Here at Film Ireland, we are saddened to learn that our partners, the beloved festival, Still Voices, will be wrapping up this year. The final iteration of the festival will take place this November, with the curtain falling for good after the final screening on the 19th. This loss – equal parts cultural and emotional – will leave an irreplaceable hole in our industry, and is something that’s all too close to home for us at this particular outlet.
The Still Voices Film Festival – named after the work of Terence Davies – has been a beacon of creativity and cinema in the heart of the midlands, attracting standout talents and captivating films from around the world. Despite humble beginning, this festival has consistently punched well above its weight on the international stage. This cultural gem has become a platform for emerging and established filmmakers to showcase their talents and connect with audiences from diverse backgrounds. With a carefully curated selection of thought-provoking films, engaging workshops, and insightful panel discussions, Still Voices has carved a niche for itself, attracting cinephiles and industry professionals alike.
An Intimate Family Affair
Author, Academic, WFT Ireland chair, Incoming President of WFT International and founder/ director of Catalyst International Film Festival, Dr. Susan Liddy, remembers her time in Ballymahon fondly: “Unbelievably, there was a time when I hadn’t heard of Still Voices or Ronan O Toole! Then Women in Film and Television Ireland got a call a couple of years into the festival looking for a panellist, contacts and advice. As luck would have it, I answered that call and I like to think I delivered on all those requests! I think it’s fair to say Ronan and I hit it off straight away. He’s a straight talker with a great sense of humour and a real warmth about him. It was clear from that very first phone call that he was driven by passion and commitment. He wanted to cover every angle, every possible avenue to ensure that Still Voices thrived and became the kind of festival he envisaged. He wanted to put Ballymahon on the map too, which I found admirable.
My first visit was all I’d hoped for and more. I wasn’t familiar with that part of the country but I enjoyed the journey from Limerick and the pit stops along the way bringing me to places I hadn’t been before. Ballymahon itself is a lovely place, ideal to host an informal, friendly festival. A lovely midlands village that seemed to involve most of the people I came across. I’m not going to name everyone and every place for fear of unintended omissions. But put it this way: Still Voices was a village, a region and a family affair and was all the better for that. The snug hotels and pubs were intimate meeting places for all who attended. A stand out was that big table laden with cheeses, breads and the divil knows what, a beautiful centrepiece for casual chats and catch-ups.”
Longford Filmmaker Robert Higgins screened his insightful film Lakelands at the festival “Still Voices was a vibrant and exciting part of the cultural landscape in Longford. Growing up nearby, there wasn’t a lot of outlets for artistic pursuits so it was amazing to see such a prestigious and well regarded festival grow in our own backyard.
Ronan always endeavoured to create a lineup that could match up to the very best that the country could offer and it was a part of the year that I always looked forward to. It was the place we always came with our short films for our hometown screenings.
The highlight for us was screening our feature film Lakelands as part of the festival in the Backstage Theatre. It was a special night and was great to be there with so many people from our community ahead of launch the film into the wider world. Myself and Paddy would like to thank Ronan, Sinead and all of the team for all the hard work they’ve done over the years. It will live long in the memory.”
See you There
From passionate discussions to chance encounters with renowned directors, each memory contributes to the fabric of the indsutry. As we bid farewell to Still Voices, it is these memories that will continue to resonate, keeping the festival’s legacy alive for years to come. We pay tribute to the achievements of founder and unyielding film fan Ronan O’ Toole.
Through the collective voices of former contributors, attendees, and friends, we can ensure that Still Voices’ impact will continue to run deep long after its final iteration, November 15th – 19th, 2023. The Film Ireland team look forward to seeing you there, and keep an ear out for some very special podcasts featuring the top talent of the festival.