The wave of contemporary street art crossing the country arrived in Ballina in 2019. #PureBallina! was a leading event for Ballina Fringe Festival 2019 and the start of a five-year community street art project, offering opportunities for communiity groups, including marginalised groups, to engage with and participate in the arts, and create a visible piece of street art of special meaning to them.
#PureBallina leaves a permanent legacy, using existing buildings and spaces as canvases for new street art works, as in the award winning Waterford Walls festival and Limerick’s street art projects, and as well as highlighting social issues, helping to address dereliction and neglect in Ballina’s urban centre, enhancing the streetscape and inspiring pride in the community.
In 2019, thanks to funding from the National Youth Council of Ireland, Creative Ireland, Dulux and Archers, one of Ireland’s leading street artists Friz visited Ballina for a creative residency during September and October, working with the North Mayo Youth Project, Involve Youth Project and Ballina Men’s Shed to develop artwork concepts, and in the latter, using content from the Jackie Clarke Collection archive for inspiration.
Friz’s flagship artwork – the Táin Wall – shows ‘Fliadhais of the beautiful soft hair’, the heroine of a local legend, the Táin Bó Fliadhais, the Cattle Raid of Mayo. Ballina Men’s Shed tells the story of salmon fishermen on the Moy from days of yore, and the youth groups created a piece celebrating aspects of traditional Traveller culture, which also highlights how music brings communities together in Ballina.
The Táin Wall is the flagship #PureBallina street art project for 2019. Painted by Friz, it depicts Fliadhais of the lovely soft hair, the central character of the Táin Bó Fliadhais, now immortalised on Teeling Street in Ballina, with her cow Maol.
The Táin Bó Fliadhais
The Táin Bó Fliadhais is an early medieval Irish tale, part of the Ulster cycle and one of the Táin or Cattle Raid tales. Ireland at the time is divided into territories (Tuatha), ruled by kings and queens. Brehon law is the order of the day. Men and women fight as equals in often gruesome, fiercely fought territorial wars.
Queen Meabh is ruler of Connacht. The Gamhanraidhs own much of the land west of the Shannon. Fliadhais and her husband Oilill Fionn of the Gamhanraidhs rule much of what is now North Mayo.
Fliadhais and Oilill have a cow, Maol, reputed to give vast quantities of milk daily – enough for 300 warriors and their families. Fliadhais has a grá for Fergus Mac Róich of Ulster. While in hiding at Rathcroghan after a swathe of tribal battles in Ulster, he in turn develops a grá for Queen Meabh.
Bricne, a West of Ireland trickster wreaks havoc, setting Fergus and Oilill against each other in a mighty battle for Fliadhais. Her husband Oilill wins, and Fergus is held captive. Meabh, furious to lose her lover to Flidhais, seeks revenge. Or, is she looking for Maol, the cow? She has a fondness for good livestock.
There follows a bloody battle. The Gamhanraidh are badly defeated and Oilill is killed by Fergus. Fliadhais is guilt-ridden, knowing her wandering eyes caused the death of her husband. Their fort is ransacked, and Fergus sets out to bring Fliadhais, her fabled cow Maol, and their herds of animals to Rathcroghan as his bounty.
The road to Rathcroghan is challenging. Large pockets of Fliadhais’ Gamhanraidh attack and challenge along the way. Finally – led by Muireadheach – the Gamhanraidh liberate Fliadhais and her beloved Maol from Queen Meabh’s troops and return them, jubilant, home to north Mayo. You can read more about the Cattle Raid of Mayo legend here.
Much thanks is due to the many historians and researchers who have documented this Táin tale over the years.
Created by members of Ballina Mens’s Shed, under the guidance of Friz
This greyscale piece was created on Pawn Office Lane, designed as a surprise to those who take the shortcut through the laneway from town to the RIver Moy. Taking photos from the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, and drawing on their own memories, the members of Ballina Men’s Shed worked with Friz to create a piece that reminded them of a sight from their youth no longer seen, and unique to Ballina – the netting of salmon between the Upper and Lower Bridges.
Created by members of Involve Youth Project and the North Mayo Youth Project, supported by Friz
The theme of Ballina Fringe Festival 2019 was ‘People’, and young people from the two youth projects came together, and decided upon a theme. They wanted to acknowledge Traveller heritage and tradition – the music and celebrations, the skilled craftmanship, the beautifully crafted caravans of years gone by, and the strength of connection among Mincéir families. Also noted was the way that music brings communities together in the town of Ballina.
All three walls were cleaned, prepped and primed by the Community Employment team at Moy Valley Resources, assisted by Ballina Tidy Towns.