On Thursday 30 May a showcase of Traveller Music and talent took place in the Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar as part of the Traveller Pride festival 2019. The Traveller Pride concert was designed to showcase the great musical talents among Travellers and the amazing, and often overlooked, contribution that they have made to Irish traditional music. The concert was also about providing a space for Travellers to come together and celebrate the tradition and allow it to flourish.
Travellers are Ireland’s only indigenous traditionally nomadic ethnic minority group. On behalf of the national Traveller representative organisations we were asked to organise the event.
The show started at 6.30pm and operated on an invite only basis, with Traveller groups from across the country being prioritised for ticket allocation. The line-up saw Steo Wall, Trish Reilly Nolan, Thomas McCarthy and Joe Reilly perform along with some up and coming Traveller singers and actors. Renowned Irish actor Michael Collins conducted a series of live interviews on the night. All of the performers were Travellers.
Steo Wall is a pioneering voice on the Irish music scene. He is an accomplished wordsmith with a unique musical style.
Trish Nolan is an excellent song writer. Her rich vocals are captivating, and her blues influences evident in her guitar and harmonica playing.
Thomas McCarthy is from a long line of traditional singers and musicians and believes in maintaining the strength of the old traditions of music and song. His voice and stories take us back to a time long gone.
Selina O’Leary was due to share her experiences of living amongst a nomadic Siberian tribe before performing a mixture of traditional and modern music but could not attend due to a family emergency. Sharyn Ward who recently came second in the Ireland’s Got Talent competition had won the Traveller Pride Award for music earlier that day, but unfortunately could not attend.
Young up and coming artists Caitlin Donovan and Emily Ward joined the line-up and blew everyone away with their own beautiful versions of modern classics.
Singer-song-writer Joe Reilly joined the line-up at the last minute and took the audience through tragedy and comedy in his interview with Michael Collins. He performed a mixture of his own songs and some country classics.
Thomas McCarthy speaking about the music tradition said, “Traveller music has developed enormously over the centuries. Field recordings from the last 60 years have inspired many young Travellers to play instruments and it makes them feel proud of their heritage. To me there is a fire in Traveller music that most settled people have not got. It has developed so much; in every family you will find a good singer, and more and more are coming out of the woodwork. I feel it is getting stronger and long may it continue to do so.”
Freda Hughes, Events Manager of the concert said, “These events are designed to celebrate and showcase Traveller culture and tradition, but also to act as a forum for people to engage with the issues faced by Travellers in Ireland today. There is a rich tradition, culture and indeed language which should be celebrated not marginalised and shunned as has been the case for too long.”
Leading Traveller activist Catherine Joyce, who co-hosted the event with us said, “Granting ethnic status to the Traveller community was a key step in protecting our human rights. I feel that recognition of the ethnicity of Travellers is key to the social change needed in Irish society to ensure real inclusion of Travellers. This showcase is designed to instil pride in our community and to honour or rich heritage and culture”
The Project Arts Centre were excellent partners in this event.
All videos by Warmlight Productions.
All photos by Mike Power and Colm Keating