Townlands: a habitation to be launched at Heritage Council, Kilkenny

The recently published Townlands: a habitation, a celebration of an Irish rural landscape, will be launched at the Heritage Council headquarters, Church Lane, Kilkenny on Thursday, December 6 at 7.45pm by Conor Newman, Chairman of the Heritage Council.

The recently published Townlands: a habitation, a celebration of an Irish rural landscape, will be launched at the Heritage Council headquarters, Church Lane, Kilkenny on Thursday, December 6 at 7.45pm by Conor Newman, Chairman of the Heritage Council.

Produced and edited by visual artist Alan Counihan, Townlands: a habitation features specially commissioned essays by travel writer Dervla Murphy and historical geographer Patrick J. Duffy, along with poems and prose pieces about their relationship to local landscapes by poets Kerry Hardie and Carmel Cummins. The book also contains two essays and two image portfolios by Alan Counihan and two portfolios by visual artist Gypsy Ray. The foreword is by Catherine Marshall.

The subtitle of the book is: ‘A Creative Exploration of the Rural Landscape’. It is an exploration of how we, as individuals and communities, find identity in landscape and place. Within its pages, through word and image, particular Irish landscapes in Counties Kilkenny and Waterford are explored as a living historical record. We discover that landscape is not just what we see in terms of geology, fauna or flora but that our view of it is a construct born of inherited cultural experiences that shape our relationships to our place in the world.

This publication is an outgrowth and celebration of The Townlands Project. (www.townlands.net) Ongoing since 2009, the Project is an artist-led exploration of rural landscapes and communities in County Kilkenny. The Project was born out of a desire to root an artistic practice in that landscape so that the day to day life of a rural community, and the place where that life unfolds, might become an inspiration.

The overall goal of the Project has consistently been the re-presentation of local place to local people using creative means for the exploration and expression of that place through local folklore and local history. The Project is a celebration of what is usually, and mistakenly, called, the ordinary or the everyday. The target audience for the Project is, essentially, a local one although it has relevance to every rural community in the country and should be of interest to all those who have an interest in their place in the world, be that rural or urban.

To date the Project, an action of the Kilkenny Heritage Plan 2009-2012, has involved the gathering of place and field names in the nine townlands of the old Civil Parish of Rathcoole in north Kilkenny, along with an associated series of oral history recordings, Conversations around the Home Place. All of this work was made possible with the financial support of the Heritage Office of Kilkenny County Council. This support, and that of the Arts Office, also allowed for wide-ranging engagement with the community and resulted in two art and heritage exhibitions, a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company and the local national school, and a short film, Field Song, all based on the local landscape and its history. An exhibition of art works created in response to this local landscape continues to develop and to tour nationally.

Within the pages of the forthcoming book, all of the Project’s various strands have been brought together so that they can be experienced as part of an overall process. Each strand has shared the same collaborative ingredients of local engagement and creative activism, of exploration and discovery, of shared respect, trust and generosity. Publication of the book has been financially assisted by the Heritage Office of Kilkenny County Council, the Kilkenny Heritage Forum and the Heritage Council. The Townlands Project would also like to acknowledge the support of Kilkenny Leader Partnership in 2010 in the collaborative development of a seminar entitled The Landscapes of Home and of A Field Name Research Handbook. The handbook was developed with the aim of providing guidance to other communities throughout the country who might wish to engage in the gathering of place names within their own landscape. The Townlands Project would also like to acknowledge the continued support of Johnswell Development Committee and the parish community.