AUDIENCES will make a welcome return to the Mounsthannon Arts Festival later this month, but arts enthusiasts will have to be content with staying in the open air in view of Covid-19 restrictions.
Last year, key elements of the festival programme had to transfer online, on-air and to a special ‘sound sanctuary’ on the shores of Lough Derg, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year, the organisers are hoping to provide a mixture of online, on-air and open air events, with an eclectic mixture of entertainment for all the family, subject to Covid-19 guidelines.
Nestled on the western banks of Lough Derg, Mountshannon is one of Ireland’s most beautiful villages, and has an ancient monastic settlement just off shore, on Inis Cealtra, or Holy Island as it is known locally.
The Mountshannon Arts Festival is celebrating 25 years since its inception and appreciates the assistance it received from all its supporters during this time.
Each year brings a new collection of exhibitions, performances and workshops to inspire and entertain both locals, and visitors to the area.
Rooted in the visual arts, the ethos of Mountshannon Arts is to create access to works and exhibitions that would not be easy to find in a rural area, while at the same time stimulating the creation of works and performances from within the local community.
There is also an emphasis on families, and organisers aim to create a fun filled festival, with live music, puppet shows, herb walk and other events.
Most events are free following the purchase of the official festival wristband.
Shulagh Colleran of Mountshannon Arts Festival confirmed the committee are working with the Mountshannon Trad Festival to present an exciting programme across two weekends.
“We are very excited and enthusiastic about our plans for this September when we look forward to gathering audiences together again for live events. We will do this safely, ensuring that all events are Covid-19 compliant,” she said.
On the weekend of September 17, the committee has organised a lantern-making workshop and parade for Culture Night, which will appeal to all ages.
Former Wexford hurler, Diarmuid Lyng, will conduct a workshop with students from Scariff Community College on Friday, September 17.
The following evening, Timmy Creed’s award- winning play “Spliced” will be performed outdoors at the Whitegate Ballwall in front of a socially-distanced audience.
Timmy Creed will be joined by Lyng and former Clare hurler Brendan Bugler for what promises to be a lively discussion.
Creed is an actor, writer and theatre-maker from Cork. SPLICED is his debut in writing for the stage, and has toured to several Irish arts festivals and schools.
It is a visceral account of Timmy’s struggle to become an individual outside of the sporting institution that raised him.
He wants to talk about identity, masculinity and mental health in a sports club. He likes to perform in the open air, preferably a ball wall.
The rest of the Mounsthannon Arts Festival takes place the following weekend on September 24 and 25. It will dovetail with the traditional music festival on the same weekend, with both organisers working together in close collaboration.
A marquee will be erected in the picturesque Aistear Park to stage events, along with a number of pop-up galleries and other venues in the village.
The line-up includes singer songwriter, Niamh Regan, from Galway, who is working on a debut album, and will perform in the marquee on September 24
Belfast actress, Maria Connolly, who starred in Line of Duty, has developed a new act based on Peggy Guggenheim, a New York art collector, bohemian and socialite, which she perform in five 30-minute acts in different venues throughout the village on Saturday, September 25.
Exhibitions by up-and-coming Irish artists as well as local artists will also be held during the festival. Cormac Griffin will facilitate a workshop to help children build new fairy houses out of wood and other materials for the “homes for gnomes” event in Wood Park, Mountshannon.
Children can also look forward to a puppet show in the marquee, while families can enjoy a foraging and a wild herb walk.
Clare Champion photographer, John Kelly has taken 12 evocative portraits of local characters, which will be exhibited in Anita’s, an old renovated building, during the weekend.
An Irish speaker will conduct a guided art trail around the village in Irish. Scariff Community Radio will broadcast some of the festival events and recordings.
Ink brush artist, Yingge Xu will provide workshops on the meditative art of oriental brush practice in the marquee.
She hopes to offer a group workshops that would be two hours in duration and short individual workshops of about five minutes long.
This course explores mindfulness, awareness and presence through simple body movement and brush work.
Participants will learn to trust the flow of ch’i (life-force) through their brush, and onto the paper, and likewise how they can bring awareness and joy into their everyday activity.
The committee is grateful for the financial support it has received from Clare County Council and the Arts Council.
by Dan Danaher