Riverbank Arts Centre is proud to partner with June Fest on a series of events this year. Now in its 10th year, this Newbridge festival has gone from strength to strength. We caught up with the team and to explore the origins of the festival and also some of the highlights of the month ahead.
When was June Fest founded and who was involved?
The first June Fest took place in 2012. It was run by a group called ‘Red Events’, made up of like-minded individuals, striving to create some excitement within the community after the Bealtaine festival had ended. It initially included Mary Linehan, Peter Hussey, Gay Brabazon, Veronica Bagnall, Jackie Tyrrell, Mary Doyle, Noel Heavey and Fiona O’ Loughlin. Over the years more people got involved such as Colm Somers, Declan Browne, Karen Tyrrell and Liz Garrett to name but a few.
What are the key aims of the Festival?
June Fest originally took place over the course of the June bank holiday and grew organically each year. As more community groups got involved, the festival developed into a month-long celebration all across Newbridge and the surrounding areas. It began as an ‘artist-led, community-based festival, designed to showcase the creative produce and enterprising spirit of the people of Newbridge’. There have been many changes to June Fest over the last decade but our commitment to community and individual wellbeing is a core principle underpinning the festival, as is a belief that everyone has the right to create, to engage with, enjoy and participate in the arts.
What have been the highlights in recent years – some of the key people behind this year’s festival reveal their favourite events:
Stephen Connelly – Festival Director:
“There have been many events that I am very proud of. To see ideas come to fruition, especially when there are so many obstacles to overcome, creates an overwhelming sense of joy. It never fails to remind me as to why I do this in the first place. I am a big believer in DIY and if you really want to do something then go do it! The Kildare Art Collective’s debut exhibition in the old Lifestyle building was definitely one of those moments. Kildare has so many talented artists, performers and musicians and to create opportunities for them to really let loose and express themselves produces incredible results. We have a lot of empty shop units around and to see one of them filled with artwork created by local artists, running workshops and filming music sessions throughout the month was so exciting. It brought a lot of people together, a very positive energy and curiosity spread throughout the town. Kildare Art Collective created a space that month that went on to fuel many more amazing shows and projects in recent years. Other highlights include the knitted packet of Tayto from Yarn Bomb 2019, Jinx Lennon bringing the border schizo cosmic folk sound to Brú House and the always sunny Bands On The Bank concert at the Watering Gates. Donal Lunny & Andy Irvine lighting up the Town Hall in 2019 was so special but the real magic that night came from A Lazarus Soul frontman, Brian Branigan, opening the show unaccompanied. Every word he sang hung in the air for days.”
Martin Connelly – Public Relations Officer:
“There were so many fantastic events over the years, but no doubt the Family Fun Day, CelticCon and Community Expo has to be my number one choice because there is something in it for all the Newbridge community.”
Colm Somers – Chairperson: “A real highlight for me was the Henry Flanagan Memorial Concert in 2016. A spectacular evening of choral music and organ recitals by Professor Gerard Gillen, Titular Organist, Emeritus Professor of Maynooth University. Henry Flanagan was a Dominican priest, teacher, musician, artist and sculptor based in Newbridge College. He was an important member of the community and his incredible granite sculptures can be seen all over the grounds of the church and school. He passed away in 1992 but to have the chance to celebrate his life through song and music in the Dominican church that night was wonderful.
The Clongorey Field Day also stands out in my memory as one of the highlights because of the simplicity! Enjoying ice cream cones, sitting on straw bales and watching the different games take place like the egg and spoon race, spin the wheel and the mouse derby brought back so many memories from my own childhood. “
The yarn bombing deserves a question of its own! When did it start and who are the main creative hands behind it?
The Yarn Bomb in the park is so special and is one of the main attractions of June Fest. It has been incredible to watch it grow since the first installation in 2016. The love and appreciation it receives from the community each year is just wonderful. The project was founded by Annie Morris when she was ICA Kildare Federation Secretary and since the onset has included the work of over 1000 people in the community! The youngest volunteer was 4 and the oldest 95. Annie works with a core group of volunteers and fellow knitters Michelle McBride, Marie Mockler and Deborah James. They are way ahead of the curve when it comes to thinking outside the box. During the height of the lockdown last year, Annie decided that if people couldn’t come to the park and enjoy the yarn bomb safely that she was going to bring it to them. She covered her daughter’s Fiat 500 in yarn and drove it around to various locations in the town spreading joy at the time when the community really needed it the most. We can’t wait to see what they have in store this year!
Groups that have been involved include: The Golden Girls, The Holy Family Sisters, The Library Stitch and Sew, Scoil Mhuire Parents Room, PBS, St. Conleth’s, Curragh School, Athgarvan Circle of Friends, Platinum Club, KARE, Ghael-Choláiste Chill Dara, Educate Together, St. Patrick’s School, Rotary Club, Crowley’s Optician, and Foróige Newbridge.
