Jack Byrne

“Where I’m from is not just a geography. It’s taken a long time to realise that.”

I’d forgotten how much I’ve missed this. The research, the interview, the editing and this moment here: where I try to gather together what the latest Plastic Podcast means to me (and hopefully to you).

And the staccato sentences.

I especially miss the staccato sentences.

Jack Byrne, it seems to me, is a man who fights the forgetting. Who knows that the price of cultural amnesia – as comforting as it may be to wrap yourself in a cotton-wool present – is that the pain of remembrance becomes ever sharper, ever more deadly, in that moment when memory makes itself known once more.

Because we can’t forget forever.

And we shouldn’t want to.

No matter how much it hurts.

Jack’s story isn’t your standard Irish diaspora tale of coming across the water to make good, although there’s plenty of that in there. It also takes in the fear and suspicion of being other, the placing of survival above identity, 70s comedians, the drumbeat of war, and loss.

Terrible, terrible loss.

Both yours and that of others.

Despite all this, Jack Byrne’s story is one of optimism. The act of writing is always an optimistic one: the faith that someone will want to read your story, and be stirred to make their own. So when we talk about the curious history of Liverpool St Patrick’s Day parades, it’s in the light of the fact that one is taking place this year. When we discuss the cultural amnesia that comes with empire and colonialisation, it’s in the hope that these memories are not lost forever. When we recall his lack of Irish culture while growing up, it’s with grace and understanding and humour, and a knowledge that he was not alone.

And that’s what I forgot I’d missed most.

The fact we’re not alone.

It’s not just we come from somewhere else.

We all do.

Thanks for the reminder, Jack.



Jack Byrne: Across the Water

Jack Byrne: Under the Bridge

Jack Byrne: The One Road (short stories)

Northodox Press

Kojo Koram and Kerem Nisancioglu on cultural amnesia

Justice For The Forgotten

Published by dougdevaney

Doug Devaney is a writer, performer and journalist. He is the presenter of The Plastic Podcasts. The Plastic Podcasts have been supported using public funding by Arts Council, England

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