By Ciara Farrell, Meán Scoil Mhuire
The Aisling Festival is an extraordinary children’s arts festival, and it takes place right here in Longford.
I spoke with the Chairperson of the festival committee, Clare Macko, as she outlined the work involved in organising the festival, shared her personal highlights ahead of this year's event and told us what's in store for the festival’s future.
Ciara Farrell: Why are you involved in the Aisling Arts Festival?
Clare Macko: I got involved in the Aisling Festival about four years ago when Sive McGuinness, who was a member of the committee, asked me to get involved.
CF: Describe the work that goes into organising the festival?
CM: The work that goes into the festival, making the festival possible every year, is enormous. It is only made possible because of a voluntary committee, who meet about once a month. It’s all women this year and they work diligently behind the scenes contacting various different organisations, looking for sponsorship and making sure the festival is a success.
CF: What is your favourite aspect of the festival?
CM: I think it has to be the family fun open day. This is a free day for families in Longford. It kicks off the festival each year. This year it’s on the 23 of October in St Michael’s Primary School.
This is a lovely day to see all the families and children from all over Longford. Billy Bubbles, a magician, will be on show this year. There will be various different workshops for the children to engage in and there will be lots of carnival games, face painting, nails and tattoos and all sorts of activities for young children.
CF: How do you feel about losing the grant from the Arts Council?
CM: Obviously, losing the grant from the Arts Council was a huge blow to the Aisling Festival. The Arts Council funding is a huge part of our budget and to see that cut entirely was extremely disappointing. However, our local sponsors have been very generous this year and we have a spectacular festival lined up.
CF: What do you think is in store for the festival? Are you optimistic about the festival’s future?
CM: We were devastated about losing our funding from the Arts Council this year.
We are hopeful about next year that the Arts Council will see the benefit in funding the Aisling Children’s Arts Festival, so hopefully they will come back and fund us again in the future. Especially since next year will be the Aisling Arts Festival’s 20th festival, it is very important that we do receive funding for the festival.
CF: What goals did the festival begin with? How did the committee achieve these goals?
CM: The goal of the Aisling Festival has always been to bring the arts to children of all backgrounds in the Longford area. It is on the go now for the last nineteen years, and is something that we would like to see continue.
Every year we think of a new theme and this year’s theme is 'A Better World'. But basically our goal is to bring the arts to children who may not experience it in their lifetime.
CF: Why do you think the festival has been so successful over the years?
CM: The success of the Aisling Children’s Art Festival has been primarily down to the people of Longford, who have come out every year to support us financially and who come to our theatre workshops and shows.
The festival is very much promoted in schools by teachers. The art competition is immensely popular, with nearly 1,700 entries this year from children of all ages and from schools across the county. And again we have to thank our sponsors in Longford who year after year return very generously and support us in our endeavours.
CF: How would you describe the atmosphere of the festival?
CM: The festival is a fun-filled week where creativity can flourish. Again I suppose the highlight is the open day, where you can really see children being creative and enjoying the arts.
This article is just one of many contributed by students from Ardscoil Phádraig, Granard; Ballymahon Vocational School and Meán Scoil Mhuire for the Aisling Children’s Arts Festival supplement, which is free with this week’s Longford Leader.