Jürgen Simpson

Curator for the upcoming 'Light Moves Film Festival'

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Jürgen Simpson

Jürgen Simpson Curator for the upcoming 'Light Moves Film Festival'

Born in Dublin to Scottish and German parents, after a brief spell in my teens living in Germany, I moved back to Ireland to live in North Clare and Dublin.

I have lived in the Limerick/North Tipperary region since 2004 and after completing my Leaving Cert in Lisdoonvarna, I studied to be a piano tuner whilst simultaneously building-up a career in music composition. This led me to study Music and Media Technology, in Trinity College, where I subsequently taught until 2004. Then, I moved on to the Computer Science Department of the University of Limerick (UL) and lecture in the field of music, and interdisciplinary art. The facilities there are exceptional with access to video suites and a range of state of the art music studios.

Over the years, a number of very special people have shown me the sort of generosity and belief that became pivotal to my following a career in the arts.

In my early twenties, I had high hopes but little to show for it, and yet one person believed that my somewhat wacky aspirations might come to something, namely my Dad. My first significant professional composition job, however, was a collaboration with South African composer Kevin Volans for a dance piece (1999) by British choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. Soon after, I worked extensively with Irish choreographer John Scott, for his dance company Irish Modern Dance Theatre. Though these were all dance pieces for live performance, it was ‘Buail’, one of the 2006 RTÉ ‘Dance on the Box’ films, which started my journey into the world of dance film.

Although working extensively in film, (not just composing the music, but also creating the film’s sound worlds and environments), dance film offered me something rather special.

In dance film the sound and music is presented in a unique way, compared to films where an actor’s voice, is pre-eminent. Experiencing a film in this way, with the interactions of body and music becoming the main focus, is exhilarating and refreshing. Since 2009, I have collaborated on eight different films, with filmmaker/choreographer and Limerick dance artist-in-residence, Mary Wycherley. These have included the score for her 2015 feature length film, ‘In the Bell’s Shadow’, with seminal Irish choreographer Joan Davis, which was recorded by the Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO). Other collaborators include; composers Michael Nyman and Ian Wilson, piper Davy Spillane and filmmakers Andrew Legge and Clare Langan. From 2000 to 2008 I performed with Irish rock band, ‘The Jimmy Cake’, mostly playing accordion, and later produced their penultimate album ‘Spectre and Crown’ (2008).

Curating concerts and events in Dublin began for me, in 2000, when I co-founded ‘The Whispering Gallery’.

These involved experimental, improvised and electronic music with artists from across the globe. We worked mostly in the Project Arts Centre, but also in other venues, like the National Concert Hall. When I arrived in Limerick, in 2004, I was keen to continue curating, and in 2006 started, ‘Soundings’, with Limerick-based artist Robin Parmar and Davide Terlingo, at Limerick Dance Company, Daghdha. In 2013, Mary Wycherley and I, approached Dance Limerick and created the ‘Light Moves’ film festival during Limerick National City of Culture (2014).

Most of my career has been about sound and music, though film, opera and electronic music, have also played leading roles.

My first opera, ‘Neshika’ was presented to the Dublin Fringe Theatre Festival (2000) and I started work, the following year, on another opera with playwright, Simon Doyle. Called ‘Thwaite’, it premièred in London (2003), where it won the Genesis Opera Prize and received a four-star review in The Guardian. My most recent operatic work is entitled: ‘Air India [Redacted]’ with poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar, which focuses on the bombing of Air India Flight 182 off the coast of West Cork, (1985), with 329 fatalities. The opera premièred in Vancouver in November 2015, using Canada’s Turning Point Ensemble, supported by Irish director Tom Creed and Limerick artist John Galvin.

There are quite a number of projects and ideas, which I have shelved over the past few years, and am anxious to spend time with now.

Indeed, I have been drawn more and more to working with themes coming directly from struggles with identity, and finding ways for arts practice to connect with the political, human and environmental challenges of the contemporary world. My opera ‘Air India [Redacted]’ deals directly with how, as a society, we are sometimes quick to embrace the grief of those groups with whom we identify easily. Perhaps, we are more hesitant to relate to the plight of those who seem ethnically or socially removed. In curating ‘Light Moves’, we have tried to introduce works and artists who engage with similar challenging themes, this time through the medium of Screendance. There is something special and universal about this type of filmmaking, given that it speaks through movement and body, rather than dialogue and narrative.

Filmmaking is very different from many other art forms.

One can be a painter, a poet, a writer or a composer and, have complete ownership over the act of making. Film is more like theatre, however. It is highly collaborative and reliant on communication and team work. That is why film is such an open and inviting medium, as it allows people with many different skills and backgrounds, to become involved. There is room in front and behind the camera, writing scripts, designing sets and creating the visual world through fashion and art. I can’t think of a medium that is able to embrace people from all walks of life more fully than film!

The ‘Light Moves Festival Of Screendance’ takes place from Thursday November 3 to Sunday, November 6 inclusive with the official opening at 7pm. For more information, please see: http://dancelimerick.ie/event/light-moves-festival-screendance-2016