The Brewery Project is an arts collective which is an artistic and creative response to the rich history of St Francis Abbey and Brewery in light of the recent closure of the brewery.
The collective comprises of Ita Morrissey, a local theatre artist who is working on creating a production on the grounds of the brewery and Liselot Olofsson and Darragh Byrne who are making a documentary on the brewery and the impact that it had on the people of Kilkenny.
Arts Officer, Mary Butler put the three artists in contact with each other and both projects come under the umbrella title of The Brewery Project.
It is hoped that the community-based theatrical performance will take place late this summer and that the documentary will be completed in the weeks after the production.
The Brewery Project in it’s essences explores the emotional impact that the St Francis Abbey Brewery has on the people of the city and how over the years and through the generations it has carved a special home in the hearts of the people.
“We wanted to provide a space in which people could share their stories and experiences and memories of the brewery as it was such a huge presence in the city and is woven into the cultural landscape of Kilkenny,” said Ita.
“It is a theatrical response and at this initial stage I will be collecting stories and memories of people who engaged with the brewery in the past.
“I want to tell the story of the ordinary person and how the brewery impacted their lives. Using this material we will then stage a production in the grounds of the brewery,” she added.
The idea for making a documentary came from Liselott who is a primary school teacher in Waterford.
“There are three ex Waterford Crystal Workers at my school and I was talking to them about their experiences and that got me thinking about local industry in our own city. When the crystal factory closed down there was no personal stories recorded and then one day I heard on the news that the plant was demolished, gone. I started thinking about the brewery in Kilkenny and the huge role it has played in the social history of the city and I was wondering about what people will do when they finish up working in the brewery and it is gone and a thing of the past.
“There are also a lot of people who emigrated from Kilkenny over the years and then returned to work in the brewery. The brewery allowed them to come back to their roots and in many cases generations of the same families worked there. It is important that we mark the significance of this,” she said.
The genesis of the idea to stage a theatrical production in the grounds of the brewery came about in a natural, organic way as news of the brewery closure filtered around the city sending gentle shockwaves.
“When I heard that the brewery was closing I wanted to celebrate it’s significance through the medium of theatre and the arts. I am looking to talk to people who worked there or have family who worked there or who in any way feel a connection to the place. I want people to tell their stories so that they can be part of what will be a celebration of the role that the brewery played in the lives of the people of Kilkenny,” said Ita.
The all familiar smell of the hops in the city is now a thing of the past and production at the brewery ceased in December.
“We are looking for characters with good stories to tell. Everyone says that it was a brilliant place to work and people had a good time working there, it is sad that it had to come to an end,” said Darragh.
Well known local characters that worked in the brewery include Brendan Corcoran and Pat Shortis.
“The documentary will be about sharing the memories of those who worked there and also their emotional response to the closure. It will be a nostalgic piece of work and we are looking for people to interview,” said Darragh.
The plant will be demolished and fully decommissioned over the coming months and the council will take possession of the site in the later half of this year.
It is envisaged that the production will take place in late Summer.
A series of portraits of workers are also planned along with a drawing day which will involve the local community getting creative and will culminate in an exhibition.
Senior Engineer, Denis Malone is in favour of the Project which he describes as ‘a good idea’.
Arts officer, Mary Butler said that this project is ‘one that the Arts Office would deem potentially very significant and fully support’ and added that the Arts Office continued to advocate for the project over the development phase.
“We can actually fully appreciate this particular project as we produced a piece of site specific theatre ourselves, entitled The Last Lot, some years ago to celebrate the closing of the Mart, therefore I am very aware of the significance and power of such projects. In fact I received a number of letters and emails after we had undertaken that project about its importance and meaning to our audience and others involved, “ she added.
Anyone interested in finding out more can come along to the information day on January 25 at the Heritage Council at 2pm or can email firstname.lastname@example.org