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Clowning around in search of a degree

Judy Murphy

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Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets some of the people behind the success of Galway Community Circus

There was a time when the idea of a child running away with the circus would fill any parent with dread. Things change. These days it’s possible to study for a degree in circus training and two young men from Galway City are doing just that.

Liam Carmody, who is at the Rivel Circus School in Barcelona and Freddy Burrows who studies at Rotterdam’s Codarts University for the Arts, cut their teeth at Galway Community Circus, which currently has 300 members and more waiting to join, according to its director Ulla Hokkanen.

At the Circus’s headquarters in St Joseph’s Community Centre in the Westside of the City, people of all ages and backgrounds can learn skills from acrobatics and gymnastics to clowning and stilt-walking, with juggling and unicycling thrown in for good measure. There are animals involved – this is all about human skill and creativity.

The Community Circus caters for people from toddler-level up, and has drop-in classes for adults, but this is primarily about young people – 250 of them aged from five to 20.

“What we do is very valuable in the community,” Ulla says. “It’s about using circus as a tool to engage young people and it works. Studies in other countries have shown that.”

Ulla, who is in her early 30s, is a lifelong fan of this art form.  When she was seven, a circus company came to her home town to do a weekend of workshops. Her parents, who were teachers, loved the concept and teamed up with another couple to set up a circus school for young people locally.

Acrobatics, juggling, clowning and mime were a fixture in Ulla’s life for the next 10 years until she went away to university at the age of 17 to study social science. Theirs was a real community circus, she says, with parents being involved as well as children.

“For whatever mad, wild, creative ideas we had as children they worked to make it happen.”

And it’s the same with the Galway Community Circus, where parents play a central role.  Here, in a safe environment, young people can try out their skills, learn, fail sometimes and try again.

“Failure is good in a circus, once it’s done safely,” says Ulla. Young people to become more aware of themselves and the world around them by experimenting with different physical skills, she states.

“How can you use your own body to know your level of comfort without taking risks? You can do things in your own way in a circus, that’s what’s important. And there is always something you can do, whether it’s unicycling, juggling, hula-hoops, clowning or balancing on a globe.”

Ulla first came to Ireland from Finland as an Erasmus student in 2003, attending the University of Limerick. When she graduated from college with her social science degree, she returned and settled in Galway about eight years ago.

Seeking experience in youth and community work, Ulla was attracted by an advert from Galway Community Circus – Ireland’s first dedicated youth circus – seeking volunteers.

She went on to become a tutor and subsequently its director, “a bit of a dream job”. Under her stewardship the Circus has grown significantly and she is passionate about its value to its students and their families.

“I know what it means to be a child who doesn’t fit in with traditional team sport,” she says. “I wasn’t competitive and I was quite shy. The circus – a world where anything is possible and where it’s good to be mad – is a real confidence booster.”

That’s why the focus is primarily on young people, to give them skills and confidence for life.

“We have 25 classes a week in the Community Centre in Shantalla and we have summer camps too. And we travel and do outreach.”

Five years ago 20 children attended the classes, now there are 250 so the demand has grown hugely.

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

Connacht Tribune

A time when we learned once more that no man is an island

Francis Farragher

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Country singer Dolly Parton getting the jab: she sang about it and part-funded research on the vaccine.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

One of the oft-repeated pub jokes whenever the price drink was increased, whether it by Finance Ministers or publicans who felt that their margins were being whittled away, was that: “As long as it doesn’t get scarce, we’ll be happy enough.”

Who could have believed though in the first month or two of 2020 that this scenario would unfold (at least in pubs), where the opportunity to meet friends – and the odd ‘auld enemy’ too – over a couple of pints in the local bar would be snatched away from us?

We probably have learned to adapt to the reality of the pandemic and most of us will remember the real sense of fear and constriction that pervaded our every word and action early last year.

2020 was the universal version of ‘annus horribilis’ – the term made famous by Queen Elizabeth in 1992 when royal marriages started to collapse like cards houses in the breeze.

Being of rural stock, I loved the little video earlier this from country music icon, Dolly Parton, who adapted a verse of her famous Jolene song to mark her first shot of the Moderna vaccine (she also donated $1 million to its research) in a very sincere effort to try and encourage the general public to get inoculated.

