A Look Back at 2018

I’m a little late with this but I believe in celebrating the full Twelve Days of Christmas, and this is a Christmassy activity so I feel it’s ok to do it up until Jan 6th. (And yes, maybe I’m just making excuses. My next piece is about new year’s resolutions and I probably won’t get that one online until February. And then I’ll tell you that January doesn’t really count and all sensible people start their new year’s resolutions a month late.)

This is not a year in review post, or an attempt at a Best of. It’s a personal look back at the last year and the art, events and moments that I enjoyed.

Continue reading “A Look Back at 2018”

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Repealed: a cause for celebration

(The referendum happened over four weeks ago and I have spent almost that long writing this blog post. When I started writing about this, I discovered that I had a lot to say on the issue and it took some time to wrangle all those words and feelings into something interesting and coherent and not 5,000 words long, but it felt worth doing.)

Continue reading “Repealed: a cause for celebration”

What would you do if you won the lotto?

Every time I do the lotto I convince myself that I am about to become a millionaire, and then I’m bitterly disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Every time I declare it a total waste of money and swear I’ll never do it again. I don’t play very often but I do like to spend time thinking about what I would if I won. Pretending I’m a millionaire helps me figure out how I feel about my life. It helps me to see what’s not working and what changes I need to make. It’s particularly useful if I’m feeling general a dissatisfaction with life but I can’t put my finger on why.

I discovered this trick nearly ten years ago, after I moved back to Ireland after three years of college in London. I was back about a year, living in a house-share with a couple of other women. It was taking me a while to adjust to living in Dublin and I wasn’t very happy. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the house or the people I was sharing with, I just didn’t feel very at home there. One night, as I was lying in bed, waiting to fall asleep and idly wondering what I would do if I won the lotto, I imagined being able to afford my own place. I imagined buying a house or a fancy apartment that was all mine. It made me happy. It was such a glowing sort of happiness that I was still thinking about it when I woke up the next day. Then I started wondering if it was something I could actually do.

I started searching on Daft and discovered that I could afford to live by myself, it wasn’t an impossible lotto dream. My budget didn’t allow for anything fancy but the possibility of my very own tiny flat still felt like magic! I was able to live my lotto dream and I loved it! It took my a few months but when I got there I loved my little flat and I loved that it was all mine. My own fridge, my own bathroom, my own pile of dirty dishes stacked up beside the sink. Having something that was mine, something that I made happen, made me see other things I wanted to change about my life. It opened me up to possibility. I became more social. I did more drama workshops. I tried roller derby. I put on a production of The Vagina Monologues in the Sugar Club. I applied for college. Eventually I left my wonderful, cosy, delightful, little flat to move to Galway and do a Masters in Drama and Theatre Studies. I still consider this one of the best decisions I ever made because I had such a wonderful time there and learnt so much. When I came back to Dublin I started working in theatre.

I don’t know if any of those things would have happened if I had stayed in the house-share where I felt vaguely dissatisfied but not actively unhappy, and accepted that that was how my life was meant to be. Living by myself meant there wasn’t anyone else to compare myself to, I had to figure out what I wanted my life to look like without the comparison and it allowed me to create a bigger life for myself.

My lotto imaginings were the spark that made me look for a place by myself but I know I was very lucky to be able to make that lotto dream a reality. It was early 2010 and my tiny flat in Drumcondra was €520 a month. The landlord put the rent up by about 100 euro when I moved out in August 2011, and the same flat advertised two years for around €800. The Dublin housing market is bananas. I have not been able to live alone since.

Making my lotto dream happen is not always easy. Earlier this year when I asked myself what would I do if I won the lotto, the answer was that I’d run away to Spain for three months and hang out with a couple of family members who live over there. That was not possible but I could just about afford a long weekend which I booked immediately and in a way, I got what I needed.

Recently my lotto answer was to do some renovation around the house and hire something to sort out my over-grown garden. I think that means I’m pretty satisfied with my life right now, and I don’t really feel compelled to do anything to make that dream a reality.

It’s a bit of a silly exercise and I think that’s why it works so well for me. My brain gets stuck if I try and figure out a five-year plan, but it’s fun to let your imagination run wild and dream up the possible lives I’d choose if money was no object. The answer usually gives me a pretty good indication about what direction I want to take.

