Festival sought to unite arts and activism

The Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival, which ran in mid-to-late October, was an exciting blend of online and in-person events.  

The festival, which has been running since 2018, stepped up its game this year, partnering with various organisations throughout Ireland. Founded by Front Line Defenders, it has been collaborating with Smashing Times, an ‘international centre for arts and equality’, since 2019.  

“We originally approached Front Line Defenders in the hopes that we could introduce an arts section,” Mary Moynihan, artistic director at Smashing Times, says. “But through a series of meetings we actually decided to collaborate and set up an overall Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival.”   

This year, both Smashing Times and Front Line Defenders partnered with other organisations to ensure a wide range of issues could be addressed.

These include Amnesty International, The National Women’s Council of Ireland, Trocaire and Poetry Ireland.  

Image courtesy of team at Smashing Times  

“It’s about bringing together artists who want to use their professional platform to reflect on or debate or provoke awareness raising discussions about what’s happening in the world”

Mary Moynihan, Artistic Director at Smashing Times

“Hope, Courage and Resilience: The Story Continues” was the theme of this year’s festival.

“I think that this year has been quite bleak,” Adam Shapiro of Front Line Defenders tells The Liberty in a phone call from the United States.. “But the human defenders continue to work and adapt to these situations and have become even more intersectional in working to tackle the problems that face both their society and globally. So we wanted to call that out, recognise it and celebrate it.”  

In 2020 the festival was forced to go entirely online in adherence with public health guidelines. Although the festival’s original plans that year had to be scrapped due to Covid-19, it did result in a huge increase in the number of people participating.  In 2019 the festival had approximately 1,000 attendees, but when the switch was made to online, “we had over 10,000 people getting involved directly from Ireland and across Europe and America”, explains Moynihan.  

This year’s hybrid festival discussed issues facing society today through a myriad of artistic platforms, including theatrical performance, artistic displays and live discussion panels.  

In recent weeks, a massive culture movement has overtaken Dublin following the outrage sparked at gentrification and proposed demolitions. There has also been general unrest in the country over the past few months over issues surrounding housing, discrimination and climate change.  

According to an article in The Irish Times, there has been a “disappearing act of venues and cultural spaces in the city”.  

Moynihan says the festival aims to “embed, and get people thinking and having creative conversations about cultural and human rights issues.  

‘Gathering on the pond’- artistic visual event, image courtesy of Smashing Times.  

“It’s about bringing together artists who want to use their professional platform to reflect on or debate or provoke awareness raising discussions about what’s happening in the world.” 

Climate change, women’s rights and the Irish language were among some of the topics to be discussed.  

“It sounds a little clichéd,” laughs Shapiro. “But there really is something for everyone. 

“We are really looking forward to next year when we get to welcome people back, hopefully in-person, and really kind of see the engagement between the audience and the artists.”