Launch of “At the Heart” Botanical by Mary Dillon

The Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally, Co Laois recently hosted an exhibition by Tipperary based artist Mary Dillon who specialises in botanical artwork.  Officially opened on Friday 6th July at 4pm by Laois fashion designer Heidi Higgins.

Pictured at the Arthouse Gallery for the “At the Heart-Bontanical” exhibition launch were John King, Cathaoirleach Laois County Council, Mhuireann Ni Chonail, Laois Arts Officer, Heidi Higgins, Fashion Designer and Mary Dillon, Artist and course tutor. Picture Denis Byrne

The exhibition included work created by participants on a botanical painting course led by artist Mary Dillon at the Arthouse that ran from 2nd to the 6th July.


In the exhibition, At the Heart – Botanical, Mary Dillon takes up the challenge, breathing life, movement, heart and soul into her intricate plant portraits. Dillon is a contemporary artist who pushes the boundaries of botanical art in new and exciting ways.


Mary is an award winning botanical artist who exhibits her work internationally, most recently in Madrid where her work features on the cover of Tulipa Tulipae, a publication by Real Botanico Jardin, Madrid. Mary recently received the Anne Marie Carney Award and the Jean Emmons People’s Choice award at the ASBA (American Society of Botanical Artists) exhibition in San Francisco. She has been awarded Gold Medals and Best in Show in Botanical and Floral Art at Bloom, Dublin.  Mary has recently joined the teaching team at the Chelsea School of Botanical Art in London. She finds teaching botanical art the perfect opportunity to bring together her three passions of painting, plants and working with people.


Botanical art challenges us to capture in a painting the essence of a plant, it’s beauty, frailty, strength and intimacy and to do so in a truthful way.


Launch of Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Thomas McNally

Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Thomas McNally


Invincible Spirit by Simon Carman

Saturday 9th June promises to be a fun and illuminating day in Stradbally, Co Laois.  It kicks off at 2pm in the Laois Arthouse with an exhibition entitled ‘Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake’, by Thomas Mc Nally.

 Laois artist Thomas McNally has been working on interpreting Finnegans Wake for the last seven years and has published two books of his illustrations with The Lilliput Press (in 2014 and 2018). Both of these books are illustrated editions of the two fables that appear in Finnegans Wake. The first is The Ondt and the Gracehoper, Joyce’s re-telling of Aesop’s ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’; and the second is The Mookse and the Gripes, Joyce’s version of Aesop’s ‘The Fox and the Grapes’.The exhibition at the Arthouse in Stradbally will consist of McNally’s illustrations of these fables. The drawings and paintings on display will offer visitors a unique perspective on the often bizarre – but always hilarious – world of Joyce’s later writing. McNally’s illustrations strive to capture the humour that is at the heart of Finnegans Wake, and his child-like and colourful illustrations make Joyce’s literary achievement accessible to a much wider audience.   

 Finnegans Wake is the final novel by James Joyce and is considered to be one of the greatest achievements by any writer in the twentieth century. But since its first publication in 1939, readers have been perplexed by Joyce’s strange and experimental use of language. While Joyce continues to be celebrated as Ireland’s most remarkable writer owing to the success of his other books such as Dubliners and Ulysses, his final novel remains a neglected and poorly-understood masterpiece.  The books and illustrations are for sale. The exhibition runs until the 29th June at the Laois Arthouse.

 Thomas McNally is an artist and philosopher from Portlaoise. His philosophical publications include the book, Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge University Press, 2017). He has published two books of illustrations, both with the Lilliput Press: The Ondt and the Gracehoper (2014) and The Mookse and the Gripes (2018).

 The opening will be performed by Emmet Byrne. Emmet is a proud Laois man from Ballyroan. He attended both the Ballyroan Boy’s National School and Heywood Community College. Emmet started acting at 21 in the Drama Society in NUI, Galway and completed a MA in Drama and Theatre in 2012. He moved to Dublin to pursue a career and since has acted on stages around Ireland including: The Lime Tree in Limerick, Town Hall Theatre in Galway, The Abbey, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and The Gaiety in Dublin, and The Royal Opera House in Belfast. Most recently he starred as Sean Bourke in Cell Mates at The Hampstead Theatre, London. He also recently starred in RTÉ’s Striking Out as Ray Lamont. 

