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Patrick Redmond via Cork Midsummer Festival
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“It puts the city on the stage”: Cork Midsummer Festival director, Lorraine Maye interviewed

A look ahead at some highlights from Cork Midsummer Festival taking place between June 14 – 25.

“THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL has a real sense of fun and adventure to it; it’s going to be a very special edition,” Lorraine Maye, director of Cork Midsummer Festival tells The Journal

Taking place between Wednesday, June 14 until Sunday, June 25, Cork Midsummer Festival has been a highlight for artists and attendees alike for several years. Over the 11 days, the programme is packed with an extraordinary array of events from a number of different disciplines from theatre to music and circus-based shows to visual art installations. 

the-12-ensemble-by-raphael-neal-london-march-2022 Raphaël Neal via Cork Midsummer Festival Raphaël Neal via Cork Midsummer Festival

Crucially, along with celebrating the exciting art being made in Cork, the festival has always been motivated by establishing a sense of togetherness within the city. Each year, the festival carves out space in its programme to include community-driven programmes with the intention of inspiring creativity in the participants and beyond. “The festival is firmly rooted in Cork and we are passionate about place and community,” Maye says. “Our participatory programme gives visibility to people, places and stories within the city; it puts the city on the stage. For new communities, we aim to provide a gateway into Cork and create a sense of belonging.”

Big Dance Night - Siobhán Ní Dhuinín Laura O'Loughlin via Cork Midsummer Festival Laura O'Loughlin via Cork Midsummer Festival

In helping people feel like they belong through the arts, Maye notes how these events have the potential to instil confidence in participants, encouraging the next generation of talent to emerge from the city. “Through our work with young people, we want to empower and inspire the artists of the future. This work requires a long-term investment of time, care and focus by many participants and partners. But the results can be absolutely magic. Some of the most thrilling, entertaining and moving projects we have presented at the festival have been developed by communities working alongside amazing artists. At Cork Midsummer, we present mostly new work and shows and through our artist residencies we aim to give artists, particularly those from or based in Cork, opportunities to develop their practice, imagine new projects and to meet national and international colleagues.”

This Is You - Loom Éadaoin Fox via Cork Midsummer Festival Éadaoin Fox via Cork Midsummer Festival

With over 30 events taking place in venues across the city, and each year presenting an equally dynamic and considered programme, Maye notes the time and effort that goes on behind the scenes. “Organising the festival is a year-round effort, with some projects planned years in advance! There’s a lot of research and development that goes into putting together and deciding on the shape of the programme which includes many conversations with artists as well as national and international travel to see events and build connections. We have a small but mighty festival team and a brilliant board all of whom work hard to make the festival the best it can be.” 

She continues, acknowledging the support systems in place that help keep the magic of Cork Midsummer Festival alight: “We present a lot of events in site-specific and unusual locations so every year is completely different with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. We also work with an incredible line up of programme partners and organisations who bring so much to the festival. We have a unique collaborative model that enables us to make amazing things happen together that we simply couldn’t do on our own. The Arts Council and Cork City Council are core funders and partners and provide so many different supports to the festival to enable it to happen.”

happy-days-landmark-productions-photo-patrick-redmond Patrick Redmond via Cork Midsummer Festival Patrick Redmond via Cork Midsummer Festival

Cork Midsummer Festival showcases innovative works from the world of dance, theatre, visual art and everything in-between. It gives fans of the arts an opportunity to experience the work of artists that have long captured the hearts of the nation, such as Siobhán McSweeney – known to many as Sister Michael in Derry Girls – who will star as Winnie in Catríona McLaughlin’s adaptation of Happy Days by Samuel Beckett. Elsewhere, the CMF Music Trail promises to provide an thoroughly exhilarating day of performances from several emerging DJs, sound artists and composers in venues such as The Roundy, Fionbarra and Crane Lane. 

ELLLL by Cáit Fahy Cáit Fahey via Cork Midsummer Festival Cáit Fahey via Cork Midsummer Festival

With so many incredible things to catch at this year’s festival, we asked Lorraine Maye what events she’s excited for. “This year, we have one of our strongest ever programmes of international work. I’m looking forward to see Sun & Sea at City Hall, to see John Redmond Street transformed into a river of multi-coloured foam and to experience 12 Ensemble perform Max Richter’s reimagining of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on Midsummer’s Day.”

Maye adds, “It’s a great year for new theatre with Gina Moxley taking over Crawford Art Gallery and Rough Magic presenting their first ever show at the Festival which is called Freefalling. I can’t wait to see what Junk Ensemble and Company Philip Connaughton create respectively at the warehouse space at the Marina Market. Also, of course, we’re always so proud to showcase new work by Cork artists and people. Theatre company BrokenCrow have two brand new plays in the festival programme while Cork Deaf Community Choir and artist Amanda Coogan will perform Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.” 

the-settling-2023-photograph-jed-niezgoda-www-jedniezgoda-c Jed Niezgoda via Cork Midsummer Festival Jed Niezgoda via Cork Midsummer Festival

Finally, having worked as Cork Midsummer Festival’s director since 2017, Maye has garnered countless memories from the annual June festivities that extend from culture to cuisine. “There are so many special memories and festival highlights to choose from! I would have to say that working with Corcadorca to make the first live theatre event post-lockdown happen on the green spaces in housing estates was a once in a lifetime experience. Amongst some of the festival highlights across the years, I’d have to mention the audience reaction to the stage adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s book Asking for It, which was astonishing.”

Maye concludes, “Getting the opportunity to present Battersea Beatbox Academy and their show Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster, an illustration of a truly new and innovative form of theatre and witnessing the talents of the young Cork people performing as part of the curtain raiser was truly remarkable. And, eating food served from a kitchen created in a shipping container by local community participants in the South Parish area of Cork! Finally, I have to say, Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Tadhg O’Sullivan’s adaptation of Doireann’s singular novel A Ghost in the Throat. That was extraordinary!”

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