Briefing note for #cong23. Full Details of All Events for CongRegation 2023

The following is a breakdown and the details of the 7 different events over the three days of #cong23 Nov 24-26th so you can orientate yourself in advance.    For those of you joining virtually the login details please contact Eoin for details..

For the first timers this may all seem overwhelming.  Although its spread over three days the main event is the unconference on Saturday 25th and there is no obligation to attend for three days or go to all events – it’s just they are all fascinating.  5 of the 7 events are family friendly so your kids/partners can also attend.  It really helps if you just add the names to the spreadsheet (access on request).

For those of you who still compiling their submission, please send over as soon as you can.  For those of you who won’t get around to the submission my ask is that you just give yourself time to reflect on the theme of ‘Reality’ although its probably ever present in our minds.  Everyone is treated equally on the day and you decide when, where and how you present.

CongRegation is a very relaxed affair.  We don’t schedule speaking slots or police who has spoken/not spoken, the submissions are a catalyst for discussion – not a test and for most events we flex with the numbers.

This event is for you and you are the beating heart of it.  Just let you mind go for gallop for a day into the real and unreal.

Now the details.  This is a long read.

Overall Schedule.

Friday 24th  Ashford Castle (Almost booked out )

19.00-22.00: A night of Reality.
22.00-23.00: Drinks in Danaghers, Cong Village

Saturday 25th Unconference. Cong Village

09.30-10.20 : Registration in Ryan’s Hotel
10.20-10.30 : Opening address and move to venues.
10.30-11.30 : Huddle 1
12.00-13:00 : Huddle 2
13.00-14.00 : Lunch
14.00-15.00 : Huddle 3
15.30-16.00 : Huddle 4
16:00-17.00 : Photo at Cong Cross followed by Workshops
17.00–17:30: Closing reception in Ryan’s
17.30-19.30 : Dinner in Lydons/Ryans/Pat Cohan
19.30-19:45: Buses leave for Clonbur
20.00–21.00: The Magic Play, All Saints Centre Clonbur Village

Sunday 26th. GeoWalk.

11.00 am Meeting at the Abbey, Cong Village

Ashford Castle Evening

This year the ‘Reality Talks’ in the private cinema in Ashford Castle will see an astronomer, shaman, philosopher and virtual world expert tease apart the tricky world of reality.

19.00-20.00: Reception Ashford Castle
20.00-2010:  Introduction & mood setting by Moshe
20.10-20.30: David Moore of Astronomy Ireland
20.30-20.50: Aldo Jordan founder of the Irish School of Shamanic Studies
20.50-21.10: Dr. Stephen Costello philosopher, existential psychoanalyst and head of the Viktor Frankl Institute in Ireland
21.10-21.30 Aileen Carville, Colonii
21.30-22.00 Open discussion moderated by Joan Mulvihill

This event is down to the last few seat but we have a waiting list on the registration sheet.  The venue can only hold 32 people so please check the sheet to see if your name is included. The full line up is also on the website.  Also, please note although we may have a reception beforehand, please grab something to eat before you get there as we won’t be serving food.

There is a reception in the castle from 7pm with the presentations kicking off at 8pm sharp.  Parking is in the car park located behind ‘Cullens At The Cottage’ (on the right before the bridge entrance) as the hotel is fully booked. There will be a shuttle service from the car park to the castle for attendees who would prefer not to walk but it is a 1 minute walk.

After Ashford Castle we will retire to Danaghers for chats, networking and ice breakers.

Saturday Unconference Running Order

Registration takes place from 9.30-10.20 in Ryans Hotel with huddles beginning at each of the 8 venues at 10.30 sharp.

We are doing the registration in the breakfast room.  Tea/coffee and scones will be available.  If you fancy a hot breakfast my best tip is to head to the Spar shop where they have a nice deli counter.  Things get a bit testy when people swipe the sausages meant for guests.

On arrival you will collect your lanyard from the hanging rack before signing in and getting your number.  This is a sticker that goes on your lanyard and tells you what venue you will be in and at what time according to the table so signing in and getting a number is important.

