A short summary of 2021
2021 proved to be another very challenging year for us all, and Masamba had it’s own share of trials and difficulties to contend with.
Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a disruptive on almost every level. Rehearsals were impossible for most of the year, opportunities for performances were few and far between, and a lot of our teaching work was either cancelled, deferred or curtailed. Yet, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the Masamba office remained open, and we took on work wherever we could find it.
Luckily for us, mainstream education work was exempt from the COVID-19 restrictions, and as the year progressed, we slowly rebuilt our relationships with many of the schools we have worked in, and even had the opportunity to work in some new venues. With that said, the general uncertainty and conflicting advice from the Government has dissuaded many schools from bringing in external facilitators, and until certainty returns, this will reduce our opportunities to engage with local communities.
Unfortunately, teaching outside of schools, and most performances have remained very difficult, and the latest emergence of the omicron variant, and the associated concerns over increased threats, mean that we end 2021 with as much uncertainty as we entered it.
With the band on hold, and teaching opportunities curtailed, we have remained busy with other activities:
We have been extremely lucky in that our core funding from The Department of Rural and Community Development’s Community Service Programme was maintained throughout the pandemic. This allowed us to pay the wages and keep the office open, which was vitally important to be able to carry out our ongoing work, and be ready for when the restrictions began to lift.
Unfortunately, we completely lost our funding from the Dublin City Council Arts Office, as they sought to reorganise their own funding structures. This was extremely unfortunate as 2021 would have been an ideal year to develop the artistic side of our work. It was a further disappointment that the Arts Office chose not to support us through the Local Authority Live Performance Scheme, despite us having over 20 years’ experience of organising live event in Dublin City. With that said, the Community Department of Dublin City Council and the North East Inner City stepped up and provided quite a lot of project work for us to do, which was great for morale as well as a valuable earner at a vital time.
Two particular projects of note here are the 1941 North Strand Bombings event and Canalaphobia, where Masamba were tasked with co-organising the administration of these projects. In fact, this has in turn led to the creation of NICE – North Inner City Entertainments, which brings Masamba together with other arts activists from the Inner City. There are already further NICE projects in the pipeline, but more about those when the time is right.
Lucille Aires performs as part of Rotting Roots, Masamba's contribution to Canalaphobia 2021. Photo: Chris Schelly.
City of Dublin Youth Services Board has not only largely continued to provide funding for our youth activities right throughout the pandemic, but has also been innovative in providing small grants for specific responses to COVID-19, such as PPE, isolation booths, screens and other materials that facilitate projects to return to operation successfully and safely.
Here is a short clip of our work with young people in the Liberties, funded by CDYSB: https://www.facebook.com/masambasambaschool/videos/1064881254297635
Bicentenary of Brazilian Independence
Next year is a big year in Irish history, but it is also the 200th anniversary of Brazilian independence. We are honoured to have been asked by the Ambassador of Brazil to Ireland, Sr. Marçel Biato, to suggest some ideas as to how to celebrate this important event. We have already initiated work on three flagship cultural events, and hope to report more as they progress into 2022.
Masamba’s website has served us well over the years, but many additions and rewrites made it unwieldy, and overly-complicated. A small grant from the Arts Council facilitated us to move the website onto the WIX platform, and long-time Masamba member and Board member Simon Edmondson spent many hours helping us to design an entirely new site from scratch. As always, these projects take longer and are more complicated than they initially seem, but we are well on the way to a complete overhaul of the site, including a mirror page in Portuguese for the first time.
We also purchased the www.masamba.ie domain, so the site will soon be accessible through the .com and .ie domains.
To complicate matter further, we were also made homeless in 2021. The Jigsaw space was due for re-development in any case, but the pandemic accelerated that process, and the building closed in April. At the time, it was hardly an issue, as rehearsals were impossible, but we immediately started to search for a new premises, as we felt that if the restrictions were lifted, and we had nowhere to practice, it could mean the end of the band.
We were both relieved and delighted when Ciaran Cronin, principal of St. James’s Primary School in the Liberties, offered us the use of the school hall as a practice facility with some limited storage attached. Not only did this solve a pressing problem for us, but it cemented our relationship both with the school, and the wider Liberties community, where we have worked for many years. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the famous samba-reggae group Olodum are based in a neighbourhood of Salvador called Liberdade (liberty)?
We have spent some time helping to clear out the hall, installing a new toilet facility and storage shelves, and we are currently installing a new PA system, which can be used by both the school and ourselves. So far, the relationship has been very positive, and we are delighted to have a stable base of operations again.
And on we go…..
So, 2021 has been a year of swings and roundabouts for us at Masamba, but at least there have been a lot of positive developments to give us hope for the future. Amid all the chaos, we still managed to deliver 361 workshops and 24 performances over the year – not bad going for such uncertain times.
It only remains for us to wish all of our band members, board members, colleagues, partners and supporters the very best for the coming year.