Home Uncategorized Cruthu Arts Festival – Bringing Colour to the Streets of Longford

Cruthu Arts Festival – Bringing Colour to the Streets of Longford

by Roberto
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The Cruthu Arts Festival is a locally run organisation, and has brought an incredible street art scene to the town of Longford. I decided to throw a spotlight on their work.

Over the last number of years, my interest in street art has grown steadily. It became the highlight of my visit to Brussels and Thessaloniki in Greece. They certainly heightened my attention to that art surrounding me here in Ireland. First the Dublin scene presented itself to me, and it’s local heroes such as Dan Leo and Subset. Earlier this summer I toured the Waterford Walls, further proof that the Irish scene is catching up with the international one.

But the one that took me by surprise was that scene within my own hometown, Longford, where I spent my childhood. I didn’t go in search of art here, as in fact, my expectations were of none. But time after time, visit after visit, I kept coming across mural after mural. Finally, it struck home. Longford has a great art scene! Then came the revelation that the scene didn’t owe itself to a large number of coincidences.

Cruthu Arts Festival

Most of the art in the town is the result of the Cruthú Art Festival, a locally run organisation promoting art and music. Now running annually for the last 4 years (2020 being an exception), each July they have invited artists from the different art mediums to perform events in the town. So it is with street art too, each year 5 artists are asked to expand the works of the town further.

What it all means, is there are an ever growing number of murals in this small market town. Longford, for those who don’t know it (I’m guessing that’s quite a lot of my readers), is a town of around 10,000 people near the centre of Ireland. It has never quite made the tourist trail, except for those taking to the river on the nearby Shannon, Ireland’s longest river. Yet it now boasts an art collection worthy of bringing visitors.

Gene from Cruthu has been a great help in helping me locate murals, and providing information on their artists and meaning. There is no theme given to artists, they are given the creative space and allowed to paint what they want. As you will see below, some chose to paint about local folklore, while others had other motivations. There is also a local initiative called “adolescent antics” where local secondary (high) school students train with an established artist in the towns market square. The best of these works are displayed around the town. The Square Eyes series you will see later was part of this.

A suggested tour of the walls of the Cruthu Arts Festival

With that in mind let me take you on a tour of the street art of the Cruthu Arts Festival. On the way into town (if you are approaching from Dublin), you might just spot the one below on the Dublin Road, just opposite Lidl. It’s actually a reference to the most traumatic thing to happen to the town this century.

On Christmas Day 2019, a huge fire engulfed the town’s cathedral. The cathedral museum was destroyed and contained a number of ecclesiastical artifacts including the 9th century Crozier of St Mel. The cathedral itself was mostly gutted also. Thankfully, it has since been restored and regains its status as the town’s finest building. It will come into vision on the right, not far from this mural. The mural is the work of Phil Atkinson, a local artist, whose work can be seen all over town also.

Our tour begins in the Longford Centre, the shopping heart of the town. There’s ample parking and also a chance to pick up a bite after your trip here. It’s also a great place to start your quest. What’s more parking is free throughout the town for 2020. Take a walk down Ardrum Court, where you will be met by the following art to get you started. The first we meet is half of the wooing of Etain, from Cruthu 2017. This is by graphic designers No Apology Design.

In the rear car park of Crossans shop, we find the first of several portraits by Pavel Iljin, a Dublin-based artist. His penchant is for portraits.

Cruthu Arts Festival
Iljin Street art Longford
The first by Iljin

The legend of Etain and Midir

While no direction was given to the artists, the local legend of Etain and Midir is a common theme. It tells the story of a prince Midir who fell in love with Etain, a beautiful maiden. As it turns out Midir was already married to Fuamnach, but as bygomy wasn’t a fairy crime, she allowed this. For a while that is. Seizing an opportunity, she first turned Etain into a butterfly and then using a storm banished her from the empire atop the local Ardagh Mountain.

Searching the land for years she finally ended up in Ulster where she landed in the goblet of the wife a local chieftain. Drinking it impregnated her immediately, and thus Etain was reborn again in nine months. This certainly would make some engrossing daytime TV nowadays.

When she grew up she wedded the high king of Ireland. As faith would have it Etain and Midir’s paths crossed again. Bound by marriage Etain wouldn’t return to Midir. However, Midir conjured a plan to win her back, via a game of chess. No, I didn’t see that coming either. Winning a kiss-off Etain in a game, Midir finally had his opportunity. With her in his arms, they vanished and were last seen as a pair of swans gliding away back to the magic kingdom.

Continuing the Tour of the Cruthu walls

Now, where was I? At this time continue the tour by leaving the car park and out onto Chapel Lane. The Lighthouse keeper, a moody black and white mural awaits, which was painted by Estr (Emma Blake) in 2016. Just around the corner of this building is the first of the murals by James Quinn (CERN) a New York native. CERN has been painting since the early ’90s and his works can be seen in South America, South Africa, Europe, and the US. This one, from 2017, definitely evokes emotions of a time long gone.

