Monday, December 1, 2014

Fingal Arts Showcase Farmleigh House Friday 5th December 2.30-5pm

Fingal County Council Arts Showcase      

The Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Mags Murray invites you to celebrate 20 years of the Arts in Fingal

YOU ARE INVITED TO CELEBRATE the work of Fingal County Council’s Arts Office. The event will showcase a variety of projects and activities including live performances, all of which have been supported, funded or initiated by the Arts Office over the last twenty years.

The event will take place at Farmleigh House on the 5th December 2014, from 2.30pm to 5pm.

Special Guest on the occasion will be Joan Burton TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection.

As part of our celebrations we have commissioned a short animation which will highlight the importance of the arts to North Dublin and we will also showcase our Fingal Arts Development Plan 2013–2017.


VISUAL ARTS SHOWCASE Visual artists Una Sealy (ARHA),Aoibheann Greenan and Andrew Carson showcase a selection
of work.
Una Sealy native of Howth is an established and respected artist with three decades of experience
working as a professional painter.  Una was one of twelve finalists chosen for the Hennessy Portrait Prize 2014. The short-listed artists’ works are currently on show at the National Gallery of Ireland until February 8th, 2015.
Aoibheann Greenan is currently one of four featured artists in the RHA’s annual Futures 14 series which runs until December 19th 2014. Next year will see Aoibheann create new work for her solo show in Temple Bar Galleries.
Andrew Carson was recently awarded THE FOUNDATION14 CRITICS CHOICE AWARD which includes a solo show in nag gallery, Dublin in 2015.
The Public Art Programme will showcase Per Cent for Art Scheme Projects.
The Lambay Singers will perform selected music from Mark Garry’s Sending Letters to the Sea album with professional singer / songwriter and project collaborator Nina Hynes.
Local writers Daniel Boland, Pauline O’Hare and Niamh MacAlister will read excerpts from Three Thousand and Nine, which was part of Brian Duggan’s O’Machine, O’Machine, film and book commission.
There will be a chance to re-visit Tattered Outlaws of History, a film / installation project by Dan Dubowitz and Fearghus O’Conchuir which drew together Fingal’s unique set of Martello Towers, artist Dan Dubowitz will be  on hand to discuss the project.
Resort Residency, Case Study 1 is a showcase of the activity which took place at Lynders Mobile Home
Park, August – September 2014.
The Youth & Education showcase will feature film documentation of Space Invaders, Place Shapers and live presentations of Artful Dodgers and the Studio project.
Space Invaders is an arts festival for children, families and Early Childhood Educators initiated by Fingal Arts Office & Acting Up! Arts.
Place Shapers is an architecture and urban design project for young people in Fingal initiated by Fingal Arts Office and the Irish Architecture Foundation.
Artful Dodgers, an early year’s visual art and music programme delivered by Fingal Arts Office in partnership with Fingal County Childcare Committee and collaborating artists Jackie Maguire and Naomi Draper and two Fingal crèche services. The artists involved will be available to speak with those interested in hearing more about this programme and the research conducted in partnership with Trinity College Dublin.
Studio, inspired by the renowned Room 13 project, Fingal Arts Office are supporting the establishment of student-run art studios in primary schools in Fingal. The Artists and children involved will be available to speak with those interested in hearing more about the initial stages of this exciting initiative.
There will be a series of live performances from local arts groups.
The Fingal Youth Orchestra will perform a festive arrangement. The Orchestra’s aim is to teach, foster a love of, and perform classical orchestral music for 8 – 19 year olds, using professional music teachers as conductors and tutors.  The Orchestra is a not-for-profit organisation, run by a voluntary committee. Funding is from a combination of family subscriptions, voluntary donations, grants and awards including Fingal County Council’s Arts Office.
Hallelujah! by the Draiocht Community Clown Choir began in 2012 as part of Veronica Coburn’s Theatre Artist in Residence programme in Draiocht. A Clown Choir is a group of people who gather together to sing and laugh – to sing in celebration of what it is to be human and to laugh at the ridiculousness of the world we live in. The ethos of Hallelujah! Is accessibility, inclusiveness and artistic excellence.
The Percy French Troubadours will perform a series of songs from the repertoire of Percy French.  Featuring all time favourites ‘Are ye right there Michael?’, ‘The Darling Girl from Clare’, ‘Poems to the West’
and ‘Abdul Abulbul Amir’, sung by an eclectic mix of 15 singers with a five piece band. The group was set up by Mr. Tony Proudfoot, a well known and experienced local amateur performer and theatre director.
There will be representation from Fingal’s two Art Centres, Draiocht, and Séamus Ennis Art Centre.
How to get to Farmleigh House
Go through the Phoenix Park. When entering the park at Parkgate street (main entrance near
Heuston Station) drive up along the main avenue.
Go straight through the first two roundabouts  and take a left at the third roundabout (near
Castleknock end of park).
After taking a left at third roundabout, take the first right (50 yards from roundabout). Farmleigh
is at the end of this road. If entering the Phoenix Park through the Castleknock gate, take a right
at the first roundabout, and then take your first right again (after 50 yards).  Farmleigh is at the end of this road.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Rainbow Journeys launched!

