Liverpool’s cultural ties with Ireland come to the fore once again as the Liverpool Irish Festival returns, this year with special performances by The Guilty Feminist (in a dedicated festival podcast) and Kíla. We also celebrate a new partnership with Liverpool Literary Festival, the return of the Celtic Animation Film Festival and IndieCork and a new play by Lizzie Nunnery.
Taking place 18-28 Oct 2018 in venues across Liverpool, including Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, FACT, Liverpool Philharmonic, St George’s Hall, the Florrie and the Victoria and Gallery Museum, the programme, curated by Festival Director Emma Smith and partners, explores the theme of ‘migration’. Artists, performers, musicians, writers and filmmakers explore the relationship between cultural identity and place and how Irish identity, in particular, is changing globally, affecting how we understand ‘Irishness’ in the 21st century.
The hugely successful podcast (30m+ downloads), The Guilty Feminist, comes to Liverpool Irish Festival as part of its In:Visible Women programme and for its first visit to the city. Comedian Deborah Frances-White records a live podcast in front of an audience at Liverpool Playhouse, discussing 21st century feminism and the paradoxes and insecurities which undermines it.
One of Ireland’s greatest music acts, Kíla, come to LiverpoolArts Clubfor a tub-thumping, rip-roaring, freewheeling jig of a gig. Supported by Bill Booth, Kíla’s eight members come from different musical backgrounds, including trad, classical and rock, which blend into the bands furiously energetic sound. It bristles with energy and passion and will be an unforgettable night.
At the Everyman Theatre, Lizzie Nunnery presents her new play with songs, To Have to Shoot Irishmen, exploring the events around the death of Francis Sheehy Skeffington during the Easter Rising in Dublin, 1916. Directed by Gemma Kerr (Hitting Town, Southwark Playhouse) and produced by Lizzie Nunnery’s Almanac Arts, the play runs for three nights (25-27 Oct).
For the first time, Liverpool Irish Festival unites with Liverpool Literary Festival, celebrating the writers, both emerging and established, who continue Ireland’s rich literary heritage. Events includeEamonn Hughes’ fascinating exploration and reflection on his work with Van Morrison, navigating the songwriter’s representation of Belfast. This is a joint event with The Institute of Irish Studies.
At one of Liverpool’s newest venues, OUTPUT Gallery, an artist will create a new work responding to the successful repeal of the Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s Constitution, granting new body autonomy in Ireland. The exhibition will run for the duration of the festival part of the In:Visible Women strand.
Call to artists for work responding to Ireland’s Repeal the Eighth movement and historic referendum vote, leading to 2018 exhibition at OUTPUT gallery.
Liverpool Irish Festival (LIF) and OUTPUT gallery have partnered this year to commission an artist to respond to the successful repeal of The 8th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which now allows the government to legislate for abortion and grants new body autonomy to people in Ireland.
We are inviting exhibition applications from Liverpool, Liverpool Irish, and Irish creatives born or based in Merseyside working in the visual arts, performance, film or any other media. With such a powerful subject at the heart of the exhibition, applicants might choose to make work about the historical consequences of the 8th Amendment, its emotional impact, empowerment, agency, or the cultural shift the repeal marks.
The exhibition will run 18-28 October 2018, the entirety of this year’s LIF, which is the largest and most diverse showcase of contemporary and traditional Irish arts and culture in the UK. The selected artist will receive £300 and OUTPUT gallery will cover the technical production of the exhibition, which will be promoted by LIF.
To apply, please send your idea for the exhibition, details, and any images of previous work to [email protected]. This open call will close midnight of Fri 31 Aug 2018. OUTPUT gallery will be wheelchair accessible but the bathrooms are not. Please get in touch if you have any questions relating to the brief or any access requirements.
Please be aware Creative Call – Ts and Cs, which we – LIF and OUTPUT gallery – will use to help determine our selection. Please read these before submitting your response to this call. If you submit an edxhibition proposal, we will presume you have read and accept these terms and conditions.
To Have to Shoot Irishmen, a play written by Lizzie Nunnery -and produced by her company Almanac Arts– will feature as part of #LIF2018.
