Culture Vultures Looking to Get its Talons Into Arts Festivals in 2015

Culture Vultures Returns to the Odessa Club on Wednesday the 18th with a public interview, music and poetry.

This Wednesday Culture Vultures returns for its second year with a public interview with Richie Egan, the man behind Jape, who has recently released an album called This Chemical Sea and starts his Irish tour the following day with a gig in the Academy. Richie Egan is an Irish music institution, this is his fifth studio album with his band Jape. He currently lives in Malmo, Sweden with his family. The night will also feature music from Slow Skies and a spoken word performance from Paul Curran.

Culture Vultures is a multi-stranded, salon themed arts night where an audience gets to see three different pieces of entertainment for the reasonable price of €10. It is held in the salubrious environs of the Odessa club and since March last it has built, by word of mouth, a cohort of followers and become a night to earmark for fans of music, books, film, spoken word and comedy.

The night is curated by Tony Clayton-Lea with the help of Andrea Keogh, Odessa music and events booker, “Andrea is a very important part of putting the evening together. I want to stress that. I curate the spoken word and the interview but she helps me with the music. Andrea is crucial because she’s a booker. I can’t speak booker, Andrea can.”

 
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As journalists go Tony Clayton-Lea has an interesting back-story. At 15, having just finished his inter-cert, Clayton-Lea left school in Drogheda to join the Royal Navy. It was the 70s and rural boredom had set in. Drogheda, in those days, had little to satiate a teenager’s curiosity. There was an advertisement for The Royal Navy on the back of the Daily Mirror, “which back in the sixties was quite a pioneering, working class paper – not the red top it is today. English papers were all I read at the time because Mum had lived most her life in London before moving back to Drogheda with me and my brother. They were all she bought.” Those ads seemed like as good an answer to the restlessness as any.

Within six months he was off in Plymouth on a shipyard parade ground starting his training. Once he qualified, Clayton-Lea served for five years on various ships as a computer engineer getting to travel the world in the process. He has no regrets about taking the leap and dreads to think where he’d be if he didn’t.

Clayton-Lea’s interest in music and journalism came about because his mother posted him out weekly copies of the Drogheda Independent, The Daily Mail and music magazines such as NME. The magazines were his cultural bibles, “You would read an interview with David Bowie and he’d mention Jean Genet or William Burroughs and Kafka or Camus and I’d be going, ‘who are these people?’ I hadn’t heard of them then. I’d get the books and read them or go see the movies. It was a ripple effect, ah so that’s what he means about that or that’s how he got the song title ‘The Jean Genie’. It was my college.”

His training in the Navy was in electronics, he was a computer engineer on board the ships. After five years he had enough of being told what to do and curfews so he quit. Back at home he was able to get a job as a computer engineer as a result of his experience.

When he returned to Drogheda he couldn’t talk of his Navy past with friends and colleagues because it was the 70s, mid-Troubles and talking about the fact that you served in the Royal Navy was not advisable, especially in the border county of Louth. “Up until I wrote that article a few years ago for The Irish Times, most people, apart from my family, had no idea that I’d done that.”

The discipline instilled in those days still drives him today in his work and he has no qualms in saying that his military-like organisational skills help him to juggle his freelance writing and stay on top of running Culture Vultures.

It was the 90s when he took the leap from computer engineering to a full time position as deputy editor for InDublin magazine. He had been moonlighting for them doing pieces here and there, “and when the deputy editor position became available I thought I’d just leave my job and go for it. That’s when I started full-time.” He hasn’t looked back, writing now for The Irish Times as music critic for twenty years as well as doing interviews and travel pieces for Cara magazine and other freelance gigs including judging The Choice Music Prize.

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I find myself going to gigs like Culture Vultures, Nighthawks and Jim Carroll’s Banter every month and I was interested in why it was journalists that were setting these events up and where the idea for Culture Vultures came from?

“I think we’re curious, we like to talk and we’re both – Jim and I – freelance journalists who need to make a living. It’s a small revenue stream, but it’s something. My mind is always ticking over on different projects and that’s where Culture Vultures came from.

“Interviewing is a major part of my skill-set as a freelance journalist and I wanted to run a night that appealed to me. So something within the arts and culture. “

“I couldn’t have done a night that encompasses everything from craft beer to journalism to what’s going on in Dublin like Banter because that just wouldn’t interest me personally. That’s Jim’s space and I wouldn’t want to step on his toes, occasionally we intersect but not that much. Of course Banter influenced me, so did Nighthawks, but what I noticed about them was that they didn’t have a public interview. Now Banter is interviews, of course, and Jim’s a hands down brilliant interviewer, but it’s more panel based than a one-to-one public interview. I wanted a public interview.

“So the interview was definitely the unique selling point of CV, also the fact that you got three separate stand alone pieces of entertainment on the one night. The three constituent parts: spoken word; a public interview and music – the music and interview were the hooks and the spoken word was the surprise on the night.”

Culture Vultures is now an established night on the arts and culture scene and this year will see it to grow because it’s a formula that works. It should attract a greater following and Clayton-Lea has plans to take it to various arts and book festivals around the country as a stand-alone offshoot within the festivals, “I just want more people to come. I want the room full every night at the Odessa because the people I’m interviewing, the line-up, are fascinating and I want more people to hear what they have to say or see them perform. I don’t get a percentage of the door; I want that to be said clearly. But the more people that come the more the artists get (paid) because they take a percentage of the door.

“I want to grow Culture Vultures by word of mouth and I want to take it to festivals this year; I think it’s a clever night and it works. Now that we have a full year under our belt I see it travelling this year. Unquestionably I’m going to pursue that, because it is a stand-alone event within an arts festival. Programmers would not have to worry about it – if you want a good evening within your festival, leave it to myself and Andrea. It is perfect for arts festivals, I could see it working in half a dozen small arts and books festivals around the country.”

Since doing the interview Tony Clayton-Lea informed me that Culture Vultures has been confirmed for the Tradfest in Kilkenny on St. Patrick’s Weekend (line-up to come), expect to see it at more festivals in 2015.

Tickets available for Wednesday’s Culture Vultures here: http://entertainment.ie/show-Gigs/Odessa-Club-and-Restaurant/Culture-Vultures/Gigs-2734871.htm

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