The important thing is to think about how a lotto win would change your life; what would you do, not what you would buy. Then the trick is to figure out how to flip that big money dream into something you can do right now. It helps me. I’m curious to know if it works for any one else. Let me know.

If you like this this, you might like some of my other vaugely self-help style posts:
Successful planning and What to do when you’re feeling over-whelmed by the state of the world.

 

The Citizen’s Assembly and Strike4Repeal

Last weekend, the Citizen’s Assembly met for the third time to listen to experts and discuss the issues around the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. I watched some of the proceedings online. The presentations are still available on the website. The whole thing looks like a staff think-in for a big organisation. Each table has a facilitator, who stood up to speak for the table. It seems to have borrowed the whole set-up from the business world. It’s an interesting entity as a part of democratic process. I like the idea of consulting experts, looking at statistics and having an open, informed discussion about the issue of abortion and reproductive rights but I wish it was happening throughout society and not just in a hotel in Malahide. It’s hard not to see it as anything other than a delaying tactic from a government that does not want to call a referendum on abortion. In the article in the Irish Examiner “Credit where it’s due… and that’s to 99 members of Citizens’ Assembly” about where things stood after the first two meetings it sound very likely that the Assembly are going to recommend a referendum be held, though the terms of that referendum are still up for debate. But I looked at the small print on the Citizen Assembly’s website and it doesn’t seem like the government have to follow the recommendations of the Assembly. The final line on this page says: “the Government will provide in the Houses of the Oireachtas a response to each recommendation of the Assembly and, if accepting the recommendation, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for the holding of any related referendum.” In short, don’t hold your breath waiting for a referendum.

The Irish government have a history of dragging their feet on around abortion. The only abortion referendum that I’ve voted on was the very confusing 2002 one when the government tried to overturn the results of the X case. You had to vote No to leave things as they were, and Yes to make things more restrictive. To confuse matters further Youth Defence came out for a No vote. They didn’t feel it went the wording went far enough because there was no mention of the protective of live for embryos before implantation. (In Irish law, life begins with implantation. That’s why the morning after pill is available though abortion is not.) The amendment was defeated by 51-49% but no legislation on the X case followed. It took 12 years and the death of Savita Halappanavar (and who knows how many other women) before the flawed Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill became law.

Savita’s family did us a great service in talking publicly about her unnecessary death, as did Amanda Mellet who took the case against the State to the UN Court of Human Rights, as did the women known as A, B and C who took the State to the European Court of Human Rights on this issue. These public cases make it difficult for the  government to ignore the concerns around reproductive rights. And the campaigners mean the public can’t ignore it either. Five years ago I knew nothing about the Eighth Amendment or how it restricted women’s bodily autonomy. Now everyone seems to have an opinion on it and that’s down to the amazing work of a whole host of campaigners, including many who campaigned against the Amendment when it was first proposed 34 years ago.

At the end of the summer, Una Mullally made a documentary for the Irish Times Womens’ Podcast called ‘The Year The Conversation Changed‘. It’s a really great listen and covers the massive shift in public perception around the Eighth Amendment in 2016. It covers everything from the Repeal jumpers, to Maser’s mural outside Project, to the Rose of Tralee getting political, and at least half a dozen other things that I’m forgetting because so much happened last year!

Things are changing. Attitudes towards abortion are not the same as they were in 1983 when the Eighth Amendment was voted into the Constitution or even the same as they were in 2002 when we last had a referendum on abortion. The government is slowly catching up with that fact, but not quick enough. We need a referendum and it needs to call for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. There should be no replacement and no rewording that makes it impossible to vote for. To reword it would be another delaying tactic. We need to repeal the Amendment because the constitution is not the place to define medical care. And again there are wonderful activists making that position clear. This time with the Strike 4 Repeal on March 8th. There will be no referendum set before then, the strike will definitely go ahead and it feels important to tell the government that there is an appetite for a referendum and that referendum should call for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Change moves slowly in Ireland, at least at government level. Don’t forget it took them six weeks just to form a government last year. It’s like change isn’t useful to them. It’s not what they want. Our politicians would prefer to be eternally debating things and flinging insults at each other than actually take a political stand or making bold changes. The lack of action on the homelessness crisis and the continued existence of Direct Provision is shameful. Enda Kenny’s strongest stance recently has been to keep things as they are – of course he’s going to the White House for St. Patricks’ Day, it’s traditional. They are meant to represent us but they need a push in the right direction.

