Thursday, June 28, 2007


"Magic that takes you out, far out, of this time and this world."
George Bernard Shaw, speaking of the Skelligs after visiting in 1910.

Today's booming property prices, quickening pace of life and the rat race can sometimes send us scampering for a bit of solitude. This retreat to quiet places is, however, not something unique to the modern world. Early Christian monks equated isolation with proximity to God, or if they did not, they certainly believed that union with God could be enhanced through withdrawal to harsh and isolated regions. And there are few places in Ireland more isolated than Skellig Rock.

Skellig Michael lies off the westernmost tip of the Iveragh Peninsula, Co.Kerry. Between the 6th and 8th centuries the island became a place of refuge from the world for a small settlement of ascetic monks.

Filmmaker Leonard Sheil has made a haunting 30 minute film about what is now a UNESCO World heritage Site. "I visited the island not only to explore the island's distant but also it's recent past," explains Leonard. "This is not an historical account, but a visual diary, with chapters to denote plausible manifestations. Skellig remains aloof, a mystery, majestic but it is, above all, sublime!"

Accompanied by a Martyn Taig score the film evokes a sense of wonder for Skellig, a place that is in turn serene and severe. The film, which screened as part of last year's Kerry Film Festival is now available from selected retailers throughout Kerry including Pages Bookstore, Killarney; The Dingle Bookshop and The Writers' Museum, Listowel.

For more information on the film, or to check out a two minute excerpt, please visit www.light-keepers.net

Those of a more adventurous nature should take a day trip to Skellig. The haunting peaks of Skellig have been home to a variety of colorful characters since Duach, King of West Munster, took refuge there in the year 490 when he was hunted off the mainland by Aengus, King of Carhel. From the monastic settlements of the sixth century, through subsequent Viking invasions, to the building of the lighthouse in the 1820’s there's hardly a corner of earth that crams more history into a more beautifully isolated place.

To book a trip to the Skellig please contact Brendan Casey on 066 947 2437 or log onto www.skelligsislands.com for more information. Trips cost 40 euro and are worth every penny. Boats sail daily, weather permitting, during the summer months from Portmagee pier at 10:30 am but because of heavy demand it’s advisable to book well in advance. And for those that find the day trip and 600 step hike to the top of the island a tiring experience there’s Moorings Guest House and Bridge Bar in Portmagee for a refreshing pint of Guinness. Please call 066 947 7108 or log onto www.moorings.ie for more information.

Mc Bride Gallery

Whether the sky is a jeweled blue or stony grey it is scintillating summer time at the Mcbride Gallery in Killarney.

The growth in the gallery's reputation has been rapid. After just one year the Mcbride Gallery has truly established itself as a commercial gallery which exhibits Fine Art from Irish artists of the highest standard.

The Mcbride Gallery is proudly approaching its first birthday and last Friday 22nd June a group exhibition featuring up to twenty six artists was launched. These works can be viewed for the next two months, right up until 3rd September.

Manager Joanne McCarthy explains, "We constantly strive to exhibit Irish artists who have achieved an excellent standard of art work (both technically and aesthetically); acquired a formal education; held exhibitions in noted art spaces; received critical acclaim from collectors, critics and the art media, as well as acclaim from their peers."

Among the artists with work on display are Tim Goulding, Regine Bartsch, Trevor Geoghegan, Shane Johnson, Michael Gemmell, Tim Booth and John Behan.

Tim Goulding, member of Aosdana, is a resident of the wild and remote Beara peninsula. Goulding paints landscape-based works that are semi-abstract and semi-realistic, that convey, in his own words, "a buttery or gritty poetry", almost like "an individual pebble on the beach, shining in its own quiet way."

Regine Bartsch, of German, Finnish and Syrian origin, has lived and worked in Caherciveen since 1978. She produces naturalistic landscapes, still lives and domestic interiors/exteriors. Larry Powell, judge at the Irish American Arts Award, New York, 2006 noted in Bartsch's work strands of J D Ferguson, Henri Matisse, Emil Nolde, Giorgio Morandi and Nicholas De Stael but added that Bartsch "remains true to her own vision."

Galway sculptor John Behan is a member of both RHA and Aosdana and an artist of international reputation. Of Behan, poet Seamus Heaney said, "with John, there is no game playing, no artsy role-playing, no temperamental swank or masquerade. You meet the man, not the mask."

Joanne McCarthy again, "Many of the artists who will be exhibiting in this exhibition have not previously exhibited in the Kerry region, and those that have before present new works to us."

Freshness, variety, excellence - this is what the Mcbride Gallery summer exhibition promises. Good news for art lovers.

The Mcbride Gallery, 25 New Street, Killarney. For more information log on to www.mcbrideartgallery.com, e-mail info@mcbrideartgallery.com or telephone 064 71483.

