By Mary Rose McCarthy
The residents of Clancool-Richmond Court, a large estate on the western edge of Bandon town have come together over recent months and worked on giving the communal areas of the estate a makeover.
The residents’ association adopted an inter-agency approach in addressing areas of the estate which had received little investment in recent decades. Working with the municipal councillors, The West Cork Development Partnership, the community Garda and the Bandon Family Support and Community and Wellbeing Centre, they held monthly meetings outlining the needs of the residents living in the estate. Margaret Murphy O’Mahony TD has been an enthusiastic supporter long before her election as the first female TD in Cork South West.
Cork County Council recently carried out long-awaited remedial construction works to chimneys and houses in Richmond Court. The local authority then painted the houses. Some roads were resurfaced and alleyways and other areas were cleared of debris and refuse that had accumulated over time. Once these essential works had been completed residents then turned their attention to the outdoor environment.
With financial assistance, in the form of a Municipal Amenity Grant, and working with the help of Louise Hackett of the Family Support and Community Wellbeing Centre, a gardener was sourced through the Cork Education Board. Horticulturist, Paul O’Flynn consulted with residents in designing and installing a pleasing shrub border along the eastern boundary fence of the communal green area. In doing this, Paul adopted sustainable permaculture methods. Thus, a membrane to reduce weeds and avoid digging-over of a large area of soil covered the ground, prior to the planting of many decorative shrubs and grasses. Paul sourced these from the Bandon Co-op Garden Centre in conjunction with, and with advice from, Sean Browne of the Co-op. Once all the shrubs were in place a layer of bark mulch to further help in weed reduction and to prevent moisture loss was then laid down.
Also on the green area, the residents worked with the West Cork Development Partnership to give the wall adjacent to the tarmac and green area a facelift. The SCIAP – Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme – in consultation with the residents, identified painting a mural on the wall as a suitable project. With the help of Kathryn Kingston, from SCIAP, community artist Sheila Kelleher was sourced to develop the concept and work with the residents in delivering a finished wall mural. Sheila outlined the work and showed local residents how to mix colours and paint in the outlined images.
The mural is in the form of interlocking jigsaw pieces, with each piece having a different design, reflecting the ages and interests of the residents. People reading newspapers, little girls watering flowers, young people playing sport or skateboarding are just some of the pieces. The opening piece bears the aphorism, ‘Make your Mark,’ which is also the slogan of the well-known Bandon charity Make your Mark on Cancer, who organise the annual walk in aid of the Mercy Hospital and in memory of Mark Prendergast, who lived on the estate. The last piece of the puzzle is created of handprints. All the local children came, had their hands covered in paint, and left their mark on the last piece of the wall. There was a carnival atmosphere that day with soft drinks and snacks for the children. Adults sat around chatting in the sunshine and joined in the general fun. Some ventured to also put their prints on the wall.
Cork County Council provided the paint for the project and once again, all the necessary materials were bought locally through Bandon Co-op stores. The Community Employment Scheme and Bandon Tidy Towns assisted in the preparation and readying of the wall for the paint work.
From the initial preparation stages, the project took approximately two weeks to complete. It created a buzz of interest, not just in the estate where many interested residents came out to chat and share in the banter, but also among the townspeople who came to the estate to view progress. One business person was so impressed he’s asked to be put in contact with the artist, as he would like a similar project on his wall.
Through the day after day work, other residents have now come on board and joined the residents association including a local young man who worked diligently every day. One resident remarked that it’s great to have something to look forward to in the mornings; another says she has learnt a new skill in mixing paint to form other colours, and another that she’s not laughed as much in years.
Enthusiasm for the project was very obvious with lunch hosted by different workers on different days. During the breaks, as well as lively banter, ideas for how other communal areas of the estate might be enhanced were discussed and it is hoped that some of these will be acted on once the inter-agency meetings resume in the autumn.
Kathryn Kingston of SCIAP praised the residents’ association, saying they are a strong vibrant group who care about their environment. ‘The project,’ she stated, ‘just goes to show what can happen when a vibrant group of people get together to work with other agencies to enhance and improve their estate. It is what the SCIAP is all about and seeing the finished project and the satisfaction of the local people it makes all the hard work very worthwhile.’
• All are invited to attend a mass on the revitalised green area at 7pm this Friday, August 26th. This will be followed by a cuppa and a chat.