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Unique craft village a hive of creativity and energy



Date Published: {J}

New blood. It brings new energy – and that new energy is apparent in Spiddal Craft and Design Studios, better known as the Ceardlann, which this year marks its 27th anniversary with a free family festival from Tuesday, April 26 to Sunday, May 1.

Féile na Ceardlainne, a celebration of art, craft, music and dance, will take place throughout the attractive craft village, located on the Galway side of Spiddal with picture postcard views across to the Burren.

On a sunny Saturday, there’s nowhere else you’d rather be, says potter and ceramic artist Rob D’eath of Sliding Rock Contemporary Ceramics who has been there from the beginning, 27 years ago.

The concept of a crafts centre in Spiddal was first mooted in the 1980s by Spanish sculptor and art-gallery director Jesus Modia, who lived in Connemara. He had established an art gallery in Spiddal and felt that a craft village would be a valuable local asset. Údáras na Gaeltachta agreed and came on board to create the first such venture in Ireland.

Jesus Modia died shortly after it was established, and today the Ceardlann stands as a legacy to his memory, with nine crafts workers making and selling their work on site. There’s also a restaurant, Builín Blasta, which attracts diners from far and near for the quality of its food.

Over the years, the ‘Crafts Centre’, as it is known locally, has been home to a wide range of talented people. As well as Rob D’eath, weaver Máire Ní Thaidhg and Gearóid Murphy of An Spailpín Fánach, which supplies crafts items relating to the Irish language, have been there since the beginning.

The three original members are delighted to welcome the two most recent members of the craft community, Brazilian artist Andrea Rossi whose colourful contemporary paintings explore different aspects of Irish life, and Dublin-born stained glass artist Sue Donnellan. Both the newcomers now live locally, as do all the artists based in the centre.

Andrea’s and Sue’s new blood has brought fresh energy and that has been vital in organising Féile na Ceardlainne, says artist Geraldine O’Rourke, who has been in the Ceardlann for 10 years and in business for two decades.

Geraldine works in mixed media, including hand designed paper, and porcelain to create pieces that draw on Ireland’s mythology and rich aquatic culture.

An Siopa Buí is a more recent addition to the Craft and Design Studio, with a ceramic café where people can take part in a range of activities from painting their own pottery to making greeting cards. Children are welcome and an Siopa Buí has proven to be a popular venue for children’s parties.

Nearby, Celtic Coin jewellery produces work using the designs of the first coins of the Irish Free State. Their range includes brooches, cufflinks, silver necklaces, earrings and golf ball markers.

Cloon Keen Ateliers, meanwhile, is a family run business, making candles from top quality ingredients as well stocking as a range of body, bath and home accessories.

There have been many changes at the Ceardlann over the years, with various people coming and going, including the well-known musician Rick Epping who ran an accordion making studio in the centre. The current line up of nine artists and top class chef Jaime Peake in Builín Blasta sees the Ceardlann in a very strong position, says Geraldine O’Rourke.

And because 2011 has been designated Ireland’s Year of Craft by the Crafts Council of Ireland, it seemed an ideal opportunity to celebrate the achievement of the Spiddal Craft and Design Studio, she explains, adding that Féile na Ceardlainne is “evolving itself nicely”.

“It’s good to reinvent ourselves,” she continues. That’s particularly true in light of the country’s economic woes, when craft workers, like many other small businesses are facing serious challenges.

“These are tough times, but there are positives,” Ger feels. “People are getting together and trying to solve problems and that wouldn’t have happened in the boom times.”

That is being done partly through Conamara Network, a group organised by local businessman Enda Folan. The Ceardlann workers are members of that and it has been invaluable in helping them to exchange information with other people in business throughout Connemara, and make new contacts.

Potter Rob D’eath of Sliding Rock Ceramics adds that being small has its advantages in the current climate.

“It’s easier because these are only one or two-people businesses,” he says, adding that of the craft workers are in the Ceardlann seven days a week.

Rob also works as a lecturer in the Fine Art Department of GMIT, which has been a great cushion. In addition, he also holds exhibitions of leading artists on a regular basis in his Spiddal workshop.

For more, read this week’s 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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