News & Events

Textures, Tastes and Colours of the Bog events

Published: Tuesday, 05 December, 2023

A visual relational mapping of the Gnáthóga Nádúrtha project by artist Jules Michael in her studio 2023A visual relational mapping of the Gnáthóga Nádúrtha project by artist Jules Michael in her studio 2023.

Peatlands are a finite resource and provide many benefits for society as well as being valuable ecosystems for biodiversity. When they are restored, rewetted or rehabilitated, peatlands also play a crucial role in the fight against climate change and in supporting human health and well-being However, degraded peatlands in Ireland have a negative impact on water and air quality, flora and fauna, and climate (through greenhouse gas emissions), as well as impacting on cultural heritage and the communities that live and work in these landscapes.

The question of how to support a shift to sustainable management of peatlands and a better understanding of these landscapes is one that is addressed in a collaborative arts project called ‘Gnáthóga Nádúrtha’. The project consists of a series of activities and actions across three peatland habitats (Drummin Bog, Carlow, Ballydermot Bog, Kildare, and Girley Bog, Meath) and is supported by the Arts Council Invitation to Collaborate fund. The project foregrounds the importance of community relationships with the living world for climate and biodiversity action and is led by Carlow County Council Arts Office, in partnership with Kildare and Meath County Council Arts Offices. It involves collaboration with key partners including: the Drummin Bog Project, Creative Rathangan Meitheal and Girley Bog Meitheal, Dr. Anita McKeown FutureFocus21c, Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald Haumea Ecoversity, and artists Jules Michael, Monica de Bath, Kate Flood and the wider communities of South County Carlow, Kildare and Meath.

The project actions occurred across the three sites, with a focus on three strands of activities. These included a place-based mapping of the sites and their communities led by Dr. Anita McKeown; ecoliteracy training for council staff, artists and cultural practitioners in the three counties led by Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald; and collaborative weaving together of the creative practices and community-based activities of the participating artists, Jules Michael, Monica de Bath and Kate Flood. As part of these activities, the artists organised a series of lizard surveying workshops, led by Rob Gandola of the Herpetological Society of Ireland. These workshops helped to build capacity within each community group to enjoy, record and help in preserving populations of native amphibians and reptiles at these local sites through citizen engagement.

Drummin Bog, Ballydermot Bog and Girley Bog Lizard and Mini-beasts workshops

Drummin Bog, Ballydermot Bog and Girley Bog Lizard and Mini-beasts workshops.

Textures, Tastes and Colours of the Bog

Nature-inspired activities celebrating our peatlands

Gnáthóga Nádúrtha held a series of events in autumn 2023 to mark the end of the first phase with a rotating community engagement event at each of the three sites. Each artist unearthed a physical expression of their work on the project and their local peatland – a Butter Firkin, a Bog Cabinet of Curiosities and a replica Ganger’s hut. These objects converse with each other and also provide a means to engage and tell stories about the places and the peatlands inspiring these actions.Monica De Bath, Kate Flood and Jules Michael with objects, artworks and local food from the project

Monica De Bath, Kate Flood and Jules Michael with objects, artworks and local food from the project.

Rathangan, County Kildare: Monica De Bath and the Ganger’s Hut

The first event was held on a sunny afternoon in October at the Old Schoolhouse, Rathangan not far from Ballydermot Bog and the Cloonruisk remnant that has inspired many aspects of Monica De Bath’s work. Monica set up a table with hand-made weaving frames and encouraged participants to weave, drawing on her work with Taipéis Gael, a tapestry weaving collective in Donegal. Local historian Larry Fullham told a story about a past pupil of Old Schoolhouse - Richard Griffith and his Bog Commissioners Maps. The IPCC provided a mini-pond dipping experience for children to examine the nonhuman life and mini-beasts of the bog, reflecting a central guiding question of the project ‘Who else lives here?’. Participants could rotate around the three artists’ tables sampling plant teas, exploring the Bog Cabinet, tasting Carlow-made cheeses and bread and painting a postcard. The Ganger’s Hut is a replica of the type of huts Bórd na Móna workers would have used for their breaks and is a means to invite people to leave a message and think about these histories and the industrial heritage of the area.

St. Mullins, County Carlow: Jules Michael and the Butter Firkin. 

The second event was held in Drummond Hall, St. Mullins in November and began with a guided walk to nearby Drummin Bog, led by members of the Drummin Bog Project committee. This was followed by a locally-sourced lunch at Drummond Hall, with homemade soup, cheeses from the Drummin Bog catchment and sourdough bread from the local mill. Each of the artists presented their work in short talks and invited people to engage in conversations and activities. Jules Michael outlined her involvement with the Drummin Bog Project, and her work with local schools as part of Creative Drummin, to raise awareness of the bog and its plants and animals that live there. She uses the Butter Firkin as a means to place Drummin Bog in its wider hinterland, referencing stories of old butter making traditions (with samples of her own homemade butter), reflecting on the time and work involved in producing food relative to today’s fast food production model. She links it back to Drummin Bog by inviting people to create their own bog colours postcard demonstrating the variation in colours in something as simple as a bramble leaf or the bark of a rowan tree.

Kells, County Meath: Kate Flood and the Bog Cabinet of Curiosities

The final event was held in the Kells Courthouse and Heritage centre and featured the three artists as well as members of the Girley Bog community of interest, including young naturalist Timothy Sullivan and his collection of moths, local photographer Natasha Sullivan and the Birdwatch Ireland Meath branch who provided information about the recent Barn Owl survey in Co. Meath. Kate Flood introduced the project and Girley Bog, focusing on its history and current restoration efforts, as well as the ongoing Girley Bog Lizard project. She shared books and resources on bog plants and invited people to investigate the Bog Cabinet of Curiosities, a collection of objects of natural and cultural interest, using hand lenses and magnifiers. Participants created their own artworks and shared memories and stories on postcards in response to this exploration while eating ‘Moss Cake’ and drinking plant teas. Each artist gave a short talk, introducing the symbolic and cultural value of their objects and how they related to their local bog and provided opportunities for visitors to weave, to paint and to explore new ways of interacting with peatlands.

The activities at the three events embody different ways of knowing about the bog and its flora and fauna, from weaving a bog remnant to tasting and sharing of local and homemade food, and painting and drawing in response to the conversations and items on display. The communal, sensory experiences facilitated by the artists enable new stories and conversations to emerge as communities gather to reflect on, build and expand new values around their neighbouring peatlands.

Textures, Tastes and Colours of the Bog event collage

More information about the project:

Gnáthóga Nádúrtha (Natural Habitats) Project

More information about the artists:

Jules Michael - Jules Michael

Monica De Bath - Monica De Bath | Creative Rathangan Meitheal

Kate Flood - A Bog’s Life Blog

Peat Hub Ireland project:

Visit the Peat Hub Ireland website

Photos: Monica De Bath, Kate Flood, Jules Micheal, Donna Wright