Review: Documenta 14

3 Sep

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by Rhea H. Boyden

I am sitting on my queen-sized bed in my beautiful room at the Best Western Hotel in the centre of Kassel, Germany. My travelling companion is sitting on her bed and we are both leafing through various books and magazines that review the huge array of work that is on display by the more than 160 artists who make up this year’s Documenta which is being held in both Kassel and Athens. The book I am currently perusing is ‘A Documenta Day Book’. It dedicates each day of the exhibit (which runs from April 8th to September 19th) to one of the 160 artists. I am curious, first and foremost, to see which artist is responsible for creating the 16 metre high obelisk that we had just spotted around the corner from our hotel in the centre of Königsplatz. The obelisk is inscribed on its four sides, in four different languages: German, English, Turkish and Arabic with a quote from The Book of Matthew: ‘I was a stranger and you took me in.’ The obelisk is the work of Nigerian-American artist and writer Olu Oguibe and the day that is dedicated to him in the Documenta day book is July 11th. I am overcome with emotion. July 11th is the day my mother died and here I am, less than 3 weeks later in the beginning of August at Documenta. I am here to try and find some solace and comfort in art. I am here with a good friend, the same friend who I attended Documenta 13 with 5 years ago. I somehow doubt that this Documenta, which has already received scathing reviews, will provide me with much comfort, but I will strive, nonetheless to find hope and joy where I can in the two days we have allowed to immerse ourselves in this exhibit, which is a tiny slice of time given the immensity of it.

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‘I was a stranger and you took me in’ by Olu Oguibe 

Documenta was founded in 1955 by the German architect, painter and curator Arnold Bode and takes place every 5 years. Its original intention was to showcase artwork in the aftermath of the second world war that had been banned by the Nazis. It has since become the most important contemporary political art show in the world and is a highly anticipated event drawing thousands. The home of Documenta is the industrial and provincial town of Kassel in the German state of Hesse which is a couple hours’ train ride north of Frankfurt. The city centre was destroyed by allied bombing raids in 1943 and was rebuilt quickly in the 1950’s and its architecture is grey, functional and austere. The surroundings of Kassel are beautiful, however, featuring the lush Karlsaue Park which runs along the River Fulda as well as the Baroque Orangerie that was built between 1703 and 1711.

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The Orangerie in Kassel where many Documenta pieces are exhibited

This year, however, the exhibit is contentiously and confusingly being located in both Kassel and Athens, Greece with most of the commissioned artists exhibiting their work in both cities over the course of the show. It is curated by polish-born art director Adam Szymczyk who has already been criticised by politicians and teased by art reviewers for his strange and unorthodox curatorial ideas. Art Net News writer Ben Davis writes the following in his review entitled ‘Straining for Wisdom, Documenta 14 implodes under the weight of European Guilt’:

‘It’s hard to put into words how perplexing the experience of Documenta in Kassel is’, writes Davis, ‘People who like their art to be entertaining are going to hate it, because it is a strikingly alienating show. This is deliberate. At the Kassel press launch Szymczyk was asked if he thought that art needs to ‘look good.’ His answer: ‘If you think of aesthetics as more akin to cosmetics, as a pretty thing, I suppose this can be useful sometimes, but we are more interested in the texture and the structure.’ Davis then writes: ‘A simple ‘NO’ would have sufficed.’ When I read this I laughed out loud, which felt great and gratifying because I have shed more tears of sorrow than I have laughed in the past weeks. I agree with Davis and I found Documenta perplexing and confusing and I found myself floundering for meaning as I meandered my way through a handful of the main exhibition spaces.

Back to the obelisk at Königsplatz: this statement ‘I was a stranger and you took me in’ is a politically loaded one and refers to the many refugees that Germany has taken in over the past few years. It is a statement and policy that Angela Merkel will also find hotly contested in upcoming elections. This obelisk, its statement and the artist who created it is one of the leading discussion points of Documenta and on a personal level I think of my mother who shares the death date of the artist’s allotted date in the book. I think of her life and how she also arrived in Germany in the autumn of 1990, a single mother with my three younger sisters in tow and was also taken in by new friends and strangers alike, I think of her Bohemian life in nineties East Berlin, and of how, after she was settled in Germany herself, she then opened her door generously to all walks of life and took them in. She was big hearted, passionate, engaged fully in the arts, founding an English language magazine in Berlin and taking the time to support her artist and musician friends in the exciting and uncertain early post Berlin Wall days.

When I attended Documenta 13 five years ago I was in a very bubbly, happy and enthusiastic mood. I had a lot of fun and was really inspired to write by what I saw, including the incredible installation by South African artist William Kentridge entitled ‘The Refusal of Time.’ It was a mesmerising exhibit that had me spellbound. I wandered through Documenta eagerly soaking up everything: the tough political themes that were then being discussed such as Occupy Wall Street as well as lighter artistic themes. This has made me think of myself as a reviewer and of how my own state of mind fully and completely affects how I am able to engage with art and how I am subsequently able to write about it. I am, at present grieving my mother’s recent death so I am finding it difficult to take on board all the really tough political, social and economic issues that Documenta grapples with.

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Documenta Halle in Kassel

Documenta 14 opened on April 8th in Athens one day after Greece and E.U. Finance ministers signed an agreement on new austerity measures. Bringing Documenta to Athens has been criticised by many Greeks as being a form of ‘crisis tourism’ and graffiti in the city has abounded with slogans such as ‘Crapumenta’ being spray painted on walls. The head curator’s decision to place Documenta in Athens was to form a North/South solidarity to bring the show away from the heart of industrial power in Europe to the place where the two themes of economic crisis and refugee crisis are felt the strongest. The title of the Kassel leg of this show is ‘Learning from Athens’ but what has been learned from Athens in Kassel? I had a long conversation with an Asian-American art historian who also attended the exhibit in Kassel and he says it has failed. Why? I asked him. ‘Because we are still in the midst of this economic and refugee crisis and there is no perspective yet. Germany is economically strong and can absorb refugees. Greece has reached saturation and exhaustion point. It is two completely different scenarios. We need perspective.’

I feel in my own life I have reached saturation and exhaustion point with my own grief and the confrontation, confusion and turmoil that has followed my mother’s death. I was looking for some escapism and comfort at Documenta. I was looking for colour, beauty, music, poetry, erotica and I found little of it there. The only real sensual comfort I found was in the hot bubble bath of my Best Western Hotel room and the delicious sun ripened tomatoes and fresh strawberries that I dined on in local restaurants. I know fully that I am privileged to be able to enjoy these delights. There are currently 65 million people wandering the world looking for a safe place to land. Syrian filmmaker Charif Kiwan stressed at a Documenta press conference: ‘With news of a chemical strike in Syria followed by Trump’s retaliatory airstrikes why should there be any place for beauty at Documenta with such indignity being imposed on victims?’ He has a point. And despite Documenta’s head curator claiming that enjoying Documenta should begin with a process of unlearning, it is poorly curated (despite its 37.5 million Euro budget) and extremely inaccessible to the under educated and poor with its emphasis on confusing and very challenging artworks, as well as glass vitrine upon glass vitrine of papers, letters and legal documents for you to peruse if you have the time and inclination. I had little interest in stopping to read long excerpts that were displayed under glass of the trial between one Jousset Ante Sara and the Norwegian ministry of food and agriculture. And even if I had been interested in standing there and really taking it all in I would have been in the way of the throngs of people who wanted to walk past me.

And I only went to Kassel which cost enough with the return flight from Dublin to Frankfurt, train to Kassel, two nights in a hotel, food, tickets and so forth. If you really wanted to enjoy all of Documenta you would also have to go to Athens. Doing all of this demands time, money, interest and education. So is this the whole point? For the few of us who are privileged enough to do all of this to be reminded by art that the world really is in a very bad state and that art is in a very confused state? A writer and artist friend of mine did go to Athens as well as Kassel and she said the Athens leg of the show was very inaccessible, spread out and very challenging to navigate.

And this is, of course, the main gripe that I and several other art reviewers have, that despite how bad the world is, one of art’s functions is to be a call to action and collaboration and if it leaves you feeling confused and lacking hope then where is the incentive to act in a positive manner to improve things?

