Hello and welcome to the June 2023 edition of the Smashing Times Newsletter. This month’s theme is Ordinary Stories.
Why Ordinary Stories? Bloomsday, 16 June, marks the day on which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set. In this novel – if such a polyphonic colossus of a literary work can be labelled as such – ordinary and everyday experiences are exalted. Ulysses presents, via an array of original and traditional styles, the minutiae of 1904 Dublin, and the lives and consciousnesses of Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and a host of other characters, familiar and strange.Ordinary Stories as a theme is threaded throughout our Art Inspires section, beginning with the story ‘Shadows’ by Featured Artist Paul Hammond. Following this is an artwork from Relicarios by Erika Diettes, which honours Colombia’s many disappeared individuals by preserving their possessions. This piece serves as a haunting reminder of the long-lasting effects of violence, while also providing a consolatory solace to the family and friends of the victims, whom it honours.Eva Gore-Booth’s poem ‘Weariness’ explores one of the most unavoidable everyday considerations: mortality and life’s impermanence, while Holly Smith’s ‘Siren’s Song’ addresses a widely experienced yet taboo psychological disorder with piercing honesty. Finally, ‘A Flower Given to My Daughter’ is an ode to parental love from none other than Mr Joyce himself.
Read on for quotes, news, 10 We Admire, grants and opportunities, and more.
‘The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.’
– Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
‘In the particular is contained the universal.’
– James Joyce, as told to Arthur Power
‘There isn’t any such thing as an ordinary life.’
– Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily Climbs
Mary Oliver, Poet
Mary Oliver’s (1935-2019) powerfully feminine poetry inspires quiet reflection on everyday occurrences. Her poems begin grounded in the real, natural world, and turn simple moments into impactful and beautiful insights. Read more here.
‘Everyday Life’ by Coldplay
This song highlights how our struggles in life can unite us, because every human being has felt some form of pain, or failure, or has cried. We already have so much in common. Our shared experiences bind our community and can inform collective values in a positive way. There is a certain beauty in the good and bad of everyday life. Listen here.
The Feminist Killjoy Handbook by Sara Ahmed
The non-fiction work The Feminist Killjoy Handbook details what it feels like to be excluded, describing experiences of barriers in life and work that are invisible because of institutional discrimination. This book taps into the perspective of women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTQI+ community. Click here for more information and to purchase.
Featured Artist: Paul Hammond
This month’s Featured Artist is Dublin-born writer Paul Hammond. Currently writing a debut collection of stories as part of his PhD at Royal Holloway University of London, his fiction has appeared in Litro, Gutter, The Manchester Review, Neon, and elsewhere. His work puts a microscopic lens to the inner workings of ordinary people, highlighting the nuances of their emotional universes. Their emotions, however strongly felt, are rarely addressed explicitly between the characters in his texts. Instead, they are hinted at, disguised, or repressed, as honesty – or rather, an attempt at honesty via forensic self-questioning – is reserved for the narrative voice alone.
The prevailing emotions in ‘Shadows’ are jealousy and guilt. The story examines the power imbalances in two young Dubliners’ friendship, while carefully presenting a moral dilemma. What is more important to honour: one’s own feelings of inadequacy, or loyalty to a lifelong friend? And at what point does living in someone’s shadow become too much?
On the train to work this morning, I chuckled. I wasn’t amused by anything, the opposite actually. It was a resigned kind of chuckle, reserved for those moments when you have to wonder at the way things work out sometimes. It was twenty years to the day since Colm Dunne was betrayed. And tonight I was having dinner with him.
Today was a struggle. The client meetings went all right, a bit of a distraction. Being alone in my office was different. Thoughts I’d done my best to control kept coming back. Ronan Newman, the person I’d done my best to forget, kept asserting himself in my mind. I felt disconnected from the present, like I’d been taken over by my twenty-one-year-old self.
We’re meeting at 7pm in our usual spot. I arrive first and am taken to a table near the back. It’s a couple of months since I’ve seen Colm, but I reckon it could be a couple of years and he’d look the same. He comes in with his head high, wearing a navy three-piece, hair still as blonde and full as ever. He greets me with a smile and tells me it’s been too long, and I feel like the only person in the world he wants to see.
Colm and Ronan were a pair as far back as I can remember. If not joined at the hip then separated by millimetres. As only children, growing up next door to each other, both were the closest the other was getting to a sibling. Ronan’s mother, Molly, cut back to part-time work after he was born. She would collect the boys from school every day, watch them walking towards her, side-by-side, or Ronan just a half-step in front.
