Arts attack in Kilkenny

“Painting: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.”

Well there will be plenty of well protected flat surfaces on display all over town this week when the 37th Kilkenny Arts Festival takes centre stage. I’ll get the plug out of the way early and announce that Phyl Cleere will be exhibiting down in Cleeres and will be worth a stop on the art trail that stretches right around town. It’s always a great excuse to take a wander around the various venues on an afternoon, stopping off for a coffee or even the odd pint/glass of wine, while admiring the exhibits.

There’s usually a bit of rivalry between the professional painters and the amateurs during the Arts Festival. What is the difference between the professional and amateur? Maybe this definition explains it: "An amateur is someone who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint. A professional is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint."

I took some Paul Durcan books down off the shelf at the weekend. Paul did several readings in Cleeres back in the nineties and I was surprised that the first one was as far back as March 1991.

All the books are signed and each has a little message.

He writes on ‘Daddy, Daddy’ in 1991: “In reality, fiction is all that matters” and “Up heavy metal.”

Paul was back again in December 1991 with ‘Crazy About Women’ and this time the question posed is: “What is it that a donkey sees in a man?”

On May Day 1993 he read from ‘The Selected Paul Durcan’. Just one short quote this time: “Ah he was a grand man.”

The final signed book in the collection, ‘Give Me Your Hand’, dates back to March 1994 and the comment this time is: “Sitting still and being calm and seeing.”

Paul is back in the larger surroundings of The Watergate Theatre on Saturday afternoon and is sure to have something relevant to say on the current state of the nation. He is guaranteed to entertain even the most sceptical poetry fan and to get your Saturday off to a good start.

After that it’s a short walk up to St Canices to hear Robert Fisk. This man has covered conflicts from Belfast to Baghdad and now he braves another of the world’s great battle zones: Kilkenny on a Saturday night.

Events in Croke Park are likely to be the focus of attention on Sunday. A Kilkenny win is on the cards. I’m so sure of it, that, if they lose I’ll eat my black and amber hat or better still, go to “Forty Years Of Feminism” in The Parade Tower with Nell McCafferty and the gang on Thursday evening.

My musical spies tell me that ‘Konono No 1’ from the Congo is a not-to-be-missed experience, especially if you like to dance. I’ll take a seat upstairs in The Set for this one, but I may even tap my feet to the rhythms.

Another show that catches my attention is ‘A Western’ in Kytelers Inn on Wednesday and Thursday. This show claims to “reclaim the Western and celebrate the failure of generic heroes, cheap whores and the all-American idol.” Sounds like there’s something for everyone in this show and there’s audience participation as well. So, if you’ve ever felt like playing a generic hero, a cheap whore or an all-American hero, this is your big chance.

Those four shows cost a total of €65.00. This is about the same as the price of a ticket to the Man United versus a League of Ireland selection this week and you don’t even have to travel very far.

I’ll probably add a couple of other shows during the week, but, for less than €100 a great ten days can be had.

The black arts

“Fianna Fail in government realises that there are no free meal tickets in life.” Who said that? Step forward Ivor Callely.

He made this statement in 1999 and has spent the following ten years proving that life's full of free meal tickets, false expense claims and enough mileage allowances to take you on a round the world trip – until you get caught.

I came across the quote using a new toy I found on the internet called ‘Wayback Machine.’ The site contains 56 billion captures from over 10 billion web pages from as far back as 1996. All those false promises and statements are out there in cyberspace ready to be discovered through sites like Wayback Machine and thrown back at the canvassers during the next election.

Maybe it would have been better for Callely and the rest of them to take the advice in the title of a Seamus Heaney poem: “Whatever you say, say nothing.”

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