Giant puppets with strings attached

Workshops aim to help communities to improve local parades

Jessica Thompson

Reporter:

Jessica Thompson

Email:

jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

Giant puppets with strings attached

Mide Street Theatre Group hope to improve local parades by producing giant puppets to take over from commercial vehicles. Below: Macnas artist Tom Meskell who will deliver the workshops in Granard.

Art-enthusiasts and local community groups will have the opportunity to broaden their horizons later this month with giant puppet-building workshops provided by the Mide Street Theatre Group.

Artist Tom Meskell, from the internationally famous Macnas Street Theatre company in Galway will be coming to Longford on two separate Saturdays - February 18 and 25 - to provide workshops for local community groups or schools wanting to make an impact in their St. Patrick’s Day or Easter celebrations.

“To make an impact, parades need height, sound and bright colourful concepts. Many of the larger cities have been able to draw down budgets to develop these spectacles and embed the skills among local artists. This is more difficult for the smaller provincial counties such as Longford,” said Mide Street Coordinator Shane Crossan.

“Developing the skills and tacit knowledge of crafting backpack-based puppets among local people will mean these skills will be embedded in towns such as Ballymahon, Lanesboro, Granard and Longford, for parades and seasonal festivals for years to come.”

The project itself has been initiated by Longford County Arts Office and is supported by all the municipal districts in Longford and the local chambers of Commerce.

“The group aims to include the giant puppets produced in these workshops in the St. Patrick’s day parades around the county and to build incrementally on their inventory of floats, puppets and fantastical creatures to a point where the procession of purely commercial vehicles at our public events is replaced by a wonderful explosion of colour and imagination produced by community groups and by Mide Street Theatre group,” said County Arts Officer Fergus Kennedy about the project.

“We are very anxious to excite and engage individuals and community groups to ensure that this community arts initiative develops to the point where it makes a significant contribution to community life in Longford.”

Mide Street Theatre Group is a county-wide art initiative to support local communities to develop artistic skills and knowledge to make public art and street theatre spectacles.

Tom Meskell

The group is named after the Kingdom of Mide. Also known as 'the lost province', Mide stretched from Meath in the east to the Shannon in the west. By calling the project ‘Mide Street Theatre Group’, the organisers hope to reawaken skills and spectacles among people living in this part of the once ancient kingdom.

The workshops provided by Macnas artist Tom Meskell are free and no previous experience is necessary, but there are limited spaces available and only two places will be allocated per community group, so interested parties are urged to secure a place as soon as possible.

“Macnas has developed its reputation by bringing all the skills and spectacle of the theatre and putting it on the street for all to experience,” said Mr Crossan.

“Tom Meskel, known recently in Longford for his centenary project, ‘Lights in the Darkness’, has worked with Macnas for many years and is responsible for some of their most famous street puppets. It's great to have an opportunity to work with Tom again. Not only is Tom a great artist and sculptor, he is also a great teacher.”

To book a place or to find out more, contact Shane Crossan on 087 414 4082 or crossan.shane@gmail.com.