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AERIDHEACHT - Taking the Air

Tuesday 5th - Sunday 10th July 2016, Pearse Museum, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


 In 2014 Tallaght Community Arts proposed to use the 2016 Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising as an opportunity to explore story of the radical and dynamic education experiment at St Enda’s School, undertaken by Patrick Pearse. 





Our vision was to re-imagine St Enda’s Open Day of 1914 including the mythical pageant; Fionn - A Dramatic Spectacle and to share with audiences the dynamic contribution that the school made to the nationalist movement over 100 years ago. 





AERIDHEACHT – Taking the Air was Patrick Pearse’s title for St Enda’s Annual Open Day and we adopted the title for our site-specific theatrical event in the grounds and house of the Pearse Museum, St Enda’s Park for July 2016





Context: In 1908 Padraig Pearse undertook a radical cultural and educational experiment which he believed would contribute to saving the Irish Language from extinction.  He set up St Enda’s School in 1908. 

Between 1908 and 1913: St. Enda’s boys were a regular fixture in Dublin’s social and cultural life in the early years of the twentieth century and were considered, without exception, as emblematic of the potential of Irish manhood.

Between 1908 and 1912 the boys performed in seven different plays at the Abbey Theatre and numerous others in the school; they also acted in at least six open-air pageants of Irish history at St. Enda’s, Jones’ Road (now Croke Park) and feiseanna around the country.

Elaine Sisson – The Boy as National Hero 

Pearse explored his evolving ideas about cultural education through the day to day life of the school and its imaginative curriculum. They included the staging of plays and pageants exploring and celebrating Ireland’s mythology, particularly Cú Chulainn and Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fianna:

Getting Started:

Tallaght Community Arts has a long history of creating participatory arts event, in collaboration with cultural partners and led by leading artists and participatory arts practitioners. 

In 2014, following an initial introductory meeting with then Minister Brian Hayes  MEP, Pearse Museum Curator – Brian Crowley, Director of Botanic Gardens/Pearse Museum – Dr. Matthew Jebb we undertook a research period with our artist team to explore how we could best to create our centenary event that would contribute to the museum’s work.


Key to our thinking was a process of working with a cast of fifty young participants aged 11 to 23 years, recruited locally and from across South Dublin County. 

At its heart would be a core cast of young people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds working alongside young people with a strong grasp of the Irish language.  We were also interested in recruiting participants from the Whitechurch area adjacent to the museum.


Between March - May 2015: We recruited a young core cast locally and county wide.

In June 2015 we ran a 5 day summer camp at the Pearse Museum with forty young people exploring how the school worked and what role the ‘open days’ and ‘pageants’ played in the life of the pupils.









Between January - June 2016 our artist team are working with our core cast during school holidays and weekends - developing our performance.

 Six performances are scheduled over six evenings, 5-10 July 2016


Artist Team: 

Our artist team consists of artists with national and international profiles; choreographer Rionach Ní Néill, composer Rudi Genbrugge, designer Tadashi Kato, site specific designer Andrew Siddall, producer Jennifer Webster and theatre director Tony Fegan. The project highlights Ireland’s contemporary participatory arts strengths and engagement with diverse participants and audiences in a national and international setting for this anniversary event.


 Informing our process throughout how the project and the subsequent public performances will be documented as a learning resource for museum educationalists and participatory arts practitioners interested in Pearse’s educational ideas.