Stop press . . . good news from a bank

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ARTSCAPE: THE PARIS-based Irish artists Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly, pictured above, were probably the front runners to win the AIB prize this week, as they have a great track record and many other awards behind them, so it was not a huge surprise that they scooped the prestigious award.

It was announced at the AIB bank centre to a group of about 50 people who breached (by arrangement) the inner sanctum of the beleagured bank’s Ballsbridge headquarters for the award ceremony. It must be a relief for chief executive Eugene Sheehy to have some good news for a change. And even more heartening to have him strongly reaffirm the bank’s ongoing commitment to both its art collection and the AIB prize itself.

Cleary and Connolly (born in Tullamore and Dún Laoghaire respectively), who were in Dublin with their eight-year-old twin girls for the event, were nominated by the Limerick City Gallery of Art. They both studied architecture in Dublin before moving to Paris in the early 1990s, and their work explores new technologies – from interactive video installations to narrative documentary – in an inventive and accessible way, often focusing on audience engagement with contemporary art practice. Outreach and community involvement is central to their work, which aims to create a bridge between art and daily life. Their €20,000 prize is to go towards making a new work for the Limerick City Gallery – video pieces that break down the divisions between the artist, the museum and the public, focusing on young people in Limerick. The impressive runner-up artists are Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh (nominated by Sligo Art Gallery); Sonia Shiel (Temple Bar Gallery and Studios); and Louise Manifold (Galway Arts Centre).

An opportunityto be involved in theatre-making comes from Living Space Theatre Company, which, supported by the Bealtaine Festival and Create, is developing Worksong, a new play with music about our relationship to work. Writer Michelle Read and composer Fionnuala Conway are currently researching the project and would like to record interviews with a cross-section of Dublin-based people who have experienced a big change in their work life – and there is a lot of that about at the moment. If you would like to be involved and have been forced, or have decided to significantly change your career/job (and perhaps your life), please contact michelle@livingspacetheatre.com

Fishamble Theatre Companyhas a busy international (and national) touring diary, with Noah and the Tower Flowerby Seán McLoughlin ( The Irish TimesBest Play award winner) touring to Bulgaria and to the International Theatre Festival of Sibiu in Romania from May 28th to June 3rd, and The Pride of Parnell Streetby Sebastian Barry at 59E59 in New York in September (after a run at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght in August). Meanwhile, Forgotten by Pat Kinevane (nominated for The Irish TimesSpecial Judges’ Award) has toured this year to New York, Ballinacollig, Clonakilty, Tallaght, Rathmines, Dún Laoghaire, Tralee and Sligo and will go to the Earagail Arts Festival in Donegal in July, before taking up an invite to the Lokal Festival in Reykjavik in September and a run at the Irish Arts Centre in New York next year. Meantime, Circusby Barabbas travels to New Haven Connecticut tomorrow where the show will be performed as part of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. The skilful and moving narrative-based circus show was invited to New Haven after being seen in the first ever Reviewed season in last year’s Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival.

Quite apartfrom the celebrity and international orchestral concert series, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming concerts feature 75 world-class guest soloists and conductors, including Boris Berezovsky, François-Frédéric Guy, Janina Fialkowska and Sergio Tiempo, violinists Arabella Steinbacher, Julian Rachlin, Ilya Gringolts and Nicola Benedetti, singers Patricia Bardon and Orla Boylan, cellist Pieter Wispelwey and conductor Jakub Hruša. Tickets range from €10 to €35, with no booking fee – and there are student stand-by tickets for €5.

Package bookingopens on Tuesday for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s season at the National Concert Hall. The season features 33 performances (two on New Year’s Day) with a programme including a Russian strand, old favourites and new commissions, and concerts around the Haydn, Schumann and Samuel Barber anniversaries. Taken with other concerts promoted by RTÉ Performing Groups at the National Concert Hall, including those by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and those taking place as part of the RTÉ Living Music Festival, RTÉ presented a total of 108 performances at the NCH in 2008, 24 of which were free.

Nothing everbeats live performance. But when it’s not possible, one step away can serve well. Following Opera Ireland’s initiative to bring opera to a wider audience via high-definition live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, this is a step in a similar direction from the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival. (This is part of a stable of sponsorships that represent another good news story from a bank – is the financial sector acutely aware that culture is one of the only places that it can redeem itself at the moment? Maybe the Government will figure that partial redemption for the nation’s image, and soul, may also lie in art). Along with the Irish Film Institute, the theatre festival is presenting Phèdrelive via satellite from the UK’s National Theatre as part of NT Live – a new initiative to broadcast live plays onto cinema screens around the world. With Helen Mirren, Margaret Tyzack and Dominic Campbell, it will be broadcast in high definition to the IFI on June 25th.

artscape@irishtimes.com

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