Northern Ireland news

Great Hunger art collection on display in Derry

The Coming Home exhibition from Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, on display in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

THE world's largest collection of artwork relating to the famine has gone on display at Derry's Culturlann.

Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger, on loan from Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in the US, will remain in Derry until March 16 after which it will return to the university.

As a key port of disembarkation, thousands of people fled the famine through the city to the US or the New World. In 1847 alone, when the famine was at its height more than 12,000 people emigrated through Derry.

The exhibition features 50 pieces of art by some of Ireland's greatest artists, including John Behan, Jack B Yeats, Alanna O'Kelly and Michael Farrell among others. It will be accompanied by talks and music events between now and March. These will include famine-related discussions led by Derry poet and author, Seamus Deane and Professor Christine Kinealy of Quinnipiac University.

Catholic coadjutor bishop of Derry, Edward Maginn will feature in a talk this Wednesday by Turlough McConnell. A keen supporter of The Liberator, Daniel O'Connell, Bishop Maginn worked hard to save the starving of Derry and Donegal.

The exhibition coincides with the Cultúrlann's annual Imbolc festival, celebrating the arrival of the Gaelic spring. Among the leading musicians scheduled to perform during the exhibition's time in Derry will be Siobhan Peoples, a fiddle virtuoso and daughter of legendary fiddle player, Tommy Peoples who died last year. There will also be performances from Declan O'Rourke and Mick Moloney among others.

The exhibition was opened by mayor John Boyle at the weekend. Mr Boyle said the exhibition was a "huge coup" for the city.

"We're delighted Derry is hosting this exhibition and believe it will put the city on an international stage to showcase its culture, heritage and community and that it will allow people who visit our city to better understand our shared famine story," he said.

Eibhlín Ní Dhochartaigh of the Cultúrlann said the exhibition was a unique chance for the people of Derry to familiarise themselves with a story that was intrinsic to Irish culture and identity.

"We're encouraging everyone to visit this January to view this exhibition as a homecoming, because the famine story is part of our heritage," she said.

The exhibition runs at An Seaneaglais, An Cultúrlann, Great James Street until March 16 with further information available at www.culturlann.org.

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