Let the festivities begin! (Of the Five Lamps Arts Festival that is, an inner-city Dublin organization that I have been lucky enough to work with for the past 8 weeks)
After months of preparation, thousands of emails, dozens of interactions with artists, countless cups of tea, and the dedication of one unwavering woman at the head of it all, Roisin, the festival began.
It was the night of March 4th, (4 March as they seem to write it in Europe), a cool Wednesday night, and we were walking into one of the nicest old government buildings in the city- the Custom House, along the quays on Dublin’s Northside. The grandeur of the place was a little overwhelming at first, and accompanied by the wine reception and the Clarion flute ensemble, the night felt like an actual opening ceremony for a festival. I don’t know why exactly I was surprised, because that’s what it was, but I did not expect that things would actually come together so well. The weeks prior had at times been chaotic and I did not think that there would even be enough volunteers at the ceremony.
It turns out though there were more than enough volunteers, so now being an “extra” volunteer, I was assigned to be a door (wo)man, opening the door for guests as they entered. Needless to say I was not thrilled with this position but I accepted it and decided that I was going to do my job well and kind of make a game of it. One of the other volunteers, Caroline, and I were constantly on the lookout both in and outside of the transparent thick glass doors, seeing if we could judge when someone was about to start walking towards the door from either side, and trying to get our opening of the doors synchronized, which we got pretty good at near the end if I do say so myself. It was a pretty humbling experience thinking about a doorman at a fancy hotel doing that for hours upon hours day in and day out.
But enough with doors for now, the festival started out with some speeches by organizers, a guest appearance by an apparently beloved Irish comedic television actor, and was followed by samba drumming and fire dancing our in the courtyard by LC’s very own Belen. I saw her practicing earlier that day but was unfortunately unable to see the performance because I was off to my next event. I heard it was amazing though! Heading out to the second of four events in a three-day time span, this was going to be a long next few days!
I arrived at the Grand Social, a hip pub with many rooms and a small concert venue on the second floor, for a show by Pia Dunne and the Elusians, a very soulful and pretty great band from the area. I was working with two other festival volunteers to collect the cover charge as people entered and stamp their hands so they could go in and out of the rooms of the pub as they pleased. Little did I know I would also be acting as a bouncer. A big man of probably forty-something who had obviously already had a few drinks that night stumbled in saying his name, that he was on the guest list and that he was here to see “everyone”. I kind of laughed a little said he was not on the list and who was he actually here to see? When he said “oh, you know just everyone. I can’t remember”, I then had to say “Ok, well you’re not on the list, you’re obviously not a friend or family of any of the band members so why don’t you just go hang out in the other room there unless you want to pay”. He left. I listened to some really good music in the meantime. Seriously, Pia is awesome and sassy, and I think I channeled a little bit of that sass with the next annoying drunk person to insist on being allowed in without paying, asking “can’t I just go to the bar?” and me responding “Well if you pay. If not, you know this is a pub and there are many other bars here, why don’t you go check one of the other ones out?”. There were no more obnoxious people the rest of the night, just good music and people having a good time.
And that was just the first night of the festival. I have so many other stories of helping set up for a children’s puppet show, drawing elephants for kids, meeting and listening to 6 different very powerful and talented female musicians at a show called Women Who Rock Friday night at the Cobalt Café. And I’m sure that I’ll have many more stories in this coming week as the festival continues and I am thrown into more odd jobs and interesting situations. But one thing is for sure, the festival has been fun and a very interesting experience. It’s been great seeing so much art and creativity come out of the so-called worst neighborhood of Dublin, the North Strand. Riddled with heroin addicts, run-down buildings not fixed after being accidentally bombed during WWI and petty violence, this community still has so much life left in it, so many dedicated people who love calling it home and who want to see a change for the better in it, building it up while still retaining its roots. I feel like the Five Lamps Arts Festival is helping to do just so.
So, If you ever find yourself in Dublin in the springtime, make sure you check out the Five Lamps Arts festival to see what’s going on. Trust me, you won’t regret it.