It will be the fourth siginificant piece of Lizzie’s work that LIF has shown in 10 years. So where did it all begin, where might it go and what has changed? We asked Lizzie (LN) to reflect on her friendship with us and what she thought about it all…
Over to Lizzie:
Over the past decade, Liverpool Irish Festival has been a good friend to me. An inspiring and supportive friend… but also a challenging one… The kind of friend that walks you to the edge of a cliff and says ‘jump’, but then gently reminds you that you’re wearing a parachute.
In 2008, the year of Capital of Culture, I was an enthusiastic and wide-eyed playwright and songwriter, fresh from my first production at the Liverpool Everyman. The play was called Intemperance, about an impoverished Liverpool Irish family and set in 1854 and had drawn the attention of then Festival Manager, Jake Roney. He met me in the charming noise of the old Everyman Bistro. With characteristic directness he asked me if I’d like to be Artistic Director of a multi-disciplinary arts event in the Concert Room at St Georges Hall.
I’d never been Artistic Director of anything in my life, but that didn’t seem to bother him. He wanted me to curate a night of dance, drama and live music about the links between Liverpool’s black and Irish community. His working title – taken from signs that used to hang outside pubs and boarding houses as late at the 1960s – was No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish. I was probably a little bit flattered, and a little bit naive, but mostly I was excited by the possibilities. So, over a couple of pints of Guinness(TM), the deal was struck.
What followed was a very intense few months – on a punishing learning curve – bringing together a group of ground breaking artists from disparate backgrounds; creating conditions for them to collaborate, shaping a night that would hit the audience in the head and the heart. So many moments from the night still burn in my mind. It wasn’t slick and it wasn’t polished, but it was full of feeling and ideas. Liverpool singer songwriter Ogo slayed the crowd with a rendition of a heartbreaking original song. Actress Ashing Leyne delivered a fierce performance of a new short play about the racist murder of black sailor Charles Wootton in Liverpool in 1919. Dancers Ithalia Forel and Maria Malone from Movema UK combined traditional Brazilian and Irish dance into a new piece of choreography performed to a soundtrack of percussion and spoken word. It was astounding how eclectic and yet cohesive it all felt. I remember sitting in the audience feeling breathless as I watched the dance piece. When the dancers stopped moving the room kept on spinning around them. So much felt suddenly possible as an artist in Liverpool in 2008 and Liverpool Irish Festival had truly invited me to the party.
My friendship with the festival stayed strong over the years as an audience member. Each year I’d particularly look forward to the pub sessions and intimate unusual folk gigs. I loved how the festival reached in to the back snugs and social centres of the city as well as setting up camp in the shiny big spaces like FACT or the Philharmonic Hall.
Speaking of which… in 2010 came the second time LIF set me a frightening and wonderful challenge. The Irish Sea Sessions – thought up by then Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Hall, Simon Glinn, was part loose and lively session, part large scale gig. His plan was to bring together a big group of folk artists from both sides of the Irish sea; fifteen singers, guitarists, percussionists, pipe players, songwriters… All were to collaborate in a celebration of their shared musical culture and create a great big smasher of a gig. That I was one of those fifteen came as something of a shock. It was the kind of email I had to read and re-read. The list of other performers was formidable. Not only were there world-renowned players amongst them, but also the phenomenal ballad singer Niamh Parsons and Damien Dempsey, whose debut album I’d dissected endlessly through headphones as a student.
And I was going to rehearse with them; swap tunes with them; stand amongst them. No space for shyness. There was nothing for it but to step up to the challenge. It was one of the most tiring, exhilarating and educational weeks of my working life. By the end of it I was standing on stage at The Phil, leading a rendition of The Leaving of Liverpool, feeling as though I was flying; perhaps flying by the seat of my pants, but flying all the same. In a nice link, the original solo song I chose to perform was England Loves a Poor Boy, written for that St Georges Hall show back in 2008. When in 2012, I was asked to perform in the Irish Sea Sessions for a 2nd time there was a lovely sense of coming home; being welcomed back in.
