Category Archives: Cork Midsummer

Catch-up Time

Many things have happened over the past 5 days. In fact, many things I would like to delve into more deeply. However, I also have no time to do so. I have a preview next Friday night in London (please come please please please please come) and my most pressing matter at the moment is learning all my lines. I mean, I know most of my lines. But ‘most’ is not ‘all.

So, without further ado.

THURSDAY
Walked from Goodge St to Angel. Here:

Jenny's walk 27th June

Jenny’s walk 27th June

It was nice. Highlights included: Russel Square, where I saw the final rehearsal for an open-air Shakespeare play (which I was unfortunately unable to attend); Corams Fields, which included some kind of community garden that had a GOAT (a freakin’ GOAT in the middle of the city!); and, my personal favourite, the ‘Goodenough College’. I mean, that’s just inspiring isn’t it? ‘Where are you sending him?’ ‘To the Goodenough College. Because we don’t want him to get too smart.’ I just googled and apparently it is a residential college. Which makes it slightly less funny. But, still!

FRIDAY
I was given a free sample of this:

 

Verdict: AWESOME. I will buy it! I will search if out in pubs! Excellent work with the free samples Jack Dainel’s, because there is no way I would have bought it on my own!

(NB I have heard that the bees are dying at alarming rates. And that if they die we will follow pretty quickly after. Can someone fill me in? The Jack Daniel’s lady didn’t address these particular concerns. And I know not drinking Jack Daniel’s honey most likely won’t stop the bees from going into extinction, but I still feel like making this my drink of choice would be like buying your first 4WD just as peak oil is discovered. Just a bit dumb, you know?) 

SATURDAY

I went to Ireland! I was flown out by my Creative Connections ladies to come and perform at the Cork Midsummer Festival. I don’t know how I’ve been so lucky to have been so welcomed into this group and to be so connected with this festival (I have now performed at the Cork Midsummer Festival three times), but I don’t want to talk about it too much just in case someone realises that they’ve given me too much already and they should stop now and include some other artists.

No! Keep bringing back the random Australian girl who used to live in Cork for 12 months! We want her again! (I have plans to go back again next year when my UK visa is up. We’ll just see).

SUNDAY

The day I actually performed with the Creative Connections ladies at Cork Midsummer. This was what I wanted to talk about a little more in detail. The ladies had created a live art durational performance piece. So, on Friday, they stood on the quays as people went to work and help up giant logs which had ‘The Family Name’ burned into them. They did it for 4 hours as people drove to work. The next day, they sat in a graveyard and chipped away at the blocks in a graveyard for 4 hours. The final day, it was meant to be all the secrets pouring out. They were back in the graveyard, all doing different things. One woman was wrapped in cling film and attempting to bandage a broken vase back together. One was dressed in white with a plastic bag over the top of her and standing on a pristine white tile. I was the only one coming in and out of the graveyard and in the end, I would sing to them and draw them ‘out’. In the meantime, I came in at 15 minute intervals and cut off my friend’s hair and then attempted to shave her head.

It was a pretty intense experience. As the performance went on, I got more and more involved in the process. It was a strange feeling. We had spoken before about the fact that shaving a woman’s head in public is a very ‘heavy’ act. It has echos of witch trials and religious persecution and the treatment of women who slept with Nazis during WWII and mental patients. Even though I was doing it for my friend, we didn’t speak. Those images came up inside me and I felt very cruel. To make myself feel better and to communicate to my friend that I didn’t want to hurt her. I would brush the hair off her shoulders and her head and face. It certainly made me feel better, I don’t know how it felt for her. In the end, I wasn’t able to do such a great job because the tools we had weren’t particularly good.

The thing that was interesting from a production point of view, or no, not ‘interesting’, bloody irritating, was that Cork City Council, despite knowing that this performance was going on, decided to lock the gates of the park early. At 8:30pm. Which was a good hour and a half before we had been told they would lock the gates. Which meant we lost our audience. And we suddenly had to change our performance. It meant the ending was not as strong or as definite as it could have been, which was a real shame, because I could feel that we were building up to something amazing as the hours went by in the graveyard. Still, you live, you learn, I suppose. And it makes it clear you really need someone outside of the performance to be ‘caretaker’ or ‘producer’. We were lucky, we had Mark Storor with us again who managed to sort out a compromise, but it really shouldn’t have happened.

