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Heritage at Play: Reflections on "Playing Irish"

Heritage at Play: Reflections on "Playing Irish"

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Published by Zachary McCune
After nine months of work, from the first twinkle of an idea to the screening of a feature documentary on gaelic games, the Heritage at Play project is wrapping up. In this short set of reflections, Zachary McCune gives a behind the scenes look at how Heritage at Play came to be, was managed, and eventually became a feature film.
After nine months of work, from the first twinkle of an idea to the screening of a feature documentary on gaelic games, the Heritage at Play project is wrapping up. In this short set of reflections, Zachary McCune gives a behind the scenes look at how Heritage at Play came to be, was managed, and eventually became a feature film.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Zachary McCune on Sep 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/26/2011

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Heritage
 
at Play
 Reections on the project, its oundations, its adventures and its eature flm “Playing Irish” 
by Zachary McCune
 
I
t was still snowing in Providence, Rhode Island when Colleen and I rst had the ideaor Heritage at Play. It was a Saturday evening and with a group o riends we wereshowing Youube clips o this and that. It was too cold to go anywhere, so we enter-tained ourselves by traveling in the ree, networked media o our global age.Aer watching a number o mishap-lled videos, one riend insisted on showing us a clip o something called “Road Bowling.” It was an Irish pastime, he said, and it eatured Irishmeno all ages pitching what appeared to be cannonballs down narrow country lanes. He wasstruck by how wonderully strange the games were, and how happy the players looked. As were we all really. Watching the video, I was reminded o something I had long orgotten; having once worked with a number o Irish sailors at a community boating center in Newport, Rhode Island, Ihad been exposed to an odd Irish game mysel. It eatured a long wooden paddle and a smallleather ball. But what was it called? I couldn’t remember. So I tried a ew queries about Irishgames and wooden paddles beore returning a short video highlight rom a game o hurl-ing. Hurling. Tat was the game. Look at this, I said to my road bowling riend, you want anincredible game? Look at this!Later that evening, with our riends away, Colleen and I went back over the videos. Tehurling had re-opened a long orgotten passion: the powerul excitement o seeing a com- pletely new game and trying to puzzle out its rules, participants, and passion. But no matterhow many videos I loaded, I simply could not make sense o the game. And no matter howmany videos I watched I ound mysel driven to watch more. Tis game was beautiul andremarkable. It seemed completely novel and notably un-globalized. For even while many o my riends including Colleen were Irish-American, the game was a complete enigma. Unlikeshamrocks, Guinness, and St. Patrick, this game simply had not made the voyage across theAtlantic into the popular consciousness o Irish-America.
where ideas come from
2
 
 Why?As any American knows, sports are more than just entertainments and exercise. Tey rep-resent an arena o pride and competition. Whether it’s exas county ootball rivals or Cold War hockey show-downs, sports provide a stage or measuring communities against oneanother. As such, the ultimate goal o any sport is to grow. o extend beyond its point o invention or development. For the British, colonization meant replacing native games in In-dia, South Arica and Australia with cricket and rugby. With the Olympic games, the entire world learns the same games in order that they may compete on a series o consistent playing elds.So what were these Irish men doing playing hurling? From the look o their stadiums, these were not small-time events. Tey seemed popular. But why then weren’t they popular any- where else? Why didn’t Irish-Americans know about these games? What did they mean tothe Irish people? What allowed them to perpetuate year aer year in the very ace o global-ization? And how, o course, were they actually played?A series o ortunate events allowed these midnight questions to become more than lost points o inquiry. Indeed, a strange arc o destiny actually allowed Colleen and I to ask Irishcitizens and dedicated Gaelic games players these questions less than six months aer werst thought them up.Te intercession, it would turn out, was the extension o a Brown University campus dead-line or a “New Media Fellowship.” Reading about the $2,500 grant in a campus email, Col-leen and I decided to apply or the Fellowships, but realized we would both need to win theawards in order to make the unding sucient.
3
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