Lifeystle – Award-winning Galway group with a track history of top-class work and challenging notions about intellectual disability now tackle Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. Judy Murphy tells their unique story.
“It sounds like I had a plan, but I really didn’t,” says Petal Pilley, Artistic Director of Blue Teapot Theatre Company, the Galway City based professional drama group made up of people who have a mild Intellectual Disability (ID).
For someone without a plan, Petal has achieved extraordinary success with Blue Teapot since joining in 2006. The award-winning group, which is based in Munster Avenue in the City, has broken new ground in the Irish arts world, producing top-class work and challenging notions about intellectual disability.
Its best-known play, 2012’s Sanctuary, commissioned by Petal and written by Christian O’Reilly, was a major success. It went on become a critically acclaimed film as it explored the needs of people with disability when it comes to relationships and sex.
Next up is a production of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, which will be staged at the City’s Town Hall Theatre from May 24-26.
This time, the cast mostly comprises people who are not ID and includes some of Galway’s best-known actors. But the key role of Rose is being played by Jennifer Cox, a young actor with Down Syndrome.
Friel wrote Rose as someone who had an intellectual disability, and as far as Petal is aware, this will be the first production in Ireland to have an ID actor in the role. She believes it gives an extra depth and poignancy to his drama set in the 1930s about a family in rural Donegal.
Petal is passionate about Blue Teapot; the work the company does and the role that arts can play in helping everyone to reach their creative potential.
Her own background in theatre stretches back to childhood – from the age of five she was part of the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre Company, where her mother Charmaine was a costume designer and her step-father Rod Goodall an actor.
Footsbarn travelled all over the world, including to Galway, and it was here that Rod and Charmaine settled in the early 1990s, working with Macnas. Petal, who was 20 at the time, moved here too and apart from a few years in London doing theatre-training, she’s been here since. She moved to Dublin briefly but didn’t like it.
While some aspects of Galway disenchant her, including a disregard in some quarters about the contribution of artists to life here, it’s her home. And she absolutely loves ‘the Teapots’. As performers, they are so supportive of each other, she says, pointing out that when they say “well done”, which they do often, they mean it. And if anyone has an issue at work, they’ll say it straight out and deal with it, rather than bottling things up.
She laughs as she recalls doing the interview for the job, when its previous artistic director Niamh Dillon moved on.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later