Change is happening, whether they like it or not.

What to do when you’re feeling over-whelmed by the state of the world.

Image from a Buzzfeed article on 21 Perfect German Words We Need in English. Check it out, there are some beauties there.

There are so many things to worry about right now. So many things to care about and feel anxious about and powerless to correct.

For a start, in Ireland the number of people being made homeless is going up every week and the government don’t seem to be doing anything about it. There’s the shamefulness that is Direct Provision where the government is paying companies large amounts of money to keep people seeking refuge in intolerable conditions. Ibrahim Halawa will spending a fourth birthday in jail in Egypt as his trial was postponed for the 16th time and we are still forcing women to travel aboard for a basic medical procedure.

Further afield, there’s the uncertainty of Brexit to worry about as well as the hundreds of unaccompanied children that were recently moved out of the Jungle in Calais and sent who-knows-where. France is still under a state of emergency after two brutal terrorist attacks, refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean, bombs are raining down on civilians in Syria, millions who fled the war there are living in refugee camps and Israel cut off the water-supply to Palestine during Ramadan this year, just the latest in a long series on attacks on the Palestinians.

And that’s all before we start worrying about climate change or what will happen under the Trump presidency.

It’s hard. It’s hard to take it all in, to feel all that fury and sorrow. In the face of so much horror it’s easy to run out of feelings. Even when you feel like you want to help, how do you choose which of the heart-breaking issues to focus on? Sometimes it’s easier to throw up your hands up and do nothing, feel nothing and just try to have a good time because it’s becoming increasingly obviously that the whole world is going to shit. It’s a pretty bleak way of seeing the world and it’s hard to sustain because the horrors keep creeping in.

When the bleakness is threatening to overwhelm me, I take solace from this quote.

“Of course individuals can make a difference, but the fact is that evil has had the whip hand in this world since Cain. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be good, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves, either. Evil is not going to be vanquished. Our job is to resist it, and to plant the seeds of further resistance so that goodness never entirely vanishes from the universe.”

Chris Cleave, author of The Other Hand/Little Bee.

I like it because it lets me off the hook a little bit. Once I accept that I can’t fix everything, it’s easier to just concentrate on what I can do. I can’t knock evil off it’s perch, but I might be able to balance the scales a bit. It’s helps me feel less useless and more hopeful because it suggests that the little acts of resistance, of goodness, of kindness do make a difference.

Doing something is always better than doing nothing. It chases away the hopeless, useless feeling; at least for a little while. So what can we do? There’s the usual things – donate money, volunteer, get on the streets and protest, write letters to governments at home and aboard. Volunteer.ie have a database of volunteer opportunities. Giving blood is good if you’re short on time and money because it’s costs nothing and you can only do it once every three months.

But if you feel completely overwhelmed and really don’t know where to begin, or feel like you want to do more but don’t know where to start, I suggest getting a few friends together and start a “change the world” group. (Your first order of business may be to give it a better, catchier name.) It can be part support group, part action group. Meet up regularly, talk about the things that are upsetting you about the world and then decide what you’re going to do about it. You also get to hang out with your friends; have coffee and cake, or go for a few drinks. Changing the world has a bang of worthiness off it, like it’s not meant to be enjoyable. It puts people off. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Make sure your group is fun as well. You might decide to organise a big fundraiser, or buddy-up to volunteer together, or everyone might want to do their own thing, but they have the support of the group, and they have to report back so there’s accountability.

This idea comes partly from Malcolm Gladwell’s essay Small Change, about the importance of strong-ties between people involved in social activism, but mostly it’s because I think communities are important. The way we live our lives now makes it difficult to be part of a community so we have to make our own. Real-life social interactions are important, sitting in a room together talking about everything and nothing is good for the soul. But it can be hard to organise time with friends and we end up relying too much on social media instead. Organising a regular meeting means you will see your friends more often. People already do this with book clubs or dining clubs, why not a change the world club? I also believe in collaboration, often the ideas that you come up with in a group are better than the ones you come up with on your own. In a group it’s easier to stay hopeful and not let yourself or others fall into despondency. Hope is important if you want to change the world.

