The Pincer Jaws of Heaven at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre
Primary Aims 1. Continue Celebrating Poet’s Legacy The Centre was originally set up by the local community to specifically celebrate Patrick Kavanagh (Oct1904 – Nov1967))- the poet's intimate connection with Iniskeen, his life, his work, and his continuing influence on Irish writing. 2. Economic Staffing & Sustainability The much loved former exhibition was simple, intimate, and of its time. The interpretation depended primarily on the human presence of passionate and knowledgable local guides. Many of these dedicated volunteers had known the poet personally, and had encyclopaedic familiarity with his work. But as this generation fades away, it was recognised that a new more interactive multiple media installation was required to ‘bottle their knowledge’ and allow the centre to be operated economically by a much smaller professional team. 3. A Flexible Multipurpose Cultural Venue It is hoped that creating a more flexible operating space, equipped with a range of audiovisual and theatrical aids will facilitate a more diverse range of uses of the centre. A younger generation of local people will be encouraged to take ownership of the place and to engage in social, creative, and cultural activities inspired by, but not necessarily directly related to, Patrick Kavanagh. Kavanagh’s Enduring Influence Patrick Kavanagh’s universal themes:-Soul, Love, Beauty, Nature and God, are timeless and will resonate in the hearts of readers of all ages for many generations to come. Patrick Kavanagh’s work include the novel ‘Tarry Flynn’, and the poems ‘The Great Hunger’ and ‘On Raglan Road’. This lament for unrequited love has become a well known ‘Irish folk song’ throughout the English speaking world. ’Kavanagh’s constant referencing of the commonplace became hugely influential to a younger generation of Irish poets including Seamus Heaney. Significance of St Mary’s Church The former Roman Catholic parish church that houses the centre is unusual. It was built in 1820, before the political and religious emancipation of Roman Catholics in Ireland in 1832. St Mary’s was deconsecrated in 1974, when the present modern parish church was built. Patrick Kavanagh was baptised, attended regular Mass, and served as an altar-boy in the old St Mary’s Church. It features in his novel, Tarry Flynn, and also in the semiautobiographical, ‘The Green Fool’ .Patrick Kavanagh is buried in the adjoining churchyard, along with his wife Katherine Moloney Kavanagh, his brother Peter, and his sisters Anne and Mary. Preserving Important Architectural Features The former church retains significant features of architectural interest. The structural bays of the timber roof resemble a row of upturned boats. The painted stained glass windows are by the renowned artist Harry Clarke. The unusual floor plan placed the main altar half-way along one of the long sides of a rectangle. The church had tiered upper level seating galleries that overlooked the altar to left and right. The exhibition designers were challenged to house all of the required elements of the updated centre, whist leaving all these features visible in a manner that did not detract from the immersive ambiance of the visitor experience. The New Entry Lobby and Foyer The project architects designed a striking new glass and bronze entrance lobby at the base of the bell tower to signal the building’s new point of entry. An image of Patrick Kavanagh is etched into the bronze cladding to clearly signals the church’s new use. Inside, the tiered seating galleries on either side of the altar have been retained. The former seating areas for the congregation beneath the galleries, provided a space for a much needed Foyer on the right. This new Foyer is sufficiently generous to house the Welcome Desk for information, ticketing and book sales, as well as hosting small temporary exhibitions. It also has a storage area for the movable seating required to transform the main exhibition space into an auditorium for events on stage. Auditorium Seating There is a new reference and Resource Library, and other staff facilities, under the gallery on the left. A brand new third tiered seating gallery overlooking the event space. now connects the two existing galleries, to provide a ‘U’ shaped ‘dress circle’ with seating for an audience of more than 200 on the upper level. The lounge seating, interactive map tables, and other free standing exhibits can be wheeled out of the exhibition to facilitate a further 90 seats being temporarily laid out as required, as the theatrical ‘stalls’ directly in front of the stage on the ground level. The Multi-Purpose Performance Platform The ambulatory and altar were replaced with a raised platform, set into a free-standing ‘black box’ . Opening the decorative curtains at the front