The Hope Row

This year’s Hope Row took place on Saturday, September 10th. Now in its fourth year, the event is hosted annually by Stella Maris Rowing Club to raise money for good causes. Beneficiaries this year are St Vincent’s Oncology Unit in the Mater Hospital and The Royal Hospital, Donnybrook.

It was great day on the river with bright sunshine and very little wind to impede the rowers as they fought to win in their respective categories. Thirty-nine crews from seven of the eastern seaboard clubs took part. Although this was a charity event, competition between the clubs was as fierce as ever as each crew battled to to pass the finish line ahead of their rivals.

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The Hope Row differs from club regattas. It is not included in the competition for the East Coast Championships Shield, which was claimed once again this season by Stella Maris for the fourth year in succession. Well done Stella! The crews race over shorter and longer distances and they mix it up a bit when it comes to crews.

There was a huge element of fun involved.  Paddy’s Richie Saunders and Stella’s Mick Curry joined forces to challenge the East Coast currach rowers. To see a Paddy’s man and a Stella man in a boat together is rare but they put aside their rivalries to raise funds for these two great Dublin institutions.

The big races at the event were the Men’s Long Race, which was won by the St Patrick’s Men’s Senior Crew, all descendants of the original Hobblers, and the Ladies and Mixed Long Races, which were both won by crews from St Michael’s Rowing Club, Dún Laoghaire who were the overall winners of The Hope Cup. These races were 13 kilometers, far longer than the distance typically raced in regattas, and taxed the crews to their limits.

One of the most exciting competitions of the day saw Stella Maris fathers Liam and Michael Bannable join their respective daughters, Olivia and Chloe, to compete in the Mixed Race, which they won by some distance.

Any report of the event would be incomplete without acknowledging the fantastic work of Sharon Bolger who took on the mammoth task of feeding the crews, and everybody else who happened by, with her delicious burgers and hotdogs. She played a blinder on the BBQ all day with a smile on her face and a word for everybody. Stella’s David Doyle was in charge of the faultless organisation, ably assisted by the club’s members.

Crews and supporters from all the clubs celebrated well into the night with live music and craic in The Poolbeg Yacht Club. They were joined by those who took part in The Hill & Back 7km run/walk/crawl of Irishtown Nature Park, which was part of the event.

The Hope Row marks the end of the rowing season for another year. Soon the skiffs will be cleaned and stored safely for the winter, the oars will be painted and hung on the walls of the clubhouses and the rowers will find gyms and football clubs to get their winter kicks until the season starts again next May.

Skiff racing and the girls of Stella Maris

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It’s skiff racing season and once again these small elegant boats can be seen cutting through the dark waters of the Liffey, powered by teams of dedicated rowers who take to the river daily during the summer months.

Skiffs are based on the small open boats originally used by Hobblers, fearless men who risked all to link up with the ships and schooners making their way into Dublin port laden with cargo. The first boat to reach an incoming vessel and get a hook over the side got the job of guiding her into the Port, tying her up, and untying her when she was ready to cast off again. If they were lucky a team could get up to a week’s work discharging the vessel. It was hard work and tales about the bravery and daring of the men who worked the hobbling boats in dangerous waters are a part of the history and folklore of Ringsend and Irishtown.

During times when employment was hard to come by many local families survived on the Hobblers wages. Hobbling died out during the 1940s, as working conditions in the Port improved and pilot boats and tugs replaced their line of work.

Today, there are two skiff rowing clubs in Ringsend, St. Patrick’s (Paddy’s), which is situated in the shadow of the East Link Bridge, and Stella Maris, which is a stone’s throw away beside Poolbeg Yacht Club.

Skiff racing was very popular when the Hobbling boats operated but almost died out with the job. The rivalry between ‘Paddy’s’ and Stella Maris is largely responsible for keeping the tradition alive. Today there are rowing clubs all along the East Coast from Skerries to Arklow and their teams compete in regattas, hosted by each club, from May until August. Competition between the clubs is fierce.

No longer seen as a macho pursuit, today the sport is popular with men and women, boys and girls. St. Patrick’s and Stella Maris have teams for males and females in Senior, Junior, Novice, Under 18, Under 16, Under 12, Mixed Crew, Juvenile and OAP divisions.

