Looking back at Clifden Arts Week

I wrote this piece for the current issue of the Connemara Journal, out now.

It is hard to believe that October is here, having enjoyed so many warm bright days last month. Such an extraordinary beginning to Autumn and such a rich month of festivities in Clifden. Like others, I feel sustained for weeks to come with the memory of many special events. Each person retains their own corner of arts week – for some it is the spoken word, for others it is music – raucous in the cosy underbelly of Mullarkeys bar or tranquil in the stone clad surrounds of Christ church.

My own favourite events this year include the work of visual artist Joe Wilson, whose drawings and paintings ( displayed in the Station House complex ) describe both the energy and delicacy of the connemara landscape and mountains. The exhibition was captured in a beautiful limited edition book titled ‘Into the Mountains,’ published by Occasional Press and organised in collaboration with Ballynahinch castle. I also mention the work of artist and wood turner Angie Williams from Letterfrack, a true master of her craft who created a series of wood turned vessels made from native holly and sycamore trees. Some are adorned with gold leaf, others are delicately pierced and fine as lace.

Vessel by Angie Williams

Sycamore bowl by Angie Williams

Sycamore bowls by Angie Williams

Artisan House Editions also from Letterfrack, launched two productions as part of the programme –  the first is called ‘The Works’ by visual artist Joe Boske whose work is synonymous with the festival over the years. This book is dedicated to Joe’s work as a painter and illustrator in the forty five years that he has lived in Ireland. The second is simply titled ‘Connemara’ by sculptor Dorothy Cross. This launch took place in the gallery space that was the old supervalu in Clifden, transformed once again this year to house just some of the incredible art collection of Pat Murphy. A fitting venue for a celebration of one of Ireland’s most prolific contemporary artists. The book itself contains a thought provoking introduction by academic Robin Lydenberg, some fascinating insights into the artists work and many beautiful colour plates.

'Connemara' by Dorothy Cross

‘Connemara’ by Dorothy Cross

Another special event for me was the readings by Paula Meehan and Theo Dorgan. I was especially thrilled to meet Paula afterwards and was touched by the few words she shared so generously as she signed my book after the event.

Theo talked about how remarkable it is for a small town such as Clifden to herald the arts so veraciously and so consistently, particularly in the current climate when our leadership seems to want to strangle the arts at every turn. Such an example we set for our country if only it would sit up and take heed.

With three children attending school in the area I was made aware of the variety of workshops and activities available to school children during the week. I can think of no other place in the country that has such access to the arts and which celebrates artistic endeavour so fully at every level. I am left with an enormous sense of privilege to be able to live here and to educate our children in this environment. Sincere thanks to the artists and the organisers, especially Brendan Flynn who is at the heart of it all and the arts week committee whose hard work and commitment have made this years festival another resounding success.