Life in South Parish yet


Cork 2005: Cork's South Parish contains the oldest medieval building in the city, in the shape of Red Abbey.

But it also contains its earliest Catholic church, a sculpture by John Hogan, the birthplace of Frank O'Connor, the site of the first meeting which led to Fr Mathew's temperance movement, the landscape of much of Patrick Galvin's poetry, the schools established by Nano Nagle and her burial place, a synagogue, St Fin Barre's Cathedral and the burial ground of the Knights of Malta.

For centuries it was the heart of Cork, but now a policy of apartment building rather than housing renewal has resulted in a transient and largely childless population so that its character changing forever. But although the primary and secondary schools have closed or are about to close, the people who live there still are a lively group and it is they who have collaborated in an art-residency programme offering a portrait of their neighbourhood and their history.

That history, collected through photographs, paintings, video recordings and reminiscences, is the theme of the Responses exhibition, continuing until July 15th at St John's Central College. As project co-ordinator Niamh Kelly explains, the exhibition arose from a local feeling that "the South Parish did not have a voice".

After consultation with residents, a proposal was designed and accepted for funding by Cork 2005, and the Cork-based artists Emma Klemencic, Lucia Parle and Helle Kvamme were invited to work with the people of the parish.

What emerges is an engaging declaration that to create a museum-like "cultural centre" based on the number of art institutions in the South Parish would not do justice to the honest and imaginative native culture that survives. This is revealed through the bingo group, the one remaining school, the community centre, the crafts workers and the owners of local family-owned businesses.