12 Aug 2022

Get ready for Marble City magic in Kilkenny, with festival now under way

Kilkenny Arts Festival Director Olga Barry tells you what’s in store this month


Olga Barry

One of my favourite things about Kilkenny audiences is they get festivals. It’s a festival city in every sense – it’s the perfect size to immerse yourself, discover new things, meet friends and artists around town, go to galleries and gigs in our favourite places and see theatre made especially for THIS city. Always, this audience has an instinct to try something different, something a little less ordinary.

This August in Kilkenny we aim to transport you to some magical places. Between St John’s Priory, St Canice’s Cathedral, Cleere’s and the Set Theatre there’s a mouth-watering array on offer, with the Carducci Quartet playing the complete Shostakovich String Quartet cycle, Irish Chamber Orchestra with three extraordinary singers in Ailish Tynan, Sharon Carty, and the very special project, Róisín ReImagined with Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh.

AKAMUS from Berlin offer a stunning programme of Handel and his contemporaries, while the Irish Baroque Orchestra with the simply sublime Tara Erraught bring their singular style. And, for those who like to mix it up, Anne Sophie von Otter and Brooklyn Rider pair Schubert and Rufus Wainwright!

The Rollercoaster Sessions is a real treat this year, with Keeley Forsyth making her Irish debut. There’s a long awaited Kilkenny show from Sean O’Hagan, the very exciting Maija Sofia, Howe Gelb, the brilliant art pop band Bas Jan, a return to music with the extraordinary artist Myles O’Reilly and a special commission from Dave Holland – part sound installation, with a special live event to top it off.

The Marble City Sessions with Martin Hayes this year is a special one, with new work from Cormac McCarthy made especially for the wonderful Nell Ní Chróinín, Aoife Ní Bhriain and Kate Ellis, the extraordinary Syrian performer Maya Yousef brings her new project about ‘home’ to Kilkenny, Ye Vagabonds bring their full band of collaborators for a special performance at the Set and Martin Hayes’ new collective, The Common Ground, promises a sublime evening of special guests.

I’m particularly excited about two events where poetry and music collide (it’s quintessential festival fare) with new works from poets Theo Dorgan and Paula Meehan. Dorgan’s collaboration with the remarkable musician Colm Mac Con Iomaire and his band, Ériu and Amergín, promises to be one of the highlights of this year’s festival with narrators Aaron Monaghan (last seen in Kilkenny in DRUID:Shakespeare in 2016)and Bríd Ní Neachtain (a deserving winner of the Best Actress in the Irish Theatre Awards), while Meehan’s new collection For the Hungry Ghosts will be performed by the poet in collaboration with master uilleann piper, David Power.

There’s opera galore at Kilkenny this year with a full production of Handel’s Semele from the same creative time that wowed Kilkenny and critics in 2018, as well as a premiere of a new virtual reality opera, Out of the Ordinary from INO.
I also urge audiences to go to Eszter Némethi’s very special project, Speak Like No One in Particular; it will challenge audiences to consider what it means to belong, how we listen.

And no Kilkenny Arts Festival would feel complete without the spectacle of Shakespeare, delivered in the open air, this year in the stunning Castle Parklands in the hands of the brilliant Rough Magic with The Tempest. I just love the camaraderie of the Kilkenny experience around Shakespeare outdoors, a tradition that started almost 25 years ago, appropriately enough, at Kilkenny Castle with Bickerstaffe. It’s a thrill to be back at the original site for this consummate tradition.

Kilkenny audiences have also loved the work of the company Loosysmokes, whose work has thrilled and surprised us at the Castle Park, the Brewhouse at the Abbey Quarter and at Kilfane Glen in recent years. This year they’ll take us on a dark cinematic and spectacle journey in a warehouse in Callan. It’s a show not to be missed. And Luke Murphy’s poignant new work Slow Tide will be emerging out of the Nore River at the Abbey Quarter later on in the festival.

As ever, our partnership with Butler Gallery offers a real festival show with Kevin Atherton revisiting some of his early works anew, and the young artist Stephen Doyle offers an insight into self-identity at the Festival Gallery at St Kieran’s College.

So! Do it all, soak it all up, immerse yourselves, go to things you know you love, try the things you don’t know yet, catch the pop-up performances in all the special gardens, delight on our own gorgeous city as we meet friends and artists, and all the while be transported by that Marble City magic in Kilkenny in August!

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