Mayo receives a double artistic boost with both a musician and a writer in residence


Mayo has just recorded an artistic double - it has appointed its first musician in residence, and a new writer in residence for the county.

Mary Curran, a French horn player who was formerly full-time with the RTE Concert Orchestra, is the musician in residence, while Re O Laighleis, author in both Irish and English, is the writer.

Mary Curran has worked with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra and also initiated the Connacht Ensemble. As part of her residency, she will be working with schools and brass bands, and will also be available to assist groups and individuals.

Re O Laighleis writes for both the adult and teenage reader, and among his works are Punk, Ecstasy, Gafa, Terror on the Burren, and Strioca ar Thoin Sabra. He has been translated into other European languages, the most recent being the Italian version of the international award-winning Ecstasy.

He has been twice recipient of Arts Council bursaries in literature and was winner of multiple national Oireachtas and Bisto literary awards. He has also been presented with a North American Minority Languages Literary Award and a European White Ravens Literary title. Four of his new books are to be launched by the Minister of State, Mr Eamon O Cuiv, in the Linenhall, Castlebar, next month. Meanwhile, the contributors to The West and Beyond, the fifth anthology published by Mayo County Council, include a physiotherapist-turned-publican, a teacher and mother of six, a local authority engineer, an optician, a farmer, and a dental nurse. Edited by Neil Donnelly, the anthology reflects "many different voices", according to his foreword, including the outsider who has come to settle in the county and the native who has had to leave. Some names are familiar - such as Shane Connaughton, Declan Burke-Kennedy, and Heinrich Boll. Others are active members of writers and drama groups, and the compilation includes the work of several artists.

The paperback intersperses poetry with prose, and includes a heartbreaking reflection on a cot death by Hilda Kennedy, a member of Ballina Writers' Group, and Maureen Moran's account of the reaction of a mother to the crisis pregnancy of her 14-year-old daughter. An anonymous writer reveals the reality of married life with an alcoholic.

The West and Beyond: Mayo 5 (available in bookshops at £5.95) is just one of many projects involving the ever-active Mayo arts officer, John Coll. He is currently occupied with the establishment of new arts centres for Ballina and Castlebar, and an artists' studio project in Westport.

His positive influence has also been acknowledged by Coillte Mach Arts, which has a very busy programme on hand for Kiltimagh over the coming weeks. In the Station Master's Exhibition Centre, a show entitled New Installations and Works on Paper by Dublin artist Kathy Herbert continues until March 19th, daily from 1.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. Herbert drew inspiration from many derelict houses in the area, and some of the work reflects the sense of silence and loss that she felt.

On March 15th, Ballet Ireland will perform in the Town Hall Theatre, Kiltimagh, for one night only. The show promises to weave a tapestry of music, painters, poets and historical legend associated with the Austrian capital, Vienna. Tomorrow and Wednesday, the Belfast-based theatre company, Kabosh, will perform its award-winning play, Mojo Mickybo, also in the Town Hall Theatre. For more information on booking, etc, contact Coillte Mach Arts at (094) 81494 or fax (094) 81708.