MONDAY

We were all kind of exhausted by Sunday night. Me not so much as the other ladies, as they had been working for months and I just swanned in at the last minute and cut some hair and sang some songs, but we were still all tired. The alcohol and the staying awake until 4am of course didn’t help matters. So, Monday we spent the day in bed pretty much. There were about 4 of us who climbed in and out of the same bed for several hours, plus one of the women’s children. So, actually 6 in total. It was very oddly comforting. Like a sleepover, but different. I realised one of the saddest things about London is that my group of friends (whilst lovely) is pretty much exactly like me. Most of them are Australian, many of them are on a two-year work visa, they are young, travelling, having adventures. What was nice about my social group in Cork was that it did include women who were at different stages of their lives, who had families of their own and it was wonderful to feel a part of that. You felt a part of a wider community than in London. For all its diverse people, you can live in a very homogenous little bubble in London very easily.

It means I have no opportunities to do this:

Storytime

Storytime

And that’s a real shame.  Because my friend’s kids are gorgeous and fun and happy. And they have soft little bellies and arms that are probably  the best things in the world.

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Filed under 29, Cork Midsummer, Creative Connections, Ireland, London

Nothing to do…

So, I’ve still got very little to report to you all. Life has taken a distinctly cozy, relaxed turn. Well, kind of. I mean, sometimes, I’m all for the cozy, relaxed-ness, and I sit on the couch and watch videos on youtube and feel relaxed and happy, and then other times I turn around and go, ‘Oh, God, I haven’t done anything all day! I’ve just been watching videos on You Tube! OH MY GOD MY LIFE IS SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS, BEING THROWN AWAY, GOING DOWN THE DRAIN AND VARIOUS OTHER METAPHORS BECAUSE ALL I AM DOING IS WATCHING VIDEOS ON YOU TUBE.’
So, its taken on a… I don’t know. I don’t know what its taken on. A schizophrenic, multiple personality disorder edge, I suppose. I haven’t been unemployed for a good 10 years. I’ve always had some sort of job or study to be going on with. And the emptiness is more than a little terrifying. Its certainly good to be not doing things that you don’t enjoy or that are stressing you out, but then, I guess, with me, it gets to a point when most things in my life stress me out, especially the things I technically *like* to do, meaning that all that is left is watching videos on You Tube.
Mind you, I have watched a lot of good videos on You Tube. You know there are entire movies on there? Like, if they’re not big blockbusters, if they’re not with the big studios, so they’re not constantly being checked on or searched for, you can find little gems of entire movies on there. Constantly going through the oeuvre of David Thewlis, my new current obsession, and there are some sweet films on there. I recommend ‘Cheeky’ as an offbeat, black comedy rom-com. Highly enjoyable.
Anyway, I have done some bits and pieces. Applied for a few programs, done some writing. I’m trying to write a story every day using these ‘Story Cubes’ that I bought in Galway last summer. There’s nine cubes with little pictures on them, and you throw them and then have to write a story using all the images. Its quite fun. I’ve been trying not to pressure myself with the stories (ie, not to sit there going, ‘If its good, perhaps I could turn it into a novel, and then maybe I could send it to an agent, and then maybe s/he’d send it to a publisher, and then they’d publish it, and then maybe it would win the Pulitzer Prize and sell a million billion copies, and I could buy a castle in Scotland and never ever have to work for the rest of my life, and just watch You Tube videos, secure in the knowledge that I could win another Pulitzer if I really wanted to, but there wasn’t really much point.’ Which inevitably makes me feel a little low when said story turns out to be about a purple turtle).
I’ve also started back with Creative Connections, which is great, though as also been a little emotional. We had one session last Thursday to talk about the book we’re writing (we’re writing a book!), where I got a little fixated on an idea, and was making an argument out of nothing, and then I got upset when I realised I was making an argument out of nothing, and tried to move on, but by then everyone else was upset, and was trying to make me feel better which made me feel worse, and it ended up with me, at home, on the couch, watching the end of HP7 Part 2 and bawling my eyes out for a good hour and half until I was so tired, I could barely walk to the bed. All my own issues, of course, and linked back to the unemployment thing, but, anyway. Not the best start back to something that I really adore.
The weekend went a bit better. We’re working with an incredible artist, named Mark Storor, for the Cork Midsummer Festival this year, and we had a weekend workshop with him. It was exhausting, a lot of storytelling, a lot of crying (though, not from me this time), a lot of food and a lot of love. By yesterday evening, I was wrecked, but very happy and thought I would sleep as soundly as a baby (unfortunately, sleep was completely interrupted by dreams of David Thewlis… not quite sure what is going on there. Think he must remind me of someone. But, I’m not entirely sure who, at this point…).
Anyway, back to the YouTube videos, and, if you’re interested, you should look at this series of films on ‘The Fat Girl Gets a Hair Cut’, which is a show Mark did with teenagers at the Roundhouse in London.

