Eye on the Island - September

Desima Connolly on 'Arts at Rathlin' activities

What do you mean you missed the boat?

My hardy committee and I have just about recovered from this year’s ‘Rathlin Airs’ Traditional Music Festival. Featuring two daily performances over August 12-14 2005, the event also necessitated the usual guest chaperoning and island induction.

Never mind sorting out travel arrangements to Ireland, no matter how often you confirm ticket arrangements and ferry transport to Rathlin, getting the boat when they’re supposed to seems anathema to artists. The greatest excuse this year was ‘sorry, we were having a fry in Ballycastle and lost track of the time’. Must have been a great fry!

Combine this with the precariousness of island ‘eccentricities’ and you get the picture of guest liaison pandemonium that ensues. Co-ordinating an event on the island involves a great deal of tiptoeing around indigenous temperaments and avoiding confrontation where you can with the simple aim of getting through the event with your remaining sanity intact!

The weather held out, the marquee prevailed and a good time was had by all. At First Light entertained us on the opening night, performed brilliantly, and hopefully enjoyed their experience, despite the night culminating in dramatic fisticuffs in the local bar. I like to think of the island as ’The Wild West’, without the costumes.

Daimh had standing room only on Saturday evening, accompanied by a group of boisterous young people who had landed on the island after mistakenly presuming the annual ‘Jigs in the Rigs’ Festival to be on. An eclectic audience indeed. The wonderful Julie Fowlis also performed on Saturday and conducted an intimate singing workshop to a packed studio. Armagh Pipers Club brought the festival to a rousing close on Sunday, accompanied by a Traditional Songs workshop by Brian Mullen.

Arts on Rathlin Exhibition

Look out for the exhibition of drawings and crafts at Clotworthy Arts Centre, Antrim, through September. What better way can you think of spending a mild autumnal afternoon than perusing Rathlin community drawings and ceramics in Antrim, followed by a stroll in the stunning Castle Gardens ?

Rathlin Writer Residency

Originally planned for this autumn, this fantastic residency opportunity has now been postponed to next Spring 2006. The first writer-in-residence positions were introduced to the Rathlin cultural programme last year and awarded to Dublin-based poets Paul Perry and Iggy McGovern. The Co-operative Society received over 60 applications, from as far a field as the United States and Australia, great testimony both for the need of supportive creative residencies for artists and also the creative allure of Rathlin Island.

Look out for further information in local press or contact ‘Arts on Rathlin’ to register your interest.

Now you see it, now you don’t

The Co-operative Society recently received bad news from the Arts Council regarding the renewal of our core ‘Rathlin Crafts Programme’ support. Combining over twenty-two annual crafts weekends of community learning in ceramics, silversmithing and jewellery design, recently launched showcase touring exhibitions, island-based crafts residency and regional community crafts exchange, the crafts initiative aims to address the economic and employment problems the isolated community confronts through the encouragement of indigenous traditional crafts. The programme also intrinsically supports regional crafts development, external professional craftsperson’s creative development through employment and residencies, whilst also leaning towards the burgeoning tourism crafts trade.

The decline of funding support also reduces the Arts Co-ordinator role dramatically and surely begs the question, where exactly is the commitment to community arts? It has been demanding enough to rely on precarious annual funding, but to have core support withdrawn without a ‘by or leave’ puts statutory dedication (or lack thereof) under the spotlight.

Relying continually on short-term temporary funding greatly hinders the evolution of cultural planning, rendering smaller community arts groups unable to plan ahead, unable to dedicate themselves to developing sustainable activities programming. ‘Sustainability’ is the favourite funding word of the moment and is gratuitously wafted about. However, without committed financial support, community groups find themselves not having the time, money and resources in order to embark upon developing and nurturing other beneficial partnerships and methods of income. Where is the logic? Answers on a postcard please.

For further information on any of the above activities, contact Desima on tel: 028 2076 3908 or email arts@rathlinislandcoop.fsnet.co.uk