52 It is a place that is very enclosed. From an outsider’s point of view. Everybody’s married into everybody else in Stradbally. Most people haven’t moved very far, so they’re all related. I suppose a lot of small towns are a bit like that, you know, they’re very clannish. You have to be very careful, everyone’s related, and they all know each other. It took us a while to find out who was related to whom you know. The term ‘community’ has been used (and misused) in such a wide range of contexts that it is almost impossible to proffer a workable definition. The term is best approached contextually. It is frequently used to describe both a geographical area and communities of interest. But the word also has other connotations. For example, a number of rather intangible factors which we often think of as ‘community spirit’ are important in creating positive feelings about place and place attachment. Mulgan has employed the term ‘soft architecture’ to describe a place’s ‘‘feel and atmosphere, its social networks and its sense of community and citizenship’’, (quoted in Robins, 1993: 310). A place like Stradbally embodies those qualities in abundance. Stradbally is a town with a vibrant associational life. The participants in Townscape reeled off a wide variety of local activities and events, in which many of the local people are involved including: the Electric Picnic festival, the Steam Engine Rally, the GAA, soccer, Tidy Towns, Residents’ Associations, Farmer’s Market, the Library, Reading club, Knitting group, Art classes, the Arthouse, Allotment gardening, Meals on Wheels, Drama group, Yoga Classes, Stradbally Youth Theatre, Active retirement group, Garden/Flower club. The presence of so many social networking opportunities and outlets for interacting with others constitutes an important bulwark against social isolation and a counterpoint to arguments put forward by Putnam (2001) among others about the disappearance of civic togetherness. According to Hummon, the concepts of place and identity provide us with useful analytical tools in the study of community sentiment, (1992: 258-259). In other words, he suggests that we approach the issue of community through explorations of people’s sense of place and self-identity. Agnew (1992) defines place as primarily a setting for social relations and a focal point with which people can identify. The dominant feel and atmosphere of Stradbally is quietness and tranquillity: I would say it’s a nice sleepy little hamlet. But it’s very quiet. I mean there’s still people about…I don’t know… it’s very peaceful. It’s a very peaceful place to live. Stradbally is homely, quiet, usually, quiet. An awful lot of people come here to get married. They love the church and everything. You know, its cosy. We live at the back, it’s very quiet, like no matter what is going on outside. There’s a pub across the road but we never hear anything. It is lovely and private. And really its home. So I like it. Stradbally is a lovely place to live. A very peaceful place to live. And there’s never any trouble or anything here. It’s quieter here. It’s like being in the country. You’re in Stradbally but it’s like being in the country. Because you walk out in the back yard and you only hear the birds. You have the privacy here, and yet you are near everything. Bell’s (1994) study of a community in Hampshire, England found that the village and the pastoral backdrop of the surrounding countryside constituted the dominant interpretive frame for local residents. The countryside became a “moral rock” (1994, p. 8) against which others forms of living were measured. Authenticity was equated with “countryness”, which helped to feed into a strong anti-urban ideology. For returning emigrants to Stradbally, a significant premium was placed on being able to live in a place that embodied countryness as opposed to urban life. One couple who met in London returned to raise their children: