So this is just a quick catch up on the bits and pieces I have been doing in the last couple months.
Bealtaine Lantern making workshop with Greywood Arts Killeagh Co. Cork
I have continued to have some wonderful chats and meetings with avariety of arts and history practitioners, with ongoing online meetings with Michael Fortune in particular fuelling much of my excitement in this continued project, and leading to several online workshops, some of which I attended purely as a participant, and some of which I facilitated myself or co-facilitated with Michael. I managed to host several online lantern making workshops with a variety of groups, before re-entering the field in my own practice in the ‘real world.’
Simon Thompson, aka Clown Noir.
I recorded several of these chats, and I’m slowly organising it so I can release edited down versions, especially a fantastic chat I had with Simon Thompson (Clown Noir) on the nature of performance, guising masks and taboo. This proved almost impossible to edit down, as I just didn’t want to lose any of Simon’s stories.
Aughakillymaude Mummers, Co. Fermanagh
I had a lovely chat Jim Ledwith of the Aughakillymaude Mummers back in May, who offered to arrange a meeting between myself and several traditional Mumming practitioners in Fermanagh. My plan is ultimately to travel to there and learn about their Mumming traditions and history. However, organising meetings in-county, and even nationally, has been a slow process, with caution still being the norm, and this has proven true in this case, too. A massive frustration in this whole process, though obviously a necessity, is how tough it is to organise meetings with people in real life, especially beyond the borders. I’d always prefer to chat in person, and although Zoom etc. has been incredibly useful over the last year, letting me connect with a wide range of people I might not have otherwise met, in far reaching countries, I still much prefer face to face, informal conversations that can lead down such interesting avenues in a way Zoom – with its formality and time constraints – just doesn’t always allow for.
However, though I do plan on travelling to Fermanagh at some point this year, for now Zoom might have to do.
Sigginstown Castle, Co. Wexford
Getting more up to date, I met Sigginstown Castle owners Liz and Gordon this August and got the grand tour of their castle on the shores of Tacumshin lake where we informally discussed the upcoming Mummers event at the castle for Heritage Week. A fascinating couple, and a fantastic space, it’s really got me thinking about the possibilities going forward. Liz and Gordan planned a small outdoor event with music and mumming. While we had a smaller turn out than hoped, we put together a short mummers play that Liz had compiled from different early examples of mummers plays from around Ireland and Britian.
Not only did I take part in my first mummers play with the Sigginstown mummers there, but I finally got to see Wexford mumming in person– The Ballycallane mummers performed for a small audience under the cover of a marque (first time sincce before the pandemic) just before a torrential thunderstorm broke overhead! We literally had a thunderous round of applause!
So a short one this time, just a catch up and getting myself back into writing again with a little help and encouragement from my partner Dominic. It’s strange being in the middle of the end of the pandemic, in that we’re still – in the main – exercising natural caution in how we operate, with all the frustrations that that brings with it, and yet bit by bit we’re slowly stepping back out into the world. I’m very excited and obviously nervous about where Straw Memories is going to bring me once the world has opened back up again!