Each venue has a chairperson who guides proceedings and will be completely briefed. The chairperson will ask 3 people to volunteer to speak at each huddle.  You have 10-15 minutes to discuss your topic, followed by a 5 minute Q&A. You choose how, where and when you wish to present.  We may have a card/clock system in operation and you will be given notice of midway, 2 minutes left (green) and 30 seconds to wrap up (red).  Each huddle will kick start with a short introduction of who you are and what you do but please limit this to a few short sentences (plenty of time at the breaks to share more about you).  The ice breaker is a ‘life hack’.  This is tip for helping with personal or business life and could range from a handy online tool you use to a philosophical perspective.  This is designed to get everyone contributing from the start and is really helpful to all.  The earlier huddles will start with 3 speakers and the later ones may have two but this all depends on the final number on the day.  Those who have experienced CongRegation previously might volunteer for early presentations to get things moving.  The chair has a difficult task to keep things running smoothly so I would ask you to follow their guidance especially on timing, keeping on topic and including everyone in the narrative.  Expect robust exchanges but please be respectful and probe with questions rather than direct conflict.  Be willing to agree to disagree.

The spreadsheet/table on your lanyard is designed to try to ensure you meet new people at each session. Each session lasts one hour and you have 30 minutes to move to the next venue and chat with the other attendees. There are 4 sessions throughout the day – two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  The final huddle is being reduced to 30 minutes to allow for the two workshops at 4pm. We finish at 5pm with a group photo at the Cross in Cong Village.

We will all congregate in Ryan’s Hotel for a post unconference reception.  Dinner will be in Ryan’s/Danagher’s/Pat Cohan’s and Lydon’s.

16:00-17:00 Workshops (Ryans Hotel)

Following the unconference clowning artist Mitchell ‘Moshe’ Cohen who is flying in from the United Stated will deliver a 1 hr session will awaken your playfulness in a mature way, develop the power to transform the energies that create disturbance and disconnect.  The workshop’s explorations and practices draw from physical theater practices, clown improvisations, elements from butoh dance, qi gong and feldenkreis movement.

A second workshop led by Chris Reina from MakerMeet will use generated graphics to put attendees into places that are not real.   Using AI generated graphics and real humans along with a green screen and chromakey technology the workshop aims to take and make art, reality, illusion, confusion, ineptness and incompetence – while having lots of fun!

19.30-19.45: Bus shuttle and those driving will depart Cong Village for the Magic Play in the All Saints Centre in Clonbur (F12 H9R2).  The centre is a short drive (5km) and the meeting for the bus is outside O’Connor Spar Shop.

20.00-21.00: The Magic Play, Clonbur and return to Cong Village.

The Magic Play
I am delighted to announce that this year we have a treat for you with a special performance of ‘The Magic Play’, which just finished its run the Bewleys Café Theatre in Dublin.  This will replace the music workshop on Saturday night after the day of unconferencing and takes place in the beautifully restored All Saints Centre (built in 1840)  in Clonbur village.  Branded as fusion of comedy, magic and theatre it blends in nicely with this year’s theme.  Officially its for over 12 but baring a few curse words its suitable for all ages and you can bring your kids along.  We will have a bus shuttle and many of you will be driving.  I will shuttle stragglers in my own car.  We have 65 places for the performance.  From next week on I will offer seats to members of the local community so please add your names to the spreadsheet so we can reserve your seats.  We still hope to try have the poetry open mic when we return to the village.

09.00-17.00 Kids Forest School/Bush Craft 
This year we will be making the most of the forest and are organising bush craft day with activities from nature identification, rope skills, den building, nature arts and crafts.   Personally I love the ethos of the day “This is a child led programme to encourage resilience, confidence, and self esteem through nature connection and hands on learning”.  This workshop will take place regardless of rain so good rain gear is needed.  Under 5 year olds will need adult supervision for insurance reasons.  We have 20 places available so we can take mixed age groups.
Children can be dropped off from 9.30 and collected before 5pm.  Lunch will be provided but please bring their lunch if you have any special dietary requirements.
Names needed to be added to the registration sheet.

