LIGHT SHOW Street entertainment from theatre company Inferno during Westival 2019. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
The team at Westival – the long-running Westport arts and music festival – has been busy working on bringing to Westport an exciting programme that will run from October 20 to 25.
There has been lots going on behind the scenes, as Westival Director Seán Paul O’Hare explains: “It has been a really strange process planning and preparing for this year’s festival. I am delighted that the board and staff are determined that the show must go on no matter what happens in October.”
The festival will comprise of music concerts, theatre, visual art exhibitions, spoken word events, street entertainment, comedy and lots more.
“We are thrilled with the events we have put together so far,” said O’Hare, “and we hope folk get to enjoy some of the live events we have in store.
“We have made some changes to the programme due to Covid 19, and [we are] sadly losing a prominent exhibition space in town. We will not be running an open call for visual artists this year, due to the lack of available and suitable exhibition space.
“We are, however, working with Custom House and other venues so we can hold substantial exhibitions highlighting the work of some of the most prominent artists in Ireland today.”
Westival will again host an international poetry competition and will programme some performers and artists whose shows were cancelled last year. The team felt strongly that it was important to reschedule some of those quality performers and artists who had workshops, exhibitions and shows postponed due to last year’s lockdown.
Last year, the festival had to move entirely online, just a fortnight before the festival started. “This was a blow for our patrons and all the artists we booked,” says O’Hare. “Luckily, we had contingency plans in place and the festival went ahead with 73 virtual online events, which was well received by our loyal followers. Going through that process taught us a lot, and this year we are delighted to be preparing for live events along with some online digital content.”
Roots and Reality
Westival’s theme for 2021 is ‘Roots and Reality’. “We saw during lockdown that people became more engaged with the world around them, appreciated their local environment, but also started coming to terms with the reality that some things in life may have changed forever. We hope artists, performers and creative makers will adopt our theme and create art that reflects life over the past 18 months but also generates hope and opportunities for the future. We will also rely heavily on the rich vein of local talent that county Mayo and the West coast of Ireland has in abundance,” O’Hare said.
The festival director has highlighted the difficulties in programming and booking acts due to the uncertain nature of what is happening with venues and festivals. However, he feels strongly that there is a ‘huge will and appetite among artists and performers’ to appear at festivals, theatres and other events – and that this is matched by people’s hunger to return to live events.
“We have availability for local community artists and groups to participate in this year’s Westival. We are keen to engage with young and those who are up and coming in the world of arts and music.
“We have also strengthened our partnership with Belfast International Arts Festival and cannot wait to announce some of the theatre and spoken word events which we have programmed as part of this exciting all Ireland collaboration.
“It is also a pleasure to be working with Westport Jazz group, Westport Town Hall, Tertulia Bookshop and many other cultural and arts groups across the county.”
As well as planning for the festival, the organisation has welcomed several new members to its governance team. The organisation also received its charitable status, and a new website is under construction. A strategic business plan is being worked through to support the sustainability of Westival in the run up to its 50th anniversary in 2025.
A special launch event is being planned for September and announcements of programmed events will be made throughout the summer months.
For more information, visit westival.ie and see Westival’s social media sites.