Great shows to see this year

I haven’t entirely forgotten about this blog. I hope you haven’t either. I think of it guiltily every now and then. Sometimes I even think of something that I would like to write about here, and on the odd, very rare occasion, I actually manage to write about that thing and put it online. This is one of those rare occasions. Who knows when it will happen again.

As we are (still, barely) in the first week of the new year, here is a post about shows that are coming up in 2018 but have been on before. There are loads of exciting, brand new plays coming, but these are all shows that I saw and loved over the last couple of years, including two of my absolute favourites. Excitingly they are on in venues all over the country so I don’t have to feel any guilt for the Dublin-centric nature of my theatre recommendations.

I’ll start with my two favourites.

The Humours of Bandon

Margaret McAuliffe’s one-woman show began as a Show in a Bag at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016. It won the Little Gem Award and it was in Bewley’s Theatre that I saw and loved it last year. Since then it’s been to the Edinburgh Festival and on tour around Ireland, but it’s back again for a few dates in Leitrim, Cork and Bray throughout February.

I really enjoyed this show. It’s like a big sports movie about triumph and defeat, hard-work, determination and sacrifice, but it’s also about Irish dancing and being a teenage girl. And it manages to cover all that in under an hour. Both the acting and the dancing are spectacular. It’s also has a really big heart and made me a bit teary-eyed at the end. It got an enthusiastic and much deserved standing ovation the day I saw it in Bewley’s. I think everyone should see this show because it such a joy to watch.

It’s on in The Dock, Leitrim on Feb 3, the Blackwater Fit Up Festival in Cork on Feb 6-11 and in the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray on Feb 24. More information here.

Swan Lake

My other recent favourite show is Swan Lake/Loch na hEala which is a glorious piece of work by Michael Keegan Dolan, featuring a group of wonderfully talented dancers and Mikel Mufi who doesn’t dance, but does play a goat, and at least a dozen other characters. I saw this show twice when it was on as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2016 and I can’t wait to see it again.

I saw it first as a festival volunteer on the first or second night of the run. That night, people were still able to walk up and buy a tickets before the show and all the volunteers were able to sit in. When I went back to see it a couple of days later on the closing night, the O’Reilly Theatre was completely sold out and they had added extra rows of seats at the front. It was a huge word of month hit and deservedly so.

You don’t have to be understand or even like dance to love this show. It’s fantastically visual and very Irish. There are lots of joyful moments but it’s also dark and worrisome in places. It looks amazing, the music is wonderful, I loved it and already have my ticket for the run in the Abbey in early February.

Outside Dublin, the touring network NOMAD are taking it to venues around the country. It will be on in Donegal, Roscommon, Sligo, Kildare, Westmeath, Louth, Cavan and Longford. The first date is An Grianán, Letterkenny on Jan 28 and the last show is in Backstage Theatre, Longford at the start of April. All those dates and ticket links are here.

Not a Funny Word

I saw lots of great things in the Abbey last year and one of most wonderful things I saw was Tara Flynn’s Not a Funny Word. Directed by Philly McMahon, written and performed by Tara Flynn with songs by Alma Kelliher, it’s a personal and political look at abortion. The songs are great and Tara Flynn is very very funny, even in a show about a difficult and very personal experience. The tone is never flippant and the jokes are generally at her own expense. It’s an exposing show and her honesty and openness made it feel like a privilege to experience it with her. She is an incredibly generous performer and allows herself to be very vulnerable. To see this show at the National Theatre felt special and note-worthy too.

In March it will be on in the Complex in Smithfield for four performances only as part of Thisispopbaby’s festival This is Where We Live.

And, as you would expect from Thisispopbaby, there are lots of other exciting shows on as part of the festival, and I recommend you check them out here.