Sunday 26th GeoWalk 11.00am
The last event at CongRegation this year will be GeoWalk by a geologist from the Joyce Country GeoPark. Mixing myth, storytelling with explanations of rock formations this walk will begin at the Abbey in Cong Village at 11am.  The woods between Cong and Clonbur are home to an amazing karst landscape.  Limestone is soluble to acid water (like rain).  Over time cracks become fissures and entire cave systems are formed, like the Pigeon Hole in Cong Woods.  Expect surprises like fossilised coral to how the village location was once in warmer climates millions of year ago.

Please bring a good rain jacket and walking shoes.  This is a walking tour.

Venues and Chairs

The chairs and the 8 venues for #cong23 are:

  1. Barry Kennedy | Hungry Monk Gallery | One group here. Lunch in McHughs.
  2. Richard Millwood | Danaghers | One group in the café to the right. Lunch served.
  3. Damian Costello | Puddleducks | One group. Table at the window. Lunch served.
  4. Don Delaney | The Courthouse | One group. Round table. Lunch in Danaghers.
  5. Noreen Henry | Lydons | One group. Downstairs. Lunch served here.
  6. Alan Costello | The Irish History Bookstore | One group. Lunch in Ryans.
  7. Mike O’Rourke | McHughes | One group. Lunch Served.
  8. Tony O’Kelly | Ryans | One Group | Upstairs area over the bar. Lunch served here.

Hashtag and WhatsApp
We are using the hashtag #cong23 for the entire event.  If posting to social media please tag with this.  I am also toying with the idea of a group wide WhatsApp group.  If you think its a good idea let me know your number and I will try to set up.

All venues have wifi but be warned it can be temperamental at best, so treat as a nice to have rather than guaranteed.   Similarly on phone coverage, some sides of the village are better than others.


You will have free tea/coffee in all venues and lunch on Saturday is all covered by the generous support of the sponsors –, Blacknight, MKC Communications, Informed Decisions, Grow Remote, IRDG, Blockverse Ventures and the Advanced Productivity Skillnet.  Outside of the three venues (The Courthouse/Tourist Office, The Irish History Bookstore, The Hungry Monk) lunch will be in the last pre lunch venue.


There is now one ATM in Cong located in Danaghers Hotel but best to bring some cash with you just in case. The next nearest ATM is Clonbur Village about 5km away.


At the moment Lydons, Ryans, Pat Cohan and Danaghers will be serving dinner.  It is best to reserve in advance as there are other events taking place in the village that day.  Lydons has reserved tables for us and Ryans should be ok for last minute bar food.  However  I am equally aware that many of you have yet to meet.  As the day progresses people self organise into dinners groups.  Please be open to welcoming any new comers into your groups.  This is a great chance to solidify friendships formed during the day.  If booking start with Lydons as they have tables held for us.  We finish up at 5.30pm so that gives you 2 hours to have dinner.

Blog Submission

In preparation for #cong23 I really encourage you to read the other submissions and start the process of connecting with each other by either posting them on social media or commenting on the website.  The synopsis will help you speed read and focus on the ones that interest you. I have found my own perception of the Reality theme being modified and evolving as I read other contributors.  For any still to submit please send them to me as soon as you can or let me know how you are getting on.  We are flexible on timing but really need to know that you will be there on the day.  For those who might not get around to a submission just give yourself time to reflect on the theme – the other submissions can really help.  All opinions are valid and valued.


Please use the large car park at the entrance to the village at the roundabout or behind O’Connor’s Spar Shop/Garage (closes at 7pm) and behind Ryans Hotel (be care of the tight turn – we have had a few bumps in the past).  Please do not park in front of Ryan’s Butchers and narrow points of the road (especially the front of Ryan’s Hotel) as large trucks have difficulty passing.  Daily we have in excess of 40 large articulated trucks passing through the village.

Getting to Cong

Most people are driving to Cong and the list of those willing to car pool is on the registration sheet.  If you are happy to take someone with you (great chance to get to know people) please let me know and similarly if looking for a lift please consult and connect with people.  There are a number of people looking for lifts from Galway.  You should allow for at least three hours for the car trip from Dublin.  If you are travelling by car for Friday evening in Ashford Castle my strong recommendation is to avoid Galway City and to detour off the Motorway for Claregalway, Corrundula and then back on to the Headford road to Cong Village.  This involves 20 mins of national roads but will save you a lot of time getting through Galway traffic chaos.  On Saturday morning this will not be a problem.

