Impact Theatre

Work has been busy and sometimes frustrating during the last couple of weeks. Myself and a couple of colleagues had an amazing opportunity last week to attend a workshop which was inspiring and made the hard work worth while.

DCIL received funding to run a workshop which I felt would be very educational for transition year students. I invited a class who I had worked with a couple of months ago. They are undertaking a huge disability project in their school, so they seemed like the perfect choice to attend this disability related workshop with a difference, in the Stationhouse Hotel in Letterkenny. Idan Meir brought a group of five actors with physical or sensory impairments to deliver a workshop and perform a play, but the day was much more than that.

The day began with a quiet group of students and a couple of teachers who didn’t know what to expect, and to be honest, I didn’t really know how to explain it to them either. We ended the day with a more confident, more creative and definitely more inspired and empowered group of people. I can’t really explain what happened in between! Idan talked to us about opression, having power, disability and what it means, and many other things. We didn’t just sit and listen. We learned about the impact of theatre and how we can use it. We learned how to create images with our bodies and how to tell stories. We learned how to lead and trust each other, and we definitely learned how to be out of our comfort zone! The actors performed a play for us after lunch called ‘happy birthday’, which explores the issues facing a 21 year-old girl who is unable to attend her own birthday party due to the inaccessibility of the venue. They performed it a second time, during which the audience were invited to stop the play whenever they felt that there was something unfair happening. This brought about interesting discussion and debate. After this, the students and teachers were split into groups, with myself and the actors joining each group to tell our stories or answer any disability related questions they had. The students and teachers were then asked to make an image of something they learned from that conversation. It’s hard to explain, but it was very interesting for me to hear, because I have no visual idea of how people represent words or feelings in this way. I learned a lot from these exercises, and it wasn’t what I had expected to learn when the day began.

It was nice to learn about disability, a theme I am so familiar with, but not actually be the person teaching it for a change. I wanted the day to be as much about the students as possible, so it was a nice surprise when I realised how much we were all included. I didn’t think to mention to Idan that I was blind beforehand. I didn’t think I’d be involved in the theatre with the students, and to be honest, it didn’t even come into my head. He did tell me that if he’d known he could have adjusted his activities a bit, but I was still very much included and he explained everything as much as he could. Part of the leading and trusting exercise involved people closing their eyes and then talking about the experience afterwards. I don’t know if this is always part of the day, but it worked well, and I was able to give my own feedback too.

O.J came along for the day too. I was very happy with how well he behaved since there was a lot of moving and running around. He just lay watching, and really loved the attention whenever the students came to pet him on their break. Idan sometimes gave him a quick pet to make sure he didn’t feel left out during the day!

‘Happy birthday’ was performed in Donegal a couple of years ago and I missed it, so it was brilliant to have everybody involved back to perform it and do the workshop just for us. It was a different way of exploring the theme of disability, and my only regret was that more of my colleagues didn’t come to see it.
Idan wrote a one man play called
Bassam
which returns to An Grianan Theatre in February next year. It’s based on a different theme entirely, but I like his work, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to see it.

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Jake Clemons

Last Tuesday, myself and a work colleague went to see Jake Clemons play in
McGrory’s

in Culdaff. It’s Ireland’s most northernly music venue, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Jake and his band were playing there as part of an Irish tour in support of his ’embracing light’ EP. I’ve seen him on stage as part of the E-Street band a couple of times, playing saxophone in one of the biggest bands in the world, so I didn’t know what to expect on a small stage in a bar in Donegal. Whatever happened, I knew it was going to be special, and it didn’t disappoint.

The gig began with songs from a Cork singer/songwriter called
Nicole Maguire

who I really enjoyed. She’s a great guitarist and has a great voice. Fortunately for her, but not for us, all her albums were sold out, so I definitely must get one online. She had supported Jake on a previous Irish tour, and he seemed to genuinely have respect for her as an artist. She seemed equally delighted to be there on stage as part of his tour.

The majority of the audience on the night were Bruce Springsteen fans, and maybe like me, they weren’t too familiar with Jake’s solo work. I only knew three songs! This is very unusual for me, because usually I really know a band well before I go to hear them play live. A girl in the front row did come prepared in her Jake Clemons t-shirt though.

Jake and his band came on stage at 9 PM, and the next 2 hours and 40 mins were not what I had expected. The band were lively and loud and full of enthusiasm. They sounded young and energetic, like they were excited to be performing their new material, yet they were very professional and tight. Jake moved between guitar to saxophone and piano like a pro, making me jealous that I couldn’t even learn one instrument properly. He walked around the audience, danced on a table and got a few people to dance with the band while he watched them and relaxed. The crowd took a short while to really get into the performance, but when they did, they enjoyed it and didn’t want it to finish.