Ronan was the more confident of the two. He spoke more, louder, and decided who amongst the rest of the class he and Colm would be friends with. When Colm’s head bowed, as if scared of angering the air around him, Ronan’s would rise, scanning the world the way a new parent does, their attention now accountable for two people.
The waiter arrives with two pints of Heineken. He is short, with an Italian accent. While pouring the water, he lets some fall onto Colm’s shirt. I’m about to say something when the waiter notices what he’s done, grabbing Colm’s napkin and dabbing at the wet patch.
‘Sir, I am so sorry,’ the waiter says.
‘No problem at all. Honestly,’ Colm says, as if convinced that his shoulder shouldn’t have been below the bottle.
The waiter leaves to get a new napkin.
‘What kind of waiter is your man?’ I say.
Colm smiles. ‘Ah, he’s probably been at it for hours now. Hard not to make the odd mistake.’
I say nothing, ashamed at my reaction. Colm rarely speaks ill of anyone or anything. It’s his natural manner, as if he didn’t see much around him worth getting worked up about. Not that he’s passive, more that he’s just very accepting. I think it’s this part of Colm that makes the people around him want to protect him. We call his tolerance naivety, and assume that when the bad stuff comes along, Colm will be defenceless.
Maybe it was Ronan, way back in school, who was the first to notice this disposition of Colm’s, and the first to set about looking after him. Or maybe Ronan was just an outgoing kid and I’m reading too much into it. It’s so long ago now that it’s hard to be sure. But for someone who only knew Colm and Ronan from, say, their teenage years onwards, it might be surprising to learn that Ronan commanded their early relationship. Not only because of how this dynamic changed in the years that would follow, but because of Ronan’s deformed right arm, cut off from birth, with a stump where his elbow should’ve been.
As usual, myself and Colm spend the first portion of the evening talking about work. We’re both in law, but at competing firms. We mention a case involving a student from our class at university, and another one in the public eye. This talk, however, gets boring fast, and by the time our food arrives we’ve moved on to more intimate and ancient topics.
Colm is retelling a story about Mr Hamill, our old business teacher, who vomited on two of the lads after a Senior Cup match.
‘And remember then,’ Colm is cracking up, barely able to cut his meat, ‘Principal Morgan shouting… And we were all expecting him to go to town on him, maybe even threaten his job. But then he just stood up, took a sip of his pint and was like, “Ciarán, you’re a fucking disgrace not being able to hold your drink in front of these young men. What kind of example are you setting?”’
Rugby was to our secondary school what darkness is to night. If you were on one of the teams, the teachers were more lenient with you, and nicer to you. This might sound unfair, and probably it was. The only thing I can say is that once you’re in a structure like that, and you’ve known nothing else, it becomes hard to speak out against it.
When it came to rugby, Ronan, for obvious reasons, was a spectator. But Colm – tall, strong in the legs, lean-muscled in the chest and arms, and quick – was one of the best players in our year. I think it was rugby that brought Colm out of his shell, and Ronan Newman’s shadow. The rest of the lads were in awe of his skills on the pitch and a group formed around him. Not to say that Colm and Ronan weren’t still best friends; they were, everyone knew that. But the dynamic of their bond had changed – Colm now the new hot property, Ronan the sidekick.
I remember a strange event. For us at that time, winning the Rugby Senior Cup was like winning The Masters or Wimbledon or The Champions League. We hadn’t won the cup for over a decade, but this particular year, with Colm and company on the team, we thought we had a chance.
In the semi-final we were up against a local rival. The match was played in wind and sleet, and was a drab, low-scoring affair. In the last minute, our fly-half, Dean Donegan, had a 35-metre penalty to take us to the final. Dean slipped during his run-up and the ball landed short of the posts. We were out of the cup. What came next were moments of shared agony, some heads in hands, others watching our rivals celebrate. With handshakes and conciliatory words being offered on the pitch, just off it, alone on the sideline, was Ronan Newman, smiling. Not a big grin or anything that would’ve gotten attention. More like a wry smirk.
With all that happened in those minutes, I don’t know if anyone actually saw Ronan smiling. Maybe you could say that it was the way the sleet was blowing into his face that made him look like he was doing so. I don’t know. These memories are foggy. To me, though, it has always seemed like he was smiling.
I order dessert while Colm waves at the large-headed infant at the next table. The child’s eyes are wide and in awe, the kind of look I’ve seen Colm get for years.
‘How are the kids?’ I ask.
‘Good, thanks. Yeah, Holly was sick last week. Bad dose of the flu, but better now. David’s as wild as ever. Only girls on that lad’s mind these days.’
‘Ah yeah. Suppose we were much the same at that age. Can’t be too hard on him.’
I nod, feeling a little short on words. I know what comes next.