At 4pm on Saturday 9th June, Invincible Spirit, by Simon Carman will be on view for the public to see in Mc Keon Stone, Stradbally, Co Laois before it is installed in the national Stud, Co Kildare. Simon made the work over the last number of months in Mc Keon Stone, whilst residing at the Laois Arthouse. The enormity of Simon’s project becomes clearer when we consider the medium in which he works and the methods he needs to employ. The stone he has been sculpting (taken from McKeon’s quarry in Kilkenny) was originally 32 tonnes and he says he has ‘trimmed it down to 19 tonnes in the quarry. On completion it will be approximately 16 tonnes. The sculpture will stand at 2m tall by 2.7m long and approximately 1.3m deep.’ He explains that he ‘generally carves with pneumatics (compressed air hammers) and a lot of the work is finished by hand, which is very time consuming. A lot of my recent work has been highly polished which means a lot of man-hours in hand-finishing. For commissioned work such as Invincible Spirit, I employ very traditional techniques of creating a perfectly to scale maquette from life and then scaling that up to the desired size.’

 Simon Carman lives and works in County Fermanagh. As well as producing his own work, Carman is well recognised for his casting and carving skills and is often called upon to fabricate work for some of the country’s most recognised artists. Simon grew up in Dublin and has worked as an artist professionally all his life, following in the footsteps of his mother the recognised sculptor Cathy Carman, who hails from Co Laois. He attended Glasgow School of Art studying for a BA Hons in Sculpture following a foundation in Art at NCAD. He has worked in professional foundries such as Callow Bronze Foundry in County Mayo as well as setting up foundries and working for many years with the Leitrim Sculpture Centre. 

Following the tour of Invincible Spirit, Simon will give a talk and slide presentation, at 5pm the Laois Arthouse. Refreshments will be served following the talk.

Further details form Muireann Ni Chonaill, Arts Officer E:

Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Thomas McNally  runs from 9th June until Friday 29th June 2018 in the

Opening times: Tuesday and Thursday 1pm &-5pm & 5.30pm-8pm

Saturday 10am-1pm (through the Library)

Wednesday and Friday 1pm-4pm (through the Laois Arthouse)

For more details: T 057 8664109/4033 E

Launch of Welcome to May


The Stradbally Active Age Group launched their art exhibition titled “Welcome to May” at the Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally on Saturday 28th April at 1.30pm until 31st May.  The exhibition was officially launched by artist and art tutor Billy Dollard.  Following on from their inaugural and very successful first exhibition “Doorways of Stradbally” at Laois Arthouse in May 2017 this group have been working throughout the year to developing their artistic skills.  They were fortunate to receive funding from LOETB  earlier this year, allowing them the opportunity to receive a series of art workshops with art  tutor Billy Dollard.  Billy will also include a number of his works in the exhibition as well. “Welcome to May”  included a variety of original paintings including still life, pet portraits, local landmarks and landscapes. Exhibiting artists include:  Phyllis Bennett, Ettie Kennedy, Mary Whelan, Vera Donohue, Chris Moran and Michael Mulhare

The Stradbally group has been established for four years.  It is an open and inclusive organisation who aim to support and empower retired and semi-retired individuals in their community through a wide range of activities and new members are welcome to join at any time.





To celebrate the launch of Bliain na Gaeilge and Seachtain na Gaeilge, the Laois Arthouse, Stradbally, Co Laois, hosted  Portráidí Óir agus Portraidí eile by Pádraig Ó Flannabhra from the Wednesday 21st March at 1.30pm.  The exhibition was launched by poet and writer in Residence for Kerry County Council  Annemarie Ní Churráin.

Pádraig Ó Flannabhra has been a Photographer for most of his life and a full time professional since 1984, when he established his Photoart Studio, specializing in Portraiture, Landscape and Press work.  He has exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, notably in the UK and at the ‘Festival Interceltique de Lorient, France, winning many awards for his creative work.

The title  PORTRÁIDÍ ÓIR’,  not only reflects his love and support for our first language but, the exhibits also includes 10 Gold Portrait Awards, which he was presented with from 2004 onwards by Kodak. The Stradbally showing of his work was  the first time the Gold Award Portraits will be exhibited together in an exhibition. .

Launch of Heart Exhibition of Photographs

Tuesday 12th December saw the launch of “Heart”, an exhibition of photographs by dance artist Erica Borges and photographer Terry Conroy at the Gallery.  A great crowd attended to celebrate the launch.  The project was funded through the Laois Creative Ireland programme and brings to an end, a year of imaginative and creative projects overseen by the Arts and Heritage Sections of Laois County Council.  The exhibition was launched by of Alexandre Iseli  of Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company from Tipperary and it will run until Friday 26th December.


