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Ireland and Popular Culture


Sylvie Mikowski

This book explores the differences between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures in an Irish context, arguing that these differences require constant revision and redefinition. The volume includes analysis of famous Irish writers such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, who are commonly regarded as part of the canon of elite Irish literature but who have either used elements of popular culture in their work, or else occupy a special position in popular culture themselves. Other chapters examine the elusiveness of the boundary between elite and popular culture using objects such as postcards, digital animation, surfing and the teaching of Irish mythology in schools, and demonstrating how this boundary is constantly renegotiated through subversion and parody or through the recycling of folk culture by state institutions. The book also explores the dichotomy between an ‘authentic’ Irish culture, as allegedly exemplified by Irish folklore, mythology, sport and theatre, all of which have been claimed as markers of national identity, and fabricated Irishness, designed to fit commercial or political purposes. The case of Ireland provides a rich and fascinating example of the debates which underlie the study of popular culture around the world today.
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Alexia Martin: The Carnsore Point Festival (1978–1981): Between Antinuclear Rally and Cultural Event


← 198 | 199 → ALEXIA MARTIN

For the last thirty years, Ireland has proudly defined itself as ‘nuclear-free’. But at the end of the 1960s, the Irish had their own plans for a nuclear power station, at Carnsore Point, a headland in the very south-east corner of County Wexford. By the 1970s the nuclear project was becoming a reality and the Irish were at a crossroads in their history, when they had to make a choice whether or not to become a nuclear state.

After a short period of positive response to the project, the first objections were raised locally then throughout Ireland, north and south. The first rally took the form of a three-day festival on the projected site for the power station in August 1978. The event was much bigger than expected with some 25,000 visitors from all walks of life, one of the biggest protest rallies since the independence. It was then renewed every summer for four years with 65,000 people attending the second festival. Because of their impact on public opinion, these mass-meetings were instrumental in halting the Government’s plans to build a nuclear plant on that site. This wide impact had much to do with the festive atmosphere of the event, with theatre plays and concerts organized alongside the speeches on the nuclear issue.

This calls for an examination of the connection between popular culture and antinuclear protest, drawing on the example of the Carnsore Point festival and the...

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