Government cuts almost forced the cancellation of one of South Galway’s premier music events, it was revealed this week.
The Joseph Browne Spring School of Traditional Music had been in some danger after an application for funding to a national agency was unsuccessful this year but organisers confirmed that a curtailed programme of events will go ahead this weekend.
“We were faced with a difficult decision because we didn’t get any Arts Council of Ireland funding. This was down to restrictions. Last year we received funding from Galway County Council and this money will go towards classes. I’m not sure if we will be eligible for funding from Clare County Council because we aren’t able to hold as many events in the county as we have in previous years,” explained Máire O’Keeffe, one of the event organisers.
“We discussed not running the school this year and a lot of small festivals have gone by the wayside but we decided to run it anyway with the classes element but without concerts or an official opening or a lecture,” she continued.
The first spring school was initiated in February 2007 in response to the tragic death of 19-year-old, Joseph Browne. Joseph, who was from Knockmeal, between Crusheen and Gort, was an exceptionally talented musician, both in the traditional and classical fields. The spring school in his name, as well as celebrating his memory, seeks to carry on his music teaching and his strong belief in passing on what he himself had learned.
This year’s school boasts a strong line-up of traditional musicians who will pass on their immense talents through classes and performances over the three days. The school is still taking bookings for its variety of master classes, which includes lessons with Nollaig Ní Chathasaigh, Dennis Liddy, Nicky McAuliffe, Joan Hanrahan, Edward Breen, Anne McAuliffe, Lara de Brún, Marian McCarthy, Eugene Lambe and Geraldine Cotter. More information is available on www.josephbrowne.org.
While the drop in funding has been disappointing for Máire and her fellow organisers, it has not dampened their spirits and while this year’s school begins on Thursday, they are already thinking ahead to the 2011 programme. Máire is currently looking into integrating music from other countries into the school next year.
“Hopefully, next year’s school will go ahead. We are thinking about bringing in some Scottish music and perhaps some from Cape Breton in Canada. I was artist in residence at the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton and there was a lot of interest in the Joseph Browne Spring School there and in the concept. I met Ian Smith, the director of music in the Arts Council of Scotland, and he was really interested in bringing music from Scotland and Shetland to the festival. This would be fantastic because Joseph himself played music from Scotland, Shetland and Cape Breton. We will start working on the logistics of getting that in place in the next couple of months,” she explained.
The loss of funding from the Arts Council of Ireland this year was a blow to the festival, Máire acknowledges, but she says it is indicative of the Government’s attitude to the arts.
“There have been so many cutbacks recently and we need the arts now. People need the music to cheer them up if nothing else. It is not the Arts Council’s fault that it doesn’t have the money to support small festivals, it is the Government that doesn’t value the arts and the lift it can give to people. I think arts officers at county council level are finding it hard because of limited resources and huge demand. It must be very disheartening for them,” she concluded.
There is a significant amount of work and funding needed to run the Joseph Browne Spring School and the organising committee would welcome any support from the public or local businesses.