A Very Grand Canal

Artist Name(s) Geraldine O' Reilly, Eugene O'Brien, Veronica Nicholson, Las Cosa Preziosa, Wayne Brennan & Mixed Bag Media
Artwork title A Very Grand Canal
Context/Background In 2011, Offaly County Council embarked on a project to use the per cent for art scheme to re-imagine the Grand Canal in Offaly for its cultural values, including its cultural tourism potential. A Very Grand Canal is a collection of artistic responses to the Grand Canal commissioned by Offaly County Council through the per cent for arts scheme. The collection of prints, film, photography, soundscapes, music and literature form a multi-layered approach to celebrating the Grand Canal.   The Touring Exhibition: The exhibition was at the Waterways Ireland Headquarters, Enniskillen until the end of January 2013. Previous to this the work, in association with Waterways Ireland and Dublin Tall Ships 2012, was successfully launched and exhibited at Waterways Ireland Visitors Centre in Dublin during the Dublin Tall Ships Festival 2012. 

A Very Grand Canal is a collection of artistic responses to the Grand Canal commissioned by Offaly County Council through the per cent for arts scheme. Three projects were chosen.

  • A series of eight prints depicting the history and legacy of the Grand Canal 
    by Geraldine O'Reilly.
  • Six mooring and a silent thread by La Cosa Perziosa (Susanna Caprara). A series of 6 X 10 minute sonic interpretations of the flow and voices of the Grand Canal.
  • A Grand Experience: A film documentary about The Grand Canal Corridor - Shannon Harbour to Edenderry.



On Monday March 19 2012, the historic 68m Barge left Shannon Harbour for a five-day journey through the towns and villages on the Grand Canal. A film crew, a radio producer, and three artists were on board to experience and document this trip of a lifetime, meeting the communities who live and work beside the Grand Canal. 

The journey was recorded as a 74 min film documentary following 3 artists: Eugene O'Brien (writer) Veronica Nicholson (photographer) and Wayne Brennan (musician). Produced by Martina McGlynn and directed by Garrett Daly of Mixed Bag Media. 

The three artists on the boat and involved in The Grand Experience Film produced the following pieces of work in response to their respective experience of the voyage:

  • The Guerrillas of Love Light Comes Through by Veronica Nicholson
    Five large photo prints of the 68M at night, a light installation and a stop-motion animation.
  • The Greaser, a short story by Eugene O'Brien. 
  • Roots in these Lands, a song by Wayne Brennan 

Each of these outputs has had a life beyond the project's scheduled exhibitions in Offaly, Dublin and Athlone. The film was submitted to film festivals, the music played  as the musician tours, and the the prose retold elsewhere. Much this work  exists online, a now powerful international platform for cultural exchange.


The film A Grand Experience, was shown on RTÉ in October 2012, reaching 565,000 viewerss.


Geraldine O'Reilly is a visual artist and printmaker. She is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. She graduated with an honours Diploma and honours Degree in painting in 1983. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to New York in 1989.

She has had 16 solo exhibitions and shown in many selected group exhibitions throughout Ireland as well as showing in America, Australia, France, Belgium, Sweden and England. She is a former board member of Graphic Studio Dublin and was elected chairperson in 2008. In 2004 she was elected to Aosdána for her contribution to the arts in Ireland. Her one person exhibition for the Hamilton Gallery, Sligo opened on the 6th October 2011 and ran for three weeks. 

She has just completed two series of photo etchings based on work done on a residency at the Heinrich Boll House, Achill Island, Co Mayo and Inishmurray Island, Sligo Bay.  One of the series titled The Deserted Village was recently purchased by Quinnipiac University, Conneticut, USA for the launch of their new museum dedicated to the Irish Famine .She was selected for the exhibition Ciall/Sense which opened on the 9th April 2011 at the Aislann Centre, Gweedore, Donegal. She was awarded the judge's prize. In October 2011 she was awarded Per Cent for art commission by Offaly County Council to produce artwork based on exploring the Grand Canal.  The commission was launched by the Minister for the Arts Mr Jimmy Denihan at Offaly County Council Gallery, Tullamore in June 2012. A second launch happened in August 2012 at Waterways Ireland Visitor's Centre, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin. She is presently working on a series of drawings to be located in Fade Street, Dublin. the drawings are commissioned by Dublin City Council Arts Office. She has been selected for a residency at the Irish Cultural Centre, Paris, France for 2013. 

