Skip to main content


An artistic living archive bringing voices together to celebrate the Glen River and appreciate its ecological heritage

3 min read

An artistic living archive bringing voices together to celebrate the Glen River and appreciate its ecological heritage

3 min read


An artistic living archive bringing voices together to celebrate the Glen River and appreciate its ecological heritage

With World Water Day happening on Friday 22nd March, now is the ideal time to celebrate water as a precious shared resource.

As the world’s arid regions grow drier and rising temperatures lead to greater evaporation and plant transpiration, the need to reduce our water footprint has never been more important. Despite the critical nature of the current water crisis, there are beneficial actions that can be taken at both community and individual levels.

One such collective action is the profiling of the Glen River, Co. Cork. At one time known as ‘Glen of the Spooks’, the project takes the name ‘Gleann a’ Phúca’ as a term for engagement with The Glen River Park. ‘Gleann a’Phúca’ celebrates the ecological, cultural, industrial, and historical heritage that exists within this ancient glacial valley and urban park in Cork City. ‘Gleann a’Phúca’ aims to document, co-create and develop material that will acknowledge and enrich awareness of the Glen River, bringing voices together to celebrate its place in the city and in the imaginations of park users. 

The ‘Gleann a’Phúca’ website will be an online art project – an artistic living archive and a repository for creative activity in the Glen River Park. An ongoing blog curated by lead artist, Julie Forrester, will have ongoing contributions from invited artists, ornithologists, ecologists, climate change activists and Glen enthusiasts. We spoke to Julie about the unique project.

Q: How did ‘Gleann a’Phúca’ originate?

Julie: ‘Gleann a’Phúca’ arose out of a deep mapping project I began during the lockdowns of the pandemic. I was one of a group who were also drawn into this river valley, who were doing monthly litter pick ups in the park. I was hearing more about different walkers’ connections with the place and also learning about the rich industrial and cultural heritage of the park. I began a Facebook page, ‘Friends of The Glen’, where we posted notices about upcoming litter pick ups and our progress in cleaning up the river. This page became a holding place for our stories and discoveries about the Glen. I was keeping a blog, ‘Narratives with Nature – The Glen River Diaries’, where I was logging the minutiae of my connection with the area. That then transformed into the deep mapping project known now as ‘Gleann a’Phúca’.

Q: That’s really interesting! As time went on, how did the project develop?

Julie: As my connection with the park deepened, I became aware that the Glen River needed more of a profile in the city to acknowledge its unique ecology and to protect it from encroaching urban development. I invited other artists to make a response to the place through an open call for expressions of interest. More than 30 artists responded and six were selected to develop their ideas into propositions for public engagement. By now, my role was becoming more of an organiser than an artist. I was also becoming more of an activist.


Q: What kind of artistic projects arose from this? 

Julie: Visual artist Elinor Rivers has been tuning into the water. In her project ‘Ordinary Gifts’, people have come to the Glen and held divining rods for the first time. In return, they have been rewarded by a pulse they can feel and a real connection with the elemental world. It’s playful, there is no right or wrong way of doing things and there’s a truly genuine motivation to discover. From these positive experiences, we’re learning that our connection with the natural world is actually very strong. Through their mapping project ‘Spoon & Bloom’, Annie Mar and Aaron Ross have been encouraging people to share stories about their connection with the area. Everybody has a tale to tell and the more we share, the deeper that connection becomes – we learn together about the particular bio-diversity and unique ecosystem of our Glen.

Q: Sounds amazing! What has the response been so far?

Julie: With curiosity growing, the Glen River is becoming a protagonist in all of our stories and people want to know more. We can trace the specific indications of season changes across the Glen River valley habitat, and we’re noticing more about our human responses and other animal responses in the environment of the Glen River Park. We’ve now set up a rivers-focused group on Facebook with other city based river carers and protectors. We are sharing and hearing about other groups’ actions and approaches to river crises across the city, and we are beginning to lobby more strongly for river protection and nature-based solutions to human problems. We are advocating to be more like the river.

Q: What have you learned as ‘Gleann a’ Phúca’ has evolved?

Julie: Creativity is about a holistic approach to living and behaving; it is playful and depends on curiosity and it acknowledges a reciprocal relationship with the world. Even picking up litter can be fun when you meet up with others and share stories and experiences. Creativity is generative in this way; the more you put in the more you discover, and you are aware that you are contributing to something much larger than yourself. In this way, a creative approach can feed into the past, the present and the future.

If you’d like to discover more information about ‘Gleann a’ Phúca’ and the unique trackings of the Glen River, visit the website here:

Stay up to date