It seems to have similar themes and aims to that Dutch show, ‘Once and for all we’re going to tell you who we are, so shut up and listen,’ except less… directed? Forced? I really enjoyed that show, but I remember someone commenting afterwards that it seemed like the title of the show should have been, ‘Once and for all we’re going to tell you who other people think we are…’ which was a fair criticism. Anyway, Mark’s show seems a little bit more inspired by what came out of the teenagers’ lives and stories, creating a very quirky and unique piece. There’s 9 videos about it up on Youtube, and I suggest you watch them all (come on, they’re only 2 minutes long, that’s do-able even if you have gainful employment!), but if you don’t have time, look at 1 and 8, as they are very beautiful and give you a sense of the sort of stuff we’re experimenting with. Mark creates beautiful things out of ordinary things, which is very exciting, and is very interested in performance. Some of the women, I think, are finding this a little intimidating, but I cannot wait. Typical Actor.

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Filed under Cork Midsummer, Creative Connections, Ireland

Culture Night

On Friday, the women from Creative Connections (or, as many as were free), attempted to re-create our ‘Home is Where the Art is’ pop-up cafe for Culture Night. ‘Culture Night’ is something that I originally thought was only on in Cork, as I’d never heard of it before. Turns out, its a national Irish event, and despite having a kind of naff name (come on, admit it), it is actually really exciting and cool. What happens is that, museums, galleries, theatres, artists’ studios, churches, historic houses and cultural centres all open their buildings up later than normal, and they all put on free events for the public. So, you can go to the museum and have a little theatrical tour of the space. Or you can go to the gallery and hear a talk. Or you can go to the concert hall, and hear an eclectic collection of musos. Or, you can go to the theatre and see a small performance. All for free. People wander in and out of buildings all night, its just a really lovely vibe. We were asked by Cork Midsummer Festival to re-create our cafe for a few hours in Civic House Trust, a beautiful, red-brick Georgian building that houses a variety of cultural groups, including Cork Midsummer and Corcadorca Theatre Company.
We met the week before to discuss what we could do. There were a few problems to begin with. Not everyone was available, and when we looked around the room, it seemed like only Irish people, and furthermore, only WHITE people were going to be able to work at our ‘intercultural’ cafe. Not that there is anything wrong with white people, per se (though we can be a little boring and imperialistic and self-satisfied sometimes) and I think we can agree that there is no racial advantage to any one ethnic group in terms of making tea and instant coffee, however, one of the key points of our cafe was its intercultural nature, making a statement about the ‘new’ Ireland, and advertising our upcoming intercultural workshops that we would be running with our intercultural staff. Our leader assured us that some of the African women would also be attending and helping out, so we moved on.
The second problem we encountered was that in our fundraising for the next Midsummer Festival, we had to sell most of the things that we had used in the cafe. We also weren’t allowed to hang things on the walls of the lovely, red-brick Georgian house. Our original cafe had purple and yellow carpet, various lampshades hanging from the ceiling, spray-painted cups and saucers, washing machines and cleaning aides all over the walls. So, we were understandably worried that our new cafe would look a little bare and boring. But, we listed the things we could bring in and hoped it would all come together on the night.

Ooh… pretty… I approve of the logo, if not the name.

