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ENNIS’ Ciara Hayes believes a musical renaissance is in our midst with the pandemic changing the Irish music scene.

What became obvious over two years of restrictions due to the pandemic, were the things really missed and valued. For a majority, one of these things was live music. So, naturally, when restrictions finally lifted, music in Ireland took off – and at a colossal rate. One group aiming to showcase the best that Irish music has to offer is Relapse Promotions. Comprised of three musicians, this promotion company has been supporting artists by staging gigs and festivals.

Ciara Hayes, originally from Ennis, is one of the founding members of Relapse Promotions. The classically trained musician, now studying a Masters in Music and Technology at Cork Institute of Technology, took the time out of her busy gigging, promoting, and college schedule to chat about the importance of this company.

While originally trained as a violinist, Ciara’s musical talents extend far beyond the bow. Over the years she has played piano, accordion, guitar, and now mostly performs as the bassist for the bands RPC and Waterdogs. At a young age, Ciara was introduced to punk music through her parents. Now, Ciara is prolific in the Irish punk music scene.

Before the pandemic hit, Hayes was part of the Irish punk band, The Turn. Through this band she became friends with Aaron Griffin (The Turn/Waterdogs guitarist), and Jim Spillane (RPC/Hashmaker guitarist). The trio had noticed there was a lack of a community for punk artists in the Munster region, and so naturally there wasn’t much of a platform for organising gigs and events.

After a suggestion from a friend, Ciara got the two guys involved in organising Overdose – a punk festival that took place in Limerick. “The first one was a bit of a disaster to be honest – I remember in the weeks leading up to it nearly every single band pulled out. The final product of the festival very much ended up being stitched together with kind of replacements and like a smaller line up than we’d initially hoped for. Honestly, it was still a really good day in the end, it’s just the amount of panic leading up to it cause of everything going wrong. We kind of knew after the first one that we were on to something special and we could kind of make something out of it and got planning for the second one pretty much immediately and that one was such a massive success”.

The second Overdose festival was the last performance for The Turn. Despite this, the three were determined to plan more festivals together, and foster a community for punk musicians across Munster and Ireland. Plans were made for the third Overdose to take place in August of 2020 – but of course the pandemic put a halt to this. Despite the restrictions, the group remained hopeful for another festival to go ahead. When the pandemic lasted longer than anyone had thought, the trio decided to rebrand the festival, renaming it Relapse. “I didn’t actually realise we were going to make a promotion company out of it,” Ciara states, “I thought it would just be the Overdose and Relapse festivals, but it just kind of happened without any of us really planning it.”

In March 2022, the promoters staged their first post-pandemic full day punk festival in Cork. The gig ran from 1pm to 1am, and saw some of the biggest punk bands in Ireland take to the stage – such as Vulpynes, The Nilz, Audible Joes, etc. The new company has also played host to some up and coming bands in the scene, such as 50 Foot Woman, Red Sun Alert, and Ciara and Jim’s own band, RPC.

The group have yet to gain interest in profiting from the promotion company – so why are they doing it? Ciara answers: “A big thing for me was getting younger people into it. People want to go on constantly about how the rock scene and the punk scene and the metal scene are dwindling but they’ll only go to tribute gigs at the same time y’know, they won’t go and see new original bands. So, a big thing for me was getting younger people into it and making younger people want to start bands, so there’ll always be a scene, essentially.”

The trio saw the disastrous effect that the lockdown restrictions had on musicians in Ireland, and knew action needed to be taken to salvage the alternative scene. Now they’re trying to encourage its growth through acting as a platform for bands to liaise and perform together as much as possible. “I do feel like there’s going to be a kind of renaissance within the Irish music scene,” the musician claimed. “We’ve already seen bands like 50 Foot Woman, a bunch of the newer younger bands like that have cropped up, and they’re gigging constantly in Limerick – it’s really amazing to see. Even a few older musicians I know have been starting new bands down in Cork. I feel like the scene is going to expand massively and I also feel like people who mightn’t have been a part of the community before like, people are so desperate to go to events, they’re desperate to go to anything, so I feel like they’ll be a new market of people coming to events.”

The budding promoter told The Clare Echo of her plans to expand gigs into the Clare market soon. Having grown up in Ennis, she saw first-hand the extensive range of musical talent in Clare, and so it is an avenue she would absolutely love to explore. “At the moment we’re just exploring our options – seeing what venues haven’t closed down over the course of the pandemic, seeing what venues would be best for the best things… We’ve had events on in Limerick and in Cork, but I think putting events on in different areas of Munster like maybe Ennis would be really cool as well. I’ve heard really good things about Tom Steele’s, I was at a metal gig there in the summer of 2018 and it was brilliant. Stuff like that never really goes on in Ennis, at least it didn’t when I was living there, so I think Tom Steele’s would be a fantastic venue for it.”

“We’re taking a break at the moment, just cause some of us have college, but we’ve a lot of smaller events planned for over the summer and we have some bigger events planned for later in the year. We’re hoping to have the next Relapse festival in September.” Ciara floated the idea of Relapse Promotions taking over the Queens nightclub for the next Relapse festival. Hopefully this means we could be seeing a lot more punk in Ennis than anticipated!

Follow along with Relapse Promotions on Facebook and Instagram – @relapsepromotionsirl

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