Earth Day

Live Earth is a monumental music event that will bring together more than 2 billion people on the 7th of July to combat the climate crisis. Live Earth will stage concerts in New York, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Hamburg and will feature a mix of both legendary music acts like The Police, Genesis, Bon Jovi and Madonna with the latest headliners like Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, Black Eyed Peas and Jack Johnson.

Kerry Ecological Network is putting on its own little gig in the Tintean Theatre, in Ballybunion, on the 7th of July, running from 8:00 'till late, to coincide with the world wide event and while Madonna might not make the trip to Tintean many others will promises event organiser, Tylluan O'Sinend.

"We have much of the event programmed and it's sure to have something for everyone. We've organized an eclectic mix of music from opera to an All-Ireland Champion pipe player. We've poets, musicians, flute players and even a Canadian folk musician!"

Tylluan has been a green campaigner for over fifteen years and has been involved in many green projects both in the UK and in Ireland. She recently won a prestigious Environmental Award for her dedication and work.

"I first got involved because of my love of trees. I just want to see this planet green and lush and respected," said Tylluan. And indeed these sentiments are echoed by the larger Live Earth events which is led by the Alliance for Climate Protection, The Climate Group and other international organizations to drive individuals, corporations and governments to take action to solve global warming. With former U.S. Vice President Al Gore as the Chair of the Alliance and Partner of Live Earth, the event is bound to make an impact on a global scale.

The local event called 'Performing for the Planet' hopes to make an equal impact on a local scale. "For every person that comes to the event we will plant a tree," says Tylluan. "Trees planted will be of a native hardwood species. We're currently looking for suitable site in Ballybunion to plant the trees, to help commemorate the event but, more importantly, to help the planet to breathe a little easier."

Because of the nature of the event all performers are donating their time while the organizers are making a DVD of the event with proceeds of sales helping to fund educational programmes for schools.

If you would like to perform at the event or if you would like to support the event, please contact the event organiser on 087 612 0069 for further information or log onto www.kerryeconews.com

Cuban Ambassador

Senor Noel Carrillo and Louis Mulcahy

An exhibition of Work by Kerry Based Artist & Musician, Karolien Verheyen, Brings the Beauty of Cuba to Kerry

Tralee - An exhibition of work entitled 'In search of Music... Cuba' by Kerry based artist, Karolien Verheyen, went on display in the new Samhlaiocht Gallery on Wednesday, 27th of June. The collection of photographs and a short film / slide show by the Belgian born artist demonstrated the remarkable empathy and appreciation which she feels for the people, places and culture of Cuba. The exhibition was opened by His Excellency, Mr. Noel Carrillo, Cuban Ambassador to Ireland with Miriam McGillycuddy, Mayor of Tralee, in attendance.

"I'm delighted and honored to be in this beautiful gallery in Tralee," said the ambassador. "It's my first time in this part of the country and it's so beautiful I had to stop to take pictures three separate times on the drive down."

The Mayor of Tralee thanked the ambassador for coming and expressed what an honor and privilege it was to have such an illustrious guest in Tralee. She spoke in glowing terms of Samhlaiocht and its positive impact on the town of Tralee and its position as a leading Arts organisation for Kerry.

The ambassador also spoke of the importance of the Arts noting, "Cuba and Ireland are separated by thousands of miles of ocean but there are striking similarities between the countries. Both are small island nations, both have similar histories in the shadows of larger, more powerful neighbors and the people in our two countries have a similar love of music, of the arts and a pride in their respective histories."

The ambassador proved to be a true gentleman, conducting himself with a level of diplomacy, compassion and humour throughout the evening, drawing laughs from the crowd when he admitted having difficulty pronouncing 'Samhlaiocht'. "I would like to thank the organisation, but I can't say its name! I practiced all the way down in the car but then when I got here, Jason pronounced it completely differently and now I've forgotten."

Jason O' Mahony, Artistic Director of Samhlaiocht, thanked the ambassador and Mayor of Tralee for conducting the opening services and presented the ambassador with a piece of Louis Mulcahy pottery, which is handcrafted in Kerry, and with a book, For the Love of Kerry, which is a photographic record of the people and places of Kerry, published by Samhlaiocht and The Arts Council of Ireland.

The Ambassador also complemented the hotel in which he was staying, Fels Point, in Tralee saying, "I thought all the best hotels were in Dublin. I was wrong. I will definitely come back to Kerry but next time I will bring my family to this most beautiful county."

The Samhlaiocht Gallery is located in the old Presbytery next to St. John's Parish Church in the centre of Tralee on Lower Castle Street. 'In Search of Music runs until Friday, 27th of July. Opening times at the Gallery are Monday to Friday from 10.00 am to 5:00 pm. Everyone is welcome.

For more information on Samhlaiocht please log on to www.samhlaiocht.com


"Well, it's not exactly what you'd expect to come across when you walk out of your mobile home", says Brian Stockwell of the Gregory Gallery, College St, Castlegregory.

