2017 was a transformational year for Leitrim County Council’s Arts Programme as it prepared the groundwork for a new multiannual strategy. With Leitrim having one of the largest creative sectors in the country and communities and individuals the length and breadth of the county eager to engage in the arts, programmes continued to grow in response to increasing demands over the course of the year.
Leitrim Youth Theatre Company The numbers of young people joining Leitrim Youth Theatre grew by over 28% this year with the programme expanding to eight groups in three centres and running at full capacity in both Carrick on Shannon and Carrigallen. Funded under the Creative Ireland programme a new group started in Carrigallen in September specifically for children with special needs and those marginalised for a variety of reasons.
Artist in Schools and Artist in Communities Schemes These two schemes have been continuously reviewed and refined and we now have in place a system of recruitment of artists, schools and community groups; project development; and review and evaluation that maximises the return on investment in terms of outcomes for communities, children, artists and teachers. The schemes provide for four residencies each and meet a geographic and artform spread. Schools participating in 2017 are the Hunt NS, Mohill; St. Brigid’s NS, Drumcong; St. Clare’s Primary School, Manorhamilton and the Gaelscoil in Carrick on Shannon. Community projects included the North Leitrim Men’s Group in Manorhamilton working with Scottish artist Jen Bradley; Childhood Days in Ballinamore working with dancer Deirdre Grant; Annaduff ICA working with visual artist Julie Griffiths and Glenfarne Development Trust working with Manorhamilton artist Seamus Dunbar.
SPARK is one of two major programmes managed in partnership with Leitrim Local Enterprise Office. Tinka Bechert’s residency at Prior PLM Medical concluded in a very successful exhibition ‘Shadows of Ourselves’ which was opened by the Director of the National Science Gallery, Lynn Scarff. Leitrim County Council is the company this year and Vanya Lambrecht Ward has just been appointed Artist in Residence. She will be working with Leitrim County Council over the next six months initially engaging with management, staff and elected members to get a better insight into the work we do and our role within the community.
Traditional Arts As well as developing a specific strand for young traditional musicians as part of the Music Generation programme, we have been working closely with Leitrim Dance Project to develop a weeklong professional development programme for Sean Nós dancers from Leitrim and as far away as Japan with an open access festival in Drumshanbo for anyone of any age and ability.
Culture Night continues as a very valuable platform for venues throughout the county to build their audience and to provide opportunities for people to try something new. While we concentrate on places where people can continue to engage with the arts year round, two noteworthy projects this year saw a young theatre company present a Yeats inspired project ‘Stolen Child’ at Glencar Waterfall and two artists commenced a programme of projects at Mohill Train Station in partnership with the Mohill Railway Preservation Society that will continue for the rest of the year.
Creative Frame is a relatively unique user-driven continuing professional development network for the creative sector of Leitrim and the wider region run in partnership with Leitrim Local Enterprise Office. Over the last 12 months membership has grown from 120 to 260 practitioners. Training events in tax, web design, collaborative practice, and photographing your work and info sessions with VAI, Irish Writers Centre and First Music Connect have been followed by mentor and mentee training and support to mentoring partnerships. Future plans for the project include developing links with IT Sligo and developing a European network of rural creative clusters.
Professional Development Bursaries are provided to support the development of emerging and established Leitrim based professional artists from any arts discipline through any means that will demonstratively contribute to their continued development. In December 2016 we allocated a total of €12,500 to 23 applicants in the areas of visual art, theatre, dance, film and literature.
Leitrim Sculpture Centre is supported in two ways – The first of these is bursaries for two Leitrim based artists taking residence at LSC to develop their own practice. The second is for national or international artists to undertake projects that connect with communities in North Leitrim and conclude in an exhibition or presentation.
Drumshanbo Library Studios contain two studios and a workshop space at the Library. Instead of rent artists provide one hour per week pro rata to develop a work programme that benefits community, school or library groups. Residencies by Kate Wilson and Gerry Boland concluded in July. Visual artists Margot Quinn and Cathy Reynolds have just commenced their residencies and in the coming months will be developing projects with different groups within the community.
Film Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo local authorities have come together with representatives of the film sector to develop a joint approach to film development. We have been undertaking research into needs and opportunities for filmmakers and as part of the project a tour of the three counties with the Irish Film Board and film location mangers was held last month.
The Dock The Dock is an iconic cornerstone of Leitrim’s Arts Infrastructure. The centre provides a crucial service to the community and its high quality cultural offering is key to the type of offering that the town of Carrick on Shannon wishes to put forward to visitors as well as its own citizens. Leitrim County Council is committed, in partnership with the Arts Council, to providing for the programming, staffing and operational costs of the building. As a local authority owned arts facility, we provide funding to maintain the building and sufficient staffing to ensure its safe operation. Grant funding from the Arts Council ensures that the Dock can continue to programme a high quality innovative calendar of performing and visual arts and workshops throughout the year. In 2017 Leitrim County Council was successful in an application for funding to the Department of Arts to undertake essential capital improvements to the building which will be undertaken in 2018.