Family participation in the sport is common and both Stella Maris and St. Pat’s have family members who row for teams in different categories or who competed in the past. The older members help run the clubs. Many are former rowers and still go out on the water occasionally, training new crews and acting as cox for the teams in training. They also teach new members traditional skills such as boat maintenance and oar making.

NewsFour spoke to Stella Maris Under 18 Girls’ team, Olivia Bannable (Stroke), Katelyn Behan (2nd Stroke), Chloe Bannable (Bow) and Ciara Bowden (2nd Bow). The girls started rowing together as a team this season and have been very successful in competition. They have been involved with Stella Maris since they were under 12, encouraged to join by parents and family members who are members of the club. They are great friends and love spending time together every day, practicing, competing and especially winning. As a team they are very competitive and the girls look forward to the regattas. Asked if they are ever nervous, they agree that they sometimes are but not, it turns out, about the water or the weather. The only thing that makes them anxious is that they might not win their races.

The girls make the point that women are as interested in rowing as men these days and say that anyone can do it. “You don’t have to be a certain weight or size and your fitness levels will improve if you are rowing every day,” says Olivia. Even when if the weather is bad and it’s hard to get out they look forward to their time on the water and know that they will come back feeling great. Rowing as a team keeps them fit and disciplined and they ooze energy and excitement when they talk about training and competing. “It’s great for fitness because you can’t slack or stop working on the water. You are part of the team and you have to keep going,” says Chloe.

The four girls agree that they hope to continue rowing with the club for as long as they can. Chloe jokes that she can see herself as the “mammy of the club someday,” like some of the older members who have influenced and encouraged them since they became members. NewsFour will have to check on that in many years to come!

Intriguing Ingrid

As Irish films scored a record nine Oscar nominations this year, it may have gone unnoticed that one Irish-made film has been making waves on the critically acclaimed international Screendance scene.

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The Night Star Dance Company production ‘Table Manners/Stopping at Red Lights’ – a short film adapted from an original contemporary dance piece choreographed by Ingrid Nachstern – is quietly winning acclaim at Screendance and film festivals around the world.

Among other tributes, it received a Best Shorts Award in San Diego, California, Best Editing Award from the Modica Film Festival in Sicily, and an Award of Recognition from the Accolade Global Film Competition in La Jolla, California, which recognises exceptional achievement for craft and creativity in film, television and videography.

‘Table Manners/Stopping at Red Lights’ was first staged as a live performance in Project Cube, Dublin, during April 2013.  The idea for the original piece was sparked by News reports of a man who went on a killing spree through villages in the North of England, murdering random people on the way.  As he made his deadly journey he stopped at red lights, like any normal person would do. The dichotomy between the killer’s lethal acts and his social conditioning intrigued Ingrid. The dance explores the contradictions between private/ public behavior and touches on issues such as over-consumption, abuse of resources and over-reliance on medication.  It is, like all of Ingrid’s work, designed to make members of the audience re-examine their worldview.

The film version features an outstanding cast of Lucia Kickham, Michael Cooney and Ingrid, who also directed, with Michael Gallen on sound.  It was shot in Clonskeagh, Dublin, with film-maker Luca Truffarelli, who has collaborated successfully with several choreographers and dance companies in the past.

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Ingrid started studying Classical Ballet, at the age of three, with teacher Muriel Kitt in Dublin. She recalls that she “didn’t like it much” because she was very shy and found public performance overwhelming.  She took the Royal Academy of Dance examinations up to the age of 17, before taking an extended break.

After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, with a B.A. in Modern Language, Ingrid  worked as a translator in Toronto, London and Oxford. During her time in Canada she started dancing again, taking classes with Richard Sugarman in Toronto and later with Joanna Banks in Dublin. She also undertook the three year teacher training course at the Royal Academy of Dance (London).

She established her successful ballet school in Sandymount, Dublin, in 1997, where she has passed on her passion for dance to the many pupils who have studied with her.  As much as she loves her work as a dance teacher, Ingrid likes to push herself as far as possible out of her comfort zone.  In 2003, eager for a new challenge, she established the Night Star Dance Company.  The company’s debut performance took place in Project Cube the same year, with ‘Bow-Tie Like ‘Chioni’, a piece inspired by the death of her father.  She has since created fourteen original works for Night Star, which have been performed in Ireland and at arts and dance events around the world.

