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Karen O'Neill demonstrating spinning during the filming of 'Herself'.

Gort to celebrate St Brigid’s bank holiday with arts events

A NEW arts collective in Gort is celebrating the nation’s latest Bank Holiday with a series of events in the town.

Gort Arts Collective is hosting a series of events to celebrate the new St. Brigid’s bank holiday between February 4 and 5 with events including a procession, an outdoor large-scale projection onto the town’s courthouse, an art exhibition, and theatre performances.

The Gort Arts Collective, a group of 40 artists who work in a variety of art forms: painting, sculpture, the written word, and filmmaking aims to bring the community together to celebrate old traditions and create new ones through the medium of the arts.

Noreen Scully from the group said, “Ours is an old Irish market town that enjoys a rich and diverse cultural community – and it’s important for everyone in the town to feel that they belong.

“The arts are a great way to do this and Brigid is the perfect opportunity. Brigid was a saint, but also a goddess; she was a fabulous mix of pagan and Christian. She was a blacksmith, a poet, a healer, and a midwife. She brewed beer and cured animals.”

The weekend’s events begin at 4.30 pm on Saturday with a River Walk procession featuring a large St. Brigid’s cross and giant cloaks made by children from ten primary schools in the district.
The school cloaks were sewn together by volunteers from patches created by individual children individually.

This refelcts the old tradition of a piece of cloth/shawl being placed outside a house on Brigid’s Eve, January 31 with the belief that when Brigid passed the house overnight, the dew imbued the cloth with healing powers and protection that lasted for the year.

The procession will leave from the back of Aldi and be accompanied by Coole Music’s youth orchestra, Sonic Strings.

On its way it will showcase the new trail by the river, proudly opened by the Gort River Walk Group last Autumn and end in the Gort Market Square in time for the next event.

It will be followed at 6pm by the outdoor short-film projection at the court house.

Titled, Herself, it was created by artists Shona MacGillivray and Jill Beardsworth, in collaboration with the local community.

The arts project identifies local women whose lives and work embody the qualities that Brigid is known for.

Individual portraits of each woman were filmed and layered with visuals representing their ‘Brigid-like’ qualities.

This project is funded and supported by Creative Ireland Galway County Council, Burren Lowlands, Gort Resource Centre and Gort Credit Union.

Artist Shona outlined, “Herself illuminates those women who work quietly in the background: nurturing, protecting, growing, healing, listening, and making our world a better place to be.”

An exhibition titled ‘Brigid’s Windows’ featuring Brigid-themed artworks by Gort Arts group has been on display in various shop front windows on the lead-up to the festival.

Towns people will also be invited to display a St. Brigid’s Cross above their threshold to encourage people to re-embrace the tradition of hanging one above the doorway. The crosses will be made by local community groups and distributed to households whose doors face the street before February 4.

In the spirit of inclusivity, local community groups such as the ICA, the Scouts, the knitting group, Gort Youth Service, Brothers of Charity, and Cancer Support are gathering to collect rushes from boggy fields to help make the crosses.

The weekend will see two theatre performances – ‘The Goddess Bridget’, produced by The Romantic Ireland Project and The Wild Swan Theatre Company’s production of Lady Gregory’s The Gaol Gate.

The Goddess Bridget to be performed in the Reading Room in the Lady Gregory Hotel at 8pm on Saturday is about how WB Yeats and Lady Gregory transfigured a nation.

The Gaol Gate meanwhile will be performed at 4 pm on Sunday, in the Town Hall.

This will be followed by a talk and discussion on the role of women in forming society. Tickets for both shows can be got at the doors. Carol Arcos Gort Arts member, “As a nation, we’ve forgotten much of our folklore and traditions. Most Irish people remember making Brigid’s crosses in school and bringing them home to Mammy, but not many kept up the tradition beyond their school days.

“Sometimes it takes others to remind us of what we’ve lost; a Spanish woman giving a Brigid’s cross workshop laughed, as she told us about her Irish counterpart, who couldn’t believe it took “a Spaniard” to show her how to make a Brigid’s Cross!

“This is a chance for us to reignite those old traditions and perhaps even forge new ones.”

Jill Beardsworth Visual artist said, “We came together through a mutual concern for our environment, a desire to seek out those who are doing positive work within it and to make these role models publicly visible; we searched for reassurance that guidance and knowledge is present in our locality and this wisdom can help heal the earth and ourselves – and by doing so, reclaim the legacy of Brigid.

“This event might be a one-off, or maybe it may sow the seeds for something new and exciting for Gort.

“I think we need this for our community – in this age of technology, we’re living in unprecedented times. People need to feel connected again and reignite old traditions. As a group of artists, we’re trying to do this through creativity. This is socially engaged art at its best”.

See Gort Arts FB/Instagram for more details. Any queries can be directed to gortarts@gmail.com.

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