‘Every Blooming Thing’ was held last Saturday 4th of March, as a fringe event of the ongoing Castleblayney Drama Festival. Held in the beautifully refurbished Gate Lodge on the grounds of Hope Castle, the event went swimmingly thanks to our very own Liam Murtagh of Transition Monaghan at the helm.
Liam opened by talking about the evolution of man and nature. It appears that alongside the great technological advances we have seen in the last century or two, comes an unwelcome disconnection from the natural world. An afternoon such as this is a perfect chance to reflect and reawaken some of that consciousness we seem to have lost.
The very aptly named event was inspired by a line in a Patrick Kavanagh poem,
“I am king
Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.”
Joe Hanratty, Director of the Castleblayney Drama Festival gave an interesting and enlightening account of the history behind Hope Castle and how it changed hands throughout the years. Going from the Blayney Family to the extremely wealthy Hope family, owners of the allegedly accursed Hope Diamond, one of the most famous jewels in the world. It subsequently housed the son of Queen Victoria and his family, became a military barracks, a hospital, a convent and was finally bought by the County Council in the 80s. Unfortunately due to a fire in 2010, Hope Castle is now closed and it’s future remains uncertain.
Following Joe’s address, the group were then led on a nature walk around Lough Muckno by ecologist and Clones native, Billy Flynn. The bit of rain didn’t dampen our spirits as Billy educated us on the varying species of trees and birds in the area. We heard the chaffinch’s unusual call and learned that the nest-like clusters, often seen in the birch tree, known as ‘witches brooms’, are in fact a natural defence the tree creates against a fungus. We saw the beginning of the bluebell shoots starting to show and Billy highly recommends revisiting the grounds when they are in full bloom, as it has to be seen to be believed.
When we returned to the Gate Lodge after our walk, we were met with a welcome hot mug of tea or coffee and then we settled back in to hear sculptor, Alison Bole, discuss her work. Alison draws inspiration from organic forms and landscapes namely the rolling drumlins that envelop our little county. Her preferred material is Kilkenny limestone as she finds it easy to work with and is satisfied by the white marks that appear when chipping away at it with her different tools. Some of her pieces can be seen on display in the Botanic Garden’s and others in Sean Cannon’s Western Light Gallery on Achill Island where the landscapes around her directly inspired her work. She was also commissioned to create a piece for Miramichi, Canada which is twinned with Monaghan, in memory of a tragedy that occured around the time of the Famine. Miramichi was designated as a quarantine area and it was here almost a whole ship of people were lost to typhoid. Alison’s beautiful sculpture represented a potato cut in half and on one side it had the Irish shamrock and on the other side the Canadian maple leaf. A fitting tribute representing both sides of the Atlantic. Alison has many other stunning pieces that really display her close relationship and love for natural forms and were very inspiring to see.
We were then introduced to Michael Harris, poet and native of Mullyash, residing for years in London. Michael feels a certain alienation living in the city compared to the connection he feels at home. He mentions his route to work, where at one point he crosses a footbridge and is completely surrounded by traffic lanes, which couldn’t be further removed from nature. London has led him to question his own sense of self and his antidote for this is imagining himself lying on the soil in Mullyash. Sometimes this ‘surrending to the earth’ as he put it is a necessary thing as spending time in nature is an effective remedy to counteract the stress brought on by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Although a poet himself, so no stranger to a pen and paper, he declared that one day’s exposure to the mountains is better than reading all the books or poems in the world. There is always a distance with words, an approximation. Michael quoted many wonderful poems and recited some of his own poetry echoing these reflections.
Liam reiterated the importance of the arts in sparking that connection between the person and the natural world. To reconnect is often a challenge, a challenge which has now become a world wide phenomenon, particularly in the Western world. All we can do is our own little bit, take time out for ourselves, appreciate Mother Nature and respect and care for her and she will return the favour.
We were played out to a very fitting song chosen by Michael – The Joy of Living performed by David Gray, written by Ewan McColl.
A massive thanks to Liam Murtagh who organised it all and made the entire event possible. To Joe Hanratty and the Castleblayney Drama Festival. Thank you to Billy Flynn, Alison Bole and Michael Harris for sharing their knowledge and inspirations. And thank you also to Cora Murtagh, Joan Hanratty and Rita Connell who helped with refreshments amongst other things. It was a wonderful way to spend a few hours and was greatly appreciated by all.