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Daniel Knorr ‘Expiration Movement’

One particularly contentious art installation in Kassel was by Romanian artist Daniel Knorr entitled ‘Expiration Movement’. It features smoke emitting consistently from one of the towers of the Friedericianium which is one of the main Documenta museums on Friedrichsplatz. It has caused many calls to be made to the local fire department in Kassel which is costing taxpayers money. The installation itself is also costing a fortune to run. ‘What a waste,’ was my comment to my friend as I lacked any energy to look at any deeper symbolic or metaphorical meaning to it beyond the obvious that it could perhaps remind us in the West of what it might be like to live in a war zone and to wonder in confusion what bomb or explosion may have caused the fire. I was simply pointing out the wasted money and resources: firefighters, etc. ‘But perhaps that is the whole point,’ my friend offered, ‘That we are wasting resources and things are not really being done very efficiently in a time of flux and complicated bureaucracy for many.’ As we wandered through the Friedericanium there was also a loud bang behind us which made me and my friend jump. A bomb? A gun? No, it was just emitting from one of the artworks with no warning whatsoever. I am in too vulnerable a state emotionally to deal with this.

We moved onto the Documenta Halle at the other side of Friedrichsplatz which was built in 1992 to house the ever expanding Documenta. It was in here that I finally found a bit of solace and it was to be found in music. This suited me well as reviewing music has been my main focus the past year since I have been collaborating with PHEVER:TV-Radio in Dublin. Music as a tool to help humans escape suffering and to bring them together in harmony and collaboration was an idea that cheered me up after I once again became emotional after encountering an exhibit in the Documenta Halle that featured the music of Ali Farka Toure, a favourite musician of my mother’s.

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 Guillermo Galindo

In the main hall there was an exhibit by Mexican artist Guillermo Galindo which featured the remains of fibre glass and wooden boats which is clearly alluding to refugee boats. Attached to one of the boats were harpsichord and piano strings. Galindo is a composer who began working on a piece called ‘Border Cantos’ a collaborative project that took him along the the Mexican and U.S. border. He collected items discarded by refugees, migrants and border control agents and began constructing musical instruments out of them. He intended for these instruments to sound out into the world thus giving a voice and hope for the future to migrants.

Another exhibit in the Documenta Halle that finally lifted my spirits was a collection of paintings by Dutch visual artist, composer and painter Sedje Hemon who developed a method of putting her musical scores onto paintings. Various musical parameters such as pitch and timbre would be extracted based on the points along the lines and curves of the paintings. And while I lack the musical training and background to really understand how this works, I found it fascinating and hugely inspiring nonetheless. Hemon is a woman who knew suffering in her lifetime. She was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 for joining resistance groups. While interred in the concentration camp she played violin in the camp orchestra.

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Sedje Hemon – Flanquant en Bas

It has been nearly a month since I attended Documenta and it has been a month of emotional turmoil and unhappiness for me. I happily wrote a review of Documenta 13 five years ago but I didn’t think I was going to be able to write anything this time and my motivation levels have been down. I have been depressed, sad and not really captivated by what I saw and experienced there for the most part. So I have been listening to a lot of music and thinking too much, sleeping too much and not reading as much as I would have normally because I lack the energy and emotional stability at the moment. But here I am finally sitting down and writing and it feels good. I have a warm room, food, hot water, a comfortable bed, photos of my mother at my side. I have music and I have memories. And despite the bad and depressing reviews of Documenta that I have read, I want to remain hopeful and this is what I have learned from Documenta: that our stability is fragile. Emotional, economic and environmental stability is extremely fragile. I have also been reflecting on the fact that inspite of this fragility, I have many reasons to be grateful. I am not in the middle of a devastating flood in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Houston. I am in my warm and dry room. I am thinking a lot about the future and I, like many others am afraid. But hope, support and collaboration must come before fear. I know that my mother would want me to be fearless. She certainly led a life devoid of fear and was not afraid to take risks and travel the world. And as I continue to write and regain my energy to get back to my serious reading, I am keeping her spirit alive as I listen to her favourite music and through my tears reflect on the difficult and confusing lessons of Documenta which may take a long time to really sink in.

Featured image is one from the series Flanquant en Bas by Sedje Hemon.

 

 

Preview: Solas Festival in Aid of Pieta House

3 Aug

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by Rhea H. Boyden

Last week I was cycling over the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin city centre and I saw a huge yellow truck that had the following written on it in bold lettering: ‘The finish line of darkness into light is where the journey starts.’ It was advertising the very important work that is done by Pieta House in helping and counseling people who have been contemplating suicide or who have been directly affected by suicide in their circle of friends or families. I was not previously aware of the work they do, but yesterday as I was cycling home I saw a man crossing the street wearing a t-shirt the same shade of yellow as the truck that was also advertising the work of Pieta House. Now that I am aware of it I am reading and learning more about Pieta House, which only survives and continues to grow because of community support throughout Ireland. Between 85 and 90% of its income comes from fundraising efforts.

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I spoke with Pieta House Fundraising and events coordinator Brian McEvoy who said: ‘Our round-the-clock services are provided by fully accredited therapists. We work to bring people from a place where suicide and self harm seem like the only option to one of comfort and hope.’ Brian also told me that since 2006 over 30,000 people have availed of the services of Pieta House and that there are now 11 centres around Ireland which offer suicide intervention services and four centres offering bereavement services. Brian also said: ‘Our vision at Pieta House is to develop our services in response to the needs of our clients and to achieve our goal of a world without suicide.’

This ambitious goal is being aided by many wonderful groups and activists around Ireland and if you are a fan of the very spectactular range of electronic music that Ireland has to offer then you too can make a difference and help fund the work of Pieta House by attending Solas Electronic Music Festival which will be taking place on Saturday August 19th at a secret location outside Dublin. The event is being organised by PHEVER:TV-Radio and Mystik and will be a mini one-day festival showcasing some of Ireland’s top electronic music artists and acts with the popular Loco and Jam, who are Derry’s finest Techno export, headlining the festival. I spoke to some of the DJs and promoters who told me themselves that they are motivated to take part in such an important cause for charity because they too know the pain of having lost loved ones to suicide.

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The festival will run from 1pm to 11pm with special buses taking festival goers to and from the event from various locations around Dublin city. The tickets are very reasonably priced at 35 euros which also includes admission to an after party at 39/40 Aaron Quay.

The collectives that are coming together for this cause include Melodic, PHEVER, Bookclub, Vision Collector, Stereo, RAW, Culture Shock, Mystik and many more. There will be over 20 Irish acts including Full Funktion, Arte Artur, Moduse, Frankie Moorhouse, Dean Sherry and many more spread across two indoor areas and one outdoor stage showcasing the very best in house, disco, techno and dub step. The festival will also be the official launch of the Irish Electronic Music Awards 2017. This event is strictly over 18s and the full line up and more details can be found on both the Solas and PHEVER Facebook pages. Tickets can be purchased via eventbrite.ie

Solas site map by Frankie Moorhouse

Solas Festival graphics and flyers by Raymond O’Connor

Review: Flashback Fridays at Number Twenty-Two

9 Jul

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by Rhea H. Boyden

The entrance hallway of Dublin’s club Number Twenty-Two is adorned with quite an impressive collection of black and white photos which give you an insight into the history of the clubs which were on this same location over the past 50 years. Number Twenty-Two opened its doors last November, but in the past System Nightclub, McGonagle’s and The Crystal Ballroom were located on this same spot. The walls are hung with excellent prints of Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, The Virgin Prunes and Thin Lizzy, as well as photos of a very young looking Bono and Adam Clayton. All of these musicians performed or made their debut at the iconic McGonagle’s club in the 70s and 80s. I am sure many who came to McGonagle’s would get a rush of nostalgia when looking at these photos. And while I am not a Dublin native and was never at these clubs in my youth, it was a nostalgia for the classics of the 80s and 90s that had drawn me to attend Flashback which has now been running on Fridays for a little over a month at Number Twenty-Two.

Flashback is a sister gig to the recently premiered Glitterball club night on the same location. It is presented in association with the expanded PHEVER: DJ agency headed up by DJ/Producer Dean Sherry who is the weekend promoter and booker with Number Twenty-Two. Flashback Fridays showcases an excellent selection of expertly remixed and classic tunes from the 80s and 90s presented by a team of talented Djs. I was not disappointed as I walked down into the club and heard DJ Tom playing the music I had danced to in the late eighties and early nineties, including hits from Dire Straits, Gloria Estefan, Madonna, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Micheal Jackson, Simply Red and The Pretenders. The music is accompanied by an excellent visual and lightshow created by Christian Boshell of bakroom visuals.

