On Nov 19th 2010 I got to play piano on the stage in the Hawk’s Well Theatre for the first time. It was as part of a hugely enjoyable show Ciaran McCauley and I produced together called An Evening with Sgt Pepper – a musical reimagining of the famous Beatles album mixed with a narration of it’s story. You can see highlights from an earlier show in The Factory here…
Our Photoshop skills still needed quite a bit of work however…
I met Francie Heraughty after the show. Francie was a stalwart in the theatre – a dedicated member of staff for many years – and he came up to me with a huge smile on his face afterwards, because he was delighted to see some life back in the theatre. The theatre was only just over half-full that night, but that represented a good crowd back then.
Things have changed since. If it was this time last year, 200 people in the theatre on a Friday night in November wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary. This is due in a large way to the arrival in April 2011 of current director Marie O’Byrne, and the energy, commitment and ideas she has brought to the Hawk’s Well in the almost 10 years since.
A culture of creativity, possibility and openness exists there now and the large community of artists in the area have benefitted hugely as a result. Marie’s team also play a huge role – Maeve, Jane, Deirdre, Nigel, John, Vanessa, Anne and Nick and of course the board also deserve huge credit.
But if there’s one word that characterises what the Hawk’s Well in it’s current state is all about, it’s collaboration. Creating links between artists, making connections with the view of producing better work. It was because of one such programme that I started writing music 8 years ago. 5 years ago Marie had the idea to bring the theme nights to the Hawk’s Well in collaboration with the Sligo Academy of Music Sinfionetta and the creation of the now famous Theme Night Choir.
True collaboration is only possible if trust is present. And by this I mean room for disagreements, conflicts and challenges. A collaboration is dysfunctional if it’s smooth sailing all the time and ironically it’s more likely to be like this if trust isn’t present. We need a sense of belonging in our collaborations, so that we can show up fully as ourselves and bring each of our special gifts to the table.
To the Hawk’s Well’s credit, all this is there in spades there and between the people who work there and the many artists who use the magical space.
This year of course all of us would bite your arm off if you offered us a crowd of 200 people in the theatre. It’s not possible right now, and it won’t be for a while, but things will return, maybe even fleetingly as early as next month (I say hopefully) and the quieter days of 2010 and 2020 will be once again firmly in the past.
Column 12 for the Sligo Weekender. Published 19th November 2020.