The gig had a few highlights. The forth or fifth song was a version of ‘it takes two’ by Ryan Adams, a song I absolutely love. Mid way through this song, Jake played the saxophone for the very first time, to huge cheers from the audience. As the band played on, he then spoke about the loss of his uncle Clarance and the devistating impact it had on him. He didn’t feel like playing the saxophone again, until a friend talked to him and told him how Clarance would have wanted his music to be shared, and that it wasn’t an option for Jake not to do that. It was a fitting tribute in the middle of a great song. The band’s version of ‘a little help from my friends’ was amazing too. Jake invited Nicole back to sing a few songs with the band, after which he told the audience that he was very privileged to play on one of her own songs. She sang the vocals while the band accompanied her with Jake playing sax. The gig ended with an acoustic unplugged version of ‘carry me through’, with each band member taking a verse and singing the chorus together.

You can hear influences of Bruce in Jake’s music at times when he speaks to the audience, but he is a musician in his own right, producing his own original material with a brilliant band. Anyone who was expecting him to sound like Springsteen or act like Clarance was very wrong. He’s unique, but he’s also really really good!

And I discovered that he’s really sound too! After the gig he came back into the bar and talked to people. The owner pointed him in the direction of myself and Deborah first, which was nice since we had to get up for two long days of work in the morning. He gave me a hug and thanked me for coming. He seemed humble and gentle, and quieter than the rocker on stage a while earlier! Deborah talked much more than me, telling him that we worked together, that we were related and that I flew a plane! Not sure how that got in there, but he seemed impressed and amused by how embarrassed I was. More embarrassing was what she said next! It was lovely to go to a gig which was someone elses idea for a change. It was also lovely to have someone describe the stage, where things were and what people were doing. If Deborah sees something interesting, she thinks I need to know about it too, which is a nice thought most of the time. except when she asked Jake if I could touch his hair, because she’d been describing it to be earlier in the night. He was so cool about it all and just said “yeah sure!” and told me that it felt like wool. I’d never touched an afro before and was curious to know what it looked like, but I didn’t want to touch somebody’s that I don’t even know, and definitely not somebody that I hugely admire as a musician. My face must have looked priceless! We got a photograph with him, bought CDs to be signed, and I made Deborah leave as quickly as possible!

So overall, the gig was brilliant, McGrory’s is a fantastic venue that I’ll hopefully be spending more time in, and I got the closest to meeting Bruce Springsteen that I’m probably ever going to get! Even if it was a little bit too close for my liking! I hoped Jake Clemons enjoyed his first visit to Donegal as much as we enjoyed having him there.

My Kind of Music

That’s the title of Nicky’s brand new album, which he launched in the 7 Oaks hotel in Carlow last Thursday evening. The lineup featured friends of Nicky’s who are all well-known in the country music scene, most of who I’ve come to know through our annual trips to Portugal. The Ryan Turner band who also play there provided all the music on the night. The boys are fantastic musicians, and always make a gig very enjoyable. There was a great crowd, and everybody seemed to enjoy it. The only criticism I heard people say was that Nicky should have played longer!
Donegal was well represented on the night, with twelve people traveling down for the gig. My parents and some of my aunt’s and uncle came, as well as two couples who aren’t related in any way, but have heard of Nicky and decided to come themselves. It was great to meet up with friends we’d stayed with in Kerry over the summer, and Darragh and Emma, who are always very supportive when it comes to Nicky’s music. Emma was snap happy with her camera, and you can see some of her work on Nicky’s facebook page.
I think Darragh is busy updating the website and making the album available on Itunes soon. Maybe he’ll have a list of shops that stock the CD copy too, because I know you can’t get it everywhere.

There were five dogs at the gig, and as you’d expect, they were all well behaved and quiet. My parents were staying in the hotel, so I left O.J there during the performance, and took Orrin up to keep him company during the interval. He was in really good form, but quite restless during the day. He kept getting up if people came near and he thought he might get stood on. Maybe its just a sign of him getting older and a bit more stressed out more easily. The fireworks didn’t bother him on Halloween evening at all, and we walked to a restaurant to meet everybody for dinner with no problems. It didn’t seem like Halloween there though!

It was lovely to travel to Carlow and back with my parents in their jeep, rather than spending time on the bus. We could stop when we wanted, and the weather was bad on the way home so we took our time. We stopped in Monaghan to visit a friend who owns O.J’s brother Ozzy. We hadn’t seen each other in at least four years, and Ozzy is retiring in a couple of weeks. I wanted to get a photo of the dogs together, and wanted them to meet up probably for the last time. They were excited to see each other, but quickly lay down and relaxed. I hope O.J can work for another year, but it makes it all more real when I see the first of his siblings to retire.

I had a busy but fun couple of days, so it’s nice to stay inside and relax today. I think I’m on my fourth cup of tea at this stage! I have another busy week ahead, with working in a school that’s far enough away, going to Dublin for a training day, going to a wedding, and going to a gig on Tuesday that I’m very excited about!