SINÉAD COMES HOME TO SOUTH WICKLOW
ACTION! REPORTER DAVID MEDCALF SPOKE TO AN AUGHRIM WOMAN WHO HAS DIRECTED AND WRITTEN A BEAUTIFULLY MADE SHORT FILM CALLED ‘HOMECOMING’, WHICH IS SET IN FAMILIAR COUNTRYSIDE
AUGHRIM native Sinead O’Loughlin is artistically inclined. Of that there is no doubt, though it is hard to find the correct pigeon-hole for this multi-talented lady.
In a recent version of her CV, she described herself as a writer, theatre maker and drama facilitator. Now the title ‘movie maker’ may be added to the list.
She has spent the last few weeks busily putting the editing touches to a short film called ‘Homecoming’, which is sure to engage all who have the opportunity to see it.
Now that she lives in the Dublin village of Chapelizod, the production proved a genuine homecoming for her as it was largely shot in and around the south Wicklow countryside where she grew up.
Once the final cut is ready and two days’ work on location are reduced to 10 or 11 intense minutes, then it will be premiered by the county council, which backed the project.
After that, it will be screened a festivals around the world, giving audiences far and wide a view of the hilly green fields around Aughrim. They are sure to be enchanted.
Sinéad first had an inkling that she might be creatively inclined when she was a schoolgirl attending St Mary’s Secondary School in Arklow. The daughter of Mary and Willie O’Loughlin got the stage bug in first year.
She played the part of a Munchkin in the school production of ‘Wizard of Oz’, which starred Denise Brennan, who went on to make her mark on the professional stage.
Sinéad later hung around Gorey Little Theatre as a teenager and kept her creative options open in her choice of college.
She headed for Dún Laoghaire and a course of media and cultural studies. With a talent for writing, she had it half in mind to become a journalist but gradually steered her career into less frantic water.
The cultural studies department in Dún Laoghaire was not immediately aligned with the college’s film school, tending to produce critics rather than creators.
‘Our course was very good but we were talking about films rather than making them and I wished it was more practical,’ Sinéad recalls.
She tried to bridge the gap by joining the college drama society but there was no immediate move into the arts on graduation as she spent a year back on campus working as student welfare officer.
She then shook off the dust of Dublin by heading for Vancouver on the far side of Canada where some of the same urges rose to the surface during her time off from temporary employment waitressing or working in offices.
She appeared with a local theatre group in a murder mystery and took a screenwriting course, returning to Ireland keen to build on that experience.
But back in Ireland as a 23-year-old, she landed a job in the more humdrum surroundings of Hackett’s bookmakers in Dublin before the call of the arts lured her westwards.
She enrolled on an enriching year long course of theatre studies at NUI Galway, where this time she steered away from the reviewing and instead rolled up her sleeves for real acting.
The regime in Galway also allowed her scope to write for the theatre, inventing a play which was accepted by the promoters of a one-act festival.
In order to see it safely on to the stage, she ended up directing ‘Wake’ herself for the Galway Youth Theatre. The memory is a happy one: ‘It was the first time that I wrote something and it was really exciting.’
She remembers the reality of the performance at the Flat Lake Festival with her collaborator Mary Elizabeth Burke Kennedy. ‘We were so broke that we shared a pint of Guinness in the pub afterwards.’
The subject matter of ‘Wake’ was the suicide of a young man and, though plans to bring it to Electric Picnic never quite became a reality, the work turned out to have a lasting impact on the new playwright.
Sinéad confesses that she has been tinkering with it ever since – a full-length version lies in a drawer somewhere – and that the characters of what was essentially academic homework have come again to life in ‘Homecoming’.
‘I write but I stop and start – it’s a confidence thing,’ she muses, glad that the film has allowed her to bring the long running piece to a decent conclusion eight years on.
In the intervening years, she made herself busy on the arts scene in Dublin, without quite having the nerve to push herself into the spotlight, preferring to work as a producer/ administrator with local projects in Limerick and Blanchardstown.
Collaborators included women in a domestic workers’ action group and a bunch of recovering former drug addicts – ‘amazing people’ as she recalls them.
The writing bug continued to bite along the way, notably with a 1,500-word piece called ‘Sunday’ which brought her back to Dún Laoghaire for an anthology celebrating the opening of the public library there.
And the siren call of familiar hills stimu-