I flew out to Dublin yesterday to speak on behalf of We Shall Overcome at a discussion event centred around the question ‘Is Music A Vehicle For Change?’ You can probably guess my answer, but it was a wonderful night with some real insight into how musicians and filmmakers view their role in The Struggle, and where we can go from here.
I also got to end the event with a few songs, the first time I had sung in the Irish capital for almost 20 years. It was a genuine pleasure and privilege to play a part in something I hope will forge some bonds between artists and activists, and go on to inspire us all.
First up I had to go on a pilgrimage to visit James Connolly‘s statue….
And the GPO where the Easter Rising of 1916 took place…..
…..and Clerys Clock to remember the late, great Philip Chevron of The Radiators and The Pogues, whose beautiful paean to ‘the love that does not have a name’, the majestic ‘Under Clerys Clock’ is one of my favourite songs. Problem is, once I remember that I end up singing it all day. If you don’t know it, have a listen:
I also stopped by to tip my hat to Phil Lynott whose statue sits almost opposite McDaids on Harry Street, which meant I could turn round and tip it again to Brendan Behan who frequented the place.
Twenty years ago I’d have nipped in and raised a glass to them both, but those days are well behind me so I settled for a bit of culture and visited the WB Yeats exhibition in the Irish National Library, where they are displaying the original manuscripts of many of his greatest works. Sad to think of him spending his dotage writing love poems to the Blueshirts, but I suppose many are even now blurring the same lines between nationalism and fascism, yet with the knowledge of hindsight, these people cannot lay claim to innocence.
I also dropped into the newly renovated National Gallery Of Ireland which is stunning. The building itself is worth the visit alone. Its long, multi-roomed corridors with identical arches giving you the impression you’re falling down a beautifully decorated lift-shaft into a masterpiece.
But the most important pilgrimage of all was to visit the sculpture ‘Famine’ on the north bank of the Liffey. The bitter irony of an Englishman flying into Dublin to talk about the British State’s neglect leading to hunger and deprivation was not lost on me; and this work of art is truly haunting in its depiction of poor starving folks carrying all they own to the coffin ships to take whatever slim chance was left for them. Ghastly and shameful.
From there it was on to the event put together by the fantastic Niall McGuirk of Dublin’s Hope Collective as part of May Fest at Liberty Hall. We come a full circle here as the hall sits on the site once occupied by the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, and marks the place the soldiers of the Easter Uprising met on that famous day in 1916.
Felt very fortunate to be given a guided tour of the banner display by Brian, whose knowledge was only matched by his hospitality.
Great to spend an evening with Cassie Fox of Loud Women; and with Kitty, Bernie, Sarah, Chiara, Leigh, Michael, Roisin and Cillein. Fascinating insights from all. Special thanks though to Niall who is amazing, and to Miriam too for putting me up for the night on the comfiest sofa I have ever slept on. I now want one!
Next stop Durham on Friday with the wonderful Grace Petrie.