Reunion of organisers of inaugural arts week

AN evening of memories and inspiration with many of the main organisers of the first arts festival in Kilkenny in 1974 was enjoyed in Tynans Bridge House Bar recently.

AN evening of memories and inspiration with many of the main organisers of the first arts festival in Kilkenny in 1974 was enjoyed in Tynans Bridge House Bar recently.

Writer Cathy Hogan is currently documenting the past forty years of Ireland’s first multi-disciplinary arts festival and gathered many of the original organisers of what was then called Kilkenny Arts Week for a reunion party on November 2 at a popular meeting place with those involved in the festival, Tynan’s Bridge House Bar.

Among those at the event were Kilkenny Arts Week 1974 P.R.O. Ramie Leahy; Programme Committee Chairman, George Vaughan; Programme Committee members Peter Donovan and David Lee; Finance Committee Chairman, Brendan Conway, Michael Murphy – an employee of Smithwick’s in 1974 and a future Hon Treasurer of the K.A.W. Finance Committee; Secretary Patricia Langton; Performer Nora Ring; and Programme and poster designer, Damien Harrington.

Brendan Conway (former CEO of County Kilkenny VEC) delivered a wonderful speech reflecting on the setting-up process of the festival that was ‘part madness, part visionary, part success.’

The choice of venue was significant to all invitees because, as Brendan recalled: ‘It was under this roof that I was I was invited to take part in an event by George Vaughan and David Lee. This was a very happy and homely roof that we have come under tonight because the first hundred pounds we ever got (for the 1974 festival) was written by Michael Tynan in this very spot. Michael thought he might get away with fifty pounds but his wife was behind him, pounding him and she was saying, go on, go on! - A hundred pounds was a monthly salary for any of the five us sitting at the table that night.’

Speaking about their achievement of making a profit after the first Kilkenny Arts Week: ‘The result was that the next one had to take place! And it did take place, and then last August we enjoyed the continuation of that success at the thirty-ninth festival, and we are alive and well, and please God, we are looking forward to the fortieth next year,’ he said.

Speaking about the reason behind this gathering held on November 2, Cathy says: “Since I began researching for my book at the end of August I have been talking to and meeting with many of those who organised or performed at (and in some cases both) the first festival, and I thought it would be wonderful to reunite them for an evening. It was a truly inspirational experience as a writer of my first book to be surrounded by these pioneering and talented founders of a festival which has been so close to my heart since 1994, when I began volunteering and then working at venues and in the box office.”

The general public are welcome to send some of their own special memories of the festival over the decades to Cathy at and a selection of these will be posted on her blog. “This is a chance for people to share their memories and photos with other arts week/festival fans. There has been so much hard work, talent and good will involved in the past forty years and I have chosen this labour of love for the subject of my first book (since recently being awarded my degree with creative writing at NUIG),” she said.

The event was generously sponsored by Tynan’s Bridge House Bar (who provided the refreshments) and