Monday, 27 June 2022

The Arts Festival is going strong, but are you going to it?


Here’s (most of) a DV about the Galway Arts Festival from 2009. At the time it caused a bit of a ruckus, was cited in the Irish Times and my mailbag was full for weeks. 

Since then the GIAF has sailed far past Joe Boske’s fantastic posters, Ollie Jennings and Páraic Breathnach, although the inestimable Garry Hynes is still very much involved. 

This year’s programme offers an impressive blend of music, theatre, performance, discussion and visual art, from local, national and international artists, so are you separated, divorced from or remarried to the Arts Festival?  

As one of countless creatives who long ago left the city because I could no longer afford to live in it, I’m curious to feel the mood on Galway’s streets.

***

July 11th, 2009 

Everyone hates a whinger who comes out with the same knocking copy each year. Yet once again I find myself looking ahead to the Galway Arts Festival with a mixture of excitement, hurt and sadness.

I couldn’t pin down exactly why, until I read an interview with Noeline Kavanagh, the Director of the Macnas Arts Festival Parade.

“Macnas is like the largest divorcee in Galway.” she said. “Everybody has a relationship with it.”

There it was: replace the word ‘Macnas’ with ‘Galway Arts Festival’, and that’s how I feel.

We Galwegians used to be married to the Galway Arts Festival. We lived in the same place, loved each other, had our ups and downs of course, but generally knew that we were good together. 

These days, the people of Galway feel so divorced from the Galway Arts Festival, they can barely remember what it was like to love it.

I want us to renew our vows. I want the Galway Arts Festival to ask us to move back in; to woo us; love us; kiss us and lick us the way it used to.

I’m not sitting here on my voluptuous arse trying to diss that plethora of extremely talented people who put a vast amount of creativity and energy into the two week splurge.

They do a fantastic job, but somewhere along the way the whole affair was lost. At the moment the word on the street is that shows are simply too expensive. 

To be fair, I don’t think that price is the single biggest factor in the decline of the Galway Arts Festival. 

There are many cheaper happenings in this year’s programme than other years, but through their pricing policy we glimpse how badly the Galway Arts Festival has lost touch with the people of Galway.

I wanted to see the New York Dolls, Femi Kuti and Primal Scream, for which I would pay €112, to stand at all three gigs. But what really made me angry was the fact that if I was on the dole, I’d still have to pay €110 for those three tickets.

For god’s sake, get real, Arts Festival people! Are you trying to intimidate the poor with art? Do you want us once again to believe that art exists only for the affluent élite? Isn’t that the opposite of what the Galway Arts Festival once stood for?

Climb out of your ivory towers and take a look at how many of us have been laid off, or are just plain broke.

Cop on to the fact that a night out which starts with a pair of tickets at €90 belongs to a dream of a Galway past, and exists now as an insulting anachronism.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Tiger is dead, and we’re trying to stay alive by picking mouthfuls from its rotten corpse

We all have our personal beefs about what is wrong with the Galway Arts Festival.

Project 06 splendidly reminded us how vital it is to include local artists and performers, yet each year, the official word comes forth that the Arts Festival have pulled off another major success.

Trouble is, for years now, it hasn’t felt like a success to us, the people of this city.

If the organisers of the Galway Arts Festival understand anything of Galway City, they know that you could take a burnt banana skin, mount it on top of a bus shelter, and advertise ‘The Burnt Banana Skin On Top Of The Bus Shelter Festival - the biggest thing to hit Galway since last Tuesday Afternoon!

As long as the people of this great city are behind it, hundreds of thousands of people will flock to Galway, because we’re the finest hosts in the best city in the world to throw a party, where fun is free and family-oriented.

Don’t tell me a over a half a million people came to our little city to see a Volvo yacht sail puff in the wind. They came because Galway is uniquely packed with brilliant, skilful and diverse talents.

We’ll give you the time of your lives, as we do every year during Race Week, but the joy of Galway is on the streets.

Doubtless during the Galway Arts Festival, our city centre will be strewn with buskers and performers of all kinds, which is just as well, because this year’s Galway Arts Festival programme lists a paltry 2 street acts, performing in total 5 times on 3 different days.

