Friday, November 30, 2012

Braille Music

Seems impossible? Luckily its not.
I know Braille but not at this level, with its specific notation and difficulty in sourcing materials let alone finding someone who knows it and can teach it .....
My colleagues recently hosted a Braille Music Workshop Day to great success.
With new technology coming on line all the time its great news when more and more things can be opened up and utilised in such a positive way.
Here's a great video about Braille Music from the Guardian. Fascinating.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Ruins of Detroit

I saw "The Ruins of Detroit" exhibition by the photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre earlier this year in the Fontana Fortuna Gallery in Amsterdam. Industrial Detroit: a forgotten civilisation, a dying world that is still holding on with its steel girders and well built walls. The photos are a beautiful testement to what we are capable of acheiving but also what we are capable of destroying.

The complete annihilation of this part of the city from an industry led economy is enthralling. I marvelled at the audacity, bravery of both its inception and its destruction. They left behind homes, schools, theatres, doctors and dentists surgerys, alongside factories, police stations (including blood sample evidence) and offices. The kind of scene you'd expect to see after an apocolypse. But its neighbours have just stepped back and watched it callopse.

So whats changed? The cyclical and unchanging hounds of history divide and conquer no matter what this generation says about the last.

The artists statement: "Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies  and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.  The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires. This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time :  being dismayed, or admire, making us wondering about the permanence of things. Photography appeared to us as a modest way to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state."

The exhibitions tragic beauty is enthralling. Look through some more of the collection here. Buy the book here.
(Photographs in this post are copyright Yves Marchand, Romain Meffre)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Irish Book Awards 2012

Voting closes at midnight this Sunday (18th) so be sure to stick your oar in where it counts.
Vote here.  Five lucky voters will also be in with a chance to win some book tokens.
Support great Irish writers!

Heres the short lists:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Selina Guinness The Crocodile by the Door

As I made my way up the stairs of the deserted Guinness Store House I wondered what the night time view was going to be like from The Gravity Bar.

I had been invited to the launch of Selina Guinness’s debut book The Crocodile by the Door published by Penguin.

I’ll put it out there immediately I am a past pupil of Selina’s. Through out my four year degree she guided me through the mire of Irish Literature. But not only that; she was instrumental in securing Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill for our final year creative writing module, which was to set me on a path I have been walking ever since. With Selina’s gentle but persistent encouragement I later went on to do a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews. Hands down one of the best years of my life.

The city lights twinkled below us as they stretched out over the city. Tibradden House, of which the Memoir is about, was well hidden in the swathes of black night as the city petered out towards the mountains.
When Harry Clifton took to the podium to introduce Selina he spoke of the mystery and majesty of the creation of a sense of place. How a place like Tibradden and a book like The Crocodile by the Door are so defining, not only for the people directly involved but also because it stretches so far beyond that and into the outer reaches and corners of a community, a city, a country.
The room stocked full of a myriad of friends and family listened to Selina’s heart felt words of thanks of which were suffused with perhaps a small lingering seed of disbelief that it had all worked out. Thankfully for us readers it did.

I am only a third into the book but am already enthralled with not only the fluidity and elegance of the prose but also the unrestrained and beautiful honesty of experience that has governed the experience and the writing. Because in life, that is all we have.

Already the book has been short listed for the “Sunday Independent New Comer of the Year Award” in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. Vote Here.
No doubt it is only the first of many well deserved successes for the woman, the book and the house.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Greenway, Mayo.

My dad wanted to do something different.  My sister, at the end of an adventure around Europe finished up in Dublin with a significantly lighter wallet, wanted to do something else before heading back to London.  It was the end of August and I was eager to make the most of the last days of summer so I suggested The Greenway.
We packed small backpacks with a change of clothes and blister plasters and took the train to Westport to commence the 42km walk to Achill.


After an overnight in Westport and a belly full of the Full Irish we started in earnest.  It was hoods up as soon as we left the hotel.  With a cheery acceptance that we may have hoods up the whole time we walked through the town to start the trail.  On our first day, Friday,   on the Westport to Newport leg we literally did not bump into anyone else on the path.   We didn't met any other walkers on the path at all and from day two  anyone else we encountered was cycling. More than a few commented on our craziness for walking and not cycling; "It's much quicker" the cyclists laughed as they sped past.  But surely that wasn't the point?
We stayed overnight in Newport and eager to replace the lost calories of the day we had dinner and fantastic pints of Guinness in the Grainne Uaile but the best part was the ridiculously fantastic Pear and Almond tart that I have since tried but failed to replicate.

After Full Irish number two we were on our way again for the second leg, Newport to Mulranny. It was Saturday the sun was shining and the Way was busy.  Families, groups and singular cyclist rang their bells around us. After taking one or two diversions off the path we walked an epic 24km.  Our arrival in Mulranny Park Hotel was silent and tired.  I went straight to the jacuzzi, the other two didn't make it past the front bar. Dinner that night in the beautiful dining room overlooking Clew Bay was spectacular. The sleep that followed was deep and still.

With blister plasters applied day three the final leg, Mulranny to Achill began after yet another porkathon in the breakfast room. I won't lie the final leg was difficult.  We stopped for tea and porter cake along the way. Luckily we didn't see the rain began until our final approach to Achill.

The walk down into the town and across the bridge seemed never ended.  The wind howling in off the Atlantic was almost too strong to walk against.  As we stopped to catch our breath we watched a boat come into harbour with a broken mast being held up my about five men. Could the wind really have done that we wondered as we inched over the bridge.

After about seventeen hours walking over three days it was disconcerting to get into the car and be driven back to Westport in a little over sixty minutes.  As the Way became visible from the road at intervals we relived our moments as we hurtled past.  Our walk seemed so epic and I guess it was.  With just a change of clothes, the freedom of  being outdoors, the free flow of easy conversation and silence, the juicy blackberries dotted through the hedgerows and the polite greetings from fellow travellers we all felt suitably intrepid.

One foot in front of the other was the only way to get there.
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