This weekend Dun Laoghaire, my hometown, was a blaze with colourful and exotic international entertainment for the 7th Festival of World Cultures (www.festivalofworldcultures.com). Close to 250,000 (that’s three times the population of Dun Laoghaire!!) people attended 150 events in which over 800 artists from 80 countries from Uzbekistan, Burundi and Mali (Africa) to Mexico, Brazil, Russia, China, Vietnam, Australia and Iceland. Live and free outdoor concerts, street theatre, dance and late-night parties, exhibitions, an environmental awareness fair, and international food market all served to create a carnival atmosphere.
For me the Festival highlight was the multimedia projection performance at the Marine Hotel on Saturday night at which 2D and 3D video projections illuminated the façade of the building, bringing its splendid architecture to light, while superimposed video created a supernatural illusionary effect, and all this to the piercing atmospheric audio of amazing female Tuvan throat singer Sainkho Namtchylak. Enthralling indeed. Wow!
The Ireland I left in 1988 to go to China was on the whole chauvinistic, divided and for the most part intolerant, a lot of which had to do with our ‘island nation’ way of thinking, and the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. That was than and now is now. The population has been transformed so dramatically that Polish and Chinese are now more widely spoken than our own native Irish language.
Considering the artistic expression that has been on show in Dun Laoghaire this weekend it is wonderful to see both how Ireland’s newer communities are integrating into Irish society as well as, by and large, the optimistic reaction of the Irish people to the changing demographic. Absorbing so much change in such a short time can’t have been easy.
The artistic and cultural diversity that is the Festival of World is a magnificent platform for intercultural creative exchange, and should be copied in every country (see the pics).