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Adopted Galwegian Christof finds his musical direction



Date Published: {J}

Galway has a strange magnetic quality. In conversation with people, it’s remarkable how many will tell you that they’ve lived in the city for longer than they planned. This is very much the case in the artistic community, where newcomers are charmed by the kindred spirits they find. They might have come here on a hunch or a whim, or a story they heard, but something stronger makes them stay.

Christof Van Der Ven could well fit into that kind of story. The Dutch singer/songwriter came to Galway over three years ago, found the welcoming music scene to his liking and has stayed since. Christof sings with the impressive folk troupe Mad Uncle Harry and will soon be launching his own debut EP.

“My ex-girlfriend had gone away for six months, about three or four years ago now,” he says when explaining why he hit the road. “She went to Portugal and that made me think ‘I have to go somewhere else as well’, to get out of the scene back home and do something else.

“I thought Ireland would be nice to go to, for some reason,” he continues. “Maybe it’s because of the ads on TV, or the books you read and all that! And I thought the music scene would be good here as well. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen but I just made a choice to come here.”

Travelling may broaden the mind, but it also gains you access to a network of people who’ll help you out. Particularly when you need somewhere to lay your head.

“I knew I didn’t want to go to Dublin because it was a bit too big for me,” says Christof. “A friend of a friend got me an e-mail address of a guy who worked in NUIG, so I got in touch with him. He set me up in his sister’s house for a couple of days and I got kind of settled.”

Bizarrely, Christof has never had the chance to thank the guy.

“Funny enough, I didn’t hear anything from him at all, any more. Ever! It was strange.”

Armed with his guitar, Christof went to cut his teeth on the only stage open to every performer – the street.

“I wanted to busk. I was really nervous at the beginning, trying to hide away somewhere, in an alley! I got more confident and did that for about a year.”

Christof’s natural style soon endeared him to local musicians and double bassist Kelvin Busher asked him to come and jam.

“Kelvin asked me to start a reggae band with him,” Christof explains. “We did a rehearsal and then we started doing more old time music and bluegrass. That’s how I got into that.”

Christof and Kelvin then went on to form Luvly Lucy with Nicola Joyce and Gerry Paul from Gráda. The band played gigs in The Crane, and within a year of arriving in Galway, Christof was firmly ensconced in the music community.

“They were into the same kind of music, that’s how I got into the scene – I met an awful lot of people in a very short time,” he explains.

Christof’s initial dalliance with Galway slowly blossomed into a long-term relationship as the Dutch singer found the folk world was keeping him busy

“I thought I was going to stay in Galway for three months, and [have] another three months of travelling around,” he says. “But I ended up staying here. I kept saying to my family and friends back home ‘I’ll stay for the Summer’. So they were waiting and then after the summer I said maybe I want to stay here!”

Last year, Christof started singing with Mad Uncle Harry, an accomplished, Americana-playing quartet. The rest of the band are Noriana Kennedy (vocals), her brother Paddy (percussion), Liz Coleman (violin) and bassist Paul O’ Driscoll.

“Just over a year ago, I started singing with Noriana – she’s great,” Christof says. “I learned a lot of songs from her. I met her in O’Connor’s; the lads were doing a gig. We got really busy, we’re a band now!”

Christof will soon release his debut solo EP and, as the songs on his MySpace site show, he’s got a deft touch with his adopted tongue.

“Whenever I feel like writing I can write a song in five minutes,” he says. “I have one this song that I wrote in 10 minutes. It’s catchy and everyone seems to like it. Some songs take longer.”

Although Christof likes to write about ‘relationships and politics’ his songs seem to dictate which way they want to go.

For more, read page 28 of this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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