Scenes of people with buffalo, flowers, markets, village houses, rice fields, rivers, huts, boats with eyes painted on them for good luck. These are depicted in colours of startling oriental vibrancy - oranges, yellows, blues, reds, lime greens. Beautifully rendered realistic still lives emerge from chocolate brown backgrounds.

So what are these glimpses of South East Asia doing in Castle?

They are all original works by local artists from central Vietnam and will be on exhibition from 15th July. Brian bought the pieces during a visit to the beautiful 16th century seaport town of Hoi An earlier this year. Hoi An, now a cultural heritage site under the auspices of UNESCO, is home to galleries, restaurants, cafes and a bustling community of artists.

"Many of the artists would originally have been fishermen," says Brian, "but when they saw that they could make money from painting they left the boats and took up the brush."

Brian is a retired logistician who set up emergency operations in war zones throughout the world. Now an art collector he bought his terraced house in 1996 and opened the gallery in 1999, which operates in the summer months.

Brian has many works by varied artists in his collection. He is a fan of local artist John Fitzgerald, in particular, whom he considers both gifted and underrated. "John's work has been sold all over the world. When I have enough of it I will exhibit it."

Last summer Brian brought over Mr Hoang Dang, one of Vietnam's foremost artists and also political cartoonist for the major Vietnamese national newspaper. Dang spent four weeks in Castlegregory and every piece in his exhibition (about 40) was sold.

This year Brian is bringing over a Mr Ngoc Minh, who will have an exhibition on 11th August. "Minh's art was very much affected by the Vietnam War", Brian says. "Like Dang, Minh will come with about 25 pieces of Vietnamese art but for the 3 weeks prior to the exhibition he will paint local scenes from West Kerry."

No doubt they will sell like hot cakes. Brian is already planning a winter trip to Ghana in West Africa so we can look forward to an exhibition of original African work next year.

Transition Year Film

Tommy Frank O'Connor

"Like millions of flies... like millions of tiny smells".

This is a line from "Are We Bothered?" a short film on the subject of child labour. It refers to the millions of children all over the world, as numerous as flies, doing back-breaking work for long hours in conditions that are stinking and unbearably hot (or cold).

In the film, a dramatised piece, the children are crouched on the floor, hands working frantically as they weave carpets. Their boss enters periodically, shouting at them and beating them. When he is gone they talk together about their desperate situation. The dialogue is rich and poetic. This accents the fact that each child is an intelligent, thoughtful individual with his or her own independent spirit.

"Are We Bothered?" is a product of the combined talents of Tralee poet Tommy Frank O'Connor and 26 Transition Year students from Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School. Tommy Frank is a poet with the Poetry Ireland Writing in Schools programme.

"Of all the writing styles poetry seems to be the most popular with the students," Frank says.

I asked him where the idea to work on the subject of child labour came from and had the students done much research for the project.

"Every year a special topic is chosen for the Writing in Schools programme and this year's topic was child labour. When the 26 students, chosen by Transition Year coordinator Sean Coffey, and I came together Larry O'Loughlan, administrator of the programme, visited us. We encouraged the students to do their own research for themselves, through various websites, so that they would engage more with the topic."

Tommy Frank then guided the students in visualising the plight and imagining the emotions of the children and they created a poetic drama as a result. Because the standard of the drama was so good Tommy Frank then suggested that they adapt it for film. Teacher Ronan Redican was recruited as camera man.

"Are We Bothered?" will be used as an educational resource by both Concern and KADE. The experience has naturally proved to be very worthwhile for the students. Many had also been involved in Tralee’s Fairtrade Association and so they are now combining awareness of world affairs with creativity.

Mercy Mounthawk Transition Year is noted for its emphasis on film. Their 2006 short film "A Child of Our Time", a documentary about the asylum process, was made as part of Amnesty International's Voice Our Concern initiative. It was shot under the guidance of director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and was screened at the 2006 Cork Film Festival. Full marks to Mercy Mounthawk Transition Year.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Women's Writing Course

New Women's Writing Group

The Women Writers in Migrant and New Communities Network (WINCC) is a new initiative whose principle aim is to facilitate the creative work of women writers in migrant and new communities in Ireland.

The Group aims to provide and circulate information for and between women writers from migrant and new communities. As part of this it will organize seminars, readings and other events devoted to the practice and experience of women writers from migrant and new communities thereby providing a forum and opportunity for dialogue between members of this network and other women writers in Ireland.

The network will primarily be of interest to women writers from migrant and new communities but welcomes affiliation from other women writers and organizations in Ireland.

If you are interested in participating in this initiative or would like further information about WWINC, please contact Nessa O'Mahony (poet) and Pamela Akinjobi (journalist and writer) at wwfinc@gmail.com

Ian Whitty

Ian Whitty

Ian Whitty is a singer-songwriter from Killarney, now based in Cork and recording his second album. Here he answers some questions about his past, present and future as a musician.

Were you always into music?