ESTR street art Longford, The lighthouse keeper
The Lighthouse Keeper by Estr
Cern street art Longford
Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu Arts Festival
CERNS excellent effort

Main Street

Ar first glance Main Street doesn’t particularly have much to offer the art lover. Looks are often deceptive of course. A series of alleyways off to the side provided the artists with a large number of walls. The first is Garvey’s Lane, the result of a collaboration between Iljin and KINMX. KINMX (Kathrina Rupit) is a Mexican-born, Dublin-based, street artist who generally combines social issues with femininity in her art. I’m also a big fan of her work in Dublin. Further through the lane is another from Iljin.

The next little laneway has a Mary Poppins-influenced depiction on the end wall from the Square Eyes project. The third alleyway filled with goodies is that in Kelly’s Yard; the first being an excellent multicoloured effort by a local, Ciara Farrell. The other here is CERN’s Owl from 2016. The artist found himself on a highway with an owl flying alongside and thus was the inspiration behind this. He attempted to capture both the energy and peacefulness of the nighttime.

Iljin Street art Longford
Iljin Street art Longford
KIN MX Street art Longford
A series of photos from the Kinmx/ Iljin collab
Iljin Street art Longford
Another Iljin portrait
Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu arts festival Longford
Ciara Farrells colourful portrait.
CERN street art, Longford
CERN’s owl

Out of town art of the Cruthu arts festival

My suggested route to see all the murals now takes you out of town a little to see some of the art on the outskirts, before looping back in (a car or bike may come in handy). Follow Richmond St out to Casey’s Cosy Cafe, which is vibrantly painted by Phil Atkinson. One of CERN’s more unusual efforts is then seen on St Michaels Road. This long route then takes the Athlone Road to Royal Canal Ave, where a couple of excellent Birds with Beats by Phil Atkinson are nesting. The estate finally leads to Harbour View which brings you back to the Market Square.

Phil Atkinson Street Art Longford
Casey’s Cosy Cafe by Phil Atkinson
Phil Atkinson Street Art Longford
Even the toilets got the street art treatment.
Cern street art Longford
I’ve no idea what’s going on here. By CERN
Phil Atkinson Street Art Longford
A Phil Atkinson work for a local market
Phil Atkinson Street Art Longford
A secretary bird chilling. From Phil Atkinson’s “Birds with Beats” series. Anything that makes an insane secretary bird chill is an achievement.
Phil Atkinson Street Art Longford
An Ostrich with some beats.

Market Square

The first stop here is canal Court with another of Phil Atkinson’s “Birds with Beats” from 2016. Right next to it is another Iljin beauty. Based on the most epic of stories from Irish mythology, the Tain, which tells of a war between Ulster and Queen Madbh of Connacht. In summary, Queen Madhb stole a bull known as the Brown Bull of Cooley, a prize bull and symbol at the time. She was pursued by Cu Chulainn, the greatest warrior in Irish folklore, across the country with their path passing these lands. As with much Irish mythology the story had far from a happy ending, and something of an early anti-war message.

Phil Atkinson Street Art Longford
More Birds with Beats by Phil Atkinson
Iljin Street art Longford
Iljin’s imagining of the Tain

The very first piece of the Cruthu Arts Festival back in 2016, was in fact this one on the back of the Dealz shop. CERN was guest of honour that year and proceeded to set the festival on the right track. I’ve separated the mural so you may appreciate it better.

Cern street art Longford
Cern street art Longford

We travel back along the Athlone Road for one more mural before looping into the centre of town for a motherload of art. Kenny’s Corner is a stunning reimaging of how it once was. Bog Lane leads into Longford Town Car Park and Jonny McKerrs’ mural inspired by Etain & Midir called Etain’s cup.

Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu Arts Festival
Etain’s cup by Jonny McKerr

Longford’s Brick Lane

Continuing through the car park, we arrive on Ballymahon Street. You can’t miss KINMX’s remarkable portrait across the street. Or the promise of more art behind it. This is on Breaden’s Lane off New Street, Longford’s Brick Lane if you will. As soon as you enter you’ll come across “Spelt out in Ribbon” by DMC (Dermot McConaghy). This Belfast artist is famed for his thought provoking work. This is hands down my favourite in the town, and is about a mother’s memory of childhood and always wearing a ribbon in her hair. Most of the rest of the artworks here were produced as part of the square eyes series.

KIN MX Street art Longford
DMC Street Art Longford
Spelt out in Ribbon By DMC
Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu Arts Festival
Cruthu Arts Festival

Our tour finally finishes on Dublin Street and the final piece on the frontage of the old Gardai station. It is now the scene of art by Shane Turner, a Montreal based artist creating pop and urban art. This was added in 2019.

Cruthu Arts Festival

To learn more about the Cruthu Arts Festival or their events for subsequent years, visit their website. I for one will be looking with anticipation to what 2021 will bring. Let’s hope it sees a year of more remarkable art in this small Irish town. Cruthu 2021 will run from July 20 to July 25th.

If you have an interest in the Irish street art scene, then I suggest you delve into my blogs on Dublin and Waterford.

Have you visited the murals of Longford? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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