24 Sept 2022

My Kilkenny Life: Valerie Walshe

Artist and owner of the Blackbird Gallery, Valerie has recently moved to Rothe House on the Medieval Mile

My Kilkenny Life: Valerie Walshe

Valerie Walshe

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend out in Kilkenny?
A perfect night out in Kilkenny is dinner somewhere like Campange and a few drinks in one of the many great pubs. I love the Left Bank but, truthfully I’d actually prefer to just have a few friends over to my house for drinks outdoors especially in the Summer as I love my garden.

Who has made the greatest contribution to Kilkenny in your lifetime - and why?
Margaret Daisy Phelan who grew up at No. 8 William Street, Kilkenny. She had a real fascination for history from her earliest days. She graduated from University College Cork and won a scholarship to study in Paris for two years, but due to the Civil War in Ireland, she returned home after some months. She was a founder member of the Archaeological and Historical Society in Kilkenny, and was involved in many other local societies.

What’s your first Kilkenny memory
Going into the Monster House to see Santa aged three maybe, I remember the old wooden stairs and I always believed that the Monster House Santa was the real Santy. Another memory is going to the Castle Park play ground and getting on my absolute favourite thing.. the rocket.

What’s your favourite part of the county - and why?
There is no denying that south Kilkenny has a charm that's second to none however my favourite part is the area I live in. It’s absolutely beautiful. A pocket of North Kilkenny that has a palpable ancientness. I live by the river Nore in a beautiful old farmhouse. When the river floods it’s like living in a nature reserve full of amazing wildlife. It’s such an amazing place. Everyone always comments of how it’s a haven of tranquility and beauty.

What do you think gives Kilkenny it’s unique identity?
I suppose it's a combination of beautiful architecture, history and a small population who are immensely proud of the city we live in and county.

Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
I’d have to mention my cousin the late Michael Massey who was a wonderful poet. An extract from his work was used in the new museum.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the county today?
I think one of the biggest challenges is stopping our High Street becoming generic. It’s the unique retail areas like my own gallery The Blackbird in Rothe House and the handful of beautiful shops still surviving in Kilkenny that add to the visitors experience. Who wants to go to somewhere full of vape shops, mobile phone shops and sports shops? I'd much prefer to visit a town full of unique shops and not chainstores.

If you had the power to change on thing in, or about Kilkenny, what would it be?
I would try to undo the damage done to the visual arts during the present directorship of the Kilkenny Arts Festival. For years now the festival has not invested in visuals or even included us. Year by year I watched as buyers stopped coming.
People who came for years to see the visual strand of the festival which had always existed, and been hugly enjoyed by the public, stopped coming as it no longer was. They now go to Galway Arts festival etc. Kilkenny used to be their first stop. I hope this changes in the near future.

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