Michael Dervan’s culture highlight of 2016: ‘Composing the Island’

Culture review 2016: The funding of the Taoiseach’s promised Creative Ireland venture remains to be seen

The RTÉ Concert Orchestra on the opening night of the Composing the Island at the National Concert Hall. RTÉ and the National Concert Hall, sponsored by Bord na Mona, celebrated 100 years of music written from 1916-2016, as part of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme. Photograph: Mark Stedman

The RTÉ Concert Orchestra on the opening night of the Composing the Island at the National Concert Hall. RTÉ and the National Concert Hall, sponsored by Bord na Mona, celebrated 100 years of music written from 1916-2016, as part of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme. Photograph: Mark Stedman

 

What were your cultural highlights for the year gone by? Composing the Island, September’s survey of the last century and more of music by (mostly) Irish composers. The venture showed what can happen when major institutions (RTÉ, the National Concert Hall, Ireland 2016, with Bord na Móna as sponsor) work in harmony. It has already shifted perceptions about our musical heritage.

There was also the huge embrace of culture and the arts by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in fronting the announcement of Creative Ireland, a venture he promises will “make every local authority a dynamic hub of cultural activity” and “enable every child to access tuition in music, drama, art and coding”.

What let you down? The game of musical chairs in the management of RTÉ’s performing groups. Executive director John O’Kane was moved sideways into a new role and Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, head of RTÉ lyric fm, was given O’Kane’s old brief of managing the orchestras, quartet and choirs on top of his existing full-time responsibilities. Who does RTÉ think it is kidding at a time when neither orchestra has a principal conductor?

The Arts Council’s ongoing shilly-shallying about funding opera is greatly worrying. Our miserable infrastructure of opera is a legacy of decades of underfunding and neglect that became significantly worse when the 21st-century recession was added to the mix. Incredible as it may seem, opera provision in Dublin is actually lower now than it was before 1951, when the Arts Council itself was set up.

What will be your cultural resolution for 2016? I gave up resolutions a long time ago, but I’m dying to find out how Creative Ireland is going to be resourced. As I’ve said before, Enda, show us the money.

2016 in three words: hot and cold.

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