It was my second week of my Artist in Residence at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely and as part of my research and development I wanted to continue my engagement with the community. My aim this week was to initiate conversations about rural life, community, isolation, journeys and theatre, some themes which I am exploring in connection with my R&D.
The Courthouse is a familiar and established part of the fabric of society in Tinahely. http://courthousearts.ie/the-courthouse/history/
Standing off the triangular Market Square since 1843 it has a history and a presence in the lives of the past and present inhabitants of the village. It is a building which attracts lots of patrons and a variety of acts both national and international. Still, there are some in the village who have never crossed the threshold and within my work one of aims is to explore how this vibrant and one of the longest established arts centres in the country relates to the people who pass by it every day.
Yesterday I place myself directly opposite the Courthouse outside the library on Market Square.The square is a wonderful place to sit and observe people going about their daily business, with a sweeping energy and the constant hum drum of traffic passing by. Because I was taking my research out onto the streets of Tinahely, out of the Courthouse it felt very symbolic to bring the red chair from the green Room there for people to sit and feel comfortable.I sat with a sandwich board saying “Have you 5 mins for a chat?” Interesting question in our busy world. Do we have the time to stop and chat? Of course we do, if we make the time. And those who made the time sat and chatted to me and they were honest and interesting exchanges.
The people who sat down spoke to me about the sense of community there in Tinahely, the influence of rural life on their existence, the migration from rural areas into the village in some cases to feel better connected. The lack of a bus service to Dublin was a big issue for some and then there were others who felt there was a good enough service to surrounding areas. One young man told me he never took a bus, he has always used his car for short and long journeys.
A very poignant exchange and one that stuck with me was a man who loved to run long distances and did so to reach his destinations. For health reasons he had to abandon running and that sense of the loss of freedom was palpable. That connection we feel with the landscape and the sense of freedom as we run outdoors can never be experienced when we sit inside a vehicle, the countryside visible only for a second as we whizz past.
Conversations about the ICA, again a very important part of the fabric of society there, a Women’s network that has served and provided courses and a meeting place for women for years. The younger women don’t seem to avail of this group it seems. I am starting to see some generational differences become evident from my research.
I chatted to some young people who found it slightly unusual to see me there but in general I felt that people accepted me being there as something not so unusual as the Courthouse has provided many different art events and me being there was an extension of it. The journeys theme for young people represented friends and journeying together with friends, growing up I suppose. The comradeship of it and the support. The theme of isolation didn’t seem to worry them.
There is a sense nowadays in our modern world that we are stimulated enough, switched on all the time through social media and fool ourselves into believing we are connecting with people. And again that growing sense of isolation due to social media, feeling like we are missing out and I believe this becomes more prevalent when you live in a rural area. I know I suffer with it, feeling like everything is urban centric at times and we need to be in the middle of these urban centres to avail of the things which we need to feel fulfilled in certain areas of our lives. I feel it very much so in the arts and this project for me is to help me define my sense of identity as an artist who chooses to live rural and wants to devote every waking hour to creative pursuits. The theme of isolation is one that is relevant to me and I was quite surprised by others thoughts on it, perhaps it is something within myself, and a theme that I need to investigate further to understand it.
For me the joy of connecting face to face with people and chatting about life gave me a strong sense of these people in this community, the unique individuals that make up a community. Views and experiences so different yet so many common themes and threads running through their lives. It was a wonderful feeling to talk to people. It felt like it was my duty as an artist to do so. I felt a great sense of purpose as well as a great sense of peace, sitting there people watching.
My journey continues.
TIP #2 Life is a journey and we cannot do it alone.