Cork quay to again echo to sound of emigrant voices with restoration of Listening Posts

Refurbishment work on Penrose Quay installation due to be completed by summer 
Cork quay to again echo to sound of emigrant voices with restoration of Listening Posts

The Listening Posts, an installation of four stainless steel beacons which played the recordings of emigrants who had left Ireland from the city’s quays, were installed along Penrose Quay in 2006. Picture: Larry Cummins

Emigrant voices are set to echo along Cork’s historic city centre quays again following confirmation a unique sound installation is to be restored to full working order.

Cork City Council said refurbishment work to the striking Listening Posts installation on Penrose Quay should be completed by summer 2023.

It follows an assessment of the piece by city officials and the artists who created it and who found the structures to be in good condition, with only cosmetic improvements required.

“However, further investigation of the power supply in the control box located next to the sculptures is still required to ensure the work can be restored fully," officials said.

The Listening Posts, an installation of four stainless steel beacons which played the recordings of emigrants who had left Ireland from the city’s quays, were installed along Penrose Quay in 2006 at a cost of some €100,000.

It told the story of emigration from the quays through interviews with hundreds of emigrants, their children and those they left behind, as well as workers on the emigrant ships, in audio clips which were played in random sequences 24 hours a day.

The striking sculptures were created by Daphne Wright, with the recordings element developed by Johnny Hanrahan and British sound designer Dan Jones.

Repeated acts of vandalism

However, the voices fell silent due to repeated acts of vandalism.

Against the backdrop of regeneration and development along Penrose and nearby Horgan’s Quay, Green Party councillor Oliver Moran raised the issue with city officials on several occasions, asking that the posts be inspected, and repaired if possible.

Last summer, he was told the city council’s arts office had engaged with Ms Wright, Mr Hanrahan, and the technical team which created the installation to assess what works were needed to restore the public artwork.

Mr Moran welcomed the confirmation of the repairs and said it came at an important time.

“It's important that the sculpture be restored alongside the new developments taking place on Penrose Quay and at the railway station,” he said.

“The North Docks are becoming a vibrant place to live and work alongside the Victorian Quarter and the St Luke's area.

"It's timely to think about migration too and the pain of having to leave and be separated from home, when there are so many people now seeking sanctuary in our city, displaced by war in Ukraine or coming here to work like we did in London, New York, or Sydney.

"Listening to the voices and hopes of the emigrants recorded in this work puts context on today and lets us reflect on that experience and our unique understanding in this country of migration and having to leave one's home for a new one.”

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