New street entertainment group will be big and brash and captivate audiences

Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

A street entertainment company to rival the renowned Macnas group in Galway is being launched in Clonmel.

Ten-feet tall warriors, knights on horseback and elaborately-designed costumes, floats and creations will be regular sights around the town once the group gets up and running.

The company is called Shellikybookie, a local colloquialism for a snail. But there’s nothing slow-moving about the ambitious plans that those behind the project have drawn up.

“It will be big and brash and will wow people on the street through the performances”, promises local artist Anthony Lawless, one of the company’s artistic directors. Anthony has dabbled in this genre for years, through his own exhibitions and creating the props for Alison Cronin’s Dance Centre’s annual shows. Now he wants to see if it can be done properly on a larger scale. He and the others involved believe it’s a concept that has fantastic potential and they hope it will be well supported.

The spectacle of pageantry will be brought to the streets of the town through the creative arts, which the group says will bring street entertainment to a new level.

A core group of “imagineers” and a team of volunteers will invite their audiences to “dare to dream” in the hope that the performances will capture the public’s imagination and have a long lasting effect on everyone involved.

Des Dillon, Ciara Connolly and Ursula Mullins are the other artistic directors and Peter Taylor and Laura Cotter are the musical directors.

Alison Cronin is the choreographer and the performance director is Shane Dempsey.

Shellikybookie has already been lined up for the Walled Towns Festival,which will be held towards the end of August and will be its first event; and Banna Chluain Meala’s summer Field Shows in Clonmel and other towns including Arklow, Athlone and Tallaght.

The company has plans to stage an event for Halloween, using the old lanes of the town. It’s also hoping to get the go-ahead to instal temporary gigantic installations on the river and Anthony Lawless says there will be several random performances that might arrive on the streets at any time.

The group will be formally launched at a fund-raising table quiz in Liam Daly’s, O’Connell Street at 8pm next Wednesday evening, 30th. It will rely heavily on grants from local government and the Arts Council and also hopes to generate funding from private companies.

Shellikybookie is appealing for volunteers of all ages from 16 up to help turn the dream into a reality. “It can be for just a few hours a month or a couple of nights a week”, says Anthony.

The directors are looking for artists; craftspeople such as welders, carpenters and painters; costume-makers and designers, and people with creative writing skills. And there will be a place for those without any creative skills but who just want to help out.

The group also welcomes donations of equipment including tools and sewing machines that would prove useful.

The company is operating from a large warehouse kindly made available by Europlan at the Ard Gaoithe Business Park. It’s intended that this base will be a hive of activity all year round. Plans include workshops run during the summer offering tuition and expertise in the various skills of street artistry including stilt-making, juggling and mime, all free of charge.

It will also be available to private, community and public projects, including companies who wish to build floats or create costumes for their entries in parades or private events including family days.

“The main thing is to get it out on the street, prove ourselves and capture people’s imagination”, says Anthony Lawless. He predicts that it will prove a voyage of discovery, not just for the audiences but for everyone involved.

“Once you have a concept in mind you have to take it from the warehouse to wherever it’s going”, he says.

Anyone with any views on or ideas for Shellikybookie may contact Anthony Lawless on 086-3021297. The group is also on Facebook.