Sunday 18 March 2018

A coming together of Sligo's cultural institutions

The launch of Tread Softly. Pic: Donal Hackett
The launch of Tread Softly. Pic: Donal Hackett

Tread Softly brings together Sligo's finest cultural institutions for a festival that focuses largely on the arts, written and visual.

Now in its sixth year, the festival is firmly established and is a huge event on the festival calendar in the area.

"It was an idea to do something with all the cultural institutions in Sligo," explained Marie O'Byrne, Director of the Hawk's Well.

"I think Sligo is quite unique in that it's small but it has all these mega hitters, like The Model is one of the galleries nationally that's recognised, Blue Raincoat is the only resident theatre company in the country. We try our best to hit heavy as well! It started off as 'what could we do together' because The Model having the Jack B. Yeats connection, it became obvious that we had to centre something around that and the Yeats Summer School happens around the same time and it just seemed like the obvious thing to do, try and aim it at tourists and try and expand the Yeats experience."

And because the Hawk's Well itself has no direct link with WB or Jack Yeats, it was decided that they would use his links to writing.

"When we started off, especially here, we don't have a direct link to Yeats, the Blue Raincoat Theatre are doing Yeats plays for years, The Model have the Yeats collection, we don't really so we try to do many things related to Yeats, we sort of ran out of steam a little bit. Your local population are always going to be your main audience, the tourists are an addition on top of it. My take on it is, our way of broadening it out is looking at books, reading and using words. That's why like Freddie White is a great songwriter, it's a tenuous link but at the same time a link all the same, reading and art and drama are the main thrusts."

The Cairde arts festival is currently running in Sligo, with a focus on every side of art.

"Tread Softly is focussed more on the book related, I guess the Yeats Connection comes from words and art," explained Marie. "We've been doing it for several years now, the council is involved as is the Yeats Society themselves," she added.

Marie continued: "The festival itself doesn't get major funding from anyone. It gets lots of little bits and it's the sum of its parts really, but I suppose really because all the cultural institutions are behind it, we all look after the budgets for our own events and join them all together."

Festival Highlights


· Jack B. Yeats

· Forged Carved Cast

· Crazy Jane

· Kate MacDonagh theatrical installation Echoes at Factory Performance Space


· Blue Raincoat Theatre Company's annual A Country Under Wave season of Yeats' plays

· Shigeyama Family's traditional Japanese Kyogen comedy interpretation of The Cat and the Moon


· Straight Outta Connemara

· What We See and What We Know

· A Literary Lunch

· Stories of Red Hanrahan

· A series of events writing workshops and Literary Open Mic at Sligo Central Library

· Yeats and Zen and a Horseman Passing By

· Yeats International Summer School


· Sligo Jazz Project in association with the Hawk's Well Theatre presents Sligo Jazz Festival

· Performances and workshops with legendary performer Freddie White at Hawk's Well


· Take part in the night time walk to Keash Caves

· Tread Softly, during a series of guided walks taking place throughout the Festival.

· Join the Sea Trail historic walk of Rosses Pont and Sligo town, with lunch


· A Sligo Myths and Legends Treasure Hunt around Sligo town

· Create your version of Yeats' Cloths of Heaven

· City Hall will open up The Mayor's Parlour for workshops with Cathy Jordan and Una Mannion

· Create your own fantastical dream and put it in a jar to give to someone you love at the BFG Dream Jars workshop, or take part in one of the many activities in Liber Bookshop.

Sligo Champion