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  • If you only do one thing this weekend: get some Louth in your life

    April 28, 2011 @ 3:04 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Go south: The first of the seasonal flush of summer festivals got us a little excited and over-enthusiastic last week, so much so that we were bigging up Dingle’s Feile Na Bealtaine seven days too early – apologies to anyone who read that and immediately dropped everything to head to Dingle (although not one person came through with the helicopter seat I requested). So this week, can we (again) accurately recommend you check out Feile na Bealtaine. The highlight could be tonight’s opening show in the Hillgrove Hotel, when Motema – who the organisers say represent “the pinnacle of true Congolese musicianship anywhere in the world” – share the bill with Tarab, a fusion of Celtic, Arabic and jazz influences lead by Francesco Turrisi, who launched their new album just last night. Click here for more details on the festival.

  • Culture podcast: April 27th

    April 27, 2011 @ 11:44 am | by Laurence Mackin

    In this week’s Culture podcast Shane Hegarty talks to Naoise Nunn, Jim Carroll and Una Mullally about upcoming Mindfield, Banter and Jazz festivals.

    And if you are looking for more jazz, here is my article from today’s Irish Times on the young players on the jazz scene who will be on your doorsteps in the next two weeks.

    icon for podpress  Standard Podcast [18:37m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
  • Greg Mortenson has questions to answer, but not to Jon Krakauer

    April 26, 2011 @ 6:12 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Everyone has a book that they like to recommend – not a classic or a life-changing piece of work, but a good, solid read that would appeal to nearly any reader, whether they regularly devour the Impac shortlist or read exactly two books a year, both by the pool in two weeks in August.

    For me, this book was usually Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. This is a staple of airport bookshops the world over, and for obvious reasons: it tells the story of how Mortenson loses his his way after a failed attempt at the summit of K2, and is taken in by villagers in Pakistan. By way of thanks, he promises to build them a school, which is the first step on a new career for Mortenson as an international fund-raiser and activist.

    His Central Asia Institute (CAI) says it has built 55 schools, as well as centres for women, in some of the world’s most conflicted regions, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, I liked the book so much I reviewed it for a now defunct column in Go, the travel supplement of this newspaper.

    So, like many people, I was enormously disappointed to read how the veracity of Mortenson’s account is being challenged, and he has been accused of using the foundation as a personal cash cow. Most of the accusations come as a result of a 60 Minutes investigation (which you can watch here). (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend …

    April 21, 2011 @ 5:53 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Stare: If you find yourself in the capital and at a loose end of an evening (what with all the usual fun spots shutting up shop thanks to our nanny state), then you could do a lot worse than lurk around behind Dublin’s Convention Centre. Here you will find the Art Park, which is curated by the Sebastian Guinness gallery. Its centre piece is an enormous visual arts screen that is currently projecting a six-minute graffiti video by Dublin artist Maser. The film is being looped from dusk until 1am so head down and grab yourself an urban eyeful.

    Attend: If that’s not enough graffiti goodness for you, then wind your way over to Block T in Smithfield (and try not to look the closed Light House cinema in the eye, sob, sob). Tomorrow, from 6pm to 10pm, it is hosting Gurriers, an exhibition of some of Ireland’s top graffiti artists, with work from the likes of Rask, Cisto, Goner, Jor, Elsi, Dats, Jack, TDA and SBC. All City Records is helping to pull this lot together as part of its 10-year anniversary, and it is also hosting a graffiti jam up in the Tivoli Theatre, Dublin 8 on Saturday. That event kicks off at 11am until 6pm.

    See: What happens when you mix the blood and passion of Spanish theatre with the seething, quite anger of an Irish rural setting? Curam Theatre Company hopes to find out with its latest production. It has taken Federico Garcia Lorca’s tragedy Blood Wedding and dragged into the Irish countryside. Family reputations and status in a tight community are dragged through the small streets, when a bride elopes on her wedding morning with her childhood sweetheart. Ronnie McCann has adapted the original text, and the production has more than 20 cast members, so expect plenty of theatrical fireworks at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin. Click here for more details.

    And to send you off into the weekend, here’s a little video. John Grant is a singular songwriter – I saw him play last year at Whelan’s, and had gone along with zero expectations (I simply didn’t know of his existence, I’m slightly ashamed to admit). It was one of those rare occasion when you expect little and in return are witness to the extraordinary. He’s back in town on May 3 in Dublin’s Button Factory (and he is interviewed in tomorrow’s Ticket). Here’s a short documentary about Grant – his story is every bit as heartbreaking as his songs.

  • The Irish Times Culture Podcast, and a lunchtime treat

    April 19, 2011 @ 5:09 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    This week’s Irish Times Culture Podcast is now available for listening. Arts Editor Shane Hegarty, columnist Fintan O’Toole, and authors Declan Burke and Anna Carey discuss the future of publishing, the role of genre writing in Ireland, and the pros and cons of selling you book for 99c. You can listen to it here and leave your comments to boot.

