John Hume and the Artists That Make Us Think

John Hume’s views on the role of artists in a conflict are worth considering today, writes Toner Quinn.

John Hume, the great peacemaker of Northern Ireland who died this month, was known for his political words, but a year before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, he also published an essay on culture and society and the role artists can play in a conflict. I came across it last week and it struck me as relevant to some of the challenges we face today. 

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The Silencing of An Spidéal – Why Catherine Martin Needs to Set Out a New Vision for the Arts

The experience of one village in the west of Ireland shows that the new Minister for Arts faces a serious challenge, to change the way we think about culture and its role in our society, writes Toner Quinn.

A few months before the pandemic, a new building called Gteic opened in the village of An Spidéal in County Galway. The stylish white premises are home to a digital and innovation hub with hot desks, meeting rooms and break-out areas for remote workers, local businesses, and start-ups. It is actually one of 30 digital hubs being established in Gaeltacht areas and on islands, built to encourage people to live in the area and to promote entrepreneurialism, all of which I believe in and welcome.

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The Unresolved Mystery of David Gray

A new documentary explores the extraordinary story of David Gray and Ireland in the 1990s, the making of ‘White Ladder’, and how it became Ireland’s best-selling album of all time, but is the story as simple as it seems? Toner Quinn reviews.

In the first ninety seconds of David Gray: Ireland’s Greatest Hit, the new RTÉ documentary on the singer’s successful 1998 album White Ladder, a number of images from Ireland that decade flash across the screen: crowds with tricolours singing ‘Olé, Olé’, traders on a stock-market floor, a photo-shoot marking the introduction of the euro currency, the businessman Denis O’Brien shaking on a deal, Riverdance on stage, a picture of the broadcaster Pat Kenny opening a bottle of champagne…

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The Songs We Don’t Talk About

If we are going to tackle racism, we need to improve our conversations about culture, writes Toner Quinn.

Of all the ways that we could tackle racism in Ireland – from educational campaigns to investing in communities to stronger legislation against hate speech – the potential of music and culture to open our eyes to the issue must surely warrant serious discussion.

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‘Ireland Performs’ Series Backed Musicians into an Uncomfortable Corner

The government’s ‘Ireland Performs’ series, which was partly funded by Facebook, put already under pressure artists in an unacceptable position. We have got to think hard about the way we support music into the future, writes Toner Quinn.
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Podcast: Irish Music Through the Lens – An Interview with Myles O’Reilly

For the past decade, film-maker Myles O’Reilly has been documententing the Irish indie and folk music scenes, creating videos with Lisa Hannigan, Martin Hayes, Ye Vagabonds, Lisa O’Neill, Radie Peat from Lankum and more, and he also filmed the Christmas Eve busk on Grafton street with Glen Hansard, Bono and Sinead O’Connor.
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Carrying So Much: Liam O’Flynn and the Tradition

A new feature-length documentary on the great piper Liam O’Flynn was broadcast on TG4 at the weekend. Toner Quinn reviews.

It is just over two years since uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn passed away aged 72, and yet his influence continues to grow, even more so at the moment with the current folk music resurgence, the sound of his 1970s band Planxty an essential thread in the work of today’s artists.

TG4’s hour-and-a-half documentary tribute to the late piper, Liam O’Flynn – Píobaire, which was broadcast on Easter Sunday (12 April), brings the viewer from O’Flynn’s weekly lessons as a child with Leo Rowsome in the 1950s, travelling on his father’s motorbike from Kildare to Dublin every Friday evening, right up to some of his final collaborations. The list of contributors is extensive, from his wife Jane O’Flynn to his original Planxty bandmates Andy Irvine, Christy Moore and Dónal Lunny, plus an array of fellow musicians and composers such as Noel Hill, Shaun Davey, Bill Whelan, Paddy Glackin, Louise Mulcahy and Mark Knopfler. There is also commentary from Leagues O’Toole, author of the 2006 book The Humours of Planxty, and former president Mary McAleese.

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