Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark first with unique online Poetry Map

21st March 2022

Geopark Digital Poetry Map Launch Event 21 March 2022

Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark encompasses some of the finest landscapes on the island of Ireland including over 70 rich heritage sites located in West Cavan and West Fermanagh. The recently rebranded, Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark, formerly known as Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, became the first ever cross-border Geopark in the World in 2008.  The Geopark which is jointly managed by Fermanagh Omagh District Council and Cavan County Council has now achieved another first with the launch of an online Poetry Map on UNESCO World Poetry Day, 21st March 2022.

This digital project is funded by Geological Survey of Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund.  Cavan Arts Office and Townhall Ramor, County Cavan also contributed to the creation of the interactive Geopark Poetry Map, which includes text on screen and audio of the poems read by professional actors.

Necessity truly became the mother of invention for this project. Cavan writer Bee Smith needed to find an alternative project when the early lockdown in 2020 prevented her from delivering poetry workshops in schools for Poetry Day Ireland that year. The project grew from an idea and gained support from Cuilcagh Lakelands then Officer for Engagement, Martina O’Neill, and Cavan Arts Officer Catriona O’Reilly. The application to the Geological Survey Ireland Geoheritage Fund was successful and Padraig McIntyre of Townhall Ramor found actors to voice the poems for the digital project.

The Geopark Poetry Map commissioned new poems by established authors based on specific sites within the Geopark and inspired by their Geoheritage. Commissioned work includes poetry from Belcoo native Maria McManus and Fermanagh based Séamas Mac Annaidh. Dara McAnulty, author of award-winning Diary of a Young Naturalist, spent his early years close to Geopark sites. Noel Monahan, author of seven poetry collections, lives in County Cavan close to Geopark sites. Anthony J. Quinn, better known for his crime novels, who was previously in 2018/2019 Cavan County Writer in Residence and led landscape writing initiatives during his term.

An Open Call for new and emerging poets to submit poems based on the Geoheritage of Geopark sites attracted responses not just from Cavan and Fermanagh, but nationally and internationally. The project included submissions from the Irish diaspora living in Singapore, France and England. Eight finalists have had their contributions included.

Pandemic restrictions limited outreach to schools as initially planned, but Florencecourt Primary School and Curravagh National School, Glangevlin, welcomed Geopark Poetry Map curator Bee Smith for outdoor poetry workshops that resulted in some of their pupils’ work being included on the Geopark Poetry Map.

Councillor John Paul Feeley who is Chair of the Cross-Border Geopark Committee stated ‘Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark in West Cavan and West Fermanagh is home to some of the finest landscapes in Ireland. Steeped in natural, built and cultural heritage.  A UNESCO Global Geopark seeks to protect and conserve that landscape but also create opportunities for sustainable development and grow the communities that live within it.  Living in this tranquil landscape is a blessing. I know that its beauty can inspire, relax and uplift, that it should inspire so much poetry is no surprise.   During the most recent Covid 19 pandemic we have been challenged more than ever to find innovative ways to achieve this goal.  This Digital Poetry Map is an excellent example of one of the many innovations delivered by the Geopark completed through engagement with artists, schools, the wider community and the GSI.  I commend all involved in bringing this to fruition’

Martina O’Neill, in her role as Development Officer – Partnership & Engagement with the Global Geopark, worked with local poet and Geopark Ambassador, Bee Smith who curated the project. Martina O’ Neill states: I am truly delighted with the new Geopark Digital Poetry map and have been very suitably impressed with the standard of writing. It is immensely heart-warming to see how the landscapes and geo heritage of our Geopark have been able to spark such emotion, inspiration and creativity.  A particular thanks to our Geopark Guide, Bee Smith, who’s brainchild this project is and who has been a loyal and strong advocate of the Geopark and all it encompasses for many years now. We are very fortunate to work with our many Geopark Guides across the Geopark who enable us to bring the rich heritage and stories of the Geopark to life in many creative ways’

Clare Glanville, Senior Geologist, Geological Survey Ireland states Clare Glanville, Senior Geologist, Geoheritage Programme, Geological Survey Ireland states “I am delighted to see this project come to completion and be made available to so many people. The geoheritage grant scheme is intended to support communities, to foster good relationships, and to encourage people to work with us to use our data, maps and expertise to develop local tourism and educational resources. This project has ticked all of those boxes; engaging with local communities and schools, developing the geotourism of the geopark, and raising awareness of the great depth and breadth of the physical landscape and geological processes that surround us, connecting people through geology and poetry to a sense of place”.

The project was supported by Catriona O’Reilly, Cavan Arts Officer and Fermanagh Omagh District Council Arts Manager, Bryony May.  Catriona O’Reilly says of the project, “This landscape, so rich in cultural history, is a fitting home for an interactive poetic map.   From Cathal Buí Mac Ghiolla Gunna writing in the 1700’s up to the present day writing of Bee Smith and Seamus O hÚltacháin this landscape has woven its poetic spell and the time is right to share the magic, the draíocht with the world.”