Stone carvers and dry stone walling experts from around the world will gather on the Sheep’s Head peninsula to share their skills at the West Cork Stone Symposium this spring.
The symposium, taking place from March 22–24 in Durrus, will be a hands-on, creative celebration of stonecraft and its place in Irish life, encouraging workshop-goers and other visitors to appreciate skills that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Beginners, as well as more experienced craftspeople, will have the chance to learn time-honoured skills from world-renowned carvers and wallers who’ll travel from across Ireland and as far as Ontario to lead a series of creative and collaborative workshops at the event. The weekend’s walling workshops, which are supported by the Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland, will get through 100 tons of stone over the three days of the symposium.
For people more interested in culture and history than wielding a chisel or hefting stone, there’s an intriguing range of talks and demonstrations on offer.
Dr Clíodhna Ní Lionáin of University College, Dublin – a familiar face at the West Cork Stone Symposium – will talk about the fascinating process of uncovering a 5,500-year-old passage tomb at Dowth Hall in the heart of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage site in Co Meath. Nigel Baxter, an English sculptor, will tell the story of how he was inspired to crowdfund and create a stone bust of his hero, the Cork sculptor Seamus Murphy. Professor William O’Brien of University College Cork will also take part in the symposium where he will talk at the new Ballycommane Visitor Centre about the links between standing stones, boulder burials, and sun worship.
“We’re delighted to be helping keep traditional skills alive”, says Victor Daly, a sculptor and stone carver who is the West Cork Stone Symposium’s creative director. “Dry stone walling and stone carving have helped to shape the identity of the Wild Atlantic Way. So, when people take up those skills and put them to use, they’re helping us carry those ancient skills and traditions into the future. That’s a great outcome from a small and friendly festival on the Sheep’s Head.”
One of the few festivals which encourages people to leave a trace on the landscape, the symposium – which is managed by the local tourism cooperative – has already made an impressive mark on the Sheep’s Head: in previous years, visitors created walls, seating, and hand-carved signs in Ahakista and Kilcrohane.
To book, visit www.westcorksymposium.com or call 086 303 0991.