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'We have fantastic artists, musicians and writers in Tipperary '

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Clonmel's Cliona Maher takes part in this week's series of My Tipperary Life

Clonmel's Cliona Maher takes part in this week's instalment of My Tipperary Life

Clonmel woman Cliona Maher, the former director of South Tipperary Arts Centre and now heading up the Clonmel Arts Festival, takes part in this week's instalment of My Tipperary Life. 

What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend in Tipperary?
My perfect day at the moment would be to cycle in the sunshine from Clonmel to Kilsheelan along the Suir Blueway and then come back to a well-earned lunch, probably in Hickey’s Café and Bakery. You get a different perspective on the lovely views around Clonmel. I’m looking forward to the launch in May as there’s a new artwork commissioned from local artist Maurice Caplice due to be unveiled.

Who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary in your lifetime - and why?
As I work in the arts, there are a lot of people who spring to mind. For his huge and continuing contribution to the musical life in the county, Danny Carroll of Banna Cluain Meala is hard to beat!

What's your first Tipperary memory?
I remember mum bringing us to the playground in the park. We lived on O’Connell St so we went to the park most days in the summer. I remember going up and down the steps of the Georgian houses as we went along the quays.
We’d go past Dowd’s Lane and I’ve strong memories of the smell of apples that you’d get as you passed.

What's your favourite part of the county - and why?
One of my favourite places to go is St Patrick’s Well in Marlfield, just outside Clonmel. It’s ancient and peaceful in a beautiful setting – a real hidden gem in a county with lots of more famous sacred sites like Holycross and the Rock of Cashel.

What do you think gives Tipperary its unique identity?
When I lived in Chicago, practically every time I mentioned where I was from, someone would joke “you’ve come a long way”!
It’s a really beautiful county, with lots of interesting characters.

Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
I was introduced to the work of CJ Boland last year when his granddaughter, Jane Clare, came to South Tipperary Arts Centre for Poetry Day Ireland. He’s most famous for his comic poems, like ‘The Two Travellers’, but he also wrote some very funny short stories in a pure Clonmel dialect which obviously hasn’t changed in a hundred years, and his work has a wonderful lyricism that transport you back to the Clonmel of the nineteenth century.

What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?
My mum is from Clonmel where I grew up and my dad was from Thurles where I went to secondary school.
Having one parent from South Tipperary and one from North Tipperary, I was always aware that the two parts of the county were quite different places. The amalgamation into one county needs to go a lot further in order to really bring people together.

If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Tipperary, what would it be?
I remember attending a meeting back in the early 90s to look for an arts centre for Clonmel and it was depressing when I returned two years ago to find that many of the same issues are still alive and kicking.
An underfunded arts and culture sector affects not only the ecology of arts in the region, but also other sectors such as tourism, education and business development.
It’s hard to attract top talent to the county, if people feel that their quality of life (in terms of access to professional theatre and music events) is going to be limited. You only have to look at towns that are famous for their cultural provision like Kilkenny or Sligo, to see the impact of strategic arts funding across a wide range of other areas.
We have fantastic artists, musicians and writers in Tipperary – we just don’t have the infrastructure to support them.