Tremble Tremble at Project Arts Centre

Since the beginning of June, Project Arts Centre’s Space Upstairs has been occupied by Jesse Jones: Tremble Tremble. This visual arts piece was Ireland’s entry into last year’s Venice Biennale. I wasn’t aware of the Venice Biennale before last year, but I became more and more intrigued by Tremble Tremble, the more I heard about it. It was produced by Project Arts Centre, which I always forget is a visual arts centre as well as a theatre. It’s about feminism and women’s issues. It features Olwen Fouéré. I was delighted that we would get a chance to see it in Dublin. (It has already traveled to LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore and will be going to Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh after Project.)

I was looking forward to seeing it but I also didn’t know what to expect. I don’t know that much about visual arts. Was it an installation where I’d go in and look at various objects? Would it be more like a promenade performance piece that I would be led through? Or would I just go in a watch a video? Even when I went into Project to see it, I stopped at the front desk to ask if there was anything I needed to know beforehand. There wasn’t. You just head upstairs and walk straight into it.

And I think that’s really the best way to do it. I’m reluctant to write too much more about the piece because I think it’s better to go see it without knowing too much and just see what it invokes in you. That said, if you are someone who feels anxious about weird art pieces, I can tell you that there is no audience interaction, you’re won’t be asked to do anything. You can move around if you want or you can stay in one spot. When I was there, there was someone sitting on the floor and I think I saw a bench along the wall as well. It is pretty dark in the space but you get used to that pretty quickly.

If you don’t want to know any more about the piece before you go see it, stop reading after this paragraph and come back after you’ve seen it. Please go and see it. It’s strange and interesting and anything I write here won’t be able to invoke the weird magic of experiencing it first-hand in the space. You have until Wednesday July 18th and it’s open 10am – 6pm most days, and until 8pm today Friday 13th. It’s closed on Sundays.

 

Here’s a little bit about my experience of the piece.

It is a little bit disorientating walking into the Space Upstairs in the dark . It’s a space I know well, but it still felt very unfamiliar and I spent the first couple of minutes getting my bearings. The unmissable thing are the two giant screens, where Olwen Fouéré is projected as a huge, witchy presence. She’s a grumpy witch, threatening chaos. She’s also curious and there’s something mischievous about her as well.  She reminded me of Granny Weatherwax, one of Pratchett’s Discworld witches.

I was very taken with the feeling in the space. It feels ancient. It reminded me of the tomb in Newgrange. The sound made by the moving curtains sounds like wind or rain, but heard from somewhere safe and dry.

The piece lasts about 20 minutes . It’s short but I felt very full afterwards. There are lots of interesting images and ideas in it. There are snippets of songs that sound like strange nursery rhymes and the spoken and written text also leaves you with a lot to think about. After half an hour I felt like I needed to go away and think about it all, but at the same time, I want to go back again. It’s a space that tempts you back. It feels like going back in time, being in conversation with an ancient giant, but it’s also hopeful and forward looking. If you can, go see it before it moves on.

Tremble Tremble is on in Project Arts Centre until Wednesday 18th of July, 10am – 6pm most days. It’s open until 8pm today, Friday 13 July. Closed Sundays.

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Art and censorship

On April 23 2018, Maser’s Repeal mural was removed from outside Project Arts Centre for the second time. You know the one I mean. It was commissioned by the Andrea Horan of the HunReal Issues in 2016 and since then it has appeared in hundreds of profile pictures, on t-shirts, in windows, on badges and stuck to lamp posts around Dublin and beyond. I’ve often seen it above articles about the referendum in Irish and international press. It was only on the wall in Temple Bar for a couple of weeks but it has spread across the world.

In 2016, Project were told to remove it because they didn’t have planning permission. When the date for the referendum was announced, planning permission was no longer necessary and it went back on the wall. Less than a week later, they were told to remove it again. This time it was the Charities Regulator who had taken issue, and in a very murky reading of the Charities Act deemed the mural not in line with Project’s charitable purpose, and told them their charitable status was at risk if they did not cease “political activity”. Project is an arts centre. Their purpose is to present and develop contemporary art. They presented a mural by Maser, an award-winning artist that has displayed work around the world.

