By Suzanne Pender
PUBLIC policy and creative sectors came together in Carlow this week for the Places Matter conference, to explore new perspectives in investing more creatively in people and places.
The current humanitarian emergency in Ukraine was on everybody’s mind as many speakers reflected on the importance of places to people.
Carlow poet Clifton Redmond, who was commissioned by Carlow County Council to write a poem for the conference, delivered a powerful observational reflection on Carlow as a place, and said “place is the physical space we never leave, because it never leaves us”.
Speaking at the conference as she launched the Arts Council’s new spatial policy ‘Place, Space and People’, minister Catherine Martin said the policy is about equity and ensuring that irrespective of where they live, work and enjoy downtime, people have decent opportunities to engage in the arts as audiences, makers, creators and participants, in a sustained way.
“This is something that the conference today looks at with; for example, the Irish Architecture Foundation and Dr Sindy Joyce leading workshops on spatial justice, exploring equality issues around our designed environments and how much agency people have in determining the environments in which they live,” said minister Martin.
Kathleen Holohan, chief executive Carlow County Council, said the local authority was delighted to be hosting this major conference between local government and the Arts Council in Carlow. “Carlow has been at the forefront of local arts development for over 23 years, creating innovative ways in supporting and developing place-based practice with our artists and communities,” she said.
Conference contributors posed questions such as how has the impact of the pandemic influenced the importance of the places where we live and their creative potential. Who is part of our place-based conversations and are all voices included? Does where we live matter for opportunities to engage in the arts?
Over 50 speakers took part in 15 sessions, in person, online and live-streamed. Keynote contributors included Valerie Mulvin, architect and author of the book Approximate formality, the morphology of Irish towns and Emmanuel Pratt from the Sweet Water Foundation in Chicago, who joined remotely.
With the event taking place in Visual Carlow, there was a focus on local programmes and artists such as Take A Part Carlow, Clifton Redmond, as well as Tom de Paor and Felispeaks.