Lisbon calling for Cork performers on St Patrick's Weekend

Cork-founded and Lisbon-based, Garden Collective are a culture and events collective that have set out to build bridges between the two cities, with Port to Port, their Patrick’s Weekend festival, finally taking place after being scuppered by Covid-19 in 2020. Mike McGrath-Bryan talks to festival co-founder Eddie Ivers.
Lisbon calling for Cork performers on St Patrick's Weekend

Local music goes port to port as Cork bands go to perform in Lisbon.

“There's four of us in Garden Collective. Myself, Eden, Emmett and Niall. Myself, Emmett and Niall are all from Cork, and we've known each other since we were fourteen or fifteen. We've discovered most of the music we know together, we started DJing, started doing videos, long before Garden Collective. We had a collective that did murals around Cork city, Dirty Paws, with Cork street artist CONE. So we're kind of doing this stuff for a good while.”

From his apartment in Lisbon, Garden Collective co-founder and events organiser Eddie Ivers digs into the background of Garden Collective, a group of young creatives from Cork City, who, after serving their time putting on events Leeside, took a collective decision to move to the Portugese capital.

Port to Port goes to Lisbon.
Port to Port goes to Lisbon.

There, they’ve continued their mission to put together DIY cultural efforts, culminating in the announcement, finally, of their first in-person Port to Port festival in the Estudios Arroz space on March 17 and 18, bringing together musicians and spoken-word artists from both their native and adoptive scenes.

“In 2016, I'd just finished my degree in Visual Communications in CIT. My girlfriend is Portuguese, and she was doing her master's in Crawford. She said, for family bits and pieces, she needed to move back to Lisbon for a bit, I was like, 'well, great, let's do it, go for six months', and moved over. Niall (Hearne, co-founder) came over soon after, for a bit. At this stage, Garden had done some events in The Friary (at the end of Shandon Street), and that was kind of kicking off, then Emmet (Coleman, co-founder) moved over thereafter.

“When we came over, we started on basically the same idea that had been there from the get go, but I suppose in Lisbon, there's a little bit more leniency in opening hours, legislation around what you can do. There's a really strong DIY community of venues in Lisbon.”

Heading into a new city is never easy - especially when it comes to settling in and finding spaces in which to make or facilitate art, without the benefit of local relationships or a readymade bedrock of support. The lads have put the hard work in, however, and have found their way into the city’s wider arts fraternity, and while officialdom isn’t as occupied with arts grants and funding, even by comparison to Ireland, there’s a lot more leeway in the kinds of spaces you can keep, says Ivers.

Multi-disciplinary collective group Pot Pot.	Picture: Eddie Ivers
Multi-disciplinary collective group Pot Pot. Picture: Eddie Ivers

“It's a bit of a yin and yang. I mean, there's substantially more funding in Ireland, for certain types of projects at least, I think that's diversifying a lot in the last few years anyway, but here, not so much, you have to be, like, an institution to receive funding. The payoff, then is, you have a lot more leniency in opening a DIY venue, it's a lot more feasible, it's quite doable on a small budget here. The main thing is this 'cultural association' license. Essentially a member's club, and you pay an annual membership, so a lot of cultural associations do five euro for the year's annual membership, and with that, because it's a cultural association with members, you don't have the same rules as a pub that's open to the public.

“It allows for this amazing little DIY scene, of these kinds of venues, that have stuff on every night. It's quite a passionate thing, there's just a constant rotation of bands and projects, and in the last few years, as well, a lot more international people mixing in with local heads. You have people from all over the world, it's also very diverse in terms of genre, everything from hip hop, to music from Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) countries. When they cross over, it makes for a great little scene. Running on a shoestring financially, but very healthy, in terms of being creative.”

The collective’s big project of 2020 was set to be the first instalment of the Port to Port Festival, a weekender that would have seen artists from the two scenes they had feet in come together and make the best of that melting-pot atmosphere. Things had fallen right into place, ahead of the big event… on Paddy’s weekend of March 2020, right as countries around the world were beginning to mount their responses to the outset of the Covid-19 crisis.

"We met the fourth member of Garden Collective here, Eden Flaherty, and he was originally from the UK and moved over. Everything was going great, and then Eden is really efficient with organisation, and comes from an organising background in terms of activism and theatre groups in the UK. Him being on board was the missing link between great ideas and the practical side. The community grew around that, then. The first festival had three, four months of non-stop work put into it, and unfortunately, greater circumstances didn't allow for it. Just the most gutting timing ever.

