Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Special Needs for us all

  by Sara O'Mahony © 2013

Today my eyes have been opened! I have seen talents, abilities and creativity from people that are often categorised as having 'disabilities'.

I spent part of it participating and assisting with the Grundtvig exchange project at Crawford College, on Sullivan's Quay, Cork. The exchange was being hosted by the Mayfield Arts Group 'Cuig' (Gaelic for the number five), the group title themselves as creativity unlimited integrated group. They are five artists with disability employed as artists in residence at the arts centre in Newbury House, Mayfield.

I had already gleaned some information as to the 'goings on' for the week from Jessica Carson the coordinator and artist with the arts centre. Jessica is one of the tutors for the Arts in group facilitation course with CIT and Crawford College of Art and Design that I am currently taking part in. She took us to the Mayfield Community Arts Project on the previous Saturday and showed us some work of the artists. 

The Grundvig exchange is made up of artists from Kunstwerkplatz, Netherlands and Rocket Artists group from Brighton, UK and the Mayfield Arts Centre Group, Cork. I learned that the Mayfield Group met the artists from abroad already at a gathering in Brighton at Easter. These groups are all connected as they are special needs people participating. 

It all happened very spontaneously as I was just dropping in my overdue assignment to the college when I noticed the art work in action on the ground floor. I was immediately curious and eager to learn more art work from these experts. I was nervous with anticipation and I didn't want to barge in, I wanted to see if there was any opportunity that I could participate. I was quietly excited too at the chance I could get to learn new art techniques.

So I walked along and saw to my right the week plan pinned on the wall, this was presented on blackboard type paper and the plan for the week was all mapped out. Today's plan was for art work/portraits and etchings. 'Oh great' I thought to myself.

I reached a partitioned area and there were long narrow desks lined up in a row with people with their heads down, they all appeared to be deeply engrossed in art process taking place. Then I realised the room was very busy as a lot of visitors were arriving to see the work too. I noticed that a group of about twenty people were queued up behind me. I just took one step to the side to let them all pass and I caught a glimpse of photos being transferred to a long roll of parchment paper that span out over five tables with about ten people diligently working on this. A lovely woman right beside me jumped up and asked if I would like to join in and see the work. I said "yes, that's great, I'd love to".

She introduced herself as Angela and then nodded to Brid beside her. Then I realised she was from the Cuig group and I'd already seen her work at the previous weekend visit to the Arts Centre. Now I was really excited, I'd really enjoyed seeing the art work and it was all the more interesting yet to meet the artists themselves. 

I said "oh do you do the shoes?" and she said "oh that's Brid's work" and then I eagerly asked "so you do the holy pictures?" and Angela said "yes that's me". I exclaimed "oh great, your work is really great, I really like it". 

I asked "you do the holy pictures of Jesus and the Angels?!" and she said "yes that's me". I commented on how much we admired her work last week and especially the gold gilded pictures.  "Yes", Angela said "the gilding is dearer" and she had a sparkle in her eyes as she said this.  What I didn't know was this was the start of a beautiful "exchange" with these women and they were a group of both teachers and students.

Angela gave me a paint brush and plastic container with some acetone in it and said to start by placing the photocopy cut outs of photos taken by exchange group out and about Cork City. Then she demonstrated how to paint over it with acetone and then she showed how to imprint the pigment from the photocopy by pressing over the entire cut out and to do it a few times to get a truer image transferred onto the parchment roll.

I did exactly as she asked and she worked away beside me on hers. 'Hey Presto', I exclaimed as I pulled the photocopy print away from the parchment, the print had transferred and some parts and colours were better than others so she asked to put it back down and go over it again. I did this once more and this time when I removed the photocopy. To my amazement the colours were transferred with really lovely pastel effect. What really stood out were blue jeans that a person was wearing, these transferred really well and were a vivid blue.

We did loads more transfers and people came over and admired the work – the brighter colours were coming out brighter and softer. The darker colours however took patience and time to get the image transferred well.

At this stage the fumes from the acetone were rising around Angela and I, at the force and our enthuasim. I wanted to continue and I was having such a ball at this technique. I thought, 'I'd got it' and I thanked Angela, saying "she was a good teacher" and she shrugged and smiled in a surprised fashion. Then later I showed her how to get the bright effect like the blue jeans and she said "look you're a teacher too – so we were both teachers! Fancy that!"

At this rate our enthusiasm was soaring (maybe fuelled along by the acetone in the air around us. So people took lunch and we worked on a little longer. It wasn't till I could taste weird sensation in my mouth from the fumes that I said I need a break and a cup of tea! Angela agreed. And that tea did taste good! Angela offered some food to take for lunch and at this stage it was almost already all eaten by the group as they had lunch earlier. 

Angela and I both commented as we munched through the lunch that we had too much fumes for one day. Then I asked what they were doing tomorrow. And Angela said "oh you come along again, I need help with painting and decorating my chair". So I said "certainly" and I was even more delighted when one of the coordinators agreed. So off I went delighted with the prospect of seeing and doing more 'art in action' and creativity tomorrow.


