CORK Community Art Link (CCAL) will make a significant contribution to Cork city’s St Patrick’s Day parade, this Friday.
Based in the Lido in Blackpool, the organisation is working with seven different groups that will have colourful and dramatic floats in the parade on March 17.
The groups include the COPE Foundation, Enable Ireland, National Learning Network, Blackpool/Glen/Farranree Community Youth Training Centre, the Shandon Men’s Shed Club and Artlink Drama Group.
On a visit to the Lido recently, people could be seen busily putting the finishing touches to large-scale floats such as a gigantic gramophone with mock butterflies in its box. This particular float, made by the COPE Foundation, is part of a concept called ‘The Department of Flying Things’. Because flying animals and little beasties recur in the drawings created by those attending COPE, workshops were devised with a view to producing imaginative floats.
COPE is a not-for-profit organisation which supports children and adults with intellectual disabilities and/or autism, so that people of all abilities can live life to the full.
The most ambitious float is “bringing back to life a full-scale double decker tram we’ve built from scratch,” says Fernando Tunon, who is contracted by CCAL as the project manager.
“The tram is really impressive. It is being built in another workshop in the Marina. The structure is made of metal. There’s a staircase to the top floor. It will be moved by people pushing its wheels. Trams haven’t been seen on the streets of Cork for many years. Our drama group will bring life to it, going in and out of the tram. It’s going to bring back memories.”
Enable Ireland’s contribution to the parade is its ‘Super Traffic Division’. The thinking behind it is to approach, in a humorous way, the daily difficulties experienced by people in wheelchairs. It will provide an opportunity to reflect on the place of wheelchairs in the public space.
Some of the people from Enable Ireland, which provides services to more than 5,000 children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities across Ireland, will ‘control’ traffic from their wheelchairs.
Fernando says that the CCAL’s floats will collectively contribute to the idea of Cork as being a small village.
“It’s a place where everybody interacts. We wanted to work around that kind of Cork energy. For us, every group is a part of the project and every volunteer that gives their time to the parade is important.
“We try to make differences among people disappear. It wouldn’t work is one group was over the others. We want to convey the philosophy that everybody is working together to make beautiful floats.”
There are over 100 people involved in CCAL’s work for the parade, most of whom are volunteers.
“We are used to working with very few resources. We recycle a lot of things. For instance, a lot of the floats use cardboard. We use old election posters for this. We paint over the politicians’ faces and the material is used to cover the floats. It’s a material that is really solid and waterproof. And it’s free.”
Cork City Council has given CCAL €20,000 to create the floats and facilitate workshops that are held in the lead up to the parade.
“Because CCAL has been struggling for so many years without any funding, it means that at this stage, we are really good at knowing how to recycle materials, year after year. We’ve also learned how to manage whatever budget we have. “
CCAL has been involved in the parade on and off.
“We stopped in 2005 and the year after that, we created the Dragon of Shandon which is our parade for Halloween. Since then, we’ve been in and out of the Patrick’s Day parade. City Council has seen that we can build big floats that look really impressive and they know that we’re good to work with.”
In all, CCAL will have three big floats (5x5 metres) and two or three medium sized ones in the parade including a unique take on the Mangan clock on Patrick’s Street under which courting Cork couples used to meet.
“It all starts with meeting the various groups and listening to their ideas for floats. We have a short period of time to work with the groups. They usually have very funny and creative ideas. We’re good at making things happen that seem totally silly.
“It’s all really creative, colourful and a bit mad but it works well. It’s good to have people that bring that kind of energy to the parade.”
Another one of the floats is a life sized ‘old woman in the shoe’.
“That has been built thanks to the National Learning Network. There’s a group of 11 of them working on the building of it. The people going in and out of the shoe are performers from the Artlink Drama Group.”
Judie Chalmers has been facilitating free drama classes, using improvisation, since January. The spinoff will be colourful characters appearing around the floats. Judie likes to engender a sense of wonder and possibility among the participants in her classes.
There will also be a tree house in the parade. “It’s a little bit funky, shaped like Shandon Church but with the aesthetic of a tree house. We involved all sorts of age groups in this. For us, it’s really important to have that mix of people because that’s what CCAL is about. It’s about encouraging people to meet others from all walks of life.”
Fernando is originally from Madrid. He moved to Cork ten years ago.
“It was a girl that brought me here. It’s always a girl.”
He’s no longer with her. But he is very well settled in Cork.
“I’ve lived in many countries. I had a film company in Brussels. That was ten years of my life. Over the last ten years, I’ve been involved in directing shows. I do stage production for theatre and circus.
“In all the years I’ve been in Cork, I’ve had some involvement with CCAL. It’s a good balance. I enjoy working on community projects. I’m kind of bouncing from the project management of the Dragon of Shandon to this.
“There’s tons of little problems. You have to be on the ball. But the work is fun and full of energy.”
The St Patrick’s Day Parade, with Rachel Allen as the Grand Marshall, starts at 1pm on the South Mall, moving to the Grand Parade, Patrick’s Street and finishing up on Merchant’s Quay.
More than 3,000 people are expected to take part in the Parade, watched by a further 50,000 people. The theme is Cork — A City of Community, Culture, & Commerce.
See www.corkstpatricksfestival.ie for further details of the Parade and Road Closures.