    Our lunchtime recommendation for this week might stretch the lunchtime label a little, but it well worth irritating your boss over – Louis Lovett is back with The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly, but this time he is calling the Peacock in Dublin home. The show went down a minor storm at the Ark previously (and you can read Peter Crawley’s review here) and last week it did a round of schools shows. This week you can catch it at 2pm and 4pm most days, and the show lasts an hour. A perfect way to break up your afternoon. Click here for times and details.

  • Why this might not be the end for the Light House

    April 15, 2011 @ 11:57 am | by Laurence Mackin

    The High Court has ordered the Light House cinema in Smithfield to be wound up. As a brief recap, the cinema was disputing its rent with its landlord, which was doubled in line with its lease agreement. The cinema argued that it couldn’t afford the increased rent, as it was based on the area developing into a vibrant quarter with higher footfall, which has not happened. Mediation failed, and now the cinema will be wound up, after the landlord brought a petition to the High Court (for more details on this click here and here).

    So what now for the cinema space? First off, in order for a multiplex or any other business to move into the space, the developer would have to go back to Dublin City Council and get the planning permission changed – currently it is designated as “a cultural space” and it is difficult to imagine the council changing its mind.

    Secondly, given the ghost-town nature of the area, prospective tenants are hardly queuing around the hollow blocks to move in – although planning permission is being sought for a Tesco in an adjacent unit.

    Thirdly, it should be remembered that the State has sunk €1.75 million into this building and will no doubt want to see a return on its investment. To this end, the Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan has already said that the property could be run as an art-house cinema by the Cultural Cinema Consortium, which is made up of members of the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board. This seems to me the most likely outcome.

    The cinema in its current guise might be at an end, but I wouldn’t consider the lights to be doused just yet.

  • How to build a theatre set in a few hours and free theatre tickets

    April 14, 2011 @ 3:59 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The Passing and The East Pier are coming to the end of their combined repertory run this weekend at the Abbey Theatre. Putting both these plays on in tandem has meant a remarkable bit of theatrical sleight of hand, with the stage crew breaking down the set for one play and rebuilding it for the next inbetween performances. And if you’ve been wondering how it’s done, you can see for yourself in this video, as the Abbey filmed the set turnaround using a time-lapse tilt-shift technique (at least I think that is what it’s called). Brilliant.

    The theatre has also been upping the ante on several days by having both shows on the same day, meaning the crew had to pull off the trick with just a few hours to play with.
    To bid these productions adieu, we have two pairs of tickets for Saturday’s show of The East Pier at 2pm and two pairs of tickets for The Passing, which is at 7.30pm, to give away. Simply tell us who wrote both plays, either in the comments section below or email lmackin@irishtimes.com. State a preference for which show and we will try and accommodate you.

    And to read a bit more about repertory theatre and the productions, click here. Thanks to the Abbey for the tickets and the video heads up.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend – bilocate

    @ 11:23 am | by Laurence Mackin

    Listen: We are spoiled for choice this weekend when it comes to live music, and unless some of you have perfected the art of bilocation, tough choices will have to be made. On Friday night, in Cork you have Duke Special and Kate Ellis bashing together Telephones and Gongs, and in Dublin you have the choice of A Hawk and a Hacksaw, O Emperor and Architecture in Helsinki, but the Grand Social in Dublin might just hold the trump card, with an eclectic line-up for a fundraiser for the Joinery Gallery. (more…)

  • Siobhan Mannion takes Hennessy award

    April 13, 2011 @ 12:28 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    If they are not distributing short lists, they are handing out awards – hot on the heels of yesterday’s Impac and Orange finalists came the Hennessy Literary Awards 2011.

    The major winner on the night was Siobhán Mannion, who took home awards for First Fiction and New Irish Writer 2011 for her novel, Lightning Bugs – congratulations to her and champagne all round then. There was none more delighted last night, judging by Twitter any way, than Mannion’s colleague Sean Rocks – Mannion produces arts show Arena on RTE, which of course Rocks presents.

    Eileen Casey won in the Emerging Fiction category for her book Macaw, and Aifric McGlinchey won in the Emerging Poetry section for Do Not Lie to a Love and Under the Heart, a Horseshoe Shape. Sebastian Barry was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    Each category winner received €1,500, while Mannion took home an additional €2,500 for the New Writer of the Year top billing. The judges in this competition were journalist Ciaran Carty, poet Paul Durcan and literary agent AP Watt. My reading list just got a little longer.

