Circular Tales: engaging with the past to inspire the future

‘Circular Tales’ is a CFP project in collaboration with the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) and the Cork Traveller Women’s Network (CTWN), funded in 2023 by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover programme. The project is focused on the circular economy and aims to bring the past and the future together through sharing and collecting urban and rural stories and memories of reuse, recycling and thrift; of darning, dyeing, re-heeling and re-soling, ‘waste’-collecting and creative reuse of all kinds of things.  

This year has seen the Circular Tales team collecting stories from our recent past when waste was a dirty word. A time when reuse, recycling and longevity were the norms, unlike the intervening period, where disposal, convenience and planned obsolesce took precedence.

We have also been holding community listening events where the team shared stories and memories from our archive to celebrate the launch of our project ‘Circular Tales’, with a most engaged audience. Dr Cliona O’Carroll and James Furey (Project Lead), presented stories of how Cork City communities in the 1940s to 1960 stretched resources, earned extra money, and creatively appropriated all sorts of goods from chocolate crumb to apples to fish.

The broader project will engage with our colleagues in the Environmental Research Institute. The ERI will identify how these memories are relevant to current concerns about ecological sustainability. 

The Cork Traveller Women’s Network has been assisting us in documenting traditional Traveller crafts and practices. Throughout Traveller Pride 2023, we filmed and documented displays, workshops and exhibitions on tin smithing, paper flower making and beady pocket making. Travellers were the first community to feel the effects of plastics, none more than the tin smiths who saw their livelihood decline rapidly with the introduction of plastics. Watch the video below of tin smith Tom McDonnell demonstrating his craft.

Would you like to contribute?
If you have a story or an object you think would be worth documenting and adding to our collection. Contact project lead James Furey at

Traveller Pride 2023

Cork Repair Café: January 2024 The Lough Community Centre