Cashel native Claire Fox is the current secretary with the Cashel Arts Festival Committee.
What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend in Tipperary?
My perfect day would probably revolve around food! We are blessed in Tipperary to have so many local producers and cafes and shops which support and value them. We are currently moving from Cashel to Fethard, and both are packed with cafes and restaurants. Covid and the lockdown had a terrible impact on our local businesses, but really inspiring to see people adapting so creatively, and to see the support from local people.
Who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary in your lifetime - and why?
Having been part of the Cashel Arts Festival Committee now for three years, it amazes me every time when I realise just how hard everyone works. It takes a lot to get anything done, and everyone is working for free, just for the love of our local community And there are thousands of similar groups, working away quietly, running the kind of operations that make a place special. So, I would say that it is all the wonderful volunteers have made the greatest contribution, working hard to deliver for Tipperary.
What's your first Tipperary memory?
I guess my first Tipperary memory would be sticky Cashel St Patrick's day parades with that first ice cream of the year in my hand. That and probably playing Ann Doyle in my primary school play. I also have a soft spot for Parson's Green. It was made into a big trip when we were little and I loved how interactive it was. Let's just say my husband was underwhelmed when he saw the beach there, but I certainly enjoyed myself!
What's your favourite part of the county - and why?
My husband's favourite way to spend a day is to climb a mountain, with me wheezing behind him. The views at the top of Sliabh Na mBan, or Galtee Mor are breathtaking and (almost) worth the climb. That and the pint afterwards! Tipp really has some lovely pubs.
What do you think gives Tipperary its unique identity?
The landscape is so beautiful and the history really feels present. I can see the Rock of Cashel out of the window as I write this, it really feels like we are connected to history. This has been something that we have celebrated in the Cashel Arts Festival, especially with this year's poetry book about the Walls of Cashel, as well as the carving by Philip Quinn in the grounds of St John the Baptist Cathedral, John Street Cashel. This will be completed during the 2020 festival and it celebrates the history of two very colourful characters in Cashel's history, as well as adding a new chapter to the town. You'll have to check the Cashel Arts Festival website to find out more!
Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
I love Denis O Driscoll because not only is he a wonderful poet, but there is the shock of recognition when reading. Not just of Tipperary, but of the everyday wprld around us. He writes about old women shopping, or train journeys in a way that elevates them into art.
I also really loved Julian Gough's Connect. He spoke at Cashel Arts festival in 2018 and he was incredibly inspiring. The kids all loved his Bear and the Hare, but I thought Connect was wonderful. It is the opposite of Denis O Driscoll in a way, science fiction set in near future America with self driving cars, drones and hackers. We have all sorts coming out of Tipperary!
What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?
At the moment of course, all of our energy is going into the response to Covid 19. It has been such an unprecedented challenge to everyone, worldwide. Hopefully the small return to normality we can see will continue, even if there are setbacks.
It has been heartening to see so many buildings in Cashel getting painted, it really makes you feel like there will be life after lockdown.
If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Tipperary, what would it be?
To follow on from the last question, there will be opportunities as well as challenges. My husband and I moved from Dublin three years ago, and we love it here. With so many people around the country realising that they can work from home, I hope that more of them decide to make a life in smaller towns and villages. Tipperary is ideal. That's my hope, that more people realise that there is life outside our cities!