Life in a cultural petri dish

How to fix the Cork City music recession

cork music recession

We have to start working cooperatively, exchanging skills, resources, information if we are to get out of the Cork City music recession.

Things have to get better on the gig scene this summer. It’s got so bad, so bad.
Cork City seems to be dead; no money, no people, no buzz, no nothing. Apparently this is the way it is. Every time I ask someone what the story is, why it’s so dead, they mutter back, matter of factly,
“Sure it’s always been this way”
“Cork dies in the Summer, once the students come back sure it’ll all be grand then”
“What’s a couple of months, no bother, don’t worry, it always rights itself”
No it doesn’t. What it does is put an incredible amount of pressure on bars, venues, clubs, theatres, bands, etc. And it’s not just a couple of months it’s from the end of May until the middle of September – over a quarter of the year. And yet everyone stumbles blindly on, convinced that it is an unquestionable truth and thus cannot be fixed.

Life in a cultural petri dish

top 10 tips to create a great festival

10 tips to create a festival

Thought I’d post up a top 10 list of how to create a great festival. These tips are based on my experience as both an audience member, organiser and performer at many different types of festivals over the last twenty years.

1. Have a cooperative approach to the development, production and management of the festival
To have a bunch of people working together for a common purpose is critical to all great festivals. It takes the pressure off the individual and builds trust, friendship and an element of fun and excitement between the group. A cooperative approach does have its problems – especially when things go wrong – but if the group are dedicated to the idea then this should see them through the inevitable problems that arise in organising a large event

2. Be sure to have a good reason for creating a festival other than trying to make money
To create a festival for the sole reason of turning a buck is a waste of time. Festivals are and always have been a celebration of something that has meaning to people. By concentrating on trying to make money you’ll only destroy the essence of what a festival is all about. It’s hard to make a festival pay. There are much easier ways to make a few quid.

Life in a cultural petri dish

The Irish arts and the so called cultural agenda

irish arts

Saturdays Irish Times is the only Irish paper I buy all week. I buy it because it has a good TV guide. The rest of it is essentially banal, cultural lifestyle bunkum. See the thing is The Times likes to see itself as THE IRISH ARTS PAPER – the must read broadsheet for the middle brow, educated, arts appreciation types. And you know what they’re right. It is. I fit their profile perfectly. It’s the paper we all want to get into, be reviewed in, featured in, this despite the fact that it’s not even the largest selling paper in the country. By a long shot. It’s pathetic how much we’re enthralled to the media. I feel pathetic just writing about it.
However, before I go on to tear a recent editorial apart I just want to make clear where I stand on the issue of the Irish media in the arts. Press and television grossly misrepresent and under serve the arts in this country; completely, utterly, totally. They are a disgrace. Our only saving grace is the radio but their reach is limited as the arts programmes are not deemed important enough to be promoted by the mandarins running the stations.

Life in a cultural petri dish

why be an independent arts producer?

independent irish arts producer

I’m tired. Most of the time I’m tired. Forever scratching away, trying to make a crust as an independent arts producer of sorts, always looking to steal away moments to work on my project; mutantspace, a free arts and skills exchange website, a gift economy that runs on time and very little else. Money is tight. Time is precious, unaffordable and once gone can never come back. It’s hard. Tough.

But I’m not complaining, this is not a complaint, lets make that clear, now, now. Damn clear. I wouldn’t want this any other way (well a few more quid in the bank would be nice) I chose this path, I made a conscious decision, I made my choices, some wrong, some right, that’s life. What’s more I shall be forever grateful to have been in a position to make that choice in the first place unlike so many that don’t, can’t. I am privileged. I am lucky. I am tired. That is all.

Being independent, working for yourself, creating a new space in which to make a livelihood, being master of your own vanity is a rollercoaster ride; constantly hoping, praying that gigs, events, shows you put on are pulled off. It’s challenging and frustrating and hard work. It’s a fun and exciting trip but always nerve wracking and stressful and your nails are bitten to the quick.

Culture and politics

Gift economies; the power of the gift?

gift economy

This post is a synopsis of a political and cultural discussion, on the gift economy, that took place in Dublin last week as part of an ongoing series called The Talking Shop Session organised by The Campaign for Old City Arts Building, Dublin Housing Action and the Provisional University.

This talking shop explored non-market relations, in the form of gift/reciprocal exchange as a means of moving away from social interaction conditioned by the logic of the market and monetary gain. The giving of a gift, which need not be material but can be a contribution to a group, creates an obligation for reciprocation with the receiver being expected to return something of equal or greater value later on. This doesn’t mean that it becomes about self-interest rather it can lead to the construction of a social fabric of relationships, between people who in other cirumstances would not have interacted. Two questions we will explore are, To what extent do social movements use reciprocal exchange ? and, Is it possible to escape from the colonisation of market imperatives?

Culture and politics

The Empathic Civilisation by Jeremy Rifkin

Another fascinating animate from the RSA entitled ‘The Empathic Civilisation’ by Jeremy Rifkin an American economist, writer, public speaker, political adviser and activist.

Listening to  people that refuse to accept the status quo and can show, with clarity, what is possible is always uplifting. Jeremy Rifkin is such a person. The fact is that in these uncertain times, as our infallible market economy is in terminal decline – only 20 years after the so called triumph of capitalism, with the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 – we need to wake up and start radically overhauling everything we we took for granted, assumed was right, a truth.

It is no longer good enough to accept that what is has to be, that there is no other way, that we have exhausted all possibilities and therefore we must accept our fate. No. We may happen to live in a system that has failed spectacularly but now we, us, you, me, have the opportunity to create a new more equitable society born out of  new ways of thinking, doing, being and living together. Now is the time for new thinking. Jeremy Rifkin is one of those thinkers.

Rifkin has been an advisor to the European Union for the past decade. He has been a senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and his monthly column on global issues appears in many of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including The Los Angeles Times and The Guardian.

“The Empathic Civilization is emerging. A younger generation is fast extending its empathic embrace beyond religious affiliations and national identification to include the whole of humanity and the vast project of life that envelops the Earth.”

Jeremy Rifkin

If this video isn’t working either refresh the page or see it over on the mutantspace channel

This is a RSA animate – go see more of them

Everything about music

keeping Irish music venues independent

irish music venue

Yesterday was a bad day. But last night I revelled in live jazz and the fog lifted, the spirits rose and all was alright again

Live music can do that.

Live music does do that. Nothing beats a long day being lifted by sweet tunes.

I mention all this because Cork finally has a regular and successful jazz night, The Blue Note Sessions at The Roundy music venue. Last night was their one year anniversary. It was a great night with a fabulous quartet of tenor sax, double bass, guitar and drums. Best of all the Blue Note Sessions only costs €5 to get into. However, these days getting people to pay in to a live gig is becoming nigh on impossible unless you’re a star or some latest on the block, cool kid, up and coming, whatever. For the rest, for the multitude of bands and musicians trying to make it there seems to be little value put on their talent, craft, hard work, determination.

Life in a cultural petri dish

eating Irish culture and digesting delicious food

delicious food in thorntons

It was scrumptious. One of the most delicious dinners I have ever had in Ireland, one of the most expensive too. But worth it. Oh so worth it. The food, the ingredients were absolutely magnificent. Food as art. Art to be eaten. The best way to consume culture is to eat it, digest it slowly, luxuriate in its taste, touch, the wonderful smell of it, the sound that comes from it and the beauty in its craftsmanship. So where was this place of magical taste and smell and eye watering magnificence? Thorntons in Dublin

Life in a cultural petri dish

food festivals; a delicious recipe for celebration?

delicious recipes and culture

It’s raining and i’m not disappointed perhaps because i’m a curmudgeon. Perhaps because I’m hoping the TASTEFEST, that’s currently underway in Cork, is going to suffer. I hate saying that but it’s true. There you go. If you’re reading this and are involved in this food festival then, well, hate me for it. To make it clear; I don’t have a personal gripe against the organisers (I don’t know the people involved), nor do I have any particular agenda and I have alot of sympathy for those restaurateurs and producers taking stands at the event. It’s just that I have an issue with the following:

1. It’s incredibly expensive to attend, is a rip off (I thought those days of greed were over), and for my mind is extremely bad value for money:

If you attend this afternoon (4 hours) its €15 each (€20 for two)
If you attend this evening (4 hours) its €25 each (€30 for two)
Saturday day (4 hours) its €25 each (€30 for two)
Saturday evening (4 hours) its €25 each (€30 for two)
Sunday day (5 hours) its €25 each (€30 for two)

And that’s before you pay for dishes that range from €3 to €8. These dishes are paid for in ‘Corkers’ which seems to be some silly marketing ploy to make the whole thing sound alternative but really ends up causing more headaches for traders as they have to hold onto tokens before converting them  into cash at the end of the day. There are bars and music at the ‘festival’ but so what? A pint is a pint and the music from all accounts is your usual pub stuff. So all in all there’s not much to hold you there except for the great food (of which I expect there is much judging by the restaurants involved). However, to stay means you’re going to have to spend money; to eat, to drink. So, if I was to go with my wife at 6pm it would cost us €30 to get in and then more for food and drink. If we were to stay there for an hour I reckon we’d spend €70 – €90 easily. Not cheap.