 Turns out, there was nothing to worry about. We were able to hang some twine from window frames in the room, where we pinned our embroidered clothes and a gigantic ladder was brought in to hang any left over clothes on. We had enough pillows to scatter about, and those people in the group who had artistic work that they created at home brought it in too. The main thing that was missing was our wise and wonderful group leader, Priscilla Robinson, who had guided us through the original event and helped us run the days. We were also missing our fabulous tutors, Aine and Caroline, who had been integral to the set-up and design of the event. I had a few misgivings about how it would all run on Culture Night, but figured that someone would take charge and it would ‘all be ok’.
I was the first person to arrive at Civic Trust House, having run out of things to look at and do in Cork during the afternoon. I had been dreading this possibility, because I thought the people at the house might then assume I was in charge and ask me difficult questions, like, ‘Where do you want the projector?’ and ‘Do you need all this furniture?’ Or just, ‘So, what do you have planned for this evening?’ I escaped to the loo quickly, hoping someone might arrive in the meantime. No one did, and I sat awkwardly in the middle of the room, clasping my hands, as people not from Creative Connections did useful, busy things around me.
Eventually some of the other women arrived, but everyone was just as uncertain as each other, and the person we had kind of all hoped would be there to take charge hadn’t arrived. There was some more awkward sitting, until someone realised the time and we all, collectively thought, well, maybe we should do something.
I’m relating all of this, because I find the group dynamics fascinating. Its a generalisation, but I think that if it had been a group of men, or, if we had a man or two in the group, they would have taken charge straightaway, or, at least, attempted to. But, for some reason, I think its because women are so conscious of being polite to others, of not wanting to step on toes, or of not wanting to make mistakes, or not wanting to look stupid, or something, nobody wanted to take charge. In our case, we all sort of waited around someone to take charge, and when it didn’t happen, we did it collectively. No-one still was really ‘in charge’, little work groups formed, advice was taken from around the room, and collective decisions were made. I suppose because we’ve been working together since March, its easy for this to occur. A box and a few bags of things that we were going to use to decorate the room appeared, and people started looking for ways and places to hang everything. Rubbish was moved out of the way, furniture shifted, until we had something that looked as warm and welcoming as we could make it.
A similar thing happened when our first ‘audience’ arrived at the house. Whilst the woman we had kind of designated our leader had arrived, we hadn’t discussed how we were going to behave in the space, what we should do with those people who arrived etc. We had a couple of work stations set up (Face-painting, bag making and embroidery), as well as examples of our work, and pictures from the festival event, but we hadn’t discussed how they would all work together. Of course, our evening’s designated leader hadn’t even be able to attend the event at the Midsummer Festival, so, really, we were relying on the only person in the room who hadn’t already been a part of the event on the day. But, again, we were all kind of reluctant to put ourselves forward, to go out on a limb, to potentially make fools of ourselves.
Of course, it all worked fine as soon as people arrived. When 3 people walk into a room and look at everything that’s going on awkwardly, you can’t help but try and go over, make them welcome and explain what’s going on. Well, I can’t help it anyway. I’m becoming such a bubbly, chatterbox, I’ll throw a ‘How’s it going?’ and ‘Where are you from?’ to anyone that vaguely looks in my direction. This is amusing for me, remembering that as a 12 year old I hated even giving a waiter my order because I was too embarrassed (of what, I’m not entirely sure. That he wouldn’t agree with my food choice? That I would trip over the words? That he would ‘be mean’? I was a crazy-confused 12 year old). So, when the first few people arrived, I stepped up and explained what was going on, a little jumbled, probably a bit long, but I got the most important stuff out, they asked a few questions, looked at some photos, and then sat down to make a bag.
It was a bit slow in the first half an hour, but, just as I was sitting down to have my face-painted, a group of 4 kids walked in with their dad. They spied the free cookies on the table, and I spied them. ‘Hey!’ I called over, ‘Why don’t you guys have your face-painted? Its free!’ The two girls were very enthusiastic and came over straight away (after getting enough cookie supplies) to see the pictures that were on offer. From then on, we barely had a chance to stop. The place was full, mainly of kids and their parents, coming in, making bags, having a tea or biscuit, getting their faces painted etc. We had a great little group of 8 – 9 year old girls at the sewing and bag-making table who were so adorably enthusiastic. Not only about getting involved in making the bags, but in talking to us, hearing the stories behind the work we had created etc. Their parents had to come in and literally drag them away, their half-finished bags clutched in their hands, and us desperately packing ribbons, buttons and material into them so they could ‘finish them at home’ – like some sort of cool party-favour bag (hey, that is an AWESOME children’s party idea…). I sang again, as did the woman from Somalia, just for something a bit different, which was lovely, and I had two of the little girls pass me a note telling me they liked my voice (it was 1000 times good), so that was sweet.
And, before we knew it, we had to pack up again. The whole evening was fantastic, despite a small child vomiting in the corner early on. It was a real confidence boost for the women that were there (the running of the event. Not the small child’s vomit). We have to run 6 workshops for 60 women and children over October and November, and I think a lot of us were really worried about what we would do and how we would go. Culture Night proved that we’ve already got the skills to do it, which was fantastic.
As I’m now in Kinsale, I don’t have access to a car anymore, and my last bus leaves Cork at 10pm. However, one of the women invited us over to hers for a drink or two, and I got an offer of a bed in Cork, so I decided to stay the night and head back to Kinsale the next morning. That evening was wonderful. Many glasses of red wine consumed, a glass of cognac, many pistachio nuts and a couple of prawn crackers, but, more importantly, wonderful conversation with wonderful people. I’m always re-invigorated by a night like that, sitting around with close or new friends, talking, laughing and drinking, whereas I pretty much always come home from a night out dancing and drinking feeling lonely, unhappy and dissatisfied. We finished up around 2am, so not too late, but I went to bed so happy and so content.
Who needs men? I mean, honestly?
……..
Well, ok.
I just shouldn’t go anywhere I can see them, because then I’m like a kid in a candy store whose Mum has just informed her she’s on a sugar-free diet.