  • Lists, pics and the Irish Times arts podcast

    April 12, 2011 @ 3:45 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    This week’s lunchtime recommendation will be familiar to most of you, but the show closes soon (on April 24th) and is well worth more than one visit. Steve McCurry’s Worlds of Colour exhibition is a terrifically evocative selection of portraits that amply demonstrate why McCurry is regarded as one of the finest portraitists in the world. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend: pull a late one

    April 7, 2011 @ 3:15 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    See: A while back, I had a post up about galleries and their often unfriendly visiting hours. The Temple Bar Cultural Trust has decided to take a leaf out of Culture Night’s book, and for the first Thursday of each month it has arranged for galleries in the area to stay open late, so patrons can take advantage of those long evenings to get their arty fix. Among those keeping their doors open until 8pm tonight are Clyne Gallery, Fishbowl Gallery/Exchange, Gallery of Photography, Graphic Studio Gallery, Monster Truck Gallery & Studios, NGG/No Grants Gallery, Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Block T, The Joinery and the Mad Art Gallery & Studio. Here’s hoping the idea spreads further.

    The babysitter had some strange friends

    Take in: As far as major shows go, there really is only one gig in town this weekend, and it’s an all-Mexican extravaganza. Listed and tipped just about everywhere, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at Imma is doing its level best to justify the hype. The show is small, and very efficiently curated. There are works from Rivera, including his key Landscape with Cactus and Calla Lily Vendors, but there is no doubt that it is Kahlo who is the star of the show, from her self-portraits that almost seem to hum on the page with the vibrancy in her indifferent stare, to the breathtaking The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, Myself and Señor Xólotl (above). This is a deeply accessible show – the notes are strong, there is not enough to overwhelm even a casual gallery-goer, but there is enough variety to keep people skipping from room to room – the photographs of Kahlo in particular are a brilliant surprise in the basement room.

    Listen: On Sunday night, I’ll be performing a live soundtrack with 3epkano to the GW Pabst film Diary of a Lost Girl in Dublin’s Button Factory – which is a bit irritating because it means I will miss what promises to be a cracking jazz gig over in JJ Smyth’s on Aungier Street. The Improvised Music Company has been bringing some astonishingly talented players from the US over to show JJ’s who’s boss. Sunday sees Mark Helias let his Open Loose trio run riot, with Helias on bass, Tony Malay on tenor saxophone and Tom Rainey on drums. Helias is a key figure on the US scene, and this trio is promising an “evening of deep, unshackled groove”. Here’s a little taster of the trio in action with Eric T Johnson to get you warmed up.
    YouTube Preview Image

    Usually, I end this post with a video, but this week we’ll make it a story, culled from The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, an authoritative, highly readable history of music in the 20th century.

    Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the death of Igor Stravinsky, which made this particular story pop into my head. Apparently Charlie Parker went to Paris in 1949 on tour, and one of the songs he referenced in his solo were the first few notes from the Rite of Spring, Stravinsky’s most famous, innovative piece of music. Several years later, Parker was playing Birdland in New York, and spotted the great composer in the crowd. He immediately worked a motif from Stravinksy’s Firebird into a solo on Koko, “causing the composer to spill his scotch in ecstasy”, as Ross writes. How’s that for a classy compliment?

  • New Centre of Literary Excellence for Dublin?

    April 6, 2011 @ 2:38 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Last night, the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition was launched in fine style at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Hundreds took the opportunity of a glorious sunny evening to stroll through the gallery’s hall, sipping bottles of Mexican beer to the strains of Mariachi music, and catch a glimpse of some of the artwork in the thronged gallery.

    It’s a small but excellent exhibition, with Kahlo very much the star; the photographs of her and Rivera in the basement also give a fine, unexpected element to this cleverly curated event. Here is an excellent piece by Arminta Wallace on the exhibition, just in case you need further encouragement to head for Kilmainham.

    At the opening, there was much talk about Imma’s imminent renovation works, and how the gallery is looking at finding alternative spaces to use while it gives its rooms the once-over. Specifics were thin on the ground, but there were hints that the gallery is looking at some interesting alternative spaces.

    Imma won’t need to look far – this city is full of vacant, curious spaces that would make excellent exhibition spaces, something that alternative promoters and underground artists have been gleefully exploiting in recent months. One building that springs to mind is the vacant Grand Parade One office space on the canal, right next to the Charlemont Luas stop. It’s an elegant, clean-lined building with enormous windows, and at the moment it is sitting starkly empty – it would be a superb temporary gallery or venue space. Come on landlords, make Imma, or indeed any gallery, an offer they can’t refuse.

    Among those taking the microphone last night was the new Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan. He gave an upbeat speech that was warmly received and hinted at several initiatives he is currently working on. The minister said he was in detailed negotiations with the Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn on giving the arts a much more active and secure role in the education system. He also said he was “very seriously” looking at the creation of an Irish Centre of Literary Excellence in a location somewhere off Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

    Its specific role and function were not sketched out in any detail, but it seems that Dublin’s election as a Unesco city of literature has lit a fire under the new department. Perhaps its time we had an institution that did justice to our literary heritage.

  • Bring a touch of class to your sandwich munching

    April 5, 2011 @ 5:35 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The Harmonic series, organised by Foggy Notions, is a solid line-up of intriguing acts, and, in admirably innovative fashion, it has come up with a clever ticketing policy. (more…)

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