‘What about yourself then,’ Colm starts. ‘Still living the bachelor lifestyle?’
I look around the restaurant, as if scoping the place for tonight’s fun. ‘I am,’ I say.
‘Must be good craic?’
‘Yeah. Well to be honest I was seeing someone up till about a week ago. Scottish woman. But didn’t end up lasting.’
‘Right. Sorry, man.’
‘Nah not to worry.’
We both sip our pints.
‘I’m still holding out for that role as best man, though,’ Colm says.
I laugh. ‘Well, on the increasingly off-chance that the role exists, it’s yours.’
The time around the lost semi-final was interesting. Most of us were losing our virginities, or trying to, or pretending to have. Friday nights were spent in large houses, belonging to one or other of the team members’ deep-pocketed parents. We existed in those months in a kind of limbo: too newly fond of alcohol for any sober activities to seem attractive, but too young yet to get into Dublin’s nightclubs.
At these parties, amidst blaring electronic music and guzzled-down cans, arrived the struggling heels of private school girls. Their presence brought an influx of sexual innuendoes, or, from less crafty mouths, explicit references to penis sizes. Accompanying this, probably unsurprisingly, were very few people actually having sex.
The arrival of young women to our parties brought a new kind of exposure for Ronan and the place where his arm should’ve been. Not that these girls were cruel or anything, most of them were lovely. They probably even gave Ronan more attention because of the deformity.
The problem was that it was platonic attention. The girls thought of him as a cute little thing – he was about five foot three at the time – who was best friends with a hunk. And while Ronan lingered for months in a collection of friend zones, Colm was one of the select few actually having sex. He’d found himself a girlfriend.
Tara Burke came along around the time Colm’s parents’ marriage was struggling. Niamh Dunne had slept with a colleague, and I think Tara succeeded in plugging a female-shaped hole in Colm’s life. Caring, beautiful, and intelligent, Tara was as much a source of envy to the other girls as Colm was to us. In that sense, I suppose they were perfect for each other.
Relicarios by Erika Diettes
Mixed Media (Rubber Tripolymer) 11.8 X 11.8 X 4.7 IN, Colombia 2011-2015
Relicarios by Colombian visual artist Erika Diettes consists of a set of cubes, which could also be called packaging or capsules, arranged on the floor as though they were graves. The cubes (30 x 30 x 12 cm) are made of rubber tripolymer, a gluelike substance that is transparent when submerged. Embedded in them are garments and objects that belonged to Colombia’s disappeared, treasured by their mothers and other family members like relics. But in this case, the objects have been delivered permanently to the artist in order to give them ‘a dignified resting place’, in the words of one family member. Included above are two photographs of Relicarios #19, one of this project’s many cubes.
In a country inhabited by mourners, in a world of people grieving because of widespread violence, Relicarios comes to represent a tribute to all the victims of war. Through the generous gesture and infinite trust displayed by their donation, mourners have turned their special, individual treasures into social relics so as to make absence perceptible. A picture, a piece of cloth from a garment, a toothbrush, a feather, or even the dirt on which a loved one once stood, is indicative of an existence, a life that was obliterated; of a suffering; or worse, of a depravity which, though denied, was inflicted. These relics, or treasures, despite being just dirt, feathers, or dust, are a promise to never be forgotten. Visit Erika’s website here.
Photo: Lukas Robertson
‘Weariness’ by Eva Gore-Booth
Amid the glare of light and song
And talk that knows not when to cease,
The sullen voices of the throng,
My weary soul cries out for peace,
Peace and the quietness of death;
The wash of waters deep and cool,
The wind too faint for any breath
To stir oblivion’s silent pool,
When all who swim against the stream,
And they that laugh, and they that weep,
Shall change like flowers in a dream
That wither on the brows of sleep.
For silence is the song sublime,
And every voice at last must cease,
And all the world at evening time
Floats downwards through the gates of peace,
Beyond the gloom of shadowy caves
Where water washes on the stones,
And breaks with quiet foamless waves
The night’s persistent monotones;
The stars are what the flowers seem,
And where the sea of thought is deep,
The moonlight glitters like a dream,
On weary waters gone to sleep.
‘Siren’s Song’ by Holly Smith
I hear the siren’s call as I pat my bloated stomach, full to bursting with all of the salty bites and chocolate-crammed morsels I could down in one evening. As full as I was, I knew I could eat more. Each taste granted me one more moment of solace, one more moment without dark thoughts, one more moment of peace. But as soon as I finished, I was left with the same sinking feelings, redoubled along with the size of my belly.
And yet, I hear her.
