Istanbul and the Festival that Didn't Happen

Eoin Dillon, Eamonn Lehane, Jenny Miller, Cathy Jordan, Seanan Brennan, and Rick Epping in the James Joyce Pub, Istanbul

Istanbul and the Festival that Didn't Happen


I took this photograph in the James Joyce Irish bar in downtown Istanbul recently, during the nearby clashes between demonstrators and riot police in Gezi Park.

Rick Epping (The Unwanted) and Cathy Jordan (Dervish and The Unwanted), and Eoin Dillon and Seanan Brennan of Kíla were invited over to play at an Irish music festival organised by expat Kate Fennell. It was to run from Thursday, 30 May, to Sunday, 2 June. Sadly, after a successful launch event on Thursday night, by Friday, with such large crowds of protestors on the streets and such a violent reaction from the police, the festival had to be cancelled.

The launch on Thursday had augured well: the Irish musicians had worked on some material to play together; Volkan Arslan, a Tulum pipe player from the Black Sea met and played with them; and members of the Laz women’s choir, Dalepe Nena, came to the opening that evening and sang a few songs, joined by Cathy Jordan and accompanied by the remaining Irish musicians.

While the shockingly heavy-handed response of the riot police led to an ever bigger and more determined protesting crowd, and as the festival unravelled, something else emerged from its elements. Eamonn Lehane, proprietor of the James Joyce, and an enthusiastic fiddle player, stepped into the breach, got the musicians from his regular Sunday session to make their way to the pub, and along with a few other visiting musicians from various parts of the world, music was played on both Saturday and Sunday night in the form of a very well received pub session.

While Jordan was down-to-earth beforehand, saying, ‘We’ll have to play music anyhow because that’s what we came here to do,’ Fennell was philosophic afterwards. ‘For now, we have to be happy with what we had and enjoy it for what it was,’ she said. ‘A taste of things to come,’ she said, hopefully.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of the music that was played at the session:

And a sample of music coming out of the demonstrations:

I have blogged about the festival that never was over here.

Published on 13 June 2013

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