Well it happened and its hard to even imagine the chaos that it was to prepare (screen-printing posters at 3am?!?). But if public enjoyment is any measure to go by then it was well worth it. Photos by Helen Williams.
Last week, myself and John O’Shea returned to our hometown of Huddersfield to present John’s documentary, ‘Connemara Connection‘ to an audience of over 300 hundred people from both the Huddersfield and Connemara communities, as well as our friends and relatives. It felt to me a very important and powerful experience, and in someways, a modern day approach to the traditional role of storytelling within a community. It was privilege to have been involved in caretaking the memories and histories of these communities and presenting it back to them in a way that celebrated the bonds between the two towns. It also felt like we had done something important in outlining the journey that the towns had made – adding our piece to the puzzle as it were.The pictures above show the hall of the Huddersfield Irish Centre as people were coming in, and also speaker Tommy Walsh, who said that Connemara Connection was “an important social and historical document”.
On Friday 14th November I’ll be heading to my hometown of Huddersfield to watch a short film about the links between Huddersfield Irish community and the town of Connemara on Ireland’s west coast. The film has been made by my very good friend John O’Shea, who was born in Huddersfield but of Irish descent. John plays Gaelic football for the Brother Pearse club and is a strong believer in the importance of a game built around community rather than money. Last September he asked me to travel with him to Connemara and help document the community there, many of whom have family in Huddersfield.
We focused on a Gaelic football exchange trip between the Leiter Moir club and Brothers Pearse – an exchange that has been running for many years, and one that helps to strengthen bonds betweenthe two communities. John’s own father travelled with the club when he was a player. We interviewed the players, coaches, the club officials, and the local communities on both sides to get a understanding of the historical and cultural ties. Connemara is part of the Gaeltacht region, where Irish is the first language. As such, many of the interviews were conducted in Gaelic and then later translated by the Irish Studies department at Liverpool University.
It was strange to experience such a beautiful yet harsh landscape, a completely different language, and still meet person after person, each of whom had a personal knowledge and connection with the town where I am from. The people we met were extremely warm, friendly, generous, hospitable and of course with a great sense of humour. I felt both at home and away.
The film will be screened at The Huddersfield Irish Centre on the 14th November.