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The Birr Workhouse Burial Ground & The Meadow project led by Offaly Drama Project group

min read

The Birr Workhouse Burial Ground & The Meadow project led by Offaly Drama Project group

min read


The Birr Workhouse Burial Ground & The Meadow project led by Offaly Drama Project group

“Everyday life folding into once lived lives, one story becoming another, The Meadow” How could we remember the thousands of lost souls who were buried in unmarked graves at the rear of Birr Workhouse? This was a question posed by the Offaly Drama group. They wanted to remember them with dignity and provide a long term legacy.

The first decision was to manage the graveyard as a wildflower meadow that will continue growing long after the project was finished. Then in 2020 the group started working with composer Tom Lane who worked Birr Choral Society on developing a composition that would be sung in the meadow.

Artists Fiona Breen and Caelan Bristow collaborated to design a performance piece that would take the audience on a metaphorical journey through the burial ground. Botanist and member of the Tidy Towns, Fiona Devery, recorded 69 species of wildflowers growing in the meadow. Seed was gathered by hand from close by Birr Castle meadow to increase the variety of species. Photographer Tina Claffey was documented the wildflowers in her inimitable style. Each tiny flower a new wonder under her lens.

Covid struck mid-project and the project was reconfigured, anchored by Tom Lane’s composition as the foundation of a site-specific sound installation to be part of Birr Festival of Voice and Music in August 2021. A call was put out to the community for singers and Tom began to record them remotely. Tom also recorded singers Ann Hogan, John Molloy, and Pascal Kennedy from as far afield as Edinburgh and Hungary. Covid was pushing the Creative scope of technology.

Historian Margaret Hogan was interviewed by Tom Lane and Fiona Breen, the depth and range of knowledge was inspiring but also how her humanity just always shines through. Brian Kennedy was also so supportive in providing us with detailed information and background on Irish Workhouses.

Brendan Farrell, a very talented soundscape designer joined The Meadow team and his ability to riff between all the elements, music and spoken word wasmagic to behold.

The result was The Meadow which took place in the Birr Workhouse burial ground on 21 August 2021. It was dry summer’s day with the audience sitting on square bales. All four performances of The Meadow were booked out.

The wildflower meadow continues to grow and be managed by Offaly County Council with the cutting of the perimeter paths allowing people access while still respecting the burial ground.


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