Vision Impaired Writing Group take colourful journey through the past.

A new CD launched by a group of writers who are blind and vision impaired provides an opportunity to listen to unheard voices, as their personal reflections on real-life events take you through their “Rainbow Journeys” from past to present. Available to buy here.

The CD, entitled Rainbow Journeys, is a compilation of stories by a group of people with sight loss who got together through NCBI, the national sight loss organisation. Although they formed as a reading group, their interest soon moved on to writing and a class was facilitated by NCBI’s Niamh MacAlister, who stated:
“Most of the people NCBI works with acquire sight loss during their lives, and many as they get older, so reading and writing can suddenly become big challenges. NCBI works with people to find practical solutions to the challenges of sight loss but we also wanted to look at creative outlets. Creative writing was new for the 13 participants, all of whom have impaired vision. The goals of Rainbow Journeys were to write about our lives, the paths taken, the revelations, the lessons learned and bring to light the everyday wonder of our lives.”

The stories, which were then read by the writers and recorded, will take you on a ship from South Africa to Dublin, to the East Wall bomb of the 1950s, right through Europe on motorbike just after the Second World War and even getting caught skinny dipping by a priest! All are real-life events written and read by the participants.
May O’Brien, who is 82 and from Donnybrook, lost the sight in one eye in the 1990s and since 2006, has very little sight in her other eye. May believes that the group played an important supportive role for the participants.
“When we met as a reading group were just sharing views about the books, it was nothing personal. So when we began sharing our personal stories in the creative writing course it changed all of us. We built up confidence and trust and we supported each other. There was no façade where you pretend not to have a disability. And then you are accepting your disability, but also acknowledging that you still have a brain that needs a creative outlet.”

Rainbow Journeys was launched on Friday 17th October in Dun Laoghaire Town Hall as part of the Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown Social Inclusion Week.
NCBI would like to thank photographer Anna Nowakowska for volunteering her time to take part in this project. Find out more about Anna Nowakowska Portrait Photography

Launch Photos:
 (Anna Nowakowska)

 (Simon Robinson)

 (Simon Robinson)

 (Anna Nowakowska)

 (Anna Nowakowska)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rainbow Journeys

Delighted to launch Rainbow Journeys at Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Social Inclusion Week at 11am Friday 17th of October in the Concourse of Dun Laoghaire town hall.
Rainbow Journeys, is about getting an opportunity to hear unheard voices. It began life in May 2014 when a group of eager and intrepid writers came together in the NCBI office in Dun Laoghaire. The goals were – to write about our lives, the paths taken, the revelations, the lessons learned and bring to light the everyday wonder of our lives. There were thirteen brave service users in all. Unfortunately one of our team passed away during our journey, Anne Barnes, and we proudly dedicate the CD to her.
Produced and Edited by Niamh MacAlister,
Co-ordinated by Aleksandra Okupinska,
Sound Engineer: Alan White,
Photographer: Anna Nowakowska

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Writing and Walking

Taken from the New Yorker
Why Walking Helps us Think by Ferris Jabr
In Vogues 1969 Christmas issue, Vladimir Nabokov offered some advice for teaching James Joyce’s “Ulysses”: “Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” He drew a charming one himself. Several decades later, a Boston College English professor named Joseph Nugent and his colleagues put together an annotated Google map that shadows Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom step by step. The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, as well as students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have similarly reconstructed the paths of the London amblers in “Mrs. Dalloway.”

Such maps clarify how much these novels depend on a curious link between mind and feet. Joyce and Woolf were writers who transformed the quicksilver of consciousness into paper and ink. To accomplish this, they sent characters on walks about town. As Mrs. Dalloway walks, she does not merely perceive the city around her. Rather, she dips in and out of her past, remolding London into a highly textured mental landscape, “making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”

Since at least the time of peripatetic Greek philosophers, many other writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing. (In fact, Adam Gopnik wrote about walking in The New Yorker just two weeks ago.) “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Thomas DeQuincey has calculated that William Wordsworth—whose poetry is filled with tramps up mountains, through forests, and along public roads—walked as many as a hundred and eighty thousand miles in his lifetime, which comes to an average of six and a half miles a day starting from age five.

