Now in its second year, Clonakilty Organic Arts Festival returns triumphantly to Clonakilty to, as their mission statement professes, provide a stage for the wealth of local talent West Cork has to offer.
“We were really taken aback last year when we saw how many people came out to support the festival,” says Greg Mulcahy of the festival committee. “It was incredible to see all of the events, no matter how different, getting such passionate support. People were really excited to see these events and take in all of the visual art that was on offer. There were people thanking me on the street for weeks after!”
“It was a really special weekend and to think it all just started when Kieran Doyle came to me one day and said, ‘Shouldn’t Clonakilty have an arts festival?’. And that was it, we formed a committee and it took off! To see it all come to fruition was an amazing feeling. Now we just have to capitalise on that and make it bigger and better this year!”
Trish Walsh of the committee muses on what made the festival so special. “I definitely think it was the inclusivity that was all across the weekend that really connected with people. We had groups and individuals of all ages from many different walks of life take part, from different cultural backgrounds, and people with varying different needs and abilities. The people of West Cork and the visitors in kind really support these kinds of events, especially when so many different elements of the community are represented, and it’s something we’re expanding on this year for definite!”
Of course the whole meaning behind the word ‘organic’ in this context, for the uninitiated, is that all of the artistic talent that is on offer for the duration of the festival is from West Cork, so it’s ‘home-grown’ if you will. In it’s inaugural year, COAF debuted some events that are unique to the festival. Highlights included an open mic poetry event, Clonakilty Voices in Kilgarriffe Church, a huge arts trail, and the Big Town Dance with Tracey Lombard, who also developed a location based theatre event for kids on Clonakilty Choo Choo. Greg remembers how these elements shaped the festival. “These events along with everything else really set the festival apart, and we’re definitely bringing all of those back this year, bigger and better, and expanding on them with a few new one off events unique to the Organic Arts Festival!” The events Greg is talking about are some of the festival firsts for 2016, such as ‘Jamming on the Lane’ — an open mic event for singers and musicians on Spiller’s Lane, ‘The Prose Jam’, which sees accomplished writer and poet Dave Lordan, returning as festival patron this year, gather together some of his literary colleagues for a special spoken word event, and an exciting portrait sketching workshop with James Waller. “Having James join us for the festival this year is incredibly exciting.” exclaims Kieran Doyle. “This man is a prolific artist who has had his work on display in Sidney Opera House, St.Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne and at the Kasmir World Music Festival, so we really are humbled that he would get involved with us at the COAF, as well as working on his exhibition ‘Guardians of Solitude, which is currently residing in The Loft Gallery.”
All of these free events are what makes this festival stand out among similar events around the country, but there is always costs to incur. “What was really humbling last year though was the amount of support we got from different organisations across the board,” says Neil Fitzpatrick, festival treasurer. “Funding from Cork County Council really helped us get off the ground, and they’ve helped even more enthusiastically this year, showing that they really believe that festivals like this develop communities and bring people together. Also, this year Fernhill House Hotel and Gardens have very kindly got on board as our business partner, showing once again how much they care about the community of Clonakilty and the events people try and get off the ground. We can’t fail to mention to the Chamber of Commerce, and all of the businesses and venues of Clonakilty too, as they gave so much to help and they are all really excited about this year’s event! Especially as it’s been a hard year for a lot of them.”
The festival will run from June 16 to 19 and will include varied events such as dance, theatre, prose, music, poetry, performing arts and visual arts all around the town of Clonakilty. The programme is available to view on the website www.clonartsfest.com and all of the events are on Facebook also, on the Clonakilty Organic Arts Festival page.