Nollaig na mBan

Tomorrow, January 6th is Little Christmas, also know as Women’s Christmas or Nollaig na mBan. Traditionally it’s a day for women to gather and go out for the night or host a party for female friends. #WakingTheFeminists have declared it a day to celebrate women and have been encouraging feminists to use the day to plan a get together.

There are events happening all over Ireland, and the world. There’s a list of events on the #WakingTheFeminists website and a few more are popping up on twitter. All events are open to feminists of all genders.

One of the objectives of these gatherings is to talk about what you’d like to change. I’m missing the #WTF events tomorrow because I am going to another Nollaig na mBan celebration in the Irish Writers’ Centre, so here is my list of changes.

What changes would I like to see?

  • Gender quotas. As I wrote at the beginning of November, I still think that funding decisions based on gender quotas would help to balance the scales in terms of the number of women making work. Money is a great motivator.
  • More stats. I really like the infographics about the number of male and female writers and directors who have worked at the Abbey in the last years. It makes the unbalance very clear and it’s hard to argue with statistics. I’d like to see more information on the people who are submitting plays to the Abbey. When the controversy around the Waking The Nation programme first happened, one of the questions that appeared on social media again and again was “but how many women applied?” Because the Abbey have a policy of accepting unsolicited scripts, and a Literary Dept to read them, it would be interesting to get some information about those playwrights, things like gender, age, location.
  • I found Brian O’Bryne’s blogs on childcare and sexual harrassment very interesting to read. There’s obviously a lot of room for improvement in both these areas. I love this piece by Tara Derrington and I would love to see an Abbey creche. As well as catering for actors in rehearsals or auditions, it could also offer childcare options to artists having meetings in the Peacock cafe. Bullying and harassment are against the rules in every workplace but things can be trickier in the theatre, for all the reasons that Brian points out on his blog. The #WTF website includes information on this issue. It shouldn’t be acceptable in any job and it certainly shouldn’t be “part of the job”.
  • More feminists in government. I don’t see the #WakingTheFeminists movement as being only about theatre or only about the arts. The aim is more equality in general. Voting for feminists in the next general election (which will hopefully happen sometime this year!) is one way to move closer to that goal.
  • It would be great to see an organisation like Women in Film in TV for the performing arts. An organisation that offers support and mentorship to female artists, promotes equality in the sector, provides networking opportunities, gathers statistics and can act as a lobbying body, and with a membership structure to pay for all those things.

What am I going to do?
I’m going to keep talking about it, I’m going to keep supporting female artists (I have tickets for three female driven pieces in First Fortnight – Enthroned, Overshadowed and Alison Spittle Discovers Hawaii) and I’m going to vote for the feminists in the General Election.

Happy Nollaig na mBan and here’s to a more equal 2016!


BansheeEarlier this year, I supported the Banshee Kickstarter because it sounded like an interesting project that was just the right amount of ambitious. (And because I like getting exciting things in the post. I am always more likely to support a crowd-funding campaign that promises to send me nice things in the post.)

I’m not a big magazine reader. I read a lot online and when I’m away from the computer, I prefer to read fat novels. But Banshee came through the door when I was between books and it was nice to read short pieces for a change. It has a nice mix of stories, poems and essays. The magazine is a great size for your handbag (unlike the books that give you backache) and a lot of the pieces are the right length to enough with a cup of tea or on a short bus journey. It’s gets a big thumbs up for me. You can still subscribe here and looking forward to getting something exciting in the post next year. It’s an investment in your future happiness.

They are also accepting submissions for the next issue at the moment and you have until Halloween night to send in your poems, short stories or essays. Submission details are here. And you can also read an interview with the three editors here.

If you can’t wait for the post or just aren’t interested in hard-copy magazines, I recommend you head over to The Coven for your literary needs, another spookily named literary magazine but one that’s all online.

B.J. Novak at Project Arts Centre

– Do you want to go see BJ Novak in the Project?
– Is he doing stand-up?
– No, I think it’s a book reading?
– Reading from the kids book?
– No, I think it’s a book of essays, like Mindy Kaling’s.
– No, I think it’s short stories.
– Sure we’ll go and find out.

