'my comfort and my joy': Songs from the Irish Other
by Seamus Harahan and Thomas McCarthy
19 September–17 November, 2018
Opening Tuesday 18 September, 6–8pm
The Douglas Hyde Gallery is proud to present a new, commissioned work by Belfast-based artist, and musician, Seamus Harahan, created in collaboration with Irish Traveller and singer Thomas McCarthy.
Seamus Harahan would like to dedicate this project to Wee Mickey Robinson, Thomas McCarthy, Mary McCarthy, and Mary and James Herron.
With special thanks to The Elephant Trust, London and the Irish Museum of Modern Art for their production residency.
Seamus Harahan (1968) grew up in London and East Tyrone and lives and works in Belfast. His practice encompasses video, film, sound and installation. From 1996 to 1998, he was the director of Catalyst Arts Belfast, and in 2015 he was artist in residence at Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. He has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Film London Jarman Award in 2015, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists in 2009. Recent select screenings and exhibitions include: citizen screening, Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, (2017); Both together, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, (2016); Fact or Fiction, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival 2015; 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival (Jury Award, 2014); Cold Open / Before Sunrise, Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2014); Assembly, A survey of Recent Artists’ Films and Video in Britain 2008-13, Tate Britain, London (2013–2014). In 2005, Harahan represented Northern Ireland at the 51st Venice Biennale. His work is held in both public and private collections.
Thomas McCarthy was born in the town of Birr, County Offaly into a well-respected Irish Traveller family. His grandfather was a well-known seanachie, a term for someone with a profound, orally derived knowledge of the history and families of Ireland. McCarthy learnt his crafts of singing and storytelling from his mother, aunts and uncles. His extended family has a long history of musicianship and includes the well-recognised and respected Doran Brothers and their grandfather ‘Big John Cash’, who all played the uillean (elbow) pipes. At age ten, McCarthy moved to London, but continued to travel with his family back and forth and around Ireland and England. He was recognised by his own family as a gifted singer from a young age, but was ‘discovered’ in 2008 by the wider public after a ‘tip-off’ from a barman at a family wedding. This led him to Cecil Sharp House in Camden Town, London where he joined singers at a folk song club, who were amazed and enchanted by his powerful yet subtle and authentic Irish Traveller style of singing and by the rare songs that he brought with him. McCarthy has since been employed singing in clubs and at festivals throughout the UK and Ireland, as well as in Europe and the US. He has been described as “the most exciting thing to come out of Ireland in the last fifty years” by Joe Power, manager of the folk song club in Dungarvan, Ireland. McCarthy has now recorded three albums: The Round Top Wagon, Herself and Myself and Jauling the Green Tober, this last in conjunction with the Cornish Romani Traveller Viv Legg (‘Jauling’ being a Romani word for walking and ‘tober’ an Irish Traveller word for the road.) McCarthy is also a passionate activist on behalf of his people.
Image: Seamus Harahan, my comfort and my joy, 2018, production image. Courtesy of the artist.