Trial + Error


Documenting the rise and fall of JJ Silke’s seed potato industry.

Trial + Error was a short documentary film and photographic installation curated by Dutch potato farmers and exhibited during the Leeuwarden European Capital of Culture at the Natural History Museum. It told the story of JJ Silke, who transformed a small parish in County Donegal from subsistence farming to a thriving seed potato industry with a world record yield of Arran Banner potatoes in the 1940s. John Silke’s son published a book about the industry’s collapse in the early 1960s. Deirdre interviewed Fr. John Silke for the documentary film shown beside some of the Silke family collection of photographs of the business, its development, trials and promotion from the 1920s to its peak in the late 1940’s.

Participants: Fr. John Silke, Dutch potato farmers

Funded by Culture Ireland and Leeuwarden Capital of Culture

Overview of the SPUD Project. 


  • County Donegal
  • Natural History Museum, Leeuwarden