Emma O’Rourke

“We are as we are. Everyone is made up of a lot of different parts.”

As I write this, it is the day after the news about Sinéad O’Connor.

By the time this is read, it will be two days since the announcement of her death.

There is an inevitable, if curious, melancholy to putting out what is essentially a celebratory podcast at this time. It is our third anniversary this month, while the story of Emma O’Rourke herself is one of celebration. There is joy in sharing thoughts with a young artist growing into herself, finding her language, moving forward towards her prime.

But having opted to go forward and broadcast, why devote this blog to the deceased? After all, I never knew her. Didn’t buy an album. Not once did I consider going to her gigs.

The answer is twofold, and I’ll give the glib one first.

Sinéad had been foremost in our minds when producing this episode as Emma herself had chosen Sinéad to be her subject for The Plastic Pedestal. You’ll still hear that segment come our next episode but the section obviously took on a new flavour given the events of the last 48 hours.

(We had considered holding this episode for another week or so, until the collective shock had eased somewhat. But to delay Emma’s interview would also be to delay her later tribute, and that seemed – to put it simply – wrong.)

The second is slightly more complex and – again, inevitably – tied up with the first. Emma’s tribute to Sinéad is, on the face of things, unusual if not unique for her age group.

After all, this is an artist who – apart from one international hit – barely troubled the charts, whose legacy is firmly bound up in the MTV generation, who opted for career immolation on live TV over self-preservation and advancement at a time when women like her rarely got heard.

This is another old story of missed opportunity, at odds with the post-millennial perspectives of Generations Y, Z or whatever strange alphabetisation comes next.

It’s last century. History.

Or that’s one way of looking at it.

But there is the moment.

The moment that will be played over and over again, into infinity.

The teardrops. Two of them.

And it doesn’t matter whether you first saw them fall from her eyes in a North London bedsit on an ancient black and white television, itself perched on top of another ancient black and white television, in 1990 or as part of a retrospective on video culture the week before last. The memory of that moment – or, rather, the memory of where you were at that moment – will be something that remains long after we cease to grieve.

Emma O’Rourke’s work is about that. The moments that surround memory, the sights, sounds, scents and sundry other senses that create remembrance. To interview her, to share in her recollection of those instants and find comparison with those of my own has been a delight, and I hope you can find delight in them, too.

Even if it is only a few days since that news.


The Plastic Podcasts: Emma O’Rourke

Emma O’Rourke Webpage

Brent Museum and Archives

That Moment

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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