Thanks to a collaboration between Sligo Stoker Society and GMIT Letterfrack, we were allowed the use of lanterns designed by students of the renowned college as part of this year’s conference. Since 2011, first year students have designed pieces for the annual ‘After the Light’ night parade which takes place as part of Connemara Sea Week in the village at Halloween. GMIT lecturer, Geraldine O’Brien along with Tommy and Peter Casby (both Macnas artists) and Leo Hallissey (director of Connemara Environmental, Educational and Cultural Centre), work with students to create socially engaged art. Using a combination of found and biodegradable materials, students have worked to create lanterns and light installations.
Below: After the Light at Letterfrack, 2018.
In 2018 the Sligo Stoker Society approached the creative team and asked if they would be interested in collaborating for the ‘How Sligo Shaped Dracula’ day. This would ensure a ‘second’ outing for students’ projects in the post Halloween period. Taking place on 10 November, this conference in the Canis Major Gothic revival church was the perfect backdrop for the re-use of student decorations from ‘After the Light’. Alongside the usual brief, students were invited to consider Dracula or Gothic revival themes for their project outputs. Dr Marion McGarry (GMIT lecturer, art historian and member of Sligo Stoker Society) provided an additional brief with a lecture on nineteenth century Gothic revival design for students which featured the origins of the novel Dracula.
Some students included abstract representations of the Gothic in the work, while others took imagery directly from the novel. An example of the latter is Sligo student Maighréad Bussmann’s ‘bat’, whose red eyes, she says were inspired by Dracula. Its wings move realistically, and its bone structure was lit to give it a skeletal appearance in the dark. This installation took pride of place near the lectern at our conference alongside other students’ lanterns, which featured crucifixes, church motifs, gothic revival fretwork detailing and other appropriate decoration. Students’ work also featured in the Sligo Dracula Society window display in the offices of Failte Ireland in Sligo. We were delighted to work with GMIT Letterfrack this year and thankful to them for the partnership.