Cheryl Beer

Cheryl Beer
Award Winning Creative Director making social change through the mediums of sound, story & mantra

Friday, 3 May 2013

The Art Hand

Imagine ... the most beautifully warm and welcoming Irish couple.
Imagine .... that they are both incredible artists oozing with creativity.

They both have lovely, open, warm smiles and you feel as if you must have known them in another life, because you click with them straight away.


Imagine ... they live on the Copper Coast in Bunmahon, in a house that could sit comfortably featured on Grand Designs, overlooking the rugged coastline.


They have interlaced into it, their every creative fibre and yet it remains very much a loved home, with their beautiful children taking centre stage indoors and out, playing with their friends on the slide in the wet with bright wellies and coats.


Imagine ... an art studio, where every week all the local children travel to come and paint and draw and make things with this beautiful creative couple...

But they also do all sorts of amazing things like ...
Work with cancer patients ...

Like make huge community films ... 

Well, I didn't have to imagine all of this, because I was very lucky enough to go to The Art Hand when I was recently staying in Ireland for the Gealach Gorm Song writing Festival.


Angela Mulcahy introduced me to Sean Corcoran when I was last in Ireland, October 2012, funded by Coracle as a networking trip for Celtic Womenfest, a women's music festival at The National Botanic Garden of Wales, which I set up and am freelance Creative Director.
Sean and Angela had co-produced on a film about Edith Collier, a painter who had travelled to Bunmahon in the early 1900's with a party of 10 women painters. They stayed in fallen down old cottages and painted the local scenes, people ... whatever inspired them.
When Edith went home, her father burnt her work and she didn't paint again... except she did!!
When she died they found all her beautiful paintings in a back room in her house and now a trust is set up to exhibit her work and 2 films have been made to remember her, one in her home country of New Zealand and one in Ireland.
I took 2 volunteers with me to Ireland in October, Suzanne and Danielle and I wrote for us, a short piece called A Child's Christmas in Wales.


Angela invited us to perform it at the opening of the film about Edith Collier in The Copper Coast restored church, and Sean was there organising the evening with her, doing the film projection.
It really was the most beautiful evening and I knew then and there, I would be going back.


I didn't really get much of a chance to chat with Sean and his wife Miranda as they were so busy, but when they invited me to spend the afternoon with them prior to the festival, I jumped at the chance, as I had be-friended them on facebook and had been watching all the wonderful things they were doing at The Art Hand.
During the festival, Sean and Angela made a film of the performances.


As a surprise for Sean and Angela, I decided that I would perform a poem I had written when I got home from my initial trip, about Edith Collier, but equally as importantly to me, to celebrate the lost lives of the 9 other women that were with her:
noone knows anything about them, not even their names!
On the ferry going over to Ireland for the festival, I ran through the poem called 9 Coloured Ribbons and thought... 'wonder what this would sound like sung with ukulele?' ... And started to have a little hum and strum.
A little girl sat with her mum, clapped afterwards and asked me to play it again... so I figured I might be able to get away with performing it at the festival as a song, if they were nice people, so I would leave it to the end of the set, and judge the reaction. Off course, everyone was gorgeous! We were old friends by the time I got to my last song!
So, I took a deep breath, & I performed 9 Coloured Ribbons ... it was very beautiful cos everyone joined in with the singing at the end.
'We remember 9 coloured ribbons' I asked them to harmonize if they could and ... WOW!!


When I got home, Sean posted a link to me on facebook of an amazing piece of art he is testing at the moment on the beach ... Sand Art with rakes and sticks... huge funky designs that then get washed away by the sea ... it's like the artwork is at one with the changing face of nature .. A sort of huge environmental etch-a sketch! Here's a brilliant time lapse he made that is on youtube ...
He then wrote to me to say that he and Angela were going to make a film about 9 coloured ribbons to remember the women painters!!
I couldn't believe it! He asked my permission to use the film recording from the festival of the song and to send him the lyrics/poem.
He is going to put up an Art installation of 9 coloured ribbons on bamboo sticks and film that too.
Then he is going to ask the trust in New Zealand if he can also use Edith's paintings in the film.
How utterly amazing is that!!What a journey for my poem-song!
Sean said it is the first song written about the Copper Coast and quite possibly the first poem written about Edith ...
Aside: Let me tell you, I am like, so smiling right now, I can hardly move my fingers quick enough to type and tell ya about it!!

I know I had to fund myself for this performance at the Song Writing Festival, and my mum was a tad worried about the cost to me, cos truth is, I can ill afford it, but without the initial funding from Coracle to go over and make contacts, this journey for my work would never have happened.

I have tried to explain to my mum that there are some things that are way beyond money and that this is not a 'job' for me, it's a way of life ...

this very special experience, adventure, journey... call it what you will, will stay with me for the whole of my lifetime ...
it is why I do what I do with my life and feels like contributing to a legacy ...
... that I am planting tiny seeds that might actually grow into something that contributes to our history as artists, by preserving that which has been, within that which is now, for those who come after us ...
... it sits so well in my heart and with my personal philosophy in life.

