Siamsa Tíre is launching a series of initiatives that support and engage with professional artists across Ireland to explore folk in all its forms. For over fifty years, Siamsa Tíre has championed the importance of folk, community and creativity but the interruption caused by COVID to traditional methods of collaboration and telling stories has seen the organization experiment with new ways to achieve its aims. The Celtic celebration of Imbolc rejoices in the return of Spring and Siamsa Tíre is marking the occasion with the seeds of some new ideas and fresh voices. The 1st February will see Siamsa Tíre launch a new podcast series, Sounds Like Folk, and the roll-out of a new Associate Artist scheme.
The new podcast series Sounds like Folk launches at noon on Monday 1st February to coincide with Imbolc, a Celtic celebration marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The Celtic symbolism of moving from darkness to light and nature’s renewal fittingly expresses Siamsa Tíre’s journey through the COVID restrictions. Hosted by Joanne Barry, Repertory Director of National Folk Theatre, the series will trace folk voices, past and present across eight 30-minute conversations. Joanne will speak to some of Siamsa’s oldest and newest friends about Siamsa Tíre and folk’s influence on their childhood and adulthood, the sense of community it created, and why they hold it close to their hearts. Hearing varying voices from Ireland’s arts world, the series will also examine the idea of folk theatre and where it stands in today’s world. Siamsa Tíre itself was born from a ‘coming together’ of people, ideas and celebration, and this podcast aims to recreate that through the sharing of memories, thoughts and great conversation.
The podcast series open with Tralee born Mezzo Soprano Paula Murrihy followed by Ruth Smith (musician and presenter). You can listen to Sounds Like Folk every Monday from noon February 1st – 22nd March on Soundcloud, iTunes, Spotify, and Siamsa Tíre’s website where you can also find a full list of podcast guests.
Host Joanne Barry says of the podcasts, “We thought it would be wonderful to re-create the idea of a coming together, the ‘bothántaíocht’ idea, that Siamsa inspires. The essence of the podcast is to create an intimate experience, resembling the events people are missing from their local theatres and live venues. This is an offering, in light of all the produced online content that we have all been watching on screens for the last year, all very visual experiences but nothing like sitting in a theatre or venue experiencing the ‘real thing’.”
In late Autumn 2020, in response to the constraints of the pandemic, Siamsa Tíre commenced an Associate Artists Scheme to support and engage with professional artists across Ireland whose work explores folk artforms and folk culture in different ways.
Since then, musician and broadcaster Ruth Smith, musician and theatre maker Little John Nee, musician and composer Alma Kelliher, dancer and choreographer Catherine Young, children’s book author Oliva Hope, composer and circus artist Jym Daly, composer and theatre maker Thomas Johnston and musician and film-maker Laura Sheeran, have all joined Siamsa Tíre’s Associate Artists Scheme.
To mark Imbolc, Siamsa Tíre will be sharing some samples of work in progress, those first seeds of new ideas beginning to germinate from that first cohort of artists, and will invite more artists to join the Associate Artist Scheme to commence their own exploration of folk.
The artists will continue to develop work which responds to folk in their own varied ways, some inspired directly by folk culture and others experimenting with the elements of folk art to create innovative new perspectives on traditional practices. The final outcomes from their work will feed into special events that will be included in Siamsa Tíre’s future programme of events and many may also go on to tour to other venues and festivals.
Roisin McGarr, Executive Director, Siamsa Tíre comments, “Our Associate Artists Scheme is intended to meet our need to connect and continue to collaborate and co-create, as well as meet the needs of artists to continue developing work while COVID restricts their practice. We’re gathering an array of artists across artforms who we consider share our values, philosophy, ways of living, thinking, behaving. We admire and connect with their artistic approach and their work speaks of and to the living cultural heritage of rural Ireland in us, now, here, together, being ourselves. We want to hear ideas and perspectives that we may not have heard before, swap stories and shine a little more light at a time when we all need it.”