Shame on you, Galway Arts Festival.

If this marriage is ever going to work again, you really need to listen, learn and understand that whereas 15 years ago we were all buzzed up and proud of you, now you appear like a distant lost relative who expects us to run around, cook, clean, sweat and serve whenever you turn up on our doorstep.

Do I have any positive suggestions?

Why yes! In order to save this sick marriage between the Galway Arts Festival and the people of Galway City, first quadruple the free street theatre; return the Parade to the middle weekend afternoon, and offer hefty price concessions on all tickets sold to locals, upon production of a locally-addressed utility bill.

Then we might learn to love you again, and put the best of Galway - the fun, family and free - back into our own Arts Festival.

*****

Is that colyoom now ancient history? Are you separated, divorced from or remarried to the Arts Festival?  

Are you now back in love with your festival, or has the ‘I’ for International in GIAF meant the Galway Arts Festival left town for good?  

As one of countless creatives who long ago left the city because I could no longer afford to live in it, I’m curious to feel the mood on Galway’s streets.   

Do you love the GIAF?

©Charlie Adley  

27.06.2022


Wednesday, 15 June 2022

We need inexplicable wonder in our lives. Long Live the 5 Day Test Match

 

 
Forget your glorious rugby Grand Slams and that goal in Stuttgart decades ago.
 
What better way to get one over the Auld Enemy, than beat them at their national game?  Ever since moving to this country I wondered why, more than any other population colonised by the English, the Irish hung on for so long to their loathing of their imperial oppressor.
 
The only other ex-colony where people talk with as much venom about the English is Australia, but their verbal attacks are laced with confidence.
 
Why? 
 
Because they know that they have regularly whipped our English arses at our national game, in intimidating fashion. Like many other countries colonised by the English, they have revelled in giving their old brutaliser a sound beating on the cricket pitch.
 

Does that really hurt the English as a nation? You’d better believe it.
 

Imagine Roy Keane in his prime, decked in whites with a dash of green, sneering and snarling as he runs up to hurl a rock-hard leather ball at 90 mph towards an English chinless wonder.
 

Dribbling yet?  
 
Cricket should suit the Irish down to the ground: intelligent, contemplative, subtle and intense, it encompasses all the best Irish characteristics - even wit. 
 
Better still, the game has official breaks for both Tea and Drinks.
 
Although there are many shorter and speedy versions of the game, a Test Match is as slow as Gaelic Games are fast. After five days, it may well end in a draw, which doesn't mean the match is tied. It just means five days wasn’t long enough for two teams to bat and field twice.

 
Why? 
 

It was the weather, of course, and what could be more Irish than that?
 

Now that Irish cricket is accredited by the ICC, you can play Test Matches until your brains explode or your hearts sing: whichever you choose, remember James Joyce, who wrote in Portrait of the Artist:
 

“The fellows were practising long shies and bowling lobs and slow twisters. In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the balls: and from here and from there through the quiet air the sound of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl.”
 

Who needs rules, when there is such poetry in the game?

In soccer, players cheat as a matter of course. When a player in the box feels the wispy damp breath of an opponent on the back of his neck, he will collapse to the ground. 

By comparison, consider this wonderful cocktail of brute force and eccentricity included in this despatch from the 2005 Ashes Test at Lords:
 

“A bouncer beats Ponting for pace, and crashes against the grill of his helmet, cutting the Aussie skipper on his right cheek. A drinks break follows, to allow time for the blood to stop flowing.”

There’s much talk of 5 Day Test Matches being irrelevant in today’s world, yet I love them for their unique arcane mystery.

And then there comes a Test like the England v New Zealand match that finished yesterday. 

Simply incredible: from horror and despair to a seemingly impossible victory, with a performance of pure magic by Big Johnny Bairstow. 

We need inexplicable bizarre wonder in our lives.
Long Live the 5 Day Test Match.
 

 

©Charlie Adley

15.06.2022 

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Watching the footie has never been the same!

 

 
 
My Dad died 14 years ago today.

