Gloria Steinem is an international icon. This week, we welcomed her to Bantry Literary Festival. Four hundred women, and a few men, rose spontaneously to our feet and clapped and cheered her entrance. First time I’ve seen a standing ovation before someone actually stepped on stage.
What followed was breathtaking – Gloria spoke, a little and beautifully, but mostly she listened as audience members asked questions and shared their own experiences as women in this country. People had come from far and wide to hear her and just to be there: people I admire and respect – Tara Flynn (see also You’re Grand) and Louise O’Neill. Lelia Doolan, for goodness sake, a Irish feminist icon in her own right. The conversations weren’t easy (misogyny, abortion, pornography, violence) and there certainly were dissenting and opposing viewpoints presented. But the atmosphere was respectful (if electric) and Gloria calmly dealt with each question in ways that were thoughtful and non-divisive. Two hours later, I think we all felt we had been present at a little bit of history.
We attended other Literary Festival events and Robert is writing about one of them – the delightful evening with Seán Ó Sé. That evening formed a wonderful contrast to the talk by Alice Carey, a self-professed New York/Irishwoman, vivacious and stylish, but also moving in her descriptions of a childhood caught between two worlds.
And just as that Festival is ending, the Skibbereen Arts Festival is bursting upon the scene with a slew of gallery openings and a 60’s street party! Sometimes it’s hard to know where the dividing line is between business and the arts in Skibbereen. All the business people seem to support the arts and all the arts events seem to work well with the businesses. Shopfronts become display cases. Empty buildings are re-purposed as galleries and theatres. Employees and owners dress up and decorate. Everyone has fun.
Skibbereen shop windows. Hands up who remembers women wearing curlers all day in the 60s!
This Friday was a good example as Skibbereen went all out for a 1960s-themed street party of food and music, to celebrate the opening of the Skibbereen Arts Festival. I wrote about this festival a couple of years ago. As arts festivals go in Ireland, this one is only in its infancy, but it hit its stride right from the starting gate, with an eclectic mixture of art, theatre, music, spoken word, film, and events for children.
Robert used to have a van like that
This year we have tickets for all kinds of disparate events and may have to take a holiday when it’s all over! On Friday we attended three art show openings and then joined the throngs on Bridge Street to get into the 60s swing.
The old Bottling Plant makes an excellent gallery space, in this case for the Angela Flowers Collection
The first opening was extraordinary. Angela Flowers is one of Britain’s foremost gallery owners (she has two in London and one in New York), dealing with contemporary art. She has a house in West Cork and the pieces on display are from her own private collection. (Read more about Angela here and about her galleries here.) This is challenging stuff – no pretty paintings here, but compelling and engrossing. The exhibition was opened by Lord David Puttnam, the film producer and now digital champion and educator, who never misses an opportunity to support Skibbereen, where he lives full time.
Uillinn came next: the whole space was devoted to the work of John Kelly, a painter and sculpture with a studio in West Cork and an international reputation.
Yet a third art exhibition opened in an unused space down by the river – a huge L-shaped room perfect for such a purpose. This one was called Mór (‘Large’) and brought together the work of several artists who work in large scale. Huge canvasses and large sculptural pieces created an imposing and magisterial atmosphere.
Karen Hendy’s triptych (top) and Don Cronin’s piece titled ‘Windfall’
Then it was off to the opening of The Souvenir Shop by Rita Duffy. Robert and I have signed up for two ‘invigilation’ sessions at this quirky and unusual art installation, so I will write about it more at a future date, or post photos on our Facebook page.
The Souvenir Shop
Before we staggered home, we joined the throngs of Skibbereen folk on Bridge Street for the 1960s party. The hippies were out in force!
Finally, tonight, we attended a premier showing of the Film Rebel Rossa. Last year we met the two great-grandsons of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in Skibbereen, here to attend various functions commemorating Rossa and to document them for a film they were making. Since I did extensive research on Rossa in preparation for a series of three posts (March Back in Time, O’Donovan Rossa – the First Terrorist? and Rossa: The Skibbereen Years), I was particularly interested in how the film turned out. They did a great job! Rebel Rossa turned out to be about Rossa, but also about family and about how governments celebrate such things versus how republican groups or local committees do it. Fascinating stuff and they are hopeful about getting a distribution deal.
More, much more in the days to come. How am I going to cope? I came here to retire!
Ah, Save Our Railway 🙂 My uncle was a level-crossing keeper on the West Cork line.
Alas, the railway was not saved. Did your uncle have a signal box?
No, he would just close the crossing when the bell sounded, and open it once the train had gone through. Sadly, simple economics did for the West Cork and many other British and Irish lines.
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I can sense your enthusiasm and appreciation of the Art and Literary happenings in West Cork. The Literary Festival has always been the highlight of the year for me, and my favourite was Fintan O’Toole’s talk at the Mariatime Hotel, he is a brilliant speaker and we all so enjoyed his talk which was on .”The Republic and the Imagination”. And this week the Arts Festival in Skibbereen town, looking at all the Art exhibitions that you so interestingly describe, West Cork is truly a place where the Arts are taken seriously in a most fun way. So enjoyed your write up and I look forward to more to come, thanks Finola.
Everyone who had been to Fintan O’Toole’s talk raved about it. Sorry to have missed it. Hope you got to the Souvenir Shop – it was the hit of the festival!
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Yes Finola, I did visit the Souvenir Shop, and loved it, a brilliant idea and project. All of the Art Festival very much enjoyed.
Really meeting you at The Souvenir Shop! Drop me contact info via FB or email and I’ll send you a great photo of the two of you.
Thank you, Sue. Responding by email.
It’s all go isn’t it!! Some great photos here, Finola especially of Glora Steinem – that sounded a special evening. Our paths might nearly have collided yesterday – I thought the Art Trail excellent, and I had an interesting evening with Zadie Smith and Nick Laird. And the fun continues!
All go = understatement. Now in The Souvenir Shop. If you haven’t been in, you must!
Great stuff altogether!
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Well you have never struck me as the retiring type, Finola! Still too much in the world to see and do, right? Celebrate and enjoy… sounds like a wonderful weekend you have ahead of you!
A whole more week of it. Having a great time, even if needing a power nap now and then. 😄
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Haha! We all need one of them now and again! Have a great week!
More going on in West Cork than New York City!
And I’m already exhausted. Off to Cork tonight for the next big thing in Irish dancing.