Everyone knows that the perfect antidote to any pandemic is an uplifting dose of inspiring new music and poetry! And just in the nick of time one of the country’s best-known community arts initiatives is injecting its own virtual vaccine for the soul to support struggling local young artists battling the financial pressures of the ongoing lockdown.
When the pandemic struck in March the award-winning Duncairn Centre in north Belfast was one of the first community arts projects to offer online gigs to the public through its Virtual Cabaret concerts featuring artists such as Damien Dempsey, Lisa Hannigan & Mick Flannery among others.
More than £25,000 was donated by viewers to help struggling musicians and poets thanks to the widely acclaimed series of online gigs recorded by artists from their own homes.
But never content to rest on its many laurels the Duncairn is now helping to lift the spirits of the nation to new heights with its ground-breaking new series Take 2!
“Everyone needs hope and some much-needed light in these dark days and that is what Take 2 is all about,” explained Duncairn Arts’ Director Ray Giffen.
“Virtual Cabaret was a tremendous success but the Duncairn is known for its desire to innovate and self educate and that is what Take 2 is doing.”
Thanks to funding from Arts Council NI and Belfast City Council, the Duncairn was able to acquire state-of-the-art recording equipment to produce its own fortnightly online arts magazine.
“The centre’s whole ethos is to self-educate our staff and patrons and with this marvellous new equipment we now have an eager team of budding film-makers to ensure Take 2 is yet another outstanding success.”
The innovative arts magazine is determined to focus on young and emerging artists who are starting out in their careers.
“In the absence of live concerts, young musicians and poets are in most need of the exposure to help build their profiles, so we feel it is particularly important to support and nurture this future generation of emerging artists.”
And with two episodes already broadcast Take 2 is fast attracting rave reviews. This Saturday’s episode will feature stars of the trad scene Joseph McNulty & Cillian Doheny, RTE Folk Award nominees Alfi, local singer-songwriter Kat Little and spoken word by Abby Oliveira.
But the Duncairn is already looking forward to an optimistic post-Covid future.
“When live concerts resume we’ll have the ability to welcome audiences back to the Duncairn, but we’ll also be able to live stream events for online audiences.
“We’re also already planning to provide arts and workshops online alongside our classes at the centre.
“Our newly appointed Writer in Residence, poet Colin Hassard, will soon launch the Duncairn’s first podcast series.
“We have also been overwhelmed by the response to our recent Open Call for Young Artists.
“We were astounded by the number of local talent that remain undiscovered and we are confident that Take 2 will give them the perfect platform to reach audiences not just at home but all over the world."
Niamh Regan - Galway singer-songwriter, just nominated for RTE Folk Awards 2020 ‘Best Folk Album’
Kevin Meehan Trio - Tin-whistle led tunes from a trailblazer of the trad scene
The Alcoves - Young Belfast ballad group, performing in the American Bar.
Jack Loughrey spoken word artist
Síofra Caherty / Jump the Hedges - Local fashion designer creating bags from recycled sustainable materials (lorry tarps etc)
Carál Ní Chuilín / Minister for Communities NI - A conversation about the state of the arts