What is it about walking, in particular, that makes it so amenable to thinking and writing? The answer begins with changes to our chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

The way we move our bodies further changes the nature of our thoughts, and vice versa. Psychologists who specialize in exercise music have quantified what many of us already know: listening to songs with high tempos motivates us to run faster, and the swifter we move, the quicker we prefer our music. Likewise, when drivers hear loud, fast music, they unconsciously step a bit harder on the gas pedal. Walking at our own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state that we cannot experience as easily when we’re jogging at the gym, steering a car, biking, or during any other kind of locomotion. When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down.

Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight. Earlier this year, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford published what is likely the first set of studies that directly measure the way walking changes creativity in the moment. They got the idea for the studies while on a walk. “My doctoral advisor had the habit of going for walks with his students to brainstorm,” Oppezzo says of Schwartz. “One day we got kind of meta.”

In a series of four experiments, Oppezzo and Schwartz asked a hundred and seventy-six college students to complete different tests of creative thinking while either sitting, walking on a treadmill, or sauntering through Stanford’s campus. In one test, for example, volunteers had to come up with atypical uses for everyday objects, such as a button or a tire. On average, the students thought of between four and six more novel uses for the objects while they were walking than when they were seated. Another experiment required volunteers to contemplate a metaphor, such as “a budding cocoon,” and generate a unique but equivalent metaphor, such as “an egg hatching.” Ninety-five per cent of students who went for a walk were able to do so, compared to only fifty per cent of those who never stood up. But walking actually worsened people’s performance on a different type of test, in which students had to find the one word that united a set of three, like “cheese” for “cottage, cream, and cake.” Oppezzo speculates that, by setting the mind adrift on a frothing sea of thought, walking is counterproductive to such laser-focussed thinking: “If you’re looking for a single correct answer to a question, you probably don’t want all of these different ideas bubbling up.”

Where we walk matters as well. In a study led by Marc Berman of the University of South Carolina, students who ambled through an arboretum improved their performance on a memory test more than students who walked along city streets. A small but growing collection of studies suggests that spending time in green spaces—gardens, parks, forests—can rejuvenate the mental resources than man-made environments deplete. Psychologists have learned that attention is a limited resource that continually drains throughout the day. A crowded intersection—rife with pedestrians, cars, and billboards—bats our attention around. In contrast, walking past a pond in a park allows our mind to drift casually from one sensory experience to another, from wrinkling water to rustling reeds.

Still, urban and pastoral walks likely offer unique advantages for the mind. A walk through a city provides more immediate stimulation—a greater variety of sensations for the mind to play with. But, if we are already at the brink of overstimulation, we can turn to nature instead. Woolf relished the creative energy of London’s streets, describing it in her diary as “being on the highest crest of the biggest wave, right in the centre & swim of things.” But she also depended on her walks through England’s South Downs to “have space to spread my mind out in.” And, in her youth, she often travelled to Cornwall for the summer, where she loved to “spend my afternoons in solitary trampling” through the countryside.

Perhaps the most profound relationship between walking, thinking, and writing reveals itself at the end of a stroll, back at the desk. There, it becomes apparent that writing and walking are extremely similar feats, equal parts physical and mental. When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts. Ultimately, maps like the one that Nabokov drew are recursive: they are maps of maps.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

London town

A visit to London town is always busy. Its a case of cram it all in as quickly as possible. I always breath a sigh of relief when I step off the plane back in Dublin. As nice as London is; its hard work.  After arriving at a ridiculously early hour and dropping our bags at our digs it was breakfast at Borough Market. I chomped down on a sausage bap  for my second breakfast of the day. Then it was onto the V&A. A quick look around the photography and the fashion room before I had the worst coffee I've ever tasted.  Back out on the street we didn't really know what was going on. Police and army appeared from no where with helicopters looming over head. To be honest my first thought was 'has a bomb gone off somewhere?' Paranoid much? Later on we discovered it was a Pro-Palestinian protest about to make its way around the side of Hyde Park. We settled ourselves and headed for The Photography Gallery. With enough energy for one last stop we made our way to the John Soane Museum. He was an architect and collector. He left his house and estate to the State instead of his children. I'm sure that went down well. So fitting that A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth is part of his collection.  Defeated we returned for naps before dinner. And oh what a dinner it was! My sister works at The Garrison. To say that we were looked after would be understating it. The service was fantastic, the food impeccable.
The photo of the Shard above is the view from my happy dinner perch. With just enough room (I decided not to dessert for this reason) we headed to The Hide for cocktails.

