Other Voices with Philip King: Courage reaps reward with one million views!

Having surpassed a million views across social media, YouTube and rte.ie, the latest incarnation of the ‘Other Voices’ TV and events series has brought unique performances from Irish artists at historic venues to homes across the country.
Other Voices with Philip King: Courage reaps reward with one million views!

Philip King: Forging a new way forward.

Mike McGrath-Bryan talks with director and Scullion/South Wind Blows man Philip King about what it took to send a message of ‘Courage’.

For nearly two decades, the Other Voices festivals and television programme have brought the best of Irish and international music together on a platform with national media visibility and far-reaching influence, capturing intimate performances from venues and spaces around Dingle, Co. Kerry, including the town’s Church of St. James, and subsequently in cities around the world. Lisa Hannigan at the National Gallery of Ireland for Other Voices' CourageSixteen seasons of televised output on RTÉ has documented the development of the broad Irish alternative oeuvre in the post-CD era, from The Frames and Damien Rice to Rusangano Family, Bitch Falcon and The Jimmy Cake. Meanwhile, legendary names like Amy Winehouse and Donovan have been among those to tread the boards.So when the Covid-19 outbreak took place three months ago, and the live events sector was suddenly left with no choice but to close up shop indefinitely, series director, musician, radio presenter and Corkonian Philip King assembled his team to formulate a response to the crisis at short notice. From those discussions rose ‘Other Voices: Courage’. Speaking from his home in Ventry, Co. Kerry, King talks about his feelings as the situation was developing.“This was a very difficult scenario to comprehend and engage with. Slowly but surely, that enormity became apparent, and it translated to: no work, no income, no events, no engagement with the public. High-up or low-down, whether you’re the Triskel or the Opera House, or a festival organiser: all gone. It came down to ‘what are we going to do? What might be possible? Could you do a gig in your bedroom? What would it sound like? Would you get paid?’ And with artists, who are ‘gig economy veterans’, we’ve lived in that world all our lives. We know of job security, but haven’t experienced it. We live on fairly thin resources and know how to husband them well... When things went silent, we said ‘that silence is awful’. As an artist, I felt anxiety and worry, bereft and befuddled.”Glen Hansard at the National Library of Ireland for Other Voices' CourageFrom a desire to address the aforementioned quietness, as well as this new lack of physical and social context provided by gigs, the South Wind Blows team emerged with ‘Courage’ - a live-streaming series that would see alternative Irish musicians of many different stripes perform at unusual venues around Dublin. New sessions have been streaming twice weekly across Facebook, YouTube and rte.ie, with 20-minute edited versions broadcasting on RTÉ Two. It started with a turn or two of phrase.“The word ‘Courage’... I’m in Ventry now, and when I go into the post office, the greeting is ‘Conas a-tá an misneach?’... literally, ‘how’s your courage?’. We’ve worked from the beginning with Conor O’Brien, of Villagers, and his song ‘Courage’, ‘it’s a feeling like no other’, has always been an inspiration for us. Just something about the word. What we’d need to ameliorate the worry and the anxiety, would be some courage. And music provides us with courage. Whether it was me going to see Rory Gallagher at the Capitol Cinema as a kid, or seeing Planxty playing in the City Hall, that sense of identity, 'this is ours'… it’s an uplifting thing. We worked with a company called Tiny Arc, and we worked out how to do something, with rigorous observance of restrictions and regulations. How could we go about that and do something live, safely?”Episodes of ‘Courage’ have emanated from different locations, like The Shaw Room at Dublin’s National Gallery, stalwart gig venue Whelan’s, and others, and the new settings have made a profound impact on the look and feel of the programming. For one, the change necessitated different approaches to filming with appropriate social distancing, using a remotely-controlled camera setup, with various production points monitoring cameras around the buildings.

