Directors of the summer festival flow
Four arts festival directors share their thoughts on what makes a great festival and recount their toughest challenges
Galway Arts Festival runs from July 15th to 28th
Director of Kinsale Arts Festival
What is your favourite festival?
There’s a festival called All Tomorrow’s Parties in the UK which I love and is sadly taking place for the last time this year. Each one is curated by a different musician or band, and they programme their favourite artists. It’s been accurately called “the ultimate mix-tape”. When it started, it was such an original idea, and it’s a format that’s influenced a lot of promoters and curators since. It takes place in a holiday resort so you stay in a chalet with your friends. Even the stations are curated. I love the attention to detail.
What is the most important aspect of running a festival?
Knowing your audience is important, but so is a sense of adventure. You shouldn’t exclusively cater to people’s expectations. The economics of running a multi-event festival can be complex, but a good programme should introduce people to new artists and new ideas, and challenge as much as it entertains. Discovering something you love that you didn’t know existed before is one of the true joys of the festival experience and is why festivals remain integral for developing new audiences for the arts.
What has been your favourite festival moment?
We have an exhibition called Now Wakes the Sea that was an open call for emerging visual artists. Seeing that up and public-ready has been one of my favourite moments so far.
Supporting emerging artists across the art forms is important to me as a programmer, and bringing that project together was a real labour of love. I got to work with some great people on the selection, and there’s some brilliant work in there. We expect big things from some of those artists in the future.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a festival director?
Touch wood, there’s been no major disasters so far, but perhaps ask me in a week when we’re on the home straight. In a seaside town like Kinsale, the weather is always a challenge. But more so for us is the lack of any real arts space, concert venue or theatre. Attempts to address this in the past have included outdoor concerts in a fort and a deflating inflatable pop-up venue, with varying levels of success. You have to get creative with what the town has to offer.
Kinsale Arts Festival runs until Sunday