New Exhibition at Laois Arthouse

Upcoming Exhibition of Photography titled ‘Heart’

As part of the 2017 Creative Ireland Programme the Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally  hosted an exhibition of photographs titled ‘Heart’.  Comprising of a vibrant and unique collection of photographs created by dance artist Erica Pessanha Borges and photographer Terry Conroy.  The beauty and richness of some of County Laois Heritage sites form the backdrop to the dance forms captured in this collection of photographs.  The exhibition opened on  Tuesday 12th December at 7.30pm by Jazmin Chiodi of Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company ran until 26th January 2018.


Leaves Festival Programme Launched



Emo Court events 10-12 November

Dunamaise events 7-9 November

The annual Leaves Festival of Writing and Music is just around the corner. Leaves celebrates the diversity and richness in today’s literary, music, theatre and film scene. Leaves aims to excite and engage with audiences young and old.

This year the weekend-long programme will be held in Emo Court; the magnificent Gandon designed neo-classical house and gardens on the outskirts of Portlaoise. At the recent launch of the Leaves Festival in Emo Court, Festival Curator, Muireann Ní Chonaill said, “the Leaves Festival is a great opportunity to celebrate writers, musicians and the world of film and theatre. We are very excited to be hosting the Leaves weekend in the beautiful surroundings of Emo Court and there is no better place to listen to and meet writers and musicians.”

Opening the weekend in the Drawing Room, Emo Court, on Friday night 10th November, at 8.00pm are poets Jean Ó Brien, Martin Figura, and Helen Ivory. They will be joined by musician, Úna Keane and the event will be chaired by Arthur Broomfield.

The Tea Rooms in Emo Court is the venue for Saturday mornings writing workshop, to be led by Helen Ivory. It runs from 10am-12.30pm on Saturday 11th November.

Returning to the Drawing Room for the rest of Saturday’s events(11th November), are poets Denise Curtin, Paddy Moran, Karen J Mc Donnell, joined by Portlaoise born musician, Gary Dunne. This event will be chaired by Séamus Hosey and commences at 3.00pm.

To celebrate National Harp Day, Scottish Harpist, Catriona McKay together with Swedish nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson, will perform a special concert. They will be accompanied by the Music Generation Laois Harpists and it commences at 5.00pm on 11th November.

Saturday evening (11th November) will feature Lisa Harding and Kevin Barry reading and discussing their novels with Sean Rocks, presenter of Arena, on Radio 1 and it commences at 8.00pm.

On Sunday at noon, 12th  November, the Drawing Room will be the setting for the premiere of Thresholds.

This new music commission celebrating the theme of pollination, by Ian Wilson will be performed by saxophonist, Cathal Roche. It was funded through the Creative Ireland Laois programme. The winning poems on the theme of pollination will be read by the prizewinners at this event. The new Laois Spoken Word artist, who will commence their ten month residency during the Leaves Festival will be introduced to the public at this gathering also. During their residency the Spoken Word artist will work with young people throughout the county, through secondary schools, Youth Theatre and Youthreach.

The Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise has scheduled events for Leaves, including cinema; My Cousin Rebecca and the live broadcast from the Harold Pinter Theatre, London of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  Dubliners’ Women, by Katie O’Kelly, featuring female characters from James Joyce’s Dubliners, will be performed.

Readings in the schools and libraries will be by Helen Ivory, Martin Figura and Alan Nolan.

Booking Box Office: 0578663355 or online at

Follow us on Facebook at Leaves. For more information please contact the Arts Office, Laois County Council Portlaoise, Co Laois. Email Web



Laois Leaves Festival of Literature and Music

The annual Leaves Festival of Writing and Music is just around the corner. Leaves celebrates the diversity and richness in today’s literary, music, theatre and film scene. Leaves aims to excite and engage with audiences young and old.  Running from the 7th to the 12th November it promises something for everyone. The programme will be launched on Friday 6th October at Emo Court. more information to come.

“Unlocking the Creative Self” with writer Pauline Clooney

The Arts Office, Laois County Council will host a writers workshop titled “Unlocking the Creative Self” with writer Pauline Clooney at Laois Arthouse, Stradbally on Thursday 12th October from 4pm-6pm as part of the Laois Connects Programme.

