Culture Cavan Finale Event 6 December 2013

Culture Cavan Exhibition

The Foyer, Courthouse, Cavan
December 6 to January 30 2014

The Culture Cavan Exhibition illustrates the work of the project over the past 21 months. Twenty seven facilitators worked on the project with communities in Counties Cavan, Fermanagh and Leitrim. Culture Cavan was funded by the International Fund for Ireland in conjunction with Cavan County Council. The project encouraged participation and reconciliation among communities in the border region through four different art strands.

Non - Parade Parade by trans-art as part of Culture Cavan

Strand 1 - Creative Writing as a tool for Peace Building This strand delivered a series of creative writing projects including Belleek to Ballyjamesduff an anthology of short stories, poems and personal musings and Write my Life Story captured the imagination of participants focusing on the power of storytelling and our innate ability to tell stories.   Troubled Conversations brought the real life experience of four individuals who experienced the troubles at first hand to life on the stage through verbatim theatre.   At the Black Pigs Dyke the play written by Vincent Woods was produced by a local cast and crew and the power of language, ritual and storytelling was a powerful reminder of our past.   Revenant focused on storytelling through the camera lens with the production of this feature length film set in this area with local actors, director and crew.

Strand 2 - Spectacle for a Shared Vision created the Wishing Tree Symposium, Winter Wonderland, The Janus Project, Graffiti and Through the Ages with participants of all ages and working with a range of material that included textile, paper, wire and papier mache.   The Non Parade Parade, Peace, Harmony, Diversity and the Mad Hatters Tea Party used the body, dance, movement, printing skills and parade to create high impact visuals to tell a positive story for reconciliation in our area while remembering our past.

Strand 3 - Music as a tool for Peace Building Musicians from both traditions shared performances, tunes and instruments and showcased their work in collaborative performances including No Musical Demarcation, Celebrating the Living Culture and at festivals  in Cavan, Fermanagh, Dublin and Antrim.   The Creative Music Workshop encouraged musicians to produce original material and increase professionalism particularly in the area of live performance  and learn about each other. Joint performances will follow.

Strand 4 - Home, Identity, Emblem – Visual Symbols New work in choral, literature and visual art was created in this strand including the formation of the County Choir.   Choral work included Uncommon Wealth and the visual arts project. A Sense of Place took historical objects as a reference point for the artist and young people to being a new journey in our past and future identities.  

The project was managed by a steering committee and the project co-ordinator Ann O Reilly.

Cootehill Library Textile Panels

Project Outline by Mildred Cullivan:
To make two textile panels to hang in situ in Cootehill Public Library. These should reflect historic or contemporary aspects of the town and surrounding areas. The panels to be conceived and produced by the library craft group who meet there once a week on Wednesday afternoons to work on their own individual projects.

After meeting with Catriona O'Reilly, Cavan Arts Officer and Ann O’Reilly, Culture Cavan Co-ordinator and Sinead Rice of Cootehill Library, criteria were established. I would facilitate the group and Sinead would mediate.

Before meeting the group Sinead had taken measurements of the spaces and I had made two paper panels to scale. In our first meeting we looked at pieces the group were working on themselves, this gave me some idea of their skills (mostly knit). Themes based on local landscape, linen and railway history and landmark buildings were put forward as possible subject matter. To help them visualize possibilities I brought a portfolio of my own stitched textile work to show all stages of a project to completion.

Cootehill Craft Group

The ‘research’ phase was difficult as the group had little experience of drawing/design development and it can be very daunting and time consuming! I drew up some images based on what they had collected, made some knit samples to illustrate how to interpret some of the imagery and supplied wool (based on colours we had decided on), they then started to knit and appliqué samples based on the drawings.

Work by the Cootehill Craft Group

I devised panels with three oval “windows” as these could be ‘pieced’ together easily and also allowed members to divide and manage the making between each other as appropriate. Once the group took over the making they really took ownership of the project and worked with great commitment. Over the weeks they shared skills, tried different techniques, discussed possibilities, made decisions about content etc. When I supplied the finished (canvas background) panels the group had already accumulated all the elements needed to complete the work. Overall it was a tight schedule but they really worked through their initial insecurities and gained confidence, learned how to work creatively within the group and with the support of this project. Sinead was a great support to everyone throughout.

The women sit by their work at Cootehill Library, new home of the Cootehill textile panels

Amazing ideas resulted in beautiful reflective pieces representing Cootehill

The project at times was extremely challenging

The group attend the launch of their work at Cootehill Library

The project began in April 2013 and was completed and launched in November 2013

Facilitator Mildred Cullivan speaks about the journey the group experienced during the creation of the pieces

The pieces are now displayed at Cootehill Library

Each piece represents Cootehill's history and tradition

Cavan County Choir recent performances

Cavan County Choir were due to perform in Culturlann Ui Chanain on Saturday 5 October but this event has been postponed due to unforeseen circumstances.

Last week on Saturday 28 September Cavan County Choir were performing 'Uncommon Wealth' in Fermanagh County Museum.  This was the second time the County Choir performed 'Uncommon Wealth' having performed it the previous week in Cavan County Museum. 

Both events were extremely successful with the Choir opening their performance with a selection of their favourite choral pieces such as Amazing Grace, Poor Man Lazarus, Battle Hymn of the Republic and Going Home.  'Uncommon Wealth' commenced with the Choir performing their contemporary repetoire written by John Byrne such as United States of Emotion, It's a Notion, Enlightenment and Predictive Text.  The beautiful singing from the Choir was interspersed with some powerful readings from Mamo McDonald, Kevin McAleer, Heather Brett, Brian Keenan, Darach McDonald and of course John Byrne.

Choir receiving their final instruction from Choral Dirctor Blanaid Murphy before performance in the beautiful Enniskillen Castle

Cavan County Choir with soloist Ruth Kelly at Fermanagh County Museum

Enthusiastic singing by Cavan County Choir members

Review of Uncommon Wealth at Cavan County Museum

Uncommon Wealth at Cavan County Museum Saturday 21 September 2013

Uncommon Wealth is a production of hymns written by John Byrne, and the title of an event held last night (Sat 21 Sept 2013) at the County Museum as part of Culture Night (or weekend, as it became in Cavan). John Byrne’s hymns celebrate the joy and presence of ‘art’ in life. Last night it was a complete joy to hear them sung by the recently established Cavan County Choir, and soloist, Ruth Kelly. Each hymn was interleafed with a readings from poets, and/or writers. Overall it was a rather perfect evening.

I have been trying to work out why the evening was rather perfect. The Museum is a nice community venue, though not acoustically brilliant, but I think it was also because it was good to hear art valued as a concept through the hymns as well as in the singing voice.

I loved the choir. Standing there before me, I liked the informality of dress, the array of colour, shape, size and age; the almost higgledy piggledy formation of the singers. I enjoyed the rawness of the singing and the scale of the notes and arrangements of the songs achieved by the choir was wonderful. The high notes were extraordinary, but reached. This was ordinary people using ordinary voices and it is amazing what they achieved. The conductor, Blanaid Murphy, has a powerful presence. But it’s like her stick is a magic wand, casting magic spells across the room rather than a leading baton. Yet there was an earthy rootedness about the evening. That’s the magic of art.

The readings between the hymns were personal reflections from the authors about life on or crossing borders, and as such each held its own particular truth. I liked how the final reader, Brian Keenan, extended our border to Syria and Lebanon. For while social media allows us to cross borders with a hop, skip and a jump, I worry that it also creates virtual watch towers of isolation and powerlessness out of us all. We all have borders, wherever we are.

The event was put on by Culture Cavan, a project funded by the International Fund for Ireland to encourage participation and reconciliation through the Arts. Culture Cavan has been a huge success in Cavan. It has supported a wide range of artistic projects and pays tribute to the artistic capacity and ability of ordinary people who excel when given opportunity and encouragement. This summer has been great in Cavan and much of my enjoyment has been as a result of the work supported by Culture Cavan. Congratulations to the arts team, the steering group and the Co-ordinator
Review by Kate Ennals

