Saturday, 26 March 2016

Celtic Tales 2016 - Expect the Unexpected...

picture by Cora Dupray

My Celtic Tales storytelling shows start again on Thursday 7th April and will run every week until the end of October. Over the weeks and months I’ll be telling Irish and Scottish tales about magic, murder, warriors, witches, magical creatures, traitors, tricksters and much more. Every show will be followed by a free Trad music session. 

Expect the Unexpected
Picture by Cora Dupray
As fans of Celtic Tales have discovered over the years, stepping into the show always leads to unexpected events. As well as people from all corners and cultures of Ireland and the rest of the planet too, it’s not unusual to bump into camera crews, be recorded for a radio interview or two as the stories weave weird magic around and through everybody jammed into the Crane Bar’s upstairs venue. The stories themselves can turn and twist this way and that like the cow last year that turned into a dog during the telling of the tale of the Scottish cannibals. In addition to all of this, there will be a few changes this year. As well as new stories, once a month there will be a live broadcast of the show on the periscope app. 

Remembering 1916
Margaret Skinnider - Scottish 1916 rebel
I will also be commemorating the Easter Rising during the Celtic Tales shows this year. On May 12th, the anniversary of James Connolly’s execution, the Celtic Tales show will celebrate Connolly and Margaret Skinnider, the two Scots who took part in the rising. On June 16th Celtic Tales will honour Eamon Ceannt, the executed Galway-born leader of the Easter Rising. (As well as the Celtic Tales show, I am also one of the Galway voices reading out the 1916 proclamation in Galway Museum’s new interactive exhibition ‘Revolution in Galway 1913-1923’ exhibition.)

For details of times, location and prices of the show, see Rab Fulton Stories

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You might also read my two part storytelling article: In the slaughterhouse
Also, here is my two part article on the legacy of 1916

Friday, 25 March 2016

1916 centenary. Part Two - Other Narratives

This civil war may have been a long time ago, yet the denial of other narratives remains the cornerstone of modern Ireland. While Fianna Fail emerged from the anti-Treaty side and Fine Gael from the pro Treaty, politically both pursued the same narrative for Ireland Tax Breaks, Exemptions and Amnesties for Wealthy White Men; Holy Communion for Everybody Else. (A narrative also supported by the Green Party and the Labour Party when in coalition).

In the Ireland of 2016 to step outside the official narrative is to be mad, bad, or an apologist for terrorism. This denial or traducing of other narratives is to be daily observed in the commentary of the political and media classes. In recent years this has been seen in the coverage of grass root movements like the anti-war protests at Shannon, the Shell to Sea campaign in Mayo and most recently in the anti-water charges campaign. This denial of alternative narratives reached its most hysterical apogee in the 2011 presidential election, where the Labour candidate quietly wandered nodding and smiling through the most pleasant of questionings from interviewers. The Sinn Fein candidate, on the other hand, was met with a barrage of hatred and invective, though whether this hatred was because of his involvement in the troubles or because of his working class background was difficult to say.  

What is most troubling is that denial of narratives is no longer something that Ireland’s elite actively choose to do. Instead exclusion is hard wired into the fabric of Ireland’s institutions, whether they be political, cultural, economic or academic. The Abbey Theatre seemed genuinely shocked to learn that women can actually write plays. The National University of Ireland still appears to be locked into denial that women are capable of being professors . As for the working class voting for anti-austerity candidates in the 2016 election – well that was not a valid expression of an alternative vision. Rather, so the narrative goes, it was a dangerous and uninformed dialliance with forces that could damage the economic recovery…

There has been some progress recently - marriage equality was a huge boost to all those excluded from official Ireland. Yet, sadly it remains the case that overwhelmingly the exclusion of other voices remains the default position of the Irish state. Which brings me back, in my meandering way, to the army school visits.

As I say this was no innocuous event. It meant that space was denied for people representing groups who were involved in the Easter Rising, including trade unionists, feminists, socialist and artists. A hundred years after the rising it is clear that we are not all cherished equally, that there are voices that our children must not be exposed to especially in the run up to first communion…

The city museum video of the proclamation is a small but hopeful acknowledgement that there are other voices in Ireland. Go along and check it out, and all the other incredible exhibitions – you’d be surprised at how rich and diverse a history our city has.
As for Ireland itself, here’s a small selection of alternative voices you might want to look at in this centenary year. Enjoy!

1916 centenary. Part One - Other Voices

James Connolly

On Thursday the boys and I had a sneak preview of the interactive Revolution in Galway, 1913-23 exhibition in the city museum. There was still a lot of final preparation going on, with ladders and tools and workers fixing things, so we only really got to see the proclamation video, which my children found impressive, not least cos their daddy was in it.

I was one of a number of Galwegians invited to read the proclamation for the video. These recordings were then spliced together to create a montage of voices and faces reading the words written by Padraig Pearse with input from James Connolly. The end result is a simple and beautiful testament to the power of the words spoken outside the GPO on that fateful Easter Monday 1916. What I enjoy about the montage videois that it reflects the diversity of people living in Galway (and Ireland) in the centenary year of the rising. Ireland is not (and never has been) only male, white and heterosexual and Galway museum is too be thanked for reclaiming the proclamation for all of us.

Sadly this wider vision of what Ireland is has not been reflected in other aspects of the centenary year commemorations. Lots of schools in Ireland have found interesting ways to involve children in their history - the rising enactment in Balbriggan, Dublin is a wonderful example - but sadly too many of these initiatives have been swallowed up by the official dictat coming down from department of education.

As part  of the centenary a group of people were invited in to visit every class in every school in the republic. Yet this group who had nothing to do with the Easter Rising, but had everything to do with the later civil war. The group I am talking about is the Irish Defence Forces, in particular the army. The purpose of the army visits was to present every school with a copy of the flag and give a talk about the flag. This may sound innocuous enough, but many parents found the army visits troubling.

The army only came into existence in February 1922, after the signing of the treaty that ended the war of Independence. The treaty was a hard sell, to say the least. It included the overturning of the First Dáil’s ratification of the 1916 proclamation of a united republic. Instead the new state was to exclude what we now call Northern Ireland; was to recognise the sovereignty of the King; and allow military bases in the Irish Free State. The IRA, who had fought the War of Independence, split into Pro and Anti-Treaty sides but there remained a degree of flexibility and fluidity on and between both sides. With the signing of the treaty the IRA was to be integrated into the new state’s army. However, Michael Collins refused to let anti-treaty IRA members join.

It is commonly agreed by all political and media movers and shakers in contemporary Ireland that the civil war that resulted from this decision (to exclude Anti-treaty IRA members from the army) took place so long ago that it no longer matters. In fact the decision Michael Collins made has continuing resonance today. In effect dissenters were to be excluded from participation in the new state. That exclusion allowed no room for negotiation or doubt or difficult questions. Backed by weaponry pouring in from the United Kingdom, the new Irish state imposed this one-narrative-only vision of Ireland with a savagery that surpassed that of the British army.