Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, at the launch of the “Drum – Portrait of a Village” project
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Distinguished Guests, Colleagues, Friends….
I am delighted to be here today in my hometown to launch the “Drum – Portrait of a Village” project.
I shouldn’t name names, because I’m sure to miss some, but I wish in particular to thank Ruth Stewart, Chair of Drum Development Association and project leaders Trish Lambe, project curator and co-curator at the Gallery of Photography, Ireland, and Shirley Clerkin, Heritage Officer for County Monaghan for their dedication to this project.
I would also like to thank Monaghan County Council and in particular, the Creative Ireland Culture Team for Monaghan for their support for this project – a wonderful opportunity for the people of Drum to engage with artists, curators and heritage officers to record, create and share authentic representations of Drum past and present.
The “Drum: Portrait of a Village project” is also part of the “Reframing the Border Programme” a unique cross-border cross-community-based arts initiative which my Department is delighted to support. This weekend is the culmination of all these efforts.
This project on Drum, which is being supported under the Creative Ireland Programme, interweaves various aspects of Monaghan’s rich cultural heritage – be it our natural heritage, our built heritage, our landscape, our villages and towns, our traditions and our folklore – all woven into the fabric of our everyday lives.
Many individuals have, for years, been involved in recording everyday life in Drum but in particular, I must mention Krass Clement’s acclaimed introspective on community life in Drum published back in 1991, which, among contemporary photography circles, is regarded as one of the most significant photographic books of the last 30 years.
I had the pleasure of launching Krass’s exhibition on Drum last Wednesday in the Gallery of Photograph in Dublin and it was wonderful to have him back here last night for a special screening of his photographs in Anderson’s former pub.
More recently, Kevin Fox has been working with you to make a series of portraits taken in homes and other locations in and around the village. His streetscapes, landscape photographs and filmed interviews capture the beauty of Drum’s built heritage and countryside across the seasons and create a unique portrait of contemporary village life – in many respects an update on Clement’s work.
I am particularly fascinated by the Gallery of Photography’s archival project on Drum, which has revealed the social history of this village over the last century using material held in old family photo albums and collections. Many of these family surnames hold a particular significance for me personally.
This emerging digital archive includes photographs of people working the land, family occasions, social and religious events such as the harvest festival and travels overseas. Photographs dating from the 1870s reveal strong community ties, changing farming methods and effects of modernisation – giving a unique insight into life in this part of rural Monaghan.
The visual arts, film and photography allow us to capture a moment in time, a fleeting memory, and a record for posterity. I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s famous line “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul”.
Photography in particular is an eyewitness to our public and private histories – recording, reflecting and mediating our diverse and shared histories. Advances in digital technology and social media mean that these stories and memories can now be shared around the world.
This unique project – epitomised by local commitment and collaboration – brings home to me the important role that local organisations, local communities and local authorities can and do play when they come together, something I am particularly anxious to promote through the Creative Ireland Programme.
In particular, Pillar 2 of the Programme – “Enabling Creativity in Every Community” – aims to develop new models for developing creative projects built on sustained long-term engagement with local communities.
Events such as this one here today highlight how collaboration can enrich our lives. It shines a light on our shared heritage inspired by our various traditions and faiths, our different memories and different perspectives. It is important for Drum – and for the people of Ireland as well – to maintain this intricate tapestry and valuable diversity.
I have mentioned the wonderful photographic work on Drum that both captures the past and the present. I will also be fascinated to hear Dr. Terence Dooley’s lecture on the Protestant History of Monaghan from 1600 to the present day – a subject that I personally hope is explored further during this decade of centenaries.
I would invite all of you – if you have the time – to avail of Kevin Mulligan’s Historic Walking Tour of Drum where Kevin will highlight and discuss the architectural heritage of Drum village.
I would now like to take this opportunity to formally launch “Drum – Portrait of a Village” and hope you all enjoy and participate in this wonderful celebration.