2. The cost charged for pitches for small artisan producers (I don’t know the cost for restaurants but it would be much more) is €1,700 for the entire event. After you’ve paid that out you have to pay for electricity, gas, staff, produce. And there’s more – the organisers are looking for 50% of traders earnings (I got this info from the traders themselves so if anyone knows different let me know). A GUBU moment I think. Unbelievable greed and an absolute disgrace. I can state this because I know most of the small producers in Cork and many of them couldn’t or wouldn’t get involved because the costs were prohibitive. And this is a festival celebrating local produce?

3. They organisers could have used Cork companies in the production of the event but chose not to. I will admit that I have a certain interest in this as my company runs most of the artisan festival markets in this city, has good relationships with local marquee companies, sound hire companies, bands, entertainers, etc. Infact, we have, and I say this as fact, more local knowledge than anybody else. Having said that it’s the organisers choice and I’m cool with their decision I just think that if Cork people really believe in Cork and want our local economy to survive then they should be employing local companies before running off elsewhere. It’s the old Irish problem; “if they’re not from here they must be better”. It’s a sad indictment and smacks of an inferiority complex – Cork City Council have the same problem.

4. I’m sick to death of food being used as a status symbol – a symbol of sophistication, culture, education and class. Ireland continues to believe it’s a classless state but we all the truth of it. It’s pathetic and we in Ireland have being using food as a means to differentiate ourselves from each other for years. Yes, good food can be cost prohibitive for people however that does not excuse the snobbery associated with it.

Culture and politics

Politics and the culture of limitless choice

I found this fascinating RSA animate by Professor Renata Salecl who asks whether the ability to make limitless choices helps or hinders our lives and our society. It is a damning indictment on capitalism.

Culture and politics

Culturally doing instead of wretchedly thinking

new thinking

While working on the food market at the Shandon Street Festival, in Cork, last weekend I found myself thinking about how little I go to see things such as shows, gigs, exhibitions, films, festivals. Sure, I’m at 2 gigs a week and am involved in a number of festivals and events during the year but they’re all kind of the same and besides, work is work no matter how much you enjoy it.

What I realised, well more like admitted to myself, was that I had created a little event bubble around myself full of seething all – knowingness, self – justification and paltry excuses. I was secure in my little bubble, happy in my ignorance and self – importance. However this way of thinking, of living is only detrimental to my health, my well being for it inhibits my thinking, narrows my focus and diminishes my experience my already limited experience. What occurred me was that my wretched laziness was leading me into a place in which I’d end up losing my ability to make a good counter attack against all the prevailing forces that continue to proliferate and dominant our cultural landscape; the consensus, the status quo, the culturcrats (that is now an official new word which i will expand on at a later date)

Book reviews and essays

Field Grey: the new Bernie Gunther novel by Philip Kerr

field grey by philip kerr

So to the seventh Bernie Gunther novel, Field Grey, by Scottish author Philip Kerr.

Like many Gunther fans I was chomping at the bit to read it for this series marries my near obsession of all things World War 2 with hardboiled detective fiction. Bernie Gunther is a brilliantly drawn, flawed character whose story is played out in Nazi Germany, The Ukraine during the war, POW camps as well as post war Austria, Argentina, Cuba, France and Germany. Kerr is able to evoke the period so well, so cinematically, and his ability to weave fiction with real life events and characters really makes for a cracker of a yarn.  

Life in a cultural petri dish

The Shandon Street Festival shows the community at its best

shandon community street festival cork ireland

Tomorrow is the beginning of another weekend of food markets, the last weekend of work for almost 2 months. This time around we’ll be hosting our food market at the Shandon Street Festival, a wonderful community event held in Cork City every June.

But about the weekend work…it’s coming to an end and I’m in two minds about it. On the one hand I’m delighted in the knowledge that this time next week I won’t be standing on a street corner glowering, tweeting incessantly on my phone and feeling sick from eating so much market food and drinking gallons of sweetened coffee. On the other; well, I’ll be making no money. I suppose that’s how it is for all those that are self – employed. If you’re not working you’re not earning. But I truly need a break. Breaks are good. Breaks from late nights and early starts, breaks from incessant phone calls from people who need every small production detail spelt out for them whether it be loading in times, electricity requirements, insurance or stage plans, breaks from bureaucrats, breaks from performers, breaks from crowds, breaks from people. Breaks from everything, everyone. I can’t wait. All I want to do is sit and for them to go away. Bah humbug.

Life in a cultural petri dish

Bloomsday celebrations in Cork

bloomsday from our skills exchange

Sixteenth today it is, thinks Leopold Bloom, and the 16th it was, in June 1904

So tomorrow is Bloomsday. Not that I’ve read the great book –Ulysses incase you didn’t know – but mutantspace skills exchange has been involved in running a Bloomsday event in Cork for the past 3 years for those aficionados that can’t get enough of Leopold Bloom and his meanderings through Dublin on June 16th, 1904.

I must admit that I did start reading it at one stage – my one year old daughter gave it to me as a Fathers Day present (she’s very clever for her age) – but I never made any headway. I was too lazy. Couldn’t be bothered quite frankly. Ever since then it has leaned up dispiritedly against my more popular books on the shelf, looking all forlorn, unloved and untouched. I don’t blame it. I’d be pissed off too. I just can’t bring myself to do it, to get involved with it, seems an enormous effort, a mountain to climb. And I have no time.

Having said all that, my co-conspirator tomorrow evening is a Joycean freak. I think it’s all he reads, or just about, either way it’s weird, what would possess someone to marry such a tome of a book? At some point a few years ago I asked him how many times he had read it and he spat out a number, I can’t remember which, but it was probably something like 6 or 7. It’s probably 9 or 10 now. I must ask him, it’s surely something ridiculous. “No no, no, no” he always insists, “See everytime you read it you get something else out of it, it’s so layered, so deep…” yeah whatever.

I’m never going to read the damned book. Well, I might consider it if I was lying on a desert island with no one to talk to, nothing to listen too, couldn’t swim and had no alcohol, drugs or hope of salvation from a passing ship. Yeah, I’m definitely in the “I’ve never read it” category. However I kinda would like to be like in the “I have read it” category… sometimes. They have a strong bond, those people, those Joyceans, it’s like a Masonic lodge except they wear Edwardian clothes, drink wine and eat fried kidneys and Gorgonzola cheese. My kind of thing (the wine and cheese and dressing up – not too fond of kidneys to be honest)

bloomsday in cork

I think that’s why I got myself involved in this Bloomsday celebration, the food and booze. The other reason was that James Joyces’ father was from Cork and so being in Cork it’s only appropriate that we fly the flag for Munster. Sure why not, Cork has such a massive inferiority complex when it comes to our fair capital that we might as well stoke the fires of regionalism.  So there we have it, Bloomsday in Cork.

We shall be beginning proceedings at 6pm at The Sextant Bar on Albert Quay. We will be outside should the weather turn favourable and inside if it continues being weirdly wintery. There will be cheese and bread and wine for everyone. Performing on the night will be; the wonderful Eden Singers, doing renditions of old Irish songs from the book, Ken Cotter and Mark Slade playing a series of songs based on the book, while a number of people will be doing readings from the book. If you’re in Cork and are free anytime between 6 – 7.30pm you should come along, drop in, it’s good fun, even if you have no interest in Joyce. It’s always warm and friendly and should you wish to do a reading you can just get up and do it. It’s a very relaxed affair.

