© 2011 Zachary McCune playing_irish_postcard

Heritage at Play

For a month in the summer of 2010, I traveled to Ireland with Colleen Brogan to investigate the role of gaelic games in Irish society. Explicitly suppressed by British authorities throughout early modern Irish history, gaelic football and hurling were on the verge of extinction when they were consciously revived as part of the Celtic Cultural movement of the late 19th century. Today, gaelic games remain an unmistakably Irish activity, played in all 32 counties of Ireland despite the political tensions between the north and the southern Republic. Colleen and I were particularly interested in why these games continue to be played in the age of global sport. Why would the Irish chose to continue playing their own indigenous games (which are played purely for amateur love of the game) instead of football or olympic activities that could take them around the world?

Operating from a small cottage in Dublin 6, and traveling to County Offaly and County Cork, we attended gaelic game matches, interviewed players, fans, and managers, and even tried our own hand at the playing the games. We kept track of the project through twitter, nine “broadcasts from Dublin” on vimeo, and frequent blog posts on our WordPress website. We later termed this diverse approach to using multiple media outlets an “intermedia” project.

When we returned to the States, we edited twelve hours of raw footage down in a 32 minute final documentary we dubbed “Playing Irish”. We later premiered the film at the Newport Public Library in Newport, Rhode Island, and hope to shortly have it air in Ireland via An Lar TV.

The project was sponsored by AT&T and the Watson Institute for International Studies. In two receiving $2,500¬†grants, Colleen and I were named “New Media Fellows” of Watson’s Global Conversation Project. We were also named Watson Associates, a distinction that honors Brown University graduates whose work and passions consistently utilize a global perspective.

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