Steve goes on a journey of rediscovery - and finding magic at home
I fancied myself as an itinerant artist. It started at college when rehearsals, productions and posturing always seemed to interfere with lectures. The really sad thing is that my Department loved theatre too, so essays could be thrown in a bit late.
I then discovered that disabled people made great art - 'over there'. We saw snippets at conferences and showcases in Dublin. I was lucky as I lived in Dublin. I found myself ‘in the loop’. I saw things. I raved about the great work from ‘over there’ and longed to have something in Ireland. There were spurts of activity.
I found my centre and called myself a contemporary dancer. I dabbled in disability arts policy and found myself going grey trying to navigate the politics. I wrote a playlet, How Very Normal, and found myself in DC.
I dabbled in things but life got in the way. I needed to earn money. In my mind I passed the baton on.
All these memories percolated around my mind as I journeyed towards Galway to Creative Connections: Arts and Disability Conversation and Showcase. I had no skin in the game, so to speak. I was there as an interested observer ready to describe what I saw; I had my journalistic head on.
Some time on Wednesday afternoon I pinched myself to remind myself that I was sitting in a theatre in Galway.
Not in a hotel.
We were in a mainstage theatre discussing disabled artists creating work for anybody.
There was Mary Nugent, a dancer from Cork making a living out of dance.
There was Margaret Walker, a visual artist from Kilkenny with a whole gallery of exhibitions behind her and there were the ignite projects.
Back in the dark days of the depression, Arts and Disability Ireland decided to think BIG and seek 3 local authorities to partner local disabled artists and a ‘big name’ artist to create three pieces, the scale of which had never been seen in Ireland.
The three areas were Cork, Galway and Mayo and covered film, visual art, and theatre.
Theatre is an understatement. Jez Colborne from Mind the Gab theatre in the UK, Partnered with the Townhall Theatre and That’s Life in Galway to create Trickster. Think a mad rock opera with six-ton trucks and cherry pickers. It was big, brash and brilliant. The scale of it meant it took over the whole of Galway’s Black Box theatre. We got a taste of it over dinner on Wednesday night as the chariots flew and it was breathtaking
Thankfully you can see a flavour of it here.
Mayo County Council partnered with artist Aideen Barry, Scannán Technologies, Western Care Ridgepool Training Centre and Emma O’Kane.
This took us back to the golden age of silent film. An all disabled cast brought us a tale of love, loss and access all played out with a live score. It dragged in 500 people to its first two screenings. There are no plans for a general release, but the joy can be seen here.
And then there was Cork. Two Councils, one sculpture centre, Electonic Artist Simon McKeowan, the facade of the College of Commerce and Culture night.
Throw in 7,000 spectators along the banks of the Lee and you get this.
7,000 people watching great art made by disabled people; there would be no going back after that.
It was a great two days. Art matters. Have fun as you watch the videos. Support the arts. Support the people!