Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shackleton Autumn School 2010

An Edison wax cylinder recording recently discovered in America of a forgotten Harry Lauder song ‘The South Pole’ or ‘The Bounding Bounder’ sung by the great Scottish entertainer has arrived in Athy just in time for the 10th Ernest Shackleton Autumn School opening on 23rd October. 

In the 1909 recording Lauder sang the opening verse before breaking into a monologue in which he recalls meeting Shackleton after the Irishman had returned to England following the Nimrod Expedition in 1907-09.  The polar exploits of ‘Shack’ as he was called by Scotland’s most famous music hall artist gave Lauder the opportunity to imagine both men on an adventurous search for the South Pole which ended when Lauder says ‘Lets go home and claim we found the Pole’.  Lauder who was the first entertainer from outside of America to sell more than one million records died at his home in Strathaven in February 1950.  Shackleton had predeceased him by almost 27 years. 

The long forgotten recording may feature in a unique entertainment devised by composer Michael Holohan, poet Peter Sirr and others, which will be presented in the Community Arts Centre as part of the Shackleton weekend on Sunday 24th October at 9.00 p.m.  ‘Where a Single Footprint Last a Thousand Years’ is a stage performance incorporating music, poetry and drama celebrating the exploits of Ernest Shackleton and other polar explorers. 

The Dublin born composer Michael Holohan who composed the music for the show has won numerous prizes for his compositions and several of his works have been premiered by the RTE Concert Orchestra.  Most recently he composed the music for ‘Running Beast’ which toured Ireland and Europe as part of the Irish Government’s commemoration of the Flight of the Earls.

Writer and actor Donal O’Kelly will be performing and he will be remembered for his leading role in Roddy Doyle’s ‘The Van’.  Joining him on stage, courtesy of Poetry Ireland, will be Peter Sirr, the Waterford born poet whose extensive body of works is published by Gallery Press.  A former editor of Poetry Ireland Review he, like Donal O’Kelly, is a member of Aosdana.  Simon O’Dwyer, Neale Webb and John MacKenna make up the performing cast of what promises to be an unusual, if not unique, evening’s entertainment.

The entire Shackleton School weekend offers a wonderful opportunity to hear experts in their chosen fields.  The opening lecture is by the Deputy Editor of the Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole, who has many and varied publications to his credit.  His talk on Friday evening, 22nd October at 8.30 p.m. can be expected to be both entertaining and controversial.  It will be preceded by the launch of a book recently published in America dealing with the Japanese Antarctic Expedition of 1910-12.  The book launch will be by the Japanese Ambassador to Ireland, making probably his first visit to the town of Athy. 

The programme for the Shackleton weekend includes a wonderfully diverse mix of lectures, starting at 10.30 a.m. on Saturday and running through to Sunday afternoon when proceedings in the Town Hall conclude with the film ‘The Red Tent’, followed by an open forum chaired by Dr. Bob Headland of the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge. 

The programme, copies of which can be picked up in the local Heritage Centre, confirms how international the event has become.  Lecturers for this year’s Shackleton Autumn School are coming from America, Wales, England, Iceland and Australia.  Shackleton, the Kilkea-born Irishman commemorated in the county of his birth with exhibits in the local Heritage Centre, will this year be further honoured with the unveiling of a plaque at the local Town Hall.  The plaque commissioned by the National Committee for Science and Engineering Commemorative Plaques will be unveiled on Saturday, 23rd October at 1.00 p.m. by Shackleton’s granddaughter Alexandra Shackleton.

The first event of the weekend will be the opening of a photographic exhibition in the Heritage Centre at 7.15 p.m. on Friday 22nd October.  The photographs by Ragnar Axelsson bring together a unique record of the life and culture of some of the most remote communities of Northern Greenland and Canada.  Axelsson’s images, the fruit of his travels in the Arctic for almost 30 years, have won him recognition as one of the most accomplished documentary photographers of our time.  The photographs in the Athy exhibition come from the book ‘The Last Days of the Arctic’ published earlier this month.  The exhibition runs until 26th November.

The official opening of the exhibition and the Shackleton weekend takes place at 7.15 p.m. on Friday 22nd October and will be preceded by a wine reception.  You are all invited to come along and take part in what promises to be an enjoyable evening and weekend.

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