News from Folding Landscapes

Parnell Visiting Fellowship

Tim Robinson was elected Parnell Visiting Fellow for 2011, at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He delivered the annual Parnell Lecture in February, 2011. Its title is ‘A Land without Shortcuts’, and it was  published in the Dublin Review.

Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom was published by Penguin Ireland in September 2011. Although it was the last to be written it is the second volume of the Connemara trilogy, which is now complete. The book was launched in the Dublin City Art Gallery (the Hugh Lane), in conjunction with The Decision, an exhibition in the Golden Bough series that included the Aran, Burren and Connemara maps together with earlier artworks that retrospectively seem to foreshadow the map project. (This exhibition continues until January 15th 2012.)

Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness

Penguin Ireland 2008 and Penguin UK 2009. This volume, the conclussion of the trilogy, deals with the Atlantic seaboard of Connemara, where the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein found “the last pool of darkness in Europe”.

Connemara: Listening to the Wind

Penguin Ireland 2006, Penguin UK 2007. A detailed personal study of the area around the author’s home in Roundstone, the first part of a projected trilogy on Connemara. To quote the introduction:

I am aware of the selectivity of my written response to living in Connemara. I concentrate on just three factors whose influences permeate the structures of everyday life here; the sound of the past, the language we breathe, and our frontage onto the natural world. And if, as seems possible, this book becomes three books, each might privilege one of these factors, while remaining open to all of them. The fact (not the question) of language might predominate in writing about the conflictually-bilingual southern region of Connemara. The ocean, inescapable symbol of the ever-changing, almost-eternal, other-than-human setting of human affairs, would especially direct me when I come to the cliffs and isles and promontories of the Atlantic seabord. The present book concerns a huge tract of west and central Connemara stretching from the beaches of Murvey and Dog’s Bay near the village of Roundstone, where I live, by Ballynahinch, for centuries the heart of Connemara and the seat of its various masters, to the eastern extremity of Roundstone Parish, the legendary mountain pass of Mám Éan; the sound of the past is particularly insistent throughout this territory. That is the schema emerging under my hands, at the moment of writing.

Winner of the Argosy non-fiction prize in the Irish Book Awards 2007, and short-listed for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2007 (awarded to books of any genre that evoke the spirit of a place). Paperback, Penguin UK, 2007, ISBN 978-1-844-88066-9. €13. (Also now available in the States from Penguin USA.) A Dutch pb edition, Connemara: Luisterend naar de wind, translator Gerrit Jan Zwier, published by Atlas, Amsterdam, is available at €25.

Some reviewers’ comments on Connemara: Listening to the Wind:

“At their most intricate, measured and exalting, his sentences sound like the sermons of John Donne, or the elaborate essays of Sir Thomas Browne. And yet there is nothing antiquarian about this style; it may echo the voices of the great writers who have passed before him, but Robinson’s is a medium woven as much out of modern environmental science, land art and fractal geometry as it is from the sonorous periods of the past”

[Brian Dillon in the Daily Telegraph]

Connemara – Listening to the Wind

“Open up any page at random and some tiny Connemara landmark suddenly unfolds in the rush of vivid and yet exact language, slowly revealing its geographical composition, its topography and ecology, its actual history and invented legends, the origins of its original Irish (and contorted English) placename and an account of its present-day living inhabitants.”
[Dermot Bolger in the Sunday Tribune]

“What makes Robinson so orderly an addition to our unsystematic world is the coordination between his eye and his prose. He is essentially a visual artist – an avant garde conceptual one at that – whose subject is time and who, in order to halt it, has developed a way of slowing it down with words.”

[Brian Lynch in the Irish Independent]

“This is a writerly book, as much concerned with language as with landscape. It is assiduous, clear, many of its images are poetic. Robinson understands that the emptiness of the region, the peacefulness that has drawn tourist and novelist alike, is the condition of a community that has endured tremendous pressures and paid terrible costs for its marginalisation.”
[Joseph O’Connor in the Guardian Book of the Week]

“As with his Aran volumes, Robinson’s Connemara should stand on the shelf beside Synge’s Aran Islands and Thoreau’s Walden.”

[Eamon Grennan in the Irish Times]

The Distressed Map of the Aran Islands shown in the Map Room of the Royal Geographical Society during the Map Marathon. This much enlarged version of the Aran map was first shown in Vinyl, an exhibition curated by Simon Cutts for Cork’s European City of Culture Year, 2005. On that occasion it was sited in an old school playground, with a notice saying: ‘The original Aran map is published in a paper edition, and if a copy wears out one can get another. The present enlarged version on vinyl is singular, like the islands themselves, and what becomes of it remains to be seen. You are invited to walk on it, write on it, dance on it, treat it as you see fit.’  After a month of exposure to the elements, to skate-boarders and dancers, and to people wishing to commemorate their own experiences on the islands, it came back to Folding Landscapes rather worn and crumpled, and with several interesting graffiti, and we decided to call it the Distressed Map of the Aran Islands. In October 2010 it was included in the Map Marathon curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist of the Serpentine Gallery, London, and acquired another interesting layer of damage. Its history is far from being at an end. The photograph shows Pat Collins (right), Susan Stenger, composer, and Colm Hogan, camera-man, both members of the production team working on Pat’s film Tim Robinson: Connemara.

