Artists Mark the G8 Summit
Jenny Cathcart reports from Enniskillen, where artists, museums, protesters and poets welcome the international forum
As the G8 leaders meet at the Lough Erne Resort, some three miles from Enniskillen, the town itself is strangely quiet, save for camera crews and police on permanent patrol. Regular shoppers stay away, scared off by rumours of delays and disruption.
On day one of the summit, Obama and Cameron make a quick sortie to visit the children of Enniskillen’s Integrated Primary school, singled out because it welcomes pupils of all religious persuasions and none. Here they are joined in an art class daubing paint on a picture for a front page photo.
For weeks beforehand, decorators had dodged the rain to spruce up the town’s shop fronts. Now, with the eyes of the world upon Enniskillen, the artist community is determined to display its talents.
In the Buttermarket, ceramicist Ann McNulty, and stone mason Mick Hoy (pictured below), emerge from their studios to demonstrate their work in the open air, whilst the Enniskillen County Museum, newly designated as the Heritage Gateway to Fermanagh, host a craft and food fare.
Alison Fitzgerald comes with her greeny-black and red willow baskets. Anthony Scott displays one of his trademark bronze animals. There is fine woodwork by John Piekaar and Ronan Lowery, and exquisite glass from Alison Lowry. The Inniskillings Museum, which is housed in the same concourse, offers free access to its permanent collections, which include a dazzling display of regimental silverware.
In the museum grounds and later on the Diamond, street entertainers, jugglers and acrobats from Premiere Circus do their best to create a carnival atmosphere. So too a group of Oxfam supporters of the Food for Everyone IF campaign. Dressed in G8 leader masks, they stage stunts on a golf course and a Viking style boat to convey their message about world hunger.
Lilley’s Centra shop sells G8 ice cream inspired by favourite flavours from Italy (tiramisu), Germany (Black Forest gateau), Canada (maple syrup and pecan), Russia (white vodka), Japan (green tea), France (macaroons), the UK (Eton mess) and a blend of nuts and chocolate brownies called ‘Nuts about Obama’.
At the old Regal cinema in Regal Pass, the Beckett Chess Set is unveiled for the first time. The giant board is 16ft by 16 ft, and features 32 bronze statuettes designed by Alan Milligan to crown the wooden chess pieces, each one inspired by a character or a prop from the plays of Irish Nobel Laureate, Samuel Beckett, who attended Portora Royal School nearby.
Saint Macartin’s Cathedral is the venue for a recital by international opera singer, Ruby Philogene. A former winner of the Kathleen Ferrier award, she presents a polished programme of songs composed in the G8 countries by Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Elgar, Faure, Verdi, and Benjamin Britten; an American Spiritual and a piece by Kosaku Yamada.
The Fermanagh Authors’ Association launch their Fermanagh Miscellany 2013. Subtitled The G8 International Edition, the collection highlights Fermanagh’s links to the Group of Eight.
At the launch, Seamus MacAnnaidh, the author of ‘punk’ novels written in Irish, describes how, to his utter astonishment, one of his books, Cuaifech Mo Londubh Bui, was published in Russia. Canadian born Dianne Trimble writes about Enniskillen, Ontario, a small town located some 50 miles from Toronto.
And John Cunningham reveals that Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster – who spent his childhood years at Ely Lodge – is married to Natalia Ayesha Phillips, a direct descendant of the Russian poet, Alexander S Pushkin. The lodge is adjacent to the Lough Erne Resort and is rumoured to have been occupied by Barack Obama during the summit.
There are stories about a German war refugee who ended her days on a farm in County Fermanagh, a Maguiresbridge man who introduced Western medicine in Japan, and the Bellanaleck Pipe band, who led the House of Commons Orange Lodge down Horse Guards parade in London. The grandfather of American astronaut, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, emigrated from Lisnaskea.
Elsewhere, Belleek Pottery mark their 155th anniversary with a limited edition of the Parian porcelain vase, which won a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.
When protestors eventually arrive, they are fewer than expected. Some 1,500 march without incident from Enniskillen library to the perimeter fence at the Lough Erne Resort. Among them is Enniskillen artist, Claire Falconer, who joins the anti-fracking lobby and the yarn bombing duo Knit 1 and Purl 1, who post their crocheted, anti-capitalist messages on the wire of the specially constructed, four-mile long barrier that encircles the resort.
At the Higher Bridges Gallery, an exhibition entitled President Clinton – Working for Peace, displays a handwritten letter, which Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, sent to President Clinton on December 1, 1995. Heeaney includes an extract from his powerful poem ‘A Chorus’, salutes the President for his work in promoting peace in Northern Ireland, and finishes with these words, 'it was a fortunate wind that blew you here.'
The climate at the G8 summit is peaceful overall. During his visit, President Obama quotes WB Yeats to remind us that peace comes dropping slow, and while Northern Ireland may be a blueprint for conflict resolution, the Peace Process continues to be a work in progress.
While it is clear that the Peace Process has made the arrival of the G8 possible, and President Obama urges youngsters to take it further, the Clinton Centre, opened by President Bill Clinton in 2002, holds an international summer school on conflict resolution, featuring 17 young delegates from Palestine, Kosovo, South Africa, Kenya, Syria, Spain and elsewhere.
If nothing else comes of the 2013 G8 summit, there was much to appreciate in and around Enniskillen from an artistic point of view as the forum met over two days – and perhaps the young people who traveled to the city from countries across Europe to take part in the summer school can and will work for social, economic and political change in the future.