Backstage diaries: how we’re planning for a cultural 2017

Big hopes for festivals throughout the coming year


Dublin, March

Simon Taylor, chief executive, National Concert Hall

How are your preparations going? Some of the smaller-scale events are still to be confirmed, but the main programme is all there.

How are you making the most of your place? One of the quirks of the National Concert Hall is that we have a lot of unused rooms. So for Tiny Portraits in Tiny Rooms, we're going to put a musician in a room and get people to come in, one or two at a time and listen to one piece. You can go to one or two or half a dozen.

What are you hoping for in 2017?: We have three major international singers coming for this festival. To get the baritone Simon Keenlyside here, with his busy schedule, is terrific – and we're hoping that people who would normally come to hear him singing Mozart, or whatever, will say, "Wow: he's singing Gerald Barry and Thomas Ades. Let's go for it."


Kells, June

Geraldine Gaughran, director

How are your preparations going?

It’s our first year as a standalone festival, but we’ve had four years as part of the Hay Festival in Wales. We were lucky to have such a big player to get us off the ground. Now we’ve started to grow our own identity and we have their blessing to do that. The programme is shaping up. It will be similar in feel to previous years, but we’ll have two days of history events programmed, as ever, by Myles Dungan.

How are you making the most of your place?

We want to develop the elements which make Kells special. The businesses in the town put a huge amount of effort into dressing up their windows for the festival, and the Type Trail has become a major design endeavour – last year we had a group of students from Athlone Institute of Technology come with their designs. As our title Hinterland suggests, we also want to incorporate local landscapes such as the Girley Bog, while the Boyne Valley has won Foodie Destination of the Year, so there will be events round that.

What are you hoping for in 2017?

We’re very excited, and a bit nervous, but mostly excited!


Waterford, August

TV Honan, director

How are your preparations going?

For our 25th birthday festival we already have acts confirmed from about six countries; we’re doing some refit work on the studios here over the winter months; and we’ve begun concept work on the festival parade, which of course we produce ourselves.

How are you making the most of your place?

We always wanted to have a Waterford dimension to the content, and to make that local content to a very high standard rather than being an add-on. This has given us a tremendous roots-down connection into the place we work out of. Street art is one of our fledgling art forms in Ireland and Spraoi is the annual hub – the fleadh ceoil of street art, if you like. It’s a good gathering point for the street arts and spectacle community on an annual basis.

What are you hoping for in 2017?

We’ve agreed to use our 25th anniversary as a platform into the future, rather than looking back into the past, but we are revisiting our motives for starting the festival in the first place, so as to shape Spraoi for the next 25 years.


Macroom, July

Sam Beshoff, director

How are your preparations going?

July may be a long way off, but there’s lot’s of planning at this time – lots of little tweaks and changes. Our sets are like film sets, almost – we start building in March and then we roll them out into the fields two weeks before the event.

How are you making the most of your place?

The land is fantastic and it wouldn’t work without the landowner. We have great walkways and a sibín in the woods and there’s a manmade lake which we hope to put a stage in for 2018.

What are you hoping for in 2017?

For this year’s festival we would like sunshine. The whole idea of carnival is participatory, so people come in fancy dress or they build something over the weekend or try a craft or make a sculpture, then it all comes alive on Sunday with a big fire show. So we’d like everyone to come, have a great time and be happy and safe.