Arts Week with Judy Murphy
“Sometimes jobs come along that you simply have to do,” says Naomi Louisa O’Connell about the Irish National Opera’s production for this year’s Galway International Arts Festival.
Least Like the Other: Searching for Rosemary Kennedy, is a musical telling of the life of Rosemary, the older sister of John F Kennedy. And the story of this young woman who endured a lobotomy at the age of 23 for a mental condition caused by her botched birth in 1918, is not pretty. When Rosemary’s behaviour became increasingly erratic as a young adult her politically ambitious father, Joe, instigated this extreme treatment, without informing her mother. Rosemary was subsequently locked away.
“When I first looked at the score and did an initial bit of research about Rosemary, I thought, ‘Oh. Oh, wow. The only way this will work is if it becomes my entire life for the next two months’,” Naomi recalls of being offered the main role.
The Clare-born, New York-based mezzo-soprano knew she would have to “chain myself to the piano” to learn Brian Irvine’s score for the piece.
But even more, she realised she would “have to dive deep, deep, deep into this world of utter misogyny and abuse which Rosemary inhabited”.
Naomi Louisa wondered if she should even accept the role. But she did.
“This is an important story, and I knew that working on a role this challenging would make me a better musician and a better performer.”
Preparing for it was tough and involved watching footage of a lobotomy. Filmed by the 1930s creators of the controversial neurological procedure, Freeman and Watts, this showed nerve connections in the brain being severed and was “one of the worst nights,” Naomi Louisa recalls. “I came close to throwing up a couple of times.”
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Truckers to take to the roads in droves – for pre-Christmas fundraising run
A convoy of big-wheel truckers will take to Connemara’s roads next month – in a variation of the iconic Coca Cola Christmas ad.
That’s the plan announced by local advocate Paddy Rock, who wants to recreate that festive feeling – and raise money for two worthy causes in the process.
But the truckers won’t bring the region to a standstill – because they will be taking to the roads with just their cabs, all decked out in Christmas lights!
Launching the Joyce Country Truck Run & Light Show, Mr Rock outlined the charity route, beginning at Peacock’s Hotel and travelling through Maam, Cornamona and Cloughbreac before finishing in Clonbur village, where the annual lighting of the Christmas tree will officially trigger the start of the festive season.
The whole spectacular will benefit two charities – Galway Parkinson’s Association and My Canine Companion, Autism and Therapy Services, because both support two local families in the area.
Paddy Rock, founder of the Joyce Country Truck Run, is also a member of the Galway Parkinson’s Association – an organisation he said had helped him cope with his own diagnosis of the illness.
“It has help me manage my Parkinson’s with tips and helpful information from other members and of course the therapies the association provides,” he said.
And that was why he decided to come up with the truck run.
He said he always had an idea that he would love to make his own version of the Coke Christmas ad with all the trucks lit up for Christmas.
And he knew that Maam Valley – all lit up with the finest trucks around decorated in Christmas lights – was the place to recreate such an iconic scene and do it for the benefit of deserving charities.
Aoife Conroy, mother of Robbie Conroy-Dermody, revealed the positive impact on her little boy after he received his assistance dog, Archie, from My Canine Companion – Autism and Therapy Services.
My Canine Companion trains assistance dogs for children with autism and other needs.
The dog’s primary role is to be a safety anchor when out in public for the children as the child is attached to the dog’s vest via a safety belt ensuring the child is safe at all times – bu,t they are also companions, sensory and emotional supports…and most importantly a friend.
Robbie Conroy-Dermody is autistic and was delighted to receive his assistance puppy-in-training Archie back in August.
Aoife said that Archie had changed her son’s life already after only a couple of months of being with them.
“Robbie made a friend on his first day of school – something that would otherwise be very difficult for him,” she said.
“A boy in his class was so taken with Archie and – after his teacher told the class Archie was a magic doggie to help Robbie – she later heard the boy tell his mother that Robbie was his friend, and he had a magic doggie.
“So thanks to Archie, the magic dog, Robbie now has two best friends,” she said.
The launch event also heard from Marie Cahill, Chairperson of the Galway Parkinson’s Association, who told the gathering that the GPA provides physiotherapy and speech and language therapy for over 100 members per week.
“These therapies are vital for the members of this group – and the level of support for this event shows just how important they are to the people of Galway and their families,” she said.
The first annual Joyce Country Truck Run & Light Show in aid of Galway Parkinson’s Association and My Canine Companion – Autism and Therapy Services will commence on December 11 from Peacock’s Hotel, Maam Cross, at 5pm.
The event is open to articulated lorry cabs – no trailers – and to smaller trucks such as refrigerated six wheelers and delivery trucks.
For more information on how to register for the event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org – and to contribute go to https://www.idonate.ie/JoyceCountryTruckRun
Galway Lions roar into festive action!