With the cocktail residues still merrily making their way around my system I woke up nice and early. I had a people watching coffee and croissant back at Borough Market as I waited for the troops to convene and then it was around the corner to The Tate Modern. The Malevich exhibition was my destination. Would have checked out the Matisse too except for we ran out of time and had to high tail it across town for Sunday lunch at Brawn. And what a f#*%ing lunch it was too. I have two words only: go there. I rounded out the day with dinner in Pizarro watching the last of the rain and  stragglers making their way down Bermondsey Street on a lazy Sunday evening.

One last cultural hurrah at Sotheby's for the Unauthorized Banksy Retrospective. I couldn't quite figure out who was taking the piss out of whom?! But the snobby girl at the door made it all worthwhile.

Thursday and the recovery continues ...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fish Short Memoir Competition 2014 Long List

I was bored on Sunday night and started poking around the internet looking at competitions to enter and competitions I didn't make the cut for. At least I thought I didn't make the cut for. I entered the Fish Short Memoir Contest earlier in the year and promptly forgot about. I subsequently deleted the email announcing the winners of the competition. My only thought on that is I must have been having a bad day! So I was really surprised to see my own name on the long list as I scrolled down through the list of writers and their stories. I'm particularly delighted to make it to the list as its the first time I've had a non-fiction piece recognised. There's no greater impetus to keep on going!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy

Another Tuesday, another book launch in the Gutter Bookshop. Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy was delightfully introduced by Ciaran Hinds. Yes, that Ciaran Hinds!
Kate Beaufoy is the new pen name for Kate Thomspon. If you recognise the name its probably because you have either seen Glenroe or read one or two of the eleven books she has written.  
Kate was also the first VIP guest author for the NCBI and Childvision's annual Readathon in 2008. She kindly returned to help us celebrate its five year anniversary last year.
The idea for the book was born from letters her grandmother wrote after the first world war - all of which feature in the book. The story's breadth stretches from Paris 1919 to Hollywood 1945 to 1965. It is "an evocative story of survival, betrayal and the invincibility of love." Available in all good bookshops now.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fallen by Lia Mills

A fortnight ago I went to the launch of Fallen by Lia Mills in the Gutter Bookshop. It was a warm muggy evening and the shop was busting at the seams with Lia fans. Not only did the book sell out but I didn't even get near the wine table! Luckily for me a very generous gentleman gave me a copy so I didn't go home empty handed.
I started it last night greedily devouring the first half in one sitting. The writing is stunning and the story engaging and unique. Anne Enright, during her introduction, observed that this is probably the start of many stories around the backdrop of the 1916 rising but that Lia has the edge on being one of the first, and of course being the best. Having received rave reviews in the run up to the launch expect to hear people talking about this book for a while to come. Get reading!
Check out her blog Libran Writer.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Siri Hustvedt

I recently saw Siri Hustvedt in Smock Alley Theatre during Dublin Writers Festival. I am in awe of the woman. Intellect seeps out of her pores. What amazes me is how lightly she carries it. Her breadth of knowledge doesn't weigh her down with pretentiousness. She spoke of the complex theories and ideas wrapped up in her new book "The Blazing World". Her eloquence is an inspiration.  I've started the beautifully written book but already I've had to stop to research books and artists she's referenced. I managed to track down "On the problem of empathy" by Edith Stein (another amazing woman, a Jewish philosopher who changed to Catholicism and later died in Auschwitz, Phenomenology was her modus operandi.). Although I'll be saving it for another day. I love how this isn't just a book to be consumed but that it gets me reaching out into a spiders web of another book, after another book, after another. I can't recommend it highly enough and I'm not even half way into it.

Here she is being fabulous in a recent short interview from The Guardian.

Siri Hustvedt is the internationally bestselling author of What I Loved, The Summer Without Men and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl. Her latest novel, The Blazing World, is a brilliant, provocative novel about Harriet Burden, an artist who, after years of being ignored, conducts an experiment: she conceals her identity behind three male fronts in three solo exhibitions.

What's the message here? Does the world hate women? Or do women need to try harder?
I really do not want to use the word "message". This is a much more complex story. Harry – the artist Harriet Burden – is right that there is a "masculine enhancement effect". The arts are often thought of as "sort of feminine" and science as masculine. These divisions are underlying our perceptions. There are a number of other positions and perspectives that are meant to complicate the reader's understanding of this story. There is no message. There is nothing simple about this. The act of reading the book mirrors the content of the book. It is meant to be a game and a puzzle. You can't think of Harry's story as simply a feminist parable. Even though had she been a man her work would have got more recognition.

Where did the idea for Harriet come from? Could it happen in real life?
There have been art hoaxes and they're mentioned in the book. I suppose it could happen. But the kernel of the idea was a woman hiding behind male masks as an experiment. I wanted a book that felt refracted. So you have this intimate, bold voice from the notebooks [Harry's diaries] but all these people commenting on the same story. Which, of course, changes the story.

