North Cork artists '100%' determined to reopen after a year of shutdowns

North Cork artists '100%' determined to reopen after a year of shutdowns

Blackwater Valley Makers' outletshop in Fermoy, Co Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Blackwater Valley Makers are “100%” determined to reopen after a year of shutdowns, and are committed to Fermoy in their search for a new location to house their arts centre.

Formed in 2018, the artisans' group has been operating a creative hub in the former Ulster Bank branch in the North Cork Town's Pearse Square.

Now that its lease has finished, Siobhain Steele, chairperson and ceramicist, said the group is confident they will find a suitable premise soon after a year of lockdown disruption.

“As a group, the number one goal of the Blackwater Valley Makers is to get up and running again,” said Ms Steele.

“We have a wonderful group of members who all put their shoulders to the wheel when something needs to be done. It’s one of the reasons why we are so successful.

“Covid is slowing everything down but we are determined to have some options and are working hard to bring it to fruition and to find something to suit us,” she said.

Run as a professional entity, the arts centre was a success story for attracting tourism to the north Cork town shortly after opening its doors.

In addition to selling the artisans’ work, the arts centre provided a wide variety of cultural events including visual art exhibitions, artists’ talks, performances, and literature evenings.

Despite lockdowns, the pandemic has not dampened the Blackwater Valley Makers’ desire to provide a space for creative expression in the locality.

“We are the Blackwater makers, the Blackwater flows through Fermoy, all of us are in that local area, it’s our hometown, we are all very proud to be able to work from Fermoy. It’s about bringing the opportunity for the public to engage with art,” she said.

Ceramic artist Siobhain Steel at her studio in Rathcormac, Co Cork. 	Picture Dan Linehan
Ceramic artist Siobhain Steel at her studio in Rathcormac, Co Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Flexibility and adaptability were key during the repeated lockdowns to reopen twice and organise their business online with a click and collect service. Strong public support has helped.

The artisans want to reopen as soon as Covid restrictions permit but are keen to stress their work continues.

“It’s important that we keep our name out there and let it be known we are all working really hard behind the scenes, not just to keep our individual businesses going, but to keep the group and our collective going as well,” said Ms Steele.

Blackwater Valley Makers hope to find a large location to open their shop and gallery.

A large premises with lots of light would be ideal, but Ms Steele said the group “will make optimum use of whatever space we will get”.

“We will try and get the best place for the best price that we can,” she said.

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