To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Cork City’s twinning with Coventry, Cork City Council has part funded a new exhibition telling some of the experiences of Cork and Irish people in Coventry over many decades. ‘Irish Heart, Coventry Home’ will be held at the Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry for one month from Friday 9 March 2018 when the exhibition launches at 8pm, after 12 months of research from the Coventry Irish Society. This evening event is open to the public and will include well-known Irish musicians, actors, activities and storytelling in the medieval undercroft. It is hoped to bring the Exhibition to Cork at some point this year.
Cllr Kieran McCarthy, represented Cork’s involvement in the project and helped with overseeing the creation of the project in its early stages. He noted that telling the story of Ireland’s diaspora is very important; “The narrative of Irish history and emigration sometimes stops at our ports and airports. There is a continuing and large job of work to continue to document l the story of what happened to Irish people abroad, and then incorporate it into our school curriculum and the popular narrative stream on Irish history”.
“The new exhibition tells the true experience of Irish families settling in Coventry over three decades from their point of view. Sixty-five people were interviewed as part of the project, including many who moved between 1940 and 1970. These interviewees will feature in a 30-minute documentary put together by the society, who spent hundreds of hours with interviewees to understand their journey to Coventry. It will also see a diverse collection of photographs and personal items which will go up on display to form what should be an enlightening and entertaining exhibition”.
The ‘Irish Heart, Coventry Home’ project has been supported by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund as well as Cork City Council, the Deeley Group and Coventry City Council with a four-strong steering group helping bring the exhibition together alongside Project Officer Ciaran Davis.
Simon McCarthy, Manager of the Coventry Irish Society, said: “We are incredibly excited to be able to tell the fascinating story of so many people who have contributed massively to the culture, infrastructure and history of Coventry after moving from Ireland”.
“The most successful element of the project has been the breadth of our interviewees. We have spoken to a wide variety of people including poets, builders, teachers, musicians and more. Furthermore, we are pleased to have involved so many female interviewees. Women are sometimes left out of narratives of Irish migration, even though they came to England in significant numbers”.
Francis Ranford, Cultural and Creative Director at Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, said “We are passionate about showing exhibitions which reflect the vibrant and diverse history of Coventry”.