Ireland’s longest-running community arts festival will enter into its 42nd year on September 18-29 with another bumper blend of marquee names and Connemara curiosities.
For centuries, Clifden has been a runway for flights of every altitude, from Transatlantic trailblazers to the stars of arts, music and theatre who have answered the Festival’s call these past 42 years. Where better to find elevation without barriers than the home of the Sky Road.
Leading the lift-off this year are some of the country’s loftiest creative talents. Paul Noonan, lynchpin of national treasures Bell X1, will take us through the band’s back catalogue during an intimate solo show, while legendary composer Bill Whelan and alt- trad maestro Colm Mac Con Iomaire combine with special guests for what will be a magical evening. The West also welcomes back Olivier Award-winning dramatist Pat Kinevane with his “extraordinary” new play Before.
Literary appetites, meanwhile, are in for a feast of ideas, with bestselling authors Colum McCann, Sinead Moriarty and Mike McCormack joining human-rights hero Alice Leahy and RTÉ politics hounds David McCullagh and Martina Fitzgerald – all in conversation, all continuing Clifden Arts Festival’s long tradition of compelling connections.
Similarly, Seamus Mallon, a key architect of the Peace Process, will be the subject of a live interview with RTÉ’s Tommie Gorman, while the Twelve Pins are also graced by poets such as Moya Cannon and Thomas McCarthy.
Hot off the tiles of Dancing With The Stars, Fred Cooke will foxtrot into the Connemara capital with his unique blend of stand-up mayhem. Ann Henning Jocelyn with four actors will present her latest play and novel The Sphere of Light – Secrets of the Boleyn Women, with readings, drama, song and music. This play will explore the many mysteries surrounding the fate of the Boleyn family. Whilst thoroughly researched and historically accurate, the play is a character-driven drama focused on gender dynamics and as such timeless and universal.
The author’s interest in the subject stems from the discovery that she is married to a descendant of Lord Hunsdon, son of Mary Boleyn and, presumably, King Henry VIII. Decades of research opened up many unanswered questions, until finally an ancient tombstone found at an Irish Tudor castle provided the cue to a highly plausible scenario.
The region’s dramatic landscape demands a strong visual art leaning at every festival, and this year is no different. Local legend and recent Aosdána inductee Margaret Irwin West will be the subject of a 50-year retrospective, and award-winning architect Sheila O’Donnell brings her refined watercolour studies to the town. Mischief and western wit will be on the menu in new works by Ted Turton and the launch of a new book by the inimitable Joe Boske.
Just a smattering of the flights of fancy coming to a festival dubbed “Ireland’s best-kept secret” by Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro. In the words of Brendan Flynn, the legendary teacher who dreamed it all up in 1977, “There is always a flight of the imagination when someone young hears a story or a wonderful piece of music for the first time. And things like that never leave you. They always sparkle in the undergrowth until something else comes along and brings them to life again. That’s what we try to do here.”