When I was programming the Dublin Book Festival last year, I had in mind to do a cooking evening with a few celebrity chefs cooking an economy meal. I even called Avoca to see if we could do it there, but they were mid-renovations. One thing led to another and it never happened, so when I saw UNESCO City of Literature were hosting an evening in Fallon & Byrne with Georgina Campbell and Catherine Fulvio as two of the speakers, I knew I had to be there.
The Irish word Meitheal means ‘work team’ and was used to describe the practice, in rural Ireland, of neighbours helping one another during harvest time. Using the concept that many hands make light work, this communal work ethic benefited everyone involved. Flash forward several decades to the arrival of the Celtic Tiger. Things were good in Ireland, money was gushing in and people were too busy counting their cash to consider their neighbours. A distinct ‘me féin’ attitude prevailed and the spirit of Meitheal retreated into the shadows of the ambitious tiger. Then came the crash that took the wind from our sails, yet, as with everything in life, there is a silver lining to this murky, dismal cloud and that is the return of the community, the return of Meitheal.