of the raised platform turns it into either a performance stage, and/or cinema proscenium. Closing the curtains encloses “The ‘Pincer Jaws of Heaven’,an immersive three-sided audiovisual projection space. This contains movable seating. Disabled visitors can access this space via both ramps and a wheelchair hoist. Dual Purpose Theatrical Lighting The motorised spotlights and ‘Gobo’ lights ,mounted on the stage lighting rig suspended at high level, can be used during musical performances and theatrical productions. They also have a programmed ‘exhibition mode’ in which texts from Kavanagh’s works add a dynamic ambiance to the exhibition by floating over the decorative drawn curtains of the stage area. A special printed font closely based on Kavanagh’s own hand writing was designed for both projected, and printed headings, throughout the new revamped visitor centre.. The New Permanent Exhibition The new permanent exhibition celebrates the different stages of Patrick Kavanagh’s life and evolution of his poetic craft. From the Foyer visitors circulate into the central space. During the evening this will often be in ‘event mode ‘. and filled with auditorium seating. However most of the principal exhibit cases and graphic panels will continue to add interest. by remaining mounted on the perimeter walls. In the daytime this space is laid out in ‘exhibition mode’ with additional free-standing exhibits. The comfortable seating of the reading lounge in the centre separates the two main parts of the exhibition.These document the two principal creative periods of Kavanagh’s life Period 1 The Green Fool 1904 -1939 The youthful and self educated Kavanagh yearned for the company of intellectuals, and a life of cultural creativity. He felt stifled and isolated in his poverty stricken surroundings. He was forced to travel on foot to towns and cities such as Dundalk and Dublin in search of advice and encouragement from established literary figures. He struggled to find an authentic voice for his own work, before grasping the inspiration that lay all around him in the ordinary everyday circumstances of rural Monaghan. Three wall mounted ‘memory boxes: —‘Childhood’; ‘Apprentice Poet’; and ‘Farmer Poet’ chart the main creative phases of the poet’s progress. Each case is filled with evocative ephemera., documents, objects and imagery artfully arranged like miniature stage sets. Each memory box has its own multilayered touch screen guide. Other exhibits in this area include the ‘Book Hedge’ where the young poet concealed his books. And there is an opportunity to for young visitors to test the weight of the plough that was such a hateful taskmaster for the impoverished bachelor farmer The Kavanagh Trail A freestanding interactive map table presents ‘Kavanagh Country’– an interactive guide to a walking/cycling trail in the unique drumlin landscape of South Monaghan. It covers numerous sites associated with the work of the poet such as:- the Kavanagh House and Farm at Mucker, Kednaminsha National School; and of course, Billy Brennan’s Barn. Visitors can obtain leaflets and/or, interactive audioguides for their own exploration of the ‘Green Fool’s’ world. The Monaghan landscape that shaped Patrick Kavanagh as a person, and as a poet has changed little since his time. Anyone can walk in the poet’s footsteps down the lanes, through the triangular fields and between the whitethorn hedges and bumpy little hills of Monaghan. See John McArdle talk about the Kavanagh Country https://www.patrickkavanaghcentre.com/kavanagh-trail/ Period 2 Kavanagh In The World 1940- 1967 In the second period of his life a confident older Kavanagh achieved much of the creative and romantic fulfilment, and public recognition that he had craved, despite bouts of ill-health, and a number of legal feuds. The interactive memory box format continues with the three creative phases of this period:-‘Journalist and Poet ‘ , ‘Trials and Rebirth,’ and ‘Final Years’. A second interactive map table charts his various extended sojourns in Dublin, London and America. Peter Kavanagh’s Printing Press The large printing press that the Patricks Kavanagh brother Peter built, to support the poet’s various literary publishing ventures provides another interactive area for younger visitors. Two lesser galleries wrapping around the raised stage, celebrate firstly:- rural life in Monaghan in Kavanagh’s day; and secondly his continuing and growing influence on contemporary poets, singers and celebrities. The Pincer Jaws of Heaven Audiovisual The full magic and musicality of Kavanagh’s finest poems are fully experienced in the climactic central element:- ’Pincer Jaws of Heaven’ cinematic presentation The film captures the raw beauty of the County Monaghan landscape, the inspiration for so much of Kavanagh’s writing.

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