Could we quit the 'real capital' malarkey because it's really naff

Colette Sheridan doesn’t really buy into the self-importance of some of my fellow Cork dwellers.
Could we quit the 'real capital' malarkey because it's really naff

Colette Sheridan was recently irked when Corkonians were vox popped about whether Garth Brooks should play in Cork - the ‘real capital’.

DO you ever get tired of Cork people banging on about the city by the Lee being ‘the real capital?’ Even though I’m a Corkonian (note: I didn’t put the word ‘proud’ in front of my breed), happy enough to live in the second city, I don’t really buy into the self-importance of some of my fellow Cork dwellers.

They say self-praise is no praise so maybe we should just quit the Cork mythologising when broadcasters come calling, looking for the Cork angle. What they’re really looking for are gas characters speaking in the native sing song accent with a tendency towards pumped up bluster about the importance of their city.

At least, that’s what came across on radio recently when Newstalk sent one of its reporters to Cork to do a vox pop on whether Garth Brooks should come to Cork. 

The consensus was that the country rocker should grace us with his presence because why should we have to go up to Dublin every time there’s a big act in Ireland. 

In fact, you almost got the impression that Brooks should side step the capital because Cork would give him a hell of a welcome.

I’ve been to concerts in Cork over the decades, including Michael Jackson and U2. My memory is of the city and its environs being completely taken over by these major acts. You saw people in sleeping bags inside cars in the vicinity of Pairc Uí Chaoimh after the gigs. There would have been a rush on taxis in the days when they were in short supply. Some folk would have heroically walked miles through the city and its environs to reach the concerts. The city could barely contain the excitement what with coups like Michael Jackson deigning to come to the regions.

Which is why it’s interesting to see how rural communities entertain themselves. We think we have it bad in Cork, having to trot up to the big smoke to catch once-in-a-lifetime major events. But try living in the sticks. 

If you’re a spoilt city-dweller, you might be prone to boredom if you have to travel outside the city bounds. 

But for people who live in rural Ireland, all year ‘round, it’s important to be resourceful and to draw on the community spirit that exists in every small town and village in the country.

In Kerry for the weekend recently, I was mightily impressed when I went to see the Blackwater Women’s Group Photography Exhibition that had just been opened by Joe Magill of Radio Kerry. Held in a community hall, a white washed building with a corrugated iron roof onto which the sun shone, it was one of the most enjoyable openings I’ve been to. Usually at these events, there is wine, canapés and loads of pretension, not to mention the annoying tendency of people to look over your shoulder, mid conversation, in search of someone more important to talk to. The crowd that go to openings generally treat them as networking events. Nothing terribly wrong with that but I preferred the vibe in Kerry.

Instead of vino, there was tea, coffee and tins of biscuits on offer as well as Cadbury’s Roses. In other words, honest-to-goodness fare. Thankfully, my slightly upset stomach meant that I didn’t do the dog on the sweet stuff which would have involved hovering around the table bearing the goodies, guzzling the purple-wrapped caramel and nut delights.

This exhibition consisted of 49 large framed photographs of everything from a cow wearing a small red top hat to more traditional seascapes. 

They are the fruit of a series of photography classes supported by Kerry Education & Training Board that took place during 2019/2021. The classes were facilitated by award-winning wildlife and landscape photographer, Patrick Kavanagh. Many classes took place outdoors in scenic locations.

Over the years, the Blackwater Women’s Group has put on photographic exhibitions with the help of documentary photographer Eileen O’Leary. The group subsequently published two books featuring images of the area. The skills learned by the photographers have enabled life in the Blackwater/Templenoe area to be documented to a high standard.

Some 13 photographers, five of whom are named Mary, showed their work at the recent exhibition. We got to vote for our favourite photograph in a draw. The prize was an image of the winner’s choice. I haven’t heard back so didn’t win the John Hinde postcard-style photo of an elderly woman peering out through her red half-door with a bicycle parked nearby.

Earlier, in lovely Kenmare town, I was brought by the friend I was staying with to Kenmare Butter Market, a contemporary art space. There was an exhibition by Pigsy (aka Ciaran McCoy) of art that is reminiscent of Basquiat, the famous street artist. Who says nothing happens in rural Ireland?

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