Over the May bank holiday weekend, Féile na Bealtaine saw iCRAG researchers team up with a wide variety of arts afficionados to bring applied geoscience to a new audience and a new location. iCRAG researchers Jess Franklin, Laura Bérdi, Fani Papageorgiou, Dr Anthea Lacchia, Sean Wheeler and Dr Koen Torremans, along with Engagement Manager Dr Fergus McAuliffe, attended the festival with spirits high, minds open, and geological tales to tell.
On Day 1, we took part in Féile na bPáistí, where festival-goers got to make their own smartphone microscopes to examine some geological specimens. From there we had a quick foray to Clothar Strand near Slea Head. To get to Clothar Strand, one must go through Ballyferriter, which for the weekend had been transformed into a scene from Star Wars in honour of May The Fourth Be With You. Obligatory selfies with the Imperial Guard, Darth Vader and some uncompromising Stormtroopers followed. Note: if there is a traffic jam in a small Irish village, Stormtroopers are who you should call. Having been given the Force by Yoda we continued on our intergalactic journey west at speeds approaching the speed of light; we jest, at speeds approaching the speedlimit. At the strand we took a walk along the beach to plan out the story we would tell the following morning at our geological walk event. Finding both faults and fossils, and views of the Triúr Deirfiúr we knew we had a compelling story to tell. Then it was back to Dingle, dinner with our guests of honour Prof. Iggy McGovern and Prof. Mike Stephenson and putting the final touches to our plans for our poetry event with Iggy and Mike the following day. To end the night we all stood in a field, gazing jaw-droppingly at a choreographed pagan rave featuring animal skulls, burning effigies and synth and base layered onto haunting traditional Irish music: a modern take on the ancient Bealtaine. Exhausted, and confused, we went to bed.
Day 2 started very early with the Dawn Chorus event at Gallarus Oratory. This event featured a wide variety of talents: Shakespeare as gaeilge, an old Irish lilt, and a bouncing ball of cello-playing energy known as Rushad. By way of enticing people to join our geological walk we gave a sneak peak in to the 438 million year journey people they would undergo, featuring, of course, the lesser known Benuga (you had to be there). And on to the geological walk.
We arrived at the beach. Wind howling. Waves crashing. Tide highing. Volume would be our dearest friend and dangerous enemy. Turning around in the car park we faced inland, to see what had been a stready drip of festival goers turn diluvian in front of our eyes, with the result being that we had 160 people on our walk. 160! You wouldn’t see that in Croke Park. Well, actually, you would, if you thought about it enough. But we didn’t have time for thoughts, now it was time for walking and talking. We covered everything from the Variscan orogeny to the faint fossiliferous traces on the rock faces, trawled through till and queried the Quaternary. To cap off proceedings we read some poems from atop a ditch overlooking the sea. It was wild. It was wonderful.
Back to Dingle, breakfast on the fly, before arriving at the children’s science-themed street parade where we took our place next to a giant wooden optical microscope on wheels. Waving and posing through the town we went, preceded by a busyness of bees, followed by a courgette baby. Feeling like animals in a bizarre moving menagerie of colour, sound and higher meaning. It was great fun.
After depositing our massive microscope in a cowshed (you think we’re joking, but we’re not) we made our way to Emlagh House for our final event Tools to Open Our Eyes: The Geology and Poetry of Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. Situated on the outskirts of Dingle, and overlooking the sea and hills, the event was a both a tribute to two poets of the land and a clarion call for increased overlap between poetry and the sciences. Iggy delivered powerful readings of Heaney’s Bog Queen and Grauballe Man, with Mike describing a palaeontologist’s view of both. Then it was Mike’s turn on Poet’s Corner, with readings of How Water Began to Play and Hill-stone was Content. Lively questions and comments from the room followed, and then Iggy read a new poem of his about Seamus Heaney to appreciative applause. To bookend, we went outside by the sea, fielded some final questions from a very engaged public, before each heading our separate ways. We left tired. We left inspired. We left truly Dingle’d. But deep down, we all knew this was just the beginning, See you next year, Féile!