“Living in west Wickow is a bit like living in Tír na Nóg,” says writer Robert Barrett in an entertaining and informative new blog series started by Wicklow County Council as part of its Artists Connect initiative.
Robert is among 10 artists living in Wicklow, or originally from the County, who are part of the Artists Connect Panel, which aims to support artists across all art forms to connect, share information and learn from each other.
Artist Connects runs events such as Artist Salons co-hosted with Outpost Studios, and right now is introducing a selection of its panel to the world via very personal and engaging blogs on wicklow.ie.
For a budding artist or writer, they are also educational as they provide insights into how these established names process and create.
Robert’s is the second blog to be published. The theme for all the blogs is coping with change and discovering new things. He talks about getting ‘pangs of delight’ when reading Shakespeare plays in school, ‘devouring’ Ernest Hemingway’s books, and discovering James Joyce.
When he found Anthon Chekov, the Russian short story writer, he had a light bulb moment. But then family life took over and writing was put on hold.
"I stumbled into the banking world, just in time for the boom and,” he writes, “unfortunately, the inevitable bust. As the children grew older, I started to give the writing more of my time. In 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, I was made redundant.”
The old pandemic plot twist. Robert speaks honestly about the mind-opening that happened next, and it led to an Arts Council Agility Award, which commissioned him to write a series of short stories about west Wicklow.
The first blog in the series is Olivia Fitzsimon’s ‘Permission to Live a Creative Life’, a powerful monologue about how she emerged from a stay-at-home mum to writing a much-acclaimed debut novel ‘The Quiet Whispers Never Stop’, which was published in April 2022.
The Greystones resident writes about the need let those who can help you know you are there, but also about the need to make yourself part of a community, who can help you develop.
"Sometimes I just needed to get out of my own way and make connections,” she said. “Let go of my preconceptions of myself, of the arts, of what it looks like to be a successful practising artist today. I've discovered that artists can build resilience through community.”
The Artists Connect panel also includes Niamh O'Connor (writer/film writer), Lisa Freeman (Visual Arts/Multidiciplinary), Conor Dowling (Writer/Film), Emily Gillmor Murphy (Writer/Theatre Writing), Brian Murphy (Theatre), Aisling Ennis (Musician). Jenny Sherwin (Arts Office), Niamh O’Donnell (Mermaid Arts Centre), and Susan Coughlan (independent facilitator).
To find out who will be next in the blog series, keep in touch via Wicklow County Arts Office’s Facebook page, or visit wicklow.ie/Living/Services/Arts-Heritage-Archives/Arts.