I've always loved songs. When I was younger I would play my parents records to death. As soon as I was allowed into town on my own I would make a weekly visit to the record shop to buy chart singles. At the age of eight my Ma brought me to see U2, The Pretenders and Christy Moore in Croke Park and after that I think I was officially hooked.

Tell me about your musical development

When I was fifteen my brother got a guitar and whenever he went out I would slip into his room and play it. I never really wanted to learn songs. I would just come up with my own little tunes and sing whatever came into my head. After that I bought my own guitar and started a band with a couple of friends. At rehearsals we used to sit around smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. It was more like a self-help group for disenfranchised youth than a musical endeavour.

So when did you start seriously writing songs?

When I went to college I started writing songs proper and wanting to perform them. Then a songwriter night in Killarney called Surface started up. I met a lot of great musicians though that. I did my first gig there with Paddy Casey and a local songwriter Colm O'Suilleabháin. Later I moved to Cork to do Music Management and Sound. It was there that I really started to develop my own slant on things and I suppose I have been exploring it ever since.

Favourite singer/songwriter?

This changes from week to week. I don't know if I have a favourite as such. Right now I am listening to Mirah who is a Washington-based indie/folk singer.

What do you think of Killarney?

I think Killarney was a great place to grow up. Since we moved to Kerry my family have always lived in Muckross so I consider that whole area home as such. It's an incredibly beautiful part of the world.

Do you come home much?

About once every month or so to visit my family and see my friends.

How do you like Cork?

I love the city. The music scene here is amazing at the moment.

What do you think of the current state of the Irish music scene?

I think it's really healthy. Everyone seems to be working really hard. If Cork is anything to go by then I think the band scene is about to get really exciting.

How did your first album 'Will o' the Wisp' do?

'Will o' the Wisp' was recorded with indie producer Steve Fanagan. All the songs have a nice quiet tone. I was really enthused by the reaction given that it was released without any fanfare at all. It has done much better than I expected and led to me being invited on some really nice tours.

What subjects do you write about?

This new record is about city life and all the positives and negatives that go with it. I tend to write about any sort of changes or transitions that happen to me. Songs are weird though, you can't really plan for them, they just tend to come along and want to get written. They tend to get cross if you ignore them.

Give me a few lines from some of your songs

"She said this town it swallows people, you see them talking to themselves,
And as a little consolation they'll take any medication that will
bring them some place else" (Bought and Sold)

"The manager he swoops he's a dare devil doing hoops and there is
cocaine wisdom in his eyes, modern cowboy no lasso but still tells
Tonto what to do" (Fallen Stars in Late Nite Bars)

So tell me about your new album

I have been recording the album since last Autumn with my band and producer Ken Mc Hugh who's done records for Juno Falls, Dave Kitt and Roesy. He's also the man behind Autamata. I am really happy with how it’s all sounding. When exactly the record will come out is unsure but I will be popping songs from the record up on my-space from time to time just to give people an idea of what to expect. If people check the web site and myspace it will keep them up-dated on the various goings on of the Whitty committee.

For more information please email ianwhitty@ianwhitty.net or log onto www.myspace.com/ianwhitty

Dingle Writing Courses

Tutor: Kate Thompson

There must be something in the water in West Kerry. The Dingle peninsula has long been associated with great writers from the famous Blasket Islanders, Peig Sawyers and Tomas O Criomhthain, to lesser known mainland writers and building on that fine history Dingle Writing Courses, which has been running writing workshops for the past twelve years, has just announced its line-up of Autumn classes.

The courses are weekend long, intense literary experiences that bring aspiring writers together in one of the most inspiring places in Ireland. Because the writers spend the weekend with one another the group becomes a resource for learning, almost as much as the tutors.

Says Nicholas MacLachlan, of Dingle Writing Courses, "We offer aspiring writers a rare experience that they seldom get in today's busy world - the chance to devote time to their writing with the help and guidance of a professional writer in one of the most beautiful locations in Ireland."

Dingle Writing Courses offers four distinctive courses:
Starting to Write, taught by Mary O Donnell, which runs from the 21st to the 23rd of September, is a beginners' course teaching how to start, stay motivated and keep going in fiction and poetry. Attendees do not need to have written before but a genuine interest and curiosity for the writing process is absolutely essential.

Fiction, taught by Evelyn Conlon, which runs from the 28th to the 30th of September, is a more advanced course for those ready to take the plunge or test the temperature with old or new work. Attendees will be asked to put their work practice under private scrutiny and examine what it takes to be a writer.

Poetry, taught by Mary O Malley, which runs from the 12th to the 14th of October, is an intensive poetry writing course focusing on energy and fun with practical exercise to generate new work and directions, as well as an emphasis on how to read ones own work with a view to improving it technically.

Writing Children's Fiction, taught by Kate Thompson, which runs from the 19th to the 21st of October, is designed to help attendees access ideas and to present them in dynamic and engaging forms.