Today I learned that the term 'people with disabilities' is not true, for people are not any way less able than any other able bodied human being. This group is made up of talented artists with great creativity and potential to inspire. It was a truly eye opening experience to be receiving as a participant in this exchange.

©2013 Sarah O'Mahony

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dancing the Jig

by Madelaine Nerson Mac Namara © 2013

This French derogatory
Pictures mostly children
Caught up in wild frenzied play
Sometimes even adults
Hopping from foot to foot
Desperately holding in a pee.

Odd how language
Drags along unawares
Legacies of the scorn
Some French long ago
Felt for their Breton
Or Auvergnat neighbours.

Little wonder our family
Guards like secret treasure
The knowledge
Our Irish mother
Can dance jigs and reels
An exotic feat.

From time to time
We remember
Beg a performance.
Into her late sixties
In between chores
She gives it a whirl

Laments the lack
Of a beat we've never heard
Lilts her own steps.
Enthralled, we clap our pride.
Out of breath, she stops
Flops onto a chair, smiling back

On the day she danced, aged four
With her golden curled friend
Hoisted onto a podium
For the entertainment
Of Limerick's bishop Dwyer
Come to celebrate a forgotten school feast.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Life Experience

In memory of Janet Thomas who died 15 April, 2013.

by  Sarah O'Mahony      ©   November 2013

I really looked forward to the Toastmasters meeting tonight.  I needed to see some familiar faces and have a good chat with the people that I have come to know over the last few years.
I particularly missed Janet Thomas there, especially at the topics session. She would usually have a seamless, entertaining, interesting slant on her impromptu topic ‘speech.’  Her reply to a subject would be fashioned like a mini speech. She would present it calmly and clearly. She had composure, a steadiness and self-assuredness. I used to really ‘look up’ to her style and admire her keen talent. I used to think as she delivered yet another well-orchestrated one, ‘I’d really like to be able to do a topic like that someday’.  
As I wrote this I felt sad for her passing. She has left the club with a great legacy; we now know how to present topics. My eyes well up a little as I write as she has taught me so much about speaking in public. I loved her evaluations– the sense of knowing that she’d always give feedback to a speaker as it needed to be. She always focused on the good points of the speaker and speech and then would highlight one or two key areas needing improvement.
She could make a point about the club meeting in a way that was skillful and non-critical. She did so in a fashion that clearly separated her from the meeting, establishing herself 'outside the meeting' and then constructively put her comments in a positive way. She challenged the most articulate speakers.

Janet, I give you my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all your insight and inspiration over past years as a member and participant at Toastmasters.

 Sarah O’Mahony

Friday, April 11, 2014

Survival Kit

       by Anne Alcock   © 10 April, 2014

This item, written in 20 minutes, is one of 2 winning entries from our Non-Fiction Writing Competition.

It's 3 a.m. and the African sky is lighter than I expect. Grey rather than black – since black belongs to the moving wall of fir-trees on the horizon. The stars are still out.  I have been up for half an hour and already assembled the "emergency kit" of travel needs (in a little tin box) that a "self-help" ten year old always brings on holiday; a band-aid, a tiny "tickey" coin for a toilet stop, a pencil, and matches. Apart from this, I have no other personal luggage, so sitting outside on the verandah steps seems like the best, and most beautiful, thing to do.
My parents will soon come out, with my brother and grandmother and we will take the wide, dawn-lit African road out of Johannesburg into Mozambique. Tarmac will give way to earth and by the time we arrive, I will be red with dust, sticky and irritable on the baking-hot back seat of a non-airconditioned Opel.
This suddenly reminds me of something I've forgotten! A glass jam-jar, containing tepid water,  with a screw-top lid  – my 1956 precurser to today's ubiquitous travel water-bottle. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Memoirs of Schooldays in Ireland of 1920

 by a Country Lady © 2013

The school was old and draughty. A peat fire burned in the grate. The pupils brought a few logs every morning to aid the faltering flame.
I liked lunch-time best. We streamed out into wind-blown yard. Games of 'tig' and 'catch' got us nice and warm. Lunch consisted of rounds of brown soda bread wrapped in newspaper. No treats at that time; perhaps some apples in Autumn; maybe a biscuit at Christmas times.
The talk was of threshing, mowing, saving the hay; a barn dance maybe. Older brothers and sisters went to work in England and America, sending back magical parcels containing clothes. The lucky people who got American parcels were the envy of all.
But all the time in the background there was the music, of fiddles, of flutes, of accordions, the old songs sung in the fields, and at night at the fireside, when the neighbors gathered, the old people threw their heads back and with eyes closed, launched into the ancient songs of lost love from time immemorial.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Guess

by Madelaine Nerson Mac Namara, ©  12.03.2014

foolish hands
unroll, stake
hammer down, peg up
the barbed wire in the mind?