Recently I played a gig with a raggle-taggle bunch of musicians called Folk The Recession in the town land of Knockainy in Co. Limerick. The gig which took place in the renovated old Protestant Church was a sell-out and from soundings taken afterwards at the nearby local, a success. The church sits in the middle of a graveyard and prior to the concert; John Burns, one of the committee members, gave me the guided tour. If graveyards can be glorious things then John and his fellow committee members have returned this neglected wilderness to its former glory, and well done I say. I will save a more detailed description of this wonderful initiative for a later date, but if you are ever within an ‘asses roar’ of Knockainey, make the detour; you won’t regret it.
As I drove home, I asked myself, “Why is it that I’m not playing villages and town lands similar to Knockainy? Why are these hidden treasures of community spirit and vibrancy, never on my itinerary? Why doesn’t someone from Freshford, Co. Kilkenny, or Shanahoe, Co. Laois, or Donaraile, in Co. Cork, (I’m looking at a map here) call Mick Hanly and say “Will you come and play in our local hall? We have a vibrant and interesting community here, and while Tigers and Recessions come and go, we do things for ourselves here.”
Offhand, I can think of a few reasons:
- “I think that Mick Hanly fellow is dead? Or maybe ‘tis his brother I’m thinking of?”
- “Sure he wouldn’t be bothered coming here?”
- “That lad can’t sing for nuts?”
- “Sure he’d cost a fortune?”
All of these reasons are legitimate, but from the safety of my conceit, I say none of them hold water. However, I do realise that in these lean times, the idea of finding the promised fee for a visiting artist at the end of a snowbound concert night, might cause diligent committee members to fret.
By the time I had reached home, a somewhat revolutionary idea was beginning to form in my mind.
Eliminating the Financial Dimension.
Like all good revolutionary ideas, it is simple; take the obligation of making enough money on the night to pay Mick Hanly out of the equation and all the rest is doable. In other words, I play the concert for free, and leave it to the audience members to decide whether or not my performance is worth a payment of their own choosing. This, they leave in a donation box at the venue. From this premise, all other possible positives are allowed to develop. Apart from providing the sound, 50euro petrol and B&B costs the organiser/s has no other financial obligation. The members of the community can choose to come to the concert in the knowledge that there is no obligation on them to pay at the door. This means that the gig is open to rich and poor, employed and unemployed, and also allows them to bring their children. Marx would be proud of me?
What’s in it for Mick Hanly? There is a huge amount of positives in it for me, but lets stick to the financials for the moment. On concert night, there is a possibility that I could be offered a paid gig in Dublin or Galway? There is also the more likely possibility that I could be parked in front of the television watching a cheetah chase on National Geographic for the hundredth time. I’m fond of nature but really I should be doing what I love doing: telling stories and playing music. So no matter how much is in the donation box at the end of the night, financially, I’m on a winner.
However, I’m not a charity. I’m trying to generate an income for myself, and in so doing, sharing my creative gift with the community.
The Community Dimension
I see the gig as just one part of my visit. I’m very aware that you cannot turn a stone in Ireland, without unearthing a piece of our history. I am also aware that there are thousands of people throughout the land who care about this history and do what they can to protect it.
My hope would be that I can learn something about your community, interact with it in a meaningful way, and draw attention to it’s ongoing projects and developments. I’m not on a heritage crusade; I’ll leave that to you guys. I’m an entertainer, and my priority at all times will be to deliver a good nights entertainment.
I plan to present this proposal to Louise Creedon (producer John Murray Show) with a view to a weekly ‘calling in’ of whatever highlights the different gigs might throw up.
In order to present this, and indeed to see if the model is actually working I propose to do 4 pilot gigs in the 3rd and 4th weeks of October. I have pinpointed individuals and groups in four different locations who like the contents of the proposal and are amenable to staging the gigs. They are Knockainy, Co. Limerick, Ballintubber Church, Co. Laois, Old Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, and Quinn, Co. Clare.
I’ve already contacted everybody by phone and all have been very receptive to the idea…all that needs doing now is to firm up the dates. I feel the best nights would be Friday and Saturday…so if you can look at the following and get back to me as soon as possible, the wheels will be in motion.
Fri 19th Sat 20th Oct Fri 26th Sat 27th Oct.
If you feel that a Thursday might work better for you, then let me know.
I thank you all for your interest and look forward to meeting you soon,
My email is now up and running: firstname.lastname@example.org