THE 2021 Earagail Arts Festival hybrid programme of live, digital and virtual experiences was one of the most important ever delivered in its 33-year history according to Artistic director, Paul Brown.
This year’s festival, which featured works by international and local artists, played to full houses and reached into all parts of Donegal over the past three weeks.
“Given the context of the world we live in at the minute it symbolised us being together and gives us all hope that we’ll soon be together once more,” he said.
Its blended programme, with a significant increase in in-person events, marked a significant change when compared with the 2020 festival.
“We went from having one live event last year to over thirty this year. It’s been a major undertaking but the feedback has been incredible. The response from audiences and artists has been phenomenal. It’s really heartening to get back to presenting live, physical events again,” he said.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and the festival CEO & Artistic Director is already planning towards 2022 and beyond.
“The essence of festivals is people coming together to share an experience and this year we were able to achieve that as the programme was largely held outdoors. We were also blessed by the weather,” he said.
The organisers were able to bring great artwork to people’s doorsteps this year and took the game-theatre production Right Up Your Street into housing estates in St Johnston, Raphoe and Letterkenny.
“It gave us the opportunity to engage with people who we might not have had the opportunity to do so in the past. It was one positive to emerge from the pandemic,” he said.
Working with limited capacity meant that many of the live events were sold out.
“To have a response like we had this year was hugely significant. Hopefully we will be able to get back to a more regular programme next year,” he said.
“We have learned a lot through this process and, as a result, there will be some changes to the way we work going forward. We’re already planning for 2022 and beyond. Some of the projects we present in the festival take two to three years so we’re looking further in 2023, ‘24 and beyond,” he added.
Work is also underway on a new Strategic Plan for the Earagail Arts Festival to cover that period.
“While I’m the CEO and Artistic Director it would not be possible to put the festival together without the team, namely Edel Corcoran, Sean Feeny, Conor Mullan, Sharon McMenamin, Valarie Byrce and Bryan Wallace. They deserve every credit.
“Also, a huge thank you to all the partner organisations, venues and their staff, videographers, production and Covid crews,” he said.
While the Earagail Arts Festival is over for another year there will be a small film festival later this year during which films made during this year’s festival will be screened.
There will also be a couple of live shows, yet to be announced, happening later this year as well.
“This year we had a hybrid programme of live and online events which allowed us to share works created during the festival with people who were unable to come to Donegal.
“We always try to use iconic locations across the county which help to showcase the best of Donegal in terms of its artists and landscapes. This year we were on Tory island and at Fanad Head and will have a number of video pieces that provide really striking pictures of Donegal at its best because when the sun shines there’s no better place to be,” he said.
“It’s very hard to come up with one highlight from this year’s festival. There was the first live concert we produced in two years, featuring The Breath, to the events at Fanad Lighthouse to Tumble Circus’ co-commissioned Cycle Circus and Fidget Feet’s aerial street arts programme. Then there were the installations at Cnoc na Naomh and exhibitions across Donegal and the Bin Boat project on Gartan Lake.
“There was a huge number of events that were so beautiful and so meaningful given the times that we’re in,” he said.