A wonderful years on arts front – Arts in Roscommon

A perspective by  Philip Delamere, County Arts Officer The Douglas Hyde Conference was again a major event on the arts calendar locally. Featured among the line-up were Aran singer Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola along with her father, poet Dara Ó Conaola. Also featured were Prof. Seamas O Cathain and Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill.   Early December saw the culmination of two visual arts residencies in a two-day seminar called ‘Trade’ in King House in Boyle. New York-based artist Alfredo Jaar and London artist Rebecca Fortnum worked with ten artists over a number of weeks on projects which were presented at the two-day event.    Earlier in 2007, the Art@work programme, which allows artists to spend three weeks in companies creating work motivated by the staff, materials or working practices of the company, took place for its sixth year.    This year’s programme saw Ciarda Tobin and Joanne Beirne in the Abbey Hotel, Jennie Moran in FDK, Ballaghaderreen, Orla Galligan in Feelystone, Boyle and Catherine Cronogue in System Label, Roscommon. Everyone involved –  management, staff and artists alike, found the experience very rewarding.    Of course Roscommon Arts Centre had its own reason for celebration in 2007 as it was awarded €1 million from the Department of Art, Sports & Tourism for the development of Phase 2 of the facility. The new development will include two new visual art galleries, a multimedia suite, bar and café as well as much improved foyer, workshop and administration space.   One of the first shows to be performed at the Arts Centre in 2007 was Roscommon County Youth Theatre’s production of ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller. Arguably one of the toughest plays the youth theatre has taken on to date, it’s a testament to their hard work, dedication and a professional approach which they’ve developed over the last few years, that the play was greeted by rapturous applause by audiences.    Staying with young people, Roscommon County Youth Orchestra got off the ground with the establishment of its first ensemble in Boyle. As an orchestra is divided into four sections – woodwind, brass, strings and percussion – the idea is to set up four ensembles in four different towns around the county, thus offering the opportunity to young people from different areas to get involved.    The programme, a partnership between the County Council and the VEC, has proved to be very popular and successful. Woodwind started in Boyle in April, Brass in Castlerea in May and Strings will soon commence in Roscommon town.   As we moved into what we naively called a summer, the festival season at least made up for the bad weather. First off as always was the Strokestown International Poetry Festival.    In a few short years this festival has earned itself a substantial ranking on the national literary calendar due, in no small part, to the tireless work of a very strong committee and festival director which put an excellent programme on the effective foundations of previous years.   Boyle Arts Festival also had a great year. While we were sad to see Rhona Feely step down as chairperson after the sterling work she has put in over the years, she promises she hasn’t gone far and I’m sure Fergus Ahern will more than ably fill her shoes.    Both the Ballaghaderreen Douglas Hyde Summer School and the Keadue’s O’Carolan Summer School had good years too, with the former increasing its participants far beyond the usual summer school-goer and the latter mixing the best of tutoring with an excellent festival programme in the lovely village of Keadue.   Feile Frank McGann had another very successful traditional music festival in Strokestown, with great concerts, sessions and craic and the South Roscommon Singers Circle have their gathering each year in Knockcroghery. As one of the 2007 McNulty Festival highlights, the Singers Circle put a lot of effort into bringing members of the famous McNulty family back from the US for one of the main events.   Of course this is only a brief glimpse of the arts in 2007. I didn’t even get a chance to mention the excellent Vibrate Dance Festival in Athlone in May or the Lollipops Children Festival in the Arts Centre or Roscommon Fringe Festival at Art Lane Studios or the revival or the Roscommon Drama Festival or the packed performances of Roscommon Drama Group, and Boyle and Castlerea Musical Societies. If you missed them, don’t worry – there’s much more to see in 2008! * This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in the current edition of Roscommon Life (the Roscommon Association Yearbook).