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I Made This

So, I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this post for a while, and I’m already about a week behind in my normal ‘Irish’ posting (trying to get up to date with my NYWM posts before the end of June), meaning… Meaning… Meaning, I need to do it now even though I’m tired and would really rather watch re-runs of ‘Friends’. 
Last weekend… last weekend…
Agh, getting so distracted by the bloody TV.
Last weekend, the last weekend in June, was the Creative Connections pop-up cafe for the Cork Midsummer Festival. This is what the women in my creative arts facilitation course and I have been working towards since March. The event was meant to both exhibit the work we had been doing in classes, to teach the public about some of the techniques we had used and also to provide a wonderful, memorable experience for anyone who happened to wander in.
So, some background. The idea of a pop-up cafe is that it is a unique space, usually only around for a few days or a week or two, and it takes place in real estate that would otherwise be empty. So, its something that is particularly relevant and popular in places like the UK and Ireland at the moment, where there is a lot of empty and/ or derelict space going to waste. The pop-up cafe hopes to revitalise a depressed area for a time, as well as (hopefully) revitalise a depressed community, get neighbours and strangers talking and interacting, creating warmth and happiness in a time that is perhaps neither warm nor happy. We were working with an artist, Priscilla Robinson, who has created a pop-up cafe before, as well as a pop-up shop, which I’ve mentioned on my blog before.
Our pop-up cafe was based around the theme of ‘home’, as half the 20 women that are in my course come from outside of Ireland. So, we took aspects and ideas of hospitality from all the different women and cultures and smushed them together and jumbled them up and created our own unique home with all those ideas into a little cafe. We had food from all over the world, different coffees, different drinks, pictures from our homes, sounds from our homes etc. The name of our cafe was, ‘Home is Where the Art Is’, and this is the front of the shop:

And from the inside:


