This piece was written for the current issue of the Connemara Journal, out now.
The 2014 Sea Week Festival celebrated its 30th year this year with a series of events that brought the village of Letterfrack on to the national stage. It began on the 17th October with a visit by President Higgins who opened the Letterfrack Poetry Trail and Small Works Exhibition in the National Park.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina at the launch of the Poetry trail with Leo Hallissey and David Keane, photo by Aoife Herriot.
The Connemara Environmental Education and Cultural Centre commissioned nine poems by nine of Irelands most eminent poets for the occasion. The poems are carved onto plaques made of native larch, designed by Conservation Centre Letterfrack. They are mounted on slate from the old industrial school and strategically placed around the National Park, Connemara West centre and village of Letterfrack. Some of the poems are specific to their site while others are more general in nature. Together they make for a most enjoyable and thought provoking walk for the community and for our visitors. The poets are Theo Dorgan, Paula Meehan, Rita Ann Higgins, Joan McBreen, Moya Cannon, Michael Gorman, Louis de Paor, Mary O’Malley and Eva Bourke. Letterfrack is a thriving centre of education today but it has always acknowledged its troubled history in a spirit of openness that is respectful to those who lived here in less happier times. If you haven’t been on the Poetry Trail yet, go out and enjoy it soon, it is well worth a visit.
President Higgins views the work with David Keane, photo by Aoife Herriot
The Small Works Exhibition is an annual event that is a gem of an idea brought into fruition by Leo Hallissey, the driving force behind this festival. It has become an integral part of Sea Week and it is unusual because the artwork is shown anonymously, allowing the viewer to decide what he or she likes without being influenced by a name. It is also unusual because each painting is made available for sale by the artists at the knock down price of €90.00 or €120.00 for a framed piece. The generosity of spirit at the heart of this collective makes it special and this is shared by the artists and by everyone who purchases an art work.
One of the artworks at the Small Works Exhibition
‘The Move away from the Coast’ – painting at the Small Works Exhibition
David Keane prepared this years brief which was entitled ‘Time and Tide.’ Artists living in the community were asked to reflect on the fragile nature of existence on the edge of the Atlantic, bearing in mind the impact of last Winter’s storms. The show was skillfully curated by visual artist Mary Hession and artist and wood turner Angie Williams – no easy task with literally dozens of artworks encompassing a wide range of styles. President Higgins took time to view each piece before he shared a few words with the assembled crowd. The president and his wife Sabina were presented with a hand bound copy of poems from the trail, transcribed by the poets themselves as well as two beautiful productions from Artisan House and a wooden bowl made by Angie Williams.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina with Mary Ruddy from Artisan House and wood turner and artist Angie Williams, photo by Aoife Herriot
These two events were highlights for me but they were just part of a rich and varied programme that celebrates the sea through music and dance, walks, workshops, a spectacular ‘After the Light’ parade and much more. Congratulations and thanks to all those involved for making this years festival such a great success.