Festival director Kim McCafferty appreciates the offer of help when setting up at Con Smith Park on Friday. Photo: Dmitrijs Germanovs.

Festival fast becoming a fixture on artists’ map

Director Kim McCafferty is open to admit that the fledgling Cavan Arts Festival might not have even featured on the signpost that led to the roadmap for many internationally renowned touring artists. But that all changed this past weekend, when thousands flocked to Con Smith Park and side venues such as the Townhall. The feedback has been one of “overwhelming” positivity for the festival's future.

“We are absolutely over the moon. [The weekend] exceeded all our expectations in terms of the number of people who came out, audience numbers with six, even seven hundred people at some of the shows. We're absolutely thrilled by the level of support, and the goodwill, from volunteers and everyone has just been overwhelming.”

When the Celt caught up with Kim on Monday after the festival had ended she was busily working side-by-side with a still strong army of volunteers in disassembling the festival site piece-by-piece and leaving the park as they found it.

After a two-year hiatus, this year’s programme of events more than made up for lost time, with musical headliners including Villagers (Townhall, Sunday), Iarla Ó Lionáird and Steve Cooney (Urney Church, Friday), and Blutack and the Greenhorns (Blessings' Bar).

The ‘Park Life’ at Con Smith Park meanwhile was a sea of colourful installations, wondrous words, and soulful sounds, from the hugely popular Baby Rave to the death-defying Tumble Circus and The Never-Ending Bunting Station; and the ever-intriguing Oooodjus Odeon Cinema Tent.

Incredibly, the festival itself was put together in a matter of months, and Kim is quick to pay tribute to her fellow festival committee members Paula McQuillan, Joe Keenan, Conor Harrington, Raquel Montero Calero and Michael O’Brien, together with support from Catriona Reilly in the arts office and Townhall creative director Padraic McIntyre.

Emma Clancy, Culture Team Co-ordinator, was as equally effusive in her praise for how the festival transpired. “Cavan County Council is proud to support Cavan Arts Festival, through the Creative Ireland Programme, the Local Live Performance Programming Scheme, Cavan Arts Office, and through its partnership with Townhall Cavan. This year's hugely successful festival embodied the best of local arts development, community engagement and high-quality entertainment, and Cavan County Council looks forward to continuing its productive relationship with this exciting young festival into the future.”

The future, the Celt is told by Kim, starts by sticking a pin on the calendar for May 18-21, 2023.

“We're already talking to artists about next year's performances. We can't say thank you enough to everyone for coming on board and making this year so special, making it their own, a festival of people. We'd artists touring the world, the likes of Manchán Magan, who'd just completed a major US tour, and he couldn't believe the warmth of the audience, the interest here in Cavan. He was buzzing. Tumble Circus have travelled the world, literally every continent and they were so complimentary. All of the artists were also blown away by the work of our volunteers, so a lot of them are wondering when they can next come back to Cavan. That in itself is lovely to hear.”

Kim adds: “Some of them may not have had Cavan necessarily in their mind's eye when planning a tour circuit previously. It's not like we have a large regular music venue. Whereas now I feel they'll think more about adding Cavan Town to their map when planning their next tours because they know that we're here and how great the audiences are.”