We didn’t really know what we were going to when we booked tickets to BJ Novak at the Project Arts Centre a couple of Sundays ago. As it turned out, he was readings from his book of short stories One More Thing.

One More Thing is a collection of over 60 stories of various lengths. Some are eleven pages long, some might be only eleven lines. As we learnt on the night, the version published in the UK has 2 fewer pieces than when it was published in the US. The stories that were removed both feature real people and were excluded because the laws relating to real people in fiction are different in the UK and the US. One of these was “The Something by John Grisham”, about what happens when John Grisham finds out that his latest novel has been published as The Something because that was what he scribbled on the front page and never got round to changing it. The other, which Novak managed to smuggle into the country and read to us in Project, is called “The Comedy Central Roast of Nelson Mandela”. It was very very funny. He also read a couple of stories about the trials of dating – “All You Have to Do” and “Missed Connection: Grocery spill at 21st and 6th 2:30 pm on Wednesday” and a wonderful imagining of the after-life in “No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg”, as well as “Julie and the Warlord” which was done as a radio play for This American Life. I haven’t heard that version but I doubt it could be as much fun as the author reading it aloud and doing all the voices.

It was an interesting experience hearing stories read aloud with other people and experiencing the anticipation, the pay-offs and the laughs as a group. Most writer events that I’ve been to include a reading, but it’s only ever a small part of it. The focus is really on the interview and the Q&A. Here there was no interviewer and it all about the stories. There was even a request section. There were a few questions at the end, and a brief discussion about where to go for live music in Dublin on a Sunday night. The event ended, as all literary events do, with a book-signing. I didn’t buy a book on the night because I want to get my hands on a American version. I really want to read “The Something by John Grisham”.

And according to Twitter, BJ Novak ended up in the Workmans. Nights out in Dublin always end up at the Workmans.


Friday Five: International Women’s Day

iwd_squareThis Sunday is International Women’s Day. It has been celebrated on March 8th since 1975 but Women’s Day has existed in various forms since the early 1900s, often in connection with the labour movement. It’s a day for celebrating the achievements of women and also for recognising the inequalities faced by the women and the work that still has to be done. Here’s a list of events and articles about women in the arts and culture.

1. The Women of the World Festival at the South Bank is now is it’s fifth year and it just seems to get bigger every year. The line-up is always incredible and yet I’ve never actually managed to get over to London for it. Luckily they are very good at putting all the talks online. Everything from the past three years is up on their YouTube channel and no doubt this year’s talks will join them.

2. Previous WOW speaker Emer O’Toole will be on the RTE Book Show on Saturday evening at 7pm, celebrating IWD with Lisa Hannigan, Norah Casey, Viv Groskop and presenter Sinead Gleeson. The Irish Times have been celebrating Irish women writers all week and all those articles are collected here. (Watch out for the paywall.) This weekend the paper will include an all female version of the famous Irish Writers poster that you see all over the place. Fintan O’Toole called it a joke with a serious point.

3. I read a couple of great articles on women’s “madness” this week. Mad in inverted commas because generally the behaviour being dismissed as madness is just simply behaviour that deviates from the norm, ie it’s not how men behave. Or it is a logical reaction to how the women in question have been mistreated. B. N. Harrison writes about The Unified Theory of Ophelia: On Women, Writing, and Mental Illness for the Toast and Julie Holland writes about Medicating women’s Feelings for the New York Times.

4. Another area where women face discrimination and struggle to tell women’s stories is on the screen. You only had to look at the recent Oscars to see the lack of women in the writing and directing categories, and the lack of women in general in the Best Picture nominees. This matters because popular culture matters. It shapes how we see the world and it needs to include women, in front of and behind the camera. A group working to improve this is Women in Film and TV International. The Irish branch is currently making a come-back and you can find them on Facebook.

5. If you want to hear more about the many and varied issues that affect women’s equality, the National Women’s Council are holding a Soapbox event today, outside the Central Bank in Temple Bar from 12 – 4pm. Last year over 35 women shared their thoughts and experiences from the Soapbox. This year’s speakers will include a wide range of women from Ireland’s artistic, political, musical and journalistic community.

