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West Clare counts the cost of Summer School cancellation

MILTOWN Malbay and the wider West Clare community continue to count the cost of the cancellation of an event whose economic value has been set at between €5 and €10 million annually. The Willie Clancy Summer School, whose cultural value is probably impossible to estimate, is among the casualties of the coronavirus restrictions. Its absence, on what would have been its 48th birthday, will be felt well beyond the Banner county. This year’s event had been expected to attract 1500 students  between July 4 and 12, with many thousands more attending for sessions, talks, seminars, dancing, concerts and the general festival atmosphere. Administrative Director Harry Hughes described the cancellation of this year’s Scoil Samhradh as “disappointing but inevitable” in the context of Covid-19. “We had been hoping things might improve in terms of the virus, but that wasn’t to be,” he remarked. “We are very disappointed for all of our students and tutors who attend year after year and the cancellation …

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Mountshannon film-makers plan production in County Clare

LOCKDOWN has been a creative time for a family of film-makers living in Mountshannon. Not only have father and son Terence and James Ryan been working on three projects – including one tipped to be shot in Clare – Terence’s wife Susan Morrall, a scientist and screen-writer, is also making PPE for Raheen Community Hospital. The family, which also includes award-winning director Kit, have long links to East Clare. Terence and Susan have lived in Ireland for two decades and Terence’s father, who was from Clonlara but emigrated to England, came to live in Mountshannon for the final five years of his life. “Ireland was always home and we visited every year,” Terence, a director, writer and producer, said. “I grew up in South Kensington but came home to go to school in Tipperary and it was the best thing I could have done.” The family will probably be best known for their award-winning production Property of the State, released …

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Féile Brían Ború called off as Covid-19 restrictions continue

THE latest East Clare festival to fall foul of the Covid-19 restrictions is the hugely popular Féile Brían Ború, which organisers have decided to call off in the interests of public health and safety. Chairperson of East Clare Tourism and member of the organising committee, Arlene White, said that while the decision had been a tough one to make, hopes had been gradually fading over the last couple of weeks. The 2019 festival took place on the second week in July, and in the context of the roadmap for re-opening the economy, organisers couldn’t envisage a similar gathering on the shores of Lough Derg in just over five week’s time. “Last year, we had 2,000 people for the fireworks display, and we just couldn’t have crowds of that size in the context of the coronavirus restrictions,” Ms White explained. “Our organising committee also arranges the Killaloe St Patrick’s Day parade, and once we had to call that off, we started …

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Mountshannon Arts Festival takes to the airwaves

THE Mountshannon Arts Festival will take place this weekend, but not in its traditional format. The creativity and ingenuity of the organisers mean that key elements of the festival programme will now transfer online, on-air and to a special ‘sound sanctuary’ on the shores of Lough Derg. Faced with the restrictions associated with the Coronavirus, the committee has devised an innovative new programme. Among its highlights will be an exhibition of photographs on the theme of ‘Identity’, on the windows of a premises in the town, as well as a ‘The First Sanctuary of Free Sounds’ a special installation located at the harbour. On YouTube and Facebook, next Saturday and Sunday, there will be a specially commissioned conversation between former Wexford hurling captain Diarmuid Lyng and theatre-maker Timmy Creed. As part of the re-worked festival programme, Scariff Bay Community Radio has stepped in to support on-air events on Sunday. Among those will be an interview with musician and foodie Mike …

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East Clare inspiration for ‘Normal People’ actor Frank Blake

FOR a young actor, being in lock-down while some of your highest-profile work graces screens around the world, must be something of an anti-climax. For Frank Blake, the enforced isolation in his native Tuamgraney, during the height of the buzz around Normal People, is not without its advantages, however. Frank, who plays the complex character of Alan in the adaptation of the award-nominated novel by Sally Rooney, has been using the time to explore his own screen-writing abilities. Given that his great aunt, Edna O’Brien, is one of the country’s greatest living authors, it’s probably a safe bet that he has more than a little literary talent. Now based in Dublin, the actor has been clocking up significant screen and stage roles, including a part in Druid’s landmark production of Richard III. He returned to East Clare shortly before the lock-down was announced, and just as the BBC3’s Normal People, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, was set for a stratospheric launch. …

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Scariff Harbour Festival cancelled due to pandemic restrictions

THERE has been a further blow to the county’s calendar of summer events, with confirmation in recent days that the annual Scariff Harbour Festival will not go ahead this year. The news follows the cancellation of a number of high-profile events, including the Willie Clancy Summer School, Spancilhill Fair, the Feakle Festival and more, and is in line with government recommendations and Covid-19 restrictions. The Waterways Ireland-sponsored festival, scheduled for the August Bank holiday week-end, is internationally regarded for the quality of its contributors, drawing key-note speakers, entertainers and performers of renown. The event, which was to have marked its 18th year, also showcased key attractions in East Clare and offered a host of free outdoor music, walks, talks, guest speakers, boat tours and children’s entertainment, making it a social highlight and a key driver for the local economy. “It is a huge disappointment for the community, festival-goers and the organising committee that this year’s festival cannot happen,” said Chairman, Mike …

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East Clare pays tribute to the late Nora Butler

FRIENDS and admirers of the late legendary Tipperary singer, Nora Butler, recalled the mark she left on East Clare, over her many years attending and performing at local musical events. Feakle’s Paula Carroll, presenter of The West Wind on Clare FM, recently remembered the Toomevara native, who passed away on May 3, with tributes coming from Gerry Shortt of Shortt’s Bar and Ballina-based singer Deirdre Scanlon. Nora was a frequent visitor to venues across Clare, through her work for Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann (CCE), as performer and adjudicator. She was particularly loved in the East of the county where she was a regular and popular guest, along with her late husband, Pat Swan, at gatherings in Spancihill, Tulla and Feakle. On The West Wind, Paula Carroll described Nora as “a gorgeous woman and a really sweet singer”. “My own encounters with Nora in recent years were mostly in Gerry Shortt’s Bar in Feakle,” she noted, “where she was a much loved …

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Arts community get creative in the face of Covid-19 restrictions

CLARE’S vibrant arts sector is the envy of many counties. Renowned globally for its traditional music, the Banner county not only produces some of the finest creative talents, it also attracts musicians, dancers and artists who come here for inspiration and in the hope that a thriving artistic scene will support them in making a living on the path less travelled. Now, in the context of ongoing pandemic restrictions, access to audiences at venues like galleries, concert venues and pubs, and to collaborators, is shut down, for now. So too are vital income streams. While some government support is available in the form of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, as well as a COVID-19 Crisis Response Award from the Arts Council, many are facing serious set-backs financially and creatively. Renowned Newmarket-based visual artist Philip Brennan faced the extraordinary experience recently of having a freshly-installed exhibition hanging in empty halls behind the doors of a locked building. After more than two decades …

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