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A week after Project received the order from the Charities Regulator, author Una Mullally was told by Dublin City Council that they were canceling her event in the International Literature Festival Dublin. The event was a panel discussion with contributors to Una’s Repeal the 8th Anthology. The anthology is a beautiful collection of stories, poems, essays and photos about the repeal movement and the effect of the 8th amendment. (Available in all good bookshops now!) The reason given by Dublin City Council was that they could not give a platform to one side of a referendum debate. That makes some sense, but the festival programme was announced on April 11th, two weeks after the date for the referendum was set. If Dublin City Council had a problem with the event, why was it programmed? To pull it after tickets were sold feels reactionary and I wonder if the disciplinary action that Project were threatened with affected the decision making process.

But censoring art doesn’t make it disappear. Maser’s mural is everywhere. Since Project painted over (most) of their mural last month (an act that Artistic Director Cian O’Brien described as “defiant compliance”), the image has already popped up on the Amnesty building and currently adorns the windows of Panti Bar. That gorgeous Repeal heart is not going anyway.

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The cancelled Repeal event took place last Monday, though not as part of the Literature Festival. Smock Alley Theatre, where is was scheduled to take place, offered to host it as a separate event. I am very glad they did because it was a great discussion. Censorship and gate-keepers came up, as well as stories about people being bullied or shamed into silence by those in power. There were also readings and performances from pieces in the book and it didn’t feel at all like a political meeting.

I’ve been to a few events in the Literature Festival and the referendum has come up more than once. I’ve seen lots of Yes badges and Repeal jumpers on and off stage, perhaps in a show defiance against the cancellation and perceived censorship. Pushing back against censorship is so important. The alternative is a climate of fear that becomes more fearful with each act of censorship and before long, people start to police themselves.

This week, Not At Home, a touring art installation about women who travelled for an abortion, had venues cancel on them days before they were due to exhibit. This is particularly egregious because one of the aims of the piece was to share the stories of women who had been silenced by shame and stigma. Now their voices are being silenced again. The venues quoted the same Charities Act that was used against Project Arts Centre as their reason for cancelling the event. The venues didn’t wait to be told if they were in breach of the law, they pulled out in case it became an issue. In Galway a publicly-funded organisation and two private venues pulled out of plans to present the exhibit. It was supposed to take place at Crawford College of Art and Design’s gallery (in partnership with UCC and Cork Opera House) but the invitation was withdrawn at a late point. The Gallery cited Charities Regulator guidelines and a wish not to “jeopardise” its charitable status or “become a focus for such controversy”.

NotAtHome

Does this mean that artists now have to  wonder if the art they want to make will be acceptable to venues, or if they might decide it’s not worth jeopardising their charitable status for? What happens if artists don’t feel able to take that risk and instead avoid political issues or “controversial” opinions. It’s not that long ago that talking about abortion or calling for repeal of the 8th amendment was considered a controversial opinion. It’s because people spoke up and refused to be silenced that we get to vote on that issue this week.

Art has to be allowed to be political. It has to be able to explore controversial territory and rail against the status quo. Good art helps spread ideas. It opens minds and helps us see things in new ways. It makes change possible because it shows us new ways of doing and thinking and being. Artists need to be supported and encouraged to do that. We have brave venues that are willing to support risky work but we need more of them, especially outside Dublin.

We should all do what we can to support anyone who speaks up against injustice, whether they are artists or journalists or whistle-blowers. We need to listen to them and do what we can to amplify those voices.

A Yes Vote on May 25th is one way to change the status quo a little bit, and a way to thank those who have spoken out.

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Bram Stoker Festival

Dublin is a busy place; there’s always something going on. Tonight, for instance – Tara Flynn launched her new book in the Gutter Bookshop, Women in Film and TV Ireland held their first members event in the O’Callaghan Hotel on Stephen’s Green and the Panti Bliss documentary Queen of Ireland premiered in the Lighthouse Cinema. It’s one thing choosing not to go to some or all of these wonderful cultural events, but it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out when you’re away from Dublin.

