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This man is turning fog horns, sirens and a cherry picker into performance art

Jez Colborne is the winner of one of the Arts & Disability Ireland’s lucrative commissions.

Jez Colbourne
Jez Colbourne
Image: @katebowepr

WHEN HE WAS young, Jez Colborne was terrified of sirens.

The whaling, the lights and the commotion made him uncomfortable and scared. As an adult, he has harnessed those emotions as positives and uses the sound and light of horns and sirens to make art.

The performer, musician and artist is bringing his latest work to Galway next year as part of an Arts & Disability Ireland initiative entitled Ignite.

Colborne has Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that is present at birth and is characterised by a host of medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities. With those issues, Williams Syndrome also comes with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music. WS affects about one in 10,000 people worldwide.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Colborne says the Ignite commissions from – of which there are three in Galway, Mayo and Cork – are “incredibly helpful” in terms of developing new ideas.

“People would not have access to training opportunities in the same way as others,” he explained. “Quite often, a project like this is often a unique piece but also an opportunity to get involved.”

Showcase of talent

Ignite is the largest ever arts and disability commissioned event in Ireland, drawing the expertise of international artists with disabilities to present the biggest showcase of talent.

Colborne will be working with Galway-based arts and disability programme of the Brothers of Charity Services, That’s Life, to create a large-scale performance called Trickster.

It will involve hundreds of Galway based artists, musicians and performers with disabilities.

Inspired by Cyclops, the piece will be a sister work to two other installations already performed by Colborne – Irresistible and Gift.

Together they will form a trilogy of music performance works based on stories from Homer’s Odyssey, and linked by the themes of travelling and personal journeys.

As well as his fascination with warning sirens and foghorns, audiences should also expect cranes, a cherry picker and all things industrial during the one-hour spectacle in November next year.

His character – the traveller – will mainly be located around a shipping container.

The commission is worth about €60,000 and is supported by a number of local authorities.

“Ignite represents a major investment by the Arts Council in the area of Arts and Disability. It has involved five years of steady development work at local level with our partners in each of the local authorities and Arts and Disability Ireland,” said Orlaith McBride, director of the Arts Council.

“This has culminated in a unique new creative alliance between the Arts Council, ADI, Cork City Council, Galway City & County Councils and Mayo County Council, to commission ambitious and challenging new work from artists with disabilities.

We expect this to raise the bar on work being produced and presented by local venues and festivals and provide the opportunity for both new and existing audiences to experience some of the best arts and disability work being created internationally today.
Pádraig Naughton of Arts & Disability Ireland, “Ignite represents the single largest investment in the arts and disability sector ever. It is an opportunity to dream big and make real, new and innovative work by artists with disabilities, on a  scale previously never before seen in Ireland.”

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