I was working in the space all day Saturday and all day Sunday, staying two nights with one of my friends from the course (in her wonderful house with the hugely evocative address: Lover’s Walk, Montenotte, Cork).
The days were long and exhausting, but wonderful. It was kind of like being back in promotions, except this time I was expected to promote my own work, which I always find so much harder. I can tell people all the good things about everyone else’s stuff, but when it comes to my own, I’m at a loss. So, to begin with, I was meant to be the welcome person on the door, but I wasn’t doing a fabulous job. I would smile and invite people in, but generally they would say no or say they were in a rush. If I did manage to get people through the door, I kind of left them hanging in the space, and they would only stay if someone else started talking to them and showed them around.
This was the thing about our cafe. It was absolutely beautiful and could be enjoyed on a very superficial basis, like a normal art gallery. That is, come in, stare at things (don’t touch!) and then leave. But, if people were given the opportunity or invitation to look through things, look in drawers, cupboards, open up boxes, they would find so much more. This was the wonderful thing about our cafe: it was interactive, it had many layers, and people could create a totally unique and personal experience within the space. But, this only happened if people were given leave to do so. You had the wonderful situation were people who did feel comfortable would take off their shoes, put their feet up on the sofa and begin to knit, or sew, or just talk and drink a cup of coffee. The people who seemed to enjoy it the most, if they weren’t people who had come specifically to see the space, were travellers. That is, people who had time to spare. A lot of Irish people were rushing off to meet friends, do chores, shopping etc. On the other hand, one group of Asian girls went past on Sunday afternoon around 3pm, stopped outside and took a photo. I went outside, called them over, and invited them in. Two of them came in, saw the space and asked if they could take more photos. I said of course they could. Their friends then followed, and they ended up staying until we closed at 6:30pm. It was wonderful. What else was wonderful was how many people came back during the 4 days. People who had genuinely got involved in the space came time and again to soak up the atmosphere, learn new skills, finish off projects they had started in the days before. They truly felt at home.
All the women in the course had contributed various things to group items, such as a quilt square to our big patchwork quilt, or a print, or a pillowcase. But, then there were other things that people took more responsibility for in smaller groups. So, myself and one of the other ladies were given the responsibility for the chest of drawers (which I’ve mentioned before). Here are some photos to give you an idea of them. The photos still don’t do it justice, but you get a sense. In my view, the wonderfulness of the cafe was distilled in these drawers, in that they changed depending on how you looked at them or interacted with them. There was so much detail in them, so many different colours and textures, it was impossible to take it in all at once, and different people would pick up on different things. Photos:

We had many workshops happening in the space too, both formal and informal. One of the ladies taught some people to make patchwork quilts and bunting out of material (which looked fantastic!). Other times, you would just assist people with what they were creating in the space. So, we had people decorating bags, or making their own pillows out of all the material and needles and thread we had lying around the place. One of the ladies brought in her giant knitting needles and started a huge wall hanging with big strips of material rather than wool, and then left it lying around for others to finish. I saw some 20 year-old boys pick it up and attempt to work it out, and they were then sat down by one of the older ladies in our group and given a quick tutorial in knitting. I, quite by accident, started giving lessons in badge-making, which I only learnt to do on the day, but quickly became obsessed with. See badges here: 

It was such a fun, quick and easy way for people to get involved (particularly kids), and they were always delighted with the results. I spoke to quite a few lovely travellers this way, who couldn’t believe their luck about stumbling upon the place, and said they would take away their badges as a precious memento of Cork. This made me feel irrationally happy, that I could be part of a stranger’s happy memories of a place, or a holiday memory, for many years to come. That I could have such an impact on how they had felt about their time in Cork. It was wonderful.
One of the other things we did in the space (mainly because I really wanted to), was have little performances. So, I ended up singing, sharing some stories and some poems (The Geebung Polo Club!! Thanks, Poetry in Action!!) I originally thought this would be awkward and stop the flow of the place, but it actually was lovely. It encouraged other people to step forward with songs, stories or poems of their own and changed the nature and pace of the cafe for a little while.
After the final Sunday we sold off the things we had made, making a fair amount of cash, which will be donated to a charity and also go towards the cost of whatever we make for the Midsummer Festival next year. This was exceedingly exciting and satisfying as well. Sadly, we had to then dismantle the space, though first we put the bed in the street for a little bit of fun:

But, it was all very sad to pack up and leave. The pop-up cafe was a truly special and wonderful event, and we all wished we could keep it going forever. It made me think of a little dream I had a few years ago to own my own theatre/creative space, and I thought how this cafe was exactly the sort of thing I had imagined. Something small, unique, whimsical, intimate, ever-changing and surprising. Maybe one day I’ll go back to the Blue Mountains, buy some sort of building and turn it into something wonderful like that. Part business, part home, part art space, part theatre, part school, part community hall. And me, living on the third floor with a bunch of cats, big hair, zany earrings, mismatched socks making bread and scones in my hippy-dippy clothes. Ah, bliss.