The workshops will all take place in Tig Aine, a mile from Clogher Head on the Slea Head road, the home of Aine and her husband, Micheal O Dubhshlaine, author of A Dark Day on the Blaskets and Are You Going Home Now? Memories of Old Kilkea and it is hard to imagine a more inspiring writer's paradise.

Course fees are priced reasonably at 400 euro given that fees include all tuition, meals and accommodation. However, Kerry County Council Arts Office offers a bursary to aspiring writers who wish to do the program but would find it a financial burden. Please contact the Kerry Arts Office for a bursary form which must be returned before July 27th.

Explains Nicholas, "We've very keen to work with the people that benefit the most from the course and it's fantastic that the County's Arts Office can help aspiring writers take the first steps to becoming writers."

For further information on the Dingle Writing Courses please contact Nicholas on 066 915 9815 or log on at www.dinglewritingcourses.ie


Trish Thompson and Karolein Verheyen

I left for Cuba on the 1st of April 2007. The flight took me from Kerry to Dublin, then Dublin to Paris and Paris to Havana. I had very little Spanish and was going to be in Cuba for one month.

I wanted to make a photographic reportage on Afro Cuban music, exchange information with the musicians and also network and promote their work in an exhibition at the Samhlaiocht Gallery in July 2007.

At the same time I wanted to improve my own skills and techniques on bongos, conga shakers, clave and guiro and make new friends.

So I brought my bongos, digital and compact cameras, flash, digital voice recorder, lots of euros and lots of spirit.

My trip brought me from Havana to Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Camaguey, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, back to Santa Clara and Havana.

It was a worthwhile experience - heaps of music, visual arts, theatre, dance, film, poetry, long bus journeys, interesting people, ancient cars, bicycles, taxis, rum and cigars and so much politics...

The results of my hard work can be seen in the exhibition - photographs on music and musicians, a short film/slide show with music recorded live in Cuba and a mural with information on Cuban artists gathered while in Cuba.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Matt Bridge

Matt Mujegu

"I am one of the forgotten generation of multicultural Irish citizens", says the engaging Dublin-born musician and producer Matt Mujegu. His family are from Crumlin, Phil Lynott's home territory. Matt spent half his life in Kenya and Uganda and also lived for eight years in Sweden.

A musician with years of experience, Matt's first public performance was singing on stage in Kenya when he was just eight years old. As a producer he has worked with a string of companies in Sweden, including Stockholm Records, who recorded The Cardigans.

Now he has set up his own recording company, Bridgestone Records, which he operates from his Tralee town centre studio. He is lucky enough to have contacts with premier Irish labels like Claddagh Records and Gael Linn, retailers HMV and Road Records and international distribution companies and radio markets in Europe, South America and the developing world.

"Bridgestone Records is a multi-cultural record company", says Matt. "There are so many really talented people living here from all nationalities, with rich and diverse influences and musical styles. At present I am working with people from different countries including Zimbabwe and Ethiopia and incorporating hip-hop, rap, gospel and gypsy music."

Matt also has connections with many trad musicians in Kerry. He is particularly associated with the regular Friday night trad sessions in the Abbey Inn in Ardfert. One of these musicians, tin whistle player Kieran Kelly, recorded a solo album with Bridgestone Records, called "A Whistle-Stop Tour", which was awarded a 3 star rating by the Irish Times.

Matt's own music sounds interesting too. His latest single is called "Los Guisantes" (The Peas!), a Latino number.

"Well, guisantes, or peas, that's like another expression for marbles," he tells me, "as in losing your marbles. The song is all about the way we think."

"Los Guisantes" will be go out to the Latin FM radio market worldwide - such as Canary Islands, San Diego, Florida and Brazil Records. It will be followed by "This Is Not a Love Song", a political hard core techno song which mixes the original John Lydon lyric and ends with a bugle sample of the "The Last Post".

Matt Mujegu is one of the most multi-faceted people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He has sung tenor with the Kerry Choral Union, he boxes, he's a member of the Civil Defence... his marbles are not in any danger of being lost.

If you would like more information on Bridgestone Records (or, indeed, if you would like to work with Bridgestone Records, and let's face it who wouldn't?) please contact Matt on mujegu@gmail.com

Karen Casey

The mesmerizing voice of Karan Casey, accompanied by her band, comes to Siamsa Tire, Tralee on Friday 22nd of June, with a concert beginning at 8 pm. It's hard to find anyone who follows Irish or American folk who has not fallen in love with Casey's distinctive voice, as fragile as it is fierce (The Washington Post calls her "the Irish equivalent of Emmylou Harris").

More than a decade ago, American audiences were introduced to Casey fronting the Irish "supergroup" Solas. Following their groundbreaking early releases Casey struck out on her own. As well as touring constantly throughout North America and Europe with her own band, Karan has been involved in many other varied projects and collaborations. Most recently she has been performing with the legendary Liam Clancy and was involved in a DVD project in New York with Mick Moloney and Paul Wagner. Casey's repertoire, once largely confined to Irish traditional music, has expanded over the years and she now feels confident singing the most modern material, as well as crafting her own compositions.

