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Inspirational Ireland

Luglio 2006
La romantica storia di Cill Rialaig, antico villaggio nella campagna irlandese abbandonato 50 anni fa e ricuperato oggi come ritiro per artisti.

di Kathleen Becker

File audio:

Greg O'Connell
Greg O'Connell

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

Just off the famous Ring of Kerry tourist route in the west of Ireland there is another very scenic peninsula: the Skellig Ring. No coaches drive down the narrow coast roads of this Gaeltacht area, where Irish is still the main language. In the late 1980s, Dublin gallery owner Noelle Campbell-Sharp discovered a deserted village on a remote headland which offered stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The village, Cill Rialaig (meaning “Church of the Regulars”) was built in 1790, but, after the terrible potato famine that swept Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, it gradually became deserted. The very last villagers left around 50 years ago. Campbell-Sharp fell in love with the place. She decided to restore the stone cottages and turn them into an artists’ retreat. One by one, the tumble-down houses were rebuilt. The first artists arrived in 1991. Those who stay for a few weeks don’t have to pay for their accommodation, but when they go home, they usually leave a piece of their work behind, as a thank you. The retreat is managed by a local man, Ger O’Connell. One of his favourite artists is the Ligurian painter Aurelio Caminati, who has been to Cill Rialaig many times:

Ger O’Connell (Standard Irish accent):

He left us about 20 pieces I think, the first time he stayed. He said he was never inspired so much in his lifetime until he came to Cill Rialaig. And he had kind of stopped painting, you know. So he painted on everything he saw, pieces of wood, you know.

mad artists?

Initially, the locals were not so sure what to think of Noelle Campbell-Sharpe’s plans to restore the old cottages, says O’Connell:

Ger O’Connell:

They thought she was crazy, you know, at first, but after the artists started to come, then they kind of used to meet them and chat with them and kind of found out that they were just normal people!

another world

With the Cill Rialaig shop selling a wide choice of arts and crafts, the project has revitalized a part of rural Ireland that was in decline. Factories were closing, and there was not much work in the area. When the Northern Irish painter and multimedia artist Liam de Frinse came here for the first time, he was only planning to write an article about the retreat:

Liam de Frinse (Standard Northern Irish accent):

So I came down to write about it, I brought some paints just in case. I got two hours’ sleep, I just fell in love with the whole concept, it was like a whole magical experience. It was like a thing called “Outer Limits,” an old programme on the television, you go through this sort of mist, but, when you get to the other side, you’re in some other sort of zone. And that’s what it was like down here. You just go into another zone.

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route - circuito.

coaches - pullman.     

narrow - strette.

gallery owner - gallerista.

headland - promontorio.

stunning - straordinarie.

potato famine - carestia delle patate.

swept - sconvolse.

stone cottages - villette di pietra.

retreat - ritiro.

tumble-down - decrepite, diroccate.

arts and crafts - oggetti di artigianato.

factories - fabbriche.

mist - nebbia.