She calls to me; her voice is soothing, telling me it will all be all right, that I don’t have to live with what I’ve done. If I come to see her, she will take it all away, will heal my gluttonous mistakes. But even her soft voice holds an edge. Though I long to hear only the brightest notes in her call, I know she incurs a price.
If I go to her, if I pay her price, I fear others will know, and if others know, they would worry, and I am nothing if not a people-pleaser. They wouldn’t want me to answer her call; they’d say that I can find another way.
But they are not here.
And I do not tell them of her.
And I hear her.
Her crooning beckons me to the small pool of water. I kneel before it as I would for absolution. She tells me she alone can relieve me of my burden. I will still have received all of the pleasures from my sin, but be free of the consequences, if only I yield to her. I stare at my reflection in the water. The water should look dirtier, considering where it lies.
Yet perhaps it makes some lick of sense. The basin itself is such a contrast. It is of bright white porcelain, gleaming even in a dim room, and yet it carries refuse from comforting homes into a sewer’s abyss. Perhaps this is her proper temple, a seemingly shiny exterior with a foul, wretched interior. Perhaps this is where she truly belongs.
And yet, I kneel.
And I hear her.
Still, I consider giving her an offering in exchange for her lilting promises of beauty and release. I feel my stomach swell in folds over my soft trousers. I had switched to them upon my return home tonight. The soft fabric was kinder to my ever-growing thighs than the stiffly sewn denim of those I wore in public. It was easier to pull these cushiony ones all the way up to my waist, or let them rest below my bulging midriff. My stiff ones would mark the distinct rolls with how they clung to my lumpy frame and would leave imprints, showing how poorly they fit. Yet I refused to get larger ones; the size of the ones I already wore abhorred me. If I gave in, surely I would visit her too often. I would become her most devoted acolyte.
The ritual is simple, I tell myself. All she asks for is the meal I wish to rid myself of.
And I hear her.
It won’t take long and then I will feel released. I will have undone my ills of the evening. Won’t I?
And I hear her.
Is what she asks such a high price to pay?
It is if you ask too often for her blessing, my tilted mind whispers; then, she demands more than an evening’s meal. First, she will demand my bright smile. Then she will demand my soft skin. And then my steady heart. Eventually, she will ask for my firstborn.
But just once or twice or thrice might do the trick, I tell myself.
Perhaps even the wretched feeling that accompanies her ritual would do me some good. It would remind me that I should not sin as I had, that I should be stricter, that I should eat less, be less.
And I hear her.
I’m so close, she tells me. Just give in, she sings so sweetly.
I stare into my own face in the water, plumper than I’d like and sadder than I’d admit. And I am able to make a choice.
I push myself away from this siren’s song and shut out the watery mirror.
Holly Smith was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, but studied in Ireland for her Master’s in Writing at the University of Galway. Her work has been published in Atlas Obscura, The Galway Review, The Lamp, and Splonk. Initial letters designed and illuminated by Lucia Joyce, about whom this poem is written
‘A Flower Given to My Daughter’ by James Joyce
Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time’s wan wave.
Rosefrail and fair — yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.
Smashing Times News
(L-R) Actor Ciara Hayes, Singer Hillary Bow, Actor Elizabeth Moynihan, Sabina Higgins, President Michael D Higgins, Smashing Times Artistic Director Mary Moynihan, and Smashing Times Company Manager and Producer Freda Manweiler.
Bloomsday Garden Party in Áras an Uachtaráin
Smashing Times were delighted to perform at Áras an Uachtaráin for the 2023 Bloomsday Garden Party on 18 June. Each year, the President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins host a series of Garden Parties, to celebrate the work of people and organisations who have been active in projects and areas that are central to the Presidency. The Garden Parties continue a tradition established by past presidents, and welcome people from all over the island of Ireland to Áras an Uachtaráin, its house, and gardens.
Mary Moynihan presented on the women characters in the work of playwright Sean O’Casey, as well as remembering Deirdre O’Connell, founder of the Focus Theatre. Actors Elizabeth Moynihan and Ciara Hayes performed an O’Casey excerpt, while Hilary Bow sang an Irish translation of ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ by Charles Dumont, translated by Liam Ó Muirthile.
A Time to Breathe partner meeting in Turin, Italy
Smashing Times Travel
Smashing Times staff have been busy travelling to European partner exchanges over the past month. From 30-31 May, Company Manager Freda Manweiler and William Caughey were in Reykjavík, Iceland for the final meeting of the Our Civic Heritage project. This Erasmus+ funded project seeks to promote European common values and civic education and engagement in Europe. Read more here.