'At the Black Pig's Dyke' Review by Rhonda Tidy

The Legend of ‘At the Black Pigs Dyke’ at The Life of Reilly Festival 

'The Black Pig’s Dyke' is a fortified series of divisions and ramparts along the boundary of the historic province of Ulster in old Gaelic society. The people who inhabited this area are known as ‘Mummers’ and are presented here as straw-masked tribal warriors. The play, written by Vincent Woods, is teaming with folklore and stories native to the border region. Mummers wander from village to town and entertain those who they meet with local songs and music, all the while dancing and providing a visual spectacle dressed in their towering straw masks, boots and straw skirts dotted with poppies – the first instance of blood imagery and lust for violence. The play is a dark, terse and engaging piece that traces the experiences of a life marked by violence and with questions of identity along Ireland’s border between north and south. The play rapidly descends into fear and violence as the wedded union of a Catholic girl to a Protestant man sets in motion the cyclical motion of revenge and killing. The sectarianism is a direct and unashamed commentary on the conflict and killing experienced by those in the North. The fact much of this story is based on inherited folklore highlights the sad connection that for many in the North and indeed the South, their inherited legacy was that of fear, distrust and killing. The fact the play is set at ‘the Black Pig’s Dyke’ along the border between north and south sets the play in a void between the sectarianism and where identity and connection with the self as a citizen is blurred.

During The Life of Reilly Festival recently, this new production of At the Black Pig's Dyke was premiered to a full house at The Backyard in Moynehall. Directed by Geoff O’Keefe with Co-Director and Stage Manager Kieron Smith, the play is a story of murder, mystery, fairy tale and tragic love set on the Irish border. The production was funded by the International Fund for Ireland under the management of Ann O’Reilly at Cavan Arts and featured local talent from the border region, a mix of professionally trained and talent from the amateur circuit. The story is one of crime: The murder of a mother and daughter by a neighbour bent on vengeance. Terrible as this crime is, it is but the latest link in a chain of murder reaching far back into Irish history and legend, a legend which is artfully retold in this play. Notably, the story is told using the pagan ritual of the mummers' play as a metaphor for Ireland at a time where people laughed at a wake and cried when a child was born. A fine blend of darkness and light, all the elements of this delightfully harrowing work come together on stage to express a timelessness inherent in myth and legend for an all together contemporary experience.

Sometimes the actors play specific characters, men and women on one side or the other of the Dyke's divide, who have weddings and work and rivalries and dreams and schemes in addition to being instances of the ordinary folk who take up the Mummer masks and carry on the tradition.  Other times the Mask Characters, particularly Tom Fool and Miss Funny, function like the chorus and gods in Greek drama, embodying forces larger than any individual. The role of the two protagonists, Tom Fool and Ms Funny were brilliantly performed by Conor Sheridan and Daragh Smith, who were tremendously confident in their lively delivery of the wit and humour in Woods dialogue. In particular, casting Daragh Smith as Ms Funny was a a stroke of genius. His performance gave a novel and humorous twist, setting this performance apart from the renown Druid Lane Theatre Company production who chose it to mark their 100th production in the early 1990’s.

The casting of actual modern-day Mummers in this play along with imaginative costume design by Helen Foy lent an added magic to the play. Patrick Rogers other-worldly singing voice made for a mesmerising performance of 1st hero, Jack Boles, balanced well by the performance of Ray Fitzsimons as the menacing Doctor. Fiona Ryan's set design was sublime and cleverly conceived, transforming the Backyards performance space into what felt like a professional yet intimate theatre space. The physicality of the overall performance was superbly choreographed by Mary Farrelly, combined with the stage set kept the audience engaged and also allowed for a smooth transition between scenes. O’Keefe and Smith have done a superb job in bringing to life the ritualistic dreamscape captured in Woods play.

Today, the Mummers continue the tradition of going from house to house in in some parts of rural Ireland, performing a traditional folk play from the pagan past. In addition to the dancing and drumming and the Mumming in rhymed verse, Woods weaves his spell with songs with and without rhyme, and poetic prose of the most incantatory sort. It is a potent spell indeed and the play is a supremely important commentary in Irish theatre on the despair, passion, killing and loss suffered for generations in Ireland’s North and its border regions.

Directed by Geoff O’Keefe; Co-Director and Stage Manager, Kieron Smith; Producer, Kevin O’Connor; Set Design, Fiona Ryan; Lighting Design, Paddy Farrelly; Sound Design, Michael O’Brien; Costume Designer, Helen Foy; Choreographer, Mary Farrelly; A.S.M. and Props, Noelle Slacke Set Construction, Thomas O’Gorman; Production Photography, Paul Farnan.  Cast: Conor Sheridan, Darragh Smith, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Kay Maguire, Sean Feeney, Gary Lacey, Kealan Braiden, Ray Fitzsimons, Fiona Walsh, Patrick Rogers, Aiden McCabe, Caitriona Kennedy, Mark Connelly. Musicians: Danny McGovern and Lorcan Brady.