It was an honour for Aras Eanna Ionad Ealaíne to welcome the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, his wife Sabina, and daughter Alice Mary to spend the day with us on Inis Oirr yesterday.
They visited Aras Eanna to check out some of the 21 currachs in the ‘Curacha’ exhibition which celebrates our 21st birthday as an arts centre.
In the theatre, guided by Artistic Director Dara McGee, they were delighted to check out the stunning works of art by their old friends, sculptor John Behan and painter Mick O’Dea. They loved the other currachs too.
They were also fascinated by the Mandala style used by Pakistani artist Sadia Shoaib, who is living in Direct Provision in Co Mayo. Sadia’s currach is inspired by the butterflies which are found around the Aran Islands.
They visited the ‘Laethanta Sona – Saol ar an gCreig’ exhibition in our gallery, which celebrates the women of Inis Oirr. It features recordings of women who live on the island and stunning photographs by island resident Cormac Coyne.
The exhibition also looks at the process which led to the staging of an Irish language version of ‘Happy Days’ at a special location at the back of the island.
During lunch here at the arts centre, President and Mrs Higgins dined with Anne and Máire Uí Cháthain – Ann is part of the exhibition and President Higgins stayed with her mother, Máire, during a visit to the island many years ago.
They also met islanders Tomás Noel Searraigh, Máirtín Celine Seoighe, and Máirtín Stiofáin Seoighe, who built the spectacular mound overlooking Inis Meáin and the Atlantic Ocean for the ‘Laethanta Sona’ show.
Director Sarah Jane Scaife, who had the vision to stage ‘Happy Days’ by Samuel Beckett at the back of the island, also joined President and Mrs Higgins for lunch at the arts centre.
The Presidential party then moved to Creig an Staic at the back of the island where they enjoyed an outdoor performance of ‘Laethanta Sona’, directed by Sarah Jane and starring Brid Ni Neachtain and Raymond Keane.
After the show, they met the cast of the play, producer Tim Scott, production manager Emma O’Grady, translator Micheal O Conghaile, and others who took part in staging this spectacular show.
On the way back to the pier, they had time to stop off at the island’s church to view the spectacular currach by Oughterard-based artist Kathleen Furey, whose piece is a replica of a stained glass window by Harry Clarke.
Before they left the island, children from Inis Oirr lined the road on either side of the pier to wave goodbye to President and Mrs Higgins.
A happy day on the island!
- ‘Laethanta Sona’ is produced by Company SJ and the Abbey Theatre in association with Áras Éanna. It is part of the 2021 Galway International Arts Festival. The exhibition is open every day until Sunday (10am to 5pm). Some tickets are still available for the ‘Laethanta Sona’ play at https://booking.abbeytheatre.ie/events/14455?hidedate