Philip Brennan appears in The Plough and the Stars, at the Watergate Theatre from November 29 to December 2 in the second Barnstorm/Watergate co-production. Here he shares his views on Kilkenny.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Kilkenny?
A perfect weekend in Kilkenny would involve an open mic in Thomastown, a session in Kells and a stroll from Graignamanagh to St Mullins. There’s a spirit to be found in the smaller towns that’s pretty magic - an inclusivity and energy which creates an exciting vibe with no airs or graces, yet if you need peace and quiet, you’re only a five-minute walk from being left alone with nature.
Who has made the greatest contribution to Kilkenny in your lifetime and why?
I wouldn’t like to gush about the contributions of any individual ahead of the thousands of people who work tirelessly all year to keep the town ticking over. That’s certainly not to discredit the amazing contributions of certain individuals, but they’re not worth a mention above any cashier or waiter in town.
What’s your first Kilkenny memory?
Of the town - the big gates that were installed during a festival commemorating Confederate Ireland, I don’t know what year that was and whether my memory of seeing jousting in the Castle Park on the same day is accurate. I’d probably been in Kilkenny many times before, but this sticks in my memory probably because the town felt more like a town because it was pretending to be a town.
What’s your favourite part of the county and why?
When you move away from Kilkenny City [sic] things get more magical and wild, there’s a pagan spirit in people that I think comes alive as you get closer to the land. The best days happen in the countryside.
Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
Eoghan O’Driscoll - he is a rare example of honesty in an otherwise couth arena, and a stellar friend to boot.
What about a favourite local walk or view?
The view from atop Free Stone Hill in Clara - for its silence, mysterious history and the view it affords of the horizon. The hawthorn tree that sits on it has a whole interesting story of its own. Even to see its weather-bent silhouette as you drive onto the M9 is pretty inspiring.
What do you think gives Kilkenny its unique identity?
What’s the biggest challenge facing the county today?
The biggest challenge facing Kilkenny is stagnation. There is a brain and creativity-drain caused by extremely poor and myopic planning. There’s a whole demographic of youth shooed out of this county by a lack of facilities and no apparent intention to fix the problem.
If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Kilkenny, what would it be?
Our local economy is too heavily reliant on visitors, hospitality and festivals. We need to create a more permanent local society for ourselves. Relying on tourism is unsustainable, and has an end. It often feels Kilkenny packages itself for the benefit of outsiders, with little consideration for its actual citizens.