CULTURE NIGHT | Henry Glassie : Field Work

Sep 17th
7:00 pm
Free event but booking in advance advised |


Over the last 50 years the celebrated American Folklorist Henry Glassie has been writing in-depth studies of communities and their art.  Inspired by the writings and ideas of Glassie – ‘Field Work’ is an immersive and meditative documentary set among the rituals and rhythms of working artists across Brazil, Turkey, North Carolina and Ireland.  The process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work.



Date: September 17th

Time: 7pm

Fee: Free

IMPORTANT INFORMATION for visiting our theatre:

In line with the Governments plan, in order to attend an event at Garter Lane, you and all of your booking party will be required to present one of the following on arrival at our theatre:

  • An EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) or the HSE Vaccination Card, or a COVID-19 Certificate that has been issued by non-EU states, which contains CONFIRMATION that the person has been vaccinated.
  • Unvaccinated minors under the age of 18 will be permitted to attend the event in the accompaniment of a fully vaccinated parent or guardian.
  • Early arrival to our theatre is advised and we suggest being present up to a half an hour before the event start time.
  • Garter Lane has ample space in both it’s courtyard and gallery in which to socially distance yourself and your party prior to the event.
  • Face coverings are required while moving about our building and may be removed once seated.
  • We ask that you (as we will) all adhere to all of the public health safety guidelines that keep us safe, these include proper hand hygiene and social distancing.




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Following on the success of ‘Song of Granite’, Henry Glassie: Field Work is the newly released Toronto Film Festival selected feature documentary from Director Pat Collins. It is a magisterial portrait of the most renowned American folklorist and ethnologist Henry Glassie now in his seventies. This film is a beautifully intricate exposition of Glassie’s life’s work which displays this director’s trademark deft touch and remarkable eye for details of the deepest significance.

Glassie’s subject is folklore but his deep abiding love for the people who create it resonates throughout the film. “I don’t study people . I stand with people and I study the things they create.”

 Field work is at the heart of Glassie’s lifelong engagement with folklore. In the words of poet Seamus Heaney “where the perfect eye of the blackbird watched, where one fern was always green I was standing watching you”  Fieldwork 1979

This film celebrates Glassie’s work, the people with whom he stands and their artwork.  Glassie’s long professional life encompasses the people and folklore of his native southern states; from the sublime vocal purity of Ola Belle Reed whom he befriended and recorded in the sixties, to the potters, sculptors, metal workers, gilders and painters of sacred art in Brazil, the ceramic masters and the women rug makers and weavers of Turkey, the story tellers and singers of Ballymenone on the Northern Irish border to mention just a few. Pat Collins’ sensitive positioning of Glassie’s own archive photographs, film and exquisite hand drawn maps deepen our understanding both of Glassie and the folklore he has so tenderly honoured in his work over decades of study scholarship love and friendship.

Filmed in Brazil, Ireland and the US in Glassie’s benevolent presence, artists like the sculptor Edival Rosas from Salvador city describe their practice as one where body and spirit are integrated, where in Glassie’s words the creative act brings “a momentary fullfilment of what it is to be human”.

 Under Pat Collins’ ever mindful direction the process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands, of the physicality of that work , and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work.

Pat Collins’ achievement with Henry Glassie :Field Work is to bring these makers of art, in wood, fabric, yarn, paint, clay, metal, in song and story to our attention through their work, through the raw materials they shape into art objects and the through the undeniable passion they carry to their work. In this way the work is accorded profound meaning for the societies out of which it is generated an aesthetic value which is transcendent.

What matters is passion and the devotion” and also “sincerity and fullness of being”. Without this, for Glassie, no art work can claim authenticity. The film itself stands as a realisation of this sincerity and fullness of being.

“I am delighted that ‘Henry Glassie: Field Work’ will be premiering at such a prestigious festival as Toronto.   Screening in the Contemporary World Cinema section at TIFF is an ideal launch for our film and it’s a testament to the work and ideas of Folklorist Henry Glassie.  Glassie is an inspiring advocate for art and artists and to the spirit of folk art. A special thanks to Fís Eireann/Screen Ireland and to An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council for their generous support.”

Pat Collins, Director




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South Wind Blows




I first heard Henry Glassie talking on Irish radio. It was a night time show called ‘Arts Tonight’ and the host was the poet Vincent Woods. They spoke for an hour; about folklore and art, his time in Ireland in the ‘70s, in Turkey in the ‘80s and his growing-up years in Virginia.  It remains one of my most memorable radio experiences,  up there with football matches and the music of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when we were tuning in to discover the sound of a larger world. But Glassie in that hour, took me right back to the small world, the small world that is in fact an everywhere – and to an acknowledgement that the appreciation for art is universal.


A few weeks later I wrote to Henry (he doesn’t do email) and we corresponded on and off for several years.  It wasn’t until 2016 that we finally met in person and I proposed the notion of a film.  Glassie is one of the most articulate and thought-provoking people I’ve ever met.  His engagement with his material, with the people he encounters, the artists he stands with and his philosophical outlook – all coalesce in a very passionate and engaged individual.


In 2018, Henry and his wife, folklorist Pravina Shukla published a book called ‘Sacred Art:  Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in modern Brazil’.  We travelled with Henry and Pravina to Salvador in Bahia and to a small pottery village called Maragojipinho and there we encountered dozens of artists who Henry and Pravina had spent so much time with over the previous decade. The artists opened their doors to us because the trust had already been established and we were able to spend time with them and capture their work in real time. We spent two days with Rosalvo Santana in his front room and filmed him as he made a saint from clay – the Nossa Senhora Desatadora dos Nós by hand and with the greatest attention and skill.  We spent days wondering if we could track down the artist Samuel Rodrigues in the streets of Salvador. When we did meet him, he took us to his father’s forge, and we filmed him at work – in 30 intense minutes he made a candomblé God from scrap metal.  It was like a performance, pure attention and concentration. 


We also travelled with Henry and Pravina to North Carolina where so many great potters live and work. Again, we spent days observing them at work – Kate Johnston and her husband Daniel Johnston and the English potter Mark Hewitt as he fired up the kiln and worked for days and nights in searing heat.


During the filming, Henry often said he didn’t care if he appeared in the film or not. I think he would have actually preferred if he wasn’t in it at all – that the artists we filmed would get the full attention of the viewer. It was something I struggled with – because I wanted to capture the way I felt when I heard him speak on the radio that first time.  Though I did convince him to sit down for one interview in Brazil it wasn’t until we reached his home in Bloomington, Indiana that we sat him down and spent two days asking him questions. I knew that his ideas would have to be a part of the film. Much could be expressed by just observing the artists at work, but Henry’s ideas were the glue that would bring the film together.  But still, some of that reticence remains in the finished film – Henry doesn’t appear fully until mid-way through the film.



It was a great privilege to make this film. I feel the film is a true collaboration and I couldn’t have made it without Henry’s input and generosity. His outlook and ideas and his writings are the reason this film exists. I hope it brings his important work to wider attention and that small communities everywhere see their own experience mirrored in the works and artists on display. Artists everywhere express the character and personality of their communities.










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