Friday 19 January 2018

Laughing all the way at the banks

While funny and finance don't usually go hand in hand, Kilkenny festival Kilkenomics has managed to fuse the two into a successful event, now in its sixth year running. Arlene Harris meets programme director Naoise Nunn to hear how he and his team are bringing economical matters to the masses

Big draw: Dara O Briain will feature at the sixth Kilkenomics event this weekend
Big draw: Dara O Briain will feature at the sixth Kilkenomics event this weekend
Dan Ariely, Bill Black and David McWilliams enjoy a laugh at a previous Kilkenomics event. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Arlene Harris

There is rarely anything funny about economics and to be honest, many people find it difficult to even understand the nitty gritty of finance let alone see the humour in it.

But in 2010, Kilkenomics decided to put an end to the mystery and perpetual gravitas surrounding the fiscal issues affecting our everyday lives.

A world first, the event, which is now in its sixth year, amalgamates economics with comedy in a bid to lighten the load while still getting across the important information we all need to get a handle on.

Programme director, Naoise Nunn says the event - which takes place this year from November 10-13 - began as a means of educating the masses about the economy, but has evolved into a multi-faceted topical production which will appeal to every sector of the community.

Dan Ariely, Bill Black and David McWilliams enjoy a laugh at a previous Kilkenomics event. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Dan Ariely, Bill Black and David McWilliams enjoy a laugh at a previous Kilkenomics event. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

"When we established Kilkenomics in 2010, we were in the teeth of the economic crisis but many people were scratching their heads trying to figure out what was actually going on," he says. "The financial situation of the country was regularly described using archaic language so we decided to put financial experts and comedians on stage to explain what was happening using language everyone could understand.

"Six years later, the event is no longer a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis, and while most people have more of an understanding of economics, there is still a lot to cover and plenty of topical information which will be of interest to everyone from university students to business people and those who are trying to make ends meet."

Taking place in various venues around Kilkenny, the event will feature a host of well-known faces from both the financial and artistic world.

According to Nunn, there is plenty of scope for anyone wishing to combine a night or weekend away with the opportunity to boost their understanding of their personal and national economy.

"Kilkenomics brings together some of the best minds in the financial world, at a fraction of the price of other international events," he says. "While the subjects discussed are serious and nothing is aped up for the sake of it, the approach is not academic so it is easy for everyone to grasp and the aim of the programme is to help people make better choices in their lives.

"As well as financial names, we also have other well-known faces and this year Dara O Briain will be with us for the first time, which is of course, a great draw."

Set in the beautiful city of Kilkenny, the line-up promises to have something for everyone.

"Over the course of the few days, visitors will get to experience an event which is informative, fun and informal set against the backdrop of Kilkenny's medieval city," says Nunn.

"One of the talks will take place in a 16th-century ale house which has been wonderfully preserved - so aside from the useful information, lively debate and the bit of fun around the talks, people will also be able to enjoy the laneways and cobbled streets of this beautiful city."

During the four-day event, there will be a wide range of talks on different topics from mid-morning until late evening.

Many of the talks are fully booked already, but of those remaining, some of the most recommended are:

The Great Bear - Putin's Russia: Friend or Foe

Starting at 8.30pm on Friday November 11, this event looks at the propaganda war between Russia and its allies and the US and its allies. Amidst all the accusations and finger pointing, where lies the truth? Tickets from €13.

Smash and Grab - the Economics of Ireland's Wage Claims

This talk takes place on Friday November 11 from 10.30pm and looks at the reason behind the pay claims from the public sector - are they justified and where will the money come from? Admission from €13.

The Consequence of Destroying Pensions

On Saturday November 12 from 2pm, this event will discuss the underfunding for the pensions of the future. With an ageing population, how will the Government look after pensioners, many who will live well into their 80s, or 20 years after they have finished working? Tickets from €13.

Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income

This topic will be discussed on Saturday November 12 from 3pm and will look at the concept of governments providing their citizens with a fixed amount of money, regardless of their income. A panel of six will debate the pros and cons of free money for everyone. Tickets cost from €13.

How to Fix Ireland's New Housing Crisis

This will be discussed at 4.15pm on Saturday November 12 and at 5.30pm on the same day, panellists will debate the controversial topic of Does Capitalism need a World War to Survive? This event will explore the idea that World War Two jolted the world out of the Great Depression.

Although catastrophic on many levels, the post-war era saw unprecedented investment in re-construction and the global economy boomed. Has capitalism now reached a saturation point where a hard reset of a new world war is needed? Tickets from €18.

For more information or to book tickets visit

Irish Independent

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