Ballydehob Rocks Art and Culture

Looking pleased with the exhibition!

Looking pleased with the exhibition!

I’ve posted before about the amazing variety of events and festivals that West Cork towns host. The latest, and this is a new one, is Ballydehob’s Art and Culture weekend. It’s just over and it was great fun.

For the most part the venues were intimate (think pubs, cafes, An Sanctoir) or outdoors. The weather was variable – we got everything from gales to sunshine – but only one event had to be cancelled because of it.

There was a bus tour to the delightful Gortnagrough Museum, and another to the Rock of the Rings (local rock art!) and an historic walking tour of the town. There was a poetry trail, storytelling, plays, dance performances, a dozen different art exhibitions (including our own), kids’ workshops and movies, a cabaret, and of course music – lots of music from trad to country to world music to drumming to classical.

Young songwriters

Young songwriters

Perhaps one of my favourite moments was watching the girls who had taken the songwriting workshop, which had been led by a 12 year old, perform the songs they had written. We’ve been having fierce gales and the whole of Ballydehob was without electricity, so the pub was lit by candles and gas lamps. It was like going back to the rare old times when we made our own entertainment for gatherings of neighbours and friends. The lack of power didn’t bother anyone – the following act simply switched from electronic to acoustic with no fuss and soon we were singing again. The Choir I (try to) sing with, A Capella Bella, had a sing-along too – it was great to hear so many voices belting out our African rythms, enthusiastically conducted by the talented Caz Jeffreys.

By lamplight

By lamplight

Our own event, the Prehistoric Rock Art Exhibition, proved to be popular. The talk was packed and people lingered afterwards and peppered us with questions. There is a lot of interest here in anything to do with our heritage, and rock art is a little-known aspect of it: many people commented that they had no idea it existed or what it was like. People also liked Robert’s account of rock art in other parts of the world. For those of you who would have liked to be there but couldn’t, we are planning a permanent blog page on rock art which will contain some of the images we used as well as the program we produced for the show. You can also read our friends Amanda and Peter Clarke’s accounts of the exhibition here and here – they supplied the photographs of the exhibition I’ve used in this post.

These small local festivals can make a huge difference to a place. I’ve written before about the economic downturn in Ballydehob and the depressing effect it has had on local business, but the community has never lost its positive attitude and its volunteering spirit. One of our local writers, Sarah Canty, illustrates, in her documentary Down But Not Out, the challenges facing small villages like ours.

The Eileen and Marilyn Experience

‘The Eileen and Marilyn Experience’ Caberet

This festival was spearheaded by a great team, many from the Ballydehob Social Club, with lots of other volunteers pitching in. A huge thank you to the pubs and other venues for providing free space and paying for entertainers. And a special shout out from us to Joanne Cassidy at the West Cork Gourmet Store for providing a wonderful gallery for our Rock Art Exhibition. 

The Weekend ended with a huge party – more music, more dancing, more laughter and camaraderie.

Ballydehob – you rock!

13 thoughts

  1. Sorry to have missed what sounds like a great festival. Small communities like Ballydehob, or Murrisk in my part of Mayo, face many challenges. But the great community spirit that animates them is often in stark contrast to the loss of community activity in bigger towns and cities. A few dedicated individuals in a small rural community can make all the difference in the world. Participation is everything! Congratulations, Ballydehob!


  2. What a weekend – just recovering! it is so impressive that such a small place can host such a varied festival of such high quality. And it’s only one of the many festivals that it puts on during the year. Your talk rocked too!!


  3. Hi Fiona, hi Robert! Thanks for the nice impressions about our weekend. Unfortunately I had to stay in bed since Friday – the more I appreciate every bit about it.

    Just one small correction: Although most of the committee members of this weekend are also members of the Ballydehob Social Club, the organization of this festival was done apart from it. The original impact came from our chairman Brendan Launders, and there are also other people involved who are not in the Social Club.


    • Must acknowledge the venues , pubs etc for organising & paying for their own gigs & giving their spare rooms free of charge for the artists!!!a community effort , I think.. Thanks Brendan for the inspiration!!! Noel..


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