ARTS FOR EVERYONE Mayo County Council Arts Service has been instrumental in bringing arts to all – young and old – in the county. Pictured are some women enjoying a storytelling workshop during the annual Bealtaine Festival, which celebrates creativity in older age.
Supporting the arts for 21 years
1989. Charlie Haughey was Taoiseach. The communist Soviet Union was alive (if not very well), The Bangles were at number one with ‘Eternal Flame’ and, in Mayo a flame was burning brightly for the county’s footballers.
Off broadway, there was a new development in Mayo: the County Council employed its first Arts Officer and Mayo County Council Arts Service was born. Often far from the madding crowd, the service has nevertheless left a considerable imprint on the county in the intervening years.
This year it celebrates its 21st anniversary. Since its inception, the Arts Service has been hugely involved in nurturing and developing the arts, functioning right across the gamut of the genre – from music to visual arts, drama and dance to film and community arts, festivals and public arts.
It is estimated that the service, through its wide-ranging programmes, residencies and events, impacts directly on the lives of at least 80,000 people who attend events organised by or funded through the Arts Office.
In 1997, the service expanded to establish the Mayo Arts Squad, which provides training in community arts skills for 15 participants annually, who work with festivals throughout the county and with community groups, with intercultural groups and with disabled groups.
The Arts Service is renowned for the number of successful artist-in-residence programmes they have initiated over the years. Writers that have taken part include Dermot Healy, Michael Gorman, Val Mulkearns, Richard Murphy, Neill Donnelly, Ré Ó Laighlais, Máire Holmes, Paddy Bushe, John Breen, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne and Seán Lysaght.
Visual artists who have participated include Sinead Aldridge, Leah Durkan, Agnes Nyland, Deirdre Walsh, John Fox, Sue Gill and Chris Doris. Musicians Mary Curran, Niamh O’Kelly and John Hoban have also been hosted as part of the programme.
Writer-in-residence Dermot Healy put the Arts Office on the map early on when he edited Force 10 in Mayo in 1991, which went on to become a platform for new writing in the west of Ireland.
The Arts Service also links strongly with professional arts organisations throughout the county such as the Linenhall Arts Centre, the Heinrich Boll Cottage, Yew Tree Theatre Company, Ballina Arts Centre, Custom House Studios, Ballinglen Arts Foundation and Áras Inis Gluaire.
Two-and-a-bit decades on, the work of artists, writers, musicians, dramatists, dancers and continues to be supported by the Arts Service, boding well for the future of arts and culture in the county. Here’s to another 21 years.