TULCA chooses Donegal’s ‘Screamers’ as main theme of visual arts festival

Atlantis House, Burtonport, Co Donegal. © Pat Langan / The Irish Times.
Atlantis House, Burtonport, Co Donegal. © Pat Langan / The Irish Times.

They Call Us the Screamers will be the theme of this year’s TULCA Festival of Visual Arts, which will take place from November 3-19. It’s being curated by Welsh artist Mat Packer, who is director of Derry’s Centre for Contemporary Art and TULCA is now accepting submissions for an exhibition on the subject.

They Call Us the Screamers comes from a book written by Jenny James, which details the history of the radical primal-therapy commune (Atlantis) that she established in Donegal in the mid-1970s. The book tells the story of their arrival in Ireland, the life of the commune, and the public notoriety that followed.

Although generally welcomed by local people, the behaviour of Atlantis commune members attracted unwelcome attention from social services, the police and media. They got the nickname ‘The Screamers’ from a 1976 Sunday World article, which referred to their practice of ‘primal scream therapy’, a form of psychotherapy developed by Dr Arthur Janov that sought to re-enact the traumas of birth and reverse the neuroses of later life. John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Steve Jobs were among the best-known advocates of primal therapy.

Many of the Atlantis members in Donegal refused State support when it came to education and medicine, both for themselves and their children as they attempted to turn their back on modern civilisation.

Atlantis did not have a fixed membership or strict organisational structure. Members would come and go, some visiting for a day or two, others staying for years.  In 1993, after almost 30 years in Ireland in one form or another, the core members set sail for Colombia in a refurbished boat, where they remain today.

“Atlantis was a project that sought an alternative way of life,” explains Matt of the commune.

For more,  read this week’s Galway City Tribune