Waiting for Godot

I missed this show when it was on in the Galway Arts Festival in 2015, partly on purpose because it was on in the Mick Lally Theatre which is very small and I was afraid that my habit of failing asleep during Beckett plays might be a tad insulting to the actors onstage. I regretted it when I heard so many people raving about it that summer, including the new directors of the Abbey, so I was delighted when they brought it to Dublin. I managed to stay awake for the whole show at the Abbey and enjoyed it very much. The Druid ensemble did such a good job of it. It was funny and more joyful than I expected but the poignant moments where there as well. Francis O’Connor’s set is absolutely beautiful, and so utterly perfect for the production.

This is another one that’s on all over the country. During February, March and April t’s going to Galway, Limerick, Letterkenny, Cork, Longford, Wexford, Dun Laoghaire and Sligo, and all the details are here.

Jimmy’s Hall

Once again, it’s another show I saw in the Abbey, and I’m delighted that Jimmy’s Hall will be back again this year. I’ve already writing about this show (and how much I enjoyed it) here and it’s great to see it back because I don’t think it had a particularly long run last summer. I am planning to head along to the Free First Preview on 26 July but it will be on all through August and into the first week of September. Early Bird tickets are available before June 11. I think it’s a great summer show – the live music makes it a great one for tourists (along with the fact that it’s based on a film) but it also includes a nice chunk of neglected Irish history, as well as encouraging a revolutionary frame of mind!

26 July – 8 Sept
Free First Preview – 26 July
Early Bird Booking before June 11

https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/jimmys-hall/

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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.

I am not a Blogger

I started reading blogs almost 20 years ago, back when they were still called online journals or online diaries. The ones I read were mostly written by girls in high-school or college in the US. They were young women who had taught themselves html coding so they could create webpages and graphic design so they could create banners and logos. But really it was all about the words. In the 90s, the internet was generally more about words; connection speeds were slow and images meant more bandwidth, which was more expensive. Those early blogs were about about real people spilling their guts online, usually anonymously. The writers felt they could be their real selves online. They were kids who had the time and inclination to play around with computers (back when there were one per household) and learn about coding. This is what the internet was to me – online journals, webzines, mailing lists. I studied computers in college because I loved the internet, but I think what I really loved was words. I spent a lot of time online reading those websites. I had a long list of URLs that I would visit daily. I loved finding new blogs and having loads of back issues to read. I discovered the world that way.

html-for-beginner-2

Blogs and bloggers in 2016 are very different to the ones I used to read. It’s no longer all about the words, and you don’t need to know about html anymore. Now bloggers are more likely to know about algorithms and hashtags. There’s a blogger lifestyle, posts tend to be more aspirational than confessional and everyone wants to find a way to earns a living from their blog. Actually, I think writers always dreamt finding a way to make money from their blogs. And writers did get hired or published because of their blog, but the blog wasn’t usually the thing that made money. It’s interesting to see how it’s changed, and also how it’s stayed the same. The most successful blogs still have an honesty to them, and they are the ones where the writers engage with their readers.

However, I am still an old-fashioned, turn-of-the-century blogger. I don’t want my blog to be my job. I just want to write stuff and put it on the internet where people can read it and hopefully find it useful or interesting or entertaining. I have been writing on the internet for almost as long as I’ve been reading the internet. At this stage I can be fairly sure that I will always struggle to update regularly and I will always feel a bit weird when people ask me about my online writing in real life but I still like having a corner of the internet that’s mine. I can’t blog the same way as the hip, young Millennials and that’s ok. They’ll do their thing and I’ll do mine.

This is a long, convoluted way of saying that I’m going to try and write more regularly, but this will not make me a blogger. I’m just a person with a website.

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.

Opportunities for artists

There are lots of exciting opportunities to apply for support to make work or to show new work around at the moment. Though all the deadlines seem to be for this week or next week, so get your skates on!

Pan Pan International Mentorship & Bursary Programme 2015
Deadline: 5pm Thursday 19th November 2015

This is the fourth year Pan Pan have run this programme and this year’s mentor is Stewart Laing. Successful applicants have four meetings with Stewart and also receive a bursary of €2,000. The focus of the programme is to allow theatre and performance makers to buy time to work on an idea in its early development stages, outside of the pressures of production.