Eugene O'Brien wrote the hugely successful play Eden, which transferred from Dublin's Abbey Theatre to London's West End and premiered on Broadway in 2004. In 2008, he adapted the play for film. Starring Eileen Walsh and directed by Declan Recks, it was played at film festivals across the world and was nominated for the European Film Academy Awards 2008. Eugene also writes for television. His credits include the award-winning Pure Mule for RTE.

La Cosa Preziosa (Susanna Caprara) is a sound artist and field recordist originally from the south of Italy and based in Dublin, Ireland. The pseudonym La Cosa Preziosa ('the precious thing') refers to the beauty and fragility of the natural sounds that regularly feature in her soundscapes. These have been performed both in Europe and overseas, at Festivals including Ethnographic Terminalia(Montréal), International Streaming Festival (The Hague),Soundwaves Brighton (UK), BEAM Festival (Brunel University, UK) and (ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany). 

Currently curating the Sound Devices events exploring sound and literature on behalf of Rathmines Public Library/ UNESCO Dublin City of Literature, La Cosa Preziosa also recently completed a large scale Public Art Commission on the subject of the Irish Grand Canal Offaly County Council/ Dept. of the Environment and Local Government developed over the course of a six-month engagement field recording, composing and working with the local community. The resulting installation opened at Dublin's Tall Ships Festival in summer 2012. 

La Cosa Preziosa is a recipient of the 'Europe: A Sound Panorama' juried prize for soundscape art (Goethe Institut Belgrade, Deutschland Radio Kultur, ZKM Institut for Music and Acoustics Karlsruhe, Radio Belgrad, European Broadcasting Union Ars Acoustica Group), of a Culture Ireland Travel Award (2011) and of a Dublin City Council Artist Bursary for Music.

Her past professional background includes working in casting & production at Dublin's Gate Theatre, directing Dublin's Independent Youth Theatre and teaching drama to both children and young adults. In addition to her sound art work, Susanna curates the artists' programme for the first international Artist's Residency to open in her native Basilicata, Palazzo Rinaldi.

Wayne Brennan is a singer/songwriter from Co.Offaly, and was winner of the RTE/RAAP Bursary awards in 2012. Coming from a large family of builders he was lucky to have music as a corner stone of his home and traditional music was prominent in his family.

Veronica Nicholson is a freelance photographer and artist living and working in Offaly. She has travelled extensively and has worked on numerous residencies. In 1999 Nicolson visited the Middle East and Pakistan to photograph Irish emigrants for a book entitled 'The Scattering' which was published in 2000. She has exhibited in numerous major group and solo exhibitions and is a recipient of many awards from the Arts Council of Ireland. He has recently graduated with Masters in Art in the Digital World from NCAD.

Martina McGlynn & Garret Daly run Mixed Bag Media, a production company in Daingean Co. Offaly. They have produced a number of films and documentaries including the award winning Who is Dervla Murphy? and the short film Bogman

Commission Type Local Authority,Other state agency
Commissioner Name Offaly County Council Arts Office
Commissioning process Curated competition
Project commission dates January 1, 2010 - August 29, 2012
Partners Offaly County Council
Waterways Ireland
Artform Visual Arts,Film,Music,Literature
Art Practice Arts Participation
Funded By Offaly County Council,Other
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Project commission start date 01/01/2010
Project commission end date 29/08/2012
Location Waterways Ireland Headquarters, Enniskillen, October 2012 - January 2013. Waterways Ireland Visitors Centre, 14th August 2012 to 7th September 2012. 
County Offaly
Town Tullamore
Google Map Insert View this projects location
Website https://www.offaly.ie/eng/Services/Arts-and-Culture/Programmes/Public-Art/A-Very-Grand-Canal.html
Content contributor(s) Anne Mullee



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