Interview with Jo Mangan – Director of the Carlow Arts Festival


We had the chance to talk to Jo Mangan, the director of the Carlow Arts Festival. You can see the results below where she discusses Alien visitations in Truffaut’s Code and other highlights! Jo is also the Director of renowned site-specific specialists The Performance Corporation.

Carlow Arts Festival, the first big cultural event of Summer 2016, runs from Friday 10 June to Sunday 19 June. Visit for the full programme and ticket details.

Does the festival have a big impact on tourism in the area?

Absolutely. As we know people do not come to Ireland for the weather, so the cultural offerings of this country are the rich pickings that tourists delve into in their time here. Carlow Arts Festival has a share of international and national tourists who travel to Carlow for the festival and stay over. Equally because it is just an hour from Dubin and within striking distance of other urban hubs it attracts many day visitors.

Truffaut’s Code sounds a fascinating event. What can the audience expect to see?

Not sure if I can give it all away. But basically if you have seen Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind and can imagine a re-enactment of it at a Dolmen in the middle of a field as the sun sets on a summer night with the 5 note sequence and flashing lights  – you’ll be in the right territory.

The Carlow Arts Festival has always had a very strong Visual Art component, with Visual possibly being the best exhibition space in the country. What is in store there this year?

We have had 3 open calls this year: Art Works, Site Works and Live Works. This has meant we have either commissioned or are presenting the work of approximately 80 artists directly from these calls. Actually Truffaut’s code came from the site works open call which was a partnership with VISUAL and Carlow Arts Office. There is work ranging from a large scale site specific performance pieces involving a Tractor and Bagpipe – called Follow me Up to Carlow by Steve Maher, to film, installation, painting and sculptural works which will be presented in and around VISUAL and the Carlow College Campus which is our Festival HQ.

Is the Big Weekender a new idea to finish the festival? Is it an outdoor event or how will it work?

It is new. It incorporates some paid and many free outdoor events including Fidget Feet presenting a spectacular aerial work off cranes that has only been seen in Mexico and Costa Rica. Everything is focused in our Festival HQ Pavilion we are building to house some great music and comedy across the weekend – including the just named ‘hottest band’ from Hot Press called Barq in advance of Body&Soul and Longitude gigs. We will have a grown up hang out for evenings including an full craft beer and cocktail bar and pop up food offerings.

Happenings present Grease as on outdoor movie offering, Hothouse Flowers, Lisa Lambe, Le Galaxie DJs, Foil Arms and Hog, Abandoman and Aindreas de Staic also feature in the Pavilion venue. There is also theatre in a Hairdressers by Catherine Ireton and Farnham Maltings, theatre in a theatre from Breach and Quinn (shades of Spinal Tap about this one), Opera and Dance in an olde halle form Irish Modern Dance Theatre, and circus skills and clay workshops for kids throughout the day. There’s tonnes more – you’d have to go to to really get an overview

Fidget Feet

The ‘Festival of Ideas and Writing’ is one of the highlights of the Carlow Arts Festival and continues to attract impressive names. How did the festival come about? Is it an offshoot from CAF?

It is the spoken word strand of Carlow Arts Festival and evolved from a meeting of the History Festival and the Hay Festival which had their first Irish incarnations also as part of Carlow Arts Festival. It attracts serious heavy hitters such as Kate Tempest, Chrissie Hynde, Martin Amis and Dominc West (my old classmate from Drama at Trinity!) all in the surrounds of the beautiful Borris House.

What can we expect next from The Performance Corporation, or are you focusing on the Carlow Arts Festival?

Funny you should ask! We are presenting a show as part of the National Theatre Festival in Canada – the Magnetic North Festival  – the same weekend as Carlow Arts Festival though. So obviously I can’t attend. It’s an evolution of a project we developed with Vancouverian partners Boca del Lupo for Dublin Theatre Festival last year called Expedition. So though I’m managing a day’s rehearsal this week for Expedition, Tom Swift and our Canadian partners are leading on this iteration of the project. But it’s a grower, more of a moving and expanding mini-festival within a festival, focussing on climate change with the lens of 100 years from now as our theatrical frame. I’ll join back in at some stage as it travels on. Happily my work at Carlow is allowing me time to continue work as a director. I hope to always keep making a well as programming. It would be hard to cut that part off for me, its the life blood and keeps me connected to work and other artists in a real way.

The Carlow Arts Festival runs from the 10th to the 19th of June.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.