our show that ‘You’re not just a herd of sheep here; Limerick people are all characters and you can make those personalities on the stage.”

After hearing about it, I’m really looking forward to seeing Angela’s Ashes: The Musical in action. I love the book (and have written about it before) and I very much hope that this adaptation will do it justice.

Tickets are priced from €15.00-€23.00. For more information, see www.limetreetheatre.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.”