“We said, 'look, we put in this amount of work anyway, we might as well bring it online'. I think it was, from what we've seen, one of the first few that was fairly integrated online. We didn't know a whole lot about it all, but because we're DIY, we're just like, 'right, there's resources there, let's learn how to do it'. Eden was the driving force in that, because he's a very pragmatic person - it doesn't matter about your experience if the information is there, use that to go do it. So, it was great to do some of the online events, and we did some other in-person events that following summer, but it was a little bit all over the place. We couldn't really get back to the format that we had established in Lisbon up to that point, for about a year consecutively, where we were doing one event per month, that would be a twelve-hour event, 6pm to 6am, with exhibitions, DJ sets, poetry, music.

Shannonside rapper Citrus Fresh.
Shannonside rapper Citrus Fresh.

“We had funding from Culture Ireland for one of the Summer Series that we did, as well, and support from the Irish embassy, we had a good few Irish acts over, so the bridges were already being built at that stage. We didn't know we were building back towards the festival when we were doing these events, but then, once we started, it was like, 'oh, this makes sense, it's the natural progression here of what we've built so far."

In addition to a solid local lineup of music, improvisation and spoken-word artistry, the Collective have invited a number of Cork and Limerick performers over for this year’s in-person rendition of the festival - the Leeside contingent includes singer and songwriter Elaine Malone and her band, Glasgow-based ‘hard drum’ innovator Doubt, Leeside multi-disciplinary collective The Crossover, and Pot Pot, a project featuring Cork creative multi-hyphenate Mark Waldron-Hyden, while Shannonside is represented by rapper Citrus Fresh and his collaborator 40 Hurtz.

“Well, we have such a strong structure, and with the amount of work we did in 2020, it would be nearly a shame not to use that again. Structure in every sense of the word, in terms of venue, logistics, the artists... like, for example, Elaine, Mark Waldron-Hyden, Citrus Fresh, all of these were acts that were booked in 2020, and they've all had their own progression as artists in the meantime, so it's nice to continue on that note. The design, the PR stuff, we had it all there, it made sense. September last year, we were out for a few points, and I was like, 'oh, you know, like, that'd be a pretty good idea'. Ciarán MacArtain, from The Crossover, is living in Lisbon now, and he's been pretty integral with this festival, they're going to be on the Saturday for an hour-long theatre performance, aligning with the idea of the festival.”

The festival’s stated goal here is cementing ties between Ireland and Portugal via cultural exchange - and while making use of supports and diplomatic ties in Lisbon is one thing, setting things in place to make reciprocal events in Cork is quite another, especially with logistics and licencing challenges.

“That's definitely something that's in the works - these things start with seeds. We haven't done an event back in Cork in a while, and obviously it's the roots, and we're still very much connected with the city. Niall from Garden is actually currently living in Cork, he's been based there, running some events in and around Cork. It's always been on the cards to go back to do a Cork event, but now it's at the stage where, having such a network built up in both cities, it's more achievable to make something work now.

“At the start, there was the idea but not necessarily the connections. Now we've done events here for several years, and been involved in projects on both sides. Emmet is a DJ, he's done a lot of DJ stuff around Lisbon, and in Cork with County Vinyl. Niall as a poet, has done a lot, and I have a band based here in Lisbon, and we'd love to get over to Cork, actually. We're just, I suppose, in a better, much nicer place now to advance on that. And it's definitely not something that's set in stone, but it's something we'd definitely love to do, the flip side, go to Cork, and run the similar idea of the festival, and have Portuguese-based acts come over for that, using the community network that we have here to do that.

Doubt: Glasgow-based ‘hard drum’.
Doubt: Glasgow-based ‘hard drum’.

“The one thing is that, in terms of the style of events that we've kind of learned to do, legislation on that is more restrictive. So it has to be in a way that would actually allow us to do the events. So, I suppose, a bit more of a particular circumstance, but we're definitely on the lookout and chatting to people. So if you know anyone... [laughs].”

Port to Port Festival 2023 happens on Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18, at Estudios Arroz in Lisbon, Portugal. For more information on Garden Collective, and Port to Port tickets, head for

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