Work in Progress for Urban Explorer
The Elevation(s) interventions were planned as exploratory research for the Urban Explorer Arts project. There were three strands planned to coincide with Skibbereen Arts Festival. It was a wonderfully intense roller coaster of serendipity, missed opportunity, weather watching, litter picking, joyful presence, some swearing, considerable sweat, new alliances, stimulating conversation and hopeful optimism. I was astounded by the support I got in the attempt to light the eastern elevation of Uillinn. People offered their professional skills and equipment because they believed in the drama of it. People offered their time at the height of the busiest season of the year and were so sympathetic when the experiment failed due to a light bulb and insufficient contingency planning on my part. There was hardly time to dwell on this before the series of events, Live at the Rock kicked off.
Each day a different event was planned where the Rock became a destination instead of a thoroughfare. On the first day we were buffeted by severe winds and only a few hardy souls turned up, but Bryan Harris led a fascinating walk through the land pointing out sites of interest and places of wonder as there is still so much unknown about the history of the Rock. He also brought along the detailed plans that are to be submitted for section 8 planning by the land owner, Cork County Council.
The sun shone warmly on Tuesday when Gillian O’Donovan led a nature walk for children. We were a raggle taggle bunch of about 14 slowly making our way down the hill in search of different colours and textures. At the bottom we played some games before ascending on a boundary lane and gathering around a large rock to share our booty and discuss their characteristics. This workshop really slowed our perception of time and space – we became children where every inch of ground demanded exploration.
Wednesday was colder with threatening showers, about 35 people were gathered with Liz Clark and the Baltimore Singers. They arranged themselves so that the wind would carry their voices and sang songs of social change as well as a new composition that had been collaboratively written with some choir members as part of the Starling Song project. As one audience member commented after it was a moment of defiant resilience I Won’t Back Down.
On Thursday I rediscovered that Inclusive Dance is fun ! Especially with great facilitators like Josephine Mac Carthy and Patricia O’Sullivan. We had a super workshop with about 40 participants drawn from Coaction Bantry, Skibbereen and Clonakilty, Skibbereen Community & Family Resource Centre and assorted interested individuals and festival goers. Throughout Siobhán Heapes sang acapella holding our attention to rhythm and leading us with her voice. This was followed by an extraordinary Limegreen improv performance by Tara Brandel of Croiglan as part of her year long residency at West Cork Arts Centre. She danced her way from the top of the Rock down past the Famine Houses and into the town via Windmill Lane and onto West Cork Arts Centre. After interludes in Gallery 1 & 2 she danced her way to to the top of the building to reconnect again with the Rock through the 5th floor balcony frame. I was breathless with admiration.
The rain held off on Friday and the affable Paul O’Colmain of Working Artist Studios led a Spoken Word Open Mic. Paul is multi-talented writing poetry in English and Irish as well as in Haiku and Tanku formats. Listening to the poems in Irish was so interesting. While Paul had explained them in English I could not exactly follow them – some of the words were familiar most not – but bizaarely this amplified my enjoyment of them. Francesco Biondino gave an intensely syncopated performance and memorable in my mind is his rendition of his own poem I am redefining my emotions, then a woman who prefers to be nameless performed the lyric to a song she wrote – blending river and home together. Clonakilty based, Dublin native Brendan McCormack closed off with some poems still echoing in my mind .. What is the sound of this place?
The last strand in this series is called HearHere an online audio map with short location responsive narratives.