This film was first screened in the Dublin Film Festival of 2010 and later as part of the conference Perspectives on Tim Robinson held in Galway and Roundstone in September 2011.

UNFOLDING IDEAS –a social and scholarly project for Roundstone

Unfolding Ideas is an annual Colloquium Series for scholars, educators and artists to engage in public talks, small group discussion and workshops in Roundstone, Connemara. The programme forms a part of the cultural life of the region and contributes to the social life and the economy of the village. Building on the long-established relationships between NUI Galway and hosts, Tim and Máiréad Robinson, it offers a forum for the University to engage with the community and to share the knowledge of the institution´s many visitors including academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines. The programme activities will take place at Folding Landscapes (by invitation), and in the Roundstone Community Hall (all welcome).

Some of the many sessions over the last five years:

Sean O´Laoire, Murray O’Laoire Architects and Sheila O Donnell and John Tuomey, O´Donnell and Tuomey Architects: ‘Only Connect: the Tension between Context and Ideas in Modern Architecture’.

Allegra Huston, James Nave, Rod Stoneman, The Writing Salon, Huston School of Film & Digital Media, Workshops for Screenwriting Students

Allegra Huston, James Nave, ‘Life Writing and Community´

Professor Frank Barry, REMEDI, NUI Galway: ‘Stem Cell Therapy: Promise and Reality´. 7:00 pm, Community Hall (public presentation) ‘Progress in Stem Cell Therapy: Heart Disease, Arthritis and Spinal Cord Injury´.

Professor Michael Guiry, Martin Ryan Institute, NUI Galway: ‘Seaweed Usage in Ireland’, and ‘AlgaeBase: A World Seaweed Database’.

George Stoney, New York University. Documentary Filmmaker (in association with the Huston School of Film & Digital Media); ‘Social Activism and the Media´.

Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinin, Department of History, NUI Galway: ‘Medieval Irish Monuments: Digital Imaging in Recovering the Past´.

Professor Andrew Murphy, Department of General Practice, NUI Galway: ‘The Landscapes of General Practice and Community´.

Louis de Paor agus Nessa Cronin, Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway: ‘ “Sin é do dhoras: Dún Chaoin faoi sholas an tráthnóna”: ag filleadh arís ar an áit dhúchais. “This is your door: Dún Chaoin in the light of the evening”: (re)entering the Irish landscape.’

Professor John Simmie, Chemistry Dept., ‘’An Energy Policy for Ireland’.

Colin MacCabe presents ‘Derek’, a film on the life of artist Derek Jarman.

John Carney (director) presents award-winning Irish film ‘Once’.

Irish Centre for Gerontology, ‘The Future is Old! Why investment in ageing pays off’.

Acadamh na hOllscoiliochta with Lillis Ó Laoire, discussions on Sean-nós (traditional Irish-language) singing.

The Placelore of Roundstone Parish

Part of the Folding Landscapes archive of information collected in the course of research for the books and maps will be published shortly on a CD-ROM under this title. The disc will be suitable for both PCs and Macs. It contains over 840 placenames, most of them Irish, each with translation and interpretation, location map, audio recording, and related information on local history, archaeology, folklore, geology etc.

It also includes over 370 colour photographs of landscapes, buildings, archaeological sites etc., a detailed map of the parish (taken from our one-inch map of Connemara), a bibliography of about a hundred items, and an essay on the significance of placenames. This last text originated as a lecture, ‘The Seanchaí and the Database’, given to the Merriman Summer School in 2003 and subsequently published in Irish Pages (ed. Chris Agee, Linen Hall Library, Belfast, Spring/Summer 2003).

Pilgrimage in Dutch

De Aran-eilanden, a Dutch translation of Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage, was published by Atlas, Amsterdam, in 2004, with an introduction by the novelist Cees Nooteboom.


At a ceremony held by the Irish Institute of Surveyors to mark Tim Robinson’s work with a special award he looked back over 25 years of mapping cultural landscapes. On a related theme, his lecture, ‘Farewell to the Goddess’, delivered to a conference on Gaelic landscapes and culture at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, has now been published in an Irish translation by Máire Ní Annracháin and Máire Áine Nic Gearalt, in Cruth na Tíre, ed. Máire Ní Annracháin and Wilson McLeod, Coscéim, Dublin, 2003.

Windfarms in the Aran Islands

Comharchumann Inis Meáin, the island co-op, under the management of Pól Ó Foighil, has installed three 150-foot-high wind turbines on the south shore of the island, despite objections from An Taisce, The Heritage Council, Friends of the Irish Environment, Tim Robinson, Tarlach de Blácam (a founder member of the island co-op) and others. The site is in a proposed Special Area of Conservation, a National Heritage Area, and an Area of Outstanding Scenic Amenity. An appeal to An Bord Pleanála was turned down in March 2000.

This decision is one of the worst of recent years; if wind turbines are to be permitted in this unique landscape with its almost perfectly preserved 18th-19th-century field system, we can expect them to be cropping up throughout all the west. Tim Robinson appealed to the islanders not to go ahead with the scheme at a conference on planning organised by the co-op of the neighbouring island of Inis Oírr.

A pop-up exhibition of Timothy Drever’s paintings from the 1960s has been arranged in the Folding Landscapes studio on the quayside in Roundstone; visitors are welcome, by appointment ([email protected], tel. 095 35886).

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