Could this awful Covid spike return the local, community spirit to Christmas?
The Wonderland Ballroom opened near Bawnboy, Co Cavan, in 1956.
A 2,000-capacity venue from Ireland’s showband era, it would have seen countless passions stirred, minerals served, bicycles left against the walls.
It closed in 1995, but has lately been framing new memories... on my living room wall, among other places.
Browsing the Irish Design Shop on Dublin’s Drury Street recently, I spotted a gorgeously chunky, time-worn picture frame. It was made from The Wonderland’s bouncy old sprung maple-flooring, sanded back on one surface only, leaving the scuffs, scars and stories of decades of dancing, jiving and cigarette burns baked in. I loved that. So I bought one (irishdesignshop.ie; from €42).
“We get a lot of high-heel marks in the wood,” Mikie Heffernan of Rocker Lane Workshop, the Co Tipperary-based company behind the frames, told me this week.
Mikie is a master craftsman and he collaborates with architect Seán Fogarty on 100pc sustainable contemporary pieces of furniture. They’ve also created frames from the old floorboards of Leitrim’s Rainbow Ballroom of Romance, which Mikie says have moved a couple of people to tears.
“They were thinking back on their days of dancing,” he reckons.
As I write, we’re in a strange moment. Covid is spreading with horrible velocity; uncertainty is in the air. But the shock has also made me think about how our transition to ‘normal’ was going.
At times, I’d caught myself feeling like a busy fool again, pulled back and forth, scrambling for time and space. Christmas has been cranking up since before Halloween. Of course, we all want to celebrate, get together and show our love, but were we also sleepwalking back into its stressy, spendy, unsustainability?
With the return of more restrictions possible, we’re visited by the ghost of lockdowns past. Nobody wants to go there, but thinking back reminded me of the community connections we felt, the takeaways and products ordered locally, the fresh enthusiasm we had for nature and the outdoors. As traffic and in-person life returned, even in a hybrid world, I let some of that clarity slip.
The Wonderland frame pulled a focus for me. Given Covid’s trajectory, global supply issues and the nasty costs Brexit adds to UK deliveries, isn’t Christmas the perfect time to dip back into the community spirit?
A sign by the roadside near Killorglin, Co Kerry, sums it up neatly. Featuring a photo of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, it reads: “Shop local this year, this fella has had enough.”
You can buy direct from designers on DesignIreland.ie; Fresh Cuts (freshcutsclothing.com) is a shop offering independent, Irish, eco-friendly fashion; IrelandHotels.com, Ireland’s Blue Book and Original Irish Hotels do vouchers, and Good Food Ireland has partnered with Irish designers on a ‘Wrap Up & Dine Out’ collection, including lambswool throws (€115), Aran scarves (€55) and more.
Today’s Weekend is full of gift ideas. Or why not get the dancing shoes on and hit your local high street?