Sonia leads the way

Mary Murphy

VISITORS to the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre in Ballkinskelligs may be used to stepping back from the hectic pace of modern life but this Easter weekend events stepped up a gear with the help of Irish Olympian Sonia O'Sullivan.

The Cork woman travelled to South Kerry from her current base in Australia to launch the artist retreats ART250 fundraising exhibition on Saturday and also to lead out a fundraising run on Easter Sunday over Bolus Head.

The invitation to Sonia came through mutual friend, celebrity gardener Dermot Gavin who was also in Ballinskelligs over the weekend to lend his support.

"We got off to a great start on Saturday at the exhibition, we sold 40 of the 250 paintings and some people got real bargains from some great artists.

"All the pictures are sold unidentified so the people buying them didn't know the value of what they were buying for just €250," Noelle Campbell Sharp said.

The race also threw up a surprise result as Sonia O'Sullivan was outshined by her 12-year old daughter, Sophie, in the race.

"This was the first time that we have run something like this and we were really surprised that we got 30 or 40 runners out, especially as it was such short notice for a lot of people," Noelle added.

The race itself started at the centre and runners travelled through the retreat to the finish line at the ruins of old Cill Rialaig which was deserted back in the 1790s as people relocated to a more sheltered area.

Another big attraction over the weekend was the return of South African chef Johan Van Der Merwe who turned local plants and nettles into amazing dishes for guests. Johan will be back at the helm of the café in Cill Rialaig for the summer. The aim of the weekend events was to make up a funding shortfall caused by a 20 per cent drop in funding for the retreat by the Arts Council in 2014, this equates to a loss of approximately €13,000.

This year 170 artists will stay 'on retreat' in Cill Rialaig's restored pre-famine, among them one of the biggest names in the art world, Kiki Smith, who is due for a month long visit.


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