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I’m heading off on my holidays tomorrow, and after the dark, damp weather this week it feels like the perfect time to do with it. I’m looking forward to the sun, sea and sangria even though it means I will be miss the wonderful Bram Stoker Festival which is happening around the city from Friday 23rd – Monday 26th. It looks like my kind of festival. There are lots of free events, including Stokerland in Wolfe Tone Square, a Maser installation in Smithfield Square and the always spectacular Macnas parade on Monday evening. There are also events happening in great venues such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Freemasons Hall.

If I wasn’t going to be in sunny Spain this weekend, I would definitely be booking a ticket for the New Blood night in Project and picking out a spot to watch the Macnas parade.

Live Collision 2015

LiveCollision15I am always very appreciative of festivals who bring international artists to Dublin, especially smaller, more niche performers who generally don’t tour that often. This year’s Live Collision programme is a great mix of Irish and international artists. Visiting artists are also doing workshops or collaborating with Dublin-based performers, which I think is a great way to keep a festival vibrant and meaningful to local artists and audiences. This blog post is late – Live Collision started on Wednesday, so it’s half over at this stage, but there is still lots to enjoy.

There is an Artist Salon workshop on Friday afternoon with UK artists Curious. You have to bring with you some sort of ‘information’ about your body that is invisible to the naked eye. The workshop will involve writing and movement to create work both solo and collaboratively. Tickets are €15/20 and it’s on in Fringe Lab.

There are also lunch time talks taking place in Project on Friday and Saturday. These are public discussions, with questions from the audience. Friday’s theme is We are in Public, with Nic Green and Massive Owl and it’s about artists who create participatory work. Nic Green is part of this year’s festival and also did Trilogy in the Fringe in 2010, which I participated in. Massive Owl are doing an Artist Exchange with three Dublin-based performers as part of Live Collision. Saturday’s panel, We Are Only Human with Francis Fay, Amanda Coogan, Kris Nelson & Vaari Claffey will explore current trends in live art.

Irish artist Amanda Coogan is performing Smoking in Bolero in Meeting House Square on Friday night at 7pm and it’s one of the many free events happening across the festival. Another one is Nic Green‘s Abhann Liffe on Saturday evening. The meeting point for that performance is outside Project and it will take place at low-tide, which will be around 5.15pm.

There is also a performance in the Science Gallery as part of their new exhibition Home/Sick. It’s a live, interactive installation called 97 Years and will happen on Friday and Saturday at 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. Tickets are €8 and available from the Science Gallery website. It’s nice to see the festival spread across the city.

And of course, there’s the main events of the festival – the double bill performances in Project Cube. On Friday night these are Workshy and 27 and on Saturday you can see Stud and Dickie Beau Unplugged. Tickets are €15/13 which means you’re basically getting two shows for the price of one!

And if none of that tickles your fancy, there’s also a strand called We Are Dancing which includes 27 Club drinks in Project Bar on Friday night and Yes Yes Yes at Mother on Saturday.

So go – enjoy some Live Art! You might find it odd or irritating or inspiring but it’s worth giving it a go – it’s not scary.

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!

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.

BJ

Friday Five: Ways to get cheaper theatre tickets

cheapTicketsOne of the reason I love books and reading (see last post) is because you can do it for free. All you need is a library card and away you go! (Note to authors and publishers: don’t panic, I have a healthy book-buying addiction as well as a library card.) I’m going through a bit of cash-flow crisis at the moment (I’m broke) so I have seen very little theatre lately, which is probably another reason why I’m writing about books. Theatre are be an expensive habit but are a few ways to save some money on your theatre tickets.

