A healthy dose of music

Posted on: 13th November, 2017

Category: Music

Contributor: Sean Phair

Above: Kevin Shanahan with James O'Flynn, Claddagh Rogues

I first met Kevin O’Shanahan two weeks ago on a sombre morning at the gates of Cork Prison. Kevin is a musician, a trained psychiatric nurse and the coordinator of the West Cork Mental Health Services. He was there to facilitate a concert inside for the prisoners, which was marked to be quite the occasion with the Claddagh Rogues performing – a band that started in Cork Simon Shelter where Kevin led a music workshop. The band is fronted by James O’Flynn, a former street person and recovered addict, who spent time in Cork Prison.

However, on arriving at the prison for the performance, with reporters clustering around outside, it was obvious something was up!

Unknown to us, an inmate had escaped from his cell the night before and had stationed himself on the roof. When we arrived, he had already been there over 12 hours. As the prison was locked down to the public, there was to be no performance in the prison on that day. James and the rest of the Rogues did well to hide their disappointment and Kevin remains optimistic about the concert happening in the future:

“We’re very much looking forward to rescheduling our performance at Cork Prison in November. At the heart of The Claddagh Rogues is the idea that no matter how dark times get, there is always hope. James expresses this sentiment through his songs and for him, returning to Cork prison as a musician, rather than an inmate, is particularly special.”

In lieu of these changes, I turned my attention on Kevin, who agreed to sit down for a chat after the Rogues subsequent show at Levis’ in Ballydehob.

Kevin’s background in music is rather unique, in the 90s, he was a musician, drumming for bands such as the Freudian Slips and The King Kong Company. He was also heavily involved in the Waterford Spraoi Festival for many years, which is when it all started to change for him.

“I worked with Waterford Spraoi for the festival and by chance I was asked to work with some teenagers who were too young to go to prison and to facilitate a music workshop around drumming. I was just amazed with the reaction and the children’s response to  the music. At the time there was a music therapist working with them in this detention centre and he told me later that the kids were wetting the beds less after the music classes and they were much more settled and less aggressive. It just really got me thinking around music and how we use it.

“Around that time I was recording music and was with Solid Records who were probably Ireland’s largest Independent label at the time. We were kind of getting air play, so I was involved in a sense with music making on a commercial level. The more I got involved with that, the less of a passion I had for music…seeing the business side of it really and what was involved. Something went missing for me really!

“Then through work like this (youth workshops), I was really inspired. Looking back on it now, it completely changed me. So I went and studied mental health nursing. I went back to UCC in 2013 to do a Masters in Music. That really brought the two elements together, looking at research from around the world about how music is used. It’s fascinating that there is so much robust information about how things like singing is so good for you. We have a gamelan project in Skibbereen and that’s based again on the idea of that when we make music we feel better. Even there tonight coming together as a group, something special just seems to happen.”

Kevin wasn’t wrong – on the night, I witnessed the Claddagh Rogues win the entire room over during their heartfelt gig in Levis, Ballydehob. Accompanied by members of the West Cork Choral Choir, who chimed in on harmonies, and the audience, who were as much a part of the show as the band, there was a real communal spirit in the room, which is precisely what Kevin strives and he credits the work of Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger as big inspirations.

“I’m kind of fascinated by shows like the X-Factor, where people feel you have to be trained before you can even open your mouth. In Ireland we have a really strong tradition of music; for generations ordinary people gathered in houses to sing and tell stories. Of course you still had really good singers, but there was room for everyone. I think people played music perhaps not just to be the best but to share with each other. In tradition of this, we have a monthly session in Uillin, the West Cork Arts Centre. It’s called The Open Door – anyone who passes can come in and whatever a person offers is fine.

“I’ve met lots of people who come along and who don’t particularly want to talk or to say much…I think the magic in music is that almost without noticing the foot starts tapping and then maybe someone starts humming along, then almost without knowing it, people themselves volunteer to do something…It’s difficult to explain, it’s a very small thing but it can have huge consequences. One person said to me that music gave them a little bit of hope the day they called in. Being brave enough to sing a song in a group setting can give a person hope that they are capable of doing somethng else. Anything that gives hope is really valuable.

“When you’re feeling very vulnerable you can really feel like the world has gone against you, that there is no hope or love or that you’re kind of out here and the world is passing you by, but research shows that music really brings people together as an art form…it’s like a glue.”

Open Door takes place on the first Tuesday of each month, 7.15pm – 8.30pm at Uilinn/West Cork Arts Centre Skibbereen and is run partnership with West Cork Mental Health Services.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.

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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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