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Jim draws on drama to empower community



Date Published: 09-May-2013

Galway’s ALâ social and community arts group is leading the way nationwide because of the type of Forum Theatre it has developed. The demand for its workshops and its continental style theatre, which encourages ad lobbying and interaction from the audience, is on the increase.

Dubliner Jim Aherne has been with ALâ since the start nine years ago and was recently re-appointed as its Project Director. These days ALâ offers workshops in forum theatre to community groups all over Ireland, although Ballybane remains its home base.

Jim’s functions include planning and implementation of activities, training of committee members and liaising with organisations and agencies seeking training workshops. He enjoys every minute of it and gets great satisfaction from seeing how ALâ has developed from its early days to the present.

There is a great sense of community in Ballybane and in Castle Park, where Jim lives with his wife Marie. Their six children are grown now and living elsewhere, two of them in Perth, Australia. Last Christmas was Jim’s first visit to Down Under though he was on his way there in 1972 when he came to Galway, met his future wife and never looked back.

“I never got to Australia because I met Marie, then got a job in Hanley’s Engineering and stayed here. But I don’t regret it. I loved Galway from the start and even more so when I started volunteering with the Macnas Parade in their early days.

“Out of that experience came ALâ when a few people living locally here decided to set up their own community theatre. It was very much influenced by Julian Boal who was into improv, a very different type of theatre to the traditional style we were used to.

“It was based on participation and was from the start inclusive of everyone in the community. It was established as a fully inclusive, personal, social and community development organisation using drama, arts and education as development tools.

“And it worked and continues to work. There were little or no opportunities for people in this area to get involved in theatre before ALâ. From day one, it encouraged people to join, to use their own stories, their imagination and in the process, to learn new skills. They also got experience in a fun, nurturing environment.”

Jim speaks with pride about ALâ, which is now one of the city’s recognised community arts groups, although he says the organisation could do with better funding because of growing demands for its work.

Since it was established, the ALâ teams have run 500 workshops in drama, technical aspects of theatre, street performance and prop making, using facilitators from at home and abroad.

For more on this feature, see the 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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