John Cummins is a poetician and tends to perform off the cuff.

So he can’t recall exactly what rhymes he spun when he recorded his contribution to this year’s Five Lamps Arts Festival around six weeks ago, he says.

“I’d have so many rhymes in my head, I do like to fuse things together,” he says.

But Cummins recalls his feelings that day in the D-Light Studios in Ballybough when they recorded the material for the festival with clarity, he says.

The buzz of being around other artists, performing live after months without.

“Even though we were wearing masks, I really enjoyed sitting around and listening to people playing their things,” he says. “I realised that day how much I missed live art.”

That experience inspired him to write a poem called “Culture”, he said, on the phone on Monday. “What we’re lacking, what we’re needing. Live art, by the living and breathing.”

Cummins starts dropping rhymes. “Same room. Same time. Shared. An acoustic guitar or a full band blared.”

The Five Lamps Arts Festival is a celebration of the artists and stories of Dublin’s north inner city. It’s usually live. But this year the producers have adapted instead of cancelling.

The artists all rejigged their performances to squeeze them into an hour-long film, which launches at 7pm today.

“We have music, dance and poetry, a little play,” says Marcela Parducci, the project manager with the festival. “We have even a drag queen.”

A Diverse Set

The drag queen is Avoca Reaction, the host and producer of The Queer Cabaret at Bow Lane and Drag Storytime Ireland.

Some of the artists are well known. Like film director Peter Sheridan, who ponders whether there is a sense of humour unique to Dublin.

The festival also features a young rising star of Dublin songwriting, Gemma Dunleavy from Sheriff Street, who recently had a hit with “Up De Flats.”

Go Dance For Change is an Afro-Brazilian dance platform that aims to promote mental and physical health and inspire social change through dance.

There is original poetry, music and song and a play called Sisters set in the north inner city and written by Michael J Harnett.

As well as the film, full performances will also be screened, in the days after the launch, says Parducci.

A Look at Sisters

Sisters is a play about two women set in Cabra and the North Circular Road, says Harnett, the playwright.

“They meet by absolute coincidence in Tesco in Phibsboro,” he says.

The women haven’t seen each other for years but the older woman lives in a big house on the North Circular Road and the younger woman’s mother used to be a cleaner for her family.

There is an age difference, a social class difference. But as the two women get to chatting, it turns out that they are both going through traumatic separations, he says.

The older woman, Angela’s, sister is dying.

Mona, the younger woman, understands the pain of separation as she has had relationship problems. Her husband is an addict.

But Mona has made a life, gone to school, got a job and raised her children well, he says.

“The result of their meeting is cathartic in the sense that they both explore where they are at,” says Harnett. “It is about empathy and hope and at its most basic it is about love.”

It is not a tale of woe, he says. “It’s a story with a bit of a lift. It isn’t always shoes leaking and stones in your shoe,” he says laughing.

Harnett should have been doing another play, The Cloud Spotter, for the festival. They were in the second week of rehearsals when Covid hit, he says.

That play has similarities to Sisters. It is set in the inner city too, a story of hope and perseverance.

The Cloud Spotter is a story of a young lad being reared by his grandmother in the inner city. “His mother is dead and his father’s in prison,” says Harnett.

“But it is not a hard-luck story. It is a story about creativity and how the young lad makes good,” he says. But it was too long for the online festival.

He is hoping that play will be able to go ahead at some stage next year. “As soon as things settle we will back on,” he says.

In the meanwhile, Harnett says he was impressed when the producers, Róisín Lonergan and Marcela Parducci said they wanted to go ahead with the festival.

“Fair dues, they decided to go ahead with the festival online,” he says. “They have got great energy.”

The Five Lamps Arts Festival is free. It launches on Facebook@5lampsart on Wednesday 21 October at 7pm. It will also be available to view on YouTube from 8pm onwards.

The full performances will be screened on social media platforms in the coming weeks.

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at

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