Saving the best till last in our series on the winners of the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards 2022, this article from Galway County Council details the background to “HOUSE”, a fun-filled aerial spectacle with circus, theatre and drive-in bingo.
“HOUSE” was a fun-filled aerial spectacle with circus, theatre and drive-in bingo. This thrilling show was commissioned by Clare County Council in partnership with Galway County Council and Limerick City and County Council through the Arts Council’s Invitation to Collaborate Scheme, which enables local authorities to work together to commission arts research and projects. Renowned international aerial dance company Fidget Feet were commissioned to develop an outdoor show, in COVID times, suitable for anyone from 6 to 96. The local authorities were anxious to devise an opportunity whereby people could,
- attend an outdoor, socially distant event
- participate in the show as local community groups were integrated into the performance, alongside Fidget Feet, in a safe but creative manner. Participating local groups included a pipe band, local orchestras, hip-hop dancers, set dancers and cheerleaders!
From drive-in bingo to dancers flying from cranes, there was something for everyone, and the project brought both young and old together with an integral focus on the arts, well-being, and mental and physical health.
Fidget Feet, rose to the very challenging brief, devising a show that engaged and included the audience in a light-hearted manner but in a safe environment, i.e. outdoors and/or within the confines of cars – enabling people to control their level of engagement. Working in tandem with the local authorities, they identified and encouraged local community groups in rural areas to get involved in a rare opportunity to engage with a high-quality street spectacle performance.
The local community was central to the project. Whilst the initial plan was to develop residencies in each location, this became unviable during the pandemic. As a consequence, the production pivoted and was designed around the involvement of the various but differing local community groups, making each production unique to that particular area and audience.
Many of these groups were normally very active in their area but would rarely have had the opportunity to interact with other groups on projects. Most of the groups were struggling with Covid / post-Covid lack of activity, so this opportunity, for many, gave them an incentive to work towards something in a safe and controlled environment, as all rehearsals and performances took place outdoors, and social distancing could be easily applied.
The benefits to the groups of reconnecting and engaging again socially were huge on an individual basis, and the opportunity to perform locally gave many a much-needed confidence boost and signalled a more positive/proactive approach to resuming activities.
Local communities were not only empowered to participate in the project but to promote and engage with the project, as was seen with sell-out shows in each area. The community groups were supported in their efforts by local audiences, and their efforts were appreciated and valued. The support of all local authorities was invaluable in identifying and accessing locations in Ennis, Limerick and Athenry that could accommodate cranes, outdoor stages and parking for audiences.
Communities of interest and local stakeholders in each area were identified through detailed discussions in terms of aims and objectives and proactively sought out and approached by a dedicated Community Engagement Officer engaged specifically for this project. This role was crucial in terms of identifying interested groups and as a liaison person with stakeholders. A further general call-out to communities and individuals was issued through the local authority arts offices.
Large numbers attended the events with very positive feedback on both the show and the opportunity to gather outside at a cultural event in a safe manner. This, in turn, offered experience to local groups as to how they might consider hosting other outdoor events in rural areas and the holding of a symposium in the University of Limerick saw the project learnings being shared with other local authorities, arts organisations and artists in the hope that future projects like this would take place throughout the country.
We are delighted to say that Kildare County Council is leading Tipperary and Donegal local authorities in the further development of HOUSE, so our legacy continues throughout the country to be enjoyed by communities all over Ireland.
Thank you to Galway County Council for taking the time to detail the background of HOUSE, and if you are interested in learning from the award-winning Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards 2022, click here!