Karan Casey's 2007 tour shows the singer again ready to take chances, with a new lineup that features avant-garde classical musician Kate Ellis on cello and Caoimhin Vallely on piano, joining longtime accompanist Robbie Overson on guitar. The group will be performing music from Casey's solo efforts, as well as debuting new material and updating classic "big songs" from the Irish tradition which will feature on her upcoming new album.

Tickers are on sale for 15 euro / 13 euro for further information or to book tickets please call Siamsa on 066 712 3055.


Gitti Maas was born in Duisburg in Germany far from the place she now calls home Eskadour in Lauragh on the Beara Peninsula, half way between Kenmare and Castletownberehaven. But she came to Beara as a tourist twenty years ago on the recommendation of a very good friend and fell in love with the peninsula instantly for its amazing landscape.

"After 10 years of coming to Beara for holidays once a year, the wish to live near the mountains and the sea had grown bigger than the fear of leaving my home country and my friends," explains Gitti and so in 1996 she moved to Ireland for good.

She is an artist that is clearly inspired by nature and by the beautiful geography of her adopted home land.
Concentrating originally on landscape photography the years have seen her work take a decidedly abstract turn focusing on the shapes, textures, colours and light-effects to be found in Nature and capturing these in macro close-up photography.

"It just happened that way. I find it much more fulfilling to work more abstract. It has to do with the fact that I always felt a shot of a landscape can hardly ever do Nature any justice. The 'real thing' is just always better, more beautiful and complete," says Gitti. "Apart from that I come across a lot of abstract art through my work as a picture framer, which has influenced my work as a photographer. Most artists on the Beara Peninsula are very inspired by the ever changing light, the colours of the sky and sea and the structure of the rock. They try to bring their inspiration into their abstract paintings, and the results can be very beautiful. As I am not a painter, I have to use the camera to express my love for Nature."

Having now lived in Kerry for 10 years, Gitti believes there is a positive change in people's awareness of Visual Arts, and a growing enjoyment of it. She has noticed the increase in the numbers of people that enjoy going to art exhibitions as well as going to art classes.

So I wonder if she ever gets home sick.

"No!" she answers emphatically. "I love how and where I live, and I have quite a few close friends here now. As well my partner is very rooted here - so going back to Germany is not what I want to do. I never missed it. On the contrary - whenever I go back to Germany for short visits, I start feeling homesick for Ireland after a few days!"

For more information please log onto www.gittimaas.com or call 086 401 0738

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Blue Fred

"There's no resisting this stuff unless you're a tone-deaf, stone-hearted, know nothin'... Judging on tonight's showing, here are the most underrated band on these shores and the real hope for 2007. Blissed out, loved-up and goddamn down and out funky, Fred we love you." NME, January 2007

Chalk it down. When I logged onto Fred's website and heard the Cork band's six year old track "Wondering Geologist", I was transformed there and then from one who was in the dark to a Fred fan. Just one song. That was enough.

Now the band have just released a really sweet, peppy, well-crafted new single "Good One". It was launched last Saturday 16th June at the Opera House in Cork, with support appearances by Oppenheimer and Hooray for Humans and DJ's until 2.00am. If the rest of their forthcoming album is half as good as this single, well, it will be great.

Fred have been causing more than little flurries of excitement on the Irish music scene for some time now. Their 2005 album "Making Music So You Don't Have To" was called "the best album of the year so far" by Dublin's live music venue The Village.

Fred, who are cult heroes in Cork, are recently back from a trip to the US. They were the only European band chosen to play at the Verge Music Conference in Boston in mid-April and were the talk of the prestigious 3 day event, leaving with several bookings for the end of 2007. After that they played at Arlene's Grocery in New York and secured a worldwide publishing deal.

Fred's music has been used as the theme for comedian Des Bishop's last TV series "In de Hood". They were selected as Rising Artists by influential DJ Tom Dunne of Today FM's Pet Sounds.

They even have a Kerryman in their presence. He's guitar player Jamie Hanrahan from Tralee.

"Well," says singer and manager Joseph O'Leary, "it's like this, you have to have one Kerryman and Jamie, to give him is due, is fairly useful." High praise from a Cork man!

They are coming to Fitzgerald's Bar in Castlegregory ("the one with the room out the back"' says Joseph) this Friday night 22nd June. It's an excellent chance for their Kerry fans to see them again and for the uninitiated to hear just how brilliant they are.

For more information please log onto www.fredtheband.com and www.myspace.com/fredtheband

Bealtaine Screening

Clarke Gable and Vivien Leigh in 'Gone With The Wind'

Samhlaiocht which continually strives to increase its programme of community arts, this year began a research and participation project with the Active Retired Groups and Day Care Centres across the county, aiming to identify a core group expressing an interest in participating in a long term film project, which would be developed in tandem with both the national Bealtaine Festival and the Kerry Film Festival.

