Here Macnas’ artistic director Noeline Kavanagh sets out how Macnas was born of a visit to Galway by Spanish company Els Comediants, the release it brought to a recession stricken Galway, and how you can keep in touch with and help continue the company in its modern iteration.
It was late summer, 1985, in Galway. My dad had just lost his job and my older sister had recently emigrated to Canada. I was the last remaining child in the house. It was lashing rain and it was August. Desperate to get out of the house on a Saturday night my parents decided to go into town to check out a free street event scheduled for families.
We stood on the street in that dim, wet drizzly dusky rain at 8pm. There were lots of people gathered waiting on the street. We stood at the corner of Augustine Street, near the funeral home. I saw some of my friends from school and waved to them across the street. Dad met the McCaffreys from up the road and they started chatting. My mum recognised Marie Gayney from the bridge club and they huddled together in the rain talking about playing cards on a Thursday and the new sweetbread they had both bought from the market that morning. Here we all were standing on the streets for waiting something we knew nothing about, other than it was arty and free and out on the street.
Plumes of Red and Green
Suddenly plumes of red and green smoke filled the air, the sound of loud crashing pounding rhythm descended upon us. I had never heard this before, this thundering, pulsing, loud, vibrating sound. The air was filled with clouds of colour and out of the smoke the engineers of thunder and noise emerged, a troupe of masked and horned creatures, drumming and dancing. Then this huge beast with fire in his nostrils and in his mouth and with large luminous eyes, weaved wracked and roared his way down the street. As he approached me I stood rigid with fear and excitement and he breathed at me and I breathed fiercely back at him. People in costume with masks, horns and wild painted faces carried fire behind him. They danced, roared, laughed and scared us.
A Big Wide Grin
They came right up to us, into our faces, grabbed us, tickled us, teased us, made us laugh and cry, shriek, giggle and dance. I looked at my mum, her head thrown back roaring with laughter, and I looked up at my dad, this big wide grin spread across his face as he held tightly onto my shoulders. For two hours that night, the McCaffreys, the Gayneys, me and my Mam and Dad, my friends from school and the town travelled somewhere else. We visited the wild, the exotic, the unknown.
I felt different, something in me had changed and it would lead me to follow that Dragon energy to the Macnas workshop seven years later. For two hours my parents felt like they were no longer the Mr and Mrs struggling in a recession, in a three bedroom house in Renmore; they were part of something exciting and wild and wonderful, in our town and on our streets and that is the magic of a parade. That night, seeds were sown.
Els Comediants inspired and ignited a spark in a group of young visionaries and Macnas was conceived.
A Spark Ignited
That spark has continued and for over 26 Macnas has celebrated the brilliance of imagination, the zany, the incredulous, the larger than life, theatre out on the street. Generations of families in the city and county have been part of this great parade cycle, an occurrence that is unique to our space and place. Macnas means the world to Galway and has brought Galway to the world.
Creating a spectacular parade event of this scale on an annual basis is hugely challenging & we need help this year. The parade is a unique event, it has no box office and no big corporate company behind it. We want to sustain this phenomenon which is currently under threat due to lack of resources. We need to keep the pulse beating, keep conjuring up dreams and playing with the unpredictable. Let us keep the spirit alive and continue to go boldly out on to the streets for another generation.
If you would like to help we’d hugely appreciate your support in helping us to sustain this magical event. We would also love you to spread the word on our Fundit campaign [just 7 days to go from today, starting from just €15] and any additional information is available on our website, Facebook and Twitter.
You can also contact me on 091 568896 if you require any further information.
Noeline Kavanagh Artistic Director, Macnas.