The second Kilmainham Arts Festival took place on 26th and 27th of August and was a great success, thanks to the funding and support of DCC, the support by local businesss and the many, many artists involved. At the festival launch on the morning of Saturday 27th the Lordmayor Andrew Montague laid out the intention of the festival beautifully – to provide a focus and a connection point, not just between artist and public but within the community. The Lordmayor was presented with a limited edition print from Arts Club Artist Robert Shaw – the image was of Anna Livia – the artist explained that she was a symbol of both the past and the future, she depicts both the history of Kilmainham and also the future of Kilmainham. This was followed by music from the seven young harpists of the Meath Harp Ensemble, the sun broke through the clouds and it was a lovely moment for those of us who had worked on creating the festival.
The festival was ambitious and it was spread over several venues: Two rooms, the lobby and the plaza of the Hilton, The Patriots Inn, Dolce Vita and IMMA grounds and studios. There were many events running concurrently in a tightly packed programme. The rails of the old Courthouse were used for an extensive outdoor exhibition of art with over twenty artists involved. Drum, dance and voice workshops took place in the Hilton and art workshops for adults and children took place in IMMA. There was a designated film and drama room in the Hilton in which CINECAFE short film screenings took place and a performance of the hilarious one-man play by the talented local actor Simon Toal. 270 pieces of art from children were exhibited, this was the product of a school arts exhibition and the eight winners won vouchers for art supplies. On the grounds of IMMA there was a main music stage and four tents with art, poetry, drama and workshops. As tents had to be secured with extra pegs and people ran between them through the wind and rain the words on the programme ‘ bring a picnic and enjoy IMMA grounds’ read like grim humour!
In The Patriots Inn the busking competition was full of diverse talents, from clarinet to ukulele, winners had cash prizes sponsored by Eurospar. World music and culture were very present in the festival, from the African drum and dance workshops to the world dance event in the Hilton. Tango, Iranian dance and tribal bellydance mixed with world music DJ Nigel Wood’s ambient grooves, the vocal group Chaos In Harmony shared chants from around the world and the atmosphere was very calm - in total contrast to what was going on in The Patriots Inn at the same time - everyone jumping up and down to the ska band Special Brew setting the floor vibrating.
The free festival was set up by Kilmainham Arts Club and run by a small handful of volunteers. 2011 Kilmainham Arts Festival was bigger than last year, it is developing - the whole project is still a work in progress; it is a new festival finding its way. Next year we would hope to have a market with foods and crafts to really bring the grounds of IMMA to life for the festival. We will also be taking on board the feedback from people who suggested that we need a big top tent to host events in so that the weather doesn’t impact it as much. The tremendous support and energy behind this venture is an indicator of the desire for people in the area to connect with one another through the arts. The Kilmainham Arts Festival is a sign of the optimism of local people who, whether new to the area or long-term residents, really love Kilmainham and want to make the very most of it. Rich in fascinating history, replete with beautiful historic buildings, and full of atmosphere and charm, Kilmainham also has a store of talented and engaged citizens who are committed to enhancing the living experience of the area for all to enjoy. A huge thank you to those who helped make the festival possible and to those who added their energy to the mix on the day. Hopefully next year we will be able to go ahead, improve on what we did and have some fun together in the process!