Silage bale art: Leitrim residents compete for ‘stylish silage’ award

Fellows worked in sheds and behind fences ‘because they didn’t want anyone to see what they were doing’

 

Last week visitors to Drumshanbo in Co Leitrim would have encountered an unusual art exhibition; more than 70 colourful sculptures made out of silage bales.

The sculptures are part of this year’s annual An Tostal festival featuring a “stylish silage” competition,

The only thing more surprising than the creativity of the locals was the fierceness of the competition, festival committee chairman Hugh James Gallagher said.

“There were fellows working in sheds and behind fences because they didn’t want anyone to see what they were doing,” Mr Gallagher said.

Dermot and Jackie McDonagh with their daughter Rachel’s giant teddy bear entry in the Stylish Sileage competition. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Dermot and Jackie McDonagh with their daughter Rachel’s giant teddy bear entry in the Stylish Sileage competition. Photograph: Brian Farrell

The art works will be left in situ for Drumshanbo’s Joe Mooney Summer School (from July 21st to 28th) and include everything from “two mugs” featuring likenesses of the US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

ABrexit-inspired “border crossing” sited where Roscommon meets Leitrim on the Manorhamilton road.

‘Wishing Well’ the winning entry in the Stylish Silage competition. Photograph: Brian Farrell
‘Wishing Well’ the winning entry in the Stylish Silage competition. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Family connections were tapped into by some of the more enterprising artists.

Rachel McDonagh (18) created a giant teddy using three bales of silage, three bales of hay and a number of small square bales, all provided by her uncle and local farmer, Roger Price.

“I did have to wash down a few tractors for him in return,” explained Rachel whose creation was a source of pride for her grandmother Kathleen Price (87).

In 1953 Kathleen was chosen as the first An Tostal “cailin” and even then associated a bit of painting with the festival.

Part-time fireman Adrian Flood with his entry, the ‘Potbelly Stove’. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Part-time fireman Adrian Flood with his entry, the ‘Potbelly Stove’. Photograph: Brian Farrell

“She remembers white-washing the house that day and having to wear gloves to the event as she hadn’t time to wash it off her hands,” explained her daughter Jackie.

Part-time fireman Adrian Flood also family help to transformed a wrapped bale of silage into a pot-bellied stove which he then lit. Non-firefighters should not attempt this, he warned.

Neighbours Jimmy and Terrie Nugent created a wishing well compete with trailing ivy and robins perched on the roof. This sculpture was a firm favourite with some local children who were caught attempting to retrieve the coins tossed into it.

At Saturday night’s “wrap party” the wishing well won the public vote for most stylish bale of 2018.

The organisers stressed no bales of silage were damaged in the making of the art installations and all will be returned farmers and used for fodder.

An Tostal began in 1953 and was designed as a celebration of Irish life aimed  at  boosting tourist numbers out of season.

Drumshanbo is the  only place which has continued to host the festival every year since 1953.