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18/10/2021

Earagail Arts Festival brings hybrid programme which reflects reopening of society

'We have tried to reach out to people and we have also tried to reach out as broadly as we can across the county'

Earagail Arts Festival brings hybrid programme which reflects reopening of society

Irish music legends Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine are two of the performers who will bring live shows in front of audiences to next month’s Earagail Arts Festival

The programme has been released for this year’s Earagail Arts Festival which will be a hybrid programme of online and live performances.

The festival went ahead last year mostly online and the format for this year reflects the tentative return to normality in society generally.

The 22 days of music, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, circus and carnival will take place between July 4 to 25 at venues and locations across Donegal.

Live shows

The significant change in this year’s festival is the hosting of more live outdoor shows with a series of outdoor covered, socially-distanced performances.

The festival is made up of around 70% live events and 30% online.

“We learnt a lot from producing a digital programme last year and taking that into context we will be mixing online performances with live events, within the guidelines obviously,” Paul Brown, the festival’s CEO and artistic director says.

With guidelines on indoor performances only changing recently, many venues have needed time to prepare. Under Covid-19 guidelines, outdoor events have a capacity of up to 100 and all venues at the festival have been risk-assessed. Workshops will have a capacity of up to 15 people and outdoor live shows will have a capacity of between 50 and up to 80.

This year’s festival has more content, Brown says, with some acts performing at different locations across the county.

“In terms of iterations or frequency, there are more of those events this year and that certainly has enabled us to reach out into various areas across the county; whether that’s Inishowen or east Donegal and the Gaeltacht in west Donegal as well. There is  more this year compared to last year and we hope to be getting back to the full complement of events in 2022.”

Restrictions on international travel have impacted some events such as Home (from Home) with The Henry Girls which attracts participants from across Europe. This year the event is online.

“We have been working on a basis that if we can’t bring people indoors then we will produce online versions.”

The pandemic has of course had an impact on the arts and more digital content could be the way of the future, Brown says.

“It has offered artists and arts organisations the opportunity to work in different ways and to create digital content which is more widely disseminated and provides more ways of engaging with people. For a festival, it has offered us the chance to reflect on how we reach out to those who haven't been to the festival before or have had little opportunity to take part in or experience an arts event.”  

One example is theatre company Big Telly’s theatre/gaming production, Right Up Your Street, which takes place in four different housing estates in east Donegal and Letterkenny.

“Projects like that have come about because artists and producers have reacted to the pandemic in a way in which they are still able to connect with people. There is fatigue in performing arts with video or streaming without an audience as so many artists depend on an audience to drive a performance or in terms of that response that they would get from a live audience, which is really important to their craft.”

Fidget Feet’s Irish Aerial Dance Festival will be visiting Ballybofey, Letterkenny, and Gaoth Dobhair as part of the  Earagail Arts Festival

Reflects Donegal

As always the festival is aimed at reflecting Donegal, its people and its culture.

“The commissions that we have undertaken - it is important for us to reach out across Donegal and showcase the county. What it has offered us is the chance to produce innovative new work. We have tried to reach out to people and we have also tried to reach out as broadly as we can across the county.”

Musical highlights include The Breath with support from Without Willow, a celebration of the bouzouki’s journey from Greece to Ireland by its finest exponents, Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine with support from Duo Zouk and a special closing concert by Donegal’s own internationally-cherished Tanya McCole with support by George Houston.

 For more details and the full programme go to: https://eaf.ie/2021-events/

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