Cork children can take part in festival celebrating youth creativity

Siobhán Clancy, Community Arts Co-ordinator, Cork City Arts Office talks to us about her new role, which she took up in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. She also looks forward to  Cruinniú na nÓg, a national celebration of youth creativity taking place on June 13.
Cork children can take part in festival celebrating youth creativity
Siobhán Clancy, Community Arts Co-ordinator, Cork City Arts Office

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Siobhán Clancy. I have a life-long interest in socially engaged and community-based arts that started when I facilitated my first workshops at 16 for my local library. I’m also a firm advocate of youth arts. I was an active youth theatre member until the age of 18 and have had the privilege of working with young people on many projects over the years, including a number of ‘Globalfest’ events with Mayfield Arts.

My background is visual arts. Following graduation from the National College of Art and Design in 2005, my practice centred around social health and has involved collaboration with other artists, activists, youth, community, women and groups with disabilities. Together, we’ve produced multi-media works, immersive events, participatory performances, dialogues, play and live action in contexts of health, education and justice. I have completed a number of artist-in-residence projects in Ireland and abroad.

In 2014, I completed a Masters in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at Maynooth University. The previous year, I had become a founding member of the Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland motivated by an aspiration to tackle abortion stigma in Ireland creatively.

Since 2015, I’ve worked with founder Kate Delaney on the development of the ed-tech startup ‘Make Create Innovate’, designing and delivering STEAM-based workshops, training courses, touring events and bespoke programmes for national institutions, festivals, educational, youth and community contexts.

For over a decade until earlier this year, I worked with Helium Arts, most recently coordinating the Cork Creative Health Programme in partnership with Cork University Hospital for U18s living with long term health conditions.

I took up the appointment of Community Arts Coordinator at Cork City Arts Office in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020.

Where were you born?

My parents lived in Kilkenny at the time that my mother was pregnant with both I and my brother. Despite the protests of my father, a Kilkenny Cat, she but travelled more miles than most to ensure Tipperary births. It’s a long way - unless you are a very determined pregnant person apparently! I believe in a world that is border free but I can’t deny my county pride. Finding opportunities to highlight our culture and celebrate the local is central community arts.

Where do you live?

I moved to Cork in 2019 after living in Dublin for 17 years and building a network round my art practice there. While I miss friends, especially since the COVID-19 travel restrictions were implemented, I haven’t looked back since. Cork has been a wonderful and welcoming city to live in.

Family?

I’m very grateful to my family for having encouraged me on my path despite the fears that the challenges and instability of an artistic life can bring. They have also been very accepting of what often appears to sensible folk to be outlandish ideas and strange processes. My family home is where I return as often as I can to ground myself, to replenish and to laugh.

Best friend?

Those I am fortunate enough to call my friends are, without doubt, the very best a person could have. The person with the title ‘Best Friend for Life’ however is undoubtably Bríd. Over time, we have come to the realisation that of all our respective friends, we have the least in common with each other but the deepest understanding. This is possibly due sheerly on the number of years (3.5 decades so far) that we have been calling each other mad!

Earliest childhood memory?

I escaped from home early one morning aged four unbeknownst to my parents for an off-campus adventure with my beloved neighbours, Stella and Jim. 

Person you most admire?

We live in an unequal society. I have tremendous admiration for everyone whose difficult circumstances have been exacerbated by the current crisis and yet carry on keeping their families safe and cared for, looking out for others in their community and making incredible sacrifices for our collective wellbeing.

Person who most irritates you?

I find prejudice very disheartening. When I witness the pervasiveness of casual racism, classism, sexism and homophobia in our culture, it motivates me to focus my energy positively. I strive towards models for change that are justice-orientated and seek out allies who are committed to doing likewise.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

I would love to see how the lived experience of a young, female Traveller like activist Eileen Flynn might shape such a role and, for example, tackle the underspend of Traveller Accommodation budgets nationally.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

Perhaps my most memorable trip was in 2016 when I was honoured to be officiant at the wedding ceremony of two dear friends surrounded by the green everglades of Idaho state. Apparently, my Irish accent brought an authenticity to the otherwise unorthodox ceremony which prompted the Catholic grandfather of the bride to inquire if it would count as Mass for that week. For over a decade though, I’ve spent a lot of my spare time closer to home exploring the west coast of Cork. The peninsulas, Lough Hyne, Kealkill, Cape Clear have a special quality that call me back time and again.

Favourite radio show?

