'The Festival of the Dead: The Last Waltz' - Townhall Cavan Arts Space opening weekend!


‘The Festival of the Dead: The Last Waltz’

Townhall Cavan Arts Space|Opening Weekend

Thursday, 29th October – Sunday, 1 November, 2015


A four-day, round-the-clock ‘neon wake’, luminescent funeral pyres, nightmare jazz parades and a deathly ‘Ship of Fools’ will take you on a madcap, macabre theatrical journey through ‘The Thin Veil’ to the other world as Cavan Town’s new Townhall Arts Space opens with a ‘Festival of the Dead: The Last Waltz’ from 29 October – 1 November.


The former seat of municipal government in Cavan Town, this grand old building is now in the hands of Cavan’s brightest creative talents (trans-art Cavan and The Gonzo Theatre) and ‘The Last Waltz’ will see the building host four days and nights of non-stop theatre, music, film, and visual art.


After 106 years, one chapter comes to an end for this imposing sandstone building, but without death there can be no life. Past glories of the old Town Hall will be remembered as it embarks on a ‘Last Waltz’ before its new guardians usher in the culturally vibrant future of the building as a contemporary arts space.


The festival will see the entire building and grounds open 24 hours a day for four days from Thursday, 29th October till late on Sunday, 1st November, exploring all the Townhall's possibilities as an arts space. The organisers are inviting all artists, musicians, and performers from around the county and beyond to take part and celebrate the cycle of life. 


"This weekend is going to be a spectacular sensory experience, a feast for your eyes, ears, and soul,” says Siobhán Harton, one of the Creative Directors of Townhall Cavan Arts Space.


“‘The Festival of the Dead’ is mixing all contemporary art disciplines, taking a journey of celebration of the old Town Hall and its re-birth into the new Townhall Arts Space. This is trans-art and The Gonzo Theatre merging as one, so expect the unexpected!”


‘The Thin Veil’


The festival kicks off with the world premiere of award-winning playwright Philip Doherty’s new play ‘The Thin Veil’.


Directed by Doherty (The Gonzo Theatre), fresh from a hugely successful stint at the Edinburgh Fringe with ‘Pilgrim’, the play focuses on one man's life-journey through the entire range of the human experience, from his birth at the opening of the Townhall in 1908, through the decades of wild cultural change in Ireland, to the old man's final hours.


It is a shiver-inducing experience, with live music, seeped in magical realism and myth. “The entire building and grounds of the Townhall will become a playground for spectacle theatre through the surreal lens of one man's life,” explains Philip Doherty, also a Creative Director of Townhall Cavan. The play runs on Thursday, 29th October at 7.30pm and Friday 30th October at 7.30pm and 9pm. Admission is €15.


‘The Neon Wake’


As the old Town Hall crosses ‘The Thin Veil’, the occasion will be marked with a 72-hour ‘Neon Wake’, running from Thursday, 29th at 9pm until Sunday evening, 1 November.


The Front Room of the Townhall Arts Space will be transformed into a Irish scullery where a transparent, neon coffin will be suspended as the focal point for storytelling, recitals, music sessions, and a whole range of performance from local and international artists, celebrating life and death. The wake performances will continue round the clock for 72 hours, celebrating the past life of the Townhall. 

72-hour ongoing performance, every hour on the hour. Admission is free.


The Ship of Fools


The second stage of ‘The Festival of the Dead’ delves into the other side, with ‘The Ship of Fools’, an otherworldly, macabre musical journey where the deranged and mad are sent into ritual exile to a limbo-land between the spirit and physical world.


‘The Ship of Fools’ is a music and theatre experience created by Robbie Perry (Dead Can Dance) where audiences are lured onto a ship with no captain to secret locations around Cavan in search of the Paradise of Fools. It features performances by a host of artists including Ronan Ó Snodaigh (Kíla), Larry Beau, Daragh Slacke, Dee Armstrong and artist John Adams.  

Saturday, 31 October, times TBC. Admission €25.


‘Bed’ by Jane McCormack


Artist Jane McCormack will present her art installation in Townhall’s gallery space for the duration of the festival.Bed’ is a development from a series of work called ‘The Incubation’, which toured to galleries on both sides of the border in 1997-99. “Making the incubation work evoked memories of my father,” says Jane. “As my father’s memory began to fade through Alzheimer's disease in the last years of his life, the clarity of these images and the urge to recreate them grew stronger for me”.


The light in ‘Bed’ is fixed to fade on and off to a breath like rhythm and is accompanied by a sound piece. In the darkened room Bed becomes a birthing bed and a dying bed; a place of sanctuary as well as a place of incubation.

All weekend. Admission free.


The Fire on the Gallows


On Sunday, 31 October at 6pm, as the Neon Wake draws to a close, the venue’s mundane clerical past is finally laid to rest, so that its new cultural identity can burst forth from the ashes. The Neon coffin will be burned in a funeral pyre at the Gallows Hill, a favoured former hang-out of local ne’er-do-wells, with music and fire performers to see it on its way.


This is followed by The Jazz Nightmare Parade - Fiesta del es Muertos - A New Orleans style night-time street parade through the streets of Cavan with brass and jazz musicians, dancers and fire-performers. Public and performers alike are invited to dress up as The Dead for this macabre Mardi Gras through the streets, and back to the Townhall for the Party of Rebirth.

Sunday 1st November 2015, 6pm, starting location Townhall Cavan. Dress up as the dead! Families welcome Admission Free


The Party of Rebirth


A new energy from the ‘Other World’ will be channelled into a new beginning for Townhall Cavan Arts Space. Live bands, performers and DJs will play into the early hours with a live interactive installation inviting everyone to replenish their soul for the new journey ahead. 


For more information on Townhall Cavan Arts Space and the Festival of the Dead, visit, ‘like’ townhallcavan on Facebook or follow @townhallcavan on Twitter. The full programme of events for November and December 2015 is attached and available to download online here. Tickets are available from Multisound Cavan. Phone  049 436 1312.

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