Fearghus Ó Conchúir: 'It is right to invest in these skills'

A "GUERILLA" dancer who brought his art to the streets of Dublin was funded to the tune of more than €75,000 by the government last year.

Fearghus Ó Conchúir was given two tranches of funding, €25,000 by Dublin City Council and a further €50,000 from the Arts Council, documents released to the Sunday Tribune have revealed.

Dublin City Council, who approved the original €2,000 a month stipend said it was money well spent and that they now planned to hire a filmmaker-in-residence instead.

Ó Conchúir, who lives in London, even managed to squeeze in trips to Shanghai during his tenure as Dublin's dancer-in-residence. His job was to surprise and entertain members of the public with his impromptu routines. One email sent by the dancer to the city council says: "In the meantime, I'm going to Shanghai at the start of April – a curious way to start my residency in Dublin but one which I hope will bear interesting results."

In another, he says: "It's been a busy few months for me. I've been working in Shanghai building links with performers there whom I hope to bring to Dublin and also beginning there the work on Bodies and Buildings I hope to pursue during my residency. I'm also performing this week in a new piece at the Opera House in Covent Garden."

Mr Ó Conchúir also received €50,000 in funding from the Arts Council for his programme to bring dance to the streets of Dublin.

In an email, he says: "Some pieces of good news to report. I've been successful in my Arts Council application to support the involvement of other artists in my Bodies and Buildings project and my Dublin City Council residency. It's not as much as I'd asked for but it rarely is and I will revise my programme according to the budget and update you about what I expect to be doing, if you're interested."

Mr Ó Conchúir even secured a Safe Pass so that he could dance on building sites. He said: "For the residency, I'm making dance that can be discovered around corners, in doorways, on tops of walls and, with the Safe Pass sanction, on building sites.

"So far, I've danced on the side of Guild Street, under cranes in IMMA's gardens, and in front of offices and building sites of the Grand Canal Theatre."

Jack Gilligan, Arts Officer with the City Council, said no decision had been made to cancel the dancer-in-residence scheme and that it was always intended to run for a period of 12 months. He said: "Most of our residencies would be no longer than a year, that's just the normal duration of a residency like that. What we try to do is rotate them so that we might have a dancer, then a musician, then a visual artist and a writer.

"We are expecting we will soon have a filmmaker-in-residence and we are just processing applications for that. These are quite common throughout the country, these types of residencies."

Fearghus Ó Conchúir told the Sunday Tribune: "Dublin City Council gave me €25,000 for the year to develop my work. Unlike a writer who is able to pursue his or her art at home without much input from others, the nature of my choreography is that I work with other people and that I need rehearsal space to make work. Therefore I applied to the Arts Council for funds under their Project Awards to allow me to pay for experienced dancers, for rehearsal space and for a variety of other artists (including a director and a filmmaker) to be involved.

"The Arts Council generously gave €50,000 towards these costs. None of that €50,000 was spent on me. From the total of €75,000 … I received a fee for the year of €25,000.

"As the Irish economy faces difficulty, I think there is something of immense value to be learned from the investment of the Arts Council and of Dublin City Council in the arts in general and in my work in particular. The number of outcomes, the range of employment, the raising of the profile of Irish creativity and innovation abroad are examples of how much can be achieved with limited resources. They were possible because artists are resourceful and innovative. It is right to invest in these skills. I am proud of these achievements."