Fin-al curtain: New chapter awaits a leading light in Cork arts

Fin Flynn recently announced she is leaving renowned theatre company Corcadorca. COLETTE SHERIDAN catches up with her to reflect on her successful career and find out what’s next
Fin-al curtain: New chapter awaits a leading light in Cork arts
Fin Flynn says it was time for a change after 17 years as manager of Corcadorca theatre company

“MY heart goes out to the freelance people who work in the arts,” says Fin Flynn, who was the manager of Corcadorca theatre company for 17 years.

Now, Fin, 53, who has just left the company, joins the ranks of freelancers as she doesn’t have a job lined up to go to.

Leaving Corcadorca, the city’s premier theatre company that specialises in site specific work, was a big decision to make.

“It’s a personal thing. I suppose when the whole Covid thing hit and we were all spending so much time at home, I re-evaluated and assessed and just felt it was time for a change.

“It was a very tough decision. I have a huge emotional attachment to Corcadorca. I feel very much part of it. But I kind of thought that I have a fair bit of working life ahead of me and that was the driver in making the decision. I had been considering making a move for a while but Covid solidified it. I thought now is a good time to go. There’s never an ideal time to leave but now feels like the right time.”

Fin, an arts graduate of UCC, says people “might jump to the conclusion that my leaving Corcadorca is related to the uncertainty (around the arts.) But it’s not that at all. I would have huge confidence in Corcadorca’s ability to rise to any challenge. It’s a very resilient and adaptable company and has a lot of experience in producing work that isn’t in traditional theatres.”

HIGHLIGHT: The corcadorca theatre group's 2000 passion play 'The Trial of Jesus' reaches it's dramatic finale at bell's field above cork city on Good Friday night.
HIGHLIGHT: The corcadorca theatre group's 2000 passion play 'The Trial of Jesus' reaches it's dramatic finale at bell's field above cork city on Good Friday night.

Indeed, the company’s most recent work in June saw it bring a devised show, Contact, to community greens across Cork city during lockdown. Audiences were able to watch the show from the safety of their homes and gardens.

As Fin says, the artistic director of Corcadorca, Pat Kiernan, was determined to bring a live event to Cork people during the Midsummer Festival as opposed to a virtual event.

Fin’s role at Corcadorca involved that of producer, company administrator and she was also in charge of governance.

She actually first joined the company in 1994 on a Community Employment Scheme. At the time, unemployment was rife and CE Schemes were often the only way of landing work in the arts.

“I had just come back from the UK (where she worked as an administrator for a press officer in an electronics company) and was really keen to get involved in working in the arts.

“I had a hankering to come back to Cork. Somebody put me in touch with Kieran O’Connor who was sitting on a few different boards of arts organisations at the time. He told me there was this fledgling theatre company called Corcadorca which seemed to be going places and that it might not be a bad place to start.”

When Fin started with the company, it was staging A Clockwork Orange at Sir Henrys.

“I was with Corcadorca at that time in one capacity or another. I was also working freelance with other organisations until 1998 or 1999. I became the full-time adminstrator when Dyane Hanrahan left and later I took over the role of manager.”

With productions taking place all over Cork, including Fitzgerald’s Park for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the naval base at Haulbowline for Woyzeck, the city’s decommissioned prison for The Same and multiple locations such as the Courthouse for The Merchant of Venice, Fin says there is a lot of planning and pre-production work involved in such large scale events.

“We’ve had such amazing creative teams on all the shows. There has always been such a great commitment to Pat’s vision.”

Citing The Merchant of Venice as one of her favourite Corcadorca productions that traversed the city and was “logistically challenging”, Fin says that the company has “a hugely important relationship” with City Council.

“I think there’s a natural fit there in terms of us putting on specific events for the city. We’ve had huge support from the council down through the years in the provision of venues and road closures.”

'The Tempest' at Fitzgerald Park in 2006, a Corcadorca Production as part of the Midsummer Festival.
'The Tempest' at Fitzgerald Park in 2006, a Corcadorca Production as part of the Midsummer Festival.

Disco Pigs, premiered by Corcadorca, launched the careers of actors Cillian Murphy and Eileen Walsh. The award-winning play, that went on to be staged internationally, was written by playwright Enda Walsh whose stellar career also took off thanks to it. Enda would go on to work with David Bowie and continues to have his plays produced by Corcadorca.

Fin says she has worked with “amazing people, not just the big names. I’m so honoured to have worked with brilliant designers and composers that don’t necessarily have big names.

“I’ll miss the team work, the fabulous people and the buzz of production time.”

Over the years, Fin has been exposed to really talented people. Asked what actor has stood out in Cork in recent times, Fin cites Bláithín MacGabhann whom she saw in Liam Heylin’s play, Lex Taiilonis.

She is “a really impressive actor. All the cast were equally strong. But I thought she was a stand-out and I suspect she will go far, as they say.”

Fin’s advice to anyone wishing to work in theatre is to go for it.

“A career in theatre can be a really tough job because of the precarious nature of employment opportunities.

“Even established artists and theatre professionals will sometimes not earn much in a given year, depending on how many gigs they get.

“That said, there is nothing better than loving your job and if you are passionate about working in theatre, then you should definitely pursue it as a career option.

Éadaoin O’Donoghue and Cormac Mohally performing a scene from Contact, the new production by Corcadorca in Park View, Parklands
Éadaoin O’Donoghue and Cormac Mohally performing a scene from Contact, the new production by Corcadorca in Park View, Parklands

“Being involved in the making of live performance is really rewarding and exciting.”

From an early age, Fin says that the arts were very much part of her upbringing in Bishopstown.

“We would have regularly gone to the theatre and to ballet and other arts events. So it was in my childhood.”

A student of English and German at UCC, Fin did not become involved in Dramat.

“I have certainly never been on a stage. I am much more comfortable in the background.”

Producer Maura O’Keeffe will fill Fin’s shoes at Corcadorca until the end of the year when a new manager is appointed.

Fin feels there will be “huge interest in the job”.

“But I guess, with us all becoming accustomed to remote working, it’s not going to be essential for somebody (as Corcadorca manager) to be in Civic Trust House five days a week. That structure has been dismantled,” she said.

And what might the future hold for Fin? She would like to remain working in the arts.

“But it’s obviously very precarious at the moment. I really don’t know.

“I’m open, which I think is a good thing. I’m very rooted in Cork but there might be a possibility of commuting.”

Fin acknowledges there is a problem with an expectation that artists give of their time for free on occasions, not to mention our politicians piggybacking on Irish success stories in the arts.

However, she says the National Campaign for the Arts made a good case for the importance of the arts during the pandemic. She says “it is promising that €25m has been committed by the government to the arts.”

Now back in the market for work, Fin’s track record will no doubt serve her well.

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