SIUBHÁN McCarthy, who has taken over as co-ordinator of the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival (March 19-25) is thrilled to be working for such a successful event and says she has big boots to fill.
Established in 2004, the festival, which last year had more than 600 events, has as its motto ‘investigate, participate and celebrate’.
It has international recognition. In 2015, Cork was presented with one of 12 inaugural Learning City awards by UNESCO and last year, the city welcomed delegates from all over the world to the third UNESCO international Conference on Learning Cities. Tina Neylon, former co-ordinator stepped down from the role this year.
Working in event management over the years, Siubhan is originally from Donegal and says she fell in love with Cork the first time she arrived in the city.
“I just thought that if I met a Cork man and had two kids with Cork accents, I’d be a happy girl.”
That happened. Siubhan is married to Cork man, Paul McCarthy and has two grown-up children, Lorna and Gavin.
“I’m living the dream,” she says, laughing. “I really like the Cork people. They’re lovely and warm. The city is so compact. I live in the city centre. it really appeals to me that I can walk out the door and go to so many different types of restaurants, theatre and cinema. And I have admired the Lifelong Learning Festival for years. I think the ethos of reinvigorating people’s learning and the fact that all the events are free is really good.”
While Siubhan says that taking over from Tina “is challenging because so much knowledge has gone with her,” she is confident that this year’s festival will continue the good news story that is this event.
Siubhan completed her foundation year at the Crawford College of Art and Design and then attended the Limerick College of Art and Design where she studied graphic design.
“I fell into event management. I worked with Meitheal Mara in Cork for eight years. I was event manager for its Ocean to City race. It was a steep learning curve for me. I enjoyed it and moved on from that to Cork Craft and Design. I was the co-ordinator of Cork Craft Month which happens every August. I spent five years with Cork Craft and Design which now has a permanent base in Douglas.”
Always keen to try out new challenges, Siubhan put her hat in the ring for the Cork Lifelong Learning festival job.
“This year, it’s a contract job for four months. The formula for the festival this year follows on along the same lines as before. It’ s about raising awareness of all the learning opportunities in the city.
“We have 77 new events this year including pole fitness dancing which will be happening at Firkin Crane. As of last year, in collaboration with CIT, learning factories, which are innovative businesses in Cork, will open their doors to the public, allowing them to come in and see what they do. We have six learning factories this year. One of them, the ESB, is close to my heart because my son is an apprentice electrician there.”
The hydroelectric power station will be open to the public.
Cork Craft and Design will be giving workshops in woodturning and machine embroidery. There will be story telling workshops at UCC, presented by the Gab Storytelling Group and Cork Yarn Spinners.
For people interested in ramping up their exercise regime, they can learn how to run properly in the Fair Field in Farranree.
At North Presentation Secondary School, there will be a talk entitled ‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ which will focus on Cork women’s fight for Irish independence.
What should be a fascinating talk on the future of AI (Artificial Intelligence) will be presented by Dr Roman Van De Krogt from UCC.
“This is about intelligence exhibited by machines rather than humans. AI has had a slow start but over the past decade, it’s becoming ubiquitous and touches on almost all aspects of our lives,” said Siubhan.
For people who want to make an impact using social media, there will be a free seminar at the Imperial Hotel on South Mall on the subject.
This year, there will be 59 workshops and 44 individual lectures on everything from IT to genealogy, history and literature. There will be 32 exercise classes and 21 musical performances. There will be lunchtime concerts in the foyer of the CIT Cork School of Music.
There will also be seven different language classes including one on how to improve your English for non-native speakers. There will be community garden events and cooking demonstrations as well as four open rehearsals for different choirs. There will even be ice-skating at Centre Park Road organised by the Cork Figure Skating Association.
Each learning experience is really a taster. Siubhan suggests that people might get more out of the sessions if they attend them with friends.
“We’re also encouraging people hosting events to step outside of their own space and attend other events. The hosts are amazing people. This festival is a great showcase for them. Their involvement in the festival is voluntary. They’re passionate about what they do and the festival is a means of getting visibility and making what they do accessible to the public.”