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The Sugar Tapes – The Source Arts Centre, Thurles

The Sugar Factory operated in Thurles from 1934 to 1989. It was one of the main employers in the town during this time, offering more than 300 well-paid permanent jobs as well as additional seasonal work during the ‘campaign’ (the time of the year when the sugar beet was harvested).

Generations of the same families worked in the plant and it also provided a regular income for farmers who grew the sugar beet. Its closure in 1989 was a devastating blow to the community.

Artist Eddie Kenehen made The Sugar Tapes, a set of 40 hours of recorded interviews with the staff and management of the factory, relating to their working, social and personal lives and how they were connected to the factory.

The Source Arts Centre engaged two writers to work on the tapes and do additional research on the story of the factory in the town. They put a call out to the public and held three Zoom sessions in which the history of the factory was discussed by former employees.

The result is an audio work, 1. Voices’, written by Martin Maguire and Bob Kelly and is the first instalment in what is hoped to be a broader project on the factory.

‘1.Voices’ highlights the importance of the factory to the town and the significant effect its closure had on the community in the 1980’s.

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