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Connacht Tribune

Macnas on fire ahead of epic Gilgamesh

Judy Murphy

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Georgina O'Connor, Production Co-ordinator; Mark O'Donnell, Executive Director; and Bridin Murphy Mitchell, Executive Producer, at the launch of Gilgamesh this week.

Lifestyle – Macnas Theatre Company is embarking on its most ambitious project yet, a retelling of world’s oldest epic, a timeless tale of humanity, love, revenge and the quest for immortality. It will run for the rest of the year in different venues and across various platforms. Artistic Director Noeline Kavanagh tells JUDY MURPHY about its evolution and about the importance of surprise to the company’s work.

Rain is bucketing down on the roof of the Macnas workshop in the city’s Fisheries Field as the company’s Artistic Director Noeline Kavanagh sips her first espresso of the day – not that this animated, energised woman needs it.

Covid-19, meanwhile, is pitching the world into unprecedented territory as Galway’s groundbreaking theatre company prepares for the launch of Gilgamesh, its epic production for Galway 2020. There are reasons for concern, but Noeline who was planning this project long before Galway submitted any bid book to become European Capital of Culture isn’t fazed.

“I have plan B,” she says firmly, “and plan C, D and E if they’re needed.”

Capable and creative, Noeline has already fought the good fight to get Gilgamesh up and running – like many other Galway companies which dealt with the 2020 European Capital of Culture organisation, Macnas faced problems over 2020’s financial commitments to the project and delays in getting contracts signed.

So, being at the stage where Macnas can focus on the massive workload is wonderful and she’s grateful to be there.

“The European Capital of Culture gave us the opportunity to think beyond the obvious and beyond our hall door,” she explains. “It offered us a panoramic view that could only exist in our imagination until then; to have a vision of this scale that we could get funding for. It was radical.”

Macnas never has any problem with ideas, she says. “It’s getting the support to implement, develop and sustain the company has always been the challenge.”

Macnas grew out of Galway Arts Festival in the mid-1980s, hitting the streets with parades the likes of which had never been created by an Irish company before.

“Macnas has always been about surprise and with Gilgamesh, that’s what we are aiming to do,” says Noeline, whose links with the company stretch back to her youth when she was a volunteer.

Now, because of Galway 2020 funding, the company is in a new phase, which involves working with visiting artists on an ongoing basis, while ensuring its own core creative staff are also involved.

Visiting artists include playwright Marina Carr (The Mai, By the Bog of Cats) who is writing the script for an outdoor show that will be performed in June and an indoor one, scheduled for November.

The event will also have a prologue and an epilogue – with the prologue starting in unexpected places around Galway City in April.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell

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Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara

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Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

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