More recently, Freda Manweiler and William Caughey were in Turin, Italy, on 22 June, meeting for the Erasmus+ funded project A Time to Breathe. This project, led by Smashing Times, seeks to provide education, training, and awareness-raising at national and European levels, using creative processes to promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing with youth. Learn more here.
Site-specific dance performance by Rachel Ní Bhraonáin and her troupe at the Cathedral grounds in Waterford City
Smashing Times at Theatre Forum Gathering in Waterford
Smashing Times Artist/Facilitator-in-Residence, Michael McCabe, attended the Theatre Forum Gathering on 30 and 31 May. The first day was held in the Theatre Royal, while the second took place in the Garter Lane Arts Centre. This was the first such gathering of artists, producers, directors, designers, writers, and administrators since 2019, and topics included the Green Arts Initiative, new production models, provocations on what an Irish actor looks like, a need for more innovative and exciting work outside the norm, and more funding opportunities to be provided outside of Dublin.
A particular highlight was to visit the location of Spraoi, where they are in preparation for their annual Spraoi weekend in the first weekend of August. They have a huge warehouse space which includes rehearsal rooms, a costume room, offices, a canteen, a workshop floor space, and an equipment space for making the various large-scale puppets for this amazing arts festival.Michael highly recommends this event as a fantastic opportunity to network with theatre professionals from all over the island of Ireland.
States of Independence Workshop With Kildare Traveller Action
Smashing Times were delighted to conduct a States of Independence workshop with Kildare Traveller Action on 22 June. Smashing Times Artist/Facilitator-in-Residence Michael McCabe delivered the workshop with Mary Moynihan of Smashing Times, where audience members had the opportunity to reflect on and engage in discussion on changemakers in history and today. This was done as part of the project States of Independence, for which Smashing Times are planning a unique series of live performances, multi-disciplinary exhibitions, live projections, workshops, and talks on the theme of stories of changemakers from the past and today, taking place in Dublin, Kerry, Clare, and Donegal, with a number of events presented for the upcoming Dublin International Arts & Human Rights Festival, 13-22 October, 2023.Events include a States of Independence visual art, photography, and poetry exhibition with work by artists Mary Moynihan, Hina Khan, and Amna Walayat running at The Barracks, Cahersiveen, County Kerry from 17 July to 31 October 2023 and an outdoor promenade show Stories of Changemakers taking place at the Pearse Museum, St Enda’s Park, Rathfarnham, county Dublin. The latter features A Beauty That Will Pass by Mary Moynihan and Tales From an Afterworld by Féilim James, running on Saturday 12 August, Sunday 13 August, Saturday 19 August, and Sunday 20 August, daily, at 1pm and 2pm.Smashing Times will announce the full details of all events in a special edition of our newsletter in July 2023 – watch this space.
States of Independence is a unique project celebrating the stories of ten changemakers from the Decade of Centenaries and the stories of ten changemakers today working to make society a better place for all. The project is supported by The Arts Council Open Call as part of ART: 2023 a Decade of Centenaries Collaboration between The Arts Council and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. For more information on the project, click here.
Join Our Changemaker Theatre Workshop
Come along and enjoy a Changemaker Workshop celebrating stories of changemakers from the Decade of Centenaries (1912-1922), linking them to stories of changemakers today working to make society a better place. Join us as we explore ‘Who are the changemakers, visionaries, champions. or warriors that inspire us?’ and ‘Revolutionary Visions for the Future’, exploring new visions for an equal and peaceful society for all. Presented by Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality for States of Independence, supported by The Arts Council Open Call.
Open to the public, all welcome
Tuesday 4 July, 2023, 7-9pm
Civic Theatre, Belgard Square East, Tallaght
To book, please click here
> Love the Earth Performed at Bord Bia Bloom Festival Goal NEXTGEN and Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality were delighted to present five Changemakers Storytelling sessions at Bord Bia Bloom Festival, from 1-5 June in Phoenix Park. This entailed performances of Love the Earth, written by Mary Moynihan and inspired by three stories from Goal’s Global Citizenship Education Resources, which aim to foster a sense of global connectedness and oneness.
The Water Princess tells the story of Josie and her journey with her mother to get clean water. The story of The Hummingbird illustrates how, no matter how big or small we are, we can all make a difference. The story of The Salmon of Knowledge is a reflection on the importance of taking care of our oceans and planets. This interactive storytelling session, aimed at children aged between 4-12, took place on the Budding Bloomers Stage on each day of the 2023 Bord Bia Bloom Festival. Supported by Theatre in Palm, Creative Europe, and The Arts Council.
GOAL’s Global Citizenship Education programmes contribute to raising a generation of Global Citizens who understand and critically reflect on our interconnected world, and who can act in pursuit of a fairer, more equal, and sustainable world for all. For more information, click here.