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DJ Tom

One of the reasons I was also very much drawn to the Flashback event is because it is also attempting, alongside the faster-paced dance music, to bring back the slow dance set which was a feature of many Irish night clubs and discos in the late 80s and early 90s. When I was 17 and 18 I lived in Bantry, West Cork where my friends and I would go to our local club Amadeus. The slow set was a highly-anticipated part of the evening giving you a chance to dance intimately with someone you liked. I spoke to DJ Tom and he told me he had also DJ’d at Amadeus back in 2001. On the night I was at Flashback he also played Falco’s hit ‘Amadeus’ which made me smile from ear to ear and brought memories flooding back to me. Naturally this was a song that was played frequently in our West Cork club of the same name. I was curious to know what my friends thought of a slow set revival and what their favourite slow set songs were from our teenage years and so I turned to Facebook for feedback. The response was overwhelming. My friends posted all their favourite classic songs from both the slow and faster-paced sets and also posted many comments with their memories of our exciting teenage years. My friend Flora Wieler from school in Bantry said: ‘I cringe and blush when I think about it, but I loved the slow set – my favourite songs were ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ by George Michael and ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Whitney Houston. Another good school friend of mine, Hannah Dare, added: ‘I remember the anticipation and the fear of the slow set. Girls on one side and boys on the other. Who would cross the divide?’ Hannah also told me that the opening bars of ‘Take my Breath Away’ by Berlin still gives her the shivers. Other favourite tracks were ‘Crazy for You’ by Madonna, ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael and ‘It Must Have Been Love’ by Roxette. These were the same three songs that DJ Tom played for his slow set two weeks ago.

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DJ Gavin Duffy 

PHEVER:TV-Radio DJ Gavin Duffy is another DJ who is featured at Flashback and last Friday he played hits such as ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler and ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ by Lionel Richie. I asked Gavin about the slow set and he said: ‘People are a little shy and slow to embrace it but there is definitely interest and potential.’ I also asked some of the ladies at the club what they thought of the slow set. ‘I LOVE a slow set and I am married. I really hope it picks up,’ one woman told me. I also spoke to singles in their early forties who are very eager for a slow set revival. So far I have just been observing and taking notes but I also intend to go back to Flashback and have hopes of dancing a slow set with someone special. It seems that both singles and couples are eager to embrace a revival especially in an age awash with online dating and social media interactions. But while we await the slow set with the same nervous anticipation of our youth we can continue dancing to the large and superb selection of faster-paced classic hits that are delivered weekly by talented Djs in the lavish and inviting setting that is club Number Twenty-Two.

Number Twenty-Two is at South Anne Street in Dublin city centre – Just off Grafton Street.

Flashback opens at 11pm and admission is free before midnight – Smart dress, over 25s

Flashback Graphic logo by Christian Boshell

Photo of DJ Gavin Duffy by Mark Walsh

Book Review: ‘Dark Chapter’ by Winnie M Li

5 Jun

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by Rhea H. Boyden

A little over a year and a half ago I was in London to attend my good friend Erin Reilly’s birthday party and go to a few art exhibits. Erin has a wide and diverse circle of friends and she had invited a lot of fascinating Londoners to this party. I was a little overwhelmed, however, and not feeling the most sociable that night and so after awhile I told Erin that I needed to go home and rest. ‘But wait’, Erin said, ‘Before you leave I really want you to meet Winnie. She is an incredible writer and as a writer yourself, you really need to connect with her’, she told me. ‘Okay’, I said, and I was ushered over to where Winnie was standing, a brief introduction was made and we exchanged social media contacts.

Now, a year and a half later, I wish I had been in a more sociable mood that night and had stayed longer to speak to the incredible and inspiring Winnie M Li because I am now extremely interested in her story. Thanks to social media, however, I have been able to connect with and follow Winnie and her story is an intriguing one. She has just published a brilliant debut novel ‘Dark Chapter’ which is a work of autobiographical fiction that was inspired by a horribly traumatic event that she lived through: being assaulted and raped in a Belfast park when she was there on a business trip in April 2008.

Winnie Li, a Harvard graduate based in London, was enjoying a very successful film producing career when she was invited to Belfast to attend the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Good Friday agreement. ‘We were invited to take part in a symposium with various politicians. It was quite prestigious,’ she said. One of Winnie’s passions is hill-walking and hiking and she has travelled to many interesting and remote places to pursue this passion including hiking in Germany and helping to author guidebooks such as the ‘Let’s Go’ guidebook series. After the Belfast symposium she had intended to go for an 11 mile hike through Colin Glen Forest Park in West Belfast when she was followed and subsequently violently attacked and raped in the woods by 15-year-old Edward Connors. After the attack she walked out of the woods and called the police and then came the police statement, the forensic exam and the horrible realisation that she is now a rape victim. There is a section in her novel where her protagonist Vivian realises this in the full sense of time and tense: ‘I am now a rape victim. Was raped. Have been raped. Am raped. A nighmarish conjugation through all the many tenses, without knowing where this verb will take her. What happens in future tense? I will be raped…. I shall be raped.’

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Winnie M Li

And why try and turn your traumatic real world, life-shattering experience of rape into a piece of fiction? And how difficult is this a task to undertake? Vivian, the novel’s protagonist is very much a representation of Winnie herself and her own lived experience and yet, this is a piece of fiction, and a very convincing and brilliantly researched piece of fiction too. Winnie has said that she read a lot of very helpful and interesting rape memoirs following her own assault but that she wanted to attempt something more ambitious; to also tell the story from the point of view of the perpetrator to try and gain a deeper understanding of what led him to commit such a violent act at such a young age.

‘Dark Chapter’ expertly describes the experience of both the perpetrator and the victim in alternating sections told in both of their voices. It recounts their role models, education (or complete lack thereof) and sexual experiences to date leading to the point where the two meet in the park in this violent encounter. It then goes on in their separate voices, to explain how they both deal with the aftermath of the ordeal. Johnny, the perpetrator, still high on drugs and alcohol from the night before goes back to the caravan he lives in with his Irish traveller family, or at least some of them. His parents are split up, with half his siblings living with his mother and he with his alcoholic and abusive father and older brother who are rarely, if ever, around to look after him. His shot at having a good life is pretty slim from the outset and for this you pity him. Vivian, on the other hand, flies back to London the next day to attend the red carpet premiere at Leicester Square of a film she has just finished producing. This part of the story is pure autobiography- Winnie herself, did in real life fly back to London the day after the attack, adorn her beautiful gown, cover her bruises with concealer to attend the premiere of ‘Flashbacks of a Fool’ starring Daniel Craig, which she helped produce. Another film she had previously produced ‘Cashback’ had been nominated for an Oscar.

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When Winnie returned to London, she told her closest friends about the attack and she got a lot of support and was believed. This was such a horrific ‘stranger rape’ attack that no one could discredit her story. It was covered widely in the media and she waited months for the trial in Belfast, at which point her attacker, Connors pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Winnie got justice without having to testify, which helped in her healing process. Nonetheless, she still had deep depression, agoraphobia and post traumatic stress disorder, staying in her room and avoiding social contact. I think back to the night I met Winnie in London. I was not in an especially good mood and was not feeling particularly sociable that night. But I stayed and met Winnie and I am glad that I did. I cannot even begin to imagine the agoraphobia and social anxiety that Winnie has dealt with in the past years and it is hugely inspiring to see her turn her trauma into art, social action and literature in an attempt to raise more awareness around the topics of rape and sexual assault.

