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Compassionate Culture Network – Leitrim Part Two

CCN Leitrim Part Two

Earlier this year, we facilitated a series of compassionate creative workshops in Leitrim in collaboration with Brendan Murray, Director of The Glens Centre in Manorhamilton, and visual artist Cróna Gallagher. This led to the commissioning of a second series. However, this time it was an artist-led collective exploration of the intersection of grief and climate change using metaphors from the local landscape. Fronted by project manager Shane Finan, this collective developed unique Compassionate Culture Network (CCN) themed ‘Waking the Land’ in response to Leitrim’s rural setting. Other artists in the collective were Tara Baoth Mooney (sound, textile), James Kelly (sculpture, film), Laura McMorrow (painting, animation).   

Deploying a hands-on creative research strategy approach, the collective spent the summer months investigating loss of place and community, drawing from myth, ecology, place, and elements of Benbo Mountain. They were further inspired by philosopher Judith Butler and her recent writings about the need to establish ‘grievability’ in relation to people, places, living organisms and environments. They were especially taken with Butler advocating that: 

… in order to value any of these things we must be willing to grieve their loss. And in order to grieve, we must value something enough before we lose it. 

The collective concluded Benbo Mountain was a significant ‘grievable’ place. As well as being a much-loved local landmark, it’s ecosystem would be sorely missed if lost. As a result, they decided to create a series of ‘living wakes’ for the land that identifies love of place before these places are lost. As Shane Finan told us: 

Drawing from recent land issues in north Leitrim, the loss of language, the loss of sense of place and community for people both born in north Leitrim and those who have become part of the place, we wanted to create a wake for the landscape while it still lives. Using tradition, philosophy and collaborative arts practice, the aim was to create and perform a series of wakes for the landscape inside an immersive installation specially built for the exhibition.

Moreover, while the traditional ritual of ‘waking’ the newly deceased still occurs in Ireland, this too is under threat of extinction, particularly in cities. While losing a loved is naturally a difficult time for anyone, a wake can also be a joyful celebration of life and a cathartic experience for aiding in the grieving process. It was also a ritual sorely missed during the Covid-19 pandemic where all our after-death coping resources of social support and face-to-face mourning rituals were suspended.

Held throughout August and September in Manhorhamilton, these ‘wakes’ consisted of a series of social events, creative workshops, and exhibitions, culminating with a one-off performative event. Natural materials collected from field trips to Benbo Mountain were also used to create artworks, such as the banner above, along with hawthorn tea served to all event participants.

However, as James Kelly noted: 

While the public events became the most prominent output of ‘Waking the Land’, working together as a four-member collective was for me the most significant in terms of potential development of other outpourings and future collaboration through collective research, fieldwork, individual creation of parallel works, and most essential of all, the group making of the banner.

The collective were also supported and encouraged throughout by Brendan Murray and Cróna Gallagher, along with Anna Mulvahillm, an art therapist, Roberta Bacic, a curator and specialist in conflict textiles from Co Derry, and artist Rebecca Strain from Artlink in Co Donegal, who was involved in our first CCN cycle in 2021-2022.  A publication of the research accumulated during this project (either short-form or book) is currently being compiled.  

For more, visit Waking Land