Ray Yeates speech from An Artist’s Vision for Ireland National Symposium panel discussion:
Ray: There’s been a big thing in my job, that’s been in the last couple of years as we’ve gotten ready for these events. And I think what struck me the most about commemoration is the difference between 1916 and now. Like if you were to consider the amount of change that’s occurred in the past fifteen years in technology, this would be a logarithmic change from the previous twenty years and would in order on the rictor scale of one or two between 1916. It’s phenomenally difficult to compare life in 1916 to life in 2016. I think phenomenally different. And if you were to compare it, you’d have to do so much change to interpret it. So I think the one that really inspired me about 1916 and that’s been alluded to by the other speakers, was the prevalence of ideas. And I don’t think it was the arts, which I’d kinda mildy disagree with Deidra about that, it was the idea that we could be Irish or independent or different than being English. This ornery constructed idea that Ireland was different and we had a different race and we wanted to express that. So you saw that in the early 20th century in the cooperative movement, the suffragette movement, Gaelic revival, the national theatre. Like WB Yeats said I will one day make shefermon(?) as famous as mount Olympus. But we had our own mount Olympus, we didn’t need your mount Olympus. We have our own.
This pride of the right kind. This self-esteem, this absence dempt. The bodice are the one that kicked out as well. And this was a central idea in being Irish. Deidra is right to ask what happened. I think what happened is that life happened. You know, this it is a very different time in your life when you say ‘this is the idea, this is the vision, this is the aspiration, and now I have to do it, now I have to go out and ring people, call em up and do it.’ And I think of the greatest criticisms of the arts is it stays only in the exploratory place and lacks the courage to move into the next. And the few artists who said I don’t agree with vials. The few artists who said ‘look I’m not gonna write a poem about this, I’m picking up a gun. I’m not just going to talk about this in a pub, I’m going down to the GPO.’ That’s very different, very very different. But it was the power of an idea.
Recently I worked on a bit of New York cap and culture, and lost, but as we worked on it people came in with projects and the consultants kept saying no. ‘That’s a play, that’s an opera. What’s the idea? What’s the reason that you’re going to win?What’s going to be the’ Ask me now, what’s your idea? What’s the idea? Don’t split it out from your art form, split it out from anything else. What’s the dominant idea? And I can tell you that those ideas are not coming from the arts. Right? They’re coming from outside the arts. The arts express them and respond to them. But some artists are throwing out the great ideas of today. Bernie Sanders is throwing out some of the great ideas of today. He’s a huge supporter of the arts, cause he knows the arts are place that can express and bind people together, but his idea is very simple. We’re equal, we’ll take of each other. We’re not just rich and poor. Now that’s a very old idea, but it’s a dominant idea inside his campaign. And it’s inspiring all kinds of people. Now there is a huge opposition to that idea, right, and soon as you have an idea; your artist’s vision for Ireland. Armies are going to attack it. They’re gonna step up and say no no no no, that idea is out of date. It’s stupid. You’re stupid. Right? If you won’t, and I have to do it every day, if you won’t step up and learn how to implement your idea and realize it. It’s just an idea. The only piece of hope in this is, if it’s a great idea, it starts to gain momentum all by itself and people, like waking the feminists, people start to talk to each other. You start to get support. You don’t have to feel like you don’t have to do your own movement to start it. And maybe that’s the biggest thing that I’d have, the biggest vision I’d have.
In 1916, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce and Charle McDermott and James Connelly and Padraig Pearse and Countess Markievicz. This generation of men and women, where did they come from? We don’t have one of those, not one of them do we have. Right? We have a group of politicians that cannot agree, that cannot agree to get started. Not one person has inspired anyone. Not one. Right? And the question I have is, could you be that person? Cause that’s my vision. Can you be that person, that’ll have the great idea, support the great idea. Cause ideas I think start to detach from people and start to spread and become infective and become old. I want Ireland to become a place of ideas again. Cause once upon a time, we were all sitting around here saying wonder what we’re gonna do about global warming. I don’t know. Might recycle. Right?
In a small house, a hundred years ago, a group of people sat around and said they would overthrow the British empire. That’s an idea. Right? And we’ve lost-
Man in audience: that idea was revolutionary for centuries.
Ray Yeates: Absolutley! But they actually you know went ahead and did something about it. They went ahead and acted on it. This was a really popular idea and their way of coming together was different, but where we at? Will we have these ideas? That’s my vision. A place of ideas, mimicking the courage of the people who had those ideas and foundation of the state.