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Why the Irish play Gaelic Games and Why they started in the first place
a documentary proposal by Colleen Brogan & Zachary McCune
Basketball in China. Cricket in India. Baseball in Latin America. Sports have long been part and parcel of colonization. In a globalized world, which worships the World Cup and the Olympic Games, shared global sports are seen as preferable to local alternatives. But what is lost in selecting “universal” games over indigenous ones? Are sports important to cultural and social heritages? Or are they free to be reassigned and replaced? 50 years before the Irish free state was declared, an association developed to preserve indigenous Irish sports. Formerly games outlawed by the British government, domestic pastimes such as “hurling” and “Gaelic football” were established as part of the broader Irish renaissance movement. Taken from the fringe of extinction, participation in these sports became a new type of patriotism, a new venue for nationalism, a new space to perform Irish-ness. Today, Irish sports are broadcast around the world on global satellite networks. With Irish pubs marking the boundaries of an endless Irish Diaspora, these televised sporting events mark a local Irish pastime made international, though they will never rival American professional leagues or Olympic sports. These Gaelic games present an opportunity to understand Ireland’s dedication to preserving its own culture in the face of globalization, as it did in the face of colonization. But there is an odd disjuncture. Of 80 million people worldwide who claim Irish descent, half are American citizens and few have ever heard of these sports. We propose an investigation of the importance of indigenous Irish sports to the history and character of the Irish people. We believe that as Irish-Americans we are in a unique position to bridge the gap between the global Americanized world of sports and the traditional nation of Irish sport. In the process, we hope to resolve the question of what local sports mean in an age of globalized athletic entertainment, and how “playing heritage” supports ideas of nation and identity.
Let us introduce ourselves. My name is Colleen Brogan, I grew up outside of Philadelphia in a family of six. My parents had their honeymoon in Ireland and all they brought back was a bunch of pictures of cows. A lifelong runner, I was recruited to Brown University’s Cross Country team, and promptly became quagmired in culture studies. After two years, I stopped running to pursue another lifelong athletic passion, horseback riding. I’m now a member of the Equestrian Team. Between all this running and riding, I’ve studied Art History and French-Semiotics. I’m an Undergraduate Fellow at The Cogut Center for Humanities and have done a great deal of research for Professor Catherine Lutz, including her recent “Bases of Empire” and “Carjacked” books. Hi, I’m Zachary McCune. I grew up outside of Boston devoted to the Red Sox and the Boston Celtics. In high school my family moved to Newport, RI to take up residence in a small house my first-generation, Irish great-grandfather built. I captained the basketball team and broke school records in track (not to be modest) and upon arriving at Brown joined the University sailing team. Absolutely smitten with athletics, I’ve punctuated my academic work with intramural squash, soccer, Frisbee, and ice hockey. I’ve also worked as a freelance journalist, gaining a reputation as someone willing to try anything. Along these lines, I’ve learned how to play polo and fence, the resulting articles earning me awards from the Rhode Island Press Association. As a student of Modern Culture and Media, I focus on digital media and digital media production. I’m an Undergraduate Fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities and I’ve done a great deal of research on the history of 20th century Europe, including a recent focus on Ireland. I’ve also done research for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and am currently employed as the Webmaster for the Brown Alumni Magazine Website.
Together, we’ve done a great deal of film and web media production. In the spring of 2009 we wrote, shot, and produced “Cinema Speramus”, a short film on the impact of financial aid at Brown. This film was selected as the winner for a University video competition that came with a $500 prize. In the fall of 2009, we collaborated on “Thoreauly Walden Pond”, a short documentary on the myth of Henry Thoreau at Walden Pond. This film was featured at a showcase of curated student work called “Miniature Worlds”. An on-going blog project, If Providence.com, showcases our writing and criticism online.
In a feature-length documentary to be shot in Ireland in July 2010, we will investigate the importance of indigenous sport to Irish ideas of nation and culture. Beginning in March 2010, we intend to begin surveying the impact of indigenous Irish sports in the political, cultural, and social formations of the modern Irish people. As a student in HIST1970: Modern Ireland, Zack will take the lead on this research in consultation with the course’s instructor, Professor Laura Moulton. After graduation, we will travel to Ireland for the month of July for fieldwork and filming. July features the annual hurling tournament and access to many Gaelic football contests. Additionally, Dublin has been selected by the European Union as the “European Capital of Sport” for the year 2010, so we will coordinate with events offered by the Dublin City Council. Our work in Ireland will be guided primarily by the Boston College Gaelic Athletic Association Oral History Project, which attempts to document the impact of the GAA on the history of the Irish state. This project will prove a crucial jumping off point, as it will establish a network of contacts for us to make use of. We will be assisting this project in producing this documentary, but also extending the scope of their work in considering sports and pastimes not formally represented by the GAA.
