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Sounds from a Safe Harbour returns after a four-year Covid-interrupted break
"Trust us," festival director Mary Hickson said at the launch night, "we might say get to Callanan's at three o'clock."
It’s been a long minute since Sounds from a Safe Harbour took over venues across the city - the last time the festival was staged in Cork was 2019 - so festival director Mary Hickson could be forgiven for sounding a bit rusty during the launch event at the Kiln Bar in Heineken’s Lady’s Well Brewery.
The launch of the festival, which gets under way in the first week of September, was the final piece of the jigsaw which has seen Hickson draw on her enviable and endless list of artistic contacts.
That list includes Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National, local boy Cillian Murphy and playwright Enda Walsh, all of whom will have a part to play in this year’s Sounds from a Safe Harbour.
They join Wilco, Feist, Bonny Light Horseman with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Ólafur Arnalds, Ye Vagabonds, Rónán Ó Snodiagh and Myles O'Reilly, Max Porter, Elaine Malone and Cormac Begley in what is a stellar mix of homegrown and international talent.
“Blame Cillian for that one”
Hickson announced that Cillian Murphy will be appearing in Clinker Babbage playing at the Pav on Friday, September 7. As she pointed out, she’s not entirely sure what it is, but Cillian asked her to programme it.
“How it’s been described to me is like a crazy, beautiful, improvised moment. Because it sounds like a beautiful thing we decided to programme it to mark the end of the first day as a ceremonial opening,” Hickson said.
Hickson had a few more details about Clinker Babbage including a circle of musicians, “a Svengali-type character with a mask in a hood with a black cape and a long finger…so God only knows what’s going to happen?”
“Blame Cillian Murphy for that one,” she said to laughter.
The Last Supper
The other significant announcement of the night from Hickson has less to do with music, and much more with food as it involves another Hickson collaborator, Takashi Miyazaki of Michelin-starred Ichigo Ichie on Sheares Street.
Miyazaki will be teaming up with chefs Rob Krawczyk of Chestnut (Ballydehob), and Georg Arnar Halldórsson previously of Óx (Reykjavik), for a feast at the Mirror Room in The River Lee Hotel appropriately enough called The Last Supper.
The three chefs will be putting their signature to each dish in the seven-course meal. Chef Miyazaki gave me a glimpse of the menu on his phone afterwards, and while there’s no tripe and drisheen on there, there is pistachio tofu and much else in there.
As Chef Miyazaki told me his first ever pop-up in Ireland took place underground at Mitchelstown Cave for the Clonmel Junction Festival in 2016, and Mary Hickson made it happen.
Hickson did take the time to share one gripe: Sounds gets no funding from the Arts Council, instead their main backers are Heineken, Cork City Council (the “right leg” and The River Lee Hotel (the “left leg”).
It’s a sprawling festival, in every nook and cranny, as Hickson said, including some of the city’s biggest venues such as the Opera House, Live at St Luke’s and Coughlan’s, but also the Granary Theatre and Maureen’s.
As Hickson pointed out, the festival organisers could easily make a sudden announcement saying, “Get to Callanans at three o'clock.”
“Trust us something great is going to go down,” she added.
Who knows, that could well be Cillian in the snug singing “Dear Old Skibereen” with the Dressner brothers accompanying him?
Sounds from a Safe Harbour take place from Thursday, September 7 to Sunday, September 10. Tickets and information at www.soundsfromasafeharbour.com.