Festival improvements

Last week on the Irish Times theatre blog Pursued by a Bear, there was an article suggesting ways to improve the recent theatre festivals in Dublin.

Some of it is very true – shows should not run miles over their advertised time (festival time is too busy for that sort of messing) and maybe people should be encouraged more to try for returns to sell-out shows – but there are a few things I disagree with as well.

Change the dates – I couldn’t disagree more. I love that the two festivals are so close together and that you can completely over-dose on theatre throughout September and October. It makes the city feel really alive and buzzing for weeks on end. One of the arguments in favour of changing the dates given in the article is that “The chances of getting the casual theatre-goer into a show for four consecutive weeks are pretty slim.” I don’t think this is a problem because I think the Absolut Fringe and the Dublin Theatre Festival are targeting different audiences. Of course there is an overlap but I think the people who are interested in both festivals are people who go to the theatre regularly anyway, they are more than causal theatre-goers.

Ticket prices – Both festivals had reasonably priced tickets on offer this year. There were loads of €10 tickets for Fringe shows, particularly for previews, and I thought the Final Call offers from the Dublin Theatre Festival (where tickets for certain shows were available on the day from the festival box-office for €10) was fantastic. The Theatre Festival also had a wide-range of prices this year. At one end, you could see shows for €15 while seats in the Gaiety were €33. This meant people were less likely to be completely priced out of the festival.

Star attractions – I don’t think the Dublin Theatre Festival needs to hire celebrities to improve it’s appeal. Alan Rickman in John Gabriel Borkman last year was a bit of a disappointment and I think it cheapens the festival to rely on star power.

I really enjoy both the Fringe and the Theatre Festival and had trouble coming up with improvements that could be made. However here are a couple of suggestions:

Ticket lucky dip
This could be done for the Theatre Festival or the Fringe but would probably work better for the Fringe because of their cheaper ticket prices and huge range of shows. You would buy tickets for three of four different shows but you don’t know what shows until you get your tickets! Sometimes people don’t know what to see in the festival because of the huge amount of choice. This would solve that; you take a risk and go where you’re told. It might have to be very reasonably priced to encourage people to take that risk.

The Fringe Awards
You used to be able to buy tickets to the Fringe Awards. They were held in the Speilgeltent and featured short performances and winners and losers. I love awards show and I miss being able to go to this one.

If you have any suggestions, you can leave them here or over on the Irish Times blog. You can also give your feedback directly to the Dublin Theatre Festival by filling in their survey.

The Ugly Blog

I was flicking through links on Twitter last Friday afternoon and came across this wonderful blog. Over the weekend, I worked my way through all The Ugly Truth blog posts, which start in October 2009 and finish last month. In them, Emma Adams talks about writing a play called The Ugly Truth, from draft 0 to the rehearsal room. She talks about the highs and lows of play-writing and I found it fascinating!

Other stuff to read

It’s going to be Saturday evening before I finish writing about Trilogy so I will send you elsewhere to read other things!

Like this article in The Irish Times“From theatre virgin to grumbling veteran”
It’s a month old but I only found it this week, when I was looking for something else Fringe related. It’s a view of the Fringe from an artist putting on their very first theatre production. It’s a little bit of a fairy-tale (though I’m sure a hell of a lot of hard-work was involved as well!) and goes to show that anything is possible with the Fringe!

This evening I am going to “see” The Smile Off Your Face. I’m looking forward to it but I’m also a little bit nervous. Audience members are blind-folded and put into a wheel-chair! I’ll either love it or hate it.

David Hare article in the Guardian

“Art frequently reminds us that things are never quite as simple as they seem. Nor are people. Journalism is life with the mystery taken out. Art is life with the mystery restored.”

In the Guardian yesterday, David Hare argues why good theatre should never be confused with journalism. The article is about about verbatim theatre and the power of theatre to capture a moment in time. He also writes about creating great theatre in general.

I like this;
“Style was the only means by which you could suggest that what you were writing about was something more than what you appeared to be writing about. Without style there was no suggestiveness, and with no suggestiveness, no metaphor. The processes of art could begin nowhere else.”