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,

I’m begging of you not to hesitate,

Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,

Cause when you’re dead that’s a bit too late.”

A year before that, times were indeed very strange across Ireland and indeed the world. I remember on the Sunday night before St. Patrick’s Day when a sense of incredulity greeted the news in my own local that ‘a lot of the pubs in Galway city were closing down’. Surely, this couldn’t happen in our own little watering hole in the sticks, but it did.

Michael Karmen’s soundtrack from the Band of Brothers series – a wonder piece of music even to my untrained ear – will always remind me of that early Spring period of lockdown in 2020.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Beat the leaks with reusable Nixx

Denise McNamara

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Ellie Loftus creator of Nixx.

Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Ellie Loftus is one of those super high achievers who makes you feel totally inadequate.  A registered nurse with two postgraduates, one in paediatrics and the other in intensive care, she also has a Masters of Science in Health from UCD. She was Regional Child and Adolescent Health Development Officer for the HSE from 2003 to 2008.

The native of Crossmolina who lives in Barna then decided to go and get herself a law degree and was later called to the Bar. She is currently working as a barrister.

In her spare time, Ellie is a sprinter. She runs for Ireland as a master athlete and competed before lockdown at the European Athletics Championships.

And it wasn’t just running that she excelled at. She represented Ireland on the first female Irish Olympic bobsleigh team, taking part in four World Cups. She was sought out by Prince Albert of Monaco for a chat because she was from Mayo, the home of his beloved late mother Grace Kelly.

Now, at the age of 49, this dynamo has pivoted again, this time setting up her own business. She has drawn on her experience of working with adolescents in the HSE, being a mom of two girls and her years as an athlete.

Nixx.ie is a period and bladder leak range of underwear that could revolutionise sanitary care.

The underwear is reusable by throwing it in the washing machine and can be worn without a tampon or pad.

Each pair consists of four layers of specialised fabrics. Because they can be worn without sanitary products, they are a much more sustainable solution. The first sanitary pads invented are still in a landfill somewhere as they take between 500 and 800 years to decompose.

They also turn up everywhere you don’t want to see them. Sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches, more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Stepping out of time in Burren Lands

Judy Murphy

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Lifestyle – Sacred sites and traditional crafts and placenames are among the wonders that unfold on a walking tour of the Burren led by Anna Casey Donohue. It all takes place on the lowlands and hills of the family farm south of Kinvara, where her husband John is the seventh generation of his family to work the land. JUDY MURPHY goes on a voyage of discovery, led by this retired teacher of Irish and Geography.

Driving towards the Burren from the village of Kinvara, its majestic limestone mountains are a source of wonder, no matter how many times you see them. From a distance, they’re amazing. But it’s only when you get up close, you realise how this seemingly inhospitable landscape teems with wildlife and history.

That wealth of nature, heritage and also spirituality is what Anna Casey Donohue wants people to experience when they take to the hills behind her house on the Clare-Galway border. And there’s no doubt, once you go off the road and start walking towards a field known locally as Páirc na Liadhas, the outside world seems to melt away.

Páirc na Liadhas translates into English as ‘the Field of the Grey Habits’, Anna explains. Located across the hill from Oughtmama, which was an important monastic site in the early Middle Ages, and close to the 13th Century Corcomroe Abbey, this place is steeped in folk history, much of which has long passed into the mists of time. But previous generations remembered Páirc na Liadhas as an area which was home to an order of grey-robed nuns. And as we make the gentle ascent towards the field – a green oasis on the mountain’s lower slopes with hawthorn and hazel copses all around – Anna informs the small group of walkers that it contains the ruins of a convent, which, it’s believed, was connected to the monastic community of Corcomroe.

Anna, a retired secondary school teacher who runs Burren Explore, is a mine of knowledge when it comes to the Burren’s geography, folklore and placenames – and the joy she gets from sharing that knowledge is palpable.

She’s originally from Kilbeacanty in the foothills of the Sliabh Aughty Mountains on the other side of Gort and this farm on which we are walking was inherited by her husband Johnny,  the seventh generation of his family to work this land – doing so in line with the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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