Winnie’s film career was effectively shattered by the trauma and depression that she experienced after her ordeal, rendering her unable to work for 2 years. She eventually got some work at the Doha Film Institute in Qatar where she served as program manager for the 2nd and 3rd editions of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. She also slowly began to take hikes again and get out on her own in nature, though still traumatised and wary of strange men. She eventually asked herself the following question about her rape and assault: ‘How can I deal with this in a professional way that can have some kind of public impact?’ She has answered and is continuing to answer this question every day. ‘Dark Chapter’ is excellent and is a must read in order to keep an open dialogue about rape culture and also to honour all the victims who have not seen justice in court or who have felt shamed into silence. By taking on representing the role of the perpetrator and giving him a voice we see how an understanding of sexual consent is not at all to be taken for granted, but it is something that has to be learned. The novel describes Johnny’s influences who are his older brother and friends in the Irish Traveller community who effectively teach him that violently forcing women to have sex with you is okay, watching pornography is okay. Her command of the vernacular and the Irish colloquialisms is spot on and perfectly captured in her novel. In the acknowledgements at the end of her novel Winnie also states: ‘Resources and staff at An Munia Tober, Pavee Point and the Traveller Movement helped illuminate the challenges and uniqueness of Irish Traveller culture. To this day, Traveller society remains misunderstood and misrepresented and I do not intend for my novel (inspired as it is by my own lived experience) to portray an entire community nor to malign it.’ Her fiction novel shows the case going to trial and it is gripping and anger-inducing to read it. The lies of the perpetrator, his denial that he has done anything wrong, him saying how she wanted sex and was asking for it. Her character Vivian just standing in the courtroom crying and trying to control her rage as her rapist gives his awful and untrue statement. One section of the trial expresses just how violating the whole ordeal is to her: ‘How many more times does she need to be flayed alive in this process? Every single step of seeking justice involves exposing herself more and more. Until there is nothing left of her. And yet everyone watches on, wanting to see how she will react.’

Winnie was very relieved that she herself did not have to go through the ordeal of the trial and that her perpetrator pleaded guilty. But she also pointed out in an interview with the BBC that only 6% of reported rapes in England and Wales lead to a conviction and it is very damaging for a victim to be disbelieved, discredited, shamed and to not be given any social justice. And so Winnie continues her work of making rape an acceptable topic to discuss openly and she has gone very public with her own story completing television, radio, newspaper and magazine articles and interviews internationally to try and increase the dialogue between men and women about sexual violence and rape. She is also a co-founder of Clear Lines Festival in London, which explores issues around sexual assault and consent through the arts, discussion and debate.

Winnie and dog

Winnie has accomplished so much and her experience of how she has dealt with her rape should be an inspiration to women and men everywhere. I have been speaking to my friend Erin more about her and we are both in awe of Winnie’s work. Erin said ‘She is a powerhouse of both intellect and courage.’ That she most certainly is. It is impossible for me to list all the incredible things that Winnie has accomplished in her life to date but since 2015 she is also a Ph.D researcher in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. She is researching the impact of social media on the public discourse about rape and sexual assault on an Economic and Social Research Council grant.

She also blogs for the Huffington Post and wrote a significant article about Brock Turner, the Stanford University perpetrator who was only sentenced to 6 months in jail last year after asssaulting and raping a 23-year-old female student. Judge Aaron Perskey defended him by saying that a harsher sentence would have a ‘severe’ impact on him. His own father also defended him by saying that his son’s life should not be ruined by ’20 minutes of action’. This sparked outrage on social media and the victim’s harrowing 12-page statement to Turner went viral and was widely read and shared. Winnie has taken a huge interest in this case because social media is allowing the victim to have a voice against this insanity. In the aftermath of her own rape many friends and aquaintances admitted to her that they, or an aunt, cousin, sister or someone they knew had also been sexually assaulted. Rape is shockingly pravalent in our society, but sadly, many, many victims remain silent. Winnie is certainly on a mission to change this with her own novel, activism, articles and festival work, opening a dialogue and keeping it open on a tough topic that our society still has trouble dealing with and speaking about. ‘Dark Chapter’ is a must read and Winnie’s story as a whole, one to be followed.

Photos courtesy of Winnie M Li

Author photo of Winnie M Li by Grace Gelder

‘Dark Chapter’ is published by Legend Press, London and can be ordered online. You can also support Winnie in her cause by asking your local bookstore to stock this brilliant and important novel.

Review: Opening Night of Glitterball – Dublin

11 May

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By Rhea H. Boyden

I walk down Dublin’s South Anne Street frequently but I had not noticed the beautiful blue door at Number 22 until I found myself standing in front of it last Saturday night wearing a sparkly blue dress that was just about the same shade of blue as the door. I was excited to see what lay behind this portal and so I entered and walked downstairs into the stunning new club named simply after its address: ‘Number Twenty-Two’ which opened last November. The event I was there to attend on Saturday was the opening night of DJ/Producer Dean Sherry‘s  glamorous new event: Glitterball – Saturday Nite Phever. The opening night was spectacular and most certainly did not disappoint. Dean opened his set at the stroke of midnight with the fantastic Nile Rogers/Bernard Edwards Remix of ‘Lost in Music’ by Sister Sledge which really was the perfect track to commence a new Saturday night residency that he will hold weekly in this beautiful and stylishly refurbished building. ‘Glitterball’s focus will be on promoting Irish musical talent with small group rotations and occasional international guest DJs,’ he told me.

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DJ/Producer Dean Sherry 

The ‘Number Twenty-Two’ venue is decorated with well-restored antiques, plush curtains, stained glass and large gold -framed mirrors. It hosts dinner shows in a 1920’s New York theme, as well as traditional music, folk gigs and jazz with Sherry’s weekly Glitterball event adding classic house, soul, funk and New York disco to the repertoire. I really did feel like I was in a New York club as I sat in the large leather booths on the balcony overlooking the dancefloor, stage and dining tables below.

When Dean Sherry finished playing ‘Lost in Music’ he launched straight into ‘Benediction’ by Hot Natured – a song I love. I sang along to the line: ‘I feel like my love has found a home,’ and as I did I was also struck with the thought that sexy, civilised and quality late-night clubbing has also found a new home in Dublin and this is something to get very excited about. The music was accompanied by top-class visuals and graphics provided by Brian Byrne and Christian Boshell.

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Niall Redmond 

Dean was joined on opening night by the hugely talented DJs Jay Carpenter aka Muska who opened with the track ‘Club Soda’ by Thomas Bangalter and Niall Redmond who played ‘Clouds’ by Chaka Chan which went down a storm. As I observed Niall in action it occured to me that Djing really is a physical activity. I could see the passion and music flowing through this extremely talented man and it is quite remarkable to observe. But then Dean Sherry himself is a huge talent who surrounds himself with a pool of talented DJs. He is an award-winning DJ and owner of PHEVER:TV-Radio which he set up in 2014. He has held residencies in almost every leading dance club in Ireland over the past 2 decades as well as touring extensively and internationally with his successful PHUNK’DUP Soundsystem. He also held a residency in the late 90’s in a hugely popular underground club called The System which was in the same location as the freshly refurbished club on South Anne Street. Dean is now returning to the same spot to DJ nearly 20 years later with his new sparkly and sexy Glitterball club night.

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Jay Carpenter aka Muska

I have learned a lot more about the history of the location in the past week, and 22 South Anne Street, being in the heart of Dublin city centre, has a colourful musical history. In the 1950’s it was home to The Crystal Ballroom which was where many young people went dancing to jazz/swing orchestra bands. This week I was introduced to Dublin songwriter/musician Andy Jack who told me a little more about his personal family connection to The Crystal Ballroom. ‘My uncle Henry Jack who is now 82 years old was resident crooner there in the 1950s and would sing only the most lavish of songs with the in- house jazz/swing orchestra. He had a voice that could sing classically as well as big swing-jazz numbers of the time. He was often compared to the Hollywood legendary singer Mario Lanza and he would perform songs by the likes of Dean Martin and Elvis Presley as well as many of his own songs, ‘ he told me. Henry Jack went on to have a very successful singing career in New York.

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Henry Jack – Resident Crooner at The Crystal Ballroom in the 1950s

The Crystal Ballroom has also been immortalised in a U2 song of the same name. Bono’s parents used to go dancing there in the 1950’s too. And on the same location as the Crystal Ballroom another club sprang up in the 70’s, – the iconic McGonagle’s which featured a mix of indie bands, acid house and pop dance. U2 played there and many Irish bands made their debut there in the late 1970’s and throughout the 80’s. I spoke with DJ Aoife Nic Canna and her close friend Ailbhe Ni Mhaoilearca who both told me that they have fond memories of seeing New Model Army in McGonagle’s in 1988 when they were young teenagers. ‘The gigs on Saturday afternoons were free which made it all the more appealing when we teens had very little money,’ Ailbhe told me. The venue hosted such bands as Thin Lizzy and The Virgin Prunes.

