The hot-dog and ice-cream vans parked outside Kilkenny Castle said it all. The Kilkenny Arts Festival with its schedule of theatre, classical and Irish music, puppet shows and art exhibitions was open to everyone, even children.
No better way was this shown than with the giant canvases draped along the castle and around the streets of the city. For those who didn't know the work of Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, his huge pictures of local children were a delight.
The canvases showing images from the Nazi era just left them confused, but the throngs who visited Kilkenny during the weekend snapped away with their cameras all the same.
Ms. Anne Quiggle who was on a tour from Minnesota wasn't impressed, however. "It doesn't belong on the castle. It's ruining the view," she said.
Ms. Joni Delaney O'Connell, the tour organiser, said the Nazi images were just "too political" for an arts festival.
Mr. Seamus Raben from Celbridge came to see Helnwein's work. "The craftmanship is outstanding, and it's great how he involves himself with the local community," he said.
At City Hall, crowds gathered to hear a harpist and a singer, others bought from the jewellery stalls and children had their faces painted. The weather failed to dampen the spirits and the flames of the fire juggler on St. Kieran's Street and his friend playing the bongos.
The children at the puppet show at Friary Hall weren't concerned about the weather either, being far too engrossed in the storyline of the Emperor's New Clothes. Later in the evening the play Kvetch kept the controversial element of the festival going, this time a sexual element causing the stir.
Others chose an evening of lively music performed by Dervish. While Ms. Mei Chung from Canada had never heard their music before she fell in love with it instantly and bought a CD in the interval.
The Kilkenny Arts Festival ends on August 19th.
Gottfried Helnwein, AT THE KILKENNY ART FESTIVAL, 2001
12.Aug.2001 The Irish Times Judith Crosbie