A Galway charity is once again focussed on the real spirit of Christmas – by raising funds to provide festive vouchers for over 400 families and individuals in need this Yuletide season.
To do that, Galway Lions Club has this week launched four separate fundraising drives – including its annual Radio Auction on Galway Bay Fm.
This annual extravaganza – overseen by ‘auctioneer’ Keith Finnegan and broadcast live on his Galway Talks show – has hundreds of great gifts under the hammer, with the proceeds then helping hundreds of needy families this Christmas.
The #lionsauction2021 will take place on Friday, December 3, between 9am and 12 noon – live on Galway Talks with Keith Finnegan and streamed live on: https://www.facebook.com/GalwayLionsClub.ie
The Lions expect to have over 230 items for sale including weekends away, fuel and food vouchers, tickets to sporting events, shopping vouchers and furniture.
You can bid online from 9am on Tuesday next, November 30, until 12 noon on Friday, December 3, on the auction website at www.galwaylionsclub.ie, or on the day by phone on 091-353250 where lines will be manned throughout the show.
On top of the Radio Auction, they will also be holding cash collections at local supermarkets and shopping centres, as well as a November swim and soft toy raffles – and they are once again appealing to the businesses and people of Galway to help them to help others.
“The Lions Club is a community-based organisation working to help those families in need. We work closely with many local organisations on a joint community basis – sourcing donations from businesses, working with other local charities and organisations and all our volunteers come from a wide spectrum of the local community in Galway,” said Galway Lions President Fergal McAndrew.
“Our joint wish is to give that extra little bit of help that might just make the difference and maybe help families in these tough challenging times. All of this is only possible through the generosity of the people and businesses of Galway,” he added.
The Lions Club Supermarket Collection, year on year, yields circa €18,000 which is a vital contribution to funding club projects – and volunteers are hoping to at least match that again this year.
The cash collections will be evident throughout the city from the last weekend of November and the first two weekends of December.
“Given the restrictions we were faced with relative to our cash collections at supermarkets last year and thankfully to a lesser degree this year, we have looked to iDonate to support our traditional cash collection fundraising efforts,” said Fergal McAndrew.
And one of those iDonate contributors will also win a hotel break at the Delphi 4* hotel and spa. That Draw will take place on December 18, and the winner will be notified by email.
You can also support Galway Lions by buying a line to win one of those big friendly cuddly bears that you will see on display in offices, shops, sports club, gyms and other venues. All the money goes directly to the Christmas appeal.
Galway mum is honoured for her dedication
A young Galway mother – honoured for her commitment to caring – has revealed her frustration over the lack of services for her nine-year-old son who suffers from a rare genetic disorder.
Martina Hynes from Tuam, who was last week named the Galway Family Carer of the Year, says that looking after young Joe is both rewarding – but, at the same time, frustrating because of the lack of support.
She said that she was honoured at having been chosen as the award winner having been nominated by close friend Noreen Ward who is also part of a sporting group that cater for children with needs on a weekend basis.
Martina and husband Dermot from Parkview Drive, Tuam, have – along with other young mothers with children who have challenging conditions – been campaigning for better and more frequent services from the HSE.
Joe was diagnosed with learning difficulties from an early age and was subject to epileptic fits until medication controlled this around a year ago.
While he is attending primary school in Tuam and is part of a local rugby programme for children with challenging conditions, he is full of the joys of life and is looking forward to what mum Martina hopes to be a normal life.
Joseph has SETD1B, a neurodevelopment disorder that includes absent seizures, global development delay, language delay, intellectual disability, autism as well as behavioural issues.
On one occasion, Joe was cycling from his home and wanted to turn a particular direction but was unable to do so and ended up in the middle of traffic on the main road. “He was very lucky,” admitted Martina, who is also the mother to seven-year-old Dylan.
She has subsequently discovered that there are only eight children in the country with Joe’s particular condition and this has intensified her demands for treatment and care for their child.
Martina was nominated by close pal Noreen Ward for the award and said that she was astounded that she was chosen. She added that it wasn’t something that she even contemplated on receiving.
“We just want Joe to have the treatment he deserves and that hopefully he can go on to live a normal life. It is very difficult for him but certainly more manageable with medication.
“However, the occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology and every other treatment he requires has not been available to him for the past two or three years because of Covid.
“That is when it becomes difficult as he desperately needs these services and there is nothing we can do to compensate,” Martina told The Connacht Tribune.
Martina cares for Joe while husband Dermot is a long-distance lorry driver in Dublin but they are hoping that the HSE can provide them with some assistance in the not too distant future.
“Martina is always there to support her friends, helps out at the local inclusion rugby club, and that nothing is too much for her,” said her nominator Noreen.
Joe is a member of the Little Rascals Rugby Club in Tuam which is for kids with physical and psychological challenges, and they were delighted when the then Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt paid them a visit for a training session.
“They will never forget that experience,” Martina recalls.