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Connacht Tribune

Galway is a place of magic in artist’s eyes

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Jennifer Cunningham, with her daughter Emily Acheson, at her exhibition 'After the Future' in the Festival Gallery, Market Street, for Galway International Arts Festival. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

By Judy Murphy

Lifestyle – Artist Jennifer Cunningham sees Galway in a different light to most and her rose-tinted, nostalgic look at the city, and its iconic buildings, forms one of the highlight exhibitions of the Galway International Arts Festival.

The Hangar, Seapoint, O’Brien’s Shop in Salthill, Heneghan’s Nurseries in Mervue, the Corrib Great Southern Hotel – iconic Galway buildings are central to the paintings of city artist Jennifer Cunningham. But while they’re instantly recognisable because Jennifer is a brilliant draughtswoman, the Galway she has created is also very different from the one we encounter every day.

Her rose-tinted buildings are either under construction or falling apart and some have images of fairground and circuses juxtaposed on the landscape, while young girls populate many of the works, evoking a different, otherworldly place.

After the Future, Jennifer Cunningham’s exhibition for this year’s Galway International Arts Festival is in the Festival Gallery, sited in the former printworks of the Connacht Tribune.

In addition to 20 paintings, she has also created a video installation and nine model pieces, depicting funfairs, and woodlands. These are playful and fun and show meticulous attention to detail.

In person, Jennifer is pretty precise, too. Warm and happy to explain her artistic process and the ideas behind her work, she can trace her love of art back to her childhood.

Home for Jennifer as a young child was in the now-demolished Rahoon Flats, before her family moved to Castle Park and then to Newcastle when she was a teenager. These days, she lives in Tuam with her husband, Tim Acheson, also an artist, and their three-year-old daughter, Emily, but Galway city and its deserted buildings continue to inspire her.

Her English-born grandmother had been awarded a place in art college but World War II put paid to herdream. Jennifer’s mother, Marie, inherited that talent, and graduated from GMIT with a Fine Arts Degree as a mature student. Jennifer’s maternal grandfather, meanwhile, was an engineer who was involved in designing Merlin Park Hospital in the 1950s, while her late father Pádraig was a highly skilled carpenter, who loved stories and music – stories are a vital element of her work.

Jennifer won her first art competition aged six and still has her prize of a teddy bear. After that, she entered the Galway Advertiser Christmas Art competition, winning a watercolour set which she still uses. A prize that has endured, she says with her warm smile.

And she sold her first painting – a Connemara landscape – for twenty pence when she was nine to a neighbour across the road.

So, it was no wonder Jennifer opted to study Fine Art at GMIT where she specialised in print-making and her tutors included the renowned UK artist Norman Ackroyd. His attention to detail and precision were incredible, she says, and he was a big influence.

She loved college and was there from 10am-10pm every day.

“For me, it was my Utopia. I knew I had found my tribe of wonderful eccentric people and I could be as eccentric as I wanted to be. A lot of them are still very good friends today.”

Jennifer graduated in 2002 with First Class honours and won several awards for her etchings, including the Taylor Art Award at the RDS. She used the money from that to set up a print studio in the garden shed of her family home.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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