IN COLLABORATION WITH WRITER:
IN DIALOGUE WITH:
STORYTELLERS...AND OTHER INTERESTED MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY
CORK MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:
The work was commissioned, and has been publicly presented, by Cork Midsummer Festival in partnership with SIRIUS, Cobh, County Cork, in 2020. Brett borrowed the title from a social ritual associated with illness, fear and faith that took place in Ireland between 9 and 15 June 1832, during the second cholera pandemic. A vision of the Virgin Mary in the church of Charleville, County Cork, spurred residents to deliver protective charms – ash, turf, stones and straws – to four houses, and from each of those to another four, in a movement that spread across the island.
Fast forward to 2020 and add mass panic, conspiracy theories, fake news and quack cures; the parallels between that phenomenon from the nineteenth century and today’s events surrounding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus are unnerving. The raw materials for the work came from conversations with around seventy-five community participants – historians, healers, spiritualists, storytellers, Elders, druids, singers and other interested people – during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Ireland in the spring of 2020. The group was assembled originally by word of mouth, then by email, and contacted through phone calls and technologies such as Zoom.
Brett and her collaborators gathered personal stories and ideas, which they then combined with information gleaned from the mass media and transformed into myriad creative outputs. In forming this digital community of interest, Brett was able to chart the ‘landscape’ of Ireland’s COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of lived experience. She established coordinates by which to navigate both the Irish population’s terrors and their related matrix of ‘hope and cope’ that relies on science and mysticism in equal measure. Day of the Straws takes the form of an online platform – a virtual ‘cyber vault’ of original, contributed and found moving images, writings, spoken word and music.