The Electric Irish Homes textile art project brought together a group of Mayo women with artist Anna Spearman, who was commissioned through Age & Opportunity to develop a response to the research material through the medium of textiles. Watch the short video made by Brian Cregan documenting this process – the full 10 minute version is on display in the Kitchen Power exhibition, along with the finished art works, at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life.
The Kitchen Power exhibition was launched on Friday 19th July by Mrs. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland. Mrs. Robinson gave a speech where she linked the impact that rural electrification had on women in rural Ireland with the efforts to combat the climate crisis through feminist solutions, including access to water and electricity in undeveloped areas of the world. Despite some heavy rain, the launch was very well attended, including participants in both the oral history and textile art project, as well as local dignitaries.
Mary Robinson launching the Kitchen Power exhibition, with one of Olafur Eliasson’s Little Suns. Photo by Joseph O’Brien
L-R: Brigid O’Brien, ICA member and interview participant; Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, Cathaoirleach Castlebar Council; Noreen Durken, ICA member, interview and textile art project participant; Brendan Delany, ESB; Cllr Brendan Mulroy, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council; Mrs. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Catherine Heaney, Chair of the Board of the National Museum of Ireland; Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum of Ireland; Noel Campbell, Curator, National Museum of Ireland – Country Life; Dr. Sorcha O’Brien, Curator, Kingston University, London. Photo courtesy of the NMI
Maura McGuinness presenting Mary Robinson with a textile craft kit. Photo by Joseph O’Brien
Sorcha O’Brien and interview participant Brigid O’Brien showing Mary Robinson the oral histories. Photo courtesy of the NMI
Lynda Dunne, Josephine Scannell, Mary Ann Egan and Colm Scannell inspecting the Kitchen Power exhibition. Photo courtesy of the NMI
The curatorial and design team L-R: Dr. Sorcha O’Brien, Kingston University, London; Noel Campbell, National Museum of Ireland – Country Life; Ann Scroope, Wendy Williams and Caroline O’Connor of Scroope Design
Oral history interview participants Biddle Lawlor and Rachel Botha, both from Kilkenny, at the Kitchen Power exhibition opening. Photo courtesy of Rachel Botha.
This work will go on display in July 2019 as part of the Kitchen Power exhibition, but we held a showcase of the work in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life as part of the Bealtaine Festival 2019, which celebrates the arts and creativity as we age.
Electric Irish Homes project participants working with Anna Spearman and Sorcha O’Brien in An Grianán, August 2018
The project started with a two-day trip to An Grianán, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) adult education college in Termonfeckin, County Louth, where Sorcha briefed the group on the research and Anna ran a series of creative workshops in response. This kicked off a series of workshops in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, which included writing workshops with Fiona Keane from SixPens Creative Writing, a tour of the museum stores, and experimentation with both paper and textiles.
Project participants working with Anna Spearman in the NMI Country Life, January 2019
As part of the Bealtaine Festival, we held a textile art project showcase in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life at the end of May. Sorcha and project participant Noreen Durken were interviewed by Tommy Marren on Midwest Radio a few days before the event, which brought in a large crowd on a very wet day.
Audience at the Electric Irish Homes textile art showcase, May 2019
The showcase started with a talk from Sorcha about her research about women’s experiences of rural electrification, which was followed by Anna Spearman and participants Noreen Durken and Maura McGuinness speaking about their experiences of the textile art project. Dr Tara Byrne, Arts and Culture Programme Manager at Age & Opportunity and Artistic Director of the Bealtaine Festival, spoke about the festival and its role in creating wider access to the arts and creativity across Ireland.
Maura McGuinness talking about her involvement in the project, May 2019
The showcase also involved a preview screening of a short film about the project by Brian Cregan, and a display of the textile work carried out by the participants, as well as notebooks, test pieces and some examples of their own work.
Anna Spearman showing the participants’ individual pieces to Tara Byrne of Age & Opportunity
Project participants have also made up DIY craft packs, which will be available in the museum shop. These packs are based on four different designs produced by the group, and include a screen printed ‘pattern’ and a selection of fabric and threads for crafters to create their own versions of the designs. Photographs of the finished pieces can be uploaded to the museum Our Irish Heritage website, where they will be displayed later this year.
Electric Irish Homes DIY textile art pack, May 2019
The textile art work will be on display on Level B of the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life from the 20th July, as part of the Kitchen Power exhibition. Many thanks to the National Museum of Ireland Education department; AHRC; Age & Opportunity; Anna Spearman; Brian Cregan; Fiona Keane, SixPens Creative Writing; Pulled Screen Printing & Design; and particularly the project participants Patricia Ashby, Sheila Baynes, Noreen Durkan, Rose Geraghty, Mary Gillard, Rose Mac Hugh, Marian McDonagh, Maura McGuinness, Bridie McNeela, Breege Norris, Nora O’Leary, Mary O’Reilly, Teresa Quinn and Mary Walsh. All photographs by Brian Cregan.