Tuesday 20 August 2019

John Daly: 'Artists show city's true colours'

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'With hundreds of volunteers bolstered by foreign nationals who now call the city home, Mad About Cork resembles a mini-UN with urban regeneration as its ethos.' Photo: Deposit
'With hundreds of volunteers bolstered by foreign nationals who now call the city home, Mad About Cork resembles a mini-UN with urban regeneration as its ethos.' Photo: Deposit

John Daly

When Picasso said painting is just another way of keeping a diary, it's doubtful he was talking about Cork. That said, the great surrealist would probably feel right at home in the city on the Lee, given the vibrant and creative colours splashed on every derelict gable and dilapidated wall.

Strolling around its lanes and squares last week, it seemed every plaza and quayside was jiving to a flamboyant array of tints and shades - courtesy of a community movement sketching new life on jaded frontage.

Mad About Cork is a volunteer group dedicated to revamping run-down urban spaces through street art and guerrilla gardening, transforming forgotten corners economic prosperity has overlooked.

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At the core of this improvement insurrection is a loose collection of artists and acolytes giving of their time and energy for the greater good. It started out small, just a few friends picking up rubbish on the streets where they lived. Whispers took root among a trickle of like-minded souls, steadily growing to a torrent of collaboration and goodwill.

The results of this modern 'meitheal' for the city's forgotten spaces has gone far beyond its original objectives.

Previously neglected areas like Coleman's Lane, Patrick's Quay and Douglas Street were transformed with window boxes fashioned from up-cycled pallets and quirky aesthetics celebrating all things Cork.

Using images of local legends above witty slogans, tourists puzzle and natives smile at mirthful takes on The Frank & Walters, Cillian Murphy, Rory Gallagher and Tanora - Cork's favourite fizzy drink - all given individual tributes on electrical boxes across the city.

A personal favourite is the glaring image of Roy Keane on the corner of Patrick's Bridge, over the legend: "It's always Cork first and Ireland second."

Backed by residents, businesses and the council, the movement continues to thrive. With hundreds of volunteers bolstered by foreign nationals who now call the city home, Mad About Cork resembles a mini-UN with urban regeneration as its ethos.

You could call it a unique take on Tinder, but with a tenderness to the environment as its guiding light. When local poet Tom McCarthy coined the phrase "a city rising is a beautiful thing", he said a mouthful.

Walking softly on Ireland's Alcatraz

Even on a glorious summer's evening, Spike Island exudes a grim vibe. The 103-acre atoll in the middle of Cork harbour has been many things, including a seventh century monastic settlement and a fortress garrison in colonial times.

But it was its prominence as a temporary incarceration for convicts prior to penal servitude in Australia that the moniker "Ireland's Alcatraz" was coined.

Every wall seems drenched in sadness, bearing evocative testimony to our bleak history. The Trial, a touring exhibition examining human rights in the prison system, runs there until the end of August.

The installation presents extracts from prisoner experiences dating as far back as the 1850s, brought to life through provocative and gruesome monologues. As a primer for the conditions endured by previous generations, a visit will instil harrowing chills on the spine far more effectively than any movie.

When jokes are all on Boris, you have to laugh

Boris Johnson is the summer gag that keeps on giving. Amongst the best are the Trump/Boris double entendres: "Make America Great Britain Again" and "Now the lunatics really are running the asylum". Best of the lot was the queen whispering instructions to 007: "And try to make it look like an accident."

Well, you just have to laugh, don't you...

Irish Independent

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