The Sheelin Suite was positively bopping with artists (a smattering of councillors, and a good few council officers) last night when I went to the Creative Ireland consultation workshop. There were painters, poets, writers, sculptors, video artists, embroiderers, curators, playwrights. It was a positive love-in. I felt wooed and stirred. The Minister told us that ‘culture was going to be at the heart of government policy’, that the legacy of the 2016 celebrations was the revelation that culture mattered. There was a video of all the great and the good in the Arts World telling us how wonderful it was going to be with Creative Ireland in the frame. And face to face, the Cathoirleach, Cavan CEO, the Minister, Director of Culture Ireland, the Chair of the Cavan Culture team all told us, again and again, about how positive and radical it was going to be. Then, for the final twenty minutes it was over to the artists to say what we thought would be great in Cavan, creatively wise.
And did we think! We wanted to start young, get artists into schools running workshops, set up a network of artists in Cavan. We wanted space for exhibitions, rehearsals, workshops across the whole of the county (the Minister later referred to these as creative hubs). We wanted to make use of Castle Sanderson (a magnificent conference centre set in fabulous grounds restored under Peace Programme for the scouts) for training in traditional crafts. We wanted to develop a Cavan Gaeltacht, we wanted a heritage audit, we wanted to word farm and story tell, we wanted a children’s festival, to invest in our archives, an active creative and mental health programme, we wanted an artist buddy system, we wanted to make this Cavan Creative Team public.
So maybe, if anyone is listening, as the present Cavan Culture team seems to be all state/public sector officials, the first step is to ask a few artists from different creative fields to get involved.
In the world of Creative Ireland, there are five imaginings:
- Enabling the Creative Potential of Every Child
- Enabling Creativity of Every Community
- Investing in our Creative and Cultural Infrastructure
- Ireland as the Centre of Excellence in Media Production
- Unifying our Global Reputation
So, it is not unambitious.
“The core work of Creative Ireland is creating and sustaining functional and productive partnerships with all identified agencies built on detailed workplans, with tangible outcomes, that will be developed in consultation with each partner organisation.”
Maybe, the second step should be to write a little less creatively.
There is cabinet committee chaired by the Taoiseach, a senior officials group, a dedicated projects office to drive this initiative. But I am not sure how many Indians are involved. There is one, the director, John Concannon, who is currently touring all the counties with the presentation, so he has energy, and the Minister, Heather Humphreys, is enthusiastic. It reminded me of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy which ten plus years ago was very trendy but which created little change which impacted on poor people.
However, last night, I was heartened by the ideas, the suggestions, the artists! It was a glimmer of hope on what is presently a dark canvas. And, don’t you think its lovely to think that we might have government policy that is driven by the artistic and cultural well-being of its people. But, the collaborative nature of Creative Ireland is key. All Government departments need to be actively involved and creatively proof their policy making. And, artists need to be involved at every level. Not all artists will want to, but I am sure there are many who have been actively involved in their communities and who will be interested in helping make Creative Ireland successful. So, I will put aside my cynicism, all my previous experience as a community activist. Artists, check it out and maybe get involved. I leave you with the words of Oscar Wild, ‘a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’
Oh, and while I’m here – don’t forget the Poetry Party in the Town Hall at 6.30pm on Thursday 27 April. Bring poems and cakes. And this years first AT The Edge, Cavan takes place on Tuesday 2 May in the Johnston Library and we’ve got great readers. Truly: Colm Keegan, Helena Mulkerns, Kate Dempsey, followed by Open Mic.