Chamber Festival hits the right note

June 21st, 2017 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Deirdre O'Donovan promises a great week of music to suit all tastes at this year's West Cork Chamber Festival.

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Deirdre makes sure nobody is left on the fringes of  this year’s West Cork Chamber Festival with something for everyone, writes Brian Moore

Deirdre makes sure nobody is left on the fringes of  this year’s West Cork Chamber Festival with something for everyone, writes Brian Moore

FROM Bantry to New York, then to London and finally back home again, Deirdre O’Donovan of the West Cork Chamber Festival never imagined a life in event management.

Deirdre was born and grew up Bantry and when she was aged 16 headed off to Washington where she finished her final year of school.

‘After graduating from high school, I studied Art History and Abstract Expressionism at Fordham University in New York,’ Deirdre said.

‘My degree is about as far from event management as you can get, it was an unlikely pathway to where I am now.’

It was while Deirdre was in her final year at Fordham University that she created an art gallery for the students and professors. It was this art gallery that introduced Deirdre to the world of organising, developing and most importantly funding a project or event.

‘After Fordham, I was offered a job at the Metropolitan Museum,’ Deirdre said. ‘I turned this down and got a job in advertising but I found that there was little opportunity in this business for me at the time.’

It was now 1994 and back in Bantry a special event was already in the planning stage.

‘A job came up for an event organiser for the Bantry Bay 1996 festival which, was to be the inaugural year for the West Cork Chamber Music Festival, so I came home for this full time two year job,’ Deirdre said.

Following her return home, Deirdre moved on to event jobs in Cork, Dublin and finally headed to London.

‘It was while I was at home in Bantry that I met a buyer from the Belgo restaurant group in London who was over here to buy mussels,’ Deirdre said. ‘I was still working in Dublin at the time and he asked me to take a look at their restaurant there to see if more events could be organised for them. From there I was offered a job with Belgo in London.’

This move began a career with some for the best and most well-known restaurants in London. 

The next stop for Deirdre was  to work with Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London for eight years and then took a job with Caprice Holdings, looking after events for restaurants like The Ivy, Scott’s and Sexy Fish in London.

‘I really enjoyed my life working in London but I felt it was time to come home,’ Deirdre said.

On returning to Bantry Deirdre met up again with Francis Humphrys who she had worked with all those years ago on the Bantry Bay 1996 Festival.

‘I was on the board of directors for the West Cork Chamber Music Festival for over 10 years,’ Deirdre said. ‘Francis has created a festival that has gone from strength to strength, with a loyal following. The festival is now a highlight of the year not only for Bantry but also for West Cork and internationally as well.’

This year, the event is reaching out beyond Bantry to the local communities to bring just a taste of what the West Cork Chamber Music Festival has to offer.

‘This year we have created a “Fringe Festival”, which will see the musical talent travel out to perform with community groups in the area,’ Deirdre said. 

The Fringe Festival will include eight performances, three workshops and a series of pop-up events throughout the week.

‘The performances will take place around lunch time each day in a wide variety of locations such as Whiddy Island, Garinish Island, St James Church, Durrus and at locations throughout Bantry town,’ Deirdre said. ‘This will let the local communities engage more fully with the West Cork Chamber Music Festival as well as adding to the wonderful atmosphere of the week-long event.’

During the festival, which runs from Friday June 30th to Sunday July 8th, Ireland’s best young performers will join some of the professionals to perform in a series of daily ‘Pop-Ups’, at random location during the day and in local coffee shops, restaurants, shops and on streets the in Bantry.

‘Of course there will be the very popular performances at Bantry House, and  St. Brendan’s Church, and this year you can take the ferry across to WhiddyIreland to enjoy “Ensemble Dagda”, head out to St. James Church in Durrus for ‘Voice Trio’ or Fiona Gryson on Garinish Island,’ Deirdre said.

‘It’s going to be a great festival this year and we are all looking forward to a week of great music. 

She said they  were also looking to the future.

‘We hope to include more communities across West Cork with the Chamber Festival in the years to come.’

‘We also want to thank all our local sponsors, and of course, the Arts Council of Ireland and the OPW without who the West Cork Chamber Festival could not take place.’

*For more information about the festival see

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