September was a period of intensity as we returned to work at Dundalk Institute of Technology while also engaging in a number of interesting events and research-related activities, not to mention Culture Night, the Gerry Whelan Festival. It is interesting, on reflection, to consider the interconnection of the local, regional, national and global and the role of cultural activities in making connections at every level.
Culture Night in Ardee was a fantastic success. Held in Ardee Library, it involved the Ardee Intermezzo Ensemble from the Ardee Concert Band and members of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. In preparing for Culture Night, Daithí and Louth County Arts Officer Mary Capplis visited some schools in the area to tell students about Culture Night and also engage them by teaching them a song and telling them about some of the instruments that would be performed on during the Culture Night activities in Ardee. Daithí made a special arrangement of ‘Dilín ó Deamhas’ for young voices, concert band instruments and traditional instruments that was performed in the library on the night – a celebration not only of culture but also the power of community engagement in the Arts.
Engaging with industry and policy is a constant challenge for lecturers and researchers in third level education. Daithí attended a workshop on Creative Industries and Innovation entitled ‘A Roadmap for the Creative Industries in Ireland’ in National Concert Hall in September that involved a series of interactive and collaborative activities that sought to identify measures to unlock the potential of creative industries in the future economy.
The Government’s new economic framework for Ireland based on embracing innovation and technological change, improving productivity, increasing labour force participation, enhancing skills and developing talent and transitioning to a low carbon economy has several resonances with the activities of the Creative Arts Research Centre at DkIT of which Daithí is co-director, and the research we undertake in relation to A Louth Lilt regarding culture, community and place. However, part of the richness of CARC is its valuing of the Arts and Humanities alongside technological change, which at times seemed threatened during the discussions. Nevertheless, contributors such as Diarmuid O’Brien, Chief Innovation & Enterprise Officer at Trinity College Dublin noted the importance of place-making as Creative Industries build links with local communities. It was also noted how, the further along the scientific process you go, the less intuitive people become and Science Foundation Ireland have identified the value of societal impact of research. One of the significant challenges for this forum was the commercialisation of creativity and the requirements for funding to make this happen, although our activities would call for an appreciation not only of commercialisation but also engagement in community and voluntary activity resulting in social capital and wellbeing.
There was a danger that, in developing a roadmap for design that sound was no given due consideration. Sound is central to many aspects of what was being discussed including film, marketing and computer games and, while some argued that the design of the future should not be burdened by the desire to reproduce the past and yet there is an appreciation of how much the past and our heritage inspires creativity.
The debate between celebrating the heritage of our past and looking to a new identity was something that was raised in conversation at a networking meeting hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Dublin. To mark the 2019 Mid-Autumn Festival, Daithí was invited to a networking session on Sino-China cultural exchanges to celebrate Chinese Traditional Mid-Autumn Festival. Daithí had previously travelled to China in 2007 and 2008 with Ceolta Sí from Youghal when the group performed for, amongst other events, the Chinese Spring Festival in Beijing.
Held in the Mansion House in Dublin, the event was a relaxed and informative opportunity to share experiences and ideas with a clear desire to increase cultural awareness and economic exchange between Ireland and China. Ray Yeates, Dublin City Arts Officer, was a wonderful facilitator who ensured a flowing conversation that was always inclusive of the audience. Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe and Chinese Ambassador He Xiangdong introduced the day’s event and added weight to the significance of the occasion. Eva Pau, Asia Market provided an overview of the Mid-Autumn Festival Customs and included beautiful poetry, which was echoed in the lunchtime performance by Ben Tompson and Jenny Liu.
The speakers reflected different scales of engagement with audiences in China. David Orr provided insights into the Riverdance experience in China from his perspective as Chief Financial Officer Riverdance and Heartbeat of the World in China. Gerry Shirren, Managing Director, Cartoon Saloon, was also encouraging, highlighting the opportunities that existed while Sinéad Mac Aodha, Director, Literature Ireland, highlighted the need to focus on promoting artists beyond those already known or who had already achieved success. The conversation with Aimee van Wylick, Producer, Dublin Chinese New Year Festival, perhaps opened up the discussion further as participants aired their views and offered their suggestions on developing the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival. It was here that concepts of ‘authenticity’ and also and awareness of how cultures are projected to international audiences became more prominent. Olga Wang, First Secretary, Head of Culture and Tourism, Chinese Embassy in Ireland, provided very interesting insights from her previous role in the arts and indicated a desire to engage in international relations through the arts at a community level.
The Oriel Traditional Orchestra returned to rehearsal in September and welcomed new members to audition. With the success of the first two years, there was some excitement about beginning new repertoire and looking forward to more performances. In September, a sub-group of the orchestra performed in the Garage Theatre as part of a series hosted by Monaghan Arts Network and Dominic Dudley and Feargal Ó Dornáin facilitated free workshops funded by Creative Ireland Louth on double bass and viola. Preparations are fully underway for our trip to the EPIC Awards in Edinburgh in October. Daithí was also one of the tutors at the Gerry Whelan Festival hosted by Cootehill CCÉ, where a great weekend was had by all who attended.
As we continue to develop our research projects on Community Arts, Performance Practice and Cultural Identity, our experiences at these events raise questions that reinforce the value of our research and the importance of our experiences and informants. Listening to our fellow participants, musicians, researchers and those in industry roles provides a variety of perspectives that speak to each other but can also challenge assumptions. There are so many opportunities; sometimes one begins with a tune.