Gap Day at Mermaid Arts Centre
Deadline:  5pm on Monday 23 November 2015

This is a new pilot programme that allows freelance theatre makers a chance to take time off and dedicate a day to creative research and thinking. Mermaid will organise a room for the day, a light lunch and a wage of €200.

Smock Allies: Scene and Heard
Deadline: Friday 20th November 2015

This is a festival of new work happening in Smock Alley in spring of next year. They are currently accepting submissions under the following categories; Music, Theatre, Comedy, Dance and Children’s Theatre.

November Fringe Fuse
Deadline: 5pm Friday 20th November 2015

The November Fringe Fuse is on Monday 30th and if you have a work in progress that you’d like to try out in front of a supportive audience, you can apply for a 15-20 min slot by emailing Sinéad at programming@fringefest.com with a short description of what you would like to show.

And there are lots more opportunities, including international festivals and residencies on the Fringe Lab Facebook page.

 

Round-up of general stuff

WallflowerWallflower and Dublin Theatre Festival
The Dublin Theatre Festival is up and running, and while the programme isn’t as intimidatingly huge as the Fringe Festival there is still lots to see. There’s great new work from Irish companies like Pan Pan, Rough Magic, Rise Productions and Thisispopbaby. As well as great international work from Britain, France, Belguim and Denmark.

Last Thursday I saw Wallflower by Manchester based company Quarantine. In this show, the performers are trying to remember every dance they ever danced. Each dance is logged and as of last week, they had danced over 800 dances at an average of 22 dances an hour. It’s a show about memory and dancing and how a person changes. There are lots of personal stories mixed in with the dances and the dances they remembered are different every night. I really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to see it again on Friday night as a volunteer and it was really interest to see what stays the same for each show, and how it is structured and shaped.

I also saw The Night Alive on Saturday night which is dark and funny and feels very Irish.

Dead Like Me

DeadLikeMe
I was delighted to find Dead Like Me on Netflix when I joined a couple of month ago. I just finished re-watching it last week and enjoyed it immensely. It’s about an 18-year old girl called George who dies and becomes a grim-reaper. She’s having a hard time letting go of her old life, and accepting that she’s dead but still has a job to do. She has a bunch of grim-reaper co-workers and a stern but kindly boss played by Mandy Patinkin who sometimes wears excellent cardigans.

Rube
Mandy Patinkin as Rube

George is wonderfully grumpy and understandably pissed off with the world. She’s also probably the only inner monologue/narrator on tv that I haven’t found incredibly irritating after about three episodes.

It’s created by Bryan Fuller who also wrote Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies and is currently working on a show called Hannibal. It’s funny and sad and deals with grief and loss and trying to figure out your place in the world. When I first watched it I had recently finished college for the first time, and felt a kinship with George as she tried to figure out her new life. Ten years later not much has changed; I’m still trying to work out what I want to be when I grow up and wondering if it’s better to follow the path or bend the rules. I still want to eat breakfast in Der Waffle Haus. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around and recommend it highly. It’s my kind of show – funny, dark and just the right amount of heart-warming.

March for Choice

I’ve already written about a bit about this already but the March itself was truly magnificent. The speakers were angry and fierce and informative and moving. The sun shone and the crowds were massive. It was the top item on RTE news that night, which is a first and something to be celebrated. It is so galvinishing to be part of something that big and that joyful. We need to keep up the momentum as the General Election gets closer and talk to every politician possible about this issue. Tell your TD!

There’s also a very nice write-up by Lynn Enright over on The Pool.

March for Choice

MarchForChoiceIn an ideal world, every conception would result in a healthy baby, born to parents who want them and are able to love them and provide them with all the emotional and financial support they need. That would be delightful. Sadly we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world of rape and incest and fatal foetal abnormalities, of broken condoms and missed pills and human error. And so we need abortion.

Bringing up a child isn’t easy and if a pregnant woman knows that having a child is not the right thing for her or her potential offspring, then she should be able to choose to end the pregnancy. We live at a time when safe, medical abortion is possible and it is shameful that the Irish government deny women that choice. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Amnesty International believes that reproductive rights are human rights. The United Nations’ Human Rights Treaty classifies a lack of access to abortion as torture. This is the country we’re living in – a supposedly civilised Western country that still tortures women. On Saturday we’ll be marching to end torture.

