My Kilkenny Life: Aisling McElwain

Mary Cody

Reporter:

Mary Cody

Email:

mary.cody@kilkennypeople.ie

My Kilkenny Life: Aisling McElwain

Aisling McElwain

What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend out in Kilkenny?
Kilkenny is great for festivals so a perfect day would be a festival weekend day starting with a little lie in, then head off to meet some friends for lunch and explore whatever is happening in the town. My particular favourites are the Savour Festival, the Arts and Alternative Kilkenny Arts festivals and the Rhythm and Roots festival. I’d always call into the Craft gallery to see what’s happening in there and go for a walk in the Castle Park too, ending the day in a quiet pub with a few friends and a few drinks.

Who has made the greatest contribution to Kilkenny in your lifetime - and why?
I have been living in Kilkenny since 2014 when I moved to Thomastown to do the Ceramics Skills Course. I feel that Gus Mabelson, the course manager, has made a great contribution to Kilkenny. A lot of the potters that are now based in the county have been taught by him and he is happy to help anyone whenever they need his expertise. He is always encouraging and promoting craft in Kilkenny and the Irish ceramics sector wouldn’t be as strong as it is without his contribution. He is a very active member of the community in Thomastown helping out local organisations and businesses whenever he can.

What’s your first Kilkenny memory?
My first memory is coming here many years ago with a group of friends for the Cat Laughs festival. In between the gigs and the time spent in the pubs I remember being impressed by the medieval architecture and old cobbled streets. I would never have guessed that I would be living here years later working in a totally different career.

What’s your favourite part of the county - and why?
The Island Mill and the pool by the river in Thomastown will always have a very special place in my heart. I also enjoy walking along the river especially the canal walk in the city as I love being beside the water. I used to live by the sea and Kilkennny’s only downfall is that it doesn’t have a coastline!

What do you think gives Kilkenny its unique identity?
Kilkenny’s arts and crafts scene is extremely strong and vibrant. It is home to two esteemed craft schools - the Jewellery and Ceramics Skills Courses, the National Design and Craft Gallery, Butler Gallery and a wide variety of craftspeople, artists and printmakers spread throughout the county as well as the award- winning Cartoon Saloon.

What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?
Kilkenny, unfortunately is not immune to the challenges that most towns in Ireland face like poverty and homelessness. The most visible challenge recently is the decline of the shopping streets with lots of vacant buildings which are having a negative knock-on effect on the adjacent shops.

If you had the power to change on thing in, or about Kilkenny, what would it be?
Kilkenny is a vibrant city and has a lot going for it. However, I think it would benefit from having a large multidisciplinary Arts Centre. If I were to design it, I would include a few incubation units for the students from the Jewellery or Ceramics course to ease them into the first few years of business.