A free music trail runs a part of Cork's Sounds from a Safe Harbour festival

Ronan Leonard looks forward to Sounds From A Safe Harbour festival
A free music trail runs a part of Cork's Sounds from a Safe Harbour festival
Nialler9, is a journalist, podcaster, DJ and curator.

Nialler9 is at the vanguard of celebrating new and great music, both Irish and International. He wears several hats; a journalist, podcaster, DJ and curator — as is the case with Heineken Free Music Trail curated by Sounds From A Safe Harbour with Nialler9.

He was still putting the finishing touches to the trail whilst doing this interview. “Spreadsheets are my best friend in planning a programme like this. There can be a lot of moving parts but that’s exciting. It’s a little different from booking a regular gig as you get the opportunity to present music in different time and place from the norm sometimes so finding the artist that fits that is the task.”

That attention to detail is one of the traits that has made Nialler9 such a popular collaborator, “we think a lot about the flow of the weekend, when people may take a break to eat and what time they have around the main shows in order to plan the programme for the trail. It’s free so that helps the discovery element. We put the band Autre Monde on two years ago in Henchy’s before the Live At St Luke’s show or David Keenan in Callanan’s unamplified. Those were memorable shows and that’s the idea.”

JDFR is a solo project by Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Jofriur Akadottir.
JDFR is a solo project by Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Jofriur Akadottir.

Sounds From A Safe Harbour is a festival anchored around collaboration, with multiple curators such as Cillian Murphy, Enda Walsh and brothers, Aaron and Bryce Dessner but Nialler9 credits one person with steering the ship. “Everything with Sounds From A Safe Harbour starts with the powerhouse that is Mary Hickson, who reached out with an idea of myself curating a music trail in 2015 and we’ve been at it biannually since.”

Nialler9 considers each installment of Sounds From A Safe Harbour as a new edition, where he gets to respond to the headliners and bigger names. “The challenge for me on the trail is to offer something complementary to the main programme, to highlight emerging Irish talent which fit into the festival in terms of music style, collaboration, talent and who can also be the kind of thing that you can happen upon over the weekend and be blown away. We also try to leave room for surprises on the trail, so keep your eye on the festival’s social media channels for surprise shows.”

Emmet Kirwan.
Emmet Kirwan.

The fact Nialler9 gets to write about Cork and Irish music year round, but only work on a hands on level here occasionally gives him a unique perspective on the state of Cork’s music landscape. “Cork, like all Irish cities, seems to be up and down in terms of spaces. Cultural spaces are suffering but for every two steps back, there’s a light stepping forward. Like the Kino reopening which the festival will be programming acts in over the weekend. Festivals like Sounds From A Safe Harbour are an opportunity to represent Cork’s cultural offerings on a wider scale and to show what can be done. I’m seeing a lot of positives in terms of acts whether it’s producers like Jar Jar Jnr, rappers like Outsider YP, bands like Happyalone, labels like Hausu growing, singer-songwriters like Elaine Malone — there’s a lot to be cheerful along with more interesting cultural offerings and festivals developing all round. The more activity and bands coming through the better - a rising tide lifts all boats seems like an appropriate way to put it in light of the Sounds From A Safe Harbour festival name.”

The complete line up of the trail is being kept under wraps, but some of the acts that Nialler9 could reveal already show the breadth of what is in store. “The Dundalk rappers TPM have a new trad band called the Mary Wallopers and they’ll be down on Sunday for a session. Gareth Quinn Redmond is a composer of ambient and contemporary music who is playing on the Friday and Elaine Malone and Laurie Shaw are playing a special set of originals together for the first time. Apart from that, with the festival ethos of collaboration and improvisation in mind, we are leaving space for spontaneous magic.”

Junior Brother.
Junior Brother.

Ronan’s Four Tips: Junior Brother, who has been ratcheting up the plaudits since the release of his ‘Pull The Right Rope’ album earlier this year, will be bringing his arresting alternative folk style on the trail.

Fellow Irishman, Emmet Kirwan, the actor and writer, will also be featuring at Sounds From A Safe Harbour. The man behind the play ‘Dublin Oldschool’ and it’s film adaptation, he is renowned for his invigorating spoken word performances.

The 37d03d mixed tape is an extension of People - a music publishing platform developed by The Dessners brothers along with Justin Vernon (AKA Bon Iver). They describe themselves as “a steadily growing group of artists, freely creating and sharing our work with everyone.” The most recent album they released is ‘When We Are Inhuman’, a collaboration between Bonnie Prince Billy, Bruce Dessner, and Eight Blackbird, a contemporary chamber ensemble.

JFDR, a solo project by Icelandic multi instrumentalist Jófríur Ákadóttir, of course the spirt of collobration which runs throughout the festival means she also works her performs with groups such as Samaris and Pascal Pinon.

Sounds From A Safe Harbour runs September 10-15. Soundsfromasafeharbour.com for details of the Heineken Free Music Trail and tickets.


Alongside the headline concerts, there is a thorough Heineken Free Music Trail curated by Sounds From A Safe Harbour with Nialler 9; some are in same building such as The Mirror Room and The Bar in River Lee Hotel and The Crane Lane’s Theatre and Crystal Room. Other bars from the Cork Heritage Pubs group on the trail include The Oval, BDSM, The Poor Relation and The Mutton Lane. Callanans and Sober Lane will be hosting events just a few metres from each other, as are three bars on Barrack Street; Osho, Tom Barrys and Bar Pigalle. Three of the newer pubs in the City, Crawford & Co, An Balla and Winthrop Avenue will also be taking part on the trail. Henchys Bar at St Lukes Cross will feature some live music, and Plug’d Records will be hosting events upstairs in The Roundy.

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