The first March for Choice was on a bright, cold day in 2012. I was back in Dublin after a year studying in Galway and settling back into the city again. I was excited. We’d got there early and were close enough to see and hear the speakers. The long train of people headed off in the sunshine, chanting and chatting. It felt good humoured, almost joyful. It felt like anything was possible, look at us – there’s so many of us, they can’t ignore us all, this is going to change things! It was a good day.

A few months later, in the kitchen making breakfast, I heard Savita Halappanavar’s story on the radio for the first time. I felt fuelled by rage as I power-walked into work that morning. How could such a thing be allowed to happen? There was a candle lit vigil held near the Dail that night and another March at the weekend. It felt like we were on the streets a lot that winter, standing in the cold with candles, chanting Never Again. I remember the cold damp coming up through my feet as we stood on Merrion Square and shouted at the Dail. It didn’t feel joyful. It felt angry and sad.

We kept shouting and kept shouting with a clear request – legislate for the 20-year-old X case. In this case a suicidal rape victim was granted an abortion because her life was at risk, but that precedent had not been put into law. The following August there were more protests outside the Dail as that piece of legislation was being debated. There was “Go Back to Craggy Island” chants and holy water thrown and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill came into being.

Within the year we saw how inadequate and unfit for purpose this bill. Ms Y arrived in Ireland seeking asylum and discovered she was pregnant as a result of rape. The new Bill was supposed to protect women like her. It’s purpose was to allow a woman to obtain an abortion when her life is in danger, in the case of illness or as a risk of suicide. Like Savita before her, Ms Y asked for an abortion and was denied. At 26-weeks pregnant, she went on hunger strike and the State ended her pregnancy with a C-section.

A doctor who performs an illegal abortion is liable for 14 years in prison. That’s not an old leftover law from decades ago – it was introduced in 2013, tacked on to the end of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. It replaced sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Act which criminalised attempted or actual procurement of miscarriage, and assisting such procurement. Just before Christmas 2014, doctors were afraid to take a woman off life support because she was pregnant. It required a high court ruling to make the decision. Doctors are afraid of making a decision that puts them on the wrong side of the law, even when that decision is in the best interest of their patient.

The 8th Amendment states “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

There are a lot of insulting things about women written into the Irish Constitution. There’s the whole, awful “women in the home” section of Article 41, but the 8th Amendment is the only part of it that is directly responsible for women dying. Putting the right to life of the unborn on equal (almost greater) footing as the woman carrying that potential life has caused women to die. That’s why we need to get rid of the 8th Amendment.

Politicians are now being called on to answer questions about abortion and repealing the 8th Amendment. They often dodge the question by saying they won’t get rid of it without a replacement. Here’s my suggestion for a replacement:
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn as long as the mother feels able to care for that life because really it’s her decision and the State trusts women to be able to make this decision for themselves.”

I think that would bring us a little bit closer to an ideal world.

You can sign the petition to Repeal the 8th here and sign up for the Abortion Rights Campaign. The 4th Annual March for Choice starts from the Garden of Remembrance at 1.30pm on Saturday 26th September.

Project 50 Commissioning Fund

Project50Next year Project Arts Centre turns 50, and last Tuesday they launched the Project 50 Commissioning Fund – a fund-raising initiative to commission new work to mark that anniversary. In his speech, Artistic Director Cian O’Brien said that Project was built on with the belief that artists could manage their own affairs and to give a home to work that was outside the establishment. Project has not strayed from these core values. It still gives artists the confidence to manage their own affairs, often by supplying a little bit of help and support. At the most basic level, they have free wi-fi and a coffee machine in their reception area, and tables were you can sit and work or have a meeting! That alone is valuable to an independent theatre maker!

