Currently Paul is the Director of An Táin Arts Centre, Dundalk. Paul has a BA
in Drama from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and an MA in Drama and Theatre
Studies from NUI Galway. Paul is Artistic Director of Catastrophe Theatre Company
for whom he has directed 20 plays including Up the Yard and LOVE and other disguises.
Paul was Head of Drama at Monaghan Institute for three years before moving on to
become Community Arts Officer with Meath County Council. He worked as General
Manager for Upstate Theatre Project in Drogheda for three years and was both
producer and dramaturg on At Peace and Submarine Man. He has directed five shows
for Upstate including The Ones Who Kill Shooting Stars and Ship St. Revisited.
An Táin Arts Centre is an independent arts space in Dundalk, Co. Louth based
in the former Táin Theatre, Town Hall, Crowe Street. An Táin was established as
an independent organisation in early 2014, with the aim of re-establishing the
building as a community-focused working arts space. The centre houses a 350 seat
main theatre, a 55 seat studio theatre, a visual arts gallery and two workshop
spaces. Their programme is a diverse collection of local arts, national tours,
workshops, visual arts and in-house productions. An Táin Arts Centre is kindly
supported by Louth County Council and has been in receipt of Arts Council funding
Website: www.antain.ie | Facebook: www.facebook.com/antainartscentre | Twitter: @antainarts | Instagram: @antainarts
How has daily life in your Arts Centre been affected by the COVID-19 health crisis?
Changed utterly. Its been 8 months and I don’t think back in March any of us expected to be where we are now. But artists keep creating and its our job to bring their creations to as many people as possible and that is what we have done. The small team
at An Táin Arts Centre have produced, facilitated, supported and showcased the work of over 100 artists since March as part of our OFFSITE programme. Their work and creativity have since reached thousands of people across the globe. Our building
has been closed for most of the past 8 months so our core team of four had to get used to working from our spare rooms. And Zoom became that lover we thought we didn't need, but we keep coming back to.
What do you think about what Arts Centres might do into terms of ‘digital programming’ in the future?
In the short to medium term we all need to explore and offer exciting new ways of bridging the gap between artist and audience. Online content is one way of doing this and it offers a wonderful opportunity to reach audiences, not only in our local community
but both nationally and internationally. It’s also a wonderful way to engage with our audiences directly, through the various platforms, but it is not the only way. Not everyone has access to the internet or feels safe online, so it is important
if we can’t open our buildings that we continue to find alternative ways to reach our audience.
Prior to the pandemic, did digital content play a role in your programme?
Very little, digital content used to be seen to support the main programme, now it has become the main programme.
What sort of digital or socially-distant content have you presented during this time?
Off-site productions have always been one of the key components of An Táin Arts Centre’s programme. Every year we produce an Off-site promenade, family theatre show at Anaverna House and this was something that lent itself well during this period, as
it was outdoor and people could social distance and feel safe. We feel it is crucial not to be confined by the limitations of our building. All the world’s a stage…Also, there are some people who for whatever reason might never consider visiting an
Arts Centre, but can experience this work in a setting that they are more comfortable with. During lockdown, the ability to produce new work not dependent on our building was crucial. We pivoted what we do: we took Art to the streets of Dundalk,
in a series of temporary public art installations, in shop windows and online virtual galleries, we commissioned and published writing in local newspapers, held live streamed monthly music events, online book clubs, radio plays, streaming films, online
Q&A’s and instagram takeovers with artists and we engaged with our child audiences by asking them how they were experiencing lockdown and what they thought of COVID-19 through the project “Big Stories From Little Worlds” an audio documentary produced
in association with LMFM.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of creating initiatives or presenting work in this way?
Advantages: We have created new partnerships with care-homes, newspapers, local radio and many artists that we hadn't worked with before because we didn’t have the time.
Paradoxically due to the building being empty we have been able to offer more artists supports than ever before. We believe that one of the main ways that a venue can assist the artist is through residencies. They give the artist the time, space, funding,
resources and audience to create and develop. Due to COVID-19, in 2020 we expanded our usual residencies from one visual artist and a company in residence to four artists and our company in residence.
Disadvantages: A large part of what we do is to offer a place to perform for our community, schools and amateur groups. We have not been able to do this now for eight months and it will be at least that again before we can. These are large groups presenting
big shows that can take up to 6 months to rehearse. They cannot work online. It is their absence I miss most.
Have you learned any do’s and don’t’s from what you’ve been doing during this time and will this inform what you do in the future?
It's actually been an incredibly creative time for our team. Constantly devising new content and then adapting it to whatever new restrictions were being introduced. However it is not sustainable. It is very hard to monetise any of our OFFSITE program
other than getting donations. The government’s wage subsidy scheme is the only reason we can keep our core staff employed, when this runs out we need to be able to open fully.
And I don’t think the long term future is solely live streaming. There is a collective energy of nervous tension between performers and their audience that cannot be replicated from our couches, However having discovered these innovative new ways of reaching
our audiences, we have realised that there are some members of our community who may not have been able to attend a live shows in our building for whatever reason, but they now may have the option to enjoy it online from their home. Live streaming
will never replace being present in the live theatre, but it will definitely be a part of our programme as we all get to grips with these new ways of working.