  1. Early Bird Offers. Theatres love early bookings because it lets them know the theatre won’t be empty, and they can relax a little bit. They want you to book early so they offer discounts. Project Arts Centre offer 25% off the ticket prices for most shows, if you book two or three weeks in advance. At the moment, the Dublin Dance Festival are offering early bird discounts for all their shows until March 29th. They are also doing Dance Deals where you get money off if you book 3 or more shows at the same time.
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  3. Previews and matinees are often a bit cheaper than other shows in the run. Sometimes different days can be cheaper than others. Tickets for Romeo and Juliet at the Gate are €20 for previews, €25 for a Monday night mid-way through the run and €35 on a Friday night. It’s worth being flexible about when you go to see a show.
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  5. Be a friend. A lot of friend’s schemes are prohibitively expensive but the Abbey have some reasonably priced ones. The best of the bunch is the Cameo Club which is open to under 26s and students of all ages. It’s €10 a year and you get half price previews and €10 standby tickets. If you don’t meet the criteria for that, Chorus membership is €25 and gives you half price preview tickets and priority booking.
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  7. Offers on Facebook and Twitter. If you can’t afford a friends subscription, friend your favourite theatres, festivals and production companies on Facebook or follow them on Twitter instead. This is where they will often post about special offers or run competitions for free tickets. For The Walworth Farce, Landmark were offering €20 tickets for unemployed theatre go-ers, purchased on the day and for Rough Magic’s Everything Between Us, they had a limited number of €10 tickets for under 30s. If social media is not your thing, consider signing up to their mailing list.
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  9. Volunteering for festivals is a way to get to see shows for free. Most festivals offer free tickets in exchange for the shifts you work and sometimes you will get into the shows you’re working on. There are loads of good reasons to volunteer but  the free tickets are definitely up there.  The Dublin Dance Festival are currently looking for volunteers. Application close on Friday, 17th April.

Friday Five: Spring is in the Air

SpringI don’t know about you but I am ready for winter to be over. I’ve had enough of the cold weather and the dark evenings. Recently there have been some small hints that maybe spring is on it’s way. There’s that stretch in the evenings and the colourful crocuses poking up out of the grass. So here are five things that are all about looking forward to spring and summer.

  1. Be a tourist in your own town. Now is a good time to do this before everywhere gets too crowded with real tourists. Visit museums and art galleries and pretend to be on holiday. If the weather is being cooperative, get outside and wander around Glasnevin Cemetary or the Botanic Gardens. Or if you’re free during the week, take advantage of the free Wednesdays at the OPW heritage sites. On the first Wednesday of every month, there is free admission to all their sites. In Dublin this includes the state apartments at Dublin Castle, Kilmainham jail and the Casino at Marino. Here is the full list of sites.
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  3. While we’re on the subject of museums, and I know I’ve already mentioned it once or twice here before, but I finally got down to Collins Barracks to see PALS last week and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a beautiful and heart-breaking show. It focuses on one group of men, the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who had played rugby together before heading out to the doomed military operation in Gallipoli. Their stories are told with all the emotion and immersion that I’ve come to expect from an ANU show. They manage to deliver small, gentle moments and big, swooping world-changing ones, and both can be equally heart-breaking. It’s a gorgeous show, go see it.
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  5. Beer gardens are another joy of summer and while the weather might not be suitable just yet, that’s not stopping Project Arts Centre from celebrating their newly done-up beer garden on Friday, March 6th from 6pm. They are promising some super value drinks promotions, tasty pizzas and Siobhan Kane on the decks. And if you’re still there at 8pm, you can head in to see Carmel Winter’s new play Witness.
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  7. Summer is a good time to get together with friends. Get the Boat to Vote is an initiative to encourage recent emigrants to come home for the Marriage Referendum on May 22nd by making it a bit of a occasion! Tell your friends living aboard, tell them to sign up, come home and then plan a party for all those returning emigrants.
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  9. And one last shout-out to the Collaborations festival which is now in it’s final week. There are still lots of great shows to see and there is a great buzz around Smock Alley with so much on. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of it and I’m hoping to see some shows next week, once we’ve done our final show of In Protest Of… tonight.

HISTORY: Interview with Louise White

HISTORY

HISTORY, the final part of THEATREclub’s trilogy of work about the social history of Ireland, opens in Project Arts Centre tonight. This final piece is about St. Michael’s Estate in Inchicore, while also examining the history of Ireland over the last 100 years. St. Michael’s Estate is a place with a particularly troubled past. It housed imprisoned 1916 revolutionaries after the Easter Rising and was the site of Ireland’s first social housing in the 1960s. More recently, regeneration has been promised four times in the last 15 years but the former residents of the estate are still waiting. Louise White, HISTORY’s Associate Director says the show is about “acknowledging the things that happened there, some of which are very dark and that poorly reflect The State; but it’s also about showing that there were good people there too and that people are strong, resilient and hopeful and they persevere.”

