Eigse and Arcadia Festivals

October 23, 2013


Rumour has it director Michael Cimino was off his head while working on the studio crippiling movie Heaven’s Gate, artist Brian Duggan might have us on our asses while attending his new installation “Everything Can Be Done In Principle”. Based on the Johnson County War, a land and cattle battle in the frontier of America in the 1890s, he has constructed a timber and canvas barn that doubles as a skating rink, where visitors will be armed with an item of period clothing and a pair of skates on which they can fly around the exhibit on. “It takes some inspiration from the Michael Cimino film which was the biggest commercial flop Hollywood had ever seen” he says. “I was interested in exploring the politics behind that work and bringing it into Ireland as a way of asking questions.”

The Johnston County War happened because land owners and cattle ranchers decided they didn’t want poor people on land they would prefer to graze cattle on. “So they hired mercaneries to come in and start shooting poor people. It has echos as to where society stands, where community exists and where do people sit when faced against the power of money, greed and society”

With remberances from John Hurt, who stared in the film, as well as new music from Heaven’s Gate composer David Mansfield, the exhibition will also feature actual posters from the Johnsoan War period, occasional live music and other reading and visual materials.

It is the jewel in the Eigse Carlow Arts Festival Crown, a multi-disciplinary event that is like a babushka doll of mini festivals, with The Inaugural History Festival of Ireland and a collaboration with the world-renowned Hay Festival , both programmed under its umbrella.

“The point of the literary strand is to move away from our insular take on literature and hear some voices from over sees” says Hugo Jellett., CEO and Artistic Director at Eigse . “There are scads of literary events around the country where you can see Anne Enright, John Banville, Colm Tobin. But where can you hear William Dalrymple read from his latest book; hear Oscar winning director Stephen Frears talk about his movie adaptations; or indeed have AC Grayling scream at you from a pulpit?”

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The Mermaid Arts Centre is ten years old – a fact that may be of more interest to them than it is to anybody else. So they have very kindly turned their birthday celebration into a homage to their hometown of Bray. Using money from their existing programme budget they have lined up a multitude of events that show off the town’s artistic and aesthetic sensibilities: from historical kayak tours of the coast to ballroom dancing at the bandstand, a lush Victorian spread to music, cabaret, song and dance.

“The idea of Arcadia is a country idyll, an idealised pastoral scene,” says Aoife Barror, PR & Marketing Manager at the Mermaid. “To take what Bray was and what Bray is and bring it to life for ten days.” Arcades, ice cream, long walks and sunshine is what they want to revive in the memories of those for whom Bray was once THE holiday destination. “There’s such a rich lineage here, dating back to when the train line was extended down from Dun Laoighre and people used to come from as far as Scotland and Wales to visit. There was even an Arcadia Ballroom where The Hollies, The Who and Roy Orbison all played.”

But among its many other curses, the Troubles brought an end to tourism. “People ask, ‘what changed.’ But nothings changed. That’s our point. There are dolphins in the bay, we still have the mile long promenade, and the beautiful old Esplanade Hotel is still there.”

The town informed the festival. “One of the most exciting things we have on the schedule is the Bray Mystery Food Trail, where people are opening up their houses to the public for a free meal (donations appreciated). That goes straight back to the olden days when whole families would sleep in the shed so that the main house could be turned into a B&B.”

Other highlights include Cathy Davey singing songs by artists from the 40s, 50s and 60s, the chance to get your Victorian portrait taken, live cabaret from Rose Lawless and The Fitzrovia Radio Hour who recreate the unique spirit of 1940s radio plays.

Originally published in the Sunday Independent in July 2012

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