20 STORIES OF CIRCOSTRADA - CELEBRATING THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NETWORK: Éist/ Listen an article written by Lucy Medlycott

An Article written by
Lucy Medlycott
16 May 2024
2 mn
illustration: Marion Jdanoff

This journey started with a fight – a fight over territory, over position, over experience, over economic certainty, capacity, ownership, capability, view, and ultimately authority. But this time, somehow, Ireland became the country where FRESH STREET #3 would be hosted in 2019. We were grateful. Somebody was listening — Bhí duine éigin ag éisteacht!

It was a gamble. A big one for everybody – especially us in the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network who were indeed very young, under resourced, and had no experience in running events of this size, particularly with an international remit. But we had fought for it, so we must deliver. Would anybody listen? — An éistfeadh éinne?

Our mission was to demonstrate that territories beyond the economic epicentre of Europe have a role to play in the development of the arts and in Circostrada itself. We also had to prove that we had something to say worth listening to. Where should art happen, who is art for, who makes it, speaks it, believes it, leads on it, owns it, brings it. All these things matter… and that is why place matters. Are you listening now? — An bhfuil tú ag éisteacht anois?

We proceeded to challenge what a conference should look like, how it could engage and connect with a place on the farthest western shore of Europe, without a festival or a track record behind us and facing nothing but the immense Atlantic Ocean. We were terrified. What if we could not deliver, what if the promise for funding from Galway 2020 fell apart, what if it broke our small ISACS network? What if nobody listened. — Cad a tharlóidh muna n-éistfeadh éinne?

We had proposed bringing an international conference to the edge of Connemara on the Atlantic Ocean to talk about placemaking through art. It was therefore essential that we immersed the delegates directly into the actual place. So, we decided to throw out the typical conference model of sitting in a lecture hall and listening attentively (or not, as the case may be). All had travelled – some from as far as Rwanda, Slovenia and even Ballydehob to join us in Galway. Everyone was making a journey… so the most important thing was to show them where they had in fact arrived. Inis Oírr, the smallest of the three Aran Islands, is situated off the coast of Galway and Clare. It requires a one-hour bus drive from Galway city, followed by a boat journey through the Atlantic Ocean to find it. It is inhabited by approximately 280 people, most speak Gaeilge/Irish as their first language. This changes how you listen. There are no trees, only rocks. It is wild, windswept, underdeveloped, and rugged. Here the air changes, time slows and the sounds shift into epic proportions… the ocean, the birds, the silence. Out on Inis Oírr, we walked, we talked, we breathed. The incessant grindstone of ambition cooled. We became more human, more rooted. Out there, you can hear the beat in your chest and feel your feet on the ground. The ground beneath us — a rock in a massive ocean being battered and bashed over centuries with wind and waves. Out there, time slows down, and as we climbed to the highest peak of the island at O’Briens Castle we could feel our insignificance in the face of time and nature. We all stand on the same earth. It is ever shifting. We listened. - D’éisteamar.

Perhaps emptiness was the most important thing that we had given to our FRESH STREET planning. Emptiness to be present in the moment. Emptiness to experience and listen. Éist! An gcloiseann tú é?

Lucy Medlycott est la directrice exécutive du réseau irlandais des arts de la rue, du cirque et du spectacle vivant, une organisation qui vise à célébrer, défendre, développer et soutenir ces formes d'art collectif. Elle participe au développement des arts dans l'espace public en Irlande depuis le début des années 1990. Lucy a été présidente du forum communautaire du comté de Wexford, directrice du centre artistique de Wexford, membre du comité directeur de Circostrada, membre du conseil de développement du comté de Wexford, du comité de développement de la communauté locale, du comité de développement économique et d'entreprise du comté de Wexford et est actuellement membre de la Royal Society of Arts (Société royale des arts).