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark (More glorious quotes here)

And because I love Charlie Brooker, here he is singing with the Blockheads. This video also lets you feel nostalgic for the things we were fearful of in 2014.

Why I give blood

Last week I went to the blood donor clinic. You have to wait three months between each blood donation, but it’s probably been about 12 months since I’d last donated. Last time I went it was really busy and I left without even signing in. The time before that my iron was too low and I was told to go see my doctor and wait six months before donating again. I’m not great at giving blood regularly and I definitely haven’t given as much as I could. I’ve been doing it for about 15 years and last week was my 19th donation. (I think I get a prize for my 20th which is exciting!) But despite my patchy record, one of the nurses we looked at my chart asked me why I’d donated so much and why I kept coming back. I didn’t really want to tell him that I just did it for the free biscuits – though that is a big part of it – so I told him I did it because I know lots of people who can’t donate and it’s easy for me, so I do it.

That’s just one of the reasons. There are lots of others:

  1. Free biscuits. I can’t lie, they are part of why I go there. When I started there used to be free mini-rolls. Now it’s custard creams and blue ribbon wafer bars, but they’re still free!
  2. There’s a great view from the canteen in the Blood Donor Clinic on D’Olier Street. It looks down over O’Connell Bridge and you have to hang out there after you donate and enjoy the view.
  3. It’s a really easy way to do something good. There are so many reasons why people can’t give blood, varying from where they’d lived or the medication they’re on, to whether they’ve just had a baby or a tattoo. I feel like if I’m able to give blood, I should. I have no problems with needles and generally don’t have any problems after donating. I can’t say never because I nearly fainted in the canteen once. Thankfully the nurse behind the counter spotted me losing conciseness and had me lying on the ground with my legs raised before I actually fell out of the chair! They even have a pillow in the canteen for just this reason, which makes it seem almost normal and helped me feel less of a tit!
  4. The lovely staff. Everyone is really nice to you in the blood donor clinic. They thank you so many times for coming in, even when your blood is rejected! And my blood has been rejected many times. Mostly for low iron and once because I’d just had the mumps vaccine and it’s one of the few live vaccines that you can’t donate after.
  5. Giving blood is a sneaky way to get my iron checked. You are not supposed to give blood for this reason and it’s probably not even a particularly accurate way to test it because I think it only gives a tiny snapshot. I’m prone to low iron so I do find it useful to get a quickie look at my iron levels every now and again.

I give blood because it makes me feel good. It’s easy, it doesn’t hurt and it costs me nothing. I just hang out in the clinic for an hour, where everyone is really nice to me and gives me free biscuits. I do it because someone else needs that blood more than I do. While I’m munching on my free biscuits and enjoying the view, someone else is fighting for their life. Why wouldn’t I give blood if it can help? It’s so easy to make more that I don’t even feel like I’ve lost anything afterwards.

There’s a lot of scary things happening in the world at the moment – Trump, terrorism, Brexit – and it’s easy to feel helpless. Giving blood makes me feel less helpless.

If you’re interested in donating, for the first or fifth or fourteenth time – visit giveblood.ie to find out if you are able to give blood and where your nearest clinic is.

Successful planning

It’s the season for making plans. Making resolutions is easy but to make them a reality, you need a plan. In 2015, I became better at making plans. They say that the one thing you need to succeed is a plan, you have to have a clear idea of what you want. This time last year, I felt like I was not a good planner. I always had a to do list on the go and lots of a vague ideas about what I’d like to do but I didn’t have a step 1, step 2, step 3 kind of plan. I may not believe in God but I do believe that the saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” has a lot of truth in it. Life is full of events that are hard to plan for.

This uneasiness about my planning ability followed me throughout the year. In July it became part of my application to take part in Cultural Freelancer group mentoring sessions. As part of the application process, we were asked to provide a ”burning question” that you have about your work or a specific project. Mine was about planning.

How do you make long term career plans in a precarious industry? How do you make even medium term plans (3-5 years into the future) when there are so many unknowns?

Cultural Freelancers Ireland have been running drop-in sessions for the last couple of years but this pilot programme brought the same small group together for four weeks, to offer support and peer mentorship one our individual questions. Over the four weeks, the CFI participants worked on answering our burning questions.

