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Easter surely is the most wonderful time of year

Francis Farragher

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s more than a little troubling when one can remember the Andy Williams Show in glorious black and white television.

Coming up to every Christmas, one of his big hits was: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, a great little melody, but looking out this week on a stunning April sunrise after a full moon and a clear sky, maybe there’s a case for disputing the theme of the song.

If the weather is reasonably benign, as it has been for the last week or so, there is something truly refreshing about Easter, with sunlight greedily eating into the early and late edges of night time and the entire countryside taking on a lush green look.

Mind you, it was all an awful lot different last year when we had endured a very dry but extremely harsh March leaving fields with a grey and barren hue. It was the time of year when most farmers saw their silage stocks run out with not a decent blade of green grass to be seen, and that brought its own pressures.

This year, ‘The Ould Cow Days’ of early April weren’t too bad at all to us and as the grass begins to go forth and multiply, the bovines are gradually showing less and less interest in the round feeder with its grass harvest from 2013. The change in the year has come and most welcome it is too.

In March 2012, the temperatures touched the 20° Celsius mark while in 2013, the wicked wind from the east left us with a hungry spring, but this year it’s back to a more normal cycle with slightly above average temperatures and now there’s a crust appearing on the muck that laced our gateways through the winter.

If we have a problem this time of year, it’s that the wheel of time is whirring by, far too quickly, and as spring seamlessly slips into summer, there will soon be talk of early silage cuts, Connacht finals and even the Galway Races. But if we could lose ourselves in our daydreams and stall the clock, then Easter would surely be the time of year, to hold what we have.

Back in childhood days of the 1960s, there was always a great tradition of sowing the corn in the run-up to Easter and especially on Good Friday, if the weather conditions permitted.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops

Judy Murphy

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Elaine Feeney....debut novel.

“I hated school so much I thought if I could be a teacher, I could make it a bit better,” says novelist and poet Elaine Feeney about her day-job as an English and History teacher at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam.

The Athenry woman certainly has made it livelier and more relevant. Her students who were studying Hamlet for this year’s Leaving Cert departed from the text to give the troubled prince psychotherapy sessions, with different boys taking on the roles of Hamlet and the therapist as they explored the plot. Elaine laughs as she recalls how they got totally caught up in it. There’s always an entry point to good writing, she says, adding that she loves Shakespeare – in part because of the soap opera element to his drama.

“You can compare it to the latest episode of EastEnders”.

The Handmaid’s Tale by contemporary Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is also on the curriculum. Her novel might seem more relevant to the boys, especially given its global success since being adapted for television. When Elaine learned that Atwood would be visiting Galway in early March this year for a Galway 2020 event, she asked the organisers if it would be possible for the class to meet her and discuss her work. That’s what happened and 25 young men in their school blazers spent three hours discussing the novel with Atwood.

Elaine lectures in Creative Writing at NUIG and has been involved in the university’s project archiving the stories of the survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home. So, watching her students engage with a woman whose books deal with the misuse of power and oppression of women was a great moment.

It’s an example of how far she’ll go to give the students the best preparation for exams and for life. Elaine has a great relationship with them, something she’ll miss next year as she takes a career break to promote her own novel, As You Were, published by UK company Harvill Secker.

Read the full interview with Elaine Feeney in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Live album looks after those who make it real

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Mick Flannery….album for the crew.

Anyone who has seen Mick Flannery play live will know that the Corkman doesn’t embrace the spotlight with both arms. There is a sincerity to what he does – his reluctance to operate as any sort of frontman is only outweighed by passion for his craft.

His shows are intimate and they’re backed up by a studio-quality sound and a genuine engagement between artist and audience. It is what happens when someone who doesn’t like talking about themselves ends up pouring their heart out on stage.

It is fitting, then, that Mick’s new album revolves around the people around him. All of the proceeds for Alive – Cork Opera House 2019, the singer-songwriter’s first live LP, will be shared among members of his band and crew who have lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a major gesture from a modest talent and Mick is quick to point out that the album reflects just how much he owes to those that share his stage.

“I’m glad that it’s there as a tribute to them,” he says of the album. “I think Alan Comerford had a great gig that night on electric guitar with the solos that he played. Matthew Berrill was on the brass and he did some lovely stuff.

“There’s a few of the lads in the band who have music as their sole income. It’s not always easy to do that. It’s constantly booking gigs in bars around the place and that but it’s what they do and it’s what they have a passion for. They’ve worked hard to do what they love for a living and now these circumstances have taken that away.

“I have a kind of area to pivot – I can start writing songs and preparing albums whereas for the crew, without the live gigs their skillset is not being used at all… Lighting engineers and sound engineers, riggers, people that have built up PA companies over the years and small venues as well.”

For full interview, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Arts Festival is still giving it socks!

Judy Murphy

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Galway International Arts Festival Chief Executive John Crumlish and Artistic Director Paul Fahy, sporting their Irish Socksciety GIAF socks outside the Festival Gallery at William Street as details were announced of the Festival’s Autumn Edition. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

“This is not a July festival as people know it, moved forward. It’s a different creature” says Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival Paul Fahy about the organisation’s ‘Autumn Edition’ which is being held in reality and virtually in September and October following the cancellation of the July 2020 Festival due to Covid-19.

The aim is to bring live audiences into performances in a safe way, “to re-ignite that spark between live art and audience”, while also using digital platforms to reach those who might not be able to attend live events due to Covid-19.

He’s understandably excited about Mirror Pavilion, a major installation by artist John Gerrard commissioned by the Festival for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.

It will launch in Galway City’s Claddagh Quay on September 3, and will also be in Derrigimlagh Bog in North Connemara for October.

Gerrard is known for spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in California’s Coachella Desert and this work will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever in Ireland.

It will consist of three walls and a roof made of reflective glass while the fourth wall is an LED screen.

Two new artworks will be presented in the Pavilion; Corn Work at Claddagh Quay and Leaf Work at Derrigimlagh.

These connect with their specific setting, with Corn Work reflecting the power of the River Corrib and the many mills and industries it powered in bygone days.

Leaf Work, in the vast spaces of Derrigimlagh is a lament for the environmental damage that’s been caused to the world in the past century.

See full line-up and story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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