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It has been fascinating and intriguing for me to talk to so many different people this week about the history of this location that I knew absolutely nothing about before. I have lived in Dublin for a little under 3 years and there is still so much musical history for me to uncover. I very much look forward to attending more of Dean Sherry’s Glitterball club nights in the near future especially now that I learn that this is the fourth music club to be located on this very spot since the 1950’s. Dean has a lot of exciting plans for his Glitterball residency. He told me Niall Redmond will be spinning on stage with him frequently and that they both have a special guest lined up who they will soon reveal. I can’t wait for the second night of Glitterball this Saturday May 13th when Dean will invite DJ’s Speedi D (Purty Loft) and Frankie Moorhouse to join him in working their musical magic on the decks.

Glitterball Dublin is delivered in association with PHEVER.ie featuring exclusive resident DJ Dean Sherry plus weekly guests. For VIP guestlist applications please PM to Glitterball Facebook page and leave name and email address. The club also offers supper club deals from earlier in the evening. Glitterball kicks off at midnight. Doors: 11pm. No. 22 South Anne Street (off Grafton Street) Dress to impress. The event is strictly over 25s.

Photo of Henry Jack courtesy of Andy Jack.

Silver Glitterball image from Wikimedia Commons

Review: Debut Panel at Cuirt International Literature Festival, Galway

6 May

Cuirt

by Rhea H. Boyden

Last Thursday morning I took the train from Heuston Station, Dublin to Galway. As we rumbled across the flat midlands past yellow flowering gorse and dark peat bogs, I felt sorry for the many new-born lambs who must wonder, indeed, what they have been born into as they gaze at the towering grey clouds and bear the unseasonally cold weather. I was wearing my finest winter coat as I sat on the train. ‘It’s nearly the first day of May, do I really need to bring my winter coat on this trip?’ I asked myself as I packed. Yes, I do.

The cold weather did not dampen my mood, however, as I was very excited to be heading to the Cuirt International Literature Festival which is only one of many festivals Galway hosts. This beautiful town in the west of Ireland is truly a hub of arts and culture. Cuirt (which is the Irish word for Court) runs for a week every April and has been held every year since 1985. It was founded as a poetry festival but has since expanded to include events showcasing many forms of literature.

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Several months ago I was invited to moderate a Debut panel at the festival and I immediately said yes to such a wonderful opportunity even though I had never taken on such a job before. I love a new challenge, however, and so I threw myself wholeheartedly into preparing for it. The panel was to include four writers who have just published their first novels and one writer of short stories who has recently had her first collection published. I received all the books by post from the festival organisers and I read them all with great interest in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Roisin O’Donnell was one of these writers and she has recently published a powerful collection of short stories entitled ‘Wild Quiet’ which deals primarily with multiculturalism in modern Ireland. As I sat on the train heading towards Galway I thought of her story ‘How to Learn Irish in 17 Steps’ which deals hilariously and tragically with the difficulties encountered by a Brazilian primary school teacher living in Ireland as she attempts to learn Irish. The character in the story also takes the train from Dublin to Galway and to the Gaeltacht to learn Irish. Before taking this drastic measure, however, she has attempted to learn it at an Irish school in Dublin: Step four in her story commands: ‘Enrol in Irish for beginners at the Scoil Ghaeilge on Dame Street. Classes should begin on an October evening sweet with the fragrance of rotting leaves. Most of your classmates will be Irish retirees in search of a new hobby. If they gawk at you and ask you why the feck a Brazilian girl like you is learning Gaelic, explain that you are a primary teacher with a master’s in education from Sao Paulo University, you moved here to Ireland because you fell in love with an Irish man, and that you must learn Irish in order to teach at primary level. Notice your classmates eyes glazing over (at this point you should probably stop speaking). Learn your first phrase in Irish, and enjoy the Gaelic words undulating on your tongue. Ta tuirse orm: the tiredness is on me.’ It was this section from this story that Roisin chose to read during our panel discusssion and it was very fitting and well received.

Roisin

Roisin O’Donnell was born in Sheffield with family roots in Derry. Her stories have been anthologised in The Long Gaze Back, Young Irelanders and The Glass Shore. She has been shortlisted for several international prizes such as the Cuirt New Writers Prize, The Pushcart Prize, The Forward Prize and the Brighton Prize. ‘Wild Quiet’ has been shortlisted for the Katie O’Brien award and longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.

Our panel discussion took place in the lovely Galway Town Hall Theatre at 3pm on Friday April 28th and after I had introduced Roisin and she had read I moved onto introducing the four lovely debut novelists on our panel. The first to read from her freshly published novel ‘Harvesting’ was Lisa Harding who has written a shocking but stunningly brilliant novel that was inspired by her involvement with a campaign against sex trafficking run by the Children’s Rights Alliance. I had no idea before I spoke to Lisa and read her novel that Ireland is a destination for sex traffickers and sex tourism. The novel’s main characters are Nico, a sensitive, innocent, animal-loving 13-year-old from Moldova who gets sold by her family and trafficked to Ireland where she ends up in a brothel, and Sammy, a 15-year-old girl from a wealthy, but damaged home in South Dublin. Sammy escapes her abusive and alcoholic mother (and her father who is rarely home) by running away from home. She is smart and sassy and somehow views the brothel as a joke and a sick challenge until she gets pulled into all its horror. She and Nico meet in the Dublin brothel and form a bond to help them deal with the trauma their young bodies, minds and hearts are dealing with as they are essentially held captive as sex slaves. Lisa Harding has very bravely taken on a tough topic, and one we must face and contend with. It was estimated in 2012 that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and with the migrant crisis this number is only increasing. According to Europol, 10,000 child migrants disappeared in 2015. It is, of course, impossible to really know how many young girls are forced into sex work and exploited in this way due to the extremely secretive nature of this crime.

Harding’s novel has beautiful prose and language and I found it especially compelling to read how she has turned a tough and very disturbing topic into art and has given a voice to the many young victims of sex trafficking. The oppression of these girls is expressed as Nico says: ‘The thing I want to say gets pushed back down and lodged in my stomach like a stone.’ Harding describes throughout the novel how the girls deal with the terrible trauma they are going through. Nico says: ‘My body is stiff and I have vacated it, watching the men hauling it. My body feels like it doesn’t belong to me, neither do my limbs, my hair, my fingers, my nails. Every part of me feels like it might float away. Sammy says: ‘I’ve kind of gone all floppy, like a rag doll, or this guy’s muppet. It’s like there is nothing inside of me.’ The novel achingly describes how the girls get lost in fantasy to escape their pain.

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Lisa Harding is an actress, playwright, and writer who completed an M. Phil at Trinity College, Dublin. She has had plays professionally produced and various short stories published in The Dublin Review, The Bath Short Story Anthology and Headstuff. Her works have been placed in various competitions including the inaugural Doolin Short Story Prize.

The next novelist I introduced to read on the panel was Alan McMonagle who has just had his first novel ‘Ithaca’ published by Picador. It is an absolutely side-splitting and hilarious novel that takes place in a town in the middle Ireland following the crash of 2008. It is set in the summer of 2009: ‘the summer all the money disappeared’. The novel tells the story from the point of view of Jason, a 12 year old who (like Sammy in Harvesting) has to deal with an alcoholic mother and a missing father. This story goes one step further however, in that the main task for Jason is to try and elicit from his mother, who indeed, his father is. He asks her if it might be Flukey Nolan (one of the many colourful characters in the novel with equally colourful names) and she says: ‘Tell me Jason, how old are you now?’ to which he responds: ‘Nearly twelve’. She just laughs at him and says: ‘Twelve years old and he wants to know who his da is.’ I absolutely loved McMonagle’s book because I have always loved dark humour, so once I picked it up to read it I couldn’t put it down again. His descriptions of the dreariness and depression of recession Ireland are fantastic, especially those of the town the story is set in: ‘Our town was slap bang in the middle of the country, miles from anywhere and built inside a hole made out of bog, weeds, and the soggiest soil you might ever see. If that wasn’t bad enough, we were surrounded by a dirty black drain that spent its time fooling everyone into thinking it was a river. There were two sides to our town. The rich side on the hill beyond the railway tracks and the side we lived on. The ghetto, Ma called it. I was walking down the back lane. Of all the places in the ghetto the back lane was the place to hang out. Anybody who was anybody on our road wanted to be seen out here, taking a stroll through the muck, hanging out by the ditch trees, making conversation about the Swamp in the wasteland beyond.’

