Festivals aren’t all about sleeping in a damp tent while young lads bludgeon the nearest wheelie bin to the rhythm of their own crazed coke bender. You could be talking citizenship and activism, looking at documentaries and arguing over the politics of food. Rashers Tierney caught up with Jennifer Moroney Ward about one such buzz down in Limerick next weekend.
So, tell me about the Limerick Spring, what’s it all about, where did the idea come from and how is it ran?
Limerick Spring started out as a personal response to feeling totally powerless in the face of the bank bailout and subsequent austerity policies.
I felt very powerless and trapped in an Ireland that seemed to be giving up without a fight.. I was trying to figure out a way to feel a little more empowered as a citizen. I also felt that many people are like me and don’t like being seen as politically aligned or feel confident enough to share their opinions in public.
The idea was to develop an outlet for people to express their feelings and ideas without feeling judged/labelled ideologically. We really don’t have time to get stuck in ideas of right or left any more – we have an global environmental emergency and incredible levels of inequality and heartbreaking levels of violence and war on the planet right now. We need to move forward and not get bogged down in old ideas and ideologies.
That kind of politics seems pretty irelevant to many people right now. Then I read about Grace lee Boggs and the rest was history! Her tag line “We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for” really spoke to me and when I talked to the committee it we agreed to really go with this as our central theme for the festival this year. So, City of Culture invested in the initial idea and we were off. I’m lucky to know some amazing people in Limerick who were really keen to get involved and that really helped. We had so much fun creating events and finding amazing people with ideas that we decided to try and do it again this year.
Spring is a bit of a time of rejuvenation, we’ve had plenty of coverage of Limerick in rabble over the past few years. It’s definitely our second biggest distribution hub. It seems like there’s a tonne of festivals and burgeoning cultural scenes about the place. So, is Limerick going through a bit of its own spring time at the moment? Is that what the festival is getting at?
Yes I think Limerick is feeling pretty energised post city of culture but its more than that. I’m a blow in myself but have always found the city runs to the best of its own drum in a way that’s unique. It has a sense of its own industrial and political history and it has a vibrant creative edge that many other cities or big towns don’t have in Ireland. It also has a huge student population and a lot of new communities living in and around the city. I think the Limerick Spring has really tapped into those energies.
You’ve resorted to crowd funding to get the cash monies together for the thing. What ever happened to hammering away at an application to someone up on high and saying a prayer? Or is that just a bit of a waste of time these days?
To a certain extent funding the festival via crowdfunding is a political statement in itself and has really given us a sense that people need this kind of outlet. Its a people powered festival!
We’ve also had small grant support from Limerick City and County Council again this year and partnership support from the HATCHLK Theatre project so that’s also really helped us plan ahead a little. It has to be acknowledged too that our design team at Piquant.ie have donated hundreds of hours to this project. I think our branding has been an incredibly important element in terms of developing the festival and we don’t underestimate the impact of that.
You’ve quite the line up. and some films too including Eat Your Children which we covered before. But for something that’s meant to be about active citizenship, there seems to be a bit of an oversight from what I can see. How come nothing is scheduled about the pro-choice movement or the resistance to water charges?
We made a decision to not focus on specific issues as a festival but active citizenship is at the core of all the events. Issues such as water charges or general inequality, social justice issues come up at all events in different ways and from national and global perspectives. From a European perspective Philippe Legrain and Thomas Fazi will no doubt explore how citizens have no choice but to re-engage or see the european project come to a sticky end.
Stephen Donnelly and Jane Suiter may be interesting on the how the Dail is not functioning and how that effects our legistlative realities very directly. Malachy Browne has a unique perspective on new media, citizen jouranlism and how that’s going to effect the future of the media. By taking a macro and micro view we can then see why policies such as water charging and repealing the 8th just aren’t getting dealt with in Ireland.
Also, all our events involve audience participation and that allows people to make links between issues that they are passionate about and often continue the conversation post festival.
Last year speakers corner covered all the issue you mention an more. it was incredibly powerful and was so unique in that is wasn’t high jacked or influenced by a political party or movement. It came from the voices of individuals, totally engaged citizens and who spoke up with great humour and passion for what they believe in.
There is something very important about that. The Limerick Spring is not a place for traditional poltical debate. It is a space for everyone so that includes the non party political, the non aligned ideologically – we want people to express their opinions in a supportive and safe environment. This year we know these issues are bound to come up again, and sadly, are even more topical. The floor is open to everyone.
I really like your logo and website. Who put that together for you? Limerick has a great design college, are you linked in with them?
Piquant.ie did our site, all our design and branding and they are amazing! They are all graduates of the art college and yes Limerick is full of amazing art college students! We are very lucky to have them supporting the festival. One of our committee is a current art student called Kate O’Shea who is producing an amazing magazine for the festival entitled RUMPUSX so we are really looking forward to that also.