Last Friday (28th June) was a day that had been marked red in my calendar for a long time, a day I occasionally thought would never arrive and sometimes wished was behind me. There’s a safety in looking back at something because, irrelevant of it being a success or a failure, you survived it – you made it through. You are then free to remember it as you see fit, editing and embellishing where necessary. That’s why I want to write this while the feeling is still fresh in my bones.
For more months than I care to remember, I have been working within a group of extremely talented and creative individuals whom I can thankfully call my friends. We outlined an art project that was to push us all out of our comfort zones. We would create a story connecting Ireland and Appalachia, drawing parallels with the peoples and the problems they face. This story would then come to life by bringing it to schools and community groups and grow to the point where it would be performed in the form of shadow puppetry, complete with narration, Appalachian music, songs and traditional ugly face jugs.
As if that wasn’t enough, we thought it would be a great idea to do this outside – in a forest – in the Irish summertime!
We all agreed the story should have an environmental message and as I sat down to write it I thought long and hard of where it should go and what it should say. The threat of fracking hangs heavily in my mind as Ireland is being faced with the very real possibility of being fractured for it’s shale gas. It is unthinkable to me that this should be allowed to happen and I found myself drawing inspiration from how I felt about the possible destruction of my home.
“Lily’s Song” was born. The story follows our heroine, Lily as the evil Jack and his loggers roll in to cut the forest overlooking Apple Creek. Within this forest stands Dagda, the mightiest and oldest of the trees which is loved by all. Of course, no-one wants this to happen but everyone is afraid to stand up to Jack. Everyone, except Lily. Whether Lily is brave, pure or just too young to be afraid is not known for sure but she faces him head-on and in doing so, inspires the rest to follow. I won’t bore you with any more details but it was, for me, a call to everyone to stand up to the frackers and stop them before they can ruin our land.
All five of us had our jobs to do, Patrick Mc Cabe – woods sculpture, stage building, technical details, endless enthusiasm, Lisa Mc Cabe – ugly face jugs pottery, narration, feeding us, Sinead Connolly – music, songs, conductor, Donna Bannon – arts co-coordinator, supplies, ideas, reigning in of silly ideas, whip cracking and myself – story writing and shadow puppetry.
After what seemed an eternity, the day arrived, the singers arrived, the musicians arrived and the audience arrived. The stage was set, the weather was beautiful, the show started. Nerves, excitement and a surprising amount of confidence combined to weave magic between the artists, musicians and audience and that’s just what I believe happened. We wove magic.
There are so many people who helped out that’s it’s impossible to name them all but on behalf of the Forest Moon artists, thank you Max, Paul, Martina and Kieran for photos and video, all the band and singers, Noel for sound and lights and Jo for shadow puppet assistance. On behalf of myself, thank you Patrick, Lisa, Sinead and Donna for sharing a moment in time.
…and it was said, on a clear day, you could see all the way back to Ireland…