I found that my burning question was only a jumping off point. Through the discussions with the group, I learnt that it wasn’t my ability to plan that was troubling me. It was hard to make a plan because I didn’t know what I wanted. I needed to figure that out first.

At the end of each session, we set ourselves homework, things we needed to think about or work out before the next session. One of the first pieces I set myself was to write down “What does success mean to me? What does my idea of success look like?”

This was an important and personal exercise and it helped me figure out a lot. Money is not my main motivator but my idea of success still includes getting paid for my work, which is not always easy in the arts. It also includes having a group of people to work with again and again. It includes professional recognition and being able to make choices.

It was an interesting exercise that lead on to another piece of homework – figuring out what success feels like. To do this, I made a list of times in the past that I have felt successful or proud of something I’ve achieved. It’s a great exercise to do if you’re feeling a bit stuck or uninspired. It will remind you of past successes and make you feel much more capable. I wrote down everything I could think of – anything that gave me a feeling of joy or accomplishment, no matter how small.

When I had my list I looked for common themes. I learnt that I don’t really value the achievements that come easily to me – the challenges feel much more like successes. Looking at the past made it clear what I had to do to achieve success in the future. I had something that I could use to make a plan.

The CFI sessions gave me time and space each week to sit down and think about these things and that was really valuable. Having homework to do meant that I had to put time aside to think about what I wanted and write down my thoughts. Spending time thinking about what I want out of life, in this structured, homework-driven way, made me happier. I felt more in control of my life. Planning can be boring. It’s not very sexy but life is better with a plan. It means you get to call the shots and decide what success is. Decision making is easier when you have a clear plan – the thing you’re being asked to do either fits in with the plan or it doesn’t – decision made!

Another thing that I discovered was that a lot of the things on my list of successes involved lots of planning. I realised that I have a good track record of coming up with plans and seeing them through. My view of myself as a bad planner wasn’t true!

If you are still working out your resolutions and plans for 2016, these Guardian articles might help.

Put off procrastination…forever
How to be a moderately successful person

Are you watching The Good Wife?

After a number of political posts and an accidental month-long hiatus, it’s time for something completely different. Are you watching The Good Wife? The legal drama with Carol from ER and Mary-Anne from Cybil? GoodWife I became a bit obsessed with the show last year and sped through the first four seasons, then felt bereft when I got caught up and had to wait for new episodes.

The show is about Alicia Florick (Carol from the ER) who has to go back to work after her husband – the State’s Attorney – is arrested on political corruption charges. He’s also been involved in a number of very public sex scandals. After 13 years as a wife and mother Alicia has joined a big, fancy law-firm in an entry level position and has to get used to the world of work again, while competing with graduates half her age.

If that synopsis doesn’t have you rushing to Netflix, don’t worry – I understand. My sister has been raving about The Good Wife for years but I wasn’t interested. I over-did it on court-room dramas in the nineties – Ally McBeal, Murder One, Perry Mason – and I wasn’t interested in watching another show about lawyers. Even when I did start watching it, it took me four or five episodes to decide I actually liked it. Trust me, it’s worth sticking with it.

Here are four reasons why you should do yourself a favour and watch The Good Wife.

1. Great characters that grow on you
And at the beginning, Alicia is pretty annoying. She is the political wife who stands by her man; she’s a bit of a pushover, a bit too nice, a bit of a giant cliché. She gradually comes out of that bland, catatonic shell and starts kicking ass. It’s a joy to watch. The show is very good at making you like characters that you think you’re going to hate. Cary Agos – Alicia’s competition at the firm – is played by the same actor who played Logan in Gilmore Girls. At first he seems like the same annoying, spoilt brat who is used to getting his own way with a smile and a bit of smarm. And yet, somehow I ended up liking him. Nobody was more surprised than me. (I never really warmed to Logan.)

Even the non-regular characters are great. Clients like Colin Sweeney or other lawyers, like Louis Canning, a disabled lawyer who is a master of manipulation and regularly plays up his disability in court. They are awful people that you can’t held getting attached to. It doesn’t hurt that Canning is played by the magnificent Michael J. Fox!