10 We Admire
Each month in 2023, we bring you a list of ‘10 We Admire’, celebrating all things positive in the world of arts, culture, and cultural heritage, incorporating themes such as equality, climate justice, and peace.
This month, to celebrate our chosen theme Ordinary Stories, we have identified ten documentary film-makers, alongside a selection of their documentaries. Their work focuses on everyday experience, untold stories, and tales of extraordinary bravery and courage; many challenge the audience to view the subject matter in a different light. In some cases, they portray real life in an unedited and often challenging way.
Documentary films do something very unique. They show us real footage of real people, and in doing so they provide us with real insight into the human condition. They work to communicate the true nature of things by packaging things to fit the viewers ways of absorbing information. Documentaries educate, raise awareness, and can often change opinions on many different issues. They are as creative as any other art form, while production can often be a heavy-duty process. Documentaries aim to illuminate and draw upon the personal to express the universal.
Up by Michael Apted
Michael Apted (1941-2021) was a British television and film director and producer. He directed the documentary series Up (1964–2019). Up is a series of documentary films that follow the lives of fourteen people, whom the audience watch grow from boys and girls into adults. It has been described as one of the most emotive documentary series of all time. The audience witnesses their successes and failures, offering an insight into the human condition that few documentaries manage. While Apted has directed other documentaries, he will forever be known for his commitment to cinematic realism via the Up series. Read more here.
Alive Alive O: A Requiem for Dublin by Sé Merry Doyle
Sé Merry Doyle started his career in the Project Theatre working with Jim and Peter Sheridan, Gabriel Byrne, and Liam Neeson. After a very successful period as a lighting designer and stage director, he switched to the medium of film. He has his own edit facility in Loopline Films, which he set up in 1992 with the express purpose of being a company dedicated to the art of creative documentaries.Alive Alive O: A Requiem for Dublin (2001) chronicles the lives of Dublin street-traders while examining the changing streets and societal structures of Dublin City as money flows in from the Celtic Tiger. Old buildings have been torn down to be replaced with upmarket properties, and drug use has become a serious problem in many inner-city communities. Filmed over many years, it uses rare archival footage that captures the demolition of the tenement houses on Sheriff Street, as well as the closing down of former social hubs like the Iveagh Market. The documentary features lyrical moments too, with poetry from Paula Meehan, and photos and videos from different time periods that attempt to strike at the heart of what Dublin as a city means to its community and what happens when the city abandons that community. View more here.
Extraordinary Ordinary People by Alan Govenar
Alan Govenar is a writer, folklorist, photographer, and filmmaker. As well as working in film, he is also the author of eighteen books. Extraordinary Ordinary People (2017) is a celebration of the cultures of the world living and thriving in the United States. A music-fuelled journey across America, the documentary focuses on one of the least known and most enduring programs: the National Heritage Fellowship, awarded annually since 1982. Featuring a breathtaking array of musicians, dancers, quilters, woodcarvers, and more, the film demonstrates the importance of the folk and traditional arts in shaping the fabric of America. Each of the artists on camera display their exceptional talent, ingenuity, and perseverance. A celebration of art, survival, and the riches of human experience. View more here.
Land of Silence and Darkness by Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog is a German film director, screenwriter, author, actor, and opera director, regarded as a pioneer of New German Cinema. Land of Silence and Darkness (1971) is one of his earliest creations. Land of Silence and Darknessis a look into the life of Fini Straubinger, a woman who lived most of her life being both deaf and blind. Throughout the film, Herzog documents other individuals who also live with Straubinger’s condition and gives an insight into how life is for those who can neither hear nor see. The result is sad, moving, engrossing. To watch it is probably the closest most will come to understanding how such a condition would impact one’s life. But on the other hand, to see how they function, communicate, and find happiness is inspiring in its own way. Herzog handles the documentary perfectly, being respectful to, and never exploitative of, the individuals he covers throughout. View more here.
Listening to Kenny G by Penny Lane (2021)
Penny Lane is an independent filmmaker, known for her documentary films. Her humour and unconventional approach to the documentary form, including the use of archival Super 8 footage and YouTube videos, have earned her critical acclaim. Lane often tackles quirky, unique subjects and imbues them with a sense of universality.
Kenny G is the highest-selling instrumentalist in history. Yet he’s often dismissed as a hack who only makes easy-going, safe music most often found playing in department stores and waiting rooms across America. In Listening to Kenny G (2021), Lane interviews Kenny G’s detractors, fans, colleagues and Kenny himself. The film is a reminder that everyone has their own story, and no matter what you think of someone’s art, you can’t define their personality, motivation, or disposition by merely listening to a handful of songs. View more here.