Bealtaine is a national month long annual festival, celebrating creativity in the older age. Throughout the month of May, Samhlaiocht surveyed active retirement groups and centres regarding their level of interest and commitment to participating in the future development of a county wide film project.

And now the hard work comes to fruition. "We were overwhelmed with the response we got to our research. Basically we wanted to engage with active retirement groups through the medium of Film, but we wanted them to be involved from the very beginning of the process," explains Roisin McGuigan, Samhlaiocht. "We first touched base with the groups in May and through our conversations with them we've decided to show two classic films that the groups have chosen. It's a unique way to programme films - the audience actually selects what it wants to see!"

First up is eight times Oscar winning classic, Gone with the Wind, which will screen in Siamsa Tire in Tralee at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 20th of June. With two mesmerising lead performances by Clarke Gable and Vivien Leigh Gone with the Wind is set against the Civil War and Southern Reconstruction, this tragic love story offers meticulous backdrops, glorious sunsets, numerous silhouettes, and an ultra saturated Technicolor film creating a hyper-real vision. The romantic score is every bit as lush and dramatic as the photography, borrowing folk melodies from the Old South to make the tragic war concrete. Gone with the Wind stands among the greatest epic dramas ever filmed.

Next up is Brief Encounter, the fabulous classic directed by David Lean, which will screen in Siamsa Tire on Wednesday, 27th of June at 3:00 pm. With the unforgettable Celia Johnson as a prim and proper British housewife tempted to have an affair with a stranger (Trevor Howard) she met at the train station. Atmospheric and heart breaking in its romanticism, it's a must-see for fans of love stories.

"This is just the first step in a continuing relationship between Samhlaiocht and the groups," added Roisin. "We're looking forward to further classic screenings as part of the upcoming Samhlaiocht Kerry Film Festival and working closely with the groups to ensure their exposure to film is exactly what they would like it to be!"

This project was made possible in part by the support of The Community Foundation for Ireland, a national donor and grant making foundation. It is the aim of CFI to target funds effectively in order to reduce social isolation and enhance the quality of life of Ireland's ageing population.

For more information please call Samhlaiocht on 066 712 9934

Reubens Reading

Noel O Briain Reading at Reubens

Kerry Native, Noel O Briain held a reading in Reubens Cafe on a recent sunny Saturday in Tralee. Noel read from his recently launched collection of poetry, Scattering Day, the title poem which refers to the scattering of the ashes of Noel's wife, Amy, to whom the book is dedicated, and also remembers Puck Fair's final day - another type of Scattering Day.

The collection was launched in Dublin by Killorglin resident, Gerald Mannix Flynn and at the launch he gave a moving speech that quite literally moved Noel to tears. "The poems are prayers, meditations for the every moment. They are not about a past or a future, they are about our now," said Gerald.

Scattering Day is essentially two books in one - a collection of sonnets and a collection of free form poems. Although all the poems are striking for their often devastating honesty, the sonnets tend to be, as a set, the most clearly personal, dealing as they do with Noel's experience and observations on Love, Death and the Afterlife.

"The poems are about outrage, bewilderment, wonderment, intimacy, nurture, hope and care," said Gerald. "We are lucky today to have such a collection of work at our disposal. The old saying, 'to thine own self be true," applies to this work because it shares with us the intimate emotions or Noel and his life's journey."

"I always think that when you pick up a poem to read it, you're accepting help in your struggle in life. Make sure that when you reach out that one of Noel O Briain's poems is within reach."

The free form poems contain a mixture of intensely personal poems as well as intensely provocative poems that deal with more global issues, for instance, children in war. They also include some of Noel's hilarious comic poems.

Noel's reading, as with this book, was a rollercoaster of emotion, from tears to laughter.

For more info on the collection please contact the publishing house Seven Towers by email at seventowers@gmail.com

New Writer in Residance

John W Sexton

The county of Kerry is famous for many things - its great beauty, its triumphant footballers and its breeding of great writers. With this in mind Kerry County Council has appointed the writer John B. Sexton to act as Kerry Writer in Residence for the month of June.

John, who was born in 1958 is a poet, short story writer, dramatist, children's novelist, radio scriptwriter, broadcaster and now, to add to that list of illustrious titles, is Writer in Residence for County Kerry. His new position makes him available to work with and advise writers, regardless of their level of experience or publishing history, as well as working with both National and Secondary schools, writers groups and presenting adult workshops throughout the county.

John is particularly keen to work with smaller country schools, either National or Secondary, as they can sometimes get overlooked by people in the Arts. He has a particular affinity with younger people regardless of whether they see themselves as writers or not. "When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut and live on the moon," explains John. "I definitely didn't want to become a writer - because they always came to a bad end. However, the moon is a long way away and coming to a bad end isn't that bad after all - so now I'm a writer!"