Everything about music

album review of John Edgar Voe, JP Ryan, New Order and The Prodigy

Reviews of new albums from John Edgar Voe, JP Ryan, New Order and The Prodigy…

John Edgar Voe

John Edgar Voe: Western Notes EP

Martin Corrigan fronts folk/ alt country outfit: John Edgar Voe. They will be releasing a Four track EP titled Western Notes on June 24th. What you notice first are the fresh, striking lyrics on track Highway Man; “I’ll speak to you in tongues in different regions in a language you might understand. I’ll tweak the screws with the words I use in ways you would not believe” and the electric guitars. Yes, electric, its an Americana/folk acoustic type of thing that is going on here. There is syncopation and asymmetrical rhythms within the music that have that Rat a tat tat vibe to it, that along with perfect melodies captivate the listener and paints a vast portrait that stretch out to American landscape, however Corrigan is from Fermanagh and has been quoted as attempted to create his own form adapting Americana and turning and twisting it into his own: Fermanicana.
This John Edgar Voe EP delves straight into the very soul of a song, tells it as it is and delivers in an uncannily cool and austere manner. Corrigan can be sassy and scruffy, or quiveringly sincere, but he’s never uninteresting. Words and images tumble out – we infer that he’s a fool for love, but a cynical one – and by the end, you’re thoroughly dazzled.
10/10 it is what it is and at its utmost best at that.

Life in a cultural petri dish

The joys of working festival markets during summertime in Ireland

festival markets in Cork

There is joy to be found eeking out a living producing festival markets in Ireland

And I’m knackered. It’s Monday and I feel like I’m at the end of a busy week rather than the beginning of it. Hold on a sec…now that I think about it I’m both. I’ve been working like a dog for the last 14 days and have another 14 to go before myself and my wife get to take off for a small weekend break. That makes me halfway through a 28 day week. No wonder I’m aching and burning out. But hey, I’m not complaining, work pays the bills and these days you need to make hay while the sun shines…

This weekend I spent my waking hours standing on the main street in Cork City, Patrick Street, running a street market that we – my business partner and I – put on every year as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. In truth it’s nothing really to do with the festival, it just happens that festivals are a great excuse to have a lively market in the heart of the city. Frankly, if the city authorities had any sense they’d have a market on every weekend of the summer. If I was in TEAM (our fantastic non – existent tourism marketing quango that’s meant to be promoting the city and its lively culture but to date has done nothing except quaff expensive food at its own launch ) I’d be  banging at our door begging us to do it all the time;

“Please put a market on every weekend on our main street, please give local traders and retailers the opportunity to make extra money, please help increase footfall in our dying city, please give the tourists something to do on Sunday because nearly everything is closed due to some inane union ruling on working hours, please give people a place to hang out and eat delicious things, please help us promote Cork”

Life in a cultural petri dish

southern screen professionals is officially launched

southern screen professionals

Last night I was standing outside the gig venue I run, in Cork, having a quick cigarette and killing time while soundchecks were going on, when I bumped into a musician running down the road to a gig he was involved in, a launch for a new independent film collective called The Southern Screen Professionals. I couldn’t resist his offer to head over – it was only down the road and I had plenty of time – besides I liked his band, thought a pint would be in order and the launch sounded like something worth investigating further. Any new arts venture is.

The SSP has been put together by a group of film makers, producers and film festival organisers who have decided to take the initiative away from the authorities, the bureaucrats and start working for themselves. The plan is to:

  • Create an online location and crew database
  • Market the Southern region of Ireland as a great location for film shoots
  • Organise the various film groups and organisations in the region under one umbrella, one voice
  • Run a full time office space in Cork City for all members of the database
  • Develop training and network programmes

It’s a great idea and another example of people deciding to fuck the status quo and do it for themselves, to use their own initiative, energy, talent, to create new possibilities, new space, new directions for their work. Naturally all of this is done on a shoestring, takes up an inordinate amount of time and will be a fight to survive – not unlike mutantspace infact. Anyway, I hope it goes from strength to strength. The film community in Cork City are resilient, they work together, they’re proactive, they can and will do it, will succeed.

I know very little about film besides enjoying them in the cinema and on the couch on Saturday nights. Having said that I organise, through mutantspace and the Trash Culture Revue, a film shorts competition, called Mutant Shorts, which has gone from strength to strength over the past two years. That experience has only been positive and I have nothing but praise for all the film makers involved in it. They support one another, share resources, offer positive criticism to one another and are there for each other’s failure and triumph. My wife also works in film – for the past 10 years as a wardrobe assistant – and from what she tells me it’s a very tough job requiring plenty of stamina, fortitude and resilience. All the assets required for Southern Screen Professionals to work.

I could only stay a while at the launch. I met so many positive people, both young and old, ready for action, ready to make it happen, up for the fight. As I ran back up the road to the gig I was full of excitement for them, another bunch of people who have decided that by sharing resources and working together they can overturn all the obstacles that stand in the way of their ambition to create and work in the film industry.

Marvellous. Another arts group has decided to take the power back, has decided to go out and get it done, has decided not to wait for a government agency, a local authority, a quango, to give it the green light and force it through hoops of red tape and paperwork for measly amounts of funding. This is for them, owned by them and will live and die because of them. We should all want more of that attitude everywhere, we should take note, we should support this type of initiative whenever possible. We should all want more of it in Cork. Good luck to you all, congratulations on a great idea, a great night and if you ever need a hand mutantspace is here to help.

Life in a cultural petri dish

Promoting apps for creativity in Cork City

cork city tourism

Funny how thoughts collide. I spent yesterday afternoon writing about how useless I thought Cork City Council are when it comes to actively promoting creativity and supporting those who wish to make the city a vibrant place to live in and a good place for tourists to visit. Later that night I ended up bumping into someone I see rarely and the subject resurrected itself once again. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think it’s on the tip of all our tongues. We’re all thinking the same thing. All sick of the status quo. All fed up with the inertia and disrespect the city council dishes out – to those of us involved in keeping this city alive – on a daily basis.

I had just finished wrapping up a gig – at the venue I run – and was thinking of heading home early. Anyway this friend was there – he had turned up to check out the jazz band – and afterwards we fell into conversation about this and that and whatever and at some stage the subject of the city council came up. Now this guy is someone I regard as having done much to promote the city, gigs, events, clubs and venues and has always been very generous to me whenever I asked for help with promoting mutantspace or the trash culture revue. Anyway over a pint we had a good rant and a laugh at the utter stupidity we had both encountered, on different occasions, when coming into contact with them over one initiative or another.

Life in a cultural petri dish

keeping summer alive in Cork

cork city festivals

Coming down to earth after producing and managing a festival or cultural event is always a strange feeling. Time slows down and opens up to the rest of your life. Those all consuming days of preparation and dealing with bureaucracy just melt away and leave space for your mind to wander and your body breath deeper.

The June bank holiday was such a weekend and is always the busiest of our summer. We were up to our eyes in Cork with events on Saturday at the Ocean to City race and Cork X Southwest music festival in Liss Ard and our annual Mad Pride Ireland family fun day on Sunday in Fitzgeralds Park. The weekend was beautiful and I ended up coming out of it looking healthier than I went into it – amazing what outdoor work can do for you. Beats the computer anytime.

So now what? Back to the computer, back to the stress of running a music venue which always gets harder to programme as we head into July as Cork is one of those places that empties out – it’s a university city – from the end of June to September. The city hibernates during the high days of summer with venues, restaurants, galleries, nightclubs and bars battening down the hatches, saving the pennies and hoping that they can stay afloat by making a few quid out of the pitiful numbers of tourists that stop here on their way to Kerry or elsewhere. Its three months of hardship until the students are back and the International Cork Folk Festival kicks it all off again.  

Culture and politics

Campaign Launch: Campaign for the Old City Arts Building- take back the city!

City Arts building Dublin

Saturday June 11th, 6pm at Seomra Spraoi.Campaign launch with talks by campaign members and Sandy Fitzgerald, former director of Dublin City Arts. Followed by Food and Party. €3 suggested donation from 10pm

Join us on June 11th for the launch of the Campaign for the Old City Arts Building (COCAB). Our aim is to take back the Old City Arts building, 23-25 Mosse St (near Tara dart station) which has been abandoned for nearly a decade and is now part of the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA). We want the building to be opened up for use as an educational and cultural space, managed collectively by anyone who wants to take part, independent of private or state institutions. We also want to broaden this by demanding that the NAMA legislation be changed so that all disused NAMA buildings can be used by the citizens for social and cultural projects, social housing or (in the case of undeveloped land) community gardens.

It is clear that the politics of ‘elected representatives’ has completely failed in the context of the crisis- only people power and direct action can bring real change.NAMA, which is the largest property owner in Europe, has been a key part of the state’s strategy for managing the crisis, a strategy which has unashamedly prioritized the financial system and property speculators above all else.
The crisis is also being used as a pre-text for destroying public services. Any public service that promotes equality has been attacked with increasing intensity over the last two years. Sectors such as the university and community development have seen their funding cut, and at the same time are being strangled by bureaucratic control. The message is clear- the state only values narrowly defined economic activity, in other words, it only values what investors value.With unbelievable cynicism we are told that the state simply does not have the resources to fund public services- that equality is a luxury we can’t afford. Yet the state’s lack of resources is a direct result of pumping our collective wealth into the bailout of the banks, the speculators and the financial system. The irrationality of this is revealed when we consider that while the state claims to have no money for public services it has effectively bought an empire of empty buildings. That is one resource the state does have.

