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The Silence comes alive on Saturday

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Jean Gilson

Jean Gilson

Jean Gilson

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There's a strong Dundalk connection with The Silence, a unique multi-media project which goes live later this week, and now any Dundalk people who wish can get involved by taking a photo as it launches on Saturday.

The project is the brainchild of Dundalk native Pat Carroll, who has been living in Cork for the past 45 years. Pat is passionate about the arts, running Art in Many Forms across a number of social media channels with the aim of highlighting the rich array of artistic talents throughout Ireland.

Pat was inspired by the images captured by a young Cork photographer Rob O'Connor, taken on the empty streets of Cork on the evening that lockdown was announced on March 21.

He then reached out to 45 hugely talented creative people, artists, writers, musicians, across the country, asking them to respond to Rob's haunting images, for the project which was to become The Silence.

Among the contributors are Dundalk based photographer Jean Gilson, artist Mary Wallace, who is originally from Dundalk and now lives in Wexford, writer Jean Reinhart from Blackrock, and Drogheda artist and activist Jennie Hinds. There are also contributions from artist and writer Catherine Drea, who spent the first seven years of her life in Dundalk when her father worked here with the ESB.

It was thanks to the popular Dundalk Northend and Friends page on Facebook that Pat got in touch with Jean Gilson, who is best known for her evocative photos of the Navvy Bank.

Originally Pat invited Jean to contribute a written piece to the project, which she has done, and he then asked her to take candid photos around Dundalk which would capture the mood of the town during lockdown.

'He is originally from the Point Road so when we connected we got on like a house on fire,' says Jean. She is delighted to be part of the project as it documents a period of history which no-one had expected to live through.

'Photography is my hobby, my passion,' she says. A self-taught photography she enjoys going out and about with her camera, capturing scenes around Dundalk and especially of the Navvy Bank, where she says 'you can have four seasons in one day.'

She has been thrilled with the reaction which her images receive when she posts them on the Dundalk Northend and Friends page, especially during lockdown.

'All the pictures I posted during lockdown were within 2km of my home and although there were times when I would have liked to have gone further, I really appreciated having that beauty on my doorstep. I'm very lucky where I live to have that on my doorstep.'

Taking street portraits is a new venture for Jean and, she admits, is pushing her out of her comfort zone.

Other contributors to the project include Claire Stack, Aine Farrell, Anne Martin Walsh, Suzanne D'Arcy Gaughran, Stanley Notte, Mailo Power, Rachel Dubber, Amy Guilfoyle, Cobh Animation Team, Therese Ryder, Deidre O'Shaughnessy, Bernie Carney, Orlaith Hamersley, Theresa McCormack, Linda Ibbotson, Caroline Cunnigham, Ruairi de Barra, Michelle Dunne, Catherine Brennan, Martha Cashman, Bernadette Dolan,

Karen Power, Stephen Hayes, Martina Furlong, Amy O'Connor, Maria O'Sullivan, Brigid Mullooly, Nilla Palmer, Trish Carlos, and of course, photographer Rob O'Connor. Pat also hopes to expand it to include others who have expressed an interest in taking part.

And in order to allow other people to become involved in the project, Pat is inviting everyone to take a photo on Saturday between 9am and 6pm, with the aim of holding an actual exhibition sometime in 2021. Images should be emailed to lisanley@gmail.com

Indeed, he hopes that the entire project will be brought to life next year, with actors reading the words which have been contributed to a backdrop of images by Rob O'Connor who has inspired The Silence.


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