John is the author of three collections of poetry, the first of which, The Prince's Brief Career, has a foreword by Kerry's own Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTE Radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes while the novels based on the series, The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed are on the shelves in all good bookstores and have even been translated into Italian and Serbian! His poem, The Green Owl, has just been awarded the Listowel Poetry Prize for 2007 for best single poem.

John may be contacted at Tralee Library on 066 714 4444 or via the Kerry County Council Arts Office on 066 718 3541 but as his residency has a duration of only four weeks, interested parties are advised to get in touch as quickly as possible as time with this great writer is bound to book out quickly!

Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh, the highly acclaimed, yet equally as controversial writer of novels, stories, plays and screenplays held a riotous Meet the Author session in The Arms Hotel as part of Listowel Writer's Week.

Welsh, who comes from Edinburgh, Scotland, but lives with his American wife, Elizabeth, mainly in Dublin, though he also has a place in Miami Beach, Florida, for when the weather gets a little too Irish, was in rare form and held the audience in the palm of his hand. They laughed, damn near cried and when it was all over just about begged for more.

Welsh exploded on the literary circuit in 1993 with the publication of Trainspotting, his first novel. Fame came first and notoriety quickly followed with The Observer describing the book as "the fastest-selling and most shoplifted novel in British publishing history." Three years after the book caused a stir in literary circles, the movie launched Welsh into the stratosphere. The 1996 Danny Boyle directed Trainspotting, was an instant box-office hit going on to gross in excess of 70 million dollars at the box office - not bad for a little Scottish film with an estimated budget of 3.5 million dollars. It made Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle, the film's actors, into stars and probably made everyone involved an awful lot of money.

So given that Welsh now had a fistful of dollars it must have been hard to retain that edgy, distinctive voice of his, a voice from the mean streets of Edinburgh. But retain it he most certainly has.

Reading from his upcoming collection of short stories, If You Liked School, You'll Love Work, his first collection since The Acid House which was released in 1994, his distinctive voice was never in doubt. The work is hilariously funny, horrifically crude and pure Welsh - with the notable exception that none of the book's five tales are set in Edinburgh.

There is, however, one story set in Scotland, in Fife, from which he read at length. The hero, Jason King, is an ex-jockey, a stalker and his life revolves around Subbuteo table football and the jodhpurs of Jenny Cahill. Welsh is obviously a writer, but his talent for the stage and acting seems to have been shoved into the back room of his consciousness only breaking out at readings such as this. He brought the story to life adopting accents, idiosyncrasies and idiotic gestures as he spoke first for Jason King, then for his father and then for each of the story's characters in turn.

If you're a fan of Irvine Welsh then the opportunity to see him in the flesh was something not to be missed. And his reading proved him a master of the shorter form, a brilliant storyteller, quite an actor and - unarguably - one of the funniest and filthiest writers in Britain.

Different Strokes

Participating Artists

Different Strokes

An exhibition of work entitled Different Strokes by a relatively new Tralee based Art Group had a successful opening in the new Samhlaiocht Gallery recently.

"We're absolutely delighted to have such a large number of people turn up for the opening." said Trish Thompson, Gallery coordinator at the Samhlaiocht Gallery. "I think the opening was a credit to everyone involved, especially Deirdre Sheehan the tutor and of course each of the individual artists, many of whom were exhibiting their work to the public for the first time."

This Group exhibition is led by tutor, Deirdre Sheehan, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Painting from the National College of Art and Design, N.C.A.D., and a Higher Diploma in Art and Design Education.

"Since my student years at N.C.A.D. my favorite branch of research has always been the relationship between art and the mind",says Deirdre, "I particularly like the ideas of artists who explored this relationship, like Kandinsky and his books on how line and colour relate to music, or Rudolf Steiner, the psychologist, educationalist and artist who developed entire school systems where children learn their normal subjects through art, music and dance in a very therapeutic environment."

"The exhibition came out of a need to allow such groups the opportunity to exhibit their work in the public arena and Samhlaiocht wants to encourage all avenues of the arts in Kerry," added Trish.

"The supportive environment of the studio combined with the gentle yet firm direction of our teacher nurtures the muse in each of us",said Geraldine Quirke one of the group members. "Humour and unity are the main catalysts of our group, each of us having our own unique style and supporting one another in pursuit of our different strokes."

With over 70 people turning up for the official opening by Deirdre Sheehan, tutor of the group, the work obviously speaks to a lot of people.

The Samhlaiocht Gallery is located in the old Presbytery next to St. John's Parish Church in the centre of Tralee on Lower Castle Street. 'Different Strokes' is open to the public until Friday, June 22nd.

Opening times at the Gallery are from Monday to Thursday from 9.00am to 6.00pm and on Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm but closed from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm for lunch. Everyone is welcome.

For more information on Samhlaiocht please call 066 712 9934 or
log on to www.samhlaiocht.com

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