Folk music fans will enjoy the Clew Bay Folk Club, a voluntary gathering, where musicians gather once a month in the Yard Bar of Matt Molloy’s in Westport to sing and play music together in the afternoon. Each month a theme is selected, such as the songs of Ewan MacColl, songs of Northern Ireland and songs about work. The club is helping to develop local songwriting and some musicians write songs specially for the occasion. All are welcome and the finale provides a great way to join in as everyone is invited to sing along.
Craft groups, such as The Octagon Quilters and knitting clubs get together regularly to work and share ideas. A variety of art groups work around the county, from veteran signwriter John Mulloy’s workshops ‘Stick, Brush, Eye’ to the landscape painters group to the printmaking classes at the The Custom House Gallery at Westport Quay and writing retreats at Old Rectory Retreat.
When it comes to stained glass, Mayo has a particularly rich heritage, with many of its churches boasting the distinctive work of Ireland’s best known stained glass artist, Harry Clarke. There are several practitioners at work around the county who also offer classes and weekend workshops in stained glass.
Most towns have writing groups. Also, jewellery-making, painting, photography, sewing and pottery-making classes and workshops abound.
Traditionally important, oral culture still has a place in Irish culture and may even be experiencing something of a renaissance with storytelling events and open mics popping up periodically in venues such as The Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar and The Creel Restaurant at Westport Quay.
Amateur Theatre thrives throughout the county, with several long-standing drama groups in Ballina, Belmullet, Castlebar, Claremorris (which hosts an annual drama festival), Ballinrobe (whose musical productions are award-winning), and Westport. Westport has a new theatre company called TheatreWorksWest, which is committed to producing classic and contemporary plays. St. Patrick’s Drama Group has more than forty years experience in Westport of bringing locally written plays and classics, such as John B. Keane’s The Field, to a local and international audience.
Community pages of local newspapers and libraries are the best places to tap into the many community arts activities and events.