But NAMA has been set up on the basis of the same narrow economic objectives that define the state’s overall strategy. First of all, NAMA has bought the toxic debts (at inflated prices) rather than the buildings themselves. The vast majority of these debts will never be paid yet the speculators who own them still have a say in what happens to those buildings, while the citizens do not. In fact, NAMA is not subject to the Freedom of Information act and as such we’re not even able to access basic information about an agency which has gobbled up billions of euro of public money. Likewise, NAMA is limited to a few options in terms of the buildings it controls, each more irrational than the next and subject to the agreement of the developer in question. It can destroy a building, sell at a much reduced price or hold onto the building in the hope that we will return to the insanity of the property boom.This is a con. We don’t want to see public resources bailing out speculators and we don’t want to see a return to property speculation. Dublin has been used as a casino for long enough- it’s time it became a city. NAMA buildings should belong to everyone.

There is no justification for maintaining empty publicly owned buildings while the state slashes public services. We want to use the old Dublin City Arts building for independent educational and cultural projects open to everyone. In particular, we believe that because the university is being undermined, we need a space where education is based on equality and open to all, where teaching, learning and research can become a force for change, and where the bureaucracy, competition and corporatisation of the university are replaced by a collective, participative and empowering educational process. The project will be run collectively and democratically by anyone who wants to participate and will provide space for any projects who want to organize educational or cultural activities. We are especially hopeful that the space will be a resource for those excluded from education and from the city in general.The NAMA legislation was made by the Dáil- but what the Dáil does the people can undo.

Life in a cultural petri dish

summer madness is just beginning

burundi drummers

Funny how life has a habit of throwing you tonnes of work in a short period of time; especially when you’re in the business of producing events. The summer is always lunacy.
From May through to August, my time is just chewed and spat out at an alarming rate with no days off for a proper hangover. Come the end of summer I’ll be back obsessing about SEO, PHP, HTML, page rank, page speed, search queries and crawler errors, etc on, working on our next DIY festival, The Trash Culture Revue, and worrying whether the music venue I run will break even or break me and the owner of the place. It’s hard out there now, scratching for a living in a black recession, there is no slack to cut, no space to turn, no place to hide.

Life in a cultural petri dish

making carnival art or optimizing websites?

fantastic carnival style flags

The last few nights have been long, tiring and hectic. For the first time in years myself and my wife have been up till the wee hours making carnival props in our living room. It brought both of us back to a time when we did it as a living, her making costumes, me building large puppets and floats and the two of us travelling the country to various festivals doing parades. They were good days but in the lead up to a festival work seemed neverending often going on from early morning until 2/3am.

All about mutantspace

is mutantspace an arts resource or co-operative?

is mutantspace an arts resource or co-operative

I’ve been deliberating over the difference between mutantspace as an ‘arts resource’ and mutantspace as an ‘arts co – operative’. The reason being is that the site is beginning to get more publicity and is receiving increased online traffic. The clarification of what mutantspace exactly is gets even more important when I have to optimize the site for search engines – in short I need to be found in cyberspace under the right search queries and leave the user in no doubt as to what it is they’re looking for.

Culture and politics

mutantspace, why bother?

mutantspace arts resource

People often ask me why I bother with mutantspace arts resource. Why I would do something; run a website, a bi –annual DIY festival and a daily blog for nothing, free gratis. It’s a lot of work. It has cost money to set up, install, code, programme and none of it was cheap. Infact you can safely assume I’ll be in paying off my Credit Union loan for another 5 – 6 years. So what do I get out of it? How much time do I spend on it? What’s the point of it? What good is it?
Well, my stock answer to all those questions is that not everything has to have a monetary value. If that was the case we truly would be living in a dark world, a world without invention, creativity and expression.

Bottom line is that I spend up to 40 hours a week working on – along with my paid job – doing everything from updating the site, optimizing it for search engines, writing blogs, getting in touch with members, updating the facebook and twitter feeds, learning about the ins and outs of online marketing and basic SEO practice as well as organising our members festival, the Trash Culture Revue, twice a year. It’s a slow and laborious process and one I thought I’d be ill suited for as I was a puppet and carnival prop maker in my previous incarnation. But there you go. Live, learn and move on.

And as for what I get out of it. Well that’s easy. I get loads out of it, it is my baby after all, I am emotionally and intellectually attached to it, it is a cyber manifestation of many ideas I’ve gathered over time, a vehicle driven by my ideals, my philosophy. Above all, mutantspace is my way of confronting the status quo in the arts industry, my way of saying that our so called cultural economy is an emperor with no clothes and if we are to be free of its spectacle, of its bureaucratic, monetized culture then we need to build our own system; a new way of creative production that is centred around co—operation and free expression.

When I hear of people using the skills bank, when I read members articles, when I see members shows, meet volunteers during our festival I am amply rewarded. It is a wonderful thing to do, to give space to creativity, to create a place where people can comfortably share information, skills, knowledge and resources, can found new relationships, friendships and connections. I can only hope that mutantspace continues to grow, continues to support people and their arts projects, continues to provide a viable alternative to our bloated culture economy.

So If you’re only reading about mutantspace for the first time then why not check out what we can do for you, what you can do in co – operation with others and how much fun we can having building our own system of production, a system that works and is getting bigger all the time

Life in a cultural petri dish

doing mad pride in rural Ireland

mad pride ireland

I’ve been offline for 3 days and it feels like an eternity. With no access to the internet time has somehow managed to expand in a strange way and most wonderful way. I feel like I’ve been on holiday. The reason for missing my online duties is that around this time of year I spend more hours working in the physical world as opposed to this world of binary, pixels and code. The summer months are the most active months for me as I’m often away running festivals or markets – working in a physical space, on the ground, getting shows on the road.

Book reviews and essays

Review of Orhan Panuks book, The Museum Of Innocence

museum of innocence

Orhan Pamuk’s book, The Museum Of Innocence, is a study of obsession and love, a difficult subject to keep the reader interested in unless they are persuaded by the narrators suffering. In The Museum of Innocence Panuk doesn’t quite pull it off.

The novel is narrated by Kemal, a wealthy 30-year-old who recalls his life through his obsession from the mid-1970s to the present. When we meet him first he is happily engaged to the respectable Sibel but very quickly into the novel he becomes infatuated with his distant cousin Füsun, a beautiful 18-year-old shop assistant. While Istanbul is in the throes of civil unrest and societal upheaval due to the conflicting responses to the spread of western freedoms, Kemal tears himself in two, dividing his attentions first between Sibel and Füsun. In the end he breaks off his engagement with Sibel – turning away from his rich westernised society friends and lifestyle – in the hope of marrying Füsun only to find she has disappeared. In the throes of obsessive love he is effectively in limbo, lost between two loves, two societies, two Istanbuls.

All about mutantspace

Good SEO practice for an online arts resource

Running an online arts resource and skills exchange, even a small one like, means very little art and lots of computer obsessive nerd stuff such as coding html and php, seo, analytics, link exchanging, posting and social networking. All of this requires an inordinate amount of time hunched over a computer, googling for information, watching dull videos by other obsessives, cutting and pasting code into textpads and hoping that you’re on the right track. It truly is one of those occupations that suck you in and melt your brain.

When I started out with in 2008 I know nothing. Nothing at all. Up until 2003 I had never even used a computer and it wasn’t until 2007 that I used anything more complicated than an Xcel document. Now it’s different. Has to be, because now I run a skills bank and blog and need people to know about it, come to it, have a look around, hopefully join up, see what members are writing about in our blog and so on. All of this means that I have to be ranking highly for certain keywords, search queries, etc. If not I’ll never be found and there’s only one way I can ever do that and that’s by becoming a SEO geek.

