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Photographer and musician Christy McNamara. Photograph by John Kelly.

Christy turns to his art and finds response to absence of the Fair

THE Spancilhill Fair would have taken place this Wednesday, but, due to Covid-19 has been cancelled for the second year in a row.
Crusheen’s Christy McNamara has come up with a mixed media piece as an artistic response to the absence of the Fair, drawing on his experience of photographing it for more than 30 years and attending it for even longer.
Having grown up just a few miles from the site of the Fair, it was one of the highlights of the year for him as a boy, and he has always had a great fondness for it.
“I love it. I’ve been going to it since I was a young fella. When we were growing up our house was on the way to Spancilhill for a lot of people.
“One of the things I remember vividly was the Travelling people on their way to Spancilhill passing our house in convoy, with horsedrawn barrel tents and flat cars.
“It was so exciting to see them travelling to Spancilhill, as children we’d sit out on the wall and watch them and wave at them. My parents would have known some of them, at that time some of them would call to the house.
“In later years it was the highlight of the year and it marked the turning of the year for everyone. It was close to the summer solistice and it was a gathering of people, there is a great tradition of the Fair and it is world famous.”
His photography is in many collections and some of his pictures have been bought by Hollywood A listers Brad Pitt and Whoopi Goldberg.
He has worked for corporate clients such as Coca Cola and Guinness, while he also photographed U2 and the Pogues. He is also a musician and composer.
The mixed media piece on the Fair brings in sounds and music, as well as utilising his extensive pictorial archive of the event.
“It draws on photographs, some of them going back a long number of years, and there’s a soundscape with sounds from the Fair, merging with that. I have also recorded some original pieces and those merging with the sounds of the Fair will form the soundscape.”
He says the photographs have provided an insight into times that have changed.
“With the passage of time that older generation are gone and that way of life has changed. This is a way of capturing people and a place.”
While he has lived in Australia, the UK and New York, he has always wanted to give a positive representation of his home place and people, and his connection is evident in much of his work.
He feels the work in his piece on Spancilhill gives a valuable insight..
“It’s a sort of a window into a world that’s rapidly changing and ways of life. That has been the fuel for a lot of the work I’ve done.
“With such a deep connection with my home place, being part of it, not only are you an observer but you’re part of the whole fabric of the community.”
The fact that the Fair has such a long history appeals to him, as it remained a near constant as everything else changed.
“There’s a sense of place, of community. It dates back centuries really. The charter was given about 300 years ago.”
He feels the piece of art he has just launched will have quite a wide appeal.
“I know it’ll appeal to all generations, young and old, and to emigrants, because Spancilhill is an emigrant song. A man called Michael Considine wrote a poem home which became the song.”
As an artist he says that Covid has brought a lot of challenges, but he credits Creative Ireland, County librarian Helen Walsh and Siobhán Mulcahy in the Clare Arts Office for their help with the creation of the mixed media piece, while he is also grateful to the Spancilhill Fair Association.
In the future he has plans for more creative endeavour linked to the Fair.
“I’m hoping to do a book of photographs on it, it’s in the pipeline.”
*‘A Fair in The Air – The Fair of Spancilhill’ can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/566135686
More of his work can be seen at www.christymcnamara.com

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.
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