What made you choose the polyphonic structure?
I knew it was going to be many voices. Part of it came out of a desire that I always want to do something I haven't done before. I began to think of this as my "multiple personality disorder book" because I had to have all these different voices and inhabit them. There is a lot of unconsciousness involved in summoning those voices and sometimes they surprise you. It's not a situation of absolute control.

The art world was the backdrop for What I Loved. Why return to it?
I continue to write essays about art. The visual is always part of my work and it gives me immense pleasure to make up the words of art and create them verbally rather than build them.

Do you consider that your own work is ever judged a certain way because you are a woman? (A German reviewer once said that he "knew" her first novel, The Blindfold, was written by Hustvedt's husband, novelist Paul Auster.)
This is extremely difficult to answer. This is why sexism can become so riddled. Many writers will tell you they think women writers are treated differently. I get asked: "What advice do you have for young women writers?" I answer: "Would you ever ask a male writer, 'What advice do you have for young male writers?'" Women are in an unequal position and so giving that advice makes sense. But really these are unconscious forms of sexism.

When did you first know you were a writer?
The fantasy arrived when I was 13. I was in Reykjavik for a summer and it never got dark. There was a whole library of English books and I was a great reader. I suddenly had access to books that were too hard for me before. Lots of Dickens. Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights. Jane Austen. I couldn't stop. I read the abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo. I read some Mark Twain. While reading David Copperfield in the middle of the night – probably because of the light I had insomnia for the first time – I looked out of the window and thought, "If this is what books can do, this is what I want to do." I published my first poem in The Paris Review in 1980.

What's your favourite waste of time?
If I have open time and I'm in Manhattan, I'll just walk to wherever I'm going, even if I could get there faster on the subway. I just love walking the streets of New York.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Writing for the Ear

I've spent the last four Fridays teaching a creative writing class called "Writing for the Ear" to NCBI service users in Dublin. The aim of the course was that each person write a short piece about an event in their life.  Something from their childhood, something that's happening now, something that affected them or their perceptions and how it changed them. Designed to suit all levels of writing; from the experienced to the novice. I covered how to get started, engaged listening and reading, the narrative arc, language use, editing, critique and constructive criticism.
Listening to other people's stories on StoryCorps and Sunday Miscellany gave us lots of inspiration

I had the most amazing time. It was such a privilege to be able to help each participant write their story and listen to the finished pieces. It was especially great to hear, not only the stories of people who had never written before but, how much they enjoyed doing it!

I'll act as producer as each participant records their story in the NCBI studios. Once the finishing touches are applied we will have a CD book which we hope to launch at the Dun Laoghaire Social Inclusion Week in October, 2014. So keep an eye out on my blog for updates.
In the long term I hope to oversee an archive of stories from unheard voices. Stories that you would never have heard otherwise. Personal experiences and stories that will enrich your own life once you've heard them. I know that sentence sounds grandiloquent, but believe me once you've heard the stories you'll agree.

If you have any enquires about this project please feel free to contact me!




Thursday, May 29, 2014



Jami Attenberg is the author of four books of fiction, including The Middlesteins. Her next book, Saint Mazie, is forthcoming in 2015.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Learn the Braille Alphabet at Trade School Dublin

*******Trade School Dublin June 7th session cancelled :( Its likely my class will go ahead at a later date so keep an eye on the website for another date *******

I'll be giving a crash course in the Braille alphabet at Trade School Dublin at 11.30 am Saturday June 7th. You can sign up here. Its a really cool project on Dominick Street, an area of Dublin that's changing from the grass roots upwards. I think this part of town is one to watch.

So what exactly is Trade School?
"Trade School Dublin is an alternative learning community that runs on barter. Trade School helps people share skills, ideas, experiences and resources ... Trade School celebrates hands on knowledge and experience. It is a place to learn with other people who value practical wisdom, mutual aid, and the social nature of exchange.
Trade School is not about promoting brands, projects or companies - people offer to teach something they are skilled at or passionate about that they want to share with others. Classes can be on anything from computer skills, baking bread, philosophy, bicycle repair, brick casting, growing food, how to play the blues or circus skills.
Students and teachers gather in a space that is made available by Trade School organisers. Students give barter items to the teacher, and class begins.
Barter does not mean haggling or bargaining. It simply means the social exchange that takes place when you offer someone an object, some advice, or a new skill in exchange for their knowledge."