And then there is the wonderful Alan Cummings who plays the State Attorney’s campaign manager Eli Gold. He is sublime. I’ve been a fan since Bernard and the Genie, but in this show, which has so many fantastic, female characters – Alicia, Kalinda, boss lady Diane, crazy hot-shot lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni, scheming Patti Nyholm (who is played by one of the Goonies!) – Eli Gold is probably my favourite. He is a bit of a man’s man who has landed in a world full of strong, bossy women. I love watching him learn that he can’t tell them what to do and then slowly figure out how to work with them.
EliGold

There’s also Alan Cummings excellent facial expressions.

2. It’s all about the relationships between the characters but it’s not about relationships.
The relationships between the characters are allowed to grow slowly, the grudging respect that blossoms between Alicia and Cary, the friendship between Alicia and Kalinda, the firm’s private investigator. Alicia’s rocky relationship with her mother-in-law Jackie is great to watch, particularly when Alicia squares up to her. Alicia’s relationship with her children is also given plenty of screen-time – we see her juggling all the different aspects of her life.

It’s a show that focuses on female characters yet doesn’t revolve around their love lives. It’s probably not a coincidence that I started watching The Good Wife around the same time that I got bored of Grey’s Anatomy. (How many weddings or almost weddings has that show had?)

3. It’s a very feminist show.
Often overtly so in the cases they take and the causes that Diane supports but it’s also great to see so many women on screen at the same time. When I ran out of episodes of The Good Wife to watch and switched to House of Cards, the lack of women in that show was jarring. It felt like something was missing.

All the main characters are allowed to be flawed and have messy, complicated lives.

As an extra boost to it’s feminist credentials, it’s been name checked in Girls and Broad City, both times in weirdly sexual situations, and you know Lorelai and Rory would be tuning in religiously.

3. Great storylines – both individual cases and season arches
We see a lot of the characters personal lives but it’s still a show about lawyers so we spend a lot of time in the court room, in briefing sessions and depositions. However, the cases are interesting in their own right and not just an excuse to get the characters in the court-room together. They cover really interesting, contemporary topics. I know more about the NSA because of The Good Wife. I have a half-formed opinion on bitcoin and how it can be used to circumnavigate the law. There was a case that focused on sexual assault in the military. They created their own search engine – ChubHum and take regular pot-shots at it, often about how it’s search results are manipulated. The most recent season featured a real life, covert detention centre that is on the edge of legality. (I didn’t know that it was real until I read this article in the Guardian – ‘We’re all news junkies’: why The Good Wife writing team is one of TV’s sharpest. (WARNING: contains spoilers))

4. Great guest-stars
Surely I’m not the only one who gets great joy from seeing a familiar face pop up in another show. It pleases me to imagine that some of the guys from The Wire moved from Baltimore to Chicago and got a new job with a different drug dealer. Ugly Betty turns up in a couple of episodes, as does Chandler Bing. Gary Cole (who for me will always be the devil from American Gothic) plays a gunshot expert and Wallace Shawn (who was in The Princess Bride and Clueless) plays a frankly terrifying lawyer. Others famous faces include Nathan Lane, Rita Wilson, Parker Posey, Christina Ricci, Sarah Silverman, Jason Biggs, Jeffrey Tambor and Gloria Steinem, playing herself.

They are my reasons why you should start watching The Good Wife immediately. If you are still not convinced here’s another article from the Guardian, spoiler-free this time: Mad Men has the buzz – but The Good Wife is the better show

Happy birthday Smock Alley

SmockBirthday A couple of weeks ago, Smock Alley Theatre celebrated it’s 3rd birthday, or it’s 303rd birthday depending on when you start counting from. The refurbished theatre as it is today, opened in 2012. The first play I saw in the newly opened Main Space was Pan Pan’s A Doll House. I loved the show and I also loved the new theatre with it’s long, green seats and it’s smell of new wood. During the long years of transformation, Smock was often used during the festivals, so I had visited the space a few times over the years. The Belgium company Ontroerend Goed made great use of the Main Space for The Smile Off Your Face in 2010, when it was still an empty cavern and only recently excavated, ideal for being pushed around in a wheelchair while blindfolded! The Boys School was the Fringe Festival bar in 2009, when I did most of my volunteer shifts in Smock Alley and hung around the theatre for a week. Four years later, I spent both weeks of the Fringe Festival in Smock Alley, first with Come As Soon As You Hear’s Whelp (my first ever job as producer) and then working on Moving City. Most of the shows I’ve produced have been in Smock Alley and I’ve spent a lot of time in the theatre over the years. I was very proud to see my first play performed in the Main Space in February. On the night there was a lovely exhibition set up all around the walls of the Boys School as you walked up the spiral rams –  posters and programmes from all the shows that had graced the stages of the Smock Alley over the years. It was lovely to be reminded of the many great shows I’ve seen there, as well as spotting a couple of productions that I worked on! It’s a theatre that’s close to my heart. I am always happy to pop in and see what’s happening. All of which is to say that I am very fond of the place and was delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate their success. As well as being a great place for theatre, Smock Alley is also very good at food and drink. On the birthday night they were serving a new Smocktail – a pale green concoction with elderflower cordial, vodka and cucumber syrup. It was very tasty, very summer-y and went down far too easily! I also had delicious sausage rolls and a couple of tiny, boozy brownies. So if you haven’t yet been to Smock Alley, or you just haven’t been there in a while – go! There’s loads of Writers Festival events there over the next week, as well as lots of other things.

