By Blathnaid O’Dea
Arts in Action, the University’s student arts engagement scheme, has launched its programme of events for this academic year.
The official launch took place last month and it coincided with the University’s annual Jean Ritchie Lecture. This year’s lecture was given by folk legend Christy Moore, who spoke to students about his lifelong research of song material, his songwriting influences, and his career as one of Ireland’s best-loved folk musicians. Arts in Action is celebrating its ninth year and students are strongly encouraged to attend its free weekly lunchtime events, many of which will have a folk theme.
“This year’s Arts in Action programme is especially wonderful!” said NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh.
He continued, “Strands which stand out include an emphasis on folk music of England, Scotland and Wales, highlighting the bonds which link us to our nearest neighbours. The special focus on the culture of Aran and the Blasket Islands showcase these unique places in the Irish cultural cannon and our physical landscape. 2020 is a special year in our city, when the eyes of the world will look to Galway as European Capital of Culture. It is fitting then in the coming year that some of Ireland’s foremost artists join us to celebrate and acknowledge the Creative Arts in an academic setting”.
“NUI Galway has always played a part in nurturing artistic creativity. From this campus some of Ireland’s most significant cultural organisations and initiatives have begun and flourished – among these, Druid Theatre Company, An Taibhdhearc, Macnas, Music for Galway, and Galway International Arts Festival – each founded and sustained by students and members of the University community. We are determined that our students will continue to have opportunities to access the cultural richness of our region”, the President wrote in the programme’s foreword.
Traditional Irish music and folk culture feature prominently in this year’s programme, and most events are centred around the theme of Ireland’s landscape, heritage, and language, and how these are informed by our island status. These themes are timely, especially considering the country as an island in these uncertain times of Brexit and the possible return to a hard border.
Students and staff alike can look forward to a variety of free events featuring local and visiting artists.
“What has always been important to NUI Galway is the natural connection that exists between the creative arts and the existing academic structures, providing students with access to continuous high-end international and professional arts in all genres, which also creates credit–bearing opportunities in academic modules. This year’s programme also reflects the growing collaboration between NUI Galway and the many local and national arts organisations, bringing rich and rewarding performances to the students and staff on a weekly basis”, said Arts in Action’s Artistic Director and Producer, Mary McPartlan.
Arts in Action has teamed up with local Irish language theatre, An Taibhdhearc, to present a Celebration of the Blasket Islands and Airnean Arann, which will celebrate playwright J.M Synge’s relationship with the Aran Islands.
Academic and poet, Dr. Lillis O Laoire, and James Hardiman Library archivist, Dr. Barry Houlihan, have sourced Irish language poems and images of the three Aran islands from the library’s archive to complement the programme.
Young Clarenbridge accordion player Conor Connolly will play, along with some guests, as part of Arts in Action’s ongoing partnership with TG4’s Molscéal.
There will be an opportunity for students on the new MA in Producing and Curation programme to organise an event in the second semester. They will present material from the special archives of the James Hardiman Library and they will work closely with Arts in Action Producer and Artistic Director Mary McPartlan.
In January 2020, the University will host a European Capital of Culture Seminar, curated by Dr Catherine Morris and Mary Mc Partlan, bringing together a panel of artists, cultural practitioners, teachers and students to explore the dynamic role of arts and culture in university education. The event will discuss how creativity features across the curriculum, how artistic practice can be taught, and how to assess artistic creativity in the humanities.
Other highlights include: comedian and actor Tommy Tiernan in conversation with Vincent Woods, a play by Daniel Reardon in association with the Irish Theatre Institute, a series of concerts featuring Irish and international classical musicians in collaboration with Music for Galway, as well as concerts from renowned Irish trad musicians, such as world class fiddle player Martin Hayes, renowned uilleann piper, Paddy Keenan, composers and instrumentalists, Ulaid, and a concert of harp music with harpists Laoise Kelly, Grainne Hambly, and Kathleen Loughnane.