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The ruin of a round stone castle sits on a tiny island on a lake, the island is just big enough for the tower. One side of the tower has crumbled away. Trees surround the island and disappear into the water, birds fly across the sky. The reflection of the tower is clearly seen in the still water, creating a mirror image. The weather is grey and foggy obscuring the boundary between the water and the sky.

Visual Art: The Waking Walls by AlanJames Burns

8 - 9 Sep 2023 (Past)

Townhall Cavan

The Waking Walls, a caoineadh of ecological and climate grief. With writer Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan, NYAH (Cross Border Collective of Traditional Arts Musicians), Cavan Arts Office, Irish Hospice Foundation and Cavan Adventure Club.

The iconic national monument of Cloughoughter Castle, sitting on its tiny island in the heart of Cavan’s lake lands, will soon premiere a collaborative event-based artwork The Waking Walls by Cavan artist AlanJames Burns.

Echoing from the walls of Cavan’s Cloughoughter Castle the stirring cries of an Irish caoineadh reverberate over the rippling lake water. Together, gathered on boats and at the lakeside, we absorb this iconic monument’s lament for the environmental and biodiversity losses the castle has witnessed over its lifetime.

The Waking Walls is a new collaborative, theatrical artwork that reawakens and equips us with age-old methods of coping with loss.

The Waking Walls is an invitation to reframe environmental grief – not as a state of disconnection and isolation, but as a unifying experience to collectively process climate disruption.

In The Waking Walls, the central historical 13th century building of Cloughoughter Castle now stands in disrepair as physical evidence of the effects of entropy, decay, human destruction and environmental degradation. Both evenings at dusk – from Friday 8th September to Saturday 9th September – audiences will embark upon a once-in-a-lifetime boat trip. Immersed within this breathtaking location, they will witness the castle personifying collective trauma connected to the climate catastrophe and ecological degradation. Cloughoughter Castle channels this grief and cries out in a call to arms for us to fight to protect ourselves against our inaction, embrace necessary change and live in harmony with the land once again.

The Waking Walls connects the mourning artforms of past generations with contemporary emotions of ecological grief. These mourning traditions have strong connections to the heritage of Ireland’s border region, bringing together keening rituals, oral traditions, and storytelling. The Waking Walls restores these skillsets of processing grief: the events offer us an experience and tools through which we can re-engage with and reframe environmental loss – not disconnected and isolated, but as a collective, unifying action that can be channelled as a catalyst for change.

Through this site-specific event, people are given an extraordinary chance to explore traditional ways of mourning to better understand and process contemporary ecological grief brought about by the climate emergency, all against the backdrop of this symbolic awe-inspiring national monument.

Public programme: Caoineadh Dúlra
In addition to The Waking Walls events in September, public caoineadh workshops called Caoineadh Dúlra will take place on 14th and 15th October. These workshops will explore biodiversity loss and climate grief. Booking for these workshops will open up in September through the website www.alanjamesburns.com

AlanJames Burns – Visual Artist
AlanJames Burns (they/them), is a neurodivergent, environmental artist and curator producing interactive, socially engaged and site-specific exhibitions and events. The focal points of their artistic practice are climate change, disability and wellbeing. In 2017 Burns toured Ireland with Entirely hollow aside from the dark, their acclaimed sound installation that personified Earth’s deteriorating mental health brought on by the human destruction of its physicality. Inside dark, underground caves, Entirely hollow aside from the dark presented an aural journey through Earth’s consciousness funded by The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon and originally commissioned by Fingal County Council Arts Office for Resort Revelations 2016. For the past three years AlanJames has been developing and touring Augmented Body, Altered Mind, an exhibition that uses brain-computer interfaces to immerse visitors in an audiovisual environment that unfolds in real-time. The ambitious work explores the intersection of the climate emergency, disability and neurodiversity. Burns holds a Masters in Visual Arts Practice from the Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Dun Laoghaire and a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Dublin Institute of Technology.

Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan – Writer
Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan is a writer and performer whose work has been published by Dedalus Press, Lifeboat Press, Poetry Ireland, Banshee, and Stinging Fly, amongst others. Chandrika was selected to participate in the Irish Writers Centre’s Borders programme 2018 and 2020, Poetry Ireland’s Introductions 2021, and Science Gallery Dublin’s Rapid Residency 2021. Chandrika was editor of Poetry Ireland’s Trumpet issue 9, is book reviewer for Children’s Books Ireland’s Inis magazine, and is on the Board of the Irish Writers Centre. She is Writer in Residence for the Institute of Physics Ireland for 2023.

NYAH: Cross Border Collective of Traditional Arts Musicians
NYAH collective of traditional arts musicians and NYAH Festival for traditional arts was established in 2003 and since its inception it has been ambitious in the programming and development of traditional arts. NYAH and Director Martin Donohoe worked closely with Cavan County Council and Comhaltas and brought Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to Cavan for three successful years. NYAH is part of a vibrant ecosystem of traditional festivals and events within County Cavan.

Time: Evenings Friday 8th – Saturday 9th September 2023, 4pm and 7.15pm each day

Location: Buses leaving Townhall Cavan for Cloughoughter Castle each day at 4pm for daylight performances and 7.15pm for the sunset performances. Please DO NOT drive to the site due to space restrictions.

Tickets: Booking is essential through the online booking system at Townhall Cavan here or by calling (049) 4380494.

Accessibility: The Waking Walls has built accessibility into experiential design of the events. Including accessible transport for each performance and ISL interpretation for performances on Saturday 9th. A full list of accessibility measures for each performance is available  here. An Easy Read and Social Story is available here.

The project team is committed to making the event as accessible as possible.

Free and reduced tickets are available, including for those living with a disability, low income, unemployed, OAP – available by request from Cavan Town Hall by emailing townhallcavan@cavancoco.ie or calling 049 43 80494.

The Waking Walls has been developed by Cavan-born environmental artist AlanJames Burns in collaboration with writer Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan, NYAH (Cross Border Collective of Traditional Arts Musicians), Cavan Arts Office, Irish Hospice Foundation and Cavan Adventure Club.

The Waking Walls is funded and supported by The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon Traditional Arts Project Award, Creative Ireland, Cavan Arts Office, Co-operation with Northern Ireland Scheme, Irish Hospice Foundation, Cavan Townhall, Cavan Adventure Club, Office of Public Works, Dept. of Housing Local Government and Heritage, One Resilient Earth, Caoineadh expert Marian Caulfield, Architect Jessica Lange and Cavan heritage and biodiversity advisors Heather Bothwell and Fergal Connolly.


AlanJames Burns
Cloughoughter Castle
The Waking Walls
Townhall Cavan