And now in 2018 I stand poised to take another leap, with LIF there once again giving me that vital nudge. Having worked on my play with songs To Have to Shoot Irishmen for around a decade, it will be produced by Almanac Arts in association with LIF this autumn. The show opens in London (2 Oct) before coming to the Liverpool Everyman (26-27 Oct), just in time to join the fun of the festival.
Inspired by the true murder of Irish pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington by a British soldier during the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, the new play explores fractured national identity and the chaotic legacy of British military intervention. It’s a story that bridges the Irish Sea. It’s a show that draws together song, drama, storytelling; that asks important questions and doesn’t flinch. What better home for it than Liverpool Irish Festival?
This a migration story about Sue Rynhart’s song La Malouine; written by an Irish women, about a French ship for a Liverpool performance on the #LIF2018 Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta Ship Stage…
Played on a beatifully hot day on the Mersey, aboard it’s namesake La Malouine, this song takes you on voice of sirens to oceans far away!
You can hear La Malouine here.
Lyrics: La Malouine
Summer young blows her along
A ship at sea
A dreamer flying free.
Tears of time, she sings her song;
“Hold us tight draw us away”
Tide is pulling
She’s every colour, she’s everything, she will make the water sing.
She’s every colour, she’s everything, she will make the water sing.
A distant light to Evensong
Ink blue mysteries grow long.
Swell and sway.
With the wind and sea she’ll stay.
Mother, Daughter, Ship is Queen.
Hold her tight and pull her in
On board La Malouine.
Who is she?
To the sea? La Malouine.
Lyrics and music (c) Sue Rynhart, 2018. The song was recorded at Arad Studios in Dublin by Les Keye, with Charlie Moon on guitar and Sue Rynhart on vocals. Charlie also accompanied Sue at the Liverpool live performance as part of the Three Festivals event.
Sue Rynhart (SR) has been in Liverpool before. Her friend Ailís Ní Ríain suggested Sue contact the Liverpool Irish Festival (LIF), following her own appearance in 2016. From this point a fascination with the city and its connections has developed.
This is both a complex and a simple story; based on migrating ideas, developing long-distance friendships and creative trust; explorations in to the past and translations in to today. It is layered – as all relationships are – with varied meanings, snatched ideas and conversations, but this one has a creative flow that crosses the seas.
At it’s simplest it is about taking an opportunity and making it work.
Sue is known for her music. She has often written about water; about women and the female relationship with the world. With an elfin gait and a wide eyed charm Sue may look something approaching fragile, but she is spry and keen, strong and flexible. Lauded for her “songs that sound at once ancient and modern, with echoes of folk and early music, contemporary jazz and the avant garde, recalling Theo Bleckmann, Bjork and a hint of Joni Mitchell” (The Irish Times ****). She is cited as a “Beautiful vocalist…[with] wonderful composition” (BBC). “Sue’s atmospheric lyrics would all – I suspect – make fantastic reading as poetry even outside of their prime, intended musical context….She communicates her artistic vision in her songs with precision and immediacy, combining grace and energy while deliberately placing her voice within the context of sparsely scored, emotion-baring musical settings” (Folk Radio UK)… and for all of these reasons and more, we have wanted her to come back and work with us, ever since we met her in 2017.
When Sue first contacted us, we were (ashamedly) not aware of her slick, witty, charming music and disarming, kooky, ethereal sound. It didn’t take long to have us hooked. Tooing and froing about where we could place her in the programme and how to organise it all at the last minute – just weeks ahead of the festival launch – it soon became very obvious that Sue had to be part of our Visible Women showcase at the Liverpool Philharmonic. She – and double bassist, Dan Bodwell – held the audience, captivated. We stayed in touch.
Sue sent us a copy of her album Signals, a follow on from her album Crossings. We stayed in touch. We talked about how both albums linked to water and migration, our theme for 2018.
We – Liverpool Irish Festival – were commissioned to find and platform work for the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta on behalf of Culture Liverpool/Liverpool City Council. We thought about Sue’s work. We were given a Tall Ship to programme.
La Malouine is a twin masted French Brigantine tall ship, registered in the Port of Dumfries in Scotland.
How wonderful would it sound on a ship, in the open air…how would it chime with the femininity of ships (they’re all named after women), of Sirens, of time… We got in touch.