Life in a cultural petri dish

Play at the Theatre Development Centre

play at the theatre development centre

Sometimes I think that having someone to play with can make all the difference to how successful you are as an artist. Of course some art forms are by their nature solitary such as; writing, composing, painting, sculpture and so on however the desire to engage, debate, question and explore is always better shared. Living in a bubble never does anyone any good. Nothing good comes out of a bubble. This question often pops into my head when I find myself floating through a gathering like a ghostly apparition as I was on Friday evening at the launch of the Theatre Development Centre in The Triskel Arts Centre, Cork.
The Centre is in my view a huge step forward for the arts in Cork. A space dedicated to the development of new work, a free space for practitioners to investigate, experiment and collaborate on new work, new ideas. Most importantly the centre insists that artists perform their work in progress before an audience at the end of their weekly residency. This single rule gives artists an impetus, a discipline and much needed feedback and constructive criticism. It can only be a good thing.

Everything about music

tips and advice for bands looking for gigs

Bands and musicians need to be serious about what they do, need to think clearly about where they stand, what they want and where they want to go otherwise they’ll end up flailing around, wasting time, energy and ultimately failing.
So why am I bringing this up? Because the other night one of the bands playing at the venue I run was an unmitigated disaster. It went something like this; young band get in touch with me. They want a gig. They’re a young band starting out so I decide to give them a slot, a space, an established place to play in (the venue I run is small, 80 – 100 people and has a good reputation).
Thursday night came around and I was hoping my gamble would pay off – young eager band would push their gig, pack it out and rock the place. No. Bad bet, wrong decision. It started at the sound check. It was lacklustre, no real energy, feeling, fight, charisma. It was as good as over, I knew what was coming, I was in for a hard night. Energy and charisma are critical for success. Without it you have nothing

Life in a cultural petri dish

What the hell is Community?

Community. What is that? Will someone please tell me because I am sick to death of the hearing it. I’ve had enough of the media telling us we belong to this community or that community. Rubbish. Community is used to pigeon hole us, stick us somewhere nice and neat and perfect. Ruled and subjugated. Community is used to stir up resentment and bitterness and generate fake news about fake communities that end up on fake television debates which result in endless drivel in opinion columns with experts whose argument is based on a fallacy. I mention this because I recently watched a tv debate on the ‘rural community’ in Ireland. The whole programme was set up to create conflict between two communities that don’t even exist; urban and rural. Both sides of the argument debated ‘issues’ that have nothing to do with community but everything to do with market forces and the political system in which we live.

Let us not forget that we in Ireland inhabit a tiny island, all 4 million of us. We are a nation of people made up of from an infinite amount of historical movements, coincidences and accidents. Most of us live in large towns, villages or in the countryside. Our capital, Dublin, is the only real city on the island and is, quite frankly, tiny by any standard (upwards to 1.5 million). Yes, yes, we can call Cork a city but it’s not, it’s a town, as are Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny, Waterford. So, by that measure most of us live outside the city. Does that put us in the rural community or the urban community? Neither. Perhaps we belong in a micro urban community or a macro rural community? Maybe some PHD student would oblige us and do the necessary research, garner the statistics, draw up the graphs, write up the reports and present it to government who could then write up a policy document pronouncing a new way forward for the micro/macro generation. Failte Ireland could then brand us and sell us to the lowest bidder.

What is all this rubbish about rural communities anyway? Do they have something we don’t? Do they live in genteel tranquillity? Do they work for each other and the betterment of their parish? No they don’t. Not the rural Ireland I know.
Like most people in this country they’d be as quick to get one over on you as anyone else. The fact of the matter is that our fight is not with each other it is with the market system, it is with the government. And if you want to survive you have to work together, you have to sacrifice your needs for the greater need. You can’t just scream ‘my life is being ruined do something about it’ you have to organise yourself, get together, plan, share resources. Real communities are built on foundations, on structures, they do not simply exist, they need to be worked on, looked after. They need to grow. And fighting market forces, fighting corporations and the state is the biggest fight of all. So can we please stop arguing on the basis that there is a urban/rural community divide. There isn’t, it’s a chimera. The real fight is on your doorstep. It’s everyday. It’s your choice. Make your decision.

Diary of an Irish performance artist

Drawn Together; A running commentary on a collaborative work

I know now that Performance Art can be a many shaded shadow.
It can be so strong and in your face or just a puff of dust floating in the sunshine.
I believe it’s the  intentional action of the artist that is only the start of the art.
The audience has to make it for themselves with what’s given.
If it’s good it will have an effect on those present and on the artists themselves, which may be multifaceted.
Maybe not the fully intended image and beauty or horror they set out to achieve but something else – referring here to the shadow again – not the real flesh and bones but a moving acting image left by light on the wall or floor or ground.
One can make this art alone but then only display on images kept. Otherwise just a story. Yet the story can be stand alone art too.

When Performance art gets a hold of you in the MOMENT. You enter into or are drawn into that arena/space for that time.
If like Christ “If there are two or more of you gathered here in my name, I am amongst you”
A bit blasphemous of me to quote this as a reason to make action. But do you get my drift?

Using the body as an art tool is not very new, Yves Klein dragged his females nude across the canvas in blue paint, Some female performance artists counteract that by using their body strongly as a mark maker. Using hair and floor polish, body fluids, tampons, household debris and so on.

In the past my job was to encourage the use of movement to create dance like actions with young children. Not the ability to dance as such but more to feel and experiment with the body, to choreograph ones own self for oneself not to an audience but more to gain a better self awareness.
“I am creeping, me the caterpillar. I am soaring, me the bird, me the bird, will swoop down and eat me, the caterpillar. Me the caterpillar will curl up into a tiny space so me the bird cant eat me.”
In PE college I enjoyed dance and although not a dancer I loved the freedom of creating and putting movements into individual sequences, at times interweaving ones own work with an other or group, a spontaneous dance off which was very stimulating, fun and good for learning how to pass that on to others.
In art college, we the mature access students did get good access to many life drawing classes.
Just standing for hours with bits of charcoal trying to use my full arm and own body to pull out the form of the other body in front of me.
Later trying to use charcoal and my body to draw literally using the body many ways.

In the last Master class I attended I met Kevin Carmody. We had met a time before. There was a sort of acknowledged empathy and an interest in finding out more about Performance Art.
I watched him perform a beautiful solo work involving moving, drawing, speaking.
It felt and looked like work I had tried alone but never produced, so with some cheek and optimism I suggested we try a duo drawing piece.
Living at two ends of this country we corresponded online as to how this work may or may not develop.
We had one opportunity to show it due to an extension of the use of this space used for the Master class.
I brought the materials with me on the bus, we both wore black, the white paper covered about 9 square feet, I brought white chalk and black charcoal and conte sticks and marker pens.
We had no rehearsal, just a quick verbal discussion, I then asked Aoife, a final year NCAD student, to video it using my camera.
My own trademark is working to camera as I am always fascinated to see the other me that I see from the other side of the lens.
The actions lasted about 9 minutes, we then got feed back from our peers. I felt we had achieved what we set out to do.
There was criticism about the movements which should be followed through more as in hands and feet, but dancing it was not, so the actual movements were only what the body needed to produce the marks, the plan was that there was no plan, we moved spontaneously around the paper, over around and through each other. The mark making that happened on the way made intentionally by hands, feet, and body at times and others by just body contact brushing, rubbing past contacting, marking erasing over drawings.
The results were the results of two bodies responding to the materials and each other on the white square.

In the pub after Kevin was laughing at all the white marks on the back of my t shirt as I ordered him a pint…
On reviewing the film I decided to write it as a running commentary this is the result.

Standing waiting, Kevin comes onto the paper, we will move on a signal given to camera.
Warm up, twist neck, neck shoulders, holding black marker in right hand.
Bending down, draw around right foot, stretch forward big arcing circles.
On knees, drawing lines at tangents, getting closer, we cross over into each others space now.
Our hands are working together, side to side, sweeping, I move and draw around his instep, up his leg, he circles marks on my back, we spin and circle low, he working on my back me on his knee, both bodies back into and crunch up against, I hammer and pound the charcoal and sweep it about, my back has a map of white,
Move to feet crouching, He is drawing along my back, I feel it hit my spine bump by bump, move forward, both bodies push, collide, push balance, fight, he is resisting space and my entry, I spin away, roll over, my arm is trapped under me, I lie still foetal like.
I rise, with white chalk and define an area by his still knee, I use my feet with chalk in my toes. I hold some white elastic, he pulls it and me, we slow down both lie back to camera but symmetrical in the mirror, In that moment it seemed clumsy but in film more aesthetic, one never knows.
One sees the many marks all over the paper, I am using my head, elbows pushing forward into supine position, both hands swimming contemplative marks.
There are no rules but at night before this event I sort of visualised one as a fly looking from above, so a continual use of tempo and space were in my plan that’s not a plan, so it would not become a sort of human clothes dryer action?
Although that could be interesting too?

