Artist, Zita McGarry Kelly
Zita is an artist who recently launched her exhibition, The Colour of Instinct at the Backstage Theatre
What's your idea of a perfect day or perfect weekend in Longford?
Arriving down to spend time with my cousins, going to a play in Backstage, dinner in Torc, and having the banter in the Tally Ho.
Who has made the greatest contribution to Longford in your lifetime - and why?
There are so many, in particular, inspirational women. Sr Magdelan, Sr Gertrude, and the nuns of the convent helped so many of us through tough times. Judy Pearse was an inspirational and motivational woman who seem to bring us on a two week holiday every Thursday night between the hours of 7 and 9pm in the local hall. My own mother, who at the age of 52, widowed with dependent children, went back to college, learned to speak French fluently and ran the tourist office in Longford. I would watch in amazement as she would make Longford sound like the center of the universe to folks who were only passing through. The same enthralled tourists and would end up booking into the Longford Arms, going fishing with the locals and hiring a boat on the Shannon!
What's your first Longford memory?
As a small child, I remember stealing the gardener's wallet from his coat, burying the money in the back orchard, and calling for my friend to come and play a game of buried treasure. Needless to say, the dig was hugely successful. My friend however, tore home, to tell of our fortune. My parents were horrified. I was sent up to the room for the day on bread and water, where I learned my first poem from the brother's school poetry book, which I still recite today. (Love by George Herbert).
What's your favourite part of the county - and why?
Tarmonbarry. Longford/ Roscommon was for us the most glorious spot in the world. We would cycle/hitch out during the summer and go high diving off the locks. We would shop for the German cruiser tourists and buy ice creams with the change feigning a language misunderstanding. Once I stole a bike to cycle out to Tarmon, and after a wonderful day returned to find someone else had stolen it! I was utterly disgusted!
Do you have a favourite local artist?
As a painter myself, I love Gary Robinson's work. The mark making is exquisite, incorporating collages of old bills and car tax discs. Drawing us back in time with wonderful textural creations. Gary is also a gentleman in the old fashioned sense of the word and so very generous in spirit.
What about a local walk - or view?
The most wonderful view in Longford for me (recently) was through the new stained glass windows of our magnificent Cathedral.
What do you think gives Longford its unique identity?
The fierceness of the pride that Longforians have for their town. They lament its struggles but have great hopes for its future.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Longford today?
Attracting tourists. There seems to be lost opportunities in the promotion of the few restaurants or attractions that give reason enough to go visit. I brought friends to Longford during my art exhibition and struggled the following day for things to do.
If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Longford, what would it be?
I would bring back all the old shops, like the White House with their unique shop fronts, make one of the main streets pedestrian, and have bespoke street markets. Encourage festivals of new food, Blue Grass music and significant Art exhibitions to equal Boyle and Claremorris. Yikes...don't get me started.