Tipp woman Cliona Maher is dedicated to improving the provision of the arts in Clonmel 

Artistic Director is busy preparing for Clonmel Junction Arts Festival

Eamonn Wynne

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Eamonn Wynne

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ewynne@nationalist.ie

Cliona Maher

A pop-up venue, with live streaming capacity, will allow the Clonmel Junction Arts Festival to programme events at all levels of Covid-19, says Artistic Director Cliona Maher

A strong commitment to improving the provision of arts in Clonmel, while providing a platform for the wealth of local talent that’s available, is the inspiration for Cliona Maher in her role as Artistic Director of Clonmel Junction Arts Festival.

The Clonmel woman and her team are now busy preparing for this year’s festival, which will be staged from July 3-11 when Junction will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Junction started in 2001 as a celebration of touring theatre and live music. Over the years it has grown into a week-long arts festival, where national and international acts share a stage with some of the best local talent, and it is one of the leading arts events of the summer in the South East. 

Needless to say, the pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges for summer festival organisers last year and this year.  

“Last year we were the first multi-disciplinary arts festival to move our full programme online,” says Cliona.

“This year we have funding to develop a pop-up festival venue with live streaming capacity, so we can programme events at all levels of Covid-19, although Level 5 is livestream only. 

“It means we can offer security to artists and safety to the public – with fingers crossed to be able to welcome audiences, as the live experience is so different to online.”

Cliona is the daughter of Kathleen and the late Seamus Maher, a pharmacist who for many years operated a pharmacy in O’Connell Street, Clonmel.

From a young age, she has had experience of working in different art forms in Europe and the United States prior to taking up her current role.

“I started out 30 years ago as an actress,” says Cliona. 

“After attending the Gaiety School of Acting I worked with companies like Rough Magic and Fishamble, as well as the Abbey and Gate Theatres. 

“I even did a couple of episodes of the television series Fair City! 

“I moved into other areas such as directing, facilitating workshops and running arts projects. 

“I’ve worked in theatre and music in Ireland, the United States and France.” 

Moving back to Clonmel with her family after 14 years in Lyon in 2017, she was the Director of South Tipperary Arts Centre before moving to her current position as artistic director of the Junction Festival in 2019.  

Does she believe that the arts in general should receive greater Government funding and support?

“Having lived in France for 14 years, I can see how organised and connected support for artists and arts organisations brings music, theatre and literature in all their forms into the lives of communities. 

“There is support in Ireland, but because the sector is underfunded - particularly in a town like Clonmel, which lacks infrastructure such as a professionally-equipped venue, with rehearsal and studio space, as well as promotion and marketing support - it doesn’t have the impact it could. 

“I am very interested to see how the current Government’s plans for trialling universal basic income in the arts and culture sector will be rolled out, as it could be a gamechanger for the arts in Ireland.”  

For more information on the Clonmel Junction Arts Festival see http://www.junctionfestival.com.  

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