Wednesday 28 September 2022

Protectour at Port Laoise

After several years of working on it, Protectour by James Hayes, was finally finished and launched on Culture Night 2022 (Sept 23). I got to see it beforehand, however, as we had stopped by Port Laoise to view the finished work on our way out west at the end of August. 

It is made of polished concrete with stainless steel features and includes a time capsule to be opened in 50 years. This is located in the bottom section of the stainless steel feature on the central portal and was designed by Hayes to be accessible by the Laois Arts Office at that future date. 

The work is highly visible from a number of locations and will be a durable meeting point in the town with its location very near to the O'Moore Park GAA grounds.

It is also very close to the O'Moore roundabout, which is named after one of the seven septs (clans) of Laois that were transplanted from Laois to the southwest of Ireland (Munster) in the historic transfer of power that the sculpture also references.

The shadows cast by the central portal of the sculpture are very dynamic.

Culture Night 2022 saw a number of people who were directly involved with the project and members of Laois County Council flanking the Cathaoirleach (chairperson), Ms Thomasina Connell, who cut the ribbon to officially launch the sculpture.

Uillean piper Joseph Byrne played a traditional tribute to the seven septs of Laois and everyone then retired to a reception at a nearby cafĂ© for tea and coffee and absolutely amazing sweet and savoury snacks! 

When the commission was being offered before xmas 2019 the long road to it's completion at the end of August 2022 was not envisaged. There were many hurdles to be overcome (not least, the covid pandemic!) but the finished sculpture certainly stands as a testament to the perserverance of Hayes and the team of people behind the making of Protectour. The launch on Culture Night was a chilly autumn early evening, but at least it was dry, and the reception afterwards was charming.

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