Healing with a harp

Posted on: 3rd August, 2017

Category: Highlights

Contributor: West Cork People

Anja Bakker, also called The Flauting Harper, has just finished compiling her album, ‘Of Ballads and Bunting’, a selection of ancient music of Ireland based on the Cairde na Cuirte publications, the Bunting Collection and the Woolsley edition of 1973.

Anja describes herself as a “harper, troubadour, pilgrim, walker, thinker, writer, mother and talker… My job in this life is to walk and play, sing, perform and talk about the harp, music and performance.”

The Canadian-Dutch musician, who has made Clonakilty her home, plays her harp and sings ballads regularly for the residents of Mount Carmel Community Hospital and Bushmount Nursing Home. “I love listening to them and they to me,” she says simply, “and it’s not just for the residents, but also the staff. In America, Harp for Healing, a programme that brings harpists in to healthcare settings to play for patients and their carers, has proved very successful.”

Anja has done a fair amount of healing herself over the past number of years.

Horrified upon reading the beginning of the Murphy Report into the abuse of children by those who were supposed to be caring for them, in 2010 the strong-minded Dutch woman committed herself to standing in solidarity with all whom have been and are still being abused. In May of that year, Anja set off to walk 2500km, carrying a 26-string harp (called Séan) from St James’ Well in Ardfield, Clonakilty, to Dublin and after that to Santiago de-Compostella in North Western Spain.

“I was living in Ireland because I believed it to be a safe, cohesive community a great place to be growing up. Reading the report really shook me. I believe, in fact, that we believe ‘abuse’ in not acceptable anymore in this society,” she says passionately.

“I walked and heard so many stories of suffering along the way. But it restored my faith in humanity. The Camino is where you find your courage to face your demons. It set me free. I used to be so angry but on that walk I learned that it’s possible to forgive and move on. I had a strained relationship for a long time with my mother but the Camino resolved that.”

Three months and three weeks after setting off, Anja arrived at her destination. “I felt stronger than any army when I arrived in Santiago de-Compostella but I cried like a baby in the cathedral,” she says.

Anja explains that her reason for walking with her harp was to symbolise her relationship with Ireland. “I first came to Ireland in 1973 when I was just four-years-old. We spent six weeks touring around in one of the barrel top caravans. I remember standing in the rain, playing with the snails. Ireland made such a big impression on all of us and we came back for many holidays after that.”

Anja’s mother moved to Ireland in 1987. “Things were difficult at home when I was a teenager and I think I associated music with those times, so when my mother left, I just gave up music and didn’t play again for years.” Anja was playing the recorder from the age of four and she took up the harp when she was nine.

After leaving home, Anja travelled for a while, working in administration jobs and restaurants; she studied Anthropology for a couple of years in Amsterdam, and at the end of 1996, her daughter Sarah was born. “My mother came and brought us back to West Cork with her in ’97,” says Anja.

When Sarah started school, Anja decided to go back to music. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, it fulfills me.”

Anja completed her degree in Music Performance, specialising in Ancient Music, at the Cork School of Music in 2008. “I also wanted Sarah to know that learning never stops,” she says.

Although the big dream is to walk from West Cork to Jerusalem, next on the agenda for Anja is the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in France on August 11 and 12. The travelling harpist has signed up to the competition for the Best Celtic Harper. “I’m looking forward to representing Ireland and Clonakilty at it,” she says.

Although she admits to feeling a bit lost when her daughter Sarah left for South Korea, Anja says that Ireland still felt like home afterwards.

“I would never have had the same opportunities or be the musician I am today if I had stayed in the Netherlands. Ireland has made me into the person who I really am and taught me how to express myself. It makes me really proud to live here. Whenever I have a bad day, I walk down on to Main Street in Clonakilty and there is always someone who says hello, stops for a chat or just smiles at me. I feel very accepted here.”

To order a copy of Anja’s cd, email ambakker@eircom.net or find her an facebook.

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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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