Buses to Galway (from Dulin) are available every half hour from Citylink, GoBus and Bus Eireann. The nearest train station is Claremorris (30 mins), Galway (45 mins) and Castlebar (40 mins).  In theory you can get a bus to Cong but involves a transfer in Headford so a but messy.  Car pooling will help those taking public transport to finish the final leg to Cong and would be my preferred option for lots of reasons – carbon footprint to social engagement.


Let’s assume it will be wet and cold so please bring warm clothing and wet gear especially if planning on walks in the woods and the GeoWalk.


As it’s a tourist venue Cong has a good supply of hotels and B&Bs but most of the immediate rooms are booked out.   However last minute places do become available.   If you have yet to book please check out the listings on the site but a quick search will produce more options a short trip away in Clonbur Village.  It is best to phone the hotels as they have block booked rooms for us. Taxi services are available to get back to your accommodation if outside the village.  There are also some nice options still available on AirBnB.  Don’t let accommodation stop you attending.  There are options.  Contact me if in trouble.  The registration spreadsheet has a section for those looking for accommodation.

Teas and coffees will be served in most locations on demand.  As we will be taking tables for most of the day  I will be leaving a group tip in McHughes and Puddleducks but if you feel like you got good service please acknowledge with a tip.  It all helps oil the machinery.

Centralised Registration

I have centralised registration booking with 7 separate tabs for the events where I need to know the numbers.  The really important ones are Ashford Castle (we cannot squeeze any more than the lucky 32 in so check if your name is on the sheet before going to the castle), The Magic Play (for buses and we will offer tickets to others if not taken up by us),  the children’s forest school/bushcraft (for the number of instructors) and last minute accommodation. Please check out the different tabs and put in your names and numbers.  (Contact eoin at congregation dot ie if you dont have access to the registration sheet)

Remote Attendance

We have a number of the US and the Netherlands.  We really appreciate that you will be getting up extremely early to attend.   Learning from last year we will run the zoom link from the Irish History Bookstore as broadband let us down last year in other venues.  Alan Costello will be managing this and the first huddle Zoom link opening at 10:30am Irish time.  I am hoping to have a larger screen for the remote attendees so that you will have the best opportunity to hear their contributions.   Expect a few minutes delay as I set up.

Health & Safety

Dr Michael Regan is the nearest doctor located near the entrance to Cong Village in the Lynn Medical Centre  (094) 9546006.  The is one modern pharmacy in Cong Village run by Cormac on (094) 954 6119.  The defibrillator is located outside O’Connors Spar Shop.  Please report any medical incidents to Eoin on 086 8339540.

Respectful Debate

The range of perspectives in the submissions this year will be a catalyst for lots of debates and sharing of insights .  Expect divergent views and opinions.  I just ask you to be respectful but don’t shy from challenge and the richness of discussion this offers.  I am also extending a challenge to the more confident to encourage the quieter voices through inclusive contributions.  Please also take the guidance of the chairs who have a difficult task and only wish to have all voices heard.

In the event of something unforeseen happening could you please add your mobile number to the registration sheet or send to me.

Christmas Shopping

For those of you looking for a really nice Christmas present the Hungry Monk (one of the huddle venues) has some lovely artwork, the Irish History Bookstore has some really nice early edition books and as it happens the Christmas fair will be held on Sunday 26th in the Crossroad Centre opposite the gates to Ashford Castle. There are normally some nice craft options here.

At this point we are on target for over 80-100 attendees, 8 chairs and some observers spread over 7 events on three days.  Your attendance is really important to the smooth running of the event and if by any chance you cannot make it please let me as soon as possible as we will need to find replacements.  It is also not too late for new people to attend so if you know of anyone please share this email, direct them to me or the website.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of, Blacknight, MKC Communications, Informed Decisions, Grow Remote, IRDG, Blockverse Ventures and the ICBE Advanced Productivity Skillnet  and I would like to show my sincerely appreciation for their leap of faith in enabling this event to take place.

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