Furthermore, we both have Irish acquaintances that will be indispensible in this research. Zack has worked with a number of Irish sailors from County Cork and Colleen has Irish teammates on the Equestrian team, who can surely take us inside Irish Equestrian culture. Though yachting and horseback riding are not central to our expected focus, they round out a picture of the athletic passion of the Irish people. The purpose of this project is to produce a documentary film on Irish sport and society. To this effect we will focus on three Irish athletic phenomena: hurling, Gaelic football, and road bowling, asking what these sports mean to the Irish and why they keep playing them. We will learn how to play these sports, documenting our struggles and triumphs, and attend the cultural events surrounding these sports, conducting interviews with fans and athletes alike. We will seek the sports off the fields as well, documenting the commodities, heirlooms, memories, and civic reactions to these sports. While shooting, we will keep a blog on our progress and experiences, which we will also use to solicit reactions, ideas, and directions for the project. After a month, we will return to the United States to edit the footage into a feature-length documentary. We will publish the documentary to our blog, offering it free to download, and submit it to student film festivals. We believe we could make a vibrant, compelling product and look forward to sharing it with the world.
The project breaks down into three stages: 17 weeks of preparation for the fieldwork (From March-June 2010), 3 weeks of fieldwork in Ireland ( July 2010), and 4 weeks of postproduction and editing in Providence, RI (August 2010). We are in the process of working with the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Irish Consulate in Boston, and the BC-GAA Oral History Project to establish contacts and prepare a detailed itinerary for the trip. We wanted to supply a basic abstract of the Workplan, as well as a breakdown of the time spent in Ireland. Total Length: 24 weeks March - June 2010: Taking class in Modern Irish History (Zack) and Intermediate Video Production (Colleen), establishing contacts and itinerary with BC-Ireland GAA Oral History Project and the Irish Consulate. >> Draft photo permission and media release forms for official interviews >> Early interview and background research on Irish sports in America: study handball at “L Street”, a local athletics and swimming club in South Boston >> Early interview option at background research at Irish Roadbowling Association in New York, Sunday March 14th in Onondaga Lake Park, Liverpool NY http://irishroadbowling. org/ >> Read and research the Irish Sports Council’s Monitor for up to date facts and figures on Irish sport participation http://www.irishsportscouncil.ie/Research/The_Irish_Sports_ Monitor/The_Irish_Sports_Monitor_2008/The_Irish_Sports_Monitor_2008.html July 1: Fly to Dublin from Boston, MA. July 2-4: Establish contact with the BC-GAA Oral History Project and finalize details for the rest of the trip, visit local sports pubs and athletic clubs July 4: GAA Leister Hurling Final at Croke Park, Dublin
July 5-10: Volunteer with BC-Ireland GAA Oral History Project to interview local athletes and sports fans and document their work and interaction with Irish indigenous sports culture >> Watch Gaelic Football game and Hurling at Trinity College in Dublin to study college athletics and interview amateur athletes and institutionalized coaches and athletic programs (http://www.tcd.ie/Sport/) >> Visit RTÉ Two, Ireland’s second-oldest television channel that broadcasts Irish indigenous sports to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and worldwide. Headquarters in Dublin. July 11: GAA Leister Football Final at Croke Park, Dublin: interview fans, athletes, coaches, document the entire experience from inside the historic stadium and out July 12: Travel to Knappagh in County Mayo to visit the famous road bowling course, see a competition, and learn road bowling July 13-15: Travel to County Kilkenny (Pick up Rental Car) >> Visit Nowlan Park, the headquarters and professional field for the Kilkenny hurling team, the most successful hurling team in the Republic of Ireland >> Watch and learn Gaelic football from the Kilkenny Gaelic Football League, which does not compete in the Leister Football Championships but in an alternative competition, the Tommy Murphy Cup. >> Visit historic sports site (13th century Statutes of Kilkenny that mention hurling as a sport of the Celts) July 16-20: Travel to County Cork >> Visit to Tonofora, Dunmanway in County Cork to see the official Road Bowling training arena and interview recreational athletes >> Interview with the Irish Road Bowling Association director of East Cork sport Seamus O’Tuama
>> Interview and tour with Mr. Michael Crowley, director of Cork Sports. >>Watch and study for comparison Camogie (the woman’s variant of hurling) with the Blarney team, study women’s sports on an amateur level and interview athletes and coaches >> Visit the Mayfield Gaelic Academy to study the education and experience of traditional sports to primary and secondary school students, study the education and cultural transmission of indigenous sports at a young age >> Visit to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, a GAA stadium in Cork that hosts hurling and gaelic football matches July 21: Return to Dublin to fly back to Boston, MA. July 22-August 21: Take up Residence in Providence RI >> Edit film to production quality level
TRAVEL Flight: $1800 (2 Roundtrip Flights from Boston @ $900) Rental Car: 300 Euro/ 1 week ($500) Food: $700 Additional Transit: $200 LIVING Housing - 40 EURO/day (x21 days) = $1200 Editing Post-Production Living: $1000 LIVING TOTAL: $5,400 FILM EQUIPMENT Cameras (2) - $1100 Tripods (2) -$90 Memory (approximately 80 hours) - 5x 16 GB SD Cards (@$40 each) -$200 Microphones (2) - $200 TECH TOTAL: $1590 TOTAL COST: $6,990
Heritage at Play
a documentary proposal by Colleen Brogan & Zachary McCune photograph by Irish Philadelphia (creative commons attribution license) document design by Zachary McCune contact email@example.com