At this point I see he has put his hand over mine and is helping me make the marks? Then my foot, I become his charcoal, or maybe my slowing down made him aware and came to my aid/side?
The camera comes close up, I draw on his back, he is still and watches, We both roll away, separate, he becomes animated, angry? Fast strong slashing movements rent the paper, I mirror this and both are scrubbing, pushing paper.
It bursts through, I replace the rip with a one hand sweep, why? A mothering instinct not to disrupt the paper itself…It all stops, no signal just two people gently expelling air.
Kneeling in opposition like two buddas.
We stretch bend, relax, Sit back on our heels and join hand in prayer mode and give each other a very slight oriental bow.
I laugh quietly.

Work made by Hilary Williams and Kevin Carmody

All about mutantspace

Trashing Culture is now done and dusted

Another round of trashing culture done. Dusted. Put to bed. Finished. I’m feeling spaced and washed out as if I’ve been through a hot spin cycle and come out the other end; tired, worn, my colour bled, faded, jaded, dull, a shrunken version of my previous self. Organising 14 events over 3 days always does this to me; a dislocation from reality. From the long, slow build through quick bang wallop onto crash boom bang.

It was a great three days of gigs, DJ sets, films, spoken word, short stories, theatre, art and workshops with the entire production performed, engineered, photographed and designed by mutantspace members. I salute you all – you were fantastic. You gave your time, effort and energy into an idea, an idea that has now taken shape and been given the name of The Trash Culture Revue.

All about mutantspace

The Trash Culture Revue has arrived

So we’ve started. Trashing culture is happening now with a lunchtime poetry and harp recital gig while later on this evening we have the opening of an art exhibition based on text messages by Gary Baus and then onto a gig with the slackers symphony and Meadhbh Boyd. So all good. Last night we did our Arena Arts show live programme  in the RTE Studios in Cork which was alot of fun (despite the fact that I’m on painkillers and antibiotics). It’s always an exciting moment walking into the green room of the studios as it is often the first time I meet other mutantspace members in the flesh. Everyone so different, from different backgrounds, different ages, different ideas but all bound up in the collective idea of what we do as a co – operative. It is, I admit, very satisfying. It’s working, it’s happening, it’s real, it’s fantastic. On my way home last night I started forensically going over what I said on radio; did I sound okay? Did I get the message out there? Did I sound like a complete twat? Was I convincing? It’s difficult…you spend so long waiting to get onto the national airwaves that you have to make it count, it has to matter, it’s your only chance. Without a machine behind you, without money, without institutions it’s almost impossible to get the space to announce yourself, to let people know what you’re up to, what you’re fighting for.
When I got home I had a quick look online to see if there were any new members on the strength of the show, on the strength of what I said, on the strength of the performances. And there was. Job done, kind of, I don’t know? It’s very hard to be objective about it. I could have been better but perhaps you can always be better?

Culture and politics

Superfreakonomics, an animation on altruism

Another RSA animation. I really do love them. In this one Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of the bestselling book Freakonomics, ask the question;
are we really as altruistic as we might like to think? Here they evaluate the evidence…
quite appropriate really as this mutantspace project is, on first impressions, based on altruism. However, since the very beginning I always knew it would only work, only grow, if there was a strong element of self – interest involved. What do you think?

For more animations go to

All about mutantspace

Mutantspace trashes culture at its revue from 5th – 8th May


Three days to go before we kick off another Trash Culture Revue, a time when we at mutantspace get together and produce our own DIY festival. It is an affirmation of our collective will, co-operation and what is possible when people from many different backgrounds with very different skills come together under one umbrella and work towards one common goal.

Yes, the gigs are important, for without them there would be no festival, but what is most important is the coming together of people to create their own space, on their own terms, through the collective resources of our online resource. The entire festival is run on a zero budget with designers, volunteers, venues, sound engineers, journalists, pr and performers all taking action, stepping up, stepping forward and grabbing the moment to make something out of nothing. Not an easy thing to do. It is all very well to produce work within a space that already has predetermined parameters; a space that has funding and budgets and staff. It is an
entirely different matter to just do it for pig iron, because we can, because we want too.

That is what makes The Trash Culture Revue so special. The Revue is proof that anybody can produce a lively, fun, inspiring weekend of arts events with no budget, just people working for each other, because of each other. It is a reminder that we should not lock ourselves into the idea that it is impossible to produce a festival without state intervention or corporate sponsorship.
Yes, it is harder to produce without financial support, yes it is harder to convince people to perform without a guarantee, yes it is harder to market and promote events without a marketing budget, yes it is tiring to take on the production of a festival without paid staff. But I know this as fact, through experience, there is nothing like being part of a festival that comes from the heart. That is born out of a philosophy of community, co-operation, collectivism. There is a different smell to it, an aura, a vibe that permeates through the weekend. This feeling isn’t something you can quite get a handle on but it’s there, it’s
tangible in its own strange way. If the truth be known The Trash Culture Revue is less like a festival and more like a great house party, one of those parties in which you know few of the guests at the beginning of the night but by the end are swapping numbers and making promises to meet up in future. The best kind of festival: a festival of community and sharing and friendship.

So if you want to check out what’s going on in Cork have a look at the events we’ve got coming up, if you want to get involved in the next Trash Culture Revue then join up to, if you want to bring the Trash Culture Revue to your own area we can try and make that work or even if you want to start your own Trash Culture Revue, through mutantspace, get in touch.
If we can make it work in Cork we can make it work anywhere

Culture and politics

the arts community, state funding and the status quo

Why does the arts community insist on fighting for the status quo or at the very least being indifferent to it, being apolitical? The status quo has done very little to create a space for true artistic expression, a space for artistic development. No, rather it has turned the artist into a producer of product supported by the state. Now don’t get me wrong, state funding and support has a part to play – without it many arts institutions would not exist – however we have been coerced into a cultural economy that relates artistic output to monetary value and this can only have a long term negative effect on the development of the arts within our culture.

Why should this be so? Because by relying on the state for support artists will always be subordinate to the will of the state. And being dependent on taxpayers money means the state can always assert itself – to the detriment of artistic expression – by supporting those that create and produce generic product that can be of benefit to the state.
Think this is overstating the case? Then just take a good look around. See how many state funded organisations, festivals and companies are producing relatively the same thing; the same programmes, the same style, genre all under the banner of D-I-S-C-O-V-E-R –I-R-E-L-A-N-D.
Listen to what the government has said about monetizing ‘brand Ireland’.
Read the bureaucratic rubbish that serves as arts organisations mission statements.
It’s a lie wrapped up as culture, sold to us through the media and endorsed by ‘influencers’, ‘cultural commentators’, sycophantic artists, administrators and quangos whose livelihoods depend on the lie being perpetuated.

Culture and politics

Burning Man: Art in the Desert and the Irish involvement in 2011

Burning Man 2007 was the spark that lit the fire in me and out of those embers came mutantspace. It is one of the largest arts and culture festivals in the United States and takes place annually during the last week of August in the temporary Black Rock City that springs up for the event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

On Friday I received details from Burners Ireland about the award given to Dubliner Diarmuid Horkan, cofounder of the International Arts MegaCrew (IAM), who was awarded the commission to create and construct the official 2011 Temple project for the Burning Man event. The Temple is the largest art commission awarded by Burning Man, and this is the first time this commission has gone to an international artist.

Life in a cultural petri dish

it’s always the little things…

What will I do when I die?
Sleep like Arthur until a great arts project awakens me from my slumber?
Or will I simply miss all the things I now take for granted because I’m too caught up in my own preciousness, my own image, my own dream of what I should be, could be, must be.
Yes. I shall lie and think of the small things:

Book reviews and essays

Wolfhall by Hilary Mantel is a wonderful read

I don’t like historical novels. Especially ones involving the Tudors and Henry VIII and even more so after the rubbish that was ‘The Tudors’ on television over the last few years. So, it was with great trepidation that I bought, read and then succumbed to Hilary Mantels wonderful book, Wolf Hall; The story of Thomas Cromwell, Chief Minister to Henry VIII who oversaw the break with Rome, the dissolution of the monasteries and who was widely hated in his lifetime.

He is as unlikely an historical hero as you’ll meet. Throughout history he has been portrayed as a corrupt proto-Stalinist. In Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VIII’ he is a derisory sideshow, in ‘A Man for All Seasons’ he is depicted as a villain who hounds Thomas More and then there is the Hans Holbein portrait of him (who is a character in the book): a man in dark robes with a shrewd, unfriendly face, holding a folded paper like an upturned dagger. He looks, as Hilary Mantel has him say in her new novel, “like a murderer”.

