Cloughjordan Community Amphitheatre was officially opened by President Michael D Higgins on the eve of Earth Day 2017.
In a rousing speech to the gathered crowd of 350 people the President praised the latest development in the Cloughjordan ecovillage as “a work of vision, of reimaging.”
With seating capacity for 250 people, the amphitheatre is a new multi-purpose performance space designed to stage a diverse range of cultural events, from youth, amateur and professional drama to music concerts, educational talks, screenings and recitals.
President Higgins said it is an “important space of artistic learning and sharing” in the vision of the Cloughjordan native, Thomas MacDonagh, the teacher, revolutionary and poet who was one of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.
The amphitheatre is built into a mound at the northern end of the Cloughjordan ecovillage, and is sculpted from the Tipperary landscape using permaculture design principles.
It incorporates a commemorative inscription, from Francis Ledwidge’s poem Lament for Thomas MacDonagh, crafted by local artists Lian Callaghan and Thomas Wollen.
The President and his wife Sabine were welcomed to the amphitheatre by ecovillage resident Prof Peadar Kirby and a guard of honour by the local Scout group. The opening included performances by local musicians – Rigs and Jeels; Weave; and Angela De Burca and Deirdre O’Leary – and a reading of Ledwidge’s lament by local resident Patrick Bergin.
Michelle Drysdale, a descendent of MacDonagh’s, also addressed the crowd. She described the amphitheatre as “stunning” and a truly fitting tribute to her great-grandfather.
“I know that he would have been proud of it and the community effort that made it happen,” she said.
President Higgins said he was honoured to hear MacDonagh’s relative speak and that MacDonagh understood that “you must be able to have a kind of integrity of imagination such as will allow . . . all of the passions of the heart.”
He lauded the founders of the ecovillage who came together some 20 years ago in the Central Hotel in Dublin “to share their dreams of what might be – a more ethical and sustainable life, lived in a community which isn’t easy and can have difficulties.”
“It’s the first anniversary of the Paris Agreement, and one of the things that strikes one, and particularly at my stage of life, is that very often you can look back at whole reams of words that really are quite distracting unless they are turned into reality.
“But here in the ecovillage so much is being turned into practical achievements,” he said.
He noted that the ecovillage is not alone, that it has a wonderful and important relationship with its surrounding communities and that there is an international ecovillage movement.
He quoted the mission of the Global Ecovillage Network: “A world of empowered people and communities designing pathways to a sustainable future while building bridges of hope and international solidarity.”
“These are inspiring words translated into new ways of living here in Cloughjordan . . . about how we might live together not continually recoiling from one level of anxiety or another, but living with joy,” he said.
“As I formally open this amphitheatre I want to say, may its example flow out, may people discover the courage and the joy of being able to live together and be able to do so.”
The main designer and driver of the amphitheatre project, Mick Canny, concluded the speeches. He expressed his delight at the launch, said he hoped the amphitheatre would live up to the challenge of “reimagining” and thanked all those involved, in particular the philanthropic JVM Trench Trust, which has committed to supporting the project for the first three years of operation.
View or download a PDF transcript of the presidents speech – click here
The amphitheatre is not yet finished, said Canny, and donations are always welcome.
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Cloughjordan Amphitheatre Project 2016 on Facebook – @clougharts