Commemorate or bust: How 1916 will be remembered through the year

The scale of the thing is stunning – and not always in a good way. A lot of good intentions and ideals are floating around, but hard details – such as dates, times and even locations – are thin on the ground at this stage

 

The themes for the 1916 commemoration are, according to ireland.ie, remembering, reconciling, presenting, imagining and celebrating. Which is Governmentspeak for “a bit of everything, and whatever you’re doing yourself”. The scale of the thing is stunning – and not always in a good way. A lot of good intentions and ideals are floating around, but hard details – such as dates, times and even locations – are thin on the ground at this stage.

Keep an eye on the big national cultural institutions, as they’ll all have major 1916 programming strands. The National Concert Hall has a seven-concert Imagining Home series, which begins on March 28th with a US-themed gig featuring Roseanne Cash, Paul Brady and Rodney Crowell, and runs through literary, contemporary and evolutionary themes to climax with a finale of traditional music from Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Iarla Ó Lionaird and a host of others on April 3rd, before decamping for a night at the Royal Festival Hall in London on April 29th. The Contempo Quartet will also perform in London, on April 21st, as part of the Wigmore Hall’s week-long celebration Irish Culture in Britain.

The National Gallery of Ireland is putting together an exhibition on the role of James Stephens, author of the influential 1916 book Insurrection in Dublin, as well as a major show, 1916: Creating History – Stories of Ireland.

Trinity College Dublin has a wide-ranging centenary programme of exhibitions, lectures, debates and more, while NUI Galway will host an academic conference, The Promise and Challenge of National Sovereignty, in November.

At Dublin Castle, the Inspiring Ireland 1916 series of exhibitions aims to paint a picture of lives in Dublin at the time through photographs, diaries, recordings and videos. The Arts Council will host a symposium, The Art of Remembrance, and has commissioned a big choral work that will tour the country, using text from the Proclamation, the poetry of Paul Muldoon and local choirs.

If the budget for Ireland 2016 has hoovered up much of the funding that might otherwise go to hard-pressed arts organisations around the country, the good news for individual artists is that special commissions have materialised on the centenary table. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has asked the harpist and composer Michael Rooney to write a suite to commemorate 1915; Carlow County Museum has commissioned a mural from the stained-glass artist Peadar Lamb; and Meath County Council has commissioned a play, Wild Sky, from Deirdre Kinahan, which will premiere at the Irish Arts Center in New York in April.

Whether Ireland 2016 turns out to be a bit of a brand-Ireland damp squib or, as the aspiration has it, “a once-in-a-century invitation to people of all ages, at home and overseas, to shape, and then to actively engage in, a diverse range of historical, cultural and artistic activities”, only time will tell. But maybe we’ll have some fun finding out.

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