Oy, he put up a fight! Year after year, Dad grumped and exploded his way through procedures, operations, scrapings and inflations. 
 
Towards the end, tragically for a man who expressed it so much throughout his life, he lost his joie de vivre.

My mother, his rock, redeemer, and a great force of nature, mentioned how she sometimes missed the sound of laughter.
 
Watching somebody you love head slowly lethewards threatens to erase from your mind the image of the person they once were.

I have seen many people lose parents, siblings, friends and - horror - even children. The most tragic losses are the ones in which there remains something unfinished.

As the minutes ooze from the time of death, that lingering becomes malingering, and pain follows close behind.

Dad made it easy for me, because he had been unwell for so long. I had time to tell him everything I wanted to say. 
 
Today, I’m incredibly happy I told him what I thought of him, before he went.

A few months before he died, he was at home for a brief period, inbetween hospital admissions. He sat in his armchair, my mum beside him on the sofa. 
 
I had to be tactful, because despite the Jewish spirit, my parents' home and behaviour was quintessentially Olde Englishe, like the marmalade.

Hence to avoid melodrama, I had to tread carefully when trying to explain to my father that he had always been my inspiration.

 
To that Octogenarian these words came as a surprise; one which I had anticipated, and thought might fire his spirit and confidence a tad.

I told him, in front of Mum, that he had been my inspiration throughout my life, in two different ways.

At a most vital level, I appreciated how hard he had worked; how many decades he had climbed into his car at 7.40 am, and driven off through the dirty sludge of London's constipated commute, all the way to Soho, where he worked all his life for Pearl and Dean.

At weekends he ran a small chain of three record shops, until one of his managers did the dirty, and sent the business down the pan.

From my privileged and relatively cushy life, I am in awe of how hard Dad worked, so that we might enjoy the upbringing we had.

His was the last generation that would ever enjoy the 'job for life' culture. Somehow, back in the early 1960's he earned enough money to take all five of us on holidays to Europe every other year, with trips to Devon and Somerset in the intervening summers.

"Thanks Dad!" I told him. "I didn't appreciate how hard you worked when I was a kid, but I do now."

My mum spluttered out that she thought that was very nice, and my Dad did something with his mouth that showed he was grateful.
 
But then I looked over, into his eyes, and I sent them a shiny glint.
 
"There's another way you inspired me, Dad. Your mountains! Remember your books from the 1930's and 1950's about the conquests of Kanchenjunga, K2 and Everest? They all had the same tan cloth covers, and were packed with photos and maps and tales of those great mountaineers, walking around the Annapurna Circuit and reaching for the skies.

“Well, it took a while for me to realise it, but all my travelling; the way I've lived my life; it's down to you. Didn't cop on when I was a teenager, because all that hitching just felt so good, and looked to me a million miles from the life you lived, and the one you wanted for me. But when I went off for my first roundy-worldy jaunt in 1984, you whispered ... 
 
'Say hello to the mountains for me!'...
 
“... and it all made sense. In that instant I understood why I was who I was. I knew that your spirit of adventure was kindled in me; that the boy who read those books about mountains gave birth to another who could go and see them. 
 
"The greatest thing about a spirit of adventure is that it helps you live your life less dominated by fear. I wish you had been able to enjoy that feeling.

“So thanks Dad! You worked your arse off so that I might have a good childhood, and you also lifted my eyes, my horizons and my understanding of ambition, so that when I felt happy in my life, I knew that was success."

 
What I didn't say to you then, Dad, but do now, was that unfortunately, I don't think you ever enjoyed the same self-confidence that you helped build in me.
 
You taught me how to appreciate fine wines, how to carry myself in any situation, and always assured me that while posh things were alright, you could never beat the pleasure and honesty of a pie and a pint.
 
We always had time for the Chelsea. You first took me to Stamford Bridge in 1969, Wembley in 1970, and wherever I lived in the world, we talked after every match. I do not recall a game in which we lost points where you didn't complain about the referee. 
 
"Well, we'd have had more chance if we weren't playing against 12 men!"
 
 
You were a possessor of great charm, a flirtatious twinkle in the eye and unquestioning generosity. You gilded every lily, and lacked the self-confidence you deserved. 
 