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Alan McMonagle has written for radio, published two collections of short stories (both of which were nominated for the Frank O’Connor award). He has contributed to many journals in Ireland and North America. ‘Ithaca’ is his first novel and has just been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Award for debut novels.

The next novelist to read on our panel was Amanda Reynolds who is a teacher of creative writing living in Cheltenham. She read from the very beginning of her freshly published novel ‘Close to Me’ which is a gripping psychological thriller about a woman named Jo who falls down the stairs and loses her memory of the past year. Jo is afraid of her husband but she does not remember why. Amanda told us during the panel discussion that she thought it would make for an interesting story that when someone loses their memory instead of helping them to heal, you use it against them in deceitful ways. She certainly has a fantastic grasp of an interesting and intriguing use of narrative as Jo, her main protagonist tells her story in alternating chapters, both before and after her accident, building to a stunning conclusion. She really leaves you guessing until the end why Jo has such distrust of her husband: ‘My husband’s slow steady breaths and the familiar nighttime noises within the house find my ear. I pull the duvet around me and allow my subconcious to take over, unlatching from the present, an almost physical letting go. As I succumb to sleep the memories come, but I know they are unreliable; broken and unpredictable. The harder I search the further they retreat, but then something breaks through, at once unbidden and yet desperately wanted. As much as I crave the past, I fear it too.’

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Amanda Reynold’s gripping novel (which I read in a couple of days) has been optioned for T.V. starring a major Hollywood actress who will be disclosed to us soon. She has a two-book deal and is currently working on her second novel. It was so inspiring talking to her about her processes and her writing habits and it does not surprise me that such a thrilling story would be optioned for T.V. I will be following Amanda closely to see how these exciting deals work out for her.

The final novelist on our panel to read was Paula Cocozza who is a feature writer at The Guardian where she has covered everything from football to feminism. Her debut novel is the intruiging and unusual ‘How To Be Human’. Mary, the novel’s main character, develops a relationship with a fox living in her back garden in London. We are never quite sure what is real and what is fantasy in this story and while I have read different reviews of this novel, I like to think of Mary’s relationship with the fox as the perfect metaphor for an unconventional relationship which she craves being surrounded by couples after her relationhip with her boyfriend Mark has ended and he has moved out. I also see her relationship with the fox as perfectly embodying what we urban dwellers need desperately to really remain human; to regain a deeper connection to nature. Being single myself, I perfectly relate to Mary’s reaction to being at her neighbour’s Eric and Michelle’s garden barbecue party: ‘Her fellow guests were transforming before her eyes into the building blocks of family life, clicking into place as the day drew on. Had these couples been together when they arrived and she had failed to see them as such?’ The novel’s first sentence seriously grabs your attention: ‘The was a baby on the back step.’ The baby is Flora, her neighbour’s baby and how it got there is a mystery. Mary has a special connection to Flora throughout the novel; she babysits her and holds her at the barbecue. I would imagine that many single, childless women in their mid thirties can relate to Mary’s musings as she holds Flora, especially the line: ‘A baby: a passport to a socially accepted solitude.’ Mary is lonely and this novel deals with that loneliness, which is, very much a modern affliction: ‘Mary herself was barely a pinprick on the world’. Paula read spectacularly from her novel to us, her fellow panel members, and the audience seated before us in the Galway Town Hall Theatre.

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Paula has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia where she was recipient of the David Higham Award. Apart from being a features writer for The Guardian, she has also been published in The Telegraph, The Independent and the Times Literary Supplement. When she finished reading we had a lively discussion on each writer’s driving inspiration behind their works, as well as discussing the differences in form and structure between the short story and the novel. I then opened up the discussion to the audience and before we knew it the 2 hours was over. We then went to the bookshop out front so that the authors could sign their books for the audience. It was truly magical for me to meet all these talented writers in person and get to know them a little after having spent 3 weeks reading their works. And it was a real honour for me, not being a novelist, to be given the fine task of representing them at this splendid festival in the magical town of Galway. I loved it, and I as I boarded the train back to Dublin on Saturday evening I felt very satisfied and inspired and I can’t wait to read more of all of their writings.

Photo of me on stage at the Debut Panel at Galway Town Hall Theatre courtesy of Cuirt Festival organisers.

Review: Hugo McCann’s ‘Best Sets’ on PHEVER:TV-Radio

21 Jan

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by Rhea H. Boyden

In the past few months I have been tuning in to Dublin DJ Hugo McCann’s ‘Best Sets’ show on PHEVER:TV-Radio which airs Saturdays from 6-8pm. His altogether excellent two hour mixes take you on a musical journey through the genres of progressive techno, deep house and tech house. On December 3rd I was tuned in when the following vocals really caught my attention: ‘I want to take this time to do a shout out to all the nations of the universe, to all the leaders of every land. This is the time for everyone to unite and stop this hate against each other.’ I was curious about this track and so I asked Hugo about it. ‘Yes, it is Luna City Express – Motherland,’ he told me. ‘I am glad you spotted it, as I consciously added that vocal especially in light of the current protests in Standing Rock.’ The powerful vocal continues: ‘Take the time, search your heart, show more love. Teach the children what their motherlands are all about. Stop the hate, love is the answer, education is the key.’

In the past few weeks, I have got to know Hugo a little better and he has told me more about the philosophy, literature and music that has inspired his DJing career that has now spanned more than two decades. ‘I try to impart the wisdom of Alan Watts where and when I can, especially by adding clips and quotes to my mixes,’ he said. Alan Watts (1915-1973) was a British writer, philosopher and speaker who was best known for popularising Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. He wrote and spoke at length, especially on the topics of overcoming fear and really learning to experience the present moment. Hugo certainly has some great stories about how he has applied Watts’ Zen teachings to the trials and tribulations of everyday life. ‘I was recently at the dentist and had a terrible toothache and I was miserable and thought, this is it, I am going to lose this tooth,’ he told me. ‘And then I just gave up and let the experience be what it was. I let go of the fear. Suddenly things worked out for me. While other dentists had told me they could not save my tooth, this dentist turned around and said he could! And not only that, as I got chatting to him, he revealed that he was a pilot and he needed someone to choreograph the music to accompany his flight routine so we struck a deal; he would save my tooth and I would provide him his music in exchange.’ Most impressive. Hugo has inspired me to read more Alan Watts in the past weeks and I think the Watts’ quote that best describes the above scenario is this: ‘When you realise that you live in, that indeed you ARE this moment and no other, that apart from this there is no past and no future you must relax and taste life to the full, whether it be pleasure or pain.’

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Hugo is also a big fan of science fiction, fantasy and the Tao of Pooh which was what he read before he moved onto Watts’ philosophy. He has been collecting records and djing since the 90’s and he told me a bit about the exciting hunts he has been on over the years to find the best records and the tastiest tunes and also the dedication that has really gone into honing his DJing skills. He has held residencies at The Temple of Sound, Ormond Multimedia and The Kitchen nightclub (owned and operated in the 90’s by U2) among others, as well as DJing all over Ireland, the UK and also attracting promoters from places such as Thailand and Las Vegas. He set up his You Tube channel ‘Best Sets on the Net’ four and a half years ago and it has been hugely successful. He now has 56 thousand subscribers and averages about 100 thousand views a week and has had almost 19 million hits to date. It features world class DJ mixes from across the planet covering Chicago House to minimal techno and just about everything in between.

