Island-hopping artist's new venture

September 19th, 2017 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Artist Cathy Murray on Bere Island.

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Cathy Murray explains to Helen Riddell the concept of her Rite of Passage art project which will take her all the way from Cape Clear to Rathlin Island

Cathy Murray explains to Helen Riddell the concept of her Rite of Passage art project which will take her all the way from Cape Clear to Rathlin Island


A  NEW art venture by artist Cathy Murray will see her travelling from island to island, along Ireland’s Atlantic coast, without once returning to the mainland, and creating a piece of art on each island she visits.  

In undertaking the project, Cathy is aiming to highlight the unique cultural apects of island life, and document their communities with a series of films, and ongoing live coverage of the project on social media. 

Explaining the concept for the project, Cathy said: ‘I will be trying to hitch passage aboard as many varied sea craft as possible from Cape Clear in the south, via the inhabited islands on Ireland’s western seaboard, to Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland, without returning to the mainland for the entire journey.  

‘For every sea passage I get, I will exchange a piece of artwork, such an instant photograph with the crew. This barter system is symbolic of Irish journey women who survived in the 19th century by knitting apparel for families in exchange for board.’

The main project is due to get under way in early 2018, however Cathy has spent this summer undertkaing a pilot project on the West Cork islands, visiting Cape Clear and the islands of Sherkin, Whiddy, Bere and Heir in order to work out logisitics for the main project, which she said overall went very well. 

‘It’s breen great as a way of ironing out any potetntial problems, and working out exactly what we will need for next year.  At the moment the main problem seems to be getting online, as connectiity has been a problem on some islands, as we will be uploading videos of our journey, so a good wifi signal is necessary, which I know is a is an everyday problem for many of those living on the islands.’

Cathy is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses mainly digital and lens-based media as a means to engage with local communities. While on each island, she will hold a number of workshops with the intention of creating a piece of artwork for each island, and encouraging islanders of all ages to come together to make thieir voice heard. 

Cathy started off her adventures this summer in Cape Clear. ‘We spent a good bit of time on Cape, and then traveled to Sherkin and on to Heir where we were lucky to meet up with Michael John and Daniel Murphy who were both very supportive and helpful in arranging boat transport for us.  

‘We then went from the Mizen to Bere Island by yacht. While on Bere Island. Cathy met with islanders Edel Murphy who took her blackberry-picking with her children, spent a day at Teresa Hall’s sheep farm and suited up for an afternoon’s beekeeping with Barry Hanley.  

Next stage was trying to secure a passage to Whiddy Island: ‘I heard that Glen Harrington and a crew from Bere Island were headed down to assist with berthing an oil tanker at Whiddy Island oil terminal, they were very helpful and brought me with them and dropped me at Whiddy. I was able to spend some time on Whiddy and then when they finished work they brought me back to Bere Island.’   

Tim O’Leary, ferry operator on Whiddy Island is also involved in community development projects on the island and welcomes Cathy’s project. ‘Cathy visited Whiddy recently, and spent time exploring the island and its history.  We’re delighted to be involved, and are looking forward to taking part when the main project launches in 2018.’  

Tim outlined how Whiddy Island regularly plays host to events from the West Cork Literary Festival, and the West Cork Chamber Music Festival, and are looking to work on more arts based projects, ‘we’re hoping to develop the old island schoolhouse into a venue which could be used to host various events.’   

Cathy said in coming up with the project, she wanted to explore the realities of island life, ‘If anything comes out of this project, it’s that more people take note of the islands, in particular that our Government should put more weight into the development of the islands and preserving their culture and way of life.’ 

Cathy has been liaising with the development officers on the various islands Mairtín Ó Méalóid on Cape Clear, Aisling Moran on Sherkin Island and John Walsh on Bere Island and thanked them all for their help: ‘All the development officers really care about their islands, and have really supported us in setting up the Rite of Passage project. Overall, this summer has been a brilliant experience and we’ve seen for ourselves the great sense of community that exists on the islands and I’m looking forward to working with them next year.”

Cathy also plans to document the entire project on social media and encourages islanders and mariners to contribute their own images and stories to this as a means of strengthening connections and awareness between islanders, islands, seafarers and Irelands wider population.  


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