You loved a simcha, a celebration, and enjoyed a Famous Grouse or three. A year before you died, we were all standing round your bed in Intensive Care. We'd nearly lost you in the ambulance, and had been discussing how to cancel your big 80th birthday party.

Unaware of where you were, or how close you had come to death, your first words as you opened your eyes:

“Who's ordering the wine for the party?”

You couldn't understand why we all fell about laughing.
 
Your spirit, charm and humour were so strong, you live forever amongst us.

I love you Dad.
I love you very much.

God knows, I miss you. The footie just ain't the same.
 

 
©Charlie Adley
08.05.2022

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Let’s All Call A Lie A Lie.


 

I was building up a bulk order of benign voodoo vibes, tearing up newspaper and shredding cardboard for my compost bin, while staring for ages at the front of the Saturday sports section. 

There at the top of the page was a story about 

‘Conte Anger - PSG Link Is Fake News.’ 

'No it’s not!’ I complained out loud to myself, like Billy No Mates. ‘It’s just a lie.’ 

Unless you’re a fan of either Spurs or PSG, what the manic Italian manager does is immaterial.  

And no, this isn’t Charlie discovering the Post-Truth World eight years too late. 

I’m only too aware of it, yet it dawned on me this morning that there is something we can all do to improve the state of our fragile civilisation. 

Thanks to the way that checking two websites now makes each of us a self-avowed expert on any given subject, there are no students left.  

Nobody needs to learn anything ever again, as everyone knows everything. We are all absolutely irrefutably right and everybody else is woefully pathetically wrong. 

Check out this woman on You Tube. She’s got a doctorate in Incandescentology, so she’d make a perfect life coach. 

This doctor on Twitter is a world-renowned transplant surgeon, so he knows all about what’s good for your garden. 

Read this post on Facebook about pumpkins being a communist plot and the one on LinkedIn about Elon Musk giving all his money to Ukrainian orphans. 

Check out the woman calling Noam Chomsky an imbecile on Pulse or Twitch or Snippy-Snappy, Tik-Tok, Insta, Spinsta, Grinda or BotherMeHole.  

Right now there are more opinions around than ever before: more polarised ridiculous wonderful extreme hyperbolic opinions about everything; never moderate nor small opinions, but always correct.  

They are, in fact, not opinions at all. 

They are The Truth. 

Good old 'The Truth.' 

Where would we be without it? 

Tragically we have been living without The Truth for nearly a decade. 

There always have been and forever will be an infinite number of truths, manifesting themselves as sacred, unique, beloved and precious opinions.

By allowing the notion of Fake News to assimilate and osmose into our every day lives, we have erased the use of the word Lie.  

If you do not use the word Lie you have no need for the word Truth. 

This has been debated ever since Trump got in the first time (oooeerr) but like a subversive cuddly Tribble, Fake News makes lying sound lusciously mockable and ultimately fairly acceptable. 

It shouldn’t be, mustn’t be, and won’t be if we all start to use the words Lie and Liar again.  

Trouble is, the other phenomenon that has grown up alongside Fake News, like its ugly twin, is what I call MI (Modern Intolerance.)  

Disguised as just the opposite, MI involves subtle yet pernicious censorship. 

Warnings are put on works of literature, lest someone be offended by Macbeth killing Duncan. Feminists become the enemy as TERFs cross the transgender borders of acceptability. Pronouns become a commodity, and open debate dissolves into the annals of history, as Cancel Culture takes hold.  

In response the racists, fascists and bigots also grow in strength, as our societies stretch to breaking point.  

Before we reach WB Yeats’ horizon where the centre cannot hold, we need to rebuild resilience in ourselves, and instil it in our young. 

Resilience is an essential ingredient of the human condition. To this Boomer, while everyone is wary of offending anyone, 21st century western youth appears dangerously lacking in resilience.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling offended. I’m not suggesting it’s cool to incite racial hatred or behave in a threatening or violent manner towards anyone. 

However, when we are merely victims of disagreement, we need to be able to deal with it. It’s important we are able to stand up straight in the face of adversity; that we can handle discord; that we can debate and demand truth. 

