A One of a Kind production is to have its West Cork premiere at the Clonakilty Park Cinema on Friday.
The event at 5.30pm on January 27th will be a local screening of Wheel of Dreams a film created by a group of young Traveller women in West Cork.
The film, which has already had its national premier at Misleór- the Festival of Nomadic Cultures in Galway, has been described as ground-breaking.
It is a documentary short that follows the Stronger Together Collective, a group of nine girls from the West Cork Traveller community as they explore their creative talents, passions and ambitions.
Friday’s event will be the first chance that the local community, as well as these young women’s families and friends, will get to see their work on the silver screen.
Artist and filmmaker Toma McCullim worked with Lavie Olupona, Karima Amhadi, Alicia Williamson, Britney Mongans, Elizabeth Burke, Rosie McCarthy Adair, Jessie McCarthy Adair, Helena McCarthy and Theresa McCarthy over an 18-month period to introduce them to all aspects of the filmmaking process.
The highly-motivated group worked with mentors such as spoken word poet Felispeaks, musicians Clare Sands and Liz Clark, and filmmaker Aoise Tutty.
And, to their absolute delight, they also had paid roles as extras in the Graham Norton series Holding, and were given the opportunity to watch the director, Cathy Burke, at work.
Another highlight for the girls was a trip to Leinster House to see for themselves the workings of government.
This was organised by Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns, but the girls had an opportunity to meet with Senator Eileen Flynn, who encouraged the girls to believe in themselves and ‘go for their dreams.’
In fact, one of the most inspiring moments in the documentary short comes when Senator Flynn – who had the distinction of becoming the first member of the Traveller community to address Dáil Eireann – tells the group, ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’
Toddy Hogan, CEO of the West Cork Traveller Centre, said the project was made possible by an anonymous donor to Community Foundation Ireland, which as part of its equality mission is committed to opening up access to the arts for all.
‘We really enjoyed making our film together,’ the girls told The Southern Star. ‘The best part was making new friends and travelling to Dublin to the Dáil to see Holly Cairns and Eileen Flynn at work.’
They are excited about the upcoming screening. ‘The film shows who we actually are,’ they said. ‘We hope we will inspire other Travellers to make films like this.’
The director Toma McCullim said she had as much fun as they did over the last year-and-a-half.
‘I so enjoyed the process of getting to know the girls and helping them to identify their own hopes and dreams. They are an incredibly talented bunch who have created a powerful testament to their culture,’ she said.
‘We hope our film will encourage Traveller children in their aspirations, and show settled people how they can be better Traveller allies,’ said Toma.
Meanwhile, Toddy Hogan said it is great to see the wider community acknowledge the contribution the girls are making to West Cork.
Earlier this year, they received a Garda Community Award and they have been nominated for two further awards.