Caroline Clarke, Sally-Ann Duffy and Carmel O’Callaghan pictured in Bailieborough Library. They are members of Bailieborough Creative Hub, a group shortlisted for The Creative Lives Award. Photo: Alex Coleman

Bailieborough arts collective shortlisted for awards

Bailieborough Creative Hub is in the running for a prestigious international award for community groups.

The arts collective are one of 37 groups from across Ireland and Britain recognised for their work through the Creative Lives Awards. The group will first have to make it through the Irish finals before progressing onto the overall prize night in Leeds.

Sally-Ann Duffy is one of the driving forces behind the hub. While Bailieborough was already blessed with a writers groups and a photography group, Sally and her friends wanted a forum that embraced all artforms and creativity. Their get-togethers are usually held in Bailieborough Library once a month; or more often depending upon projects.

“It’s about providing a platform and support and encouragement for somebody who may do it as a hobby, but also may want to do it as a career - it doesn’t matter to us. It’s about encouraging creativity and showing we’re there to support them.

“Many of our members have gone on to have books published, had exhibitions - one of our members Miriam has had work going all over the world and exhibiting in America.”

The Creative Hub was formed in 2019 and has a “free flowing membership” with people coming and going as available time permits them to indulge their creative urges.

“You may not ever want to exhibit or show anybody your work, but it’s about planting that seed that you can do something creative which is absolutely essential for positive mental health. That’s what we always promote when we do work in schools with children and youth clubs.”

Currently there are about 17 active Hubsters, and Sally-Ann insists the door is open to anyone who wants to join - “there’s no criteria except you are over 18 and like to do things creatively”.

Considering Sally-Ann lives by the belief that everyone is inherently creative, the door is in effect open to all adults. Sally-Ann recalls inviting one woman to join the group, who had only moved to the town the year before and didn’t know anyone.

“She said, oh I’m not really that creative, I don’t do much.

“She took the most beautiful photograph that was exhibited in the museum in 2021, and she sold that within 10 minutes of people coming into the exhibition - somebody saw her work and bought it, so it really gave her confidence.”

For the last three years the Hub has been busy. Very busy.

Sally-Ann succinctly outlined for the Creative Lives judging panel some of the free creative arts events they have organised: “We brought Poetry Town to Bailieborough twice, hosted an open call free Summer Showcase for artists from around Ireland plus we have had exhibitions celebrating Culture Night and Heritage Week, published a poetry book and companion book to our exhibition in 2020, dressed shop windows, created videos showcasing individual talents of members and their poetry performances.”

Even the pandemic didn’t entirely stymie their endeavours.

“Over Covid we didn’t meet at all but we still managed to put together a book and an exhibition because the need and the want is there to create art and show art,” says Sally-Ann.

News of their shortlisting comes as they look forward to all the usual landmarks on their artistic calendar - the Midsummers Festival, Cruinniú na nÓg, Culture Night and a few new projects. They are currently creative an arts piece alongside a Syrian Women’s Group in Cavan which “is going really well”.

“We’re keeping busy doing the things we really love, and this year we are going to make more connections with other groups within the town [Bailieborough].”

Bailieborough Creative Hub’s nomination follows last year’s success of Tullyvin Musical Society in being shortlisted. Sally-Ann enthuses how creative the county is, and is thrilled for this accolade.

“We are so delighted to have been nominated and shortlisted,” Sally-Ann tells the Celt. “It’s recognition of the hard work we’ve put in over the last couple of years,”

The bios of the other groups in the running makes for some inspirational reading.

There’s an open-access LGBTQ, low-voiced choir based in Manchester; a digital art gallery boasting over 50 artists who discuss the impact of mental illness; a craft group for refugees and asylum seekers; and in Enniskillen ‘The Kindness Postbox’ that saw a child-sized postbox placed at a local shop for pupils from a nearby school to post mail - cards, letters and drawings - which were then delivered to a nearby care-home.

“It’s great reading up about the other groups and it also gives you ideas for where we can develop and do other things, because I’m always looking for different ways to engage with people.

“To be part of such a list of 36 other groups who do fantastic work - it’s a real privilege to be even shortlisted. It’s great.”

Judging panels from each nation will choose a winner for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, while members of the public can vote for their favourite in the People’s Choice Awards. Voting in the Choice Award is open until January 27. Winners will be announced at the Creative Lives Awards ceremony in Leeds on March 7 as part of the Leeds 2023 Year of Culture’s celebrations.