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Natalie El Baba, artist and Mountshannon Arts Festival committee member and local poet Roisin Bugler with Natalie’s Returning Swallows in the village. Photograph by John Kelly

Mountshannon Arts turns to poetry as it steers a route through restrictions of the pandemic

NEW Directions, Maps and Journeys are the themes of Poetry Day and the inspiration behind a project being undertaken by Mountshannon Arts, as the community organisation reflects on its 25-year history.

Poetry Day takes place on Thursday, April 29. Poet Róisín Bugler notes that it will also mark the first outing this year for Moutshannon Arts, whose festival has been inspiring and entertaining audiences from East Clare and far further afield, for a quarter of a century.

“We are still curtailed by Covid-19,” Róisín said, “but Poetry Day will be our first opportunity to showcase Mountshannon Arts this year on the 25th anniversary of the festival.

“We’ve been doing something a little different for Poetry Day and this year people have been responding to the popular and beautiful local art trail.”

This ‘ekphrastic’ poetry project – where one art work is inspired by another – has been embraced enthusiastically, with inspiring results.

“Ordinarily, I would put out a general call for new poetry, but this year I changed the approach,” explained Róisín.

“We have an art trail that’s been built up over the years. Mountshannon Arts was started originally by visual artists and they’ve left us an amazing legacy. We’re trying to pass the baton to younger generations.

“This year, I asked people to write poetry in response to different art pieces on the trail and I’m hoping to have nine new poems.”

In normal times, an event to launch the poems would take place on Poetry Day, but, once again, Mountshannon Arts have drawn on their resources and creativity to overcome the hurdles created by pandemic restrictions.

“We would love to have been able to organise a walk along the trail, but because we’re still restricted, I’m doing a video instead,” said Róisín.

“We’ll launch that on the website (Mountshannonarts.ie) on April 29. People have been sending me voice notes and I’m going to combine those with scenes from around Mountshannon.

“The poems I’ve received have been great, I’m really impressed. Originally, I had been looking at making one long video, but I’m working now on individual pieces.”

To date, Róisin has gathered work from Kevin Chesser who wrote about The Fire Bird, one of the first public art pieces created in Mountshannon.

“It was funded by the Arts Council and marked the fact that we won the national Tidy Towns competition in 1981,” explained Róisín.

Responding to The Sign Post by Mark Wilson is Nicki Griffin, while Ruth Marshall chose Ploughing Ahead, a bench made from ploughs, as her inspiration.

Patricia Donnellan has written about The Stag while Eavan Brennan has responded to The Mayfly. Pearse O’Sheil chose The Swallows as the inspiration for his poem, while Iordanis Sidiropoulos and Anotella Scanu have responded to the Crannóg Ceoil.

Róisín herself is preparing a poem about The Sanctuary of Free Sounds.

Róisín’s very popular ‘A Flow of Words’ show for Scariff Bay Community Radio (SBCR) will also run a special edition for Poetry Day.

“We’ll do something similar to last year in terms of getting poem printed for those still cocooning,” she said.

“We’re also getting local school children involved by distributing postcards for them to write some poetry on.

“Later, we’re looking at the possibility of creating a time capsule and could include some of these. It’s like the children’s artist Mo Willems said, ‘Science will get us out of this pandemic, art will get us through…’”

Meanwhile, ‘Regeneration’ is the theme of this year’s Mountshannon Arts Festival which will take place, in line with Covid-19 restrictions, later this year.

Organisers have recently rebranded to Mountshannon Arts, in recognition of the fact that activities take place all year round. Sponsorship comes from The Arts Council, Clare County Council, Waterways Ireland and other sources.

Full details of all of the ongoing events are available on the website Mountshannonarts.ie, and on the group’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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