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Hugo McCann at PHEVER:TV-Radio Studios

In recent years Hugo withdrew from the DJing limelight to focus on his family and other commitments until he was introduced to DJ/Producer and PHEVER boss Dean Sherry  in the summer of 2014. Dean had just set up PHEVER:TV-Radio and offered Hugo a weekly residency. This has become his ‘Best Sets’ show that airs every Saturday from 6-8pm. ‘Radio has given me a platform to start playing and accessing music that never makes it to vinyl and this has been an interesting adventure for me. I rarely play out in clubs anymore, but when I do it is all vinyl. My radio show and You Tube channel have been my focus of late.’ Not only is ‘Best Sets’ gaining in popularity, but PHEVER:TV-Radio is growing fast too. I spoke to Dean who said: ‘There is so much fantastic new music coming into the inbox that I hardly have a chance to listen to it all!’ This is indeed very exciting. Dean Sherry has big plans for PHEVER for 2017 and it will be interesting to watch how both Hugo’s show and PHEVER as a whole develop over the next while. And while it is fun to get nostalgic and listen to the music of our youth it is also great to focus on what is happening right NOW (in the spirit of Alan Watts) and listen to hot new releases. ‘So what are some of your favourite new releases?’ I asked Hugo. ‘I would say my current faves are Taras Van De Voorde and Virgil Delion – December, Umek – Incinerator and Sergio Fernandez – Unforgettable Summer.’ I also asked him who he thought would be big in 2017 and who we can expect him to play on his show. ‘The big artists for me for 2017 are definitely CJ Jeff, Latmun and Ali Ajami if I had to just name a few off the top of my head.’ Excellent. I will certainly be tuning in to ‘Best Sets’ to hear more of the melodic and deep musical adventures that Hugo so brilliantly takes his listeners on every weekend.

PHEVER’s mission: To develop and educate new artistic talent and establish a standard of excellence that is recognised globally through its broadcast, media, publishing and performances.

phever.ie – TV-Radio global 24/7 91.6FM – The Sound of the Irish Underground SMS/Viber/WhatsApp/Mobile: +353 (0) 85 7833 733 TV/Radio/Events/Academy/Label

‘Best Sets’ logo graphic courtesy of Hugo McCann

Review: Rich Lane at Ukiyo

13 Nov

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by Rhea H. Boyden

Last weekend Dublin music promoter Julie-Ann Smith hosted music maker and record-label owner Rich Lane from Stoke-on-Trent for a gig at Ukiyo. In the weeks leading up to the gig, the anticipation and excitement among my circle of friends and acquaintances was very apparent and so I felt it was an event that should not be missed.

Ukiyo, which opened in 2004, is a lovely Japanese restaurant in Dublin city centre run by Duncan Maguire. In addition to offering a varying Bento box and excellent sushi, they serve delicacies such as slow-roasted pork served with scented squash and the most delicious pan-fried hake and prawn gyoza served with a mouth-watering garlic and chilli dip. The restaurant has huge plate-glass windows allowing for perfect people-watching as you feast on the food or sip their cocktails that are expertly mixed by the friendliest of bar staff. As well as providing Karaoke booths downstairs, once the tables are cleared upstairs, a host of DJs hit the decks to provide further entertainment several evenings a week.

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Rich Lane 

One thing that especially excited me about attending Rich Lane’s gig at Ukiyo was that a lot of the people I have collaborated with or been introduced to in the world of Dublin dance music over the past year were also planning to be there. Ukiyo has become, and will likely remain, my local haunt because it certainly is a joy to have a place to go where I can meet my peers: others in their late 30’s and early 40’s and the bar was packed for Rich Lane’s set. Before playing Ukiyo last week, Rich was also a guest at PHEVER:TV-Radio on Hugo Mc Cann’s ‘Best Sets’ show. I spoke with Hugo and also with DJ/Producer and PHEVER boss Dean Sherry about their impression of Rich’s music: ‘Rich takes techno and house and slows it down and makes it more interesting,’ Hugo said. ‘Yes, and I really think he makes the transitions between the beats more interesting,’ Dean added.

Rich told me he really had a great night and was very pleased with the warm welcome he got in Dublin. He was Julie-Ann Smith’s guest last year for a gig at Pacino’s in Dublin and was delighted to return. He has been producing music for over a quarter of a century and has had a hand in producing hundreds of tracks. He is the owner of the record label Cotton Bud and also has a sideline in mastering. He does mastering for Sub:Sonic records, an Irish record label specialising in releasing a wide range of electronic music. The lovely guys from Sub:Sonic were at the gig too and Rich also played a few tracks released by them.

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On the night, Rich played many of his own tracks released by him on his label, as well as his lovingly recrafted and re-edited version of Sinead O’ Connor’s hit ‘Jackie’ from her 1987 album ‘The Lion and the Cobra’  which he made especially for the Ukiyo gig. ‘I love the relentless, driving tone of this track,’ he told me. ‘Its beautifully tragic, spooky and evocative lyrics and her uniquely passioned performance have always been spine-tingling.’ Rich also does the mastering for Logical Records from Spain who Julie-Ann Smith also hosted at Ukiyo back in September and he played a few tracks released by them too. It was at that gig that I first met Julie-Ann who has hosted various DJs including Craig Bratley, Duncan Gray, Chris Massey, Los Bikini and Javier Busto (of Logical Records). She told me she is really passionate about the music that Rich and all these guys make. ‘I love slow techno and chug’, she said. ‘A lot of it has a nod to acid house and I also love these dirty slow beats.’

I have been listening to Rich’s dirty slow beats whilst chatting to him and it has been a complete joy for me to get to know him better and also to discover that we have collaborated with some of the same people. He has enlightened me some more too on the process of mastering dance music. We also spoke of the the creative process in writing music lyrics and writing in general and the beauty of returning to unfinished work after it has been left alone for awhile. ‘My last track ‘Wolf in Shell Toes’ was on the shelf for about 8 years,’ he told me. ‘It was just sitting there waiting for me to add some lyrics to and then suddenly one day I was sitting in the pub with my kids with a notebook in hand and they came!’ he said. I love this too when suddenly you are filled with the creative energy to complete a project to satisfaction. You never know when it is going to happen, just as you never know who you are going to be collaborating with or who you will meet next. It certainly is an exciting journey. I will surely be keeping a close eye on Rich Lane’s work in the future, and of course, the work of the host of other amazing DJs whose work he does the mastering for.

Ukiyo Bar, Restaurant and Karaoke is at 9, Exchequer Street in Dublin city centre

Cotton Bud Logo courtesy of Rich Lane

Salon Series at The Liquor Rooms-Dublin

23 Oct

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by Rhea H. Boyden

Since June of this year The Liquor Rooms on Wellington Quay has been hosting a monthly Salon Series presented by their arts and culture manager Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan. It has featured panel discusssions, live performances and demonstrations highlighting the work of The Liquor Rooms’ altogether excellent creative community. The topics that have featured so far in this series have ranged from burlesque to coding to comic illustration and publishing.

Two weeks ago I attended the Salon Series’ fascinating and inspiring publishing event. Moderated by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan, the panel discussion included Irish editors and publishers Susan Tomaselli of Gorse, Marc O’ Connell of The Penny Dreadful, Eimear Ryan of Banshee and Declan Meade of The Stinging Fly. Set in the intimate and inviting vintage lounge of The Liquor Rooms, the talk centred around the challenges and successes they have each experienced with their journals to date. They publish short stories, personal essays and poetry predominantly, and were in agreement regarding their passion for print over online media. They also discussed their own histories and the leap they took from being writers to publishers and editors.

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Salon Series Publishing event at The Liquor Rooms

The Liquor Rooms, which recently celebrated its third birthday, describes itself as a ‘subterranean den of delight.’ And this it truly is. I have spent nights there scrutinising their unusual artwork and unique decor which includes an intriquing wall of old fireplaces. As its name would suggest, they also serve excellent cocktails and are multiple award winners at the Irish Craft Cocktail Awards. These can be enjoyed with a variety of gourmet delicacies which are also available.

The final Salon Series event of this year will be held on Wednesday, November 2nd at 7pm and will be a talk on and performance with vinyl, as well as the history of the Liquor Rooms. The panel will include resident DJ Aoife Nic Canna who has been Djing there since shortly after they opened, and also the hosts of the ‘Vinyl and Wine’ series Mark Whelan and Anthony Kelly. ‘Vinyl and Wine’ which is also hosted by The Liquor Rooms, is an intimate album listening party and discussion, encouraging people to really be present with music and share their experience of it with others. They recently featured an evening listening to and discussing David Bowie’s lesser known album ‘The Gouster.’