Ingrid returned to public performance as a dancer in 2011, when she was invited to present her solo work ‘Who Am I?’ in the famous Dance Theater Workshop (DTW) New York, as part of Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland series.  During a ten-minute Q&A session after the performance she found, to her surprise, that the audience “got it” – they truly understood what she wanted to convey.  It was an important moment for her because it gave her the confidence to see herself as a performer and choreographer, and as an artist with something interesting to say.

Since then she has danced all over the world and worked with many celebrated dancers and choreographers, including such luminaries as Michelle Boulé, Sari Nordman and Steve Paxton.

Ingrid is genuinely surprised at her recent success. She says that she is more motivated now, at sixty-two, than she was when she was younger and “never says no to any opportunity.”  At an age when most professional dancers have made a career transition in the opposite direction she continues to push the boundaries and accept new challenges. Nowadays, she relishes public performances and believes that “dance for its own sake is just navel gazing – you have to dance for an audience, not for yourself.”  Screendance offers another space to stage performances and gain access to receptive audiences.

Readers can expect to hear more about Ingrid’s accomplishments as she enters this new phase of her career.  She has recently completed a second short film with her “perfect film partner” Luca.  Freedom – to go! “a commentary on present day America in verse” and it is already winning awards.  Yesterday, Saturday 20th, February, 2016, it received an Award of Merit (Experimental) and an Award of Recognition (Film Short) in the The Indie Fest Global Film Awards,in California.  A third short film is in the works.

Art of Heart’s Desire: a profile of the artist Steven Mannion Farrell

Steven Mannion Farrell is one of the fastest rising stars of Irish art world. He has already enjoyed considerable commercial success and his artworks are starting to appear in some of the most enviable private collections in the world. It’s easy to see why. His paintings and drawings are, quite simply, breathtaking.

 

It’s impossible to define his style. Steven describes it as “abstract” and “minimal”, but it’s changed over the years and continues to change with each collection. His paintings are bright and colourful, not dark. Although his style and technique may have changed, as he has grown as an artist, his gaze is uniquely and identifiable his.

His artistic heroes include Paul Henry, Picasso and German artist, Gerhard Richter, one of the pioneers of the New European Painting that emerged after WWII. His favourite painting The Taking of Christ, by Caravaggio, dates from an earlier time and he loves this work because “there are so many layers to it.” One of his first influences was Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick. He still loves Fitzpatrick’s work and has the pleasure of living with an original by the artist, a portrait of one of his sisters-in-law.

Although Steven is already an accomplished artist, he continues to take classes, when he has the time, because they “motivate” him. “There’s never a point when it’s too late to learn something new,” he says, “the need to grow as an artist is always important to me.” He likes to push forward and experiment with different themes, which does not always thrill the galleries and agents that he works with. Their need to categorise his work is thwarted by his “to strike a balance between commercial success and artistic expression.”

Research plays an important part in his artistic process, as it both informs and inspires him. When he is preparing for a collection he immerses himself fully in the subject of his work. For example, when he was preparing for the Land of Heart’s Desire exhibition, which is based on the life and works of WB Yeats, he spent a lot of time in Sligo, observing the land and skies that influenced the poet, visiting his haunts, reading his poems and stories and studying his life. He could also be found at the William Butler Yeats permanent exhibition at the National Library of Ireland, reading and researching.

The results are extraordinary. The paintings capture the poet and his places in an almost mystical way. If you are already a lover of Yeats, Steven’s paintings will add a new dimension to your understanding of his work.  If you know nothing about him they will open a door to his world.

In person, Steven is as far away from the stereotypical image of angst ridden artist as you can get.  He exudes good health and happiness and he laughs all the time.  He does not find artistic life lonely – he likes getting stuck into the work. He maintains a good work/life balance and is happily married to Eamon Farrell, who is a director at the National College of the Performing Arts.  They have a great home and social life and live with three dogs who spend their days in the studio with him.  He does not work regular hours but he makes sure that he is in his studio, which is based at their home in Sandymount, every day.  The work flows from there.

