Being the page for our latest activities, as supported using public funding by Arts Council England.
HOW IT STARTED
To mark 100 Years of Ireland’s status as a republic, and by extension a century of the Irish in Britain being part of the country’s Diaspora*, The Plastic Podcasts – in collaboration with Irish In Britain, with the assistance of HOME Slough, and in partnership with Liverpool Irish Festival – developed two live/digital engagements: PLAISTEACH and THE MERSEY MASH.
PLAISTEACH was based in part on the Diaspora tales told last year in an Arts Council England R&D “Plastic”, telling the Devaney family story with interruptions, confirmations and contradictions provided by interviewees from both The Plastic Podcasts and from a series of bespoke interviews, particularly with members of the Diaspora in Slough.
THE MERSEY MASH focused on the Irish in Liverpool and looked at how attitudes towards both Irishness and the city itself have changed in the last 40 years. With the help of Liverpool Irish Centre, Kuumba Imani and Pagoda Arts, we’re looking at multi-cultural Irishness in this most Hibernian of English cities.
Both projects followed similar paths – a series of interviews that form a backdrop to a personalised story told live on stage (with a projection screen for company) by yours truly with the interviewees present to either approve of how their tale is being told or let me know just how wrong I’d got it all!
These interactions then formed the basis of a digital performance some ten days after each live show, again with audience feedback.
At the time I said: “I have a personal connection to both Slough and Liverpool. I was brought up in the next town to Slough – Maidenhead – and worked there for Black & Decker and ICI. I still expect to encounter the heady chocolate smell of the Mars factory whenever I step off the train.
“Liverpool will forever be special to me. I was a student there in the mid-eighties, when the biggest growth industry in town was boarding-up shops. I started writing and performing there, it’s where I made life-long friends and feel instantly taller the moment I see the sidings of Lime Street.”
NOT SO SIMILAR AFTER ALL
Let’s start with Liverpool…
It’s the beginning and the end in many ways. The first haven for those escaping the Hunger, a place to all home from across the water for some 70% of its population.
What did that mean? It meant a wave of interviewees…
…in a whirlwind of events…
…and a wondrous evening at Liverpool Irish Centre resulting in this:
Slough was a different proposition. Slow at first to start, with a Diaspora population that had ceased to be the centre of the town’s people, more a historical footnote. Or at least, that was the initial impression.
However, Slough – although less straightforward a prospect than Liverpool – offered up a variety of surprising connections, once I realised that its Diaspora weren’t going to come to me. Instead, I was going to have to come to them.
So I did
To Austin Nolan, singer In Praise Of The Plastic Paddy to Tom King, legendary landlord of The Herschel Arms to Steve and Sharon Shiel, discovering new aspects to themselves as Steve explores his Irish heritage.
In many ways the resultant piece “Plaisteach?” (note the added question mark, it’s kind of important) was much more a piece of digital theatre than its Merseyside counterpart. This was in no small way down to the illustrations of David Brown for a revisionist look at the tale of St Brendan the Traveller.
Well you’re just going to have to take a look at “Plaisteach?” to find out…
WHAT COMES NEXT?
More. Just more. The story and stories of the Diaspora continue, rolling, gathering pace, picking up size and speed in an avalanche of memory, experience and possibility.
Hopefully, I will return to both Liverpool and Slough to either pick up where we left off or to try something new. Meanwhile, the rest of the country awaits.
Into the next century.
*So the argument is that the Irish in Britain couldn’t have been the Diaspora until 1922 because before that year, they were still officially British citizens. Feel free to debate using no more than two sides of A4. Your time starts now.