This ultimately hopeful project that been a long time in the making. It was commissioned by Dublin City Public Art Programme three years ago. Louise White is a recent addition to the HISTORY team. She joined the project in October. Louise is a performer, director and theatre maker. This year she won the Spirit of the Fringe award with Way Back Home, a piece that combined live storytelling, games and dance with beautiful, evocative paintings by visual artist Clare Henderson. She is currently developing a piece of work called Mother You, a big site-specific work for a disused commercial building in Dublin’s city centre. Louise says it is “about the cycle of life and the cyclical nature of the function of buildings. It’s about me wanting to nurture and do something spectacular and positive in a totemic representation of the failures of recent years.”

While her work is very different stylistically to THEATREclub’s, the ideas at the heart of their work are similar. Louise discovered this earlier this year, when she took part in MAKE, a theatre residency programme that is jointly run by Cork Midsummer Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival, Project Arts Centre and Theatre Forum. THEATREclub’s Grace Dyas also participated in the programme and the two got on very well together. Louise says “We had lots of conversations about life and art during that time and were mutually supportive of each other’s process.” Talking about how she became attached to the project, Louise says that “I thought the project was exceptional and important from the way she spoke about it and I felt privileged to be approached.”

Louise describes THEATREclub as “ever growing and incredibly ambitious”. HISTORY is a huge project, both artistically and logistically. Not only does it deal with big stories and themes, there is also a large number of funding bodies involved. The development process includes weekly public art meetings to keep everybody informed. This is a large scale, ambitious project that has been three years in the making. Louise says that THEATREclub have “a great integrity in their work” and their ambition is hopeful and aspirational. According to Louise, they are “Aspirational for those they work with; for the people of St. Michael’s Estate, for themselves and for Ireland. It’s a mad and brilliant energy to be around.”

The cast of HISTORY have all worked with THEATREclub before. Lauren Larkin plays Mother Ireland, Louise Lewis plays the statue of the Virgin Mary and they are joined by Shane Byrne, Gerard Kelly and Barry O’Connor. The tag-line for this show – Will you walk with us? – suggests that the audience are required to do a little bit more that sit quietly in the dark. There’s a full scale trad session each night, as well as a public conversation. THEATREclub want the audience to be involved in this history of Ireland so that they can take responsibility for what happens next.

HISTORY runs from December 18 – 22 at 7.30pm, in the Space Upstairs in Project Arts Centre. Tickets are available here and are only €10 for tonight’s show (December 18). Tickets for the rest of the week are €16/12.

Theatre this November

It’s only a month since it all ended but the Dublin Fringe and Dublin Theatre Festival already seem like a long time ago. We’ve had time to get our breath back, catch up on sleep and recover from too many late nights in the festival clubs. It’s easy to be over-loaded with choice during the festivals and sometimes it can feel like you’ve over-dosed on great performances and fantastic productions over the two months. A hiatus might be necessary but if you stay away too long you might miss something wonderful!

One of my favourite shows from the last couple of years Pat Kinevane’s Silent is back at the Peacock until December 7, Wed-Sat at 8pm. I went to see it for the second time when it opened last week and once again, it was absolutely fantastic. Pat’s performance is captivating and Tito McGoldrick’s story of how he came to be living on the streets feels like a story that needs to be told, particularly now and particularly at this time of year.
Go see it but book soon because it is bound to sell out!

Silent is a Fishamble production and they have another show currently on tour that I am looking forward to seeing. Guaranteed! had a short run last summer when it played to packed theatres and was followed by passionate post-show discussions. This is Colin Murphy’s imagining of what happened on the night of the bank guarantee. Michael D Higgins said “I think people should come and view it. It’s very, very good.” He’s the president, I think we should do what he says. It’s playing in venues all over the country throughout November and there are more details here.

And for something completely different – those theatrical mavericks from Sheffield Forced Entertainment are in the Project next week (Thur 21 – Sat 23 November) with a new show called Tomorrow’s Parties. Forced Entertainment shows are usually strange and sometimes a little bit difficult but they are always interesting and I always find something new and wonderful in them. They’re always a little bit different and also very much themselves.