Macnas parade promises a world of invention and imagination

Noeline Kavanagh in typically understated pose. 
Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

Noeline Kavanagh in typically understated pose. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

A 13-year-old girl dreams of being an inventor. She’s not satisfied with the way the world is and she wants to do something about it, so she looks to her hero Leonardo Da Vinci for inspiration.

Then one day Leonardo appears before her, and leads the young girl on a fabulous adventure which unleashes her imagination and gives life to a troupe of ballerinas, a howling dog, a rhinoceros, a cockroach, a group of engineers who are mad drummers, punk scientists and philosophers, and upside down circus.

Through her adventure and the creatures that she meets, the girl has all the ideas, energy, and enthusiasm she needs to rebuild the world, repair its wrongs, and create an exciting new beginning for her and everyone else.

This is This Fierce Beauty, the 2011 Macnas parade for the Galway Arts Festival, which takes place on Sunday July 17 at 8.45pm. The parade will be directed by Noeline Kavanagh, her third parade since 2009.

This Fierce Beauty assembles at the Spanish Arch before moving to Quay Street, High Street, Shop Street, Williamsgate Street, Eglinton Street, Francis Street, across the Salmon Weir Bridge, and into the Fisheries Field.

Building the world anew

Noeline’s idea behind the parade is about a character who is dissatisfied at the state of things, but instead of wallowing in self-pity and muttering about ‘how terrible it all is’, she uses her imagination, creativity, and energy to bring about new possibilities, ways, and opportunities for society.

This Fierce Beauty can be seen as a response to the effects of the recession in Ireland and our disillusionment with the current economic and political structures, and an appeal for people to use their ingenuity and inventiveness to transform Irish society for the better.

“This Fierce Beauty is all about invention and the things you have to do to make change,” Noeline tells me during our Monday morning interview. “It is inspired by the recession, but also an alternative look at how we can get ourselves back on our feet. It asks ‘When you’re down, how do you climb back up again?’”

The parade is meant to inspire and it takes its inspirations from and makes allusions to people whom Noeline believes showed courage and imagination in their lives.

“Our political and economic leaders have made a mess of massive proportions so our job is to define parallel universes, imagine them into becoming real, and build a new world,” she says. “The signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, people like Thomas McDonagh and Pádraig Pearse, they had passion behind their intentions, they were risk takers. I would see them, and Ghandi and Mandela as innovators, as were Baudelaire, Apollinaire, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Emmeline Pankhurst, Maude Gonne, William Blake. They were pioneers in establishing and creating new ways of communicating.”

Fabulous beasts

Noeline goes on to explain what we can expect at the parade and some of the ideas behind the wonderful creatures the public will see on July 17.

“It begins with Leonardo leading the 13-year-old girl and she is followed by an ‘apocalyptic group of ballerinas’,” says Noeline. “The ballerinas represent different aspects of the girl’s personality because at that age you are apathetic one day, compassionate the next, full of anger, full of love - all the energies that drive change - and represent someone on the cusp of becoming an adult.

“There will also be junk carts full of drummers and a ‘Cockroach of Invention’. A cockroach seems an unlikely hero but they are the creatures that will be here after we’re all gone. They are great survivors so he’s an unlikely hero in that respect.

“In the parade we will have this mad, bad, punk, kick-ass howling dog, who is a cross between Shane McGowen and Sid Vicious, and is all about sex, risk and invention - not in a salacious way, but in terms of they being life forces and creative forces.

“Its howling gives birth to new things. It’s not a creature that is content to sit and mutter into its pint, it says ‘Let’s get out there and do something about it.’ There will also be a rhinoceros, an upside down circus where the ringmaster has lost his mind and the animals tame the humans.”

Above all though, regardless of the symbolism and viewpoints behind each of the pieces, characters, and creatures in the parade, Noeline wants This Fierce Beauty to be something that is enjoyed and enjoyable, and that will put a smile on people’s faces - which in itself is an antidote and a defiance to the recession.

“The parade is all about passion, fun, energy, and wildness,” she declares. “We all need those qualities and for me wildness is what underscores it, because without wildness, you can’t create anything.

“I don’t want this to be angry. The parade is not about looking down or looking away. It’s about dispelling shame and guilt, which we’re riddled with in Ireland. I want it to inspire people to re-imagine how we can live using art, poetry, and give people back a sense of ownership over what happens.”

Volunteer for the parade

Those interested in volunteering for the parade are encouraged to attend Macnas’s open night for volunteers which takes place at the Macnas workshops in the Fisheries Field this Monday from 7pm to 8.30pm. The workshops are open to all those aged 16 and over.Headline here....

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