What will the class be about?
Once you start looking for it, Braille is everywhere. A fundamental part of the city for people who are blind and vision impaired. Are you curious about the bumps on the stop button on the bus? What about in the lift in your building? Then this is the class for you. Learn the Braille alphabet and discover a side of the unseen city.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lacuna [2] at Taylor Galleries

Lacuna [2] runs at the Taylor Galleries, 16 Kildare Street, D2 from the 9th-31st May. It features the work of Neil Carroll, Cora Cummins, Sarah Jane Finnegan, Gillian Lawler, Shane Murphy, Sonny Ortolano.
Through a strange mini series of events, involving work related cassette tapes advertised on free-cycle and cassette boxes, a sample piece of Braille that I had produced made its way into the hands of the artist Shane Murphy. He was intrigued, as most people are when they first come across it. Subsequently I produced the Braille for a pamphlet that he displayed at an exhibition at The Library Project in Temple Bar. Apparently it went down a treat. That's not a part of the Lacuna exhibition but some of his other pieces are.
They are captivating. Ethereally dominating the room in a most unexpected way. Delicate but strong at your feet, tying in corners, lines and intersections. At once a-side and an integral part of the space.

Or just as you step inside a room. Dominating with its fragility. All eyes cast downwards.

Hanging in the high corner, then, like a cobweb. Its structure independent but completely dependent on the walls that hold it. Its scaffolding. You just never know what you're going to see when you look skywards.

And finally this, not because it was a part of the exhibition but because it captured me. The contradiction of a covered window. For me the window is one of the most important features in an exhibition. I find myself spending as much time looking at what is on the walls as I do looking through them gazing out to the messy art of life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Chocolate (what else?!) and Hazelnut Easter Cake

I'll create any excuse to make a cake really - but its nice to push the culinary boat out every once in a while. This is really delicious it also happens to be gluten free. Take care when folding in all of the 'air added' ingredients and you'll end up with a really light cake. Topping it with chocolate turns this cake into a delicious giant gianduja experience.
I took this recipe from Bake by Rachel Allen, making a few tweaks of my own. I used a 7 1/2 inch loose bottom tin, greased and lined with parchment paper.

200g (skin on) hazelnuts
1 tsp GF baking powder
100g softened butter
2 tbsp cocoa powder
5 eggs separated into two bowls
150g castor sugar
pinch of salt

1- Preheat fan oven to 160C.
2- Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor. I ground them as fine as my machine would allow me catching it just before it started to turn into hazelnut butter! Tip into a bowl and stir through the baking powder and cocoa powder before creaming in the butter.
3- With a hand held mixer whip the egg yolks and sugar until it becomes thick and mousse-y and the mixer leaves a trail. Carefully fold this into the hazelnut mixture.
4- Add the pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk to stiff peak stage. Carefully fold this into the nut mixture in three stages.
5- Pour into the tin, giving it a few taps to even the surface. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
6- Allow it to cool on cooling rack for about 20 minutes before removing from the tin. Then allow it to cool completely before adding the icing.

Ganache ingredients
100g 85% chocolate, broken into pieces
100ml cream
knob of butter
squeeze of honey (about 1/2 tbsp)

1- Heat the cream in a stainless steel pot over a gentle heat. Remove from heat just before it reaches boiling point.
2- Add the chocolate, butter and honey and allow to sit. The heat of the cream will melt the chocolate.
3- After 5-10 minutes stir everything together and allow to cool slightly before generously smearing the cake with the icing and licking the spoon clean.

Friday, April 11, 2014

On leaving a place behind

A very good friend is leaving behind her life in London and returning to the Pacific seaboard; her (other) hometown of San Francisco. To say I'm going to miss her is an understatement. We've known each other for nearly a decade. Many decades will follow I'm sure, but this move is the end of an era. The end of one thing is only the beginning of another. And leaving a place behind is simply leaving a place behind - everything else travels with you.

Lara wrote a beautiful piece on her blog about leaving one home for another.

leaving home

it finally hit me.  today.  after weeks of only half believing it.  i’m leaving london.
my room’s bare. outside albion drive is bathed in sunshine and spring flowers, all this newness, all this change.
the aussie from the shipping company picked up my six ‘destination: sfo-usa’ boxes this morning, efficient, skilled, oblivious to me walking behind the boxes to the van, as if behind a funeral hearse, a procession.
my belongings are in transit, they’re in between here and there, a little like my head these past weeks piecing together a new life in california, while feeling more rooted than ever in my life and friends and favourite places in london.  a slow dissolving of commitments, of the responsibilities and possessions that hold me here.  and now with majority of my stuff gone and my room with its small piles of clothes and toiletries and whatnots, another string is cut.  in five days i’ll leave this home and this country.
the boxes, the size is called tea carton, are in a truck now racing towards a warehouse near the airport to be weighed, to be measured, to be inspected. inside my collections of green woods 1950s teacups and the jam jars and borough wine reusable bottles, samira’s ceramic bowl, my down duvet, my trinkets and postcards and posters and blankets and dishes and cutlery and books and books and books.  my years here, nearly ten, packed hurriedly and ferried away.
what to keep, what to bring to charity shops.  these decisions over the past weeks have surprised me, how sentimental i am over stuff, some of it found on sidewalks, bought for fifty pence at jumble sales, some of it gifted, most of it bought, as if in all this stuff, there will be an understanding of my time here that i can take with me, that will remind me of who and where i have been in this future life, tentative, unformed, of my london, edinburgh and st andrews stories, the choices i’ve made, the experiences i’ve had, the friends, and walks and quiet moments shared. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Doolin Short Story Competition Shortlist 2014

Am absolutely delighted to be on the short list for the Doolin Short Story Competition 2014.  The winners will be announced Friday 28th at the opening night of the festival.

