Programme Note – Festival 2021

Jo Mangan
CEO / Artistic Director – Carlow Arts Festival

Our in person, digitally native, online and virtual programme continues to highlight our ambition at Carlow Arts Festival to carve out new territory. In addition to commissioning numerous projects this year, we have found ourselves being producers and co-creators. Bringing artists together from different backgrounds, planning, readjusting, reimagining together – this became the main order of business in the past year. This has proved both necessary as well as rewarding as we wrestled this year’s festival into shape. Thank you to all the artists and the amazing Carlow Arts Festival team who have held faith, and worked way above ‘the above and beyond’ with me towards creating our incredibly ambitious programme this year.

Woman in the Machine which we co-created with VISUAL has allowed us access to the incredible landmark building which has dominated my imagination since first arriving in Carlow. As a lifelong fan of ‘between life’ spaces in the creation of my own work, I am always on the hunt for that sweet spot in a building’s life, when artists are welcome to come and reimagine that life briefly. This project had been gestating for quite some time and the opportunity of being part of Brightening Air | Coiscéim Coiligh made it possible for Emma Lucy O’Brien and I to dream big. I am thrilled for the building, the 50+ artists involved and the people of Carlow, who have such a deep relationship with the site.

We have been building significant expertise in the digital realm over the last number of years with our Virtual Reality film programming alongside digitally native work. As well as creating an entirely immersive 360 Virtual Festival Campus to house events this year, we are platforming the best boundary-leaping work in the digital realm from overseas as well as Ireland. Prometheus, is the Greek myth performed with Lego for children live from Catalonia. It sits alongside The House Never Wins – a brilliant  interactive game involving shots, from the UK that makes you feel bad if you do win (me), the phenomenal immersive wonderland of Swan Lake The Game from the Netherlands, The Reverie Engine – a delicious daily audio trip from Dr. Mindflip, and Malaprop’s new work WSTL: Epistles – which involves deep use of messaging services.

It was a joy to have 3 distinct Curators work with us this year, Cecelia Kuska who brought her expertise to the creation of the Latin American Dance Film programme, Maeve McGrath who narrowed down a field of immense talent to bring our Irish Shorts Season to light as well as our Architecture on Film programme, and Camille Donegan who again brought her deep knowledge to the VR strand of films.

As always we are making the Arts accessible to all, and have worked hard to ensure accessibility is woven into the entirety of the programme. This accessibility focus is also seen in the continuation of Free and Pick Your Price programming and events created specifically for front line workers and those living in Residential and Care Homes and in the programming choices we have made which seek to avoid exclusion.

At the end of last year we were able to distribute what we called Wedge funds to artists, to develop ideas, 2 of these recipients are sharing the fruits of that work this year: Stuart Roche is streaming a reading of his new play The 20 Club with a stellar cast from the Axis Theatre, and Postal Project sees artworks sent in the post – in a beautifully generous ‘pay it forward’ fashion.

We have through careful planning been able to work with artists and commission works that a limited audience will be able to experience live, such as the stunning Irish National Opera/Michael Trainor sound and light installation Invisible Opera, Fidget Feet’s epic Handful of Dreams, AlanJames Burns brain wave melting installation Open Mind, Closed System, and Cian Kinsella’s site-specific (on his own farm) Grow.

Our Visual Arts offering is taking to the outdoors with the incredible Maser creating his magic in a soon not to be neglected corner of Carlow and he will be delivering workshops to local young people in tandem with the commission, whilst Spraoi will be creating installations through the town centre. The Artworks Exhibition is bigger than ever this year and across the Digital realm as well as at VISUAL and the former Braun factory. We are presenting the work of 22 extraordinary artists who work at the intersection of art, science, technology and new media.

Please tune in, log on, download, build an avatar and come to Carlow Arts Festival this year.