Steven likes to get involved with projects, other than his art.  His passion for Yeats led to a position on the board of the Yeats 150 festival.  He enjoyed that role, “taking Yeats out of the academic and into the real world.” He believes that the arts have a crucial role to play in society as they “add to the culture.” He says, “In Ireland we’re doing well but still have a way to go. Yes, it is the duty of society to fund the arts, but “not at the expense of other priorities such as homelessness.” He regrets that there is no history of art patronage here but is hopeful that will change.  He knows that he is lucky; he had lots of support for his need to create when he was growing up.  His mum, who he clearly adores, made sure that he always had the art supplies and the encouragement that he needed to develop his craft.

Steven attributes some element of his success to luck.  His first significant sale happened when his work was seen and purchased by a couple, with a passion for art, at Art Ireland 2007.  Selling that work and seeing it hang on the walls of its new home made him feel like a professional artist, for the first time.  His work and success have gathered momentum since.

That is why he is very excited to be part of the Ringsend Arts Festival.  He explains “It is incredibly important for local artists to show their work to the world. That’s really important.  If it sells even one artist, it is worth it.”

 

Is fánach an áit ina bhfaighfeá gliomach

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“Is fánach an áit ina bhfaighfeá gliomach” (You never know where you will find a lobster) quoted boating specialist and author, Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, as he helped celebrate the launch of a very special boat.

The launch was held on Friday, September 11th, at the Ringsend Registered Fishermen & Private Boat Owners Association boatyard, Pigeon House Road.  It was attended by forty or more boating and rowing enthusiasts, including members of the Ringsend Boat Owners Association, as well as members of the Stella Maris and St Patrick’s rowing clubs.  Those who braved an absolute deluge of rain to be there were well rewarded with a memorable evening.

The boat in question is a currach, one of a handful on the Liffey.  The man who built it, Edwin Tuthill, is a carpenter by trade and comes from landlocked Clane, Co Kildare.  Edwin fell in love with the elegant shape of this iconic boat when he first saw currachs on visits to the West of Ireland.  Notwithstanding the fact that he had never been on one, didn’t row, and didn’t live near a body of water, the craftsmanship appealed to the carpenter in him and he wanted to build a currach of his own.

So he set off to Spiddal, armed with only a measuring tape and a notebook.  He had no contacts there. He took measurements from the currachs which were, as is the tradition, moored upside down on the beach. He returned to Kildare with his figures, drew up a plan, and “with a rush of blood to the head” started to build.  He made great headway for about six weeks and “half-finished” the boat.  Then he hit a brick wall, builders block, so to speak.  He covered it with tarpaulin, stored it at the bottom of his garden and more or less forgot about it. Over the years he would occasionally look at it from his kitchen window and resolve to dismantle it, but he never did.

Ten years later, his friend, Ciarán Healy, introduced him to David Kelly, a Dubliner with a huge interest in currachs, cultivated on his many visits to Inishmaan.  David is a familiar sight on the Liffey.  He takes his own currachs out on the river three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Edwin’s first trip on the water, crewing on David’s boat, re-ignited his enthusiasm for the project. It didn’t take long for him to get the hang of the rowing and he’s “flying at it now.”

When Eddie Byrne, secretary of the local boat owners club, heard about Edwin’s boat he offered the use of the boatyard to complete it.  With his support and with help from David and other members of the Liffeyside boating community, work on the currach was complete.

Eddie B and his wife Phyllis said that they would host the launch and provide “tea and sandwiches”, which turned out to be a feast, fit for a wedding.  The wine and beer flowed.  After all, the boat had to be blessed.  As Páraic Ó Flátharta, an Inis Mór native, who lent his expertise to the project, explained,“In the west nobody would sit into a currach until it’s been blessed.”

The blessing was performed by boating enthusiast Father Derek Harris.  Despite the foul weather, the majority of the assembly left the warmth of the boathouse to witness the proceedings.  Edwin stood by, as nervous as a bridegroom, slightly overwhelmed by the occasion.

All eyes were on the currach as she glistened under the boatyard lights in the rain, which was now coming down in buckets.  The skiff rowers from the Dublin rowing clubs smiled admiringly.  They all love the currach; its classic shape, its buoyancy, its agility on the water and the boating tradition it represents. Everyone agreed that “Ed made a beautiful boat.”

It’s hard to find a positive water-based story in Ireland these days but the blessing of Edwin’s curragh is certainly good news.  An evening filled with stories and music, the launch was about camaraderie, generosity and the celebration of achievement.  Lobsters do turn up in the strangest of places.