Shoah by Claude Lanzmann
Claude Lanzmann (1925-2018) was a French filmmaker known for the Holocaust documentary film Shoah (1985). Before he was a celebrated documentarian, Lanzmann was a freedom fighter at the young age of 17, part of the French resistance that battled against the Nazis in Auvergne. Later, as a filmmaker, he dedicated his entire career to one subject: analysing the lived experiences of those who survived the Holocaust.Shoah is still one of the most renowned documentaries of all time. Standing at nine and a half hours long, it features no historical footage; instead, the film communicates the horrors of death camps via interviews with survivors, who share the traumas they lived through and witnessed. Shoah took over a decade to make and its excellence has solidified Lanzmann as one of the greatest documentary filmmakers of all time. View more here.
Finding Vivian Maier by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
Finding Vivian Maier (2013) by filmmakers John Maloof and Charlie Siskel attempts to recreate the life of a mysterious woman who, unbeknownst to anyone, was one of the most accomplished street photographers ever. The portrait of Maier is foggy as little is known about her life outside of her occupation and her hidden cache of over one hundred thousand photos. The film is fascinating as it tries to piece together her life and discover why she sat on such a wealth of great art. The film asks many questions about the nature of art and whether success is truly measured by notoriety or wealth. Thanks to the film’s efforts, critics and galleries have now rallied behind Maier’s work, and The New York Times recognises her as ‘one of America’s more insightful street photographers.’ Read more.
Hidden Treasures by Anne O’Leary
Anne O’Leary is an Irish artist, mostly widely known for her work on Hidden Treasures (1998), The Barrel (1994), and Boys for Rent (1993). Hidden Treasures (1998) by Irishwoman Anne O’Leary is a highly acclaimed four-part documentary series examining the history of Irish folklife. The series combines restored 16mm field recordings (produced by the National Museum of Ireland from the 1950s to the 1970s) with contemporary recordings of traditional rural crafts and rituals. These images emphasise the self-sufficiency of rural householders and craft specialists, as they utilise everyday materials to make practical objects for use in their daily lives. Contemporary material and interviews were shot by Loopline and narrated by poet Theo Dorgan. View more here.
Citizenfour by Laura Poitras
Laura Poitras is an American director and producer of documentary films. Her film CITIZENFOUR won an Oscar for best documentary. Her reporting on NSA mass surveillance and Edward Snowden also received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The first film of her post-11 trilogy, My Country, My Country, documented the US occupation of Iraq, and the second film, The Oath, focused on Guantánamo Bay Prison and Al Qaeda. Her film Risk tells the story of journalist Julian Assange. She is the recipient of many awards, including a MacArthur fellowship, a Peabody award, a Directors Guild of America, and a BAFTA. She is the co-founder of Field of Vision and The Intercept.Citizenfour (2014) is an indispensable piece of modern American history. Viewers get to be a fly on the wall during the days when Edward Snowden exposed widespread institutional wire-tapping conducted by the US government. The tension in the hotel room, where Snowden is hiding, is palpable. Every second will have you on the edge of your seat. Laura Poitras once again proves she’s one of the most important filmmakers alive. Her movies expose corruption, speak truth to power, and give a voice to those often silenced by authority. View more here.
Sea Level Rise/Climate Change by Christy Wegener
Christy Wegener is a director, writer, and producer chiefly focused on stories that integrate both the tragedy and triumph of the human experience. In 2021, she founded Conduit Films, a production company devoted to character-driven stories with cultural resonance. Prior to founding Conduit Films, Wegener was a showrunner, writer, and director, working in non-fiction and narrative. She directed the notable short documentary, CLIMATE, that debuted on 80-foot screens in New York’s Times Square, and a documentary exploring the benefits and dangers of Artificial Intelligence, commissioned for the World Science Festival. Wegener has a background in civil rights and journalism, working in the non-profit sector on issues such as gender and racial discrimination in police departments.Sea Level Rise/Climate Change was commissioned by the World Science Festival, and was presented in large format video installation in Times Square during the 2017 World Science Festival. The short documentary was designed for 100-foot outdoor screens in Times Square for the multi-day, interactive event, and the film’s large format allowed for utilisation of a range of impactful video and imagery to express the insurmountable scale and scope of sea-level rise. Read more here.