Voting

When the polling stations across Ireland open on May 22nd, I will be on a plane to Barcelona to celebrate my parents wedding anniversary. I didn’t plan to be out of the country for the Marriage Equality vote and it seems a little bit perverse to be celebrating traditional marriage while the country votes on whether or not to extend that privilege to all Irish citizens, but my parents are forty years married this year and I couldn’t really miss the celebrations.

The flights were booked weeks before the date of the referendum was announced. I am sad and disappointed to not be able to vote. The government has been talking about and promising this referendum for a very long time, it’s annoying to be out of the country when it finally happens. Voting is important to me. In 2002, in my final year of college, I travelled home to vote on the very confusing “abortion referendum” when Bertie Ahern’s government tried to over-turn the ruling on the X-case. It was confusing because a yes vote meant you wanted the case over-turned and the laws around abortion to become more restrictive, or you could vote no and keep things as they were. By a small majority, the people voted not to over-turn that ruling and it still took the government over 10 years to legislate on it. That vote was on a Thursday and I went home to vote on Thursday night and then back to college on Friday morning because I was in final year and we were finishing projects that week.

MarRefIf I was here to vote on May 22nd, I would be voting yes in the Marriage Referendum because I’m a big fan of equality. I’m not that bothered about marriage but I recognise that my ambivalence is a pretty privileged stance to have. I can turn my nose up at marriage and say I’m not sure it’s for me because I get to take it for granted. I can get married if I want to or not. Anyone who wants to get married should be allowed to do so. I’ve heard lots of people be very enthusiastic about marriage, that committing yourself to another person in that way can make you feel like part of a team, a true partnership. Why would you want to deny that to anyone?

I really want this referendum to pass because a yes vote would say so much about this country. I don’t want to live in a backward, mean-spirited, homophobic country that believes that it’s ok to treat people differently because of their sexuality. To me, that’s what a no vote says – it says you think LGBT people should be treated as second class citizens. I want to live in a loving, inclusive society where people are treated equally. Passing this referendum won’t instantly make that happen, but it would be a step in the right direction. It could be great turning point for Ireland, which, let’s face it – has had a rough few years. This could be the start of something new.

To me, the people against marriage equality are against change. They are backward looking and nostalgic for an Ireland that doesn’t exist any more. But to me, Ireland is not a country that can talk about the “good old days”. We are forever discovering new revelations about how bad things were in this country, particularly for anyone on the margins of society. It’s a big step for Ireland to finally step out of the shadows of Rome and Catholicism and make it’s own decisions based on what it best for it’s people. I believe that equality makes life better for all people. I don’t want to have more rights than other people – that doesn’t feel right.

So if you are here on May 22nd, and you are eligible to vote – please make your voice heard! Check now to make sure you’re on the register and if you’re not, you still have time to get a vote before May 22nd. All the details are on the Yes Equality website. Maybe you think I’m a bit of a hypocrite tell you to use your vote when I’m not using mine. I don’t care what you call me, as long as you vote! If the referendum doesn’t pass, I will feel very guilty for going on holiday.

And if I haven’t convinced you to Vote Yes, maybe Bosco can!

(I’m not sure how I’d vote in the Referendum on the Presidential Age of Eligibility. I can’t decide if age and experience is more or less useful than youth and energy in a President. You can still have a youthful outlook when you’re over 35 but is there any substitute for experience?)