Arts for change

At least two events this weekend demonstrated that the arts can be effective in bringing about change.

The first Dalkey Book Festival was blessed with the most glorious weather a weekend has seen in these parts for a good long while. Local businesses and local artists came together in an ambitious programme of readings, discussion, literary tours, Italia ’90 nostalgia and the unique opportunity to see Ross O’Carroll Kelly let loose on a turntable. Dalkey was packed with cheerful people in brightly coloured clothes, strolling around with melting ice-creams in hand, wandering in and out of shops, pubs, the market. As word spread the crowds grew, so that in the end there was standing room only at some events, with queues forming in the street. Those who were turned away went shopping instead, bringing much needed traffic to local businesses and the Tramyard market. One woman, in a fabulous pair of green Italian shoes, told a packed upstairs room at the Country Bake (where they supplied free coffee and tasties to the audience) that she was glad she’d come to hear Brian Keenan and Martina Devlin in conversation with Kate Holmquist instead of going to Mass. She reckoned she got more spiritual value from the discussion. No one contradicted her.

I’ve been told it was handbags at dawn for people who couldn’t get in to Finnegan’s to hear Maeve Binchy on Sunday morning. Several complained bitterly to the organisers.Considering all the voluntary work that went into planning this three-day-event and seeing it through to its triumphant conclusion, it hardly seems fair to berate the organisers because the festival was a success.

Later that evening, One in Four hosted Ómós, an evening of music, readings and performance to show solidarity with people who experience sexual violence in Ireland (statistically, one in four people, hence the name of the organisation). There was an extraordinary atmosphere in St Stephen’s church (the Pepper Canister), which was packed despite the glorious evening that did its best to lure us all out to play. Inside, there was music, drama, laughter, some tears. ‘Killing the silence’, is how one person summed it up afterwards. ‘A beginning,’ said someone else.

Wrapping it up, Theo Dorgan (who had steered us through the night) observed that if this sort of thing continues, we just might get our own Republic back. []
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