New film showcases creative talent in Traveller community

"They are an incredibly talented bunch who have created a powerful testament to their culture." 
New film showcases creative talent in Traveller community

Holly Cairns TD (left) and Senator Eileen Flynn (centre) with members of Stronger Together, Karima Ahmadi, Lavie Olupona, Rosie McCarthy Adair, Theresa McCarthy, Britney Mongans, Alicia Williamson, Elizabeth Burke, and Helena McCarthy.

A GROUND-BREAKING short film is set to get its West Cork premiere in Clonakilty next Friday.

Wheel of Dreams is a documentary short that follows the Stronger Together Collective, nine girls from the West Cork Traveller community as they explore their creative talents, passions and ambitions.

“It weaves together poetry, song, and political empowerment to create a heart-opening record of their journey,” said Toddy Hogan, CEO of the West Cork Traveller Centre.

The film had its national premier at Misleór, the Festival of Nomadic Cultures in Galway, and was shown to a schools audience as part of the Cork Film Festival, but this will be the first chance that local community, family, and friends will have had to see the girls’ work.

Artist and filmmaker Toma McCullim worked with the girls over an 18-month period to introduce them to all aspects of the film-making process.

The girls worked with mentors such as spoken word poet Felispeaks musicians Clare Sands and Liz Clark, and filmmaker Aoise Tutty. They also had paid roles as extras in the Graham Norton series The Holding, where they got to see director Cathy Burke at work.

Captured in the production, and a highlight for the girls, was a trip to Leinster House to see for themselves the workings of government organised by Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns. The girls also had a chance to meet with Senator Eileen Flynn who encouraged the girls to ‘believe in themselves’ and ’go for their dreams.’

“The project was made possible as the West Cork Traveller Centre was funded by an anonymous donor to Community Foundation Ireland, which, as part of its equality mission, is committed to opening up access to the arts for all,” said Ms Hogan.

Ahead of the Clonakilty premiere, one of the girls said: “We really enjoyed making the film together. The best part was making new friends. We got to travel up to Dublin to the Dáil and see Holly Cairns and Eileen Flynn at work. The film shows who we actually are, and we hope we will inspire other Travellers to make films like this.”

Director Toma McCullim said: “I so enjoyed the process of getting to know the girls and helping them to identify their own hopes and dreams. They are an incredibly talented bunch who have created a powerful testament to their culture. Our film is partly documenting that process and gives our audience a chance to witness that journey. Senator Eileen Flynn says in the film ‘if you can see it, you can be it’. We hope our film will encourage Traveller children in their aspirations, and show settled people how they can be better Traveller allies.”

Ms Hogan added: “This has been a hugely successful project, to see the girls experience the creative arts, produce this masterpiece together with how they have grown in self-confidence has been nothing short of transformational.

“It is great to see the wider community acknowledge the contribution the girls are making to West Cork, earlier this year receiving a Garda Community Award and being nominated for two further awards. I am very excited for the West Cork community to view this wonderful live cultural showcase of art by the talented Stronger Together collective: Lavie Olupona, Karima Amhadi, Alicia Williamson, Britney Mongans, Elizabeth Burke, Rosie McCarthy Adair, Jessie McCarthy Adair, Helena McCarthy, and Theresa McCarthy”.

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