An Interview With Festival Director Edel Tobin

Everything started with the Waterford Walls Festival, how did the need to build this extraordinary reality come about?

Waterford Walls was started as a response to a socio-economic problem in Waterford City. It was about enlivening public space and connecting communities.

 

Could you tell us how you came to start with The Walls Project?

The Walls Project started a response to the huge success generated from the Waterford Walls Festival. From the amazing artwork on display in Waterford City, many groups and organisations asked for similar work commissioned for their town/city.

 

Could you tell us how you came to start with the Creative Europe Programme “Murals for Communities”? How did Waterford City Council choose The Walls Project to implement the plan in Waterford?

Creative Europe was another initiative that started as a result of the huge success of Waterford Walls Festival. Waterford Council could see the benefits of mural art and how it connects and strengthens communities. So they partnered with The Walls Project to apply for European funding to bring Murals for Communities to Waterford City and two other European cities: Heerlen (Netherlands) and Kaunas (Lithuania)

 

What is the core concept of each project?

Grass roots community led, to inspire and connect communities. To enliven and regenerate public space with large scale public art for all to engage with and enjoy.

 

What are the strengths of each project?

For all 3:
The regeneration of public space with large scale mural artwork.
Inspires and connects communities.

 

How do you choose the placement of the artwork?

It depends on each project.
The Walls Project is client led, so the artwork content and the wall choice is in the hands of the owner.
Waterford Walls Festival: It depends on what the focus will be on each year for example, portraits, nature etc. Also the walls we are able to secure for each year’s programme and their size dictates the best-suited artist and style to be painted on the wall.
Murals for Communities: This project is very much community led so the workshop process is the most important part of this initiative and the ideas from the community group influence the artwork to be painted on the wall by the artist.

 

Do you think The Walls Project’s presence in this area may be able to stimulate other initiatives?
We would hope so. We hope our work inspires others to take action and create.

 

How did you establish the relationships with stakeholders, businesses and sponsors, and how did these change over the years?

Each project has been a response to demand from another. And each has different needs. I would describe it to being similar to starting a business. It has grown in scale and along with this the personnel needed to work on the project has grown. New systems need to be put in to place to operate the growing business. Generally speaking, I would divide the projects in the following:
The Walls Project: Privately generated income (not public funded) from commissioned artwork and workshops.
Waterford Walls Festival event: Public funding, sponsorship, donations and fundraising.
Creative Europe: European funded and sponsorship.

 

How many stakeholders, businesses and sponsors are involved with Murals for Communities?
22

 

How many stakeholders, businesses and sponsors are involved with Waterford Walls?
125

 

How many stakeholders, businesses and sponsors are involved with The Walls Project activities around Ireland?
45

 

What are the strengths and weaknesses of organising cultural events in Waterford?

Strengths:
Long heritage and pride in Waterford of arts and culture.
Public enthusiasm and desire to engage with cultural projects.
Waterford Council openness to open discourse on cultural project ideas.

Weaknesses:
Very difficult to access the funding required to organise and develop cultural projects.

 

Regarding Murals for Communities, how do you think the residents and international communities in Waterford, who are taking part in the project, will benefit from their participation?

I think the benefits will be huge. Firstly it gives residents and international communities a voice to express their opinions and ideas on their experiences of living in Waterford. This should give them a feeling of belonging and rootedness in Waterford. Murals for Communities is organised and designed to connect different groups together and this can only build a better society in general in the city.

 

How do you think the overall Waterford community will benefit from the project? What are your expectations?

The main hope is that the participating communities will feel strengthened and valued through their work with us. We intend inviting the wider Waterford community to get involved and to understand the culture of these different groups. This is at the end of the day what is Waterford’s ultimate strength as it is a city founded on trading links between different people so the heritage is there on welcoming different nationalities.

Wall owner scheme closing on November 30th.

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