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 Aoife Nic Canna – Photo by Cris Llarena

Aoife Nic Canna, for her part, will be discussing her own history and experience of Djing in the Liquor Rooms and also the history of the building itself. She also held a residency at The Kitchen nightclub which opened in 1994 on the same premises and was owned by Bono and The Edge. Aoife has held multiple residencies at many clubs around Dublin for more than two decades, is an archivist at Near FM Radio, and is the producer of the fascinating six part documentary on Irish Club history ‘Folklore From The Dancefloor’ which aired on Near FM and community radio around Ireland in 2012.

Admission to the event is free and will include a tasting of special Liquor Rooms cocktails. Their beautiful website states that they ‘proudly serve liquors to make your tastebuds sing made by a creative team of cocktail craftsmen.’ Enticing indeed.

The Liquors Rooms is at 5 Wellington Quay in Dublin city centre and is open daily from 5pm til late.

Graphics and Photos courtesy of The Liquor Rooms and Aoife Nic Canna.  

Iconic and PHEVER: The Words and Soundtrack of the Underground

11 Aug

Iconic Underground - Front Cover.jpg

by Rhea H.Boyden

In the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with two talented and accomplished men involved heavily in the Dublin underground dance music scene: award-winning and internationally acclaimed Irish DJ, music producer and PHEVER director and TV/Radio presenter, Dean Sherry and sound engineer, CEO and editor of Iconic Underground Magazine, Mike Mannix. Iconic Underground Magazine will be launching on Monday, August 15th- first edition in digital format and then in hard-copy by the end of the month. The first edition of the magazine will contain an in-depth interview with Dean Sherry who has had a dazzling career to date.

In my four years of blogging, I have covered a diverse range of topics from dating to restaurant reviews to art and theatre. In the past year, however, I have become more and more involved in covering the Dublin dance music scene as it has become very clear to me that this city certainly has no shortage of excellent DJs and producers. I have already had a lot of fun collaborating with some of them, promoting and reviewing their events, and I am now very excited about focusing my reviewing more on this scene in the future.

Dean on the decks.jpg

Dean Sherry 

I was talking recently to both Dean and Mike separately about their projects and I realised that they were, in fact, talking to me about the same project and their collaboration with each other. I found this to be a delightful coincidence and so I felt compelled to learn more about their work together and what plans they have for future collaboration between PHEVER:TV-Radio and Iconic Underground Magazine. ‘Mike and I share similar visions without fear of doing the same thing. It’s complimentary on differing but related mediums,’ Dean told me. ‘Yes, and I have full respect for what Dean has achieved and his future direction,’ Mike said.

Dean, who has held residencies with almost every leading dance club in Ireland over the past 2 decades, set up and has managed PHEVER since 2014; which is now a collective of 75 DJs and presenters plus media artists. He produces and presents his weekly PHUNK’DUP Radio show which airs Saturdays 4-6pm. The latest global stats on PHEVER:TV-Radio from internet-radio.com and Google Analytics show an average of over 100K weekly tuning in to PHEVER.ie. I tuned in to Dean’s superb Old Skool set recently and I was instantly hooked to the funky beats. He told me his current focus is on the promotion of underground music styles, DJs and artists. He is hoping also to get spoken word interviews on the air and to transpose them onto the new PHEVER.ie website, as well as for Mike’s new magazine. He and Mike are looking at different ways in which their projects can intersect and how these ideas will develop in the future and benefit them both.

Mike at DJ awards

Mike Mannix

Mike, who holds a degree in sound engineering from Pulse College, Dublin told me that Iconic Underground’s main focus will be on quality in-depth interviews of the icons of culture based around the underground music scene, street art, graffiti and urban culture. He was a co-founder of online/hardcopy Zone Magazine which covers the underground dance music scene in Ireland and internationally, with Iconic Underground being his latest ambitious project. He told me he is interested in really getting to the heart of people’s stories and what makes them tick. He wants quality content as opposed to just chart listings. As well as including an interview with Dean Sherry, the first edition of Iconic Underground will feature interviews with the following artists: Joey Beltram, Jazzy M, Mauro Picotto, James Darkin, Jon the Dentist, Suddi Raval, KoZy and many more.

I read what Mike wrote about the first edition with great interest and I can’t wait to get my hands on the first copy: ‘kicking it off on the front cover with a worldwide raw and exclusive uncut interview with DJ/Producer Joey Beltram who has been banging out the bangers for 3 decades and showing no signs of abating anytime soon. With a prolific back catalogue and hundreds of thousands of air miles under his belt touring the world, Iconic Underground finally caught up with this techno Godfather to spit it real.This is Joey as you have never heard him before in any interview. He is speaking his mind with zero editing, just how we like it at Iconic, just keeping it real.’

PHEVER logo

In the course of my conversations with both Dean and Mike one thing has certainly stood out: they both value keeping it real and getting to the core of what makes people tick. They also both know that reaching a satisfying depth of quality in music production takes time and patience and it can’t be rushed. Pulse College, for their part, enjoy keeping up with their graduates and they asked Mike what he would advise students starting out in a career in electronic music. ‘Don’t just rush the process so you can get a track out and brag to your mates,’ he told them. ‘Be original and do your homework. Spend the time and then some, until you get it right. Don’t be a carbon copy of someone else, buck the trends and believe in yourself.’ Mike knows from experience how long it can take to produce quality music. He worked on his 5 track debut EP ‘Hypnotic Intelligence’ for 3 years until he was sick of hearing it and then put it away for a year to work on other projects before coming back to it to rework it. His patience with it certainly paid off; when he went back and listened to it with fresh ears he was able to finish it and it was instantly signed to Redbox records and did really well in the charts. As a writer, I can relate well to this process. I love the giddy feeling I get when I go back and re read and re edit a piece I have written in the past. I approach it with a vibrant new energy having been removed from it. I have even had heady moments where I have actually asked myself: ‘Did I write this?’ This is such a gratifying and important part of the creative process; to go back and complete a project to satisfaction that you have had the patience to leave alone for a while to ferment.

PHEVER studios

PHEVER:TV-Radio-Studios

As for Dean, well he is a DJ and producer who has consistently been a notch or two above many others for his ability to read a crowd deeply and know exactly what he should play and when. He has released many tracks on his own labels and others since the late 90’s worldwide, and toured extensively and globally as the PHUNK’DUP Soundsystem. He co-owned ViRTU:Media creative studios in Dublin 1 for a number of years and was involved heavily in music production and training, tuition and DJing courses; something he has now migrated over to the new PHEVER: DJ/Producer Academy (launching Q3 2016). He has played to all age groups in a host of venues over the past two decades, is extremely versatile musically and exceeds in technical ability. He was resident of the country’s leading nightclub The Wright Venue for the last 5 years. My impression of him so far too, is that he is an approachable and down-to-earth guy and I can’t wait to learn more about what makes him tick when I get my first copy of Iconic Underground Magazine and read the in-depth interview with him. It will be interesting to keep an eye on what Dean has planned for PHEVER:TV-Radio in the near future. ‘There’s a whole lot more to PHEVER as yet to be unleashed,’ he told me. ‘I have a roadmap, a plan, and an amazing team around me to achieve it as a collective.The Academy launches at the end of 2016, plus the agency, and next year a whole new approach to events is to be unleashed plus- finally-PHEVER Recordings, our label, representing the sound of the Irish underground.’ I know that I will be tuning in and paying attention to what this talented guy has in store.

The first issue of Iconic Underground Magazine will be for sale online priced at 2 Euro on Monday, August 15th in digital and PDF with printed hard copies landing at the end of August. Hardcopy 5 Euros (Ireland only-delivered) 15 Euros internationally.

On Saturday, August 13th tune in to PHUNK’DUP Radio between 4 and 6pm to hear Dean Sherry’s live interview with Mike Mannix about the launch of Iconic Underground Magazine.

PHEVER’s Mission: To develop and educate new artistic talent and establish a standard of excellence that is recognised globally through our broadcast media, publishing and performances.

www.phever.ie TV: Radio Global 24/7 91.6 FM Dublin- The Sound of the Irish Underground- Are U Turned On Yet? SMS/Viber/What’s App 353857833733 Facebook.com: PHEVER Music Twitter:@PHEVERirl. 

TV/Radio/Events/Academy/Agency/Label

Graphics and Photos courtesy of Dean Sherry and Mike Mannix

Iconic Underground Magazine- Issue 1 cover graphic by Natalie Keville