The incredible Samhain Festival organised by community arts group Geata Arts will once again take place this year in Clonakilty. The festival, which celebrates and honours the Celtic festival of Samhain, will run from Thursday, November 1 until Sunday, November 4.
After the great success of last year’s festival, Geata Arts has teamed up with the Clonakilty Arts Festival in 2018 to bring an even more punch-packed programme with talks, events, workshops, theatre and music, all centred around Irish and Celtic history, mythology and folklore. The highlight will be a spectacular street parade on Sunday evening, showcasing the most haunting and incredible otherworldly figures and creatures of Celtic mythology.
Samhain is one of the four traditional Celtic festivals (besides Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa), that celebrates the Celtic New Year and the beginning of winter. It marks the end of the harvest time and the entering into the darker months. It is believed that at Samhain the boundary between this world and the Otherworld can be crossed more easily and its easier for the ‘Aos Sí’, the ‘spirits’ or ‘faeries’ to come into our world.
This year’s festival theme is ‘Away with the Faeries’ and the parade will showcase figures, creatures and mythologies of the four different faery realms of Celtic mythology. The parade will have four sections, each representing a different ‘realm’ associated with one of the elements – water, fire, earth and air. The parade, with over 150 performing artists and musicians, will set off on Asna Square and move through the main street of Clonakilty on to ‘Emmet Square’ for a massive drum and fire show finale.
Preparations for the festival and parade are well underway and Geata Arts, as well as many volunteers, have been busy for weeks creating a storyboard and making exceptional costumes, masks and props for the parade. There are open costume making workshops every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7-9pm at the Clonakilty Arts Centre and everyone who would like to help out or get involved in the festival and parade is very welcome to come along and become part of the team.
The parade and after show will be a spectacle for all senses. The main organisers of the festival, Mark Dougherty, Ciara Hefferman, Lisa Brinkmann and Ronan McLoughlin, are confident that that this year’s parade will outdo last years in many ways. “Last year we had little to no funding, so unfortunately couldn’t realise many of our planned ideas. This year however we were able to secure some partial funding through the Cork County Council Art funding schemes and could invest into all our creative plans and ideas,” said one of the organisers. All costumes and props of the parade are handmade, either by commissioned artists and artists groups, or during the open workshops at the Clonakilty Arts Centre.
Besides the street parade, Geata Arts have also been busy putting together a fantastic programme of events throughout the weekend. There will be a talk by Marianne Caulfield on the ancient tradition of Keening and a talk by Jenny Butler on the mythology of Samhain in the upstairs room of the Twig Refill station.
There will be a Dublin based theatre company performing ‘The Plot’, telling the story of the ghost of a 19th century woman who committed suicide and returns to demand her rights to a grave and a decent place to rest, in Debarras Folk Club on Friday evening.
Ronan O’Snodaigh from the band KILA will be holding a Bodhran workshop on Saturday afternoon, which is open to all levels. The highlight of Saturday evening will be a very special Acoustic Candlelight Gig in Unity Yoga Studio with spoken word artist David Jackson, and music by Branwen from Twin Headed Wolf, as well as Ronan O’Snodaigh from Kila.
Throughout the weekend there will be a ‘Shrine of Remembrance’ in Spillar’s Lane, a woven willow structure that allows everyone to leave a little note or blessing in memory of someone dear or loved they have lost. After the parade on Sunday night there will be a fabulous Samhain Trad Session in Debarras, as well as a big after-party curated by Cormac Lally in Debarras Folk Club in association with the Clonakilty Arts Festival. The Clonakilty Arts Festival have lined up many more talks, theatre shows and music, making for an incredible programme and absolutely spectacular festival celebrating Irish and Celtic culture and story in Clonakilty.
For more information on the festival and the full programme, visit www.clonakiltysamhain.com or www.facebook.com/samhain18.
Pictured above is a scene from last year’s parade. Pic by Anna Groniecka