PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins will unveil a plaque in Athy to the late singer-songwriter, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen on Thursday 2 May, as part of the Made of Athy project.
The famed Canadian’s link to the town is through his collaboration with Kildare writer John MacKenna on the script for the requiem Between Your Love and Mine, which uses Cohen’s songs, words and poems. It was inspired in particular by his hope-filled lines: ‘Behold the gates of mercy, in arbitrary space, and none of us deserving the cruelty or the grace, o solitude of longing where love has been confined, come healing of the body, come healing of the mind.’ Just two weeks before his death, the singer approved the final draft.
Made of Athy’s Colm Walsh explained that it took over six months to arrange the President’s visit to the town, and that confirmation was only received in recent days. “We’re honoured,” he remarked in relation to the upcoming event, which is expected to draw large crowds to Athy.
Colm also noted that President Higgins is a huge fan of both men. The President was among the first to view the requiem when it premiered at the George Bernard Shaw Theatre in Carlow in 2017, while the requiem was also performed in Áras an Uachtaráin two years ago for Culture Night. In a statement released after Cohen’s death in 2016, President Higgins noted that he “captured not just feelings of loneliness and loss, but also the essence of human life” and has left “a lasting legacy and his work will continue to inspire current and future generations”.
The news comes as calls have been made to replicate this fantastic project, with Fianna Fáil councillor Naoise Ó Cearúil tabling a motion at the most recent meeting of Maynooth Municipal District seeking that “the Council develops a ‘Made in Maynooth’ campaign similar to ‘Made in Athy’”.
Well-known names including Johnny Cash, Johnny Marr of The Smiths and traditional Irish musician Liam Óg O’Flynn have been recognised over the last number of months through Made of Athy, which Colm explained will feature on RTÉ’s Nationwide this coming Friday night.
“It’s absolutely fantastic. I think it shows the effort that has been put into this project for Athy and the potential that it has from a tourism point of view,” Aoife Breslin, Cathaoirleach of Athy Municipal District, said of President Higgins’ upcoming visit to the town, adding that his itinerary will include a trip to the resource centre on Woodstock Street. “To get… the President to Athy is a huge challenge in itself and we were very successful in it. And I think we should pay tribute to a very small committee that has made this such a wonderful project.”