Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets two energetic women who have restored an old garden to become a community resource
A special Harvest Festival at Doorus House, four miles south of Kinvara, will take place next September, marking the 10th anniversary of a unique community enterprise.
The Community Orchard Project has seen a derelict, neglected garden brought back to life and production, complete with fruit trees, polytunnels, beehives, pizza hut, a bio-diversity garden and a pergola, in an initiative led by two local women.
The Community Orchard Project was the brainchild of Lynn O’Keeffe-Lascar, who was joined early on by Anna Jeffrey Gibson.
It consists of slightly less than an acre to the rear of Doorus House, which was built in the late 1860s and once owned by the de Basterots, a wealthy French family, who were friends of Lady Gregory. They used it as a holiday home until the 1940s. It then changed hands and remained in private ownership until it was taken over by the Irish Youth Hostelling group, An Óige in the 1960s.
Unfortunately, the hostel has been closed for the past two years, although the women are hopeful it will re-open – it’s the last of the organisation’s hostels to remain closed.
“When we started the walled garden it was a busy hostel and there is also the caravan park at Traught beach, so there was a lot of activity,” explain the two women.
The restoration of Doorus walled garden began 10 years ago, thanks to Lynn, who is originally from Oranmore. She’s not from a farming background, but she always loved gardening and, after her Leaving Cert, did a course in organic gardening in the UK before returning to Ireland.
She didn’t have enough space for a garden in the house she and her husband, Nico, were renting locally, so she put out feelers and the postman told her about the garden at Doorus House. She approached An Óige who were receptive to the idea. At the time it was completely overgrown and they were happy to have somebody take on the challenge.
She put up a sign looking for volunteers and Anna came on board. Born in England and reared in Dublin, her parents were both botanists and she has a degree in science from Trinity College. Like Lynn, she has a passion for gardening. She and her husband, Ivan have their own garden on their farm between Kinvara and Ballindereen, but she was eager to get stuck into this project too.
“The learning curve has been very steep since we took it over,” says Anna with a laugh.
You wouldn’t think that to look at it now. There are 70 fruit trees – 50 of them traditional apple varieties – three polytunnels, several allotments, a small wilderness garden, and a recently planted herb bed – made with car and tractor tyres – containing everything from wild rocket to wormwood.
All the garden’s trees were sponsored by local families, so there is a real sense of ownership among the community and people regularly visit to check on them.
From the get go, the women got involved with the Clare-based organisation, Seedsavers, which works to save traditional Irish fruit and vegetable varieties.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops
“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.
Live album looks after those who make it real
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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Arts Festival is still giving it socks!
“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.