- 21 Dec 20
The 2021 SoFFT Nights festival will feature performances from Cormac Begley, Bunoscionn, Lemoncello, Soda Blonde, Maija Sofia and Nava. Photo: Ruth Medjber
Last week, SoFFT Nights announced new headline acts for their forthcoming festival in Meath. The intimate festival has already seen a successful Covid-friendly event, which took place this past October in Dunderry Park. Now, we chat with organisers Natasha Duffy and Conor Jacob about past (and hopefully future!) SoFFT Nights events, ahead of their March and April 2021 festival.
I know you successfully organised a Covid-friendly event during the Autumn. Was it important to you to show Ireland (and the world) that it is possible to stage live events and have concerts if everyone is respectful and mindful? How did it feel when the event was labelled a success?
Conor Jacob: We felt like we had done something important. Pandemic or no pandemic, you have to mind your soul. Art and culture are not things Irish people can live without. Trying to turn it off indefinitely is futile. We will always find a way. In this case it was conscientious, socially distant and intimate, and it was beautiful. Everyone present mattered, everyone contributed and everyone was better off for it.
I'm curious about the wellness aspect of the festival. Could you elaborate about what kind of programming will be available at the festivals?
Natasha Duffy: I have always worked in programming well-being events as well as music and we felt that, due to the effects of Covid on people’s mental health, we really wanted this to be a strong aspect of our mini-festivals. When people arrive at the event there will be yoga, talks on mindfulness, shamanic drumming in the forest as well as meditations in a megalithic cairn that was built on the grounds of Dunderry Park. The event also takes place on 25 acres of wooded parkland and we open really early on the day of each concert, so people can come along and take walks, get lovely food and drinks, take in some pop-up performances before setting down to check out their favourite band! In between, we have some fire pits going to keep the hands and bods toasty! What I’d love is that the events leave people feeling better than when they arrived and they get to share it with their buddies or partners.
What have you missed most about the live music industry since the beginning of Covid?
Natasha Duffy: I think we have missed both the aspect of going to live music and also being part of the buzz of working at festivals and gigs. I think everyone can agree that we are pretty hard-wired to desire communal experiences of witnessing music or art or theatre together, and there is something very special about being close together, hearing a band or artist play live. Along with that, there is a release in it or a catharsis. So I think everyone is feeling the lack of it in some way. This is one of the big reasons we’ve put so much work into trying to create live experiences in this time and to not only focus on live streaming. All our events are for small crowds, outdoors and socially distant – but with really prolific acts. The event in October showed us it could be done and it’s really exciting to be looking to 2021 and know that experience is in our grasp.
Do you hope to expand SoFFT Nights in the future, when the vaccine becomes widely available and there are less concerns about capacity? Or do you hope the event will always be an intimate and smaller affair?
Natasha Duffy: We love the intimate nature of the events, and I think we would like to expand in a different way. Perhaps work with arts councils in different counties to bring the SoFFT Night experience across the country. Caroline is a very strong production manager and Both myself and Conor are also designers (set and lighting), and the beauty of the concerts is also really important to us. We also have a particular interest in crossing forms of art as well and the events include theatre, spoken word and film too. Expansion in that way would be really exciting. Like all arts and music organisations, we will need help and support from Government, but we feel like there has been a positive shift in that department over the last few months, thankfully.
• Visit this story for more information on upcoming SoFFT Nights events.