Siamsa Tíre was plunged into crisis mode in 2020. When the pandemic hit, our doors were closed, and we could no longer produce artistic events and programmes that engaged with the public.
In that crisis, we saw an opportunity. The curtains may have been drawn on the stage of our theatre. Our gallery may have been in darkness. But we knew artists were still out there, still eager to create.
So we launched our Associate Artists Scheme in an attempt to connect with them. To support them in continuing to make art. And to commission them to produce work which explores Irish folk culture from a multitude of artistic perspectives.
To date, we have worked with 36 artists and commissioned the creation of films, music, workshops, dance, stories, and illustrations for children.
Let’s introduce you to some of them and tell you about our creative collaborations.
Ruth is a performer, musician, and singer based in County Clare. She shares her passion for folk music on her ‘Simply Folk’ show on RTÉ Radio One. She also has more than 20 years of experience in arts’ education, working as a classroom teacher in primary and secondary schools to direct musicals, choirs, and orchestras. She’s a woman of many talents.
Edwina is a dancer and former primary school teacher from County Leitrim. She learned her dancing from her mother and the dancers of her local area and became so proficient that she started teaching others at the age of 16.
Since then, she has toured the world, sharing the stage with the likes of Altan, De Danann, Martin Hayes, and Kila, to name but a few.
She has also launched sean nós dancing DVDs, set up dancing summer camps, founded the hugely successful Leitrim Dance Festival, and started her own independent film production company making creative films that focus on music, dance, arts, heritage, culture, nature, and community.
Siamsa Tíre has commissioned Ruth and Edwina to work together to undertake research and development that will integrate our work within the formal education sector.
What this means in practice is that they will develop a series of folk theatre shows specifically for primary schools. There will be resource materials available to teachers that incorporate specific curricular learning outcomes. So, the children will be covering required elements of the school curriculum while also learning about Irish folk culture and the performing arts.
Little John Nee
A writer, performer, storyteller, and musician; Little John Nee started performing in a rock ‘n roll garage band in his early teens, playing support to the likes of Philomena Begley and her Rambling Men in Donegal’s legendary Fiesta Ballroom.
Since then, he has variously been a beat poet, one of Grafton Street’s most iconic street performers, a member of Macnas spectacle theatre company, a creator of children’s theatre shows, and a musical storyteller who relishes in physical theatre.
Siamsa Tíre commissioned him to undertake research and development for Drone Bone Jetty, a comic thriller about the search for truth and meaning in a world where truth and meaning are becoming alarmingly elusive.
Little John Nee also created the soundtrack for this piece using mellotron and vintage electronic instruments with the intention of layering these with contemporary musical motifs and soundscapes.
Laura is a singer, musician, composer, and visual artist who works mostly in video and photography.
She collaborated with Little John Nee to direct Drone Bone Jetty.
She is also working with Brian Bolger.
Brian Bolger is a composer and performer with the Dublin Guitar Quartet.
He and Laura are collaborating on Príosma, a project which will draw primarily on Siamsa Tíre’s archive for raw materials to create an eclectic piece of work for voice with ensemble accompaniment including pure instrumental passages, poetry, and spoken word. Brian’s reimagining of musical and written folk sources will be enhanced by visuals created by Laura.
Alma is a composer, sound designer, and musician. From Tralee but based in Dublin, her work ranges from performing as part of the folk trio The Evertides to her electronic act known as Lux Alma, via sound design for West End shows and live art performances.
As part of her work with Siamsa Tíre, Alma created a unique piece of music called ‘To the Sea’. Having missed the Atlantic Ocean during lockdown in Dublin, once she was able, she undertook a tour of Kerry, visiting every beach in the county, and taking audio and visual recordings at each one.
She then blended those sounds together to create a Lux Alma electro-folk song. The result was both a love letter to the sea and a digital seashell that anyone can hold to their ears whenever they miss the ocean.
Catherine Young is Siamsa Tíre’s artist in residence and is currently working on a piece called ‘Floating on a Dead Sea’. She is also participating in our Associate Artists Scheme with a project that integrates her research of folk dance with her own practice of folk dance in an international context.
Olivia is a children’s book writer from Killarney who recently signed a picture book deal with Bloomsbury Books.
Siamsa Tíre commissioned her to research the traditions and mythology surrounding the Celtic festival of Samhain (Halloween) with a view to incorporating them into a story for the young children of today. Olivia has done just that and her story ‘A Way Home/An Slí Abhaile’ has now inspired 20 children’s books illustrators to create pictures depicting different scenes from the narrative.
These pictures are currently hanging in Siamsa Tíre’s gallery in a way that replicates a picture book. Visitors literally walk into Olivia’s story and create their own narrative as they follow the images.
The ‘A Way Home/An Slí Abhaile’ exhibition will go on nationwide tour in 2022.
Jym Daly’s artistic life started with him playing kitchen sinks and Chinese violins in nightclubs in London. From there, he joined Loop Guru, a band that combined spiritual music from around the world with dance beats. As a sideline, he created the band’s videos and created a cartoon which ran in a national music magazine. And eventually, he ended up co-founding Fidget Feet Aerial Dance Theatre, where music, film, dance, acting, and swinging boats off cranes come together to make art.
Thomas Johnston is a traditional Irish musician, educator, and researcher. He is the Artistic Director of Ceol Connected, a company dedicated to promoting high quality and meaningful experiences of traditional arts among children. He is also a researcher and lecturer in music education, Irish traditional music, ethnomusicology, and world popular music at Dublin City University.
Siamsa Tíre has commissioned Jym Daly and Thomas Johnston to develop a new musical score that will feature in Fidget Feet’s upcoming new production, ‘A Handful of Dreams’.
The score will be grounded in Irish traditional music and folklore but will also embrace the worlds of contemporary composition and sound design. By bringing the unique mix of chants, world beats, and psychedelic electronics for which Jym Daly is renowned with the beguiling, fantastical, and joyful compositions that characterise Thomas Johnston’s work, audiences will be guaranteed a unique sonic experience.
Macdara Yeates and Bob Gallagher
Macdara is a traditional singer, filmmaker, and cultural producer. Bob is an award-winning music video director.
Siamsa Tíre has brought them together to create Hibernicon, a multi-media showcase of traditional singing, poetry, music, dance, and cinema.
Drawing on the 19th-century tradition of ‘Hibernicon Theatres’, an early Irish-American travelling show that featured a variety of traditional artists performing in front of a scrolling, painted backdrop of Irish scenery. The piece blends live performance from Ireland’s finest modern folk artists with a sweeping panorama of live visuals. The pair see it as of reflecting modern-day Ireland and meditating on the themes of nationhood and the contrast between the imagined and the real.
Wexford-based artist Caoimhe Dunn is a model-maker, puppeteer, puppet maker, mask maker, and youth arts facilitator.
As part of her work with Siamsa Tíre, she is researching and exploring folk festival traditions in Ireland from the perspective of a street arts and spectacle artist. She has looked at the history of Mummers and hopes to create a new work inspired by mumming. It is shaping up to be a Covid-inspired mummers piece that plays with traditional characters and written pieces in a contemporary context.
To get a taste of our associate artists works enjoy our video.