In celebration of our lighthouses

Plunge into the salty sound-world with chef Kevin Thornton and Soundstories at an event in Cobh this week, aimed at preserving the history of our lighthouses, says KATE RYAN
In celebration of our lighthouses
Chef Kevin Thornton. Picture Martina Regan

AN evening of sound, aroma and taste awaits at the Sirius Arts Centre this week.

Aural culturist Luke Clancy, of RTÉ radio’s Soundstories, as well as the award winning documentaries Skelligs Calling and Lighthouse Stories, teams up with pioneering chef Kevin Thornton for an immersion into the salty sound-world of Ireland’s lighthouses, at the Cobh venue on Friday.

“Well, I wanted to capture a magical way of life that is rapidly disappearing,” says Luke of his inspiration for capturing the aural history of Ireland’s lighthouses.

Lighthouses themselves are still as iconic and necessary as ever, but their essence is very much altered. As more are given over to automation — LED lights that go on forever and modern lenses that are free of the need for careful maintenance — so the tradition of the lighthouse keeper, their skill and way of life, is quickly being consigned to the history books.

When Luke and his cohort in sound, Kevin Brew, started their ‘Lighthouse Project’ with notable episodes such as the award-winning Skelligs Calling, it was more than just about a recording for posterity.

“The sea, cliffs and rocks; the shape of the lighthouse, the noises of the machinery — it’s a rare and special sonic environment that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else — and it is disappearing from the world.”

As lighthouse technology advances, those sounds are being lost forever. For Ireland, as an island nation, the small number of people for whom lighthouses were both home and livelihood, these buildings, this way of life and its soundtrack are an important part of our history and should be preserved.

Luke approached Ireland’s most outspoken and provocative chef, Kevin Thornton, about the idea of taking the Lighthouse Project forward as a live event.

“Well, Kevin was enthused from the start and wanted to offer up a taste of the sea to accompany the stories.

“Kevin is a keen scuba diver and for the first ever live version of Sound Stories, he arrived with beautiful prawns and sea urchins that he had caught that morning; also lots of seaweed that he had hand harvested.

“We arranged it at the front of the stage so that when people arrived, the first thing they sensed was the briny, seaweed aroma of the ocean!”

As for what guests can expect to be eating on Friday night is anyone’s guess!

“Chances are Kevin will turn up with whatever he has managed to fish or forage for himself on the day. I remember once he created a stunning seafood broth and used dry-ice to surround the dish as if it were sea fog.”

To Kevin Thornton, food is about all the senses working in unison; opening minds and exploring the emotional connection of food. Food as art; food as an emotional expression; food that provokes the senses.

“We want people to really listen, and willingly plunge themselves into the world of the lighthouse on a dark evening.

“The Sirius Arts Centre is the perfect, evocative setting for us to recreate the salty sound-world of our lighthouses with all its tastes and flavours.

“We will be telling stories as if we are the lighthouse keepers themselves, and Kevin will be embracing the role of the lighthouse chef, retelling stories and experiences.”

This will be a combination of stories from previous shows as well as new material that has been collected and curated by Luke Clancy and Kevin Brew. Kevin Thornton will be creating a small number of tasting courses to accompany the show.

The event takes place on Friday, March 24, and tickets are priced at €8. Booking in advance is advised.

For further information, please visit:

Meanwhile also at the Sirius this weekend, on Saturday march 25, at 2pm and 4pm there will be the Boat girls performance with Áine Phillips. Performance artist Áine Phillips has been collaborating with a group of girls from Cobh to create a street performance celebrating the theme of boats and women.

After a series of workshops, the group have created a series of boat costumes in preparation for a finale public performance on March 25 at 2pm parading through the streets of Cobh along the waterfront. Followed by a closing event and informal discussion 4pm. Free.

The events are part of the centre’s This Must be the Place | the Great Island programme, which culminates this weekend.

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