West Cork and Ireland punch above their weight on the folk music scene

October 6th, 2017 5:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Acclaimed musician and producer Donal Lunny (left) was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Folk Alliance International during an international conference was hosted in various locations around West Cork recently. He is pictured here with Ray Blackwell of De Barra's Folk Club in Clonakilty

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Festival directors from all over the world got to see and hear the very best of local and national talent at a special music event that was held in West Cork recently.

For the first time ever in its 30-year history, Folk Alliance International – a US-based organisation that strives to preserve, promote and present folk music – organised several showcase gigs in key venues throughout West Cork.

The event, known as the ExChange, was supported by Culture Ireland and Cork County Council. It was run over a three-day period in conjunction with the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival.

The first showcase gig feature Laura Cortese, Ye Vagabonds, and Moxie at DeBarra’s Folk Club in Clonakilty on Tuesday, September 19th.

The following day, Connolly’s of Leap was the chosen venue. Here, Talos and Wallis Bird took to the stage to perform in front of festival directors, managers and agents from across Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the US.

Later that day, Levis’ Corner House in Ballydehob was the venue for an industry panel discussion and a showcase performance by the Dublin-band, I Draw Slow.

But the highlight for many was the ‘in the round’ performances at DeBarra’s Folk by Lisa O’Neill, Wallis Bird, John Smith and Mick Flannery on Wednesday night.

The third day of the ExChange began with a panel discussion at Monk’s Lane in Timoleague and a Lilian Smith interview with Luka Bloom, who was a firm favourite with the international delegates.

The showcase performances on Thursday included the incomparable John Blek, The Mae Trio and Gavin Moore. Later that afternoon, it was the turn of Mide Houlihan, Sam Clague, Steve Poltz and John Spillane who sang ‘in the round’ at Shanley’s in Clonakilty.

On Thursday, Folk Alliance International also made a special presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Dónal Lunny in recognition of the fact that he has been to the forefront of the Irish traditional music renaissance for more than five decades.

Dónal Lunny was a founding member of various seminal Irish bands, such as Planxty, The Bothy Band and Moving Hearts to name but a few. 

Speaking at the presentation, Lunny said he was overwhelmed at the significance of the award. He said: ‘It is the first time that Folk Alliance International has come outside the States. I feel humbled and honoured to get this – it goes straight to the heart.’

The final showcase on Thursday night featured Lankum at DeBarra’s but as Sheena Keane, who is based in West Cork but is an international representative of Folk Alliance International stated: All of West Cork was a showcase over the three days of The ExChange. She said: ‘it showed what a tiny corner of the world can offer.’

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