When our opponent is wrong we must explain why, and when they are telling lies, we need to call them liars; out loud and to their faces. 

Whether you’re a CND dungaree-wearing marrahoochy-growing vegan creative YinYang crystals in a line volunteer at a Food Bank, or a flag-waving vigilante waging war on immigration and foreigners, while ripping cooked flesh from bones of beasts cheap at the check-out yet cruelly raised, or any of the rest of us billions inbetween, let’s all do one thing that will really truly help.  

To coin a Brexit lie, let's take back control of truth. Whatever your opinion, lifestyle, ethnicity, gender or socio-economic status, when we spot a lie we must say: 

“That’s a lie and you are a liar, because this is the truth and here is why.” 

There is no fake news.
It’s either truth or lie.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

How to be Irish #498: Can you feel the Feck?

Thanks as always to Allan Cavanagh at caricatures-ireland.com

Two questions. That’s all I had, when I arrived here, back in ‘92. 

A newly-appointed newspaper columnist, wholly ignorant of all things Ireland and Irish, I condensed my gaping inadequacies into two simple questions.

Yet in your obfuscatory paradoxical Irish way, you failed to answer both, offering only nebulous enigma as solutions.  

At least, that’s how it sounded to my English ears at the time.

"What’s the Left/Right difference between the civil war parties?"

and 

"Why do you wimp out and say feck when you really mean fuck?"

Responses to the first came in the predictable shape of that ahhh you have to go back to the Treaty claptrap, which was of absolutely no use to me.

As a political animal I had to write about the politics of today’s nation, without going on about a treaty signed 70 years ago. I was left utterly clueless about what anybody was and nobody was not.

The other answer was short, precise, yet no more illustrative.

'Feck? Oh sure, yeh, y’see, feck is different.'

'Oh really. Don’t think so.'

'Yeh ’tis.'

'Well how is it, and why is it different, then?’

'It’s errrrr, ohhhhh, emmmm, hard to explain, like, dy’see.'

'Never. Go on, surprise me.'

I neither expected nor really wanted clarification anyway.  

Clarity’s for wimps.

30 years later I not only know the answer, but feel it too. In fact, I now know that I couldn't fully know the answer to feck until I felt it. 

Just now I was walking the beach. My lungs were raging painfully in protest at the freezing cold wind, forced upon them by my spirit, which demanded I make the most of low tide without a soul in sight.  

A few months from now this beach will never be empty. There will be camper vans in the upper car park for months on end, and many other humans who, much to my flagrant begrudgery, also have the right to enjoy the beach.

But right now there’s nobody; not a single soul on a Sunday morning.
Walking on, now with the wind at my back, I enjoy
rare minutes of sunshine, as clouds rush and tumble across the sky.  

Apart from making sure to occupy and appreciate this natural bliss, I’m thinking about the What’sApp message I sent my brother earlier.

We were texting about pruning apple trees, and I said I’d be at it too, as soon as the feckin’ wind dropped.

Down on the beach I realise he’d probably think of it as a crude curse, a tiny blade less fierce than its Anglo-Saxon cousin.

But I now know what it is.

I felt it when I wrote it.
I feel feck ergo I understand feck. 

Yet like the Irish, I couldn’t necessarily explain it, exactly.

You’ve given me a signed stamped certificate saying I’m Irish, and a passport which confirms it, but the two reasons I can no longer say I’m English through and through have nothing to do with paperwork.

Conjoined with the feeling of feck is the Irish non-verbal verbal experience.

From the moment I arrived in Galway, I noticed how people sometimes offered agreement by sucking a sharp intake of breath onto the roof of their mouths, loud enough to be heard, yet too soft to be spelled.

I wrote about it in Double Vision, back in 2017, when I first spotted myself involuntarily doing the hissy thing, to show concord. Ireland had changed my breathing patterns.

Now I feel the feck.

Another level of assimilation. altogether, so it is now.

Behave Adley. Be respectful.

I’ll always be English, Jewish and proud of both, but now my Irish is engrained in body and mind.

 

 ©Charlie Adley

27.02.2022