Rachel Austin on What it Means to be CQAF Artist-in-Residence

The American-born singer-songwriter talks about what the role means to her

I’m casually checking my emails one afternoon in the mid-February gloom. The message icon pops up and, with my dour winter-mind, I open it to find a summery message from Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival director Sean Kelly. Would I be interested in being the Artist in Residence for this year’s festival? The sunshine breaks and I warm up pretty quickly, replying to say it would be my honour and thanks for thinking of me.

After replying - like a person coming out of the haze after an ecstatic act - I thought, 'What? What does the "Artist in Residence" do?'

Over the course of my correspondence with Sean, my role started to take shape, but it was still rather hazy in my head. He said out that I’d be playing a number of interesting shows and would be involved in helping to promote the event, as would they be promoting me. Mutually beneficial? I think so, especially since being involved with such a well-respected and innovative festival as the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is exactly the sort of thing I want to be associated with.

But, as my friends and fans became aware of my role in the upcoming festival, they wanted to know what an Artist-in-Residence did too. After a lot of making things up and even more thought, I decided I wanted to use the opportunity to try an event I had in mind for awhile. But which one?

I pilfered through my stock of 'Ideas to Come' and came up with the idea of using the festival as a platform to do a one-off live recording of an improvised session of my music. I would be accompanied by a few forward-thinking musicians who draw on the same ideas of good music as I do.

So as Artist-in-Residence my role is to highlight the amazing work of some of the people I know. I want to give them an opportunity to be involved in the festival as a feature of what I’m doing. Barry Cullen on electronics and clarinet, Michael Barkley on brass, Anthony Devenney on bass, and Conor Barry on drums. I’ve got two terrific guys doing the recording - Martin Byrne of Song A Day for A Year fame and Declan Legge of Big Space Studios wizardry.

I’m also writing some material for this event that I haven’t played anywhere else yet. So, in a sense, I’ve challenged myself, as Artist-in-Residence, to write and finish some new material for CQAF. I hope the audience will enjoy and join in with making an amazing recording! This event, called On the Record, will be on May 6 at Ollie’s at the Merchant at 8pm. The Merchant have been great in helping me find a soundproof venue and Ollie’s is perfect for this event!

There is still no 'Artist-in-Residence' job description, but during the publicity and promotion I've worked out one for myself that adds something dynamic to the already exciting CQAF line-up. I’m super excited about what the 3-13 May will bring and, even more, can’t wait to enjoy the energy in the Cathedral Quarter over the ten days.

You can buy tickets for On the Record at May 6 at 8pm at Ollie’s at the Merchant at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Centre website. Tickets are limited to 75.