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Maam Cross Burns Bright for Lóchrann Chonamara

20.06.2019

A fire will blaze at Maam Cross for those celebrating mid-summer this St. John’s Eve, Sunday 23 June. Lóchrann Chonamara launches at 8pm with an array of musical talent from performers Cillín, Clann Uí Iarnáin, Don Stiffe and Cogar Céilí Band – along with a few surprise guests.

Far from your average bonfire night, this Galway 2020 Small Towns Big Ideas project sees community producers in Cois Fharraige and Clonbur/Cloughbrack collaborate with contemporary dancer Eoin Mac Donncha, fire performers Pyre Productions and Irish-language theatre company, Fíbín, to present an outdoor marvel to remember. The free event will boast the soon-to-be European Capital of Culture’s finest exports: music, dance, street theatre and of course, food. Peckish crowds can sample locally sourced seafood and lamb (sponsored by Maam Cross Mart) at food stalls from 7pm onwards.

If you’re not sold on the idea of fanning flames on the site of a livestock mart, take a moment to step back in time to early Gaelic Ireland: it’s the eve of the summer solstice. You’re one of many villagers parading through a field, fiery torch in hand. Everyone who’s anyone is here, scattering ashes and uttering prayers in hope of a fruitful harvest. What’s going on in this scene, and why should we care? A lot has changed since then but a few key psychological traits remain intact. Much like our flame-bearing ancestors, we rarely follow through on our resolutions until we’ve drawn a clear line in the sand. We make our best intentions real when we can communicate them through something shared and visible.

This truth forms the cornerstone of ‘Meitheal’ – the Irish word for a gathering of people working towards a shared purpose. The expression is rooted in early, co-operative labour systems, where neighbours shared farming tasks and reaped the harvest together. This powerful symbolism is not lost on Lóchrann Chonamara. Members of local walking groups, Cumann Sléibhteoireachta Chonamara Theas, Galway and Maumturks Walking Clubs, Beanna Beola Hillwalking Club and Corrib Ramblers, will carry flames from four corners of Connemara on the night. Clambering across hills and bogland, the groups will finally unite their torches in a glowing ceremony at dusk (approx. 10.30pm), flooding Maam Cross with firelight.

From traders bartering at the busy mart, to pilgrims setting off towards Mam Éan, the historic Connemara crossroads have seen many a congregation over the years. This midsummer event has everyone in the area pulling their weight, with Petersburg Outdoor Education Centre lending a logistical hand, Peacockes Hotel opening facilities to the public, and Crann na Móna donating timber offcuts for firewood. The Arts Council, Foras na Gaeilge, BIM’s FLAG WEST and Galway County Council have all offered financial support to the project.

The customs of Oíche Shin Seáin (St. John’s Eve) go back to pagan celebrations of the summer goddess, Áine. Their influence traverses borders and centuries. The natural element of fire continues to transfix and energise today, luring us out of our private bubbles.

For more information contact Lóchrann Chonamara by email or visit the Facebook page.

 

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