Friday, September 19, 2008

Tweaking into a whole new era....

*This article originally appeared in the Limerick Independent*

Running a festival which encompassed performances and workshops dealing with such ideas as sound-art, interactive media and digital technologies, and electronic music, would certainly not have been plausible until very recently.

Times are changing, and as quick as one can blurt out “holy smokes”, a new festival has landed on our doorstep. Tweak is coming to Limerick, and is undeniably one of the most multi-faceted events to have take place within this realm in not just this city, but the country.

While most people were trying to get over eating too much pudding last Christmas, Nora O’ Murchú came back to work on her Phd at UL revitalised after her holidays, and with plans of running a festival.

“I was trying to explore a couple of alternative avenues in Limerick, and I have a huge love for digital art and wanted to bring that to Limerick city as well,” she explains.

Considering that there are now Masters courses in Interactive Media and Music Technology in UL, and numerous design courses in UL and LSAD, Nora agrees that Limerick is ripe for an event of this stature: “The course-work that’s going on in UL and the Art College is quite reflective of what is going on in Tweak.”

Last February, she started lobbying a number of different people from different disciplines for help, namely Jürgen Simpson and Robin Parmar of Soundings, Sean Taylor at the Art College, and designer/photographer Dave Gilligan, and was met by common enthusiasm.

“I just thought visually I could do a lot to help, and I think myself and Nora had pretty much the same idea once we started to talk about it. From there, it was the usual design process – deciding what we wanted to say and how we wanted to say that,” says Dave

“There was total freedom - we worked closely together, but we were quite consistent in the approach we had to it,” he adds.

Of course, coming up for the name for anything like this can be one of the more perplexing parts of the jigsaw. However, something stuck in Gilligan’s head: “One thing I kept coming back to was where if you’d be djing, producing, sampling, or anything like that; you’d have knobs and dials - things that you’d tweak.”

The workshops element, taking in everything from circuit bending to hacking, and all in between, kicks off on Monday (September 22), and runs all week at the Limerick School of Art and Design.

An open call online for submission proved quite fruitful. “Submissions came from all over the world. We had artwork from Israel, Japan and the States, and workshops from places like Berlin and France. The reaction has been phenomenal, and I didn’t quite expect to get so much feedback straight away. Within two weeks, we pretty much had the programme laid out,” admits Nora.

“We had themes that we wanted to bring into the festival, and we had a few people in mind, so we approached them straight away, which happened with the likes of Digital Slaves and France Cadett,” she adds.

The locations Tweak use are all city-based, which Nora stresses was pretty crucial:

“It is definitely a festival for Limerick City. It is open to the public and the majority of the festival is free. It’s important that people know that it is not just for students.”

Exhibitions will be around the city also, with one particular one hosting five artists at the Istabraq Hall at Limerick City Hall. “They are quite interesting pieces, I think a lot of people will get a kick out of them,” says O’ Murchú.

The nightly talks and performances start on Tuesday night at Trinity Rooms (September 23), with a Noise Night, album launch party for Corrugated Tunnel, Norman Jay, and Candela Sound System all appearing at the Granary venue during the week. The only ticketed event is the Tweak After Party on Saturday night at the Boathouse on Sarsfield Bridge.

One of the key events of the festival is on Thursday night (September 25) at Daghdha, with Soundings curating a line-up.

Robin Parmar of Soundings explains: “It has a lot of different components. Lyric FM co-sponsors a prize every year called the Diffusion prize. It is for young composers, under thirty-five years of age, and it’s for multi-channel, surround-sound compositions. We will be presenting the three winners.”

On top of that, previous winner Lucas Fagin will be showcasing his work, UL’s Kerry Hagan will perform a piece, and esteemed composer and writer of numerous texts, Trevor Wishart will give a talk and performance. “He is amazing for anybody who wants to get into electro-acoustic music and express themselves in a different way, without using formal music notation,” says Robin, visibly excited.

While the music will be playback music, Robin is quick to point out that they will “have the best multi-channel audio speaker system you’re going to ever hear and it puts you right in the middle of the sounds.”

While it has been a hectic process organising the festival, Nora acknowledges that it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Patricia Moriarty, the Department of CSIS and the Interaction Design Centre at UL, and Joe Clarke at the Trinity Rooms, amongst others.

And it seems, eyes are already set on a potential Tweak 2009. “Tweak is unique in Ireland and we hope to take it further from here. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again next year, bigger and better,” says Dave Gilligan.

Tweak runs at various locations around Limerick from Monday, September 22 to Saturday September 27. Tickets for the After Party are available from Empire Records (priced €10). More information from

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