Irish Early Music Network
The recently-established Irish Early Music Network (IEMN) is a collaboration between Ireland’s festivals of Early Music: Limerick Early Music, East Cork Early Music, Galway Early Music, Sligo Baroque Festival, Ardee Baroque, and Scoil na gClairseach Festival
of Early Irish Harp. IEMN is working towards bringing early music performance in Ireland into the digital 21st century whilst highlighting Irish early music artists on the European stage. The IEMN aims to expand within future years, connecting and
supporting early music organisations and ensembles across the island. In addition to generous knowledge sharing, IEMN initiatives include: social media assistance with digital advertising; joint training in capacity building, marketing and media skills;
sharing of expertise and consultancy; and sharing of human and technological resources.
Founding members: Limerick Early Music, Galway Early Music, East Cork Early Music
West Cork Arts Festivals Cooperative
From May to September every year, eleven arts festivals take place in the towns, villages and islands of the region. Although quite diverse, and varying in size and style, all of these festivals share particular remits: to present world-class artists
in intimate settings and to support the work of our local artistic community.
Festival Members: Ballydehob Jazz Festival, Baltimore Fiddle Fair, Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival, Clonakilty International Guitar Festival, Drimoleague Singing Festival, Fastnet Film Festival, Masters of Tradition, Skibbereen Arts
Festival, West Cork Chamber Music Festival, West Cork Fit-up Festival, West Cork Literary Festival)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
What was the motivation behind setting up the consortia?
Wolodymyr Smishkewych (Irish Early Music Festival): The idea of a directors’ group or loose network for the six early music festivals around Ireland is not new, but the COVID pandemic and specifically, the Arts Council’s Capacity Building Support
Scheme, was the touchstone to finally set up and launch the consortium. Since early music festivals pretty much all run on shoestring budgets around the country, the various directors thought it would make sense if we could collectively share material
as well as human resources among all of the early music festivals for mutual benefit. It’s inspired by the European Early Music Network (REMA), but at a much smaller and national scale, although perfect for Ireland’s size, and the joint forces will
give us more clout within the European Early Music scene.
Declan McCarthy (West Cork Arts Festivals Cooperative): West Cork Arts Festivals Cooperative was established to showcase West Cork as a top-class arts festival destination. We wanted to form an alliance that recognised the value that each of our
festivals play in the cultural fabric of our community and that would support each other through cooperation, collaboration, exchange of ideas and pooling of resources.
We felt that each festival could benefit enormously by establishing this cooperative; all of our festivals focus on different genres and take place at different times of the season so there was never any element of competition. In fact the opposite is
the case in that we all believe that the high standard of arts festivals across the region can only benefit each of us individually as well as collectively.
How have festival members benefited from this?
WS: In various ways: each of the IEMN member festivals was able to offer events on and around
Early Music Day and increase international visibility, and the equipment and expertise used to facilitate the events and create and broadcast the videos were also shared generously. Technical consultancy
and person-hours of social media were exchanged generously. Online masterclasses using IEMN’s webcams, cameras, audio equipment—these were all shared in a good faith quid-pro-quo made possible by the connections afforded by the network. We’re looking
forward to a burgeoning of new events and initiatives and training sessions that our entire network will soon be taking advantage of, and it’s truly inspiring for early music in this country.
DMcC: The cooperative is in its infancy but member festivals will benefit in many ways. The cooperative will act as a body for cooperation and development of the region’s best arts festivals, will increase awareness of these festivals, nationally
and internationally, will create a regional network for the exchange of experience and expertise, will strengthen our region's cultural festivals position through cooperation and collaboration, will build our capacity to reach new and diverse communities
and audiences, will enable us to engage in joint marketing and promotional activities and will ensure that our artistic community will continue to be supported and provided with platforms to showcase their work.
Up until this point, was there a lack of collaboration or communication between festivals?
WS: Perhaps a lack of collaboration or communication—usually, we’d be busy with our own festivals and when we were free, our colleagues would be up to the gills with their productions, so the chances to collaborate always seemed elusive. But by
formalising the arrangement and making ourselves accountable for keeping the connections alive, we’re finding that a network is in everybody’s best interest.
DMcC: There was always a healthy neighbourly respect for each other and similar festivals promoted each other’s events on social media etc but not to a large extent. There really wasn’t any formal collaborative process until Skibbereen Arts Festival
invited all of the other festivals to co-present an event at their 10th anniversary edition in 2009. This proved to be very successful and was the inspiration for the establishment of the cooperative.
Is the importance of the consortia emphasised by the COVID-19 health crisis?
WS: COVID-19 has brought many things more sharply into focus, one of which is how much we depend on each other. As festivals, we’re members of a national cultural ecosystem, and we also have our own sub-ecosystems, in this case, early music. One
thing that we can better do with a network is more quickly tap into the diverse strengths, interests and resources of each festival and its people. It’s also been a time of building ourselves up from within while we cannot put on events, so the resources
go into capacity building, outreach and audience building. If several festivals can join in on these activities, the financial savings are considerable. The same holds true for physical, material or technological resources, which are very helpful
when it comes to creating online or broadcast media, recording audio and video for concerts, etc.
DMcC: In the current climate, all festivals are presented with unprecedented challenges to ensure their survival. Many of our members have already reimagined their 2020 and 2021 festivals and presented high quality online events that continued
to support our artists. All of our members are committed to continuing to explore new methods of presentation to ensure our survival and we believe that this new cooperative will support each of us as we continue to adapt to the new realities. The
sharing of knowledge and information, and the pooling of our resources, will ensure that each festival can face the future with confidence.
What do you imagine the consortia can achieve in the future (post COVID-19)?
WS: One immediate goal for IEMN is to join REMA, the European Early Music Network, which would mean we’d have the ability to have our say alongside the other REMA members—very large festivals and organisations whose budgets dwarf the combined budgets
of all our excellent festivals. From this membership can come some other important benefits, for example, participating in the eeEmerging project (Emerging European Ensembles). This would bring emerging international early music ensembles to Ireland,
where they could benefit from our network in order to develop projects in residencies at our various festivals and centres, study with specialists in Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical performance practice and in a variety of historical
instruments. eeEmerging resident ensembles also perform at network member festivals, and this would bring an influx of new performers to our shores and, in turn, inspire more and more musicians here in Ireland to take up early music.
DMcC: We believe that by marketing ourselves as one group the cooperative can be of enormous benefit in gaining new national and international audiences. We imagine a future where we collaborate to create new and exciting high quality arts experiences
for our community. The arts are highly valued as central to the civic life of this community and as a hallmark of our regional identity. We hope that our cooperative will prove invaluable in cementing our region’s position as Ireland’s premier rural
cultural festival destination.