In an age where the digital divide endures, I love how radio makes the arts so accessible, in particular community radio. Young Dublin Digital Radio recently aired a special call out to kids in Cork to invite contributions to their online show, co-hosted as it is by Corkonian Jane Deasy with Rosi Leonard.

Your signature dish if cooking?

I would be lying if I said that the kitchen is where I get most creative. I tend to cook in bulk to gain more time in the studio. But every so often (and for guests of course), I apply myself. I was delighted when I made some beetroot burgers from scratch recently. Turns out they are pretty easy to make, but still!

Favourite restaurant?

Miyazaki off Barrack St is my favourite foodie treat. While I’m not a vegan myself, I also love the Cork-based food company My Goodness and what they are all about. I guess that both of my choices are indicative of my preference for picnics (or swift-nics) in natural settings over table service. I’ll often be seen loitering by the beautiful Lee at lunchtimes.

Last book you read?

Pig by Andrew Cowan. I loved how his economy with words painted a simple yet vivid story. I’ve just started Les Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir. The first chapter describing a small party of friends celebrating freedom in the immediate aftermath of WWII resonates with my current yearning for the end of the threat of coronavirus. Like the characters, I am curious as to the promise of change and how our society can address health and other inequalities as part of our recovery from this crisis.

Best book you read?

Lynn Ruane’s autobiography really moved me. While she grew up in Tallaght which is where I was working at the time I read it, I felt that the story of her childhood is one many people in many parts of Ireland could tell. The importance of addressing generational trauma through community work and never, ever giving up on our young people has stayed with me. Her honesty and her commitment to a more justice-orientated society is a daily inspiration to me.

Favourite song?

Blue Monday.

One person you would like to see in concert?

I really love to discover music that connects with a diversity of experience. One of the best things I find about Cork are the venues and smaller festivals like Quarter Block Party and others that platform emerging acts or create opportunities for established musicians to get experimental together. I’m still haunted by a Quiet Lights Festival gig with Katie Kim and Radie Peat in the wonderfully acoustic chapel at Griffith College in 2018. I have tickets to hear Wallis Bird play at Coughlan’s Live Fest in September and my fingers are crossed that it will go ahead.

Your proudest moment?

I’m really uplifted by the progress we’ve made together as a nation on social issues in recent years, epitomised by our last referenda on marriage equality and repeal. We have a way to go yet to be truly inclusive as a society but I’m very proud of the achievements to date of the reproductive justice movement in Ireland. The groundswell of collective action on a community level alone, led mainly by women and trans folk who finally said ‘Enough’, has been so inspiring. It gives me hope for the future and confirms my belief in the power of the arts to support emancipation.

Spendthrift or saver?

As an artist, frugality is ingrained. Combined with my love of second-hand shops, I guess I am more of a saver. However, when it comes to gifts, I find an excuse to get flaithiulacht and indulge in pieces by local artists and crafts people. Last year was my first Christmas in Cork and I just loved Christmas Shows by members of Sample Studios and Backwater Artists. I’m really looking forward to Cork Craft Month in August.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

Social distancing has required greater pedestrianisation of the city centre. I would love to see how this could continue long term.

What makes you happy?

Art! Making art, experiencing art, facilitating art, talking about ideas that could become art, outdoor adventures and time out with my friends and family. Then more art. I’m kind of boring that way.

How would you like to be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered for my deeds rather than my words. It keeps me on my toes and willing to learn all the time.

What else are you up to at the moment?

After several decades working mainly as a freelance artist, I took up the position of Community Arts Coordinator at Cork City Arts Office on the very week that lockdown was instated across Ireland. While it has been a challenging time for Cork City Arts Office and the arts sector generally, I am very privileged to work with a supportive and visionary team. It has been both fascinating and inspiring to observe from inside the public sector how the system as a whole adapted around the roll-out of essential services whilst maintaining others. This could not have been possible without the incredible on-the-ground support from Community Response Teams made up largely of very dedicated, local volunteers. I look forward to working with these communities into the future, finding ways to articulate their experience and honouring their heritage, culture and legacy and through the arts.

Right now, I am looking forward to Cruinniú na nÓg, a national celebration of youth creativity taking place on June 13. This year boosts the biggest programme of activities yet for Cork City, all of which will be accessible online. Over 22 free virtual events for young people featuring 18 cultural venues will take place in Cork for Cruinniú na nÓg. The full programme is available on 

https://www.corkcity.ie/en/council-services/services/arts-culture-heritage/creative-ireland/crinniu-na-nog/

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