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Good Things and Bad

So, if you are also friends with me on facebook, you will have been harassed in the last few days to watch the National Theatre of Scotland’s ‘5 Minute Theatre’ event. There were a couple of reasons for this. One, it was a pretty cool event with a wide variety of pieces, some excellent, some not-so-excellent but very interesting, and some just… well… some, just… not to my taste, I guess is the nicest way of putting it.
But, of course, the second reason is that a monologue of mine, performed by me, was also included as part of the event.
I was very excited about being included in the event, I was totally chuffed that I had been chosen by ‘The National Theatre of Scotland’ to be part of it. However, something happened whilst I was watching the pieces on Tuesday night. I started to get very panicky. I started to get very worried. By the time it came to wake up early Wednesday morning and watch my piece be broadcast, I was terrified and majorly depressed.
There are a few things that contributed to this feeling.
Firstly, there was a chat facility, which meant that people could comment on what they were watching online. My piece, if anyone ended up watching it, was kind of ridiculously personal, at least, it was meant to look that way, and I was terrified of these unknown people who might personally attack me for what I had written, and judge me harshly for something that seemed very personal.
Secondly, looking at the other pieces, I was either hugely intimidated by the high quality or work, or insulted by the poor quality. I either thought I was going to look like an idiot compared to the really good stuff, or I was going to be lumped in with the ‘bad stuff’, and my achievement in being involved in the event was not as big a deal as I thought it was.
Thirdly, like all things I manage to create, write, perform etc. I convinced myself that this was ‘my moment’. This was the moment everything was going to fall into place. If I could create a piece of amazing, honest, funny, gut-wrenching theatre, then someone would see it/see me and all my dreams would come true. Whatever that means… cast me in the next West End show, give me lots of money, invite me to glittering social events etc. So, when these things fail to emerge as results of the creation/performance of the piece, then, of course, I view it as a failure.
So, in the end, I couldn’t bear to watch the piece, even though I had it open in my internet browser, and I only briefly glanced at the chat that was going on underneath in the chat window (most of it was about how amazing the piece before mine was… *sigh*). I struggled to remind myself of how happy and proud of the piece I was when it was completed. That I had pitched it, written it, performed it, managed to find someone to film it, got an audience, all in a country that I had been in for less than 4 months. But, because I hadn’t gotten the accolades I had expected/hoped for, it was difficult for me to remember the old feeling.
I think its something that often happens with creative projects that I am involved with. I get so worked up in how people are going to react to it, how it might further influence my career or move me along the path I want to go down, that I forget the reasons I wanted to the thing in the first place.
But this post is about good things as well as bad, so I’m going to stop focusing on that and move on to something else that I created that I am convinced is great and I love to bits.
So, for my creative connections course, I was given the job of decorating the chest of drawers that is going in our pop-up cafe with one of the other lades. We were very unenthusiastic about the job to begin with. We looked at it and just sort of shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘oh, I don’t know. Lets just paint it.’
Luckily, one of our facilitators stopped us as we were going for the paint and said, ‘hang on.’ She said, it was always good to stop, slow things down and think before starting any project, and if we weren’t inspired yet, we shouldn’t do anything, but look at some images and come up with a plan. Thank goodness she did, because what we came up with is, I flatter myself, amazing.
We got a whole of silhouettes and put them on to projector material. We projected them on to the chest of drawers and traced the outlines. On the front, we had a house, on one side is a little boy, on the back is a dog, and on the final side, a tree. The idea was that we would take a scene/picture and wrap it around the chest of drawers, so people could follow it round, have a bit of a journey, discovery and have a bit of fun. We used pyrography to burn the images into the wood, then we painted the drawers around the images white, and rubbed bitumen into them to give the drawers and old-world look.
Then the fun stuff happened. We got all sorts of different material to ‘dress-up’ the images. We put multi-coloured leaves on the trees, clothes on the boy, curtains on the windows of the house and basically jazzed the whole thing up.
It looks fantastic. I’m so proud of it and I can’t stop staring at it. I don’t know that I have ever been so proud of anything I have made before, and, what’s more, I don’t need anyone else to tell me its good. I know its good in my bones.
But, it was nice last night, because as we were setting up the site for the pop-up cafe, a lady came in to look, and the reason was our chest of drawers. She loved it, she called out to her friends and family to come and look at it. She was utterly amazed by it, ‘do you make your own stuff?’ she asked, and patted all the little bits of material.
I think, and I’m going out on a limb here, but I think the reason its so good is because it was collaborative work. I’m such a control freak and perfectionist, which means it is very difficult to work with other people (especially if I decide I don’t like their ideas or don’t respect them or feel that they don’t like my ideas or respect me…), and I’m also terrified that people will tell me they think my ideas are crap, so I so often hold things I’m planning or creating as close to my chest as I possibly can, not letting anyone even get the smallest peek at what I’m doing. The irony is, that the work I’m most proud of is the stuff that I have worked with someone else on, because, as long as we work well together, we add and improve to each other’s ideas, and each has different skills and talents that they can bring to the partnership.