Michael Kennedy Presenter at Oystermouth Radio
Recently, the lovely Michael Kennedy was interviewing me on Oystermouth Radio and he asked me if my music was legacy enough for me ... and I couldn't put into words for him what I meant by 'leaving something meaningful behind'
... I suppose because I have been so very ill in the past, every day feels like a gift. I used to think that the pay back to the universe for that, was to compromise my creativity and give it to others ... being a conduit for others to create and denying myself the time to be creative  just for myself, it seemed sort of .. selfish, I suppose.

But actually, I have learnt that through allowing yourself the time to express your own creativity and valuing that time as much as the time you give to others, it will lead to outcomes that have as much, if not more impact in terms of 'giving back'.
Mother Earth wants to have a reciprocal relationship with me! She didn't expect anything back from me when she gave me my life for longer ... she just wants to ebb and flow with me and for me to ebb and flow with her.

In actual fact, it is not Mother Nature who will stand at the end of my time with a tick box sheet measuring what I have or have not given back, it's ME!! It's me who is measuring that, while she undoubtedly is smiling at me whispering, 'You you just learn to simply BE!' And by doing just that, by listening to my higher self if you like, and going to Gealach Gorm because it felt like the right thing to do, and by just simply being myself... singing my poems and strumming my uke ... wonderful things have happened.
I hope when Sean films the '9 coloured ribbons'  arts installation that I can be there, and I am certain that if I am meant to, then I will. Meanwhile, I shall let the universe do her thing!

Sharing shells with Gealach Gorm Song Writing Festival

So, there I am, at the beach in New Quay where I retreat to write, and I think ...

' Oooo ... a Mermaid Scale.'

and then I put it down ...

'Don’t need these now that the Dragon Tree funding is over.' I think to myself ...
but then I think ...
'Hang on ... NO!
The funding maybe over
but the journey continues.'
I pick up the mermaid scale. ...
And then many others and I put them in
a huge jar in my van.

Then, when I was over in Ireland performing at The Gealach Gorm Song writing Festival just 2 weeks back, I took a box of shells with me and half way through my set
I offered them to the audience.
I told them how I carry shells in my pocket so that when I am inland I can rub them without anyone knowing and it takes me back to the beach ...
or when I am feeling stressed I hold them in my pocket to remind me of the waves and imagine my feet in the wet sand.
After the gig at the merchandise table people came and took a shell home with them ... I love the idea that a little bit of my coastline, picked up on the beach by me & my puppy, Maisy, is now in the pockets of my new Irish friends.

It was quite a festival, I can tell you.
Everyone was stunning but the highlights for me, other than obviously having the opportunity to perform myself & meeting musicians from different continents, were ...

Caitlin Marie Bell from Georgia, living in New York, doing her version of 'Lay me down a pallet' an old traditional blues song.

Sitting next to festival organiser Anthony Mulchay in the pub afterwards and feeling him sing for the circle of people gathered to share into the wee hours. I could literally feel the emotion coming from him .. it was so moving indeed. When do we ever as grown ups, sit shoulder to shoulder with someone when they are singing.

Mark Geary's set was absolutely mind blowing for me!!! The level of musicianship in his 3 piece was outstanding and Grainee Hunt, who does his backing vocals, well, when she sang I swear that the world stopped spinning to listen.

Everyone was so warm and friendly
and full of love.
I sold nearly 100 Euro's of merchandise which I will be putting into my kitty for my trip back to Belarus as a volunteer musician in residence at Zhodina Orphanage with
Leaves of Hope this August.

Thank you Angela Mulchay, Anthony Mulcahy and everyone who made it such a special festival.

Thanks also to Coracle who funded my trip to Ireland last October. I met Angela on that trip and would not have been invited to perform without that meeting.
Coracle funded Celtic Womenfest to visit Ireland in 2012.
Far left: Angela Mulchay: Festival Co-Director

I did have to fund the trip myself this time as I couldn't get funding ... and I also had to go on my own, which I'm so chuffed I did!

That was quite an achievement for me.

I was seriously ill about 8 years ago and it has been ongoing, with my last hospital stay being less than 2 years ago! So, I have only recently started travelling again in this last year or so .. and this is the first trip I have made over the water on
my jack jones!

It was great though, cos it gave me time to think and I met new people to chat with. I spent most of the 4 hour ferry ride writing, designing new logo's or running through my set on the uke!

Anyways, here are some more snaps from the festival ... next blog I'll tell you about my amazing visit to The Art Hand whilst I was in Ireland this time, visiting Sean & Miranda Corcoran, in their beautiful place on the coast.
 Chez on the Radio with Donal O Flynn ...



Hand written blog on a ferry to Ireland!