News From the Network
Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
Front Line Defenders announced the five winners of its top distinction, the 2023 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, at a special ceremony last month in Dublin. Laureates from each of the major global regions travelled to Ireland to accept the award, including: AfricaOlivier Bahemuke Ndoole (Democratic Republic of the Congo) is a leader among environmental and land defenders in the DRC and one of the most trusted advocates on behalf of communities impacted by land grabs, trafficking, and illegal resource extraction activities. He is also the only advocate who organises judicial training and capacity-building sessions for DRC citizens on topics related to environment and community rights in Goma, eastern DRC.AmericasSegundo Ordóñez (Ecuador), an Afro-descendant human rights defender, is one of the most visible faces and the community representative in the two legal proceedings brought against the Japanese-owned company Furukawa Plantaciones C. A. and the State of Ecuador. The cases have focused on how workers on abacá (Manila hemp) plantations suffer labour exploitation as they farm the raw materials in slavery-like conditions.
Asia and the Pacific
Jeany ‘Rose’ Hayahay (Philippines) is a woman human rights defender based in Mindanao, the Philippines. Since 2019, she has been the spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network), a coalition of child-focused NGOs, church-based groups, and other stakeholders advocating for children’s right to education in Mindanao.
Europe and Central Asia
Digital Security Lab Ukraine (Ukraine) is a team of specialists in the field of digital security and internet freedom. They help Ukrainian journalists, human rights defenders, and public activists solve problems with digital security. They also promote the realisation of human rights on the internet by influencing government policy in the field of digital rights. Middle East and North Africa Hala Ahed (Jordan) is a Jordanian human rights lawyer who has worked with a number of human rights and feminist organisations to defend women’s rights, workers’ rights, and the freedoms of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly in Jordan.
You can watch a video about all of the laureates here.
Five Lamps Arts Festival Bloomsday Events
As part of this year’s Bloomsday celebration, the Five Lamps Arts Festival organised a number of exciting events in the city centre, starting with ‘Joyce, The Missing Hours’, an exhibition of illustrations and paintings by Dublin artist, Séan Lennon, exploring how James Joyce may have spent his first Bloomsday on 16 June 1904. Actor David Herlihy gave a reading of the ‘Cyclops’ chapter of Ulysses, followed by ‘Late Bloomers’, a fun workshop by Rosalyn Hickey, a renowned Joyce expert and teacher. The Festival also hosted ‘Through Nighttown to Eumaeus’, where historian Hugo McGuinness guided attendees through the old red light district in Dublin, known as the Monto or Nighttown as James Joyce referred to it in Ulysses.
The Five Lamps Arts Festival is a community-based arts project connecting Dublin’s inner city with the arts, as well as providing a platform for local artists and creatives. You can read more about their work here.
Grants and Opportunities
For writers, artists, and creators
Culture Ireland Grants
Culture Ireland promotes Irish arts worldwide. They create and support opportunities for Irish artists and companies to present and promote their work at strategic international festivals and venues. In supporting an event, Culture Ireland offers grant funding towards costs which relate directly to the international presentation of the event, as in travel and travel-related costs such as transport, accommodation, and subsistence. The deadline is 1 July, 2023. Further details here.
Arts Council: New Dance Company Call for Proposals
The objectives of this initiative are to establish a new independent flagship dance company, which is committed to commissioning dance production across all scales, the employment of dancers, as well as national, North/South, and international touring. This call for proposals is an initiative of the Arts Council and an outcome of the Arts Council’s Dance Policy: Advancing Dance 2022-2025. The deadline is 27 July, 2023. Further details here.
Arts Council: Touring of Work Scheme
The objective of the Touring of Work Scheme is to deliver outcomes that ensure more people will enjoy high-quality arts experiences throughout the country. The artist and public engagement are core priorities of the Arts Council’s ten-year strategy plan. In supporting a strategic approach to touring, the Arts Council aims to deliver on these core policy priorities. We will prioritise tours of artistically excellent work, that aim to maximise public engagement, and have already been successfully produced in terms of critical and audience response. Some artform exceptions may apply. The deadline is 10 August, 2023. Further details here.
Festival Director for Drogheda Arts Festival
Drogheda Arts Festival is looking for an ambitious, inspirational, and creative Festival Director to lead the Arts Festival into a new phase artistically, strategically and operationally. The closing date is 7 July, 2023 at 5pm. Further details here.
Head of Voice at the Gaiety School of Acting
The Head of Voice will be responsible for delivering all aspects of vocal training for both years of the school’s Full Time Actor Training Programme and across various aspects of vocal training within the school’s full programme of activity. The closing date is 7 July, 2023 at 12 noon. Further details here.
That’s all for this edition. Many thanks to our contributors this month, and to all you lovely folks for reading. Keep an eye out for next month’s newsletter, themed Friendship.
Féilim Ó Brádaigh and Niamh Clowry