Background to Man, Woman and Child Project by Michael Fortune, January 2015

Man, Woman and Child builds on three previous projects I undertook with the National Library since 2009. The first project, The Magpies Nest was conducted with six older people from Wexford as part of the Bealtaine Festival and focused on particular areas of local research using the library’s print and photographic archives. This project resulted in an exhibition and project website which exposed research findings and laid the foundation for the song projects that followed. 
The projects that followed were conducted in collaboration with my partner, Aileen Lambert and kindly supported by The Arts Council in conjunction with Bealtaine, The National Library and The Irish Traditional Music Archive.  The first song project The Wild Bees Nest, proved hugely successful and involved eleven traditional singers embarking on an eight month journey which involced them writing a body of newly composed songs in the traditional style. This project received national media attention, appearing on various reports including the Six-One News, Morning Ireland and Nuacht TG4. A CD of the ten newly composed songs was subsequently funded by the Arts Council under the Deis Scheme and was launched at a special night in The Goilín Singers Club in 2012. You can find out about this project at or if you wish to receive a copy of the CD please contact me.
In 2012,  Aileen and myself worked with eight new singers on another traditional song research, composition and performance project entitled As I Roved Out. Working with the same partners and funders, this project looked at the notion of a journey within a song. Using this as a starting point, the singers wrote eight new songs and presented them at a concert in the NLI as part of the Bealtaine Festival in May 2012. The songs were performed to a packed house and can be heard on the project website
Man, Woman and Child developed from these projects and involved some of the singers I’d already worked with as well as some new ones. I developed the project idea in early 2013 and received funding from the Arts Council’s Deis Award to conduct it. The project continued to connect singers with the two great resources of the NLI and ITMA which helped add further structure/background to the songs that they choose to sing. The process of group meetings, tutorial type sessions and phone/email conversations further helped form the content of the project as it harnessed the experience and expertise already present within the group. This proved to be a fundamental shift in the thinking around traditional song collecting and presentation. In this case, the singers were the performers and collectors in the same breath. They knew where the songs were coming from, where they learnt them and showed an intelligent and a comprehensive overview in how they were presented to the listener. This project brought some new songs to the Irish traditional singing culture, but mostly it served to highlight how many of these songs were sung in Ireland prior to Child ever coming to Scotland or England. Through the singers own work, coupled with Jerry O’Reilly’s presentation, the project exposed how these songs existed and continue to exist in a variety of settings, from Wexford to Donegal and Dublin to Clare.

In April 2014 I was further awarded another Arts Council DEIS Award to conduct and develop the Man, Woman and Child programme. This new strand saw me develop new relationships with the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick where I work. Simular to the approach of the past project eight new singers were brought onboard and through meetings in Dublin and Wexford the project programme was formed. The 2014 phase involved singers: Grace Toland and Jim MacFarland, Sandra Joyce and Hammy Hamilton, Róisín Gaffney and Fergus Russell, Róisín White and Len Graham. As a result, four concerts were presented in the NLI in November and December 2014. Jerry O’Reilly again presented a talk on Child Ballads featuring recordings and live performances related to the songs selected by this years group of singers.

In February 2015, the singers and Jerry will be presenting a once off concert and talk in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, while I will also be presenting the project as part of the 2015 Inishowen Singing Festival, Co Donegal. 

As before all the events were documented and this material acts a new resource for anyone interested in the singing and the traditional arts in Ireland and abroad. In total there are 100 songs from the Child Ballad Collection which have been newly research, performed and presented since this projetc began in 2013. The project hopes to develop an international dimension in the near further.

If you have any questions regarding any of these project please feel free to contact me by phone at 00 353 (0)53 9256885 or 00 353 (0)87 6470247 or email at

Michael Fortune, January 2015
About Michael Fortune

Michael Fortune grew up in a family immersed in story, superstition and belief in an area called The Macamores, an old Gaelic stronghold stretching along the east coast of County Wexford. He completed his BA in Fine Art, specialising in video and performance at Limerick School of Art and Design and his MA in Film at Dun Laoghaire School of Film. Due to the ethnographic nature of his practice, he has been commissioned to undertake various folklore collections and traditional song research and performance projects throughout Ireland over the past decade. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and bursaries and conducts project work and public art commissions with people of all ages and abilities the length and breath of Ireland. He currently works as an assistant lecturer with Limerick School of Art and continues to conduct long and short term project work in communities and institutions.  He continues to live and work in rural Wexford, having moved inland to the The Duffry, yet another Gaelic stronghold which lies at the foot of Mount Leinster in north west Wexford. Here he lives with his with his partner, Aileen Lambert and their three young children.

Further information on his work in available at,,,,,,,

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