Arts Column

The Eve Of Earagail

The Eve Of Earagail

Just before Earagail gets underway this weekend there’s a couple of decent shows this Friday. Comedian Des Bishop beings his new show Des Bishop Likes To Bang to An Grianan, Letterkenny. Des is one of the most recognisable names and biggest box office draws in Irish comedy. He’s a regular visitor to Letterkenny but this is a brand new show so, if you’re a fan, well worth going to see.

Down the road in Ballybofey, Canadian bluegrass/roots band Viper Central play The Balor. Viper Central do a nice mix of original material with old bluegrass standards and make for quite a lively affair. They have one studio album to date entitled The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please and are carving out a reputation for themselves at the forefront of the North American Bluegrass scene. If you’re a bluegrass fan this should be the gig for you.

Des Bishop is at An Grianan, Letterkenny on Friday July 6th at 8.00pm. Tickets are €25. Meanwhile, Viper Central play the Balor, Ballybofey also on Friday June 6th. Tickets for this one are €15 and available from The Balor on 0749131840.

My Own Private Earagail

The Earagail Festival kicks off this Saturday. It’s one of the highlights of the cultural calendar in Donegal with well over one hundred fantastic acts on display at locations across the length and breadth of the county.

Ironically, as it’s one of our busiest times of the year here at The Balor, I don’t get out and about to see many of the events that taking place in other locations. But every year for the purposes of this column I like to peruse the programme and imagine an alternative universe free of work and family commitments where I can spend the entire 16 days gorging myself on art at my leisure. So here’s what i would be attending in my alternative Earagail universe.

Saturday July 7th

The festival proper gets underway on Saturday night with The Feast Of The Senses at Rockhill House on the outskirts of Letterkenny. A three course supper prepared by the good folk of Rathmullan House and a night of music and cabaret courtesy of MC Little John Nee with music by Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson from Australia and American West Coast band I See Hawks In LA. Great food, great music, great entertainment – what more could you want?

Sunday July 8th

Staying at Rockhill house for the Sunday – grab the kids and bring them to the Earagail Arts festival Big Day out (12 noon to 6pm). There’s the global village fete, a funfair and vintage games, an Asian food festival and much much more. You can also take the chance to visit Architects of Air’s Amococo – a luminarium (big coloured inflatable structures to you and me) that, I suppose the best way i can describe it is wondering around in a giant inflatable lava lamp with liquid colours drifting along the walls. I’m not really doing it justice here so just go out to Rockhill and see it for yourself. Amococo will be at Rockhill for the rest of the week so you’ve no excuse not to pay a visit.

Later that evening drop the kids at home and you have a couple of hours to recover / freshen up before heading into the Greenroom Live in Voodoo for 9pm to check out O Emperor and Our Krypton Son.

Monday July 9th

It’s over to The Balor in Ballybofey on Monday afternoon at 3pm for the matinee showing of Catch Me by aerial dance company fidget Feet. Catch Me is a reworking of Red Riding Hood with an aerial circus twist so you can enjoy Red Riding Hood and the Wolf swinging high above the audience on a forest of over 250 metres of rope. There’s a free aerial dance workshop/Q & A session for the kids afterwards too.

Monday evening at 8pm we’re off to Letterkenny to An Grianan for Miss Julie, performed by the Shanghai Theatre Academy. It’s the Beijing Opera version of a 1888 drama by Swedish scribe August Strindberg . It caused quite a stir at the time in his native ssweden and in underground theatre around Europe dealing as it does with class, love, lust and the battle of the sexes.

Tues July 10th

We’re going back to An Grianan (or maybe we just never left) on Tuesday night for The Golden Dragon. This is one of the theatre events in the festival that I’m most looking forward to seeing. It’s billed as a play about globalization set in your local Chinese takeaway which definitely whets my appetite on a couple of levels.

Wed July 11th

Grab the kids once again and make your way down to the Abbey Centre, Ballyshannon for 2pm where Thingamujig Theatre Company present Hullaba Lulu – a play for children aged 5 and up. An elderly couple travelling the world in their strange and wonderful land boat encounter the even stranger and more wonderful Lulu – a puppet child who teaches them about love, play and how to say goodbye.

In the evening it’s up to the Balor in Ballybofey for Donal Lunny and Yungchen Lhamo. This is definitely one of my personal festival highlights. Donal is an Irish music legend. A founding member of several seminal bands including Planxty, The Bothy Band and Moving Hearts he’s considered one of the most influential people in the ‘70’s renaissance of Irish music.

Yungchen Lhamo is the world’s leading Tibetan vocalist whose haunting performances have enchanted audiences in more than 70 countries. Described as ‘sublime’ by Rolling Stone and ‘Angel voiced’ by Newsweek she recently sang at the Electric Burma concert in Dublin to honour Burmese pro Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Together they promise a wonderful collaboration of Irish and Tibetan musical genius.

Thursday July 12th

Lunchtime Live in the cafe in An Grianan (12.30 – 2.00pm) features Declan McCafferty from local band In Their Thousands and grizzled veteran session player Ted Ponsonby. If you like guitar music you’ll really appreciate this. Oh, and it’s free.

On Thursday night it’s Malian blues legend Boubacar Traore at The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny (just behind An Grianan). He became a national figure in Mali after the country’s independence from France, faded from the public eye a bit and was then rediscovered as a superb songwriter, accomplished blues musician and all round national treasure after moving to France in the late ‘80’s. It’s his first visit to Ireland.

Friday July 13th.

It’s one for the kids again, this time up in Dunfanaghy where Cloud Man is at The Holy Trinity Parish Hall at 3pm. It’s a puppet show for 4 to 7 years olds about Cloudia, who always has her head in the clouds and dreams of seeing a Cloud Man which involves following the clues to the top of Cloud Mountain. You get the gist – it’s about clouds.

I’m genuinely torn on Friday night. The amazing Tucan and The Brass String Emsemble play The Balor along with Mark Black & The Trips. Tucan started off as a virtuoso guitar duo but this latest expanded incarnation features (as the name suggests) brass and string featuring the talents of Donagh Molloy from The Lisa Hannigan band, the David Kitt Band’s Bryan Quinn, Austro-Irish fiddle sensation Claudia Schwab and ska-latical Derry based trombone player Donal McGuinness. It promises to be excellent.

On the other hand, the equally excellent Little John Nee is at Ramelton Town Hall with his new show Sparkplug. Little John’s shows are always uniformly excellent and this promises to be no different. A comic rock ‘n’ roll odyssey in the bizarre world of Sparkplug Callaghan – a rural landscape inhabited by Buddhist bluesmen, freaky farmers, psychedelic preachers and happy hens.

It’s impossible to go to both of course. You could go and see Sparkplug at The Holy Trinity Parish Hall on Thursday the 8th freeing up Friday for Tucan but that’d mean missing Boubacar Traore in the RCC. Decisions, decisions – I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Well, that’s the first week mapped out for you. I’ll do my picks for the remainder of the festival in next week’s column. Of course, what you really want to do is grab your own copy of the EAF 2012 programme or log on to www.eaf.ie and decide for yourself.