Free/Booking essential – Limited numbers – T: 057 8664033/13 or E:

Many writers have said that their own life experiences inform their writing whether that writing is fiction, poetry or creative non-fiction.  New writers will often be told to write about what they know, but this does not mean that you are restricted to write about what you have experienced.

Once you acquire the tools for flexing your writing muscle you will be taken to places you didn’t know you knew, characters you don’t remember meeting, events you’d forgotten you were part of. This workshop will take you through ways of exploring what it is you know and what you don’t realise you know. The workshop will be activity and discussion based. There will be a short piece of writing you will be asked to read in preparation for the course content. All you need on the day is a pen and some paper and an open mind.

 Pauline Clooney is a native of Portlaoise.  She holds an M.Litt from NUI Maynooth (2006), and an MA in Creative Writing from UCD (2015). She is an award winning writer having won the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story competition in 2015 and being runner up in the Doolin Short Story competition (2015).  Her stories have been longlisted for the inaugural Colm Tóibín Short Story Competition (2016), the Fish Short Memoir competition (2014), the Fish Short Story Prize (2015). She is the 2017 recipient of Kildare County Council Tyrone Guthrie bursary.  Formerly an English and history teacher at second level she now teaches creative writing at the Kildare Writing Centre which she established in 2016. She is currently working on her debut novel.



Exhibition puts focus on Young Laois Artists


The artistic talents of the young people of Co. Laois, and the contribution they have made towards the success of the Texaco Children’s Art Competition, now in its 63rd year, were celebrated in a week-long art exhibition entitled ‘Time and Space’ – A Celebration of Texaco Children’s Art Success in Laois’ which opened at the Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally on Thursday 21st September.

At the Official Opening of the ” Time and Space ” Exhibition – a celebration of Texaco Children’s Art Success in Laois , at the Laois Arthouse Gallery, were: Clr. Padraig Fleming ( Cathaoirleach Laois County Council ), Lucy Deegan ( Texaco Winner/ Culture night Ambassador ), Muireann Ni Chonaill ( Laois Arts Officer )and Ciaran Leonard ( Texaco Winner ). Photo: Michael Scully- no reproduction fee.

Curated by Lucy Deegan, the 2017 Laois Culture Night Ambassador, the exhibits included the colourful portrait study of her brother Tom, carefully executed with colouring pencils and white gel pen, which won Lucy the top prize in the 63rd Texaco Children’s Art Competition.


Also amongst the exhibits at Stradbally were works by three other Laois students all of whom featured highly in the competition this year. A  portrait study entitled ‘Weathered Wisdom’ by 13-years old Ciarán Leonard, a pupil at St. Mary’s CBS Portlaoise, which took second prize in the 12-13 years age category. Other young Laois winners whose winning works featured were sister and brother Asma Zulfiqas (age 14), from Scoil Chríost Rí, Portlaoise and Abdul Ahad Zulfiqar (age 6), from Holy Family Junior School, Portlaoise.

A pupil of Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach in Carlow Town, Lucy Deegan is the daughter of well-known tourism industry figure, Jim Deegan – founder of the Railtours Ireland First Class organisation, and his wife Fionnuala – herself an accomplished animation artist whose work features in Hollywood blockbusters ‘An American Tail’ and ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’.


No stranger to the Competition, Lucy has featured amongst the prizewinners on five occasions to date. Her three siblings, brother Tom and sisters Annie Rose and Juliet, have also won prizes in previous years.


As part of her prizewinning package, 17-years old Lucy from Luggacurran received a top prize of €1,500 plus an invitation to visit Tokyo awarded by the International Foundation for Arts and Culture where she was an honoured guest at a ceremony held in conjunction with the 18th International High School Arts Festival in which her winning artwork was exhibited.


Underlining the support that exists for the Texaco Children’s Art Competition is the fact that, over the past five years alone, some 2,799 entries were received from young Laois artists – a figure that confirms the view that the number of entries submitted by Laois students since the competition first began in 1955 amounts to some tens of thousands.


The exhibition was launched by Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Padraig Fleming. Speaking about the exhibition Cathaoirleach Padraig Fleming said, ‘the level of young talent in our county is evident from the art works on display. The work is breathtaking. Choosing Lucy Deegan as Culture Night Ambassador is a very fitting honour. She is an inspiration to all art lovers, young and old in our county.’