Beating the creative Drum as the 'hidden people' emerge
Monaghan and Cavan are alive with cultural festivals and events, writes Celine Naughton
What do Copenhagen, Lisbon, Paris, Havana and the tiny border village of Drum all have in common? It's a question likely to stump even the most dedicated quizzer, but as anyone with an active interest in the arts scene in Co Monaghan will soon tell you, all have been immortalised by the Danish documentary photographer Krass Clement.
Celebrated for his black and white pictorial essays published in a series of acclaimed books over the past 30 years, in 1991 Clement left his room in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig House and strolled to a pub in nearby Drum. He photographed a number of the locals and went on to publish those images in his book, 'Drum: Et Sted I Irland' (A Place in Ireland), now a renowned publication.
At that time an artist in residence in Annaghmakerrig, Clement is set to return there this autumn as part of the Clones Film Festival, which will feature a screening of his short films, exhibition of his photographs, and talks about his work. Heather Humphreys (left), Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht Minister, and herself a native of Drum, has a particular reason to look forward to his visit.
"I think there's a picture of my father in his book," she says. "Certainly, friends and neighbours that I grew up with are in it. Villagers used to go to the pub every Saturday night, and artists from Annaghmakerrig would visit. They were very creative types, not what the locals were used to at all. The arts world met rural Ireland, and I believe they got along very well."
Drum is a small village with a population of less than 200 and the farm where the minister grew up straddled both Counties Monaghan and Cavan, just six miles from Northern Ireland.
"Growing up in a border county led to all sorts of creativity and ingenuity," she recalls. "Our house was beside a lake, beyond which was a fort, which we fully believed had fairies living in it. I remember looking out across that beautiful countryside and letting my imagination run away with me."
Inspired by such an idyllic setting, the young girl's passion for creativity was further kindled when she went to secondary school at St Aidan's Comprehensive in Cootehill, Co Cavan.
"Comprehensive schools were a new idea in the 1970s, and they were filled with young, enthusiastic teachers, who influenced me greatly. It shows why the first pillar of Creative Ireland - enabling the creative potential of every child - is so important. To give a child the gift of creative tuition in every form means they will carry that with them for the rest of their lives."
Launched last December, Creative Ireland is putting arts and culture to the forefront of Irish life at a grassroots level, with dedicated teams on every local authority exploring new ways of enabling creativity in their communities. People nationwide are embracing the initiative, not least those in the minister's own constituency of Monaghan and Cavan.
"Arts are on the radar like never before and we're discovering a bank of local talent as a result," says Deidriú McQuaid, Creative Ireland co-ordinator for Monaghan. "I call them the 'hidden people,' because traditionally, they stayed at home and nobody but their families and friends might know that they played guitar, for instance, or wrote poetry, or were keen archaeologists. Now, thanks to the Monaghan Arts Network and Heritage Network, they're getting the opportunity to come out and showcase their work at the Market House in Monaghan Town. This is a great forum for three to four local residents each month to be recognised for their creativity."
An even bigger forum is the annual Carrickmacross Arts Festival, from August 10 - 13. Affectionately known as 'Ireland's biggest small festival,' it kicks off with a live drama and open-air cinema, poetry recitals, and children's entertainment by RTÉ Junior's Reuben. There's a host of musical acts, comedy, art exhibitions, street theatre, children's activities, workshops, seminars, artisan trade stalls, dance showcases, storytelling and more. Check out the full line-up on carrickmacrossartsfestival.com.
Across the border, Co Cavan is supporting a number of creative projects, including 'Entirely Hollow Aside from the Dark,' a sound and visual installation by Alan James Burns. The evocative performance takes place at night, in dark caves, with strange sounds guaranteed to challenge the senses. The event is free of charge, but booking is essential. See cavanarts.ie for details.
'Ancient and Wild' is a project which invites 12 artists to engage with the landscape, geology and history of Co Cavan, and in particular the Unesco Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. The artists will have guided tours, meet with experts in geology, heritage and cultural identity, and produce a work in their various disciplines, including music, storytelling, literature, curating, architecture and visual arts. The work will be shown in December.
One of the county's best known chefs, Neven Maguire, will give food demonstrations at the upcoming Taste of Cavan Food Festival on August 11 and 12. Bouncy castles, art classes and teddybear-making workshops will keep the kids entertained while the grown-ups enjoy the produce on offer. Children are also invited to meet 'The Mad Professor' in Arena 3 of the Cavan Equestrian Centre, where they'll be treated to fun experiments as a way of sparking their interest in the world of science. It's also an introduction to Cavan Monaghan Science Week from November 12-19.
Meanwhile, Ms Humphreys is Cavan-bound tomorrow evening, when she will be attending a concert called 'Remember the Brave' in the Cathedral of St Patrick and St Felim, featuring the Lassus Chamber Choir, and the poetry of Francis Ledwidge.
"I want to encourage events like this right across the country," she says. "When we launched Creative Ireland last December, there was a great sense of anticipation about it, and the positive response to date has been immensely gratifying. It's my job to deliver the programme, and I'm determined to see that this benefits all our citizens."