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Arts & Culture

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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Blow to East Clare as Feakle Festival is cancelled

THE festival calendar for East Clare has suffered another major blow with the cancellation of the Feakle Festival, due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Organisers said they decided to cut this year’s event – which would ordinarily attract thousands to the region at the height of the summer season – “with deep regret,” in order to minimise the risk to the general public. Already, the legendary Spancilhill Fair has been called off, with organisers deciding that they could not guarantee social distancing at the event which draws thousands annually on the now immortalised date of June 23. A number of smaller community festivals, including the Bodyke May Bank Holiday Weekend, have also been shelved, with hopes of postponing some of them as the government’s road map for the re-opening of public life begins to unfold. In Feakle, a world-class programme of traditional music had been under wraps since February and there is widespread disappointment that the hugely popular festival won’t go ahead …

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Bringing music home during Covid-19 with glór

ITS doors may be closed, but glór has been doing its bit to meet the challenges of Covid-19 by bringing people together – from the safety of their own homes. Director of the Ennis arts venue Orla Flanagan believes that shared experiences are an important way of bringing light into these uncertain times. With that in mind, the venue has launched glór sa Bhaile a new series of premier performances, bringing Clare’s finest artists direct from their homes to yours every Thursday evening at 8pm. Steo Wall and Jacinta Sheerin have already featured live from their home in Ennistymon with Katie Theasby set to feature this week. Orla explains, “We wanted to create something unique to glór, where essentially by providing this platform for artists, we could pay them and support them in this particularly challenging time, whilst also importantly connecting with our great and loyal audiences in Clare and beyond, to promote the wonderful talent we have on our …

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Lockdown exhibition for Inis Artists

A GROUP of Clare artists have been brushing up on their digital skills, bringing their latest exhibition of artworks on-line. The Inis Artists as a group have been in existence for more than 20 years and are noted for their extensive touring art exhibitions. In a normal year they would be involved in up to 14 different group exhibitions all over the country. However, this is not a normal year and all of their art exhibition venues are closed due to Covid-19, except Skycourt in Shannon. In order to bring their artwork to the public, they have come up with the idea of holding a virtual art exhibition. Calling it their ‘Spring Lockdown Exhibition 2020’ it displays the new work of their artists. Tomás O’Maoldomhnaigh PRO Inis Artists explains that much of the work reflects the artists’ emotions in this time of social distancing and lockdown. The virtual exhibition can be viewed on facebook.com/inis.artists Inis Artists were founded back in …

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