Life in a cultural petri dish

my short relationship with a book voucher

I’ve just sneaked off to do my favourite thing in the world. It has taken me months to do but I’m finally finished. And oh, such sadness, the moment has passed but it had to come some day, some day. It has been hard work but most enjoyable. It required will power, serious thought and a clinical eye but I did it. Infact, I can honestly say that it’s the first time in many a long while that I’ve actually given time to a project. Have contemplated, thought about, ruminated and debated with myself. And the result is now at my feet; a bag of books. All bought with a voucher from Waterstones.

See, I got a generous book voucher from Waterstones for my birthday in February and for the last 8 – 9 weeks I’ve been dossing off work, slinking into the bookshop, browsing the shelves looking at what they have on offer and making lists of possibilities. Early on, in February, I thought I’d get the whole deed done in one go, one outing, spend the voucher and walk out, happy out, with my brand new books. But it isn’t that easy. It has been a real problem for me. I love buying books, it’s special, a precious thing, not to be taken for granted, sullied. It is a serious business. I don’t buy new books that often because I can’t afford too. I usually I buy in second hand stores or on Amazon – if I’m looking for a particular non – fiction title – as it’s either cheaper or on plastic. Places such as Waterstones are for Christmas, birthdays and special occasions.

Culture and politics

Play lego and grow up

Red lego blocks, blue, white, yellow, white, black. Two locked together make a mammy horse, baby pig, space rocket, digger, robot, plane, tractor, car, house, garage, dinner, bed. Who cares, they can be anything, do anything, be anything when you’re two years old flying about, busy building, breaking, throwing, trying, playing, failing, experimenting, falling down and getting up. The effort of newness and pushing boundaries and ideas all happen in a 24 hour minute of play. It’s constant work all day and then to bed exhausted; the imagination worn out after a delirium of never ending excitement and possibility. So why not us, why can’t we? Because we’re conditioned out of play. Formal education kills it slowly, softly, teaches us by rote, A – B – C, 1 – 2 – 3. Our view is shrunk into narrow parameters. We are inculcated into systems of work and rules of behaviour that exclude the wonderful colour and breath of our life – what is possible and what is not.

‘You can’t fail’
‘Get qualified’
‘Don’t rock the boat’
‘You can’t be different’
‘There is only one way of doing it’
‘It won’t work so don’t bother trying’
‘Treat yourself as a brand’
‘You’re not talented’
‘You’re not creative’
‘You can’t use your hands’
‘You’re good for nothing’
‘Buy a house’
‘Get a pension’
‘Settle down’
‘Don’t be stupid’
‘The majority must be right’
‘You’ll grow out of it’
‘Stop being contrary’

Everything about music

the final pleasure of running a band competition

A few days ago I was ranting on about the stress of putting on gigs. Wondering why I did it when
all it did was cause me grief. Towards the end of the post I mentioned the good points, albeit rather briefly. Afterwards I thought that a bit disingenuous – so many words put to negative use without the good points being allowed to show their face, stand up for themselves. Well today I put that to rights.

Last night was the finals of a battle of the bands competition I’ve been running for the last 2 months called ‘Sound It Out!’ 50 bands applied to an online callout and 36 were chosen to play in 3 venues (The Roundy, An Realt Dearg and Bourbon Street) over 4 weeks. There were then 2 quarter finals, a semi finals and last night the grand final in The Pavillion. It’s been long, drawn out, at times tedious, tiring and disappointing but overall has been a wonderful success, especially for the musicians. The quality of bands was good and the music well varied. All of it pointing to one thing; that there is a very healthy music scene in Cork. Something which is always good to see.

Everything about music

Album reviews of Brooke Fraser, Robert Sarazin Blake, The Blackout

BROOKE FRASER: Flags (Wood & Bone) * * * * * 5/5

Antipodean singing sensation Brooke Fraser released ‘Flags’ last week to a sold out gig in The Sugar Club. Her first Irish Date at that! Spreading her wings away from home, Fraser is stepping away from significant fame in her home land of New Zealand, where she is an eight times platinum selling artists and has packed up her bags to go on the road to push her new album and gain new fans.

The album is occupied and formed out of vivid tales of stories and characters with intro-centric tunes, catchy hooks and clever production. Fraser drew inspiration from characters other than herself and opted for colourful storytelling on Flags. The result is an enchanting storybook of soft lingering melodic songs that creep in on you and refuse to leave. There is an astonishingly simple yet diverse catalogue of charming songs on this album that will indeed win over new fans.

Her exploration of different instruments and soundscapes add to the whole feel of the album and show off her potentially flawless ability at production. Standout tracks include the opener Something in the water (which has over 1.6 million views already!) with its instantaneous sing-a-long appeal and the beautifully sparse “Sailboats.”

This is a MUST for the music collection. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Everything about music

The pressure cooker that is running a small music venue

Putting on gigs is so stressful! Why do I do it? Why do I make a life out of taking a bet on bands five nights a week in the vain hope that I’ll have a full house of people having a good time; dancing, singing, drinking, getting into it? It’s hard.

Yes, if you’re a large promoter you can bring in the biggest bands in the world and be pretty confident you’re going to sell out but if you’re running a small venue you’re fucked whichever way you look at it. Getting a decent act is the least of your problems. There are alot of good acts out there; struggling to find time to write and rehearse, working hard at building a fanbase, developing a decent circuit for themselves, trying to get onto festival programmes, recording new tracks, putting their music out, etc. No, it’s not the bands, nor the music, it’s you, the venue, the promoter. The bands I deal with have no manager, no promoter, no network, no money. They do it themselves and hope that you, the venue, will make it happen for them; get the audience in, promote them, market them. But it doesn’t work like that because I’m in the same position but in a different boat

All about mutantspace

The Trash Culture Revue is nearly upon us!

The Trash Culture Revue programme is finally together – at last and every time the festival comes around more members get involved. This growth is a testament to what we’re doing in mutantspace, a testament to our members and their commitment to collectively working together; making, playing, producing, helping out, volunteering, administrating, managing, designing and so on. It’s a mammoth task. Festivals always are no matter how small; from the programme to the production, design to marketing of the events. And we all do it on a zero budget. Z – E – R – O. That’s impressive. That’s special. And that co – operation feeds out into our festival space, in the days coming up to and through the festival. There is a sense of camaraderie, a joy, a party.

Culture and politics

Commercialization of Education: The Provisional University and FEE – Free Education For Everyone

Heres a short documentary by Dublin Community Television on 2 groups fighting against the commercialization of education; The Provisional University and FEE, Free Education For Everyone. The provisional University are active members of mutantspace and we hope in the near future to be able to help them in their fight to resist the commercialisation of knowledge and the right to education and learning for all. Education and learning are not just for students it is an integral part of all our lives, it is part of our lifes journey.  We are now in a situation where knwledge and education is being sold to us a product to be consumed rather than a means to enrichen, enlighten and impove ourselves, our family, community. Society. It is a fundamental issue. An attack we must all resist

All around Europe, the commercialization of higher education has been happening for the last 10 years, with a raise of the tuition fees, the opening of the universities to the private sector and economic interests in the name of competitiveness, innovation and economic efficiency.

Culture and politics

The Butterfly and the Boiling Point Charting the Wild Winds of Change in 2011

Revolution is as unpredictable as an earthquake and as beautiful as spring. Its coming is always a surprise, but its nature should not be.

Revolution is a phase, a mood, like spring, and just as spring has its buds and showers, so revolution has its ebullience, its bravery, its hope, and its solidarity. Some of these things pass. The women of Cairo do not move as freely in public as they did during those few precious weeks when the old rules were suspended and everything was different. But the old Egypt is gone and Egyptians’ sense of themselves – and our sense of them – is forever changed.

No revolution vanishes without effect. The Prague Spring of 1968 was brutally crushed, but 21 years later when a second wave of revolution liberated Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek, who had been the reformist Secretary of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party, returned to give heart to the people from a balcony overlooking Wenceslas Square: “The government is telling us that the street is not the place for things to be solved, but I say the street was and is the place. The voice of the street must be heard.”

The voice of the street has been a bugle cry this year. You heard it. Everyone did, but the rulers who thought their power was the only power that mattered, heard it last and with dismay. Many of them are nervous now, releasing political prisoners, lowering the price of food, and otherwise trying to tamp down uprisings.

There were three kinds of surprise about this year’s unfinished revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and the rumblings elsewhere that have frightened the mighty from Saudi Arabia to China, Algeria to Bahrain. The West was surprised that the Arab world, which we have regularly been told is medieval, hierarchical, and undemocratic, was full of young men and women using their cell phones, their Internet access, and their bodies in streets and squares to foment change and temporarily live a miracle of direct democracy and people power. And then there is the surprise that the seemingly unshakeable regimes of the strongmen were shaken into pieces.