Pauline McLynn opened with fund with the first €50 donation, and a speech that made illusions to the possible children conceived within the walls of Project over the years, and ended by fan-girling over Henry the dog. There were children and dogs at this event which just goes to show what a welcoming and  inclusive space Project is!

Project wants to allow artists to take risks and make new work. The commissioning fund is specifically about supporting new work. It’s not about paying admin staff or keeping the lights on, it’s about keeping the spirit and intention of Project alive. This is something new and something big and I think it will be very exciting.

There are loads of ways to donate. There is a big donate button on the website, but there’s also a donation box on the desk in box office for your €10 or €2 or 50 cent. Do it now!

Direct Provision

In January, the Abbey held the first of three annual Theatre of Memory Symposiums as part of it’s celebration of the centenaries. The Abbey described it as “directors and academics coming together to discuss the role of memory in making theatre and the challenges of commemorating historical events”.

One of the themes that kept coming up over the few days was the importance of empathy in a caring society and the vital role that theatre plays in developing that skill. A lot of the talks focuses on the darker elements of Ireland’s past and how theatre has explored these themes. It talked about the industrial schools and the Magdalene Laundries, as well as theatre productions that are based on real events. There were also a couple of talks on current issues in Irish society. I thought this was a very clever inclusion (and possibly a direct result of having an Artistic Director who is also a Senator). It meant it wasn’t just about the past, we were no longer looking at Ireland from a distance. It put the historical stuff in context and made is more relevant and more painful.

One of these was Carl O’Brien’s talk on Direct Provision. Direct Provision has been described as government sanctioned mistreatment of other human beings, and has now been going on for 14 years. He describes in detail the day-to-day living conditions that people have to endure, he has photos from the reception centres and quotes from the inspectors reports when they visited these places. He talks about the consequences of living like this in “debilitating forced-idleness” and how Ireland is failing so many of the most vulnerable people in our society. It really is worth a watch.

He also talks specifically about Mosney Reception Centre, and about the large sums of money the owners receive from the State. It’s became an unlimited private company in 2009 which means it can shield it’s accounts from the public but when the accounts were still open in 2009, they showed a large profit. Like the Mother and Baby Homes of the past, there are still people making money by treating people inhumanely.

I found the talk astonishing because the facts are so cruel and unjust they seem almost unbelievable. It has stayed with me and been in my head recently as the revelations about the high death-rates in the homes in Tuam filled the papers and last week when the Minister for Justice was in Geneva defending Ireland’s track record on human rights to the UN. As a nation, we’re still not great at treating vulnerable people with dignity and compassion.

If you would like to find out more about Direct Provision, Nasc Ireland have a lot of information. If you would like to write to the Minister about it, there’s a sample letter here and her email address is frances.fitzgerald@oireachtas.ie.

In relation to the Theatre of Memory, there are lots of other videos and audio files from the three day event. Not all the talks were are depressing as this one!

First Fortnight 2014

FirstFortnight14First Fortnight, Ireland’s Mental Health Arts Festival, is almost over but there is still time to catch some great stuff before it ends on Saturday. I think First Fortnight is a fantastic festival and a great reason to venture out on a dark January evening to see some art! In terms of theatre, Dolls at the Project Arts Centre looks at the place of women in society and how they treated by the media. On the flip side, another show from last year’s Fringe Festival, Confusion Boats explores modern masculinity. And one of my favourite shows from the last few years The Year of Magical Wanking is on in Project Arts Centre. Written and performed by Neil Watkins it is a moving and very personal piece of theatre.

You could also catch Happy Clouds in Temple Bar tomorrow afternoon or The Big Gig in the Button Factory tomorrow night. This year First Fortnight is moving outside Dublin with screenings of Silver Linings Playbook in Waterford, Portlaoise, Bray and Newbridge over the next few days.

So go out and see something and support this wonderful festival that is run entirely by volunteers, and help to challenge mental health prejudices! And most importantly, look after your mental health and if you need someone to talk to you, you don’t have to be suicidal to call the Samaritans on 1890 200 091. As it says on their website – “If there’s something troubling you, then get in touch.”