An event held in Ballinamallard at the end of last year brought together local artists and writers living in Fermanagh to mark works created during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Funded by Community Arts Partnership, ‘BOXOPERA’ manifested the claustrophobia of the pandemic through the writings and paintings of local people; reflecting on a time of being corralled into small spaces where only imagination and creativity offered entry into wider vistas.

The name of the installation was inspired by Benedict Kiely’s book, ‘Proxopera’, set amidst The Troubles, in which the main character himself in a situation which is antagonistic to all he believes in.

Held at The Mill, Ballinamallard in a concrete building – with the sides open to the stark December elements – the artists’ work was presented in black and white, displayed within four wooden box frames.

In the centre of three of the boxes was an etching of a bird’s nest, representing the notion of home. The fourth box had no nest. Nests are both fragile and resilient – withstanding storms, winds, and rain – yet in a moment they can be destroyed.

The top box, which had no nest, reminded attendees that not everyone had a home in which to hunker down.

Four pieces of writing were suspended inside each box by fine fishing line, suggesting how, during the pandemic, many people felt that time was suspended or that they were suspended in time.

In one of the boxes was an image of a fox, implying that predators too had gone to ground, and that not all homes were safe. The original full-colour painting of the fox was on display in a space apart from the installation.

BOXOPERA started as an installation, but as the artists read and performed their work – their voices rising above the winds – it became a moving performance.

The 16 pieces of writing and the drawings are going to be published in book form, with organisers noting several expressions of interest to exhibit BOXOPERA in other locations.