And finally, there is always the surprise of: Why now? Why did the crowd decide to storm the Bastille on July 14, 1789, and not any other day? The bread famine going on in France that year and the rising cost of food had something to do with it, as hunger and poverty does with many of the Middle Eastern uprisings today, but part of the explanation remains mysterious. Why this day and not a month earlier or a decade later? Or never instead of now?

Oscar Wilde once remarked, “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” This profound uncertainty has been the grounds for my own hope.

Life in a cultural petri dish

Learning about the elevator pitch the hard way

Spent yesterday at an SEI bootcamp for social entrepreneurs. I had put in an application for funding and mentoring and hoped against all odds that I might get something from it – something that would propel mutantspace into a new place, get more people knowing about us, give me more time to work on our adventure. There were initially over 200 applicants for the 1st round. I got through that and as one of 42 hopefuls was asked to travel to Dublin for a day long workshop on fundraising, PR and social marketing as well as an all important pitch. Pitching. Aaahhh! Not my thing, my weakest link, my horror, my room 101. I was to stand infront of a panel and tell them in 4 minutes about mutantspace, how it’s making a difference and how i’m the right person for it – 4 minutes! Bloody hell! After the 4 minutes were up I was to be subjected to 6 minutes of questioning.

Culture and politics

The Crises of Capitalism: an animate by renowned academic David Harvey

As I’m busy and away from a computer for a whole 24 hours today – which is rare and strangely liberating – I thought I’d post another animate from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. It’s by renowned academic David Harvey who asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that really could be responsible, just and humane?

For more info on the RSA go to their website @

Life in a cultural petri dish

John Malkovich in Conversation with Jim Sharman at The Sydney Festival

Thought I might post this up for all you Malkovich lovers out there.
The conversation between Malkovich and Jim Sharman, a respected and enduring artist in his own right, is wide ranging and includes Malkovich talking about his recent collaborations for the stage with Michael Sturminger, The Infernal Comedy and The Giacomo Variations, along with his rich and varied film and theatre work over the years.

Everything about music music ezine relaunches today! began in Cork many moons ago as one man with a tune in his head. He did what he had to do, then set about finding others of a like mind to spread the love and do it as only they could. The D has been on a wild ride through the wilds of independent and alternative music, taking in many friends along the way, and losing some as well, but that’s the nature of the beast, and it’s alright when we have you. We started in Cork, we’re proud to call it home, and have our ties to Dublin, so we’re 100pc Irish and put our emphasis on Irish independent music and labels, but our coverage and love of music spans genres and the world.

Culture and politics

Acts of Hope: Challenging Empire on the World Stage

What We Hope For

On January 18, 1915, eighteen months into the first world war, the first terrible war in the modern sense — slaughter by the hundreds of thousands, poison gas, men living and dying in the open graves of trench warfare, tanks, barbed wire, machine guns, airplanes — Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal, “The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think.” Dark, she seems to say, as in inscrutable, not as in terrible. We often mistake the one for the other. People imagine the end of the world is nigh because the future is unimaginable. Who twenty years ago would have pictured a world without the USSR and with the Internet? We talk about “what we hope for” in terms of what we hope will come to pass but we could think of it another way, as why we hope. We hope on principle, we hope tactically and strategically, we hope because the future is dark, we hope because it’s a more powerful and more joyful way to live. Despair presumes it knows what will happen next. But who, two decades ago, would have imagined that the Canadian government would give a huge swathe of the north back to its indigenous people, or that the imprisoned Nelson Mandela would become president of a free South Africa?

Culture and politics

Student protesters violently evicted by university | anticutsspace

Got this in from a mutantspace member. Another example of whats going on in the UK at the moment – it seems in Ireland we just don’t stand up.

The Anti-Cuts Space was created as a resource and meeting-place for activists and anyone involved in new social movements to fight the Government’s austerity measures. It was opened on Friday 25th February in a large Georgian house. The space aimed to revivify the student movement by making connections with wider anti-cuts struggles across London.  The group had been occupying a space in Bedford Square in London as a place to link up and share ideas and strategies on how to fight the cuts.

They’ve recenly been evicted…but are planning a large demonstration on Saturday 26th March

PRESS RELEASE: Student protesters violently evicted by university | anticutsspace.

Life in a cultural petri dish

Experiencing Munster live in Musgrave Park

I was at my first live Munster rugby match on Saturday night against the Newport Gwent Dragons in Musgrave Park, Cork. Myself and the brother went. Both of us new to it, both our first time in Musgrave Park. He had an excuse, he doesn’t live in Cork. I don’t. It was special. Through the gates was a floodlight, rugby Disneyland of vans selling curry chips, burgers, programmes and mementos, temporary bars selling crap beer in plastic glasses, lots of fathers with their sons and queues at smelly portaloos. All infected with a nervous, excited anticipation of the match ahead and we had touchline seats for it – fantastic!

Book reviews and essays

I loved ‘What I loved’ by Siri Hustvedt

I’ve just finished reading Siri Hustvedt’s ‘What I loved’. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I ignored it. Studiously. When looking for something new to read I’d skip over it deliberately. It wasn’t that I had forgotten it, nor that I had misplaced it. Truth was that I saw it, ignored it, let it gather dust, all lonely, waiting, wanting to be loved. Don’t know why. Just did. Thinking about it now it’s quite possible I was prejudiced as  Hustvedt is Paul Austers wife and as he’s one of my all time favourite authors I felt it was all just too much, too cosy. Silly stupid me. It is a wonderful book that speaks so deeply about loss, love, art and the relationships between people and how they deal with tragedy.

Everything about music

Peter Bjorn & John do a small interview for mutantspace

Peter Bjorn & John have a new album out this month: titled GIMME SOME, which is another triumphant POP gem of an album and is out on March 25th! We got a few minutes with the band and asked them to answer 5 questions for Mutantspace:

Q: Being consistently good at delivering quality edgy pop music must be hard or would you say a lot of hard work pays off when achieving such a balance in keeping up the collective good music within the band?

Thank you. I think we got a really great blend of personalities in the band. But the songs does not record themselves. A lot of work and thought are put in getting it right. Luckily we forget as soon as it’s done.

Q: What inspires the band as a whole, and what leaves the band in a less inspired mode?

I think hearing a great song really makes us want to do the same. And having great opening acts.
We’re not so inspired if we don’t aim at the same goal. Then we become retards.

Q: You have all worked on different projects over the past few years, do you feel this helps in your own creative process when you are all back together in the studio?

I think so but it’s like checking what other people order when you’re in a restaurant. Just because it looks good it doesn’t have to taste good.

Q: How important is gigging to a band, in your opinion?

For us it’s been really important- but I don’t think everyone has to do it. A lot of times bands makes worse albums when they think they are as charming in the studio as they are live.

Q: What are your views on online free streaming or artists music? Are you for or against this?

We’re all behind people getting access to good music. Digital sharing is one of the few great things they can’t take away from the less wealthy and poor people.

For more info follow them at:
And check out: /

Everything about music

Farewell Black Robots | Noise

We got this in from Cork music blog Couldn’t believe what we read…this is and weep. They want it sent around the net. They want it known so pass the link on. I personally don’t know the band but its outrageous. Whingy, whiney fuckers comes to mind!

Farewell Black Robots | Noise.

Culture and politics

Open Letter from The Provisional University to Dublin City Council

Today, the 2nd March, the provisional university sent an open letter to the City Manager of Dublin City Council demanding a space for student-managed teaching and research and denouncing the neo-liberalisation of the university and the destruction of the public good. This is the second step in our campaign to reclaim a space to fight for education as a right and to take back the university. The text of the letter follows.

Life in a cultural petri dish

New Left Review – Daniel Finn: Ireland on the turn?

Below is a link to a recent article in the New left Review about the crisis and general political situation in ireland – pretty good as a historical overview

New Left Review – Daniel Finn: Ireland on the turn?.

Culture and politics

We are the University

The university is in crisis.

Those who have control of the university have, reluctantly or enthusiastically, been leading the way in reducing education and research to the neoliberal agenda.

This tendency is not limited to the cuts in public funding or the re-introduction of fees brought on by the fiscal crisis. Nor is it limited to Ireland. In Europe and beyond, students, researchers and lecturers have been building struggles against the enclosure of knowledge, fighting for an equal, free and open education for everyone.

If you’re interested in what we do visit our blog. It aims to record, inform and connect those involved in this common struggle.