Other Venues In addition to the Dock, The Glens Centre, Solas Gallery and Cornmill Theatre are all integral partners in the continued development of various aspects of the arts in the county. All venues work together and with the Local Authority to maximise resources and opportunities for the production and dissemination of new work, professional development and the development of new audiences. Our support to The Glens Centre primarily centres on its priority to support the development of emerging musicians and theatre companies in the region, its youth theatre programme and festival events. The Glens is also a core partner in our Music Generation Programme. Solas Gallery has a membership of over 60 amateur and semi-professional visual artists. The gallery provides an essential service for its membership and for visual arts audiences in Ballinamore and the wider Leitrim/Cavan region. In Carrigallen the Cornmill Theatre has been a seeding ground for many in the performing arts and it is now home to one of the highest concentrations of youth theatre membership in the country.
Iron Mountain Literature Festival Arising from the John McGahern seminar which ran from 2007 for eight years, the Iron Mountain Festival was established in 2016, reframed in a wider context which looks to ideas central to and arising from an exploration of place, home and identity. In 2017 themes of place, migration and history were to the fore in a gathering of writers, activists and musicians – novelist Pat McCabe, migrant rights campaigner Bernadette Devlin and London Imam and sean-nós singer Muhammad Al-Hussaini as well as Henry Glassie, Eugene McCabe, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Lynch and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill among the participants. The John McGahern Award for Literature developed by Leitrim County Council with the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and John McGahern Estate was awarded by Cathaoirleach Finola Armstrong McGuire to Mullingar writer Anne Griffin.
Wild Words Children’s Book Festival has developed into a high quality literature event for young people locally and nationally, particularly young adults. As well as the weekend programme of readings, workshops, masterclasses and ancillary events, the festival manages a publication of writing by teenagers from throughout Ireland, the authors of which take part in an intensive masterclass programme led by leading authors. In 2017, as part of its national programme for supporting young writers, the Irish Writers Centre came on board as a core partner to the festival.
Other festivals Leitrim County Council provides funding through an application process to a range of independent arts festivals throughout the county to enhance the quality of their programming and their capacity to deliver events safely to audiences in the county. In 2017 we supported the following events - Sessions on the Shannon; Green Door; Carrick Water Music Festival; Five Glens Arts Festival; An Tostal; Ballinamore Drama Festival; Manorhamilton Samhain Festival; Rabbit’s Riot Theatre Company; Kiltubrid Drama Group; and The Fierce Moon Festival.
Creative Ireland Creative Ireland is an all of government programme designed to facilitate an ecosystem of creativity from an understanding that engagement with the arts and culture enhances wellbeing and because culture and creativity are essential features of an innovative society. In 2017 as well as organising events with venues throughout the county for Cruinniú na Cásca, publishing an Activation Plan and working towards the development of a Culture and Creativity Strategy for Leitrim, the principal part of the Creative Ireland programme in Leitrim was the Creative Ireland Open Call. The Open Call was a countywide call to communities, venues, artists and all those involved in the culture and creative sectors to develop high quality projects and programmes that encourage creativity and greater access and engagement with the arts, culture and heritage.
Projects are ongoing and include: Intercultural Writing Project with Leitrim International Community Group; a famine wall project with Carrick on Shannon Heritage Group; Remembering the Big Band Era with Glenfarne Community Development; At The Station with Mohill Heritage Railway Restoration Society; Little Red & The Black Dog at The Glens Centre; Architecture Talks & Workshop Programme at The Dock; a primary school programme with the Leitrim Percy French Society; Use Your Brain Not Your Fists with Comhairle na nOg; Postcards from the Terrace with the McDermott Terrace Residents Association; Make A Movie with Dromahair Foroige Youth Club; Kidzine - Comic Book project with Chluainin Art Club; Bright Sparks with Leitrim Youth Theatre Company Carrigallen; Street Theatre Workshops with Leitrim Sculpture Centre; Connecting Cultures at The Leitrim Design House; Éigse Chluainín by Glor Chluinin; Winter Lecture Series with Leitrim Library Service; and a Music Education programme and a Creative Sector Impact Study at the Arts Office.
Music Generation announced in September that Leitrim will receive €340,000 in philanthropic funding from U2 and The Ireland Funds to create access to high-quality, music education programmes for children and young people throughout the county. The project was developed by Leitrim County Council and Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Education and Training Board (ETB) working with youth and education services, and arts centres and organisations, along with a range of music education providers in Leitrim. The project will develop a range of affordable and accessible programmes for children and young people age 0 to 18 within schools and community groups as well as key projects in Choral Music, Trad Orchestra and Music Production and Engineering.
While funding and resourcing are always a concern, we hope to retain our level of service to the community across all our projects areas. In addition we hope to make further developments with the Creative Frame project and our work in Film and Youth. 2018 will also see a burgeoning of activity and opportunities for artists and communities through new initiatives such as Music Generation and Creative Ireland.
In 2018 Leitrim County Council will be one of the first Local Authorities to enter into a new multiannual agreement with the Arts Council. We will also publish a new Arts Strategy as well as a Culture and Creativity Strategy and together these describe what we hope to achieve and the ambition we as a Local Authority hold for the creative sector in Leitrim into the future.