independent

Friday 18 October 2019

Opera story strikes bum note with Wexford folk

U.K. NEWSPAPER QUESTIONS COMMUNITY SPIRIT

MARIA PEPPER

AN ARTICLE in the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. about Wexford Festival Opera has sounded the wrong note in many quarters.

The piece by journalist Kate Molleson, which was published last week, suggests that while Wexford is home to a world-class opera festival, local people feel shortchanged.

Describing Wexford as a 'sleepy Irish harbour town', the writer questions whether the community spirit on which the festival was founded, is still intact.

'It depends on who you talk to,' she wrote as she quoted two customers of Simon's pub criticising the price of tickets and bemoaning the fact that local stagehands were ditched years ago because they weren't professional enough.

It transpires that her two interviewees – 'Benjamin Joseph' and Paul, a cobbler and former voluntary worker with the festival - were the only customers in Simon's when she called in one quiet evening at 5 p.m.

In her introduction to the article, Ms. Molleson describes standing on a scruffy headland across the harbour from Wexford town and seeing 'an unlikely skyline' with mossy slate roofs and a huge lopsided fly tower.

'Wexford is a quiet seaside town of modest mussel dredgers and narrow back streets,' she wrote.

Judging by the feedback around Wexford after the article was published, some people felt insulted by some of the comments.

Businessman and councillor George Lawlor is not unhappy about journalists highlighting Wexford's quaintness.

But he rejects any inference that the festival is distancing itself from the local community.

'It's wrong to suggest that Wexford doesn't embrace the festival and vice versa,' he said.

' The opera festival and the community are very much intertwined.'

' You get 20,000 people turning out on the quayfront for the opening.'

'Businesses in Wexford benefit hugely from the income generated by the festival,' he added. Volunteers are also still very much part and parcel of the festival, he asserted.

' Times change and circumstances change but the community is still very much involved in the festival.'

'I know of two Wexford people who have taken temporary leave from their jobs as shoe shop manager and sacristan to work full-time with the festival,' he added.

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