Lisa Hannigan at the National Gallery of Ireland for Other Voices' Courage
Lisa Hannigan at the National Gallery of Ireland for Other Voices' Courage

Sixteen seasons of televised output on RTÉ has documented the development of the broad Irish alternative oeuvre in the post-CD era, from The Frames and Damien Rice to Rusangano Family, Bitch Falcon and The Jimmy Cake. Meanwhile, legendary names like Amy Winehouse and Donovan have been among those to tread the boards.So when the Covid-19 outbreak took place three months ago, and the live events sector was suddenly left with no choice but to close up shop indefinitely, series director, musician, radio presenter and Corkonian Philip King assembled his team to formulate a response to the crisis at short notice. From those discussions rose ‘Other Voices: Courage’. Speaking from his home in Ventry, Co. Kerry, King talks about his feelings as the situation was developing.“This was a very difficult scenario to comprehend and engage with. Slowly but surely, that enormity became apparent, and it translated to: no work, no income, no events, no engagement with the public. High-up or low-down, whether you’re the Triskel or the Opera House, or a festival organiser: all gone. It came down to ‘what are we going to do? What might be possible? Could you do a gig in your bedroom? What would it sound like? Would you get paid?’ And with artists, who are ‘gig economy veterans’, we’ve lived in that world all our lives. We know of job security, but haven’t experienced it. We live on fairly thin resources and know how to husband them well... When things went silent, we said ‘that silence is awful’. As an artist, I felt anxiety and worry, bereft and befuddled.”Glen Hansard at the National Library of Ireland for Other Voices' CourageFrom a desire to address the aforementioned quietness, as well as this new lack of physical and social context provided by gigs, the South Wind Blows team emerged with ‘Courage’ - a live-streaming series that would see alternative Irish musicians of many different stripes perform at unusual venues around Dublin. New sessions have been streaming twice weekly across Facebook, YouTube and rte.ie, with 20-minute edited versions broadcasting on RTÉ Two. It started with a turn or two of phrase.“The word ‘Courage’... I’m in Ventry now, and when I go into the post office, the greeting is ‘Conas a-tá an misneach?’... literally, ‘how’s your courage?’. We’ve worked from the beginning with Conor O’Brien, of Villagers, and his song ‘Courage’, ‘it’s a feeling like no other’, has always been an inspiration for us. Just something about the word. What we’d need to ameliorate the worry and the anxiety, would be some courage. And music provides us with courage. Whether it was me going to see Rory Gallagher at the Capitol Cinema as a kid, or seeing Planxty playing in the City Hall, that sense of identity, 'this is ours'… it’s an uplifting thing. We worked with a company called Tiny Arc, and we worked out how to do something, with rigorous observance of restrictions and regulations. How could we go about that and do something live, safely?”Episodes of ‘Courage’ have emanated from different locations, like The Shaw Room at Dublin’s National Gallery, stalwart gig venue Whelan’s, and others, and the new settings have made a profound impact on the look and feel of the programming. For one, the change necessitated different approaches to filming with appropriate social distancing, using a remotely-controlled camera setup, with various production points monitoring cameras around the buildings. Colm Mac Con Iomaire at the National Gallery of Ireland for Other Voices' Courage“We wanted to take rooms big enough to take social distancing, that would have some sort of iconic sense. A lot of the bands played there at the start of their careers. With the Department of Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht, we talked about national cultural institutions and their iconography, like The Shaw Room, with Daniel O’Connell on the wall looking down at Denise Chaila, which was fantastic. The National Library has been a place of refuge and learning for great writers, we got take music in there. The next thing was doing it live. Live-live. The challenge was collapsing distance in a time of isolation. To bring uplift, help, entertainment, energy and fun, and the sense of a live gig in real-time.”Episodes have been rolling out over the course of the pandemic to massive acclaim and over a million views - in particular, rapper Denise Chaila’s series-stealing performance at the Shaw Room has been received as a game-changer for Irish music in the mainstream, as far as perceptions of the ongoing hip-hop boom, while performers like Lisa Hannigan, Ye Vagabonds and Caomhín O’Raghaillaigh have captured worldwide attention. King is pleased, and rightly so.“The response was fantastic. The emotional response was fantastic, people loved it. We got sent pictures of families dancing in their kitchen, the whole family. That sense of live-ness came across, d’you know? That’s the nuts and bolts of it. We know a lot of musicians, work with them, I’ve been doing it all my life. I’m very cognisant and conscious of the power of music to help. The show has offered the portrait of a possibility, to go on and do something. That’s a fantastic outcome for us. ‘There it is’, y’know?”




Denise Chaila at the National Gallery of Ireland for Other Voices Courage.
Denise Chaila at the National Gallery of Ireland for Other Voices Courage.






Philip King assembled a musical response to the current crisis.
Philip King assembled a musical response to the current crisis.

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