This year, Coolmine Musical Society celebrates its 40th Anniversary, however, due to the current climate they are unable to celebrate this milestone the way they truly wanted to, full of events, laughter and most importantly, togetherness. We caught up with Chairperson of the society, Kate Furlong for a chat on the huge milestone, how the pandemic has affected the society and what the future holds.
In 40 years, the society has seen a lot of success, most recently with its November 2019 show, Made in Dagenham, with Nicole McDonald taking home Best Chorographer for the musical at the 2020 AIMS Awards. So, how did they plan to celebrate this incredible milestone? Kate explained; “It is going to be a year full of events to mark the occasion, these will be all carried out remotely until restrictions lift”. The group have already started honouring the anniversary by changing the society’s logo and adding a splash of colour; something everyone needs in their lives right now.
We questioned how the pandemic has affected the organization, like other groups, we imagined it too came to an abrupt standstill. She noted fondly, how the society would rehearse every Tuesday and Wednesday evening. “We finished up at 10pm on the Wednesday night and by Thursday morning, the 12th of March 2020, following government guidelines, our usual schedule had been taken from under our feet with no warning”. Their spring show Be Our Guest was cancelled, alongside their full musical production in November, pre-production came to an immediate halt, and by June was completely cancelled. This was a devastating blow for the organisation and unfortunately continues; as that same time of year rolls around again, pre-production should be well underway, however, there is still no sign of a show happening for 2021.
Although, Kate was hopeful and motivated, resorting to the internet to keep them connected. The group started to hold weekly zoom workshops; ‘Come Zoom with Coolmine’. While the members could not physically be together, this kept them connected and working as a team. She was bittersweet in saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, however, there is a reborn appreciation for the society and when we can return to the stage, it will be better than ever”.
We also discussed the society’s support of Belong To’s Stand Up Awareness Week, which is helping to build a school system that values the safety and wellbeing of LGBTI + and working against bullying. The society has shown support to this campaign in the past, however, this time was different due to the current situation, they showed their support through social media. Also affected by the pandemic are the AIMs awards, which will be remote for 2021 and as there are no shows to judge, this will not be an award ceremony but a celebration this year, the event will take place in June or July and will be remote.
Kate explained that while the arts suffered a lot during the pandemic; “it was great to see people embracing technology and doing what they could to be creative and stay connected”. Once it is safe again, the Coolmine Society will be back doing what they do best.