Ever since the infamous Battle of the Books (when the force of Saint Columba and Saint Finnian ended up fighting over the illegal copying of a psalter), Irish people have been opposing each other over the creation and ownership of works of art.
It’s been particularly interesting to watch the dynamics in the Irish art and creative sector over the past 10-15 years, especially where it relates to live performances. In an area where larger, nationally funded organisations tend to dominate the landscape (and hog the available funding), there’s been a noticeable sense of exasperation among performers and creators locked out of that funding stream. That frustration has led to many independents going off to create their own organisations or working as part of larger collectives to compete with the established ‘institutions’ for a more democratic share of the funding.
The pandemic has probably had the biggest impact of all, in that Covid prevented most large-scale performances (the mainstay of the larger art organisations) over a protracted period. Under immense pressure from a struggling sector, the national art funder finally had to release money to smaller, more localised organisations and performance. Since 2020, therefore, we’ve seen some ingeniously innovative, local and regional art productions, most of which wouldn’t even have received the ‘sniff’ of a single Euro just a few years before.
A nice indicator of this is a recent report from ISACS (the Irish Street Art, Circus and Spectacle Network – a support and advocacy group for the smaller arts organisations). ISACS was established in 2010 and since then, have seen their membership grow steadily year on year, reaching a peak in 2021 with over 200 members (40% more than the previous year).
You can be certain that some of the established Irish arts institution will be watching such developments with concern and using every connection they can to ensure the funding goes back to where they believe it should reside (with them).
ISACS are going to have to be very canny and very strategic in their thinking to prevent things going back to the previous status quo.
If you’re passing through Dún Laoghaire’s, one place you might want to check out is the Oratory of the Sacred Heart, one of best-kept local art secrets and a low-key national version of the Sistine Chapel.
A tiny chapel hidden behind the main Shopping Centre, the interior is decorated in a Book of Kell style calligraphy created by the very talented Sister Concepta (Lily) Lynch.
Born in 1874, Lily spent much of her childhood learning her father’s calligraphic methods of illumination and decoration (known as the “Lynch Method”). Aged sixteen, she inherited the business when her father died and actually ran it until it was destroyed by fire six or seven years later. At that point, Lily joined the Dominican order at St Mary’s Convent (taking on the name Sister Concepta) and taught art and music at the convent school.
In 1919, when the convent received a donated statue of the sacred heart Lily was asked to decorate the alter of the oratory in which it was placed. When people ventured inside to view the final product, they were astounded to find that she’d transformed the drab, grey structure into a rainbow of colours, designs and motifs, many adopted from ancient manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, but also including a number that she’d created herself.
Impressed by her obvious talent, the convent asked to complete the rest of the oratory which she did, working on it for over sixteen years until 1936, when arthritis finally obliged here to stop. Sadly, she died three years later.
The Dominican Convent was sold in the 1990’s but the oratory, fortunately, was preserved. It’s not always open and a limited number of people can pass through at any one time (15 maximum) but it can generally be accessed twice weekly during the summer. At present, it’s temporarily closed but you can find a nice historical summary of it HERE.
Tá albam nua Rónán Ó Snodaigh (Tá Go Maith) amach agus is breá liom an amhrán ‘Tá’n t’Ádh Liom’. Tosnaíonn sé le solo giotar ach dhá nóiméad isteach, bíonn an draíocht ag titim amach.
One of my favouoite Irish songwriters has a new album out ( Tá Go Maith) which he wrote and produced over lockdown with Myles O’Rielly. The result is a minimalist gem and my favoite song ‘Tá’n t’Ádh Liom’ (Luck is with me) is absolutely gorgeous.
You can find it on You Tube (here) but its best to listen without the video.
It starts with a solitary guitar solo but two mins in it realy hits its stride.
Brú Theatre are presenting an interesting virtual reality project around the Gaeltacht communities in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry and Cork from the 11th to the 20th of June. As part of the proposed approach, small audiences will be presented with scenic views and soundscapes of Ireland’s west coast, then virtual reality headsets will be distributed to show three individual 180° short films.
The films – shot in Connermara – will present an immersive mix of Irish language, music and poetry will be based on texts from Irish witers such as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Máirtín Ó Cadhain.
Brú Theatre are a small theatre group based in Galway who present bilingual works in Irish and English (they’re the one who created and produced the visually captivating ‘Fisherwives’). Ar Ais Arís was commissioned by the Galway 2020 / Áistriú project.
An interesting segment from Sinéad O’Connor’s biography in the Irish Times today.
To be honest, I’ve always been in two minds with respect to Sinéad. One part of me thinks of her as a somewhat obnoxious and needy individual who’s desperation for attention outweighs anybody else’s opinion.
Another part of me has a bit more compassion and sees both the anguish of the extreme mental health issues she’s dealing with and the creative work she’s produced as a result of that.
Both impressions, of course, are built on nothing more than half-glimpsed newspapers headings – rarely a source of credible detail.
I may get her book (if I find the time/opportunity) but I do wonder whether she’d be a ‘reliable narrator’.
Meanwhile, judge for yourself. You can find the article HERE
Producing and distributing a professional ‘product’ takes time and effort (or a lot of spare money!).
One of the issues asociated with being a niche, part-time creator therefore, is that competing priorities generally constrict you from achieving the things you want to achieve (in the time you want to achieve them). Add in family, other work and life-altering events (Covid-19, earthquakes,etc. etc.) and the opportunity for creative output decreases even further.
Since I first started producing my own products through Irish Imbas (since 2014, I think ), I’ve been regularly frustarted at having to shut down my creative projects in response to other priorities – sometimes for years (and , yes, people are still hassling me about getting the next Beara out!). Unfortunately, that’s the cost of maintaining control over your own work while you’re still involved in another career and immersed in other circumstances. Still, like any creator, you can grow your portfolio over the years and eventually end up with a body of work you can be proud of.
This year. I’ll finally see the fruition of three projects I’ve been working on (on a part time basis) for over two years. Liath Lauchra: The Seekingis already complete, Dark Dawn/Camhaoir Fuilsmearthais coming out in May 2021 and Liath Lauchra: The Metal Men should be avalilable a few months later.
There really is no greater satsifaction for a creator than that.
This was all triggered from a Facebook “memory” from four years back:
THE COMPLETION OF TWO PROJECTS, THE START OF ANOTHER The first batch of hardcopies for FIONN: The Adversary arrived this morning. Fifteen copies and they’re already gone, mostly committed to people who’ve helped with the production, editing, reviewing etc. I think I have a single copy left which is remaining here on the home shelf.
Even after all these years, there’s still a great thrill and satisfaction in seeing all your intellectual work captured and consolidated into physical form. Digital copies are fine but I still prefer the tactile experience of flipping pages and the tangible weight of a book in my hand when I’m reading. [Full article at: Completion of Two Projects]
Subscribe to Vóg – our monthly newsletter!
For a limited time, you can get a FREE copy of the first book in the Fionn Series when you subscribe to our mailing list for monthly news, project updates and extras not found elsewhere.