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25 Sept 2022

Stunning new Laois street mural to fly up for Culture Night

Stunning new Laois street mural to fly up for Culture Night

A stunning new mural is set to fly up on the facade of a Laois pub, just in time for a big unveiling this month.

Mountmellick is to get a huge mural on the side of Butch's Bar in the town centre, to celebrate a rare endangered bird that makes the town its home.

Artist James Kirwan has taken on the public commission to paint a mural to celebrate Ireland's threatened Swift (Apus apus).

He has just a week to paint it, as it is to be formally launched on Culture Night Laois on Friday, September 23.

The mural will be on the gable end of owner Gearoid Horan’s building on Patrick Street next to Mountmellick Community School.

The Swift is a small migratory bird which arrives in Ireland to breed from Africa in May and departs by August. Although similar in appearance to Swallows and Martins, the Swift’s nearest relatives are thought to be the Hummingbirds, native to North and South America.

Catherine Casey is Heritage Officer for Laois County Council.

"We are delighted to be launching this wonderful mural as part of Culture Night as it represents the coming together of the biodiversity of Laois through the Swift and the creative artistic side of the county through the medium of street art. As Swifts are such an urban bird, living in our towns and villages, I can’t think of a better subject for a large scale street mural.

"This project will rise awareness of the importance of Mountmellick for swifts and also the other work being done to survey and conserve swifts across Laois, with the support of the Heritage Council and the Local Biodiversity Action Fund.
The Swift’s scientific name Apus apus means ‘without feet’ which refers to the Swift’s short legs rather than to any lack of feet. Swift’s legs and feet are adapted to cling to vertical surfaces rather than perching on wires and walking on the ground. If
they find themselves on the ground, it can be difficult for them to take off again.

Swifts are more common in urban areas, building small, cupped nests in small crevices in buildings, as well as in the eaves of houses. Swifts pair for life and return to the same nest site for many years. They spend most of their life in flight, drinking, feeding, mating and evening sleeping in the air. 

Mountmellick native Ricky Whelan is BirdWatch Ireland's Project Officer.

"Mountmellick has a wonderful cultural heritage and I am so proud to see its rich natural heritage enshrined by the Swift mural. Mountmellick is a stronghold within County Laois for these charismatic and threatened birds which is something we
should all celebrate and be vigilant to protect into the future.

"Swifts are among the fastest of birds with Ireland’s Swift able to reach speeds of over 110km per hour. The average Swift weights about 40 grams - the same weight as a Cadbury’s Crème Egg! They feed on airborne invertebrates (spiders, flies and
small insects) captured in flights. The Swift’s call is a loud, piercing scream and Swifts will often form ‘screaming parties’ on summer evenings, when ten to twenty Swifts will gather in a group flight above their nesting area, calling out to each other
excitedly," he explained.

Street Artist James Kirwan is also a nature enthusiast.

“From the moment Creative Ireland Laois reached out to me about this mural project, I was very interested and excited, especially because I am a huge fan of Swifts. I had also recently listened to Ricky Whelan’s and Niall Hatch’s ‘In Your Nature’ podcast on Swifts, so it is an added bonus to work closely with Ricky and learn even more about these fascinating birds.

"To be an artist who gets to paint a mural about the conservation of swifts is an honour and it goes without saying that I am wholeheartedly looking forward to being in Mountmellick and creating this mural that highlights the uniqueness of this bird”.

Wexford-born James is based in Dublin and his work has been showcased in solo and group exhibitions, and his mural work has been seen as far away as Canada. James has worked extensively in Ireland too, with recent work appearing in Gorey, Waterford, Thurles and Dublin. His work is often made with bold colours, with a mix of playful abstract forms and references to the natural world and landscapes.

The mural launch takes place on Fri September 23 at 5.30pm at Mountmellick Community School.

In October, James will return to Mountmellick to facilitate a creative workshop with art students in Mountmellick
Community School which will explore his street artworks and techniques, and reflect his interest in nature, and his use of abstract shapes.

The Swift episode reissue is available at BirdWatch Ireland's ‘In Your Nature’ podcast. inyournature.buzzsprout.com or any good podcast provider.   ‘In Your Nature’ is produced in partnership with the Heritage Offices of Laois and Offaly County Councils, supported by the Heritage Council and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, edited by Ann-Marie Kelly.

Laois County Council and BirdWatch Ireland thank Gearoid Horan for giving permission for the use of his building for the mural, and also Principal Larry Curtin and Deputy Principal Frances Kerry La Rosa of Mountmellick Community School for their support.

The Mountmellick Swift Project mural is supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme - in partnership with Laois County Council Heritage Office and BirdWatch Ireland.

Other Creative Ireland Laois – Culture Night activities include a LIVE sketching workshop at Dunamaise Arts Centre from 6-7.30pm, facilitated by Fadó Faces exhibition artist Allen Scully. This ninety minutes workshop is for artists/creatives of all ages and levels of experience. All you need to do is bring your own materials and tools, e.g. sketchbook, paper, pencils, etc. Booking essential as spaces limited at 057 8663355 or info@dunamaise.ie.

The Fadó Faces exhibition is open late on Culture Night and celebrates the lives and stories of older people in County Laois, through traditional portrait painting and digital art by a selection of local artists: Bronagh Conroy, Aishling Hennessy, Ray Murphy, Kevin McCann, Mike Rafter, Pauline Conroy, Antoinette Breen, Kate Deegan, Allen Scully, and Mark Fisher. The exhibition is open to the public until Friday Sept 30 at Dunamaise Arts Centre, Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm.

For more information about Culture Night Laois, contact the Arts Office, Laois County Council, Áras an Chontae, Portlaoise, Co Laois at 057 8664033/8664192 or artsoff@laoiscoco.ie and Laois.ie. Culture Night is brought to you by the Arts Council in partnership with Laois County Council. Follow Creative Ireland Laois on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for information on county wide 2022 cultural and creativity programme and opportunities.

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