Shane Hulgraine Kept
Kate Ennals The Waltz on the Apron
Eivor Bekkhus The Storm of our Time
Noel King The Twin
Patrick McCusker The Quarry Gang Kids
Patrick McCusker It Was in My Heart to Help a Little
Niamh MacAlister The Starting Line
Claire Sadlier The Crow
Anne Crosse Make Me Beautiful
Clare O'Reilly Hey Presto
Martin Swords Phoebe. Like an Angel
Michael J Farrell Zeldovich's Pancake
Dawn Lowe Plumbing the Depths
Sean Farrell Lucky Day
Carol Ni Thoibin Fresh Air
Kathleen Murray Down by the Riverside
John Shannon Le Pont de l'Acheveche
James Martyn Joyce Fat Acrobat
William Brady South Street: Voyage & Return
Lia Mills A Perfect Heart
Pauline Clooney Shhhhh
M G Stephens Hinde Street
Robert Murtagh Motherly Love
susanne Stich Thailand
Anne-Marie coen Long Shadows
Lisa Harding Clean
Tony Flynn Viral
Susie G Murphy Millie
Tony Hardaker The Grand Hotel
Paul Griffin Sisyphus and the Septic Tank

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Una Spain

St. Brigid's from Úna Spain on Vimeo.

Una Spain's haunting photographic study of  St. Brigid’s psychiatric hospital, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway as part of her "Marking Time" project. "Space, time and memory are addressed in the project Marking Time. Documenting three specific sites, an archive of images has been generated to convey the impact of the disappearance of three highly prominent institutions in Ballinasloe, County Galway. The empty Mercy Convent, closed wards in St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital and the remnants of the A.T. Cross pen factory all lie in a liminal state, awaiting new function. Collectively, they reference the intertwined influences of church, state and economy. This work pinpoints these sites as indicators of a rapidly changing local landscape which can be linked to real people and lived experience through modes of portraiture."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Snizzly Snouts

Snizzly Snouts; Fabulous new tactile book brings a whole new experience to young blind, vision impaired and sighted readers. Take a look at it in action!

NCBI was thrilled to host the launch of a fabulous new illustrated, tactile book called Snizzly Snouts, for children of all ages, at the ChesterBeatty Library, Dublin Castle on Friday February 7th 2014.

The book, which is the English language translation of the original Dutch Rare Snuiters (Weird Guys) by writer Jan Dewitte and artist Freya Vlerick, is accompanied by two CDs which contain the GPS commentary giving a full directional description and a complete guide to the book’s content.

Elaine Howley CEO, NCBI Services, who welcomed the invited audience to the Chester Beatty Library for the launch of the book said, “It is a real privilege for NCBI to be part of this wonderful project. For me, this book is unique, it’s a work of art and I would like to congratulate all those involved in its production”. Elaine spoke of the services of NCBI, particularly its support for blind and vision impaired children and their families and NCBI’s advocacy of their rights to fully participate in society.

“Children with impaired vision should have as much access to reading material, and learning through reading, as all other children. NCBI fosters this, particularly through our involvement in the EVEIL Project — working with children and parents in Ireland and with partners across five other EC countries, looking at how children with impaired vision can access the information that is usually available through books — and particularly with pictures in books — that people have difficulties accessing. Now while there are some tactile books which we have seen, being produced around Europe, none of them are anything like Snizzly Snouts.”

The book is aimed at blind and vision impaired and sighted readers. Its wonderful tactile illustrations and verse in ink print and in Braille are bought to life by the unique GPS descriptions which guide the reader through the book. The original Dutch version Rare Snuiters was produced by NCBI’s partner Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde, a similar organisation serving blind and vision impaired people in the Flemish part of Belgium. Rare Snuiters was four years in the making and sold out in its first three print runs.

But it was not an easy passage to completion. Writer Jan Dewitte told NCBI News, “I am a poet and a writer for children and I also work for Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde. As part of my job I run a documentation service where students often come seeking information. One of these students was Freya Vlerick who was then an art student at the Academy of Antwerp. She had the idea to make a book which could be read and seen by sight for a week through illness and, remembering that experience, she always had it in her mind to produce such a book. She told me about her project and also said she was looking for a writer. We just seemed to click and that same day we started the project.

