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Cork Midsummer Festival Burning Bright

Tonight we headed up to the city for a night of art, in Cork, a former European City of Culture.

Sometimes we forget just how great Cork city is. Having been spoiled by the wonders of London and Kyoto, it often pales in terms of buildings, museums and theatres. But my god Cork does culture and festivals like no other city I know.

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With a population of just over 100,000, it’s Ireland’s second city. And has a festival every couple of weeks. This weekend marks the start of the annual Midsummer Festival – this time running over two weekends 12-14th and 19-21st. Sadly cuts in arts funding thanks to austerity budgets (cheers IMF and World Bank, Fianna Fail and co.) have made it succesively smaller over the past few years.

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We have attended some truly memorable events over the years: impro comedy in the Speigeltent. A dawn performance of naked women throwing rainbow paint at each other. The breathtaking burlesque No Fit State Circus. This year we were heading to  the opening fire show… and on Sunday to an Australian theatre-circus troupe, CIRCA.

Firstly a visit to the Crawford Art School’s Graduate Exhibition Launch which was HEAVING with people. I was positively conservatively dressed in my patchwork trousers amongst the Cork arts scene!

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Then dinner, a stroll along the river. It was positively balmy, and Cork felt very European indeed. You could almost imagine how it previously looked when it was the Venice of the north, criss-crossed by canals instead of roads.

And onto Elizabeth Fort – a place none of us had ever heard of, let alone visited. Even though it’s in the centre of the city, just next to one of the city’s main landmarks – St Finbarr’s Cathedral. A massive fort, built in 1603 – when the people of Cork were forced to not only rebuild, but also finance a new fortress… having gleefully destroyed the last one.

Well worth a visit.

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The event we were going there for was a fire show – part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. We had ummed and ahhed about availability last year, and by the time we’d made our minds up it was sold out. So this year, when I got the email through to say the festival had launched I was on to book tickets for it like a randy terrier.

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A fabulous fire show ensued. The Burning Quest – Inferno – a brand new show on a nautical theme and tonight was its premier – with superb movement sequences, humor and pathos. And lots of fire – juggling, poi, flaming swords, hats, umbrellas and ships wheels. With a blistering finale of fireworks and firecrackers.

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A couple of the Dream Gathering team were there in heavy spirits having just taken the very hard decision to cancel this year’s festival. :( Very sad for them…. and for all dreamers.

The Midsummer Festival continues over this weekend including a family picnic on Sunday… and plenty more great events next weekend too – so do check it out.

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