Reen Farm Revisited

Last week, for the Taste of West Cork Festival, we went back to one of our favourite West Cork places for a very special concert.

Reen Farm is the home, gallery and sculpture garden of the artists John Kelly and his wife Christina Todesco-Kelly. But that description comes nowhere close to doing justice to this utterly unique, fascinating and beautiful venue. We have written about Reen Farm before – two years ago in Where Art and History Meet and last year in Out in the Field.

This year’s event was a concert by Jessie Kennedy and Justin Grounds, joined by Tess Leak on the cello. Jessy and Justin have collaborated on many occasions and always to great effect. Highly accomplished musicians and composers, their concerts are hot ticket items in West Cork. One of the attractions on this occasions was that seats were limited so we were promised an intimate occasion.

We started in John Kelly’s Tate – a sculpture/structure/installation intended to invoke the conjunction of wealth and art in a place that in fact is remembered historically for poverty and famine. This is mainly due to the visit of NM Cummings to Reen and to his famous letter to the Duke of Wellington, in which he relates the horrors of what he has witnessed in Reen and pleads with Wellington to intervene.

Christina read the letter and Jessie performed I am stretched on Your Grave.  It was deeply moving and we filed out of the Tate a more mournful and thoughtful group than the one who entered. We needed a lift and what better to deliver that than John’s iconic Cow up a Tree Sculpture. It doesn’t hurt that it’s located on one of the most scenic stretches of the West Cork coastline, either.

By the time we got back to the garden the tea and coffee were on and Billy (sound engineer and baker extraordinaire) had laid out a feast for us.

We tucked in, and settled down for the concert. It wasn’t just that we were listening to accomplished musicians – it was that it was all taking place on a warm summer evening as the sun was sinking low, in this amazing and exotic location. It felt like such a privilege to be in that place at that time.

Thank you, John and Christina, for your warm hospitality and for sharing your vision for future developments with us. We look forward very much to seeing what the next year or two brings at Reen Farm!

John and Christina

 

Out in the Field

During the West Cork History Festival field trips, led by Roaringwater Journal last week, treats were in store. Many thanks to volunteers Jenny and Ray who worked hard to provide the refreshments (and who baked the scones!) on Friday’s ‘Art and The Great Famine’ excursion, which arrived at Reen Farm in time for tea.

Artist John Kelly‘s cows are abundant at his home at Reen, and the experience of the connections with this unique place and Famine times were admirably and sensitively presented by Siobhan Burke of West Cork Experiences (she’s on the left, facing the bronze tree, below).

The day included organised visits to the 110 Skibbereen Girls project at the old workhouse site in Skibbereen – where we were given a presentation by artist Toma McCullim – and a guided tour by West Cork Arts Centre’s Zenda Williams of the Coming Home – Art and The Great Hunger exhibition at Uillinn, followed by a visit to the mass famine graves in Abbeystrewery, where Philip O’Reagan of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre explained the site’s enormous significance. Just as well we had those scones to bolster us up!

On the previous day we began the ‘West Cork Archaeology’ tour at Knockdrum Fort, where – in benevolent weather – you get the most spectacular views (above). Finola talked about the Rock Art on the site, which takes it back in time perhaps 5,000 years, and she also explained about the alignment with the Bealtaine sunset discovered by Boyle Somerville, described here – and which we witnessed ourselves earlier this year (below).

Highlights of that day’s expedition also included an entertaining time at Castletownshend hosted by George Salter-Townshend (below, he’s leading us into the Castle which has been owned by his family since medieval times).

After more on archeoastronomy from Finola, at Drombeg Stone Circle (above), a further treat was in store at Castle Salem, near Rosscarbery, where we were given a tour and talk by its owner Peter Daly (below).

We were delighted to be given the opportunity to provide this ‘lead-in’ to the History Festival weekend itself which – as last year – was a roaring success. If you didn’t go to it, take a look at the festival programme, and see what you missed!

Because our time has been taken up with the festival we haven’t written any posts this weekend. Normal service will be resumed next week. I can’t resist finishing off with another look at John Kelly’s sculpture garden at Reen.