Southington couple working to keep Ogham, Irish culture alive

All Things Irish

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The pandemic has hit the Irish artisan community hard with no in-person festivals or shows this St. Patrick’s Day.

A Southington couple has created a platform to share all things Irish to try to keep the community afloat.

“There’s so much more to Celtic culture and Celtic history than I think people even realize,” said Colleen Berry Conway, an artist devoted to sharing Ogham, the ancient lost alphabet of the Celtic nations.

“It’s the first written form of the primitive Irish language,” said the co-owner of Ogham Arts. “So before the Irish wrote anything down, they were just a spoken people…It’s like the hieroglyphics to Egyptians, is the Ogham to the Irish.”

Meaning that most of the history back in the second century was passed down orally.

“It was so simple and beautiful, and the fact that it was the only way they felt they needed to write anything down back then.”

She and her husband, Christopher, fell in love with the lost Irish alphabet and wanted to create something more: an art business based in Ogham, creating handmade art to preserve the culture.

“Everything starts with my painting and then the sky is the limit after that…We went on the road immediately doing about 30-40 shows a year from Maine to Maryland; Celtic festivals, artisan fairs, Irish festivals, and did it all the way up until last year.”

However, the pandemic forced the Irish-inspired business to re-invent itself to an online festival platfom with a goal of sharing Irish culture with the world.

“We’re going to come up with a website where people can go and shop Celtic artisans; they can listen to live music, they can learn about the language, they can learn about dance, culture from all of the Celtic nations.”

She said they wanted to help out others hit hard by the pandemic, like local bands, all while creating an online Irish festival for all to enjoy.

“The cost of a ticket to get into a festival, the food, the beverage, all of that, put a fraction of that into the virtual tip jar of a musician. Put a fraction of that into the marketplace online from the comfort of your couch.”

For Conway it’s not about leprechauns and rainbows.

“I joke and say ‘I don’t sell leprechauns on ceramic mugs, I sell a part of history.’ That’s the passion behind it.”

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