(Re)Sounding Holy Wells - Creative Ireland community participation

Primary school students explore St Fanahan’s well in Mitchelstown with artist Vicky Langan. Using hydrophones to access the underwater soundscape presents new and impactful experiences of the space.

Primary school students explore St Fanahan’s well in Mitchelstown with artist Vicky Langan. Using hydrophones to access the underwater soundscape presents new and impactful experiences of the space.

“We’re having fun and checking out the sounds which are around us and in water; and, we’re taking photos of the natural environment. We heard multiple sounds that we probably won’t hear again.”

  • Seán, Primary School participant 

(Re)Sounding Holy Wells

Building on community interest in pilgrimages and vernacular heritage, this innovative participatory project used audio methods to engage youth and adult groups in exploring holy wells in Cork to produce new understandings and appreciations of these features embedded in the cultural and natural landscapes.

Our research project presented an innovative approach for young people and communities to explore and appreciate their local holy wells. Using sound to consider these spaces, the participants came to know the springs in a fresh way, and learn about soundscapes all around us.

Across Ireland, on roadsides, seashores, and mountain passes, holy wells can be found as enchanting spaces where the Pagan, Christian, and natural blend together. Popular interest in these sacred springs is increasing with a resurgence in pilgrimage and local heritage activities. Aligning with this enthusiasm, the project used audio research methods and recordings to examine the histories and on-going social functions of four holy wells in County Cork. The project helped harness interest in these sites, explored them in new ways with different groups, and built on community capacities to appreciate and use these spaces as cultural and touristic amenities. Participatory workshops enabled further discussion of the springs, situating them in their cultural context and examining their social and economic potential. 

The collaborative project was led by Dr Richard Scriven, Department of Geography, UCC, and Vicky Langan, independent artist, who worked with 96 students from three primary schools and 55 adults in three community heritage groups to explore St Fanahan’s well Mitchelstown; Tubrid, Millstreet; Trinity Well, Kinsale; and, St John’s well, Carrigaline. It was funded by the Creative Ireland County Cork Grant Scheme under the community participation strand of the Creative Ireland Programme.

A foregrounding of audio recording as a creative research method enabled participants to generate new insights into the wells. The project deployed interactive workshops, with participants sharing stories of the local holy wells and discussing their future potential. Young people from local primary schools in Mitchelstown and Carrigaline made audio recordings, drew pictures, and took photographs at the holy wells. The students also gathered stories of the well from family and neighbours encouraging intergenerational discussions of the sites.

All of the workshops were recorded to preserve the oral histories and capacities of the springs to further benefit the community. The audio recordings made by participants have been used for creative outputs and developed by Vicky Langan as part of an artistic production.

For More Information

Provisional outputs of the project can be found here: liminalentwinings.com/resounding-holy-wells/

Dr Richard Scriven, Department of Geogrpahy, UCC: r.scriven@umail.ucc.ie / @RichardScrivGeo 

Vicky Langan, independent artist: vickylangan.com / @vicky_langan