A committed and determined group of volunteers are often at the heart of community festivals – how many would you say are involved in this year’s festival?
After the 2018 June Fest, we had a lot of changes happening behind the scenes. Many of the old committee members left due to other commitments while myself and Colm carried on. It was quite challenging to keep the festival running at the capacity it was operating at. I reached out to Martin Connelly and Gary Wickham to help us with the planning and shortly after Pat O’Mahony joined the team as secretary. This core group of five members meet every Monday. We’ve built up a strong relationship especially over lockdown. We are all involved in various groups and clubs in the town.
The wider June Fest family reaches all corners of the community. We collaborate each year with many businesses and local groups such as Kildare Youth Theatre, Kildare Yarn Bombers, Newbridge Tidy Towns, South Kildare Photography Club, CNOC, St Mark’s School, Local History Group, Farrells & Nephew, NFRC, Kildare Art Collective, PopUpArt Newbridge and CelticCon. We are also grateful to have built up such strong relationships in the town with Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge Library, Irish Military Seminar and Kildare Derby Festival.
What can people do to support the festival?
Checked out our website and social media pages. A huge amount of work goes into creating a programme of events that cater for everyone in the community. If you would like to get involved with June Fest and become a member you can do so via this link. We are always looking for new enthusiastic members who are passionate about the community. If you are taking part in any events please remember to adhere to all health and safety guidelines and remember to leave no trace!
What can we look forward to in this year’s Festival?
We have a jam-packed programme lined up this June! A huge amount of work has gone into planning both online and outdoor activities for everyone in the community to enjoy safely. The festival opens on 27th May with the popular Online Quiz. From the beginning of June, the beautiful Liffey Linear Park will be festooned with Yarn Bomb creations providing a treat for locals and visitors alike. The June Fest Treasure Hunt involves exploring nature trails, landmarks and the history of Newbridge over a 5k course. An ideal event for the whole family and you can take it in stages. A special treasure map is available in the booklet and from our website, illustrated by the very talented artist Gráinne Bath Enright for the occasion.
If poetry and music is your thing, there are online gigs with local performers. Bands On The Bank will feature – Appo, Mary Caffrey, A Lazarus Soul, Paul McCormack, Kilian O’Kelly, Eimear Dempsey, Nicky Keogh, Christine McEvoy and others. Riverbank presents US duo 10 String Symphony – a collaboration between Grammy-nominated fiddle player Christian Sedelmyer and acclaimed songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Baiman. Riverbank are also presenting A Piece of You with Greg Sinclair – a solo cello concert by this award-winning performer and composer, for and about you. We will also have a few more special music events planned throughout the festival so make sure to keep an eye out for details.
There’ll be a range of art and photography exhibitions:
‘Drawn by Light’ – an outdoor exhibition by South Kildare Photography Club.
Portal – a photographic exhibition of bogs and wetlands by Tina Claffey in the McKenna Gallery in Riverbank Arts Centre.
PopUpArt Newbridge will be hosting an online exhibition on their website.
Kildare Art Collective will be taking over George’s Street with an outdoor miniature exhibition ‘Small Steps’.
Riverbank Arts Centre will be hosting a wide range of activities for children including Observational Storytelling with Sarah Bowie, Shenanigans Through Time a musical time travel show with Paul Timoney & Kyle Riley.
June Fest has teamed up with Newbridge Local History Group to document the impact of Covid on the lives of young and old and provide future historians with the first-hand accounts they will draw on to write the history of our times.
Newbridge Library celebrates Cruinniú na nÓg with fun online workshops for children of all ages – creating stories, smartphone filmmaking and a Harry Potter Craft Workshop.
For young people with a thespian inclination, Kildare Youth Theatre will be hosting a range of online dramas through the YouTube channel.
IRISH MILITARY SEMINAR
The Irish Military Seminar will also be taking place throughout June. These events would normally take place in front of full houses in the Riverbank auditorium, but this year they will be accessible to all online. Maybe Covid has done us a favour and prompted us to make such events more accessible to those outside the county, or the country. This year’s Military History Seminars topics include: Kildare Military History Files from 1912 to 1923, Kildare’s World War 1 Dead, Military-Civilian Violence in Irish Garrison Towns and Guerrilla Warfare in the War of Independence.
This is only a taste of things to come, for the full range of events see the website – www.junefest.ie
Photos above supplied by JuneFest and photographers include: Martin Connelly, Deaglán De Paor and Pat Tinsley.
This blogpost is part of our Spotlight On… series, focussing on local partners, organisations and artists during Covid restrictions – See our recent feature on Newbridge Drama Group, Irish Military Festival and Griese Youth Theatre.