Anyway, that’s enough good stuff. Here is a picture of the chest of drawers. I will post up a better collection of pictures after the pop-up cafe this weekend. I’m really looking forward to it!

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Filed under Cork Midsummer, Ireland

Socks

I’m cheating a little today, as this needs to be written up for the Cork Midsummer Festival and I don’t have time to write it up, another ‘creative’ post and a post about Scotland as well as, you know, feed myself and do my job.
So, here is something that is going to be included in our pop-up cafe, ‘Home is Where the Art Is’. I’m not entirely sure how or where yet, but it will be included. I think.

‘After I finished high school, I went to live in Norway for a year on school exchange. The family I was hosted by lived in the far North-East of the country, right on the border of Russia and Finland, in a town called Vadsø.
Because the Australian school year finishes in December, I moved to Norway in January. I went from clear blue skies and 35 degree heat, a Christmas Day spent in the swimming pool and the devastating 2002 Canberra bushfires, to 4 feet of snow, no sunlight and minus degree temperatures.
One thing that became very important to me, that had never really mattered to me before, were socks. In Australia I had gotten about in bare feet, or socks that were riddled with holes. In Norway, I started wearing 2 or 3 pairs at a time, and suddenly my shoes didn’t fit anyore.
Socks were particularly important in the home. You didn’t wear your shoes inside the house, which I thought was only a Japanese tradition. Now that I think about it, I’m certain the reason is to prevent snow being tracked inside the house! Anyway, everyone had lovely, woolen knitted socks with a beautiful, distinctive snowflake patter and I had my thin, hole-y ones.
In February, I went with my host mother to visit her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law lived right near the Russian border, amongst pine-tree forests and lakes and boulders. Her house was yellow and white and wooden. It was like being in a fairytale.
When we got to the house, we took our shoes off, like good Norwegians. We were made cups of warm, sugary tea and offered cinnamon buns and flat cinnamon and butter sweet bread. My host grandmother didn’t speak and English, so she and my host mother spoke Norwegian, whilst I sat there, in my threadbare socks, staring about the room and awkwardly smiling and nodding when my host mother translated comments into English for me.
At one point, my host grandmother looked down at my feet and became quite distressed. My host mother translated. ‘She’s worried about your socks.’ I smiled and nodded. ‘She says they have holes in them.’ I smiled and nodded again. ‘She says they’re not warm enough.’ I started to protest. ‘She wants to know if you have any others with you?’ I shake my head and smile and protest and say I’m fine, but she’s already getting up, with a determined look, shaking her head, gesturing at my socks and speaking Norwegian to my host mother. She leaves the room, and when she comes back she has a pair of cream & black knitted socks, just like the ones my host family wears, with the snowflakes all over them. She presents them to me and waves away my attempts to thank her in halting Norwegian. ‘Takk, takk, tusen takk’ (Thanks, thanks, a thousand thanks). She sits down and says something to my host mother. Very satisfied with herself, she watches me pull on the socks and offers more cake
The socks become my most treasured possession. I only ever wear them in the house, curled up on the sofa or in the bed. Even now, pulling them on, I feel warm, loved and looked after.’

True Story.

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Filed under Cork Midsummer, Norway, NYWM