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Mountshannon musician Clí Donnellan. Photograph by John Kelly.

Festival co-operation a great exercise in ‘community building’

REGENERATION and resilience will be celebrated in Mountshannon later this month, thanks to a collaboration between diverse members of the East Clare arts community.
The pandemic presented all kinds of hurdles in terms of live performance and, after taking their offerings online in 2020, Mountshannon Arts Festival this year opted for two mini-festivals on the theme of ‘regeneration’.
The first event was held in June and the second is scheduled for September 24-26, traditionally the weekend of the Mountshannon Trad Festival, which ran to huge acclaim between 2010 and 2019.
Aistear Park will be the focal point for a weekend of arts events and traditional music and will host an open air market for the duration.
The collaboration has been made possible thanks to a funding award secured by Cliodhna Donnellan, artist, promoter, producer and co-ordinator of Mountshannon Trad Festival, under the Live Outdoor Local Performance Scheme from Clare County Council.
The event will provide a platform for traditional artists to perform live on Sunday, September 26, under the theme ‘Revisit Mountshannon Trad’.
“We saw the o pportunity to work together, which is a really, really big thing for two festivals to come together anyway, in any circumstances, but particularly here in Mountshannon,” Clíodhna told The Champion.
“Given the kind of legacy of the two groups, working independently through the years this has been a great opportunity for community building.”
As well as a range of musical performances, art and literary events also be on offer.
The festival will bring a buzz of life to the lakeside town, with pop-up art shops and an exhibition by Champion photographer John Kelly, in collaboration with Mountshannon Arts.
Entitled ‘Roots and Wings’, the collection of pictures has expanded in recent times.
“We first did it two years ago,” explained Stephen Powell, a committee member with Mountshannon Arts.
“The theme comes from the fact that Mountshannon has such a diverse community. There are people who have grown up here and lived all their lives, who had their roots here forever.
“And then we have people who have flown in and put down their roots here. The pictures show that of mix of people and diversity. It worked so well the first year we did it and we’re delighted to have it continue.”
In terms of trad, a total of 11 acts will perform in a marquee looking out onto Lough Derg. An acclaimed fiddle player, Clíodhna herself will perform alongside Séamus Bugler and Abigal Starr.
“We have some amazing young people and family groups coming together,” she explained. “We really have all generations represented in the musical line-up.”
Another big highlight of the musical element of the event will be the presentation of an hour to an East Clare musician, whose name, for now, will remain under wraps.
“You’ll have to come along on the Sunday afternoon to find out who it is,” smiled Clíodhna.
For those unable to attend, the event will also be made available online.
“We will be livestreaming the three main events on the Sunday,” Clíodhna explained. “Scariff Bay Community Radio is working with us and they’re going to livestream that. In relation to the presentation, that will probably go out the following evening.
“There are really a lot of people who would love to be here and might not be able to be there for various reasons. So that’s to give them the opportunity to catch up and sit back and be part of the community event.”
All events and activities will be run in compliance with public health guidelines.
The changing nature of the restrictions have put a spanner in the works for festivals all over the country, but the resilience of the Mountshannon community has helped them to innovate and overcome.
“You’ve just got your fingers crossed the whole time with everything,” said Stephen. “Planning has been difficult and I think a lot of festivals have to sort of roll back a lot or just cancel again for this year. But, we think it’s essential.
“Culture and the arts are so important in the community. The events really bring the community together That’s been missing a lot, obviously, for everybody recently, so we think it’s important and we’ve just gone for it.
Full details are available on the Mountshannon Arts Festival website and social channels. The events are supported by Clare Arts Office and The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, and The Arts Council of Ireland.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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