“It was a collaborative process, I wrote some poems in Flemish and she made some illustrative drawings of the poems and we considered and argued about their effectiveness, working through many changes until we had the prototype complete. The prototype which Freya made was not suitable for reproduction but in fact that was an advantage because all the obstacles forced us to be inventive, to think about new things. One of these was the GPS for the fingers which we invented — a system which make it possible for blind and sighted children to interpret tactile print, which is not very easy if you don’t have experience of it”.

“And it was here that playwright and poet, MartinBurke — and Irishman living in Belgium — was invaluable with the translation of the GPS. Jan and Freya also consulted field experts, Kristien De man and Peter Vanhoutte. Kristien who is blind, advised on the design of the relief and the GPS; and Peter who is deaf and blind (Peter has since given dozens of Snizzly Snouts workshops with plenty of humour). The project progressed, but it was very difficult to get it into print because it is very expensive to print relief and while commercial publishers loved our idea, they did not think the profit margins justified them taking it on”.

Eventually they found a Belgium publisher who agreed to host the project so that they could get it into the regular book circuit and Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde funded the project, with additional support from private and governmental institutions. A specialised printing company in Cracow, Poland undertook the embossed printing. Rare Snuiters has gone into it fourth printing, with well over 2,000 copies purchased by readers in Flanders and the Netherlands. It has received two international awards: The White Raven Special Mention 2012 from The International Youth Library; It has also been selected for the travelling exhibition: OutstandingBooks for Young People with Disabilities. This recognition of the value of the book encouraged Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde to provide editions in other languages, and so the NCBI partnership and the English language translation arose.

Jan consulted Marcus Cumberlege an English writer and poet who has lived in Belgium for almost 40 years to consider the translation. Marcus was honoured to take it on. Marcus told NCBI News: “My father, Michael Cumberledge, a poet in the 1930s wrote a lot of amusing verses about animals, very much in the style of Jan Dewitte’s own style:

Does the rabbit in its hutch

Suffer very very much;

Is it prone to mal at ease

Or only fleas

and Jan’s verses are humorous in that way, he is not humorous to the disadvantage of the animals, but brings out their lovability through his humour”. Being able to read fluently in Dutch, Marcus was the ideal translator and both he and Jan are very happy with the accuracy and sensitivity of the translation.

“I came across the title Snizzly Snouts partly because animals with snouts, like the tapir, the elephant and the pig are included” says Marcus.

“Snizzlys goes back to my days at school at Sherbourne in Dorset, England, when I was the editor of the school magazine and I edited an article called Snizzly Snouts by a boy of 13 from America, who wrote about a Snizzly Snout. That stuck in my mind and I borrowed that title from him, I can’t remember his name now”.

Writing and translating the actual poems came sporadically to Marcus, but over a period of two years he completed them to his entire satisfaction. The poems in the original Dutch are very fine poems and Jan has captured the imagined feelings of the animals very well — with an enormous amount of humour, the kind of humour that Marcus could easily latch onto. He is extremely happy with the translations and thinks that they are suitable to be read by children of all ages and for parents to enjoy as well.

“I am very pleased that the English edition is out and launched here in Dublin, I spent eight years of my life in Ireland, six years as a child on a farm in Cork, surrounded by animals of all sorts, and my Irish background is very strong, When I met my now second wife, we went to live in Connemara for two years, and we wanted to buy a cottage and stay there, but we ran out of money and had to go back to Belgium to work”.

It was Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde’s Chief Executive, Gerrit Vonck who asked Des Kenny and NCBI to consider a collaboration for the English language production, and so the partnership was born. Lina Kouzi, NCBI’s Library and Media Service manager and her team of Niamh MacAlister, and reader Karl Brown worked closely with their Flemish partners, and they have produced a fine English language edition. Niamh, who is a Braille Editor at the NCBI library worked very closely with Jan, Marcus and Martin Burke editing and helping with the translations and the audio script and proof-reading the Braille. “We worked very closely,” says Niamh, “ironing out the tricky bits, as we searched for just the right word or turn of phrase to bring the script to life for our English language readers”.

Snizzly Snouts can be bought in the Chester Beatty shop or ordered from the NCBI Shop in Drumcondra (01-8307033) and Kilkenny (056-7786816) or on-line at for €29.95 per copy — CD included).

There is no shipping charge. This price just covers the production cost. Snizzly Snouts is a non-commercial project. Our only aim is to promote the great value of an inclusive approach to learning and tactile experience.
(text taken from the NCBI News)
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