Monday 20 November 2017

City hurls itself into all things from Beowulf to birdsong

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

IT may be synonymous with hurling greatness, but that hasn't stopped Kilkenny from placing itself at the heart of the arts calendar.

Local businesses will be welcoming another influx of visitors -- and cash -- this weekend as the city's annual arts festival gets under way.

Running until next Sunday, organisers are showcasing events to suit all tastes and budgets. Everything is on the menu, from poetry to professors of economics to concerts celebrating the birds.

Festival director Damien Downes said this year was his fourth and final time at the helm and it's been a challenge to improve the programme with less funding.

"We've had a superb reaction and there are a lot of free events. We're very conscious that we have to offer something for everyone. Visual arts is one of the biggest single reasons that people come," he said.

Scores of free events include the Fanzini Brothers street show at Canal Walk at 2pm and 4.30pm, both today and tomorrow.

Over the weekend, the Set Theatre will host New York group Banana Bag & Bodice and their rollicking version of the epic Old English poem 'Beowulf', complete with raucous seven-piece band.

On a more downbeat note, UCD professor Morgan Kelly, famous for his gloomy view of our economic prospects, is giving a lecture in St Canice's Cathedral at 6pm tonight.

For music fans, jazz band OKO will be playing tonight and on Wednesday night the Mongolian-inspired band Hanggai will play at the Set Theatre.

The first festival back in 1974 featured two Northern poets who went on to great things -- Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon. This year Muldoon is back with Michael Longley and the pair will recite their work in St Canice's Cathedral.


The event, next Saturday, is one of the highlights of the festival. Admission prices are €13 and €11.

Festival curator Colm Toibin said he was looking forward to introducing TC Boyle at the Parade Tower of the castle on Wednesday.

"I saw him in LA, he's like Mick Jagger," he said.

Yesterday a number of art exhibitions opened and in the aptly named 'Pop Up Gallery' on William Street, Eoghan Phelan was selling paintings and photographs from a group of Dublin artists.

The Kilkenny-based Crafts Council is holding free work-shops for children. They can look forward to lessons on bookmaking, shadow puppetry, jewellery-making, origami and ancient papermaking techniques.

Other events over the next week include the Kilkenny Arts Festival Choir, 'Holy Mary' (a new play by Eoin Colfer), the Great Natural Resources Debate and the European Union Baroque Orchestra.

Businesses were last night welcoming the first of many thousands of visitors who will travel to Kilkenny over the next week.

Gerry Byrne, who runs the Left Bank bar and is the owner of the Hibernian Hotel and the Blue Bar, believes the city is "blessed" as it's doing better than the rest of the country. "It is hurting us but not as much as everywhere else," he said.

Further information on the week's events is available at

Irish Independent

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