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Ferbane’s "Amazing World of Wonder"

Thursday, 5 October 2017

THE Creative Ireland Programme has collaboration at its core and this brief was to explore and present aspects of Offaly's Heritage through art, and to bring together Heritage, communities and artists.

Photographer Tina Claffey, artist Caroline F Conway and author Ronan Casey (of The Living Bog) will this Friday present an unusual look at Offaly's Bogs, in Ferbane. It will take place in the Mary Ward Heritage Centre on Friday October 6 at 8pm.

Tina Claffey's work is very much focussed on the amazing world of the bog, and she and Caroline identified Ferbane as a community with strong links to the bog, firstly through its industrial heritage, and now, as a LIFE project site of conservation, having one of the best examples of an active raised bog in Europe.

Tina and Caroline's first collaboration brought their art forms together: macro-photography and zoetrope-animation, and seeing where this could take them. They met with the organisers of Ferbane Feis Ceoil and presented a very broad set of ideas that involved celebrating the local bog, and also focussing on Mary Ward, a nineteenth century pioneering scientist and naturalist from Ferbane.

These lovely people suggested they contact Brendan Ryan, who is not only the director of the local Drama Group, but also the authority on all things related to Mary Ward. In addition, they introduced Tina and Caroline to their daughter, Clare Anne, a final year science student at UCD, and also a talented musician, who volunteered to compose music for the project.

The project was underway and the first meeting set for the Black Boot Cafe. Mary Ward had published a book in 1858 "The Wonders of Nature viewed through a Microscope". Each chapter was written in the style of a letter, detailing different aspects of her work - "Wings of Insects", "Scales of Beetles" etc. and these would form the backbone of the project.

The mid-nineteenth century was a time of huge scientific advances and discoveries and the Victorians were expanding their visual imaginations to keep pace with the changing world. Says Caroline: "Our project extended and combined these visual discoveries, with Tina's macro-photography echoing Mar Ward's microscope work, and combining these images with Zoetrope animation, that had been invented in the 1850's.

We drew inspiration from the Victorian idea of "Science as Performance", combining old and new technologies, to produce an exciting celebration of the natural heritage of the bog, and the historical and scientific heritage of Mary Ward."

The performance, at the Mary Ward Heritage Centre in Ferbane, was a large scale projection of the animated photographs, narrated through an adaptation of the chapters of the book as a series of letters, read by members of High Street Drama Group, and students from Gallen Community School, and adapted by Brendan Ryan, accompanied by music composed and performed by Clare Anne Kearns.

A huge undertaking so! A film of stills and Zoetrope animation; a script adaptation from a historical source; original music to be composed and performed live; actors from High Street Drama and Gallen Community School, a performance to be organized. A true collaboration!

Ronan Casey from the European Union funded Living Bog project, which is restoring Ferbane Bog SAC and 11 other SACs (six of which are in Offaly) will open the performance this Friday, revealing some of the more quirkier aspects of the Offaly bog story. Ronan is a noted author in his own right, and was also a broadcaster with RTE, Today FM and TV3 and a journalist with a number of local newspaper titles.

"We hope that this project will go further in promoting the heritage of the Bogs," says Caroline, who reveals there will be a live recording of the performance.

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