Thursday, 15 August 2013

Welcome to Drogheda

So the biggest thing to happen to my hometown since yer one was cast in the Harry Potter films is going on this weekend and I'M NOT THERE TO ENJOY IT!! Artist Fergal McCarthy takes up residence (literally: in a tent) in the Highlanes Gallery for Welcome to Drogheda, a weekend of talks, walks, table tennis and more to explore and celebrate Ireland's biggest town, kicking off today and finishing up on 18 August.

Fergal isn't a native of Drogheda, but has been exploring the town for the past number of weeks aiming to uncover its beauty, its character and all its unique qualities, ultimately creating a 21 century portrait of the town. From places to drink good coffee and the best place for a pint (it's Clarke's pub, by the way) to the world class street art under the Bridge of Peace, Fergal's been finding the town's hidden gems and gathering stories about Drogheda's great places and people. All of this forms the basis of his daily walking tour of the town and an off-beat guide book available from the gallery. The gallery is home for the weekend not just to Fergal, his table tennis table and his coffee machine but also a series of conversations with other blow-ins as well as Drogheda natives. Another highlight is Anthem for Drogheda, a piece composed for trumpet by Nick Seymour of Crowded House which Fergal is performing every sunrise and sunset from the roof of Scotch Hall over the course of his residency. I asked Fergal about a few of his highlights of the experience so far, as well as what he's looking forward to this weekend:

I was wondering how your perception of the town has changed as the project has gone on?
I didn't know it well at all to begin with but as I began to explore I realised it's an exceptionally beautiful town.

What are your favourite things about the town?
It has a fantastic setting on two hills which lead down to the river. The town has a lot of beautiful buildings: the Michael Scott Modernist school [the former Technical College] and the headquarters of Droichead Arts Centre [Barlow House] even though beyond the Georgian facade is a wholly new building. I like the sense of multi-culturalism, there seems to be a lot of African people in particular. I wonder what they make of Drogheda, they seem to like it...

What are you most looking forward to about the weekend you'll spend in the gallery?
All the excitement and expectation that builds whenever you push yourself to make new work that is risky and uncertain... and pints in Clarke's!

Fergal's residency continues until 18 August while his Welcome to Drogheda exhibition continues until 1 September. See for the full schedule of events and follow @FergalMcCarthy1, @Highlanes and #WelcometoDrogheda for updates.

Image by Andreas Petterson, courtesy of Highlanes Gallery