Festival first

Artists perofming at the Irish Aboriginal Festival include Ciaran O’Sullivan, The Rogues, Olive Knight (above) and Susan O’Neill.

NEXT week’s inaugural Irish Aboriginal Festival in Fremantle will celebrate the artistic simpatico that has blossomed between the two nations.  

Held at Kidogo Arthouse, the four-day festival will be centered around scintillating live music from Irish and WA performers, as well as poetry, dance, book launches, ALF and GAA football, and even a soda-bread versus damper cook-off.

“This is a celebration of two cultures that has never been done before,” says Kidogo artistic director Joanna Robertson.

“There are long familial and friendship connections between the local aboriginal community and the Irish people that arrived in Australia. 

“This festival is an opportunity to recognise them and create new and exciting creative collaborations between Ireland and Australia.”

The unique bond between Irish and Aboriginal musicians is illustrated by the recent collaboration with Olive Knight (Kankawa Nagarra) and Ciaran O’Sullivan, who bumped into each other at an artists gathering.

Knight is a legendary gospel/blues singer who hails from the Kimberley and has fought doggedly for Indigenous rights, while O’Sullivan is a singer-songwriter who likes traditional Sean-nós (unaccompanied) Irish singing and emigrated from Donegal to Australia in 2011.

“We got talking about her short visit to Ireland and how she fell in love with the place – she couldn’t wait to go back one day,” O’Sullivan says.

“We both sang a few songs that evening and shared a huge appreciation of each other’s music. 

“Olive’s short visit to Ireland and her dream to go back one day was the inspiration behind us writing a song together.”

 The pair will perform a few blues numbers at the festival as well as a song written last year by O’Sullivan called Liscannor Bay.

“We have a great chemistry with both of us having a great appreciation of each other’s music and the opportunity to be able to share that and collaborate with each other is something very special to me. 

“It will be an honour for me to share the stage with Olive given her huge contribution to the world of music, in addition to all the great work she has done in the indigenous community.”

Also appearing on the bill are a great mix of acts including John Bennett with David Hyams and Lucky Oceans, The Yabu Band, and the music of The Cranberries and The Corrs by Fieldsy & The Currieries.

The festival will also feature live virtual performances from renowned artists in Ireland like Luka Bloom, Daoiri Farrell and Susan O’Neill, which will be projected onto a 10-metre screen.

There will also be a virtual greeting from his excellency Mr Breandán Ó Caollaí, Ambassador of Ireland to Australia.

Hand in Hand – Kidogo Irish Aboriginal Festival is a mix of free and ticketed events and is on March 12, 13 and 14, with a special program on St Patrick’s Day March 17.

The festival kicks off with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony with Traditional Owner Walter McGuire at 6pm. 

For more info go to kidogo. com.au/kidogo-irish-aboriginal-festival/

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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