Q&A with Benjamin Perchet – Festival Director at Carlow Arts Festival

Q&A with Benjamin Perchet – Festival Director at Carlow Arts Festival

We had the chance to put some questions to Benjamin Perchet of the Carlow Arts Festival. You can see the results below…

Carlow Arts Festival – Thurs 9th – Sunday 12th of June

First off, it’s hard to ignore Covid. How exciting is it to be bringing live events back to the public?

We all have been suffering a lot for 2 years. Being isolated, not being seen, held and comforted was overwhelming, especially for people in conditions of vulnerability – our elders, youngsters and people with physical needs. It’s wonderful and a bit awkward at times to come together again! Since launching our programme, it’s been fascinating to chat to people in Carlow and hear first-hand how much they’re looking forward to the festival’s return and how much they’ve missed these in-person experiences over the last two years.  At Carlow Arts Festival, we, as a team, are motivated and inspired by the opportunity to bring collective live experiences back into people’s lives – we really see it as a privilege. This year’s programme offers a truly eclectic mix of opportunities to party, to participate, to reflect, to discover and to celebrate together.

You recently left your role as the Artistic Director of the Dublin Dance Festival. Was it tough leaving this position?

At Dublin Dance Festival, over the last 6 years, I’m very proud to have helped position Dublin on the European and international dance scenes as a place to discover challenging artistic projects. The festival’s work in encouraging first-time and newer audiences to come to dance and be confident in their own experience, is considered a model across Europe.  We delivered an audacious and eclectic programme which was both artistically important and also had a relevance politically and socially. We tried to celebrate the power of community, while showcasing icons of contemporary dance and presenting a diversity of voices and perspectives. I feel lucky to have been part of that but it’s not tough at all to turn the page, it’s exciting to take on this new challenge of building on the strong legacy left by Carlow Arts Festival’s previous director Jo Mangan.

You are now responsible for a full Arts Festival, with Dance only part of it. Is it exciting to bring in all these other art forms?

Widening my responsibilities across a multidisciplinary arts programme is a thrilling professional and personal challenge which I was eager to take on. In France and then in Ireland, I have been working in the multifaceted art of dance and its allied arts for more than 25 years but I am not attached to label art forms.  I want to share great artistic experiences with diverse audiences, whatever the art form. At Carlow Arts Festival we recognize the value in both so-called high culture and popular culture, in intellectual pleasure and aesthetic pleasure.

Sinead Cormak’s The Shed sounds fascinating, with an immersive experience for only one audience member. Can you tell the readers what they can expect from it?

First of all, I want to emphasise that we really want the festival to be a platform for Carlovian artists. This year, we present not only local theatre director Sinéad Cormack but also Ye Vagabonds, Cian Austin Jesus and his crazy Paradise Cabaret, Tadhg and we are also partnering with Carlow Live & Local to host the best local talent, including Jerry Fish, Shane Hennessy and many rising stars.

We’re really excited to see Sinéad Cormack’s The Shed. It’s an immersive theatre show for just one audience member at a time, staged in a custom-made garden shed in Carlow College’s orchard. The performance is 15 minutes long, it’s a new work which features four Irish performers and creates an intimate theatrical experience, one encounter at one time.

I can tell the audience that I’ll be discovering this work, at the same time as they will! The promise is, that on entering The Shed, we will be captivated by strange stories and immersed in a rich and intoxicating multi-sensory experience of sights and sounds, smells and tastes!

Can you tell me a little about French Street artist Ememem and how you got in touch with him? When can we expect to see his work in Carlow?

French street artist Ememem identifies himself as a “bitumen mender, a sidewalk poet, a macadam surgeon”. Ememem fills cracked pavements and walls on urban streets with beautiful mosaic designs, a process he calls “flacking” – a play on the French word ‘flaque’, meaning puddle or patch.

These intricate geometric motifs can be found in cities throughout Europe including Lyon, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona.

They are daring and contemporary street art yet recall the traditional Japanese kintsugi, the art of repairing while enhancing. We were hoping to give Ememem the chance to create his beautiful mosaics around Carlow town in June, but we faced some misunderstandings with local authorities. So, Ememem will instead be hosted at Delta Sensory Gardens, the one-of-a-kind gardens are part of Delta Centre which provides services for adults with intellectual disabilities. We are delighted that Ememem will bring a touch of surrealism and magic to Delta Sensory Gardens, which will remain visible long after the festival.

What other highlights are you particularly excited about?

Our festival is as diverse as people’s interest. Now they choose! At the risk of sounding naïve, I trust people’s curiosity and open-mindedness. It’s everyone’s responsibility and freedom to design their own “Director’s Cut”. The opening night of the festival on Thursday 9th June reflects Carlow Arts Festival’s DNA in terms of contrasts in tone and form. We launch VISUAL’s expertly curated summer season with the Speech Sounds exhibition, we present the durational work For As Long As We Are Here where we witness a group of very strong circus artists doing impossible things for a very long time, and this is followed by Work, (Editor: now unfortunately cancelled) a raw and poetic performance by Claudio Stellato. After Work, everyone is invited to join us in the O’Hara’s Quarter tent for Bounce, a dynamic and inclusive club night brought by DJs and performers with intellectual disabilities.

Categories: Art, Festivals, Gigs, Header, interview

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