Seeds Were Sown
I’ve often been asked how I came to write Environment the Musical. The story begins when I was a young child.
Bord Fáilte (now Fáilte Ireland, the Irish Tourist board) launched The National Tidy Towns Initiative in 1958.
The passion and generosity of thousands of community volunteers since then have ensured the success of this innovative initiative. It can certainly be apportioned some of the credit for the positive transformation of cities, towns and villages throughout Ireland.
Some time during the sixties the late Breid Bonner paid a visit to our local Primary School in Buncrana. She was a secondary school teacher and founding member of our Tidy Towns Committee. She spoke about the importance of our role in helping to keep our town clean and pretty. Breid must have spoken with great passion and conviction because her visit had a lasting effect on me. She was the first woman to sit on the Buncrana UDC, serving as a Fianna Fáil Councillor from 1974 to 1994.
A Musical Influence
I was exposed to music early in life and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. My parents brought me to see the ‘Sound of Music’ around this time and I was hooked from the first scene. They subsequently bought the sound track and allowed me to play it over and over. This ensured that the positive impact of the film stayed with me.
The importance that music played in the story of the Trapp family is obvious and the film’s success perfectly demonstrates the power of memorable songs.
‘The Sound of Music’ is still one of my favourite films. I believe its impact on me as a child is one link in a chain of experiences that would lead me to become a Community Music Workshop leader.
Inspiring Lady Strikes Again!
Breid Bonner entered my life again when, in my late teens, I won joint first prize in the local Tidy Towns’ song writing competition. This was to be my first effort at writing an environmentally-themed song. A decade would pass before Breid would strike for a third time!
In the year 2000 she suggested I write a song about littering. It was her opinion that the right song would be the surest way of getting the anti-littering message into people’s heads- a song so catchy that men might be heard whistling the tune on their way to work.
At the time few people walked to work and I couldn’t recall when I’d last heard anyone whistle, but I did write a song for Breid. ‘Don’t Drop Your Litter’ would lay the foundation for the creation of ‘Environment the Musical’, my environmentally-themed musical.
The dedicated councillor and educator had worked her magic again. I will be eternally grateful for the positive influence this memorable lady had on my life.
When the campaign to get people recycling began in the late nineties it was my belief that if we could not get people to stop littering we were never going to succeed in convincing them to make the effort to recycle.
I was conscious of being able to recall all the advertising jingles I had heard through the years. I agreed with Breid that catchy educational songs could help in changing the public’s attitude to littering. The next song I wrote was ‘Mean, Green Anti-Litter Machines’.
Some time later it suddenly struck me that combining music and drama for this purpose would be the way to go. I was certain that this was the most effective way to inspire and educate a nation to begin caring for the most beautiful country on Earth.
Environment the Musical
The ‘Environment the Musical’ Resource Pack was launched in 2014 by renowned playwright and poet, Buncrana’s own Professor Frank McGuinness. This was a proud and memorable day and the rest, I hope, is history in the making!
My aim was to create a fun learning experience for children by tasking them with educating their audiences through entertainment. The musical provides much food for thought in relation to the topical issues of littering, recycling and dog fouling. In preparing for their role, each cast member also learns the importance of personal responsibility in caring for the environment.
I placed particular emphasis on creating a resource that would make teaching the songs achievable for all teachers, not just the experts. I am particularly proud of this aspect of the project.
Breid Bonner would be proud of Buncrana’s recent achievements in the Annual Tidy Towns Competition. In 1997, encouraged by Breid Bonner, Cllr. Rena Donaghey founded the current Buncrana Tidy Towns Initiative. Thanks to this dedicated group, since 2011 Buncrana has achieved one Bronze medal, three Silver, and Gold in 2015 and 2016. Now that is something worth singing about!
To learn more about ‘Environment the Musical’, visit www.environmentthemusical.ie