- 08 Dec 20
Some of Ireland's brightest talents are joining forces in the unusual setting of Iarnród Éireann stations to raise money for homelessness causes this week.
Covid-19 hasn't stopped Irish artists from partnering with the Focus Ireland and Iarnród Éireann for a fourth year to raise vital funds on the charity's Facebook and YouTube pages. Previously, choirs and bucket collectors were on hand in nationwide stations for the charity, rather than recording artists.
Hot Press speaks to Brian Kennedy ahead of his gig tonight - Tuesday, December 8 - at 8pm in Heuston Station alongside Mary Coughlan, Mundy, The Riptide Movement and Eleanor McEvoy.
Initially coming to prominence as a member of fellow Belfast native Van Morrison’s touring band, Brian Kennedy is one of Ireland’s most celebrated solo talents – appearing as the featured vocalist in Riverdance on Broadway; performing at George Best’s funeral; featuring as a coach on the first series of The Voice of Ireland; and representing Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006.
Focus Ireland has been at the forefront of Ireland's homelessness services for years, what does the charity mean to you?
I love that the clue is in the title...they literally are a focus point for this awful predicament. I was homeless to a degree in my very early years in London and there's nothing more vulnerable making than not having a place to call home.
Do you think that this year is even more crucial for these services, given the pandemic and tough economic times?
Yes I do, the amount of people suffering of all ages. The loss of employment, the loss of being able to support yourself physically and then mentally of course and then not being able to see whatever your version of family is for support. We’ve never seen anything like this pandemic before and the second lockdown is even harder I think. The weather is also a factor, as we have seen even the last few days homeless people literally dying in the cold overnight on the streets. It just shouldn't be happening.
Can you tell us about your involvement in Iarnród Éireann's 'Stations Sessions' gigs?
I was so thrilled to be asked to part of something that continues to think up new ideas to stay focused on the plight of homelessness and I think it's an innovative way to raise money in the process. We filmed at about 1am in Heuston Station and even though we were as well wrapped up as we could be we were still freezing cold. All I could think about were the homeless who have no escape from it unless things change. Focus Ireland are a huge part of that change.
What artist are you most excited to see perform at the Station Sessions gigs?
Honestly I’m excited to see everyone whether they’re familiar friends like Mary Coughlan and Mundy or completely new artists.
What are your hopes for Ireland's live music industry in 2021 and touring in general?
My hope is that I will return to having a very busy gigging schedule. I miss playing Live so much, you just can't replace that visceral connection between and audience and an artist.
How will you be spending Christmas this year, given the unusual circumstances?
I haven't really decided yet because the rules are not clear yet. I will most likely be at home in Dublin. Christmas has always been a challenging time for me because of long term estrangement so I’ve often done last minute things that can be great. Last year I was in the wilds of Donegal at one of my best friends Anne’s family place and that was incredible. Then I usually have gigs again starting from the 27th of December so lets see what transpires.
Tomorrow's Station Sessions gig will see the Emer O'Flaherty Quartet, Emma Langford, Mick Flannery and Jack O'Rourke perform in Cork's Kent Station before State Lights, Ollie Cole, Damien Dempsey and Erica Cody finish off the week's gigs in Pearse Station on Thursday night. Tune in through the Focus Ireland Facebook page here or YouTube channel here.