On 29 May 2009, COPE Foundation and Cork City announced a joint venture—to host the first-ever Irish Performing Arts Festival for persons with intellectual disabilities. The festival, ‘brain child’ of Eoin Nash, Music Therapist with COPE Foundation, was open to all organisations that work with people with an intellectual disability and promote inclusion, expression and talent.
Supported in part with funds from Cork City Council and Cork County Council Arts Offices, the festival venues were the Firkin Crane, Cork School of Music and Cork City Hall, and Cork City Library. Over the two days the Irish Performing Arts Festival presented the finest performers in the realms of song, dance, instrumental performance and drama. Festival goers were delighted with the unique talents of the participants from the four corners of Ireland. Over six hundred performers were invited to take part in the two-day festival, along with those who visited the city to support the participants.
At the announcement-launch of the Festival, Councillor Brian Bermingham, Lord Mayor of Cork, said: ‘Cork City Council and I are delighted to be supporting this creative and innovative festival. Over the years I have witnessed the great work that the COPE Foundation undertakes and this festival is another example of how the organisation looks to acknowledge the wonderful talents of their clients. It is an honour for our city to host such a prestigious event and I believe it will grow over the coming years. I wish all the performers the best of luck and plenty of fortitude.’
The Festival line-up included: COPE Foundation, Cork; Ability West; Brothers of Charity Services (Galway); CoAction West Cork; St Christopher’s Services (Longford); Malta Services (Co. Louth); Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary Services (Westmeath); St Joseph’s Foundation (Charleville); Moore Abbey (South Kildare); Cashel Na Cor (Buncrana); County Wexford Community Workshop (Enniscorthy); Daughters of Charity Services; Delta Centre (Carlow); KARE (Kildare); Midway Leighsbrook Local Service (Navan); Peamount (Co. Dublin); Rehab Care, Sligo; SOS Kilkenny; Stewarts Hospital Service, Dublin; Sunbeam House Services (Wicklow) and the Walkinstown Association (Dublin).
Recognising the uniqueness of talents of those participating, Festival Coordinator Eoin Nash stated at the launch: ‘I have been very fortunate over the past number of years to have experience the fantastic talents of persons with intellectual disabilities. It is our hope that the Irish Performing Arts Festival will highlight this aptitude for performing and encourage people to attend the festival events. A lot of planning has gone into organising this festival and excitement is building already around the two days. Various groups are practising long hours and I know that festival goers will be in for a special treat over the two days.’