Sue said yes. Not only did she say yes, she came back – in what seemed like moments – and said “I have written a song”. Over to Sue…
SR: “When I was invited to sing on board the Tall Ship La Malouine I was so excited. For as long as I can remember I have admired Tall Ships. I grew up by the sea in Dublin and it has always been a source of inspiration for me. It’s a great honour to be invited aboard this Ship and I wanted to express my gratitude to the Ship owner and to the Festival. I began researching the ship. I discovered that She was once called ‘Wilem’. I also found that she was originally registered in France, with her home port being Saint Malo. She is still French flagged, and her registration is for private charter, but her home port is now Dumfries in Scotland.
“La Malouine is a non-profit organisation, and the crew take a lot of young people sailing, usually for no charge or for a small donation.
“I had already been humming a melody and felt words coming ‘La Malouine…La Malouine…Mother, Daughter, Ship is Queen…aboard La Malouine…’ then I thought ‘Aagh! What if I have the incorrect pronunciation?’
“I sent a slightly manic message to the to the contact email asking “does the ship’s name rhyme with Hallowe’en?”. Realising how bonkers that must have sounded to them, I quickly explained that I was writing a song to sing aboard La Malouine at the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta presented by Liverpool Irish Festival in Liverpool and needed to be sure that I had the correct pronunciation… An extra syllable – or one syllable less – would have thrown the metre off altogether and I was so happy with the lyrics that were emerging…
“I have to say the Captain and his Crew got back to me straight away and reassured me (very politely glossing over my out-of-the-blue, slightly bonkers tone!). I was in the flow of coming up with this song; I jotted down words and sounds; sang some of them and sang more words that came to mind.
“I had written words, which I was going to use in a spoken word intro, but when I started it, it sounded too dreamy; too wishy-washy.
“Then I imagined an electric guitar with distortion. My Dad is an excellent electric guitarist, so I went to my parent’s house and had a listen to my Dad playing all sorts of effects using vintage pedals. Thanks to my Dad, I found effects that were perfect for the intro and for the song throughout. It was very important to me that the song – and the Ship, in turn – would have a very strong introduction.
“The guitar at the beginning is full of power, presence and strength, there is a stoic quality to the theme and I thought this was very fitting. The rest of the song just flowed. I added in the guitar to play in canon – in parts to be playful like the wind in the sails – and for the most part to arpeggiate the chords. I wanted a big contrast between the distortion on the intro to a more gentle effect for the main [body] of the song, to give lots of space for the lyrics to be heard”.
Sue Rynhart: Sue’s debut album ‘Crossings (Songs for Voice & Double Bass)’ and follow up album ‘Signals’ have both received international critical acclaim from RTÉ Lyric fm, The Irish Times, the respected American website allaboutjazz.com, The Independent and The Sunday Times UK. She has premiered works by many of the Composers from the Irish Composers Collective and the Contemporary Music Centre and and has performed on BBC Radio with the Choir of Christchurch Cathedral Dublin. Sue recognises the support she has received across various projects from the Arts Council of Ireland, Culture Ireland, the Improvised Music Company and Note Productions.
About the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta: The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta took place in Liverpool 25-28 May 2018. The Liverpool Irish Festival featured quite heavily, with two days of programming on the La Malouine and in the National Museum of Liverpool‘s Martin Luther King Jnr Building in Albert Dock. The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta is also a unifying race between three countries. It is a key event because it ties us to our neighbours – through time and tide. It helps to place-make each location by showing the world where we are on its map. The Liverpool Irish Festival‘s contribution to this event has been supported by
Liverpool City Council
Arts Council England
The Irish Government’s Department for Foreign Affairs.
Improving health and wellbeing is at the centre of what many of our key partners – such as Irish Community Care and the Liverpool Irish Centre – do. As an arts and culture festival, we are aware that engaging in creativity can significantly improve both for individuals, communities and the locations they are based in. We are working with the Liverpool Mental Health Consortiain 2018 to find out more about the communities we serve, speak to and engage, to find out how arts and culture is helping health and wellbeing. If you have five to ten minutes, we’d greatly apprecate you completing this online form.