The 4th Improv Fest Ireland has come to an end and I’m in that state of an emotional downer since we closed. This year’s festival was a resounding success on many levels. We had the largest line up since our inception and we expanded into two venues for the busier part of the festival week. We had almost double the amount of teachers since last year and all our workshops sold out. 29 acts (including mixer shows) took the stage over the week.

Diversity too is an integral part of the festival and this was very much on display with our selection of international teachers and acts. This is something I’m proud of, but diversity in the arts should go without saying.

Running an improv festival in no easy task. Things can and do go wrong. This year we had passport challenges, merchandise delivery problems and a small dose of a Marxism invasion. Fortunately for me the wonderful Órla Mc Govern had upped her stake this year by taking on the role of festival co-director. Órla’s experience and insight is invaluable in the improv world and is matched by her passion for the art. She has increased her involvement year on year and I was delighted with this move.

We had a big team of volunteers both in tech and non tech roles. Many people gave up a lot of their time to make the festival work and we’re very grateful for the commitment shown. Improv is supported by its community. Improv is community. Volunteers led by Kori and Lynsdey and tech led by Niceol and Brian did incredible work. It also important to mention family and loved ones who provide their support and understanding throughout!

Improv festivals are aplenty around the world. Festivals are an exciting way of getting to see a wide array of talent in your home town. This year alone, we saved the local community having to take a trip to Utah, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Finland, Belgium, UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Germany to name but a few! For anyone serious about exploring and developing their improv further, it’s a no brainer when it comes to catching a show or taking a class.

Camp Improv Utopia and its community has become an important part of my life since I first set foot in ‘camp’ in number of years ago. To have 19 other ‘Campers’ come to Dublin and play in the Camp Mixer Show was a personal joy. It was a lovely display of camaraderie and community with all those folks coming to Dublin. Improv makes the world smaller and Nick Armstrong is to blame!

I’m not going to go through all my personal highlights of the festival, and there are many, but the bar has been set incredibly high as we look toward next year and the 5 year anniversary. Oh Jesus.

The sense of community and love throughout the week was contagious. New friendships were forged and to many people, to borrow a phrase, “we will always have Dublin”.

But I mentioned early about the emotional downer and indeed mixed post festival feelings. The great thing about running an improv festival is you’re running an improv festival. The downside of running an improv festival is you’re running an improv festival. You don’t get to hang out with people as much as you would like and sometimes you’re stuffing your face with a pre-packed sandwich while shouting for punters to take their seat. You’re on such a high all week surrounded by the joy that this art form brings and the people with it. And just like that, it all comes to a close and reality returns.

Improv has changed my life and some of the people involved this year have changed my life. I strive to serve improv, to raise the bar, to build a community at home so that one day funding for improv is the norm and a night out to an improv show is as normal a night out to a trip to the bar. To have improv on our education curriculum so that kids in the future can get training in the skills that I never got in school. Once pipe dreams, these things are slowly becoming possibilities. Once Dublin only had 2 improv nights a week. Now we the wider scene has a festival, weekly ‘Tightrope’ nights, ‘Love! Improv’ Jams, ‘Wingin’ It’, community events, more skilled teachers to name but a few. I’d like to think that the Improv Festival also serves as a barometer for how a scene is evolving by seeing how the local community engage with local improvisers and visiting talent. This year, the love was very much all around us.

So a heartful thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey both directly and indirectly. Órla, the volunteers, the acts and teachers over the years and the ones who said not to listen to the naysayers back in year 1! We have come a long way and we live in exciting times as a result.

Of course, this year’s festival isnt actually done. We still have our ‘Celebrity Charity Show’ on Sunday November 27th in aid of Pieta House.

But looking nearer term…. As I said…. The 5 year anniversary. Oh Jesus.

A Festival of Improvisation
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