Season 5 Episode 5 ‘Inner Vision’
Welcome to Pantisocracy, and this is your host, Miss Panti Bliss.
Hello and welcome or hopefully welcome back to my Pantisocratic Chamber of Delights, where today I am channeling my inner David Bowie for a show which is all about standing out, forging and following your own path and making waves in the world. And with that in mind, I am joined by three originals. First up is a young woman who’s been making some major waves with her debut novel, Exciting Times.
It’s the self-described queer autistic novelist Naoise Dolan, but who is being described by others as one of the hottest and funniest new writers in town, although that town is London from today on, is that right? You’re going back right after this. Thanks for hanging on for us. And then next, we have a man who is of music and songs, Mr David Geraghty, well known to us as a founding member of the band Bell X1, five times Choice Music Award nominee and now a film and music composer.
For the past six years, he’s also had a sort of side project with his own music and in a sort of intriguingly named alter ego, Join Me in the Pines and sure look at him, why wouldn’t you. Those of you who are in podcast land can go to Pantisocracy.ie and look at the videos and make up your own mind. Thanks for being here, David.
And then finally, rounding out our triangle of thinkers and doers today is a woman on stage, craft and story it’s Louise Lowe, artistic director of the unendingly innovative and actually annoyingly innovative, ANU productions whose immersive show Fault Line, I loved absolutely last year. It told the story of the history of the Queer Archive, First Person Stories of the gay rights movement in 1980s Ireland. Welcome Louise and I really did love that show. I felt like I was having a flashback, sort of. So I want to talk to you about it later. But first, before we get into any of that, I get to hold the floor first in what we call the Panti Monologues.
I am pretty easy to spot, in a crowd I mean, even in a dark, hazy club on a crowded strobing dance floor, it’s hard to miss me. A fact that served me well all through my hazy strobing 20s. Even in a pretty big crowd, a fact which still occasionally serves my friends well at gigs and festivals. Let’s all meet up again at the main stage for Underworld. Yeah, but where exactly. We’ll meet yous at Panti at 10. I am hard to miss, which is why, in retrospect, the where’s Panti illustrated children’s book wasn’t a huge bestseller that Eason’s had hoped.
Now some people might say that it’s because I’m a seven foot tall humanoid cartoon, crudely drawn and garish crayon. But those people can’t be trusted and they usually have a Celtic cross in their anonymous Twitter profiles. Because clearly it’s my luminous beauty and ethereal grace that makes me stick out like a sore but glamerous thumb. It is hard for me to go unnoticed or not draw attention. There’s no point in telling me to blend in because unless there happens to be a pride parade passing by, I fecking can’t.
People’s attention is drawn to difference. When I was an art student, I spent a lot of time in the National Gallery occasionally sketching, but mostly just gazing. Gazing at the pictures, these elegantly framed postcards from the past that hung silently and uncomplainingly, waiting to be gazed upon. In fact, it’s their very raison d’etre, to be looked at. But when we look at a picture, our brains take in this tangle of color and shape and texture and put it all together using the clues the artist left for us, and we form a picture in our heads magically from the chaos of billions of photons smashing into our retinas.
Pictures need us because without us they are nothing. They need us to be pictures. They need us to see them. Now, I may be no oil painting, but I also need to be seen. Performers, artists, they need attention. If you have something to say, something to express, a story to tell, an idea or a feeling to impart, you need someone to say it to, someone to express it to, tell it to, impart it to, you need an audience.
So I chose to delineate myself from the background. I made an effort to draw attention, to be memorable. But when I was younger, I made those decisions more instinctively than consciously. That was mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing. There was no handbook, no college diploma in tomfoolery and gender discombobulation, so I was making it up as I went along.
I was making me up as I went along and even I didn’t appear fully formed. I have grown and changed hand in hand with Rory. For starters, I used to be a redhead. I knew then that I had something to say, but exactly what it was was still unclear to me. Half formed and constantly shifting. So how could I possibly articulate it for an audience? But I kept trying. I kept trying because I was having fun trying and failing and trying things on and discarding things and adding and trying again and learning and peeling and fine tuning until eventually I found what it was I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.
And it was only then that I was able to stop relying on instinct and start making conscious decisions about what I was saying and to whom I wanted to say it. But there was one other reason why I kept at it, by instinct when I didn’t know any better. And in a way, it’s more interesting for me to think about. The reason I kept going by instinct when I didn’t know any better was because, I didn’t know any better, and if I had known better, I might have stopped because what I didn’t know then, but I have come to learn is that there is a great power in being publicly different, in being your own self expressed self, unashamedly and confidently, even if that self is imperfect or not fully formed.
And that power is also a responsibility, because if you have their attention, you better know what it is you want to say, because if you don’t, they’ll fill in the gaps by projecting meaning onto you anyway and you will be held responsible. If you’re lucky, they will project something they needed or wanted and you will get credit you don’t deserve. But equally, if it doesn’t work out so well, you’ll also get the blame. People remember the giant crudely drawn cartoons and they interpret what she said or did in ways that she never thought of or even intended at the time because, well, she wasn’t thinking and she was totally unsure of her intent.
And years later, they’ll tell her of this moment that she has no memory of at all that was significant to them and somehow changed them or their trajectory and for which now they give her undeserved credit or blame. And it happens a lot, so often that I now stiffen, when a stranger comes up to me with a significant look and says, I remember so clearly the first time I saw you. And I wait anxiously to find out what meaning this unsuspecting stranger projected onto a young drag queen who was just having fun and meant nothing at all.
I’ll tell you, it is hard work being glamorous in a pandemic. It is, yeah. Hi welcome all. Thank you for being with us. Naoise, how was your lockdown?
It’s been quite weird because I’ve still had the same amount of stuff to do that you’d normally have with publishing a debut novel. But it’s all been happening on a bunch of screens. So it’s almost like this virtual reality game that you’re just constantly playing when your actual surroundings haven’t changed at all.
Well, you know, it’s funny because today’s show is in a way kind of about alter egos, or public selves and all of that, and forging your own path or being different somehow. So I want to come back to you about the publishing a debut novel in this context, because it must be so weird to have to develop some sort of public persona suddenly. And in this bizarre context, I definitely have a million questions I want to ask you about that.
David, you now, however, you do have an alter ego.
Well, I released a couple of albums outside of Bell X1 under my own name. Going back as far as 2007, was the first release, and just to get away from using my own name, which, you know, is not exactly rock and roll and also it has those connotations of singer songwriter and, you know, so I just I just wanted to go under the name that maybe was a bit more evocative.
I get it. I mean, look at me. I get it. But at the same time, people didn’t know Rory. I didn’t have you know, I mean, people knew you. And there’s an extra side to your.
Yeah, I know it was a little bit of you know, I’m aware that it was kind of putting another mountain in front of me to climb needlessly. But I just thought, you know, you have to kind of move forward and be as true to yourself as you can and go forth.
Yeah. And then Louise what I find, one of the million things I find interesting about you, but one of them in particular is that you grew up not feeling like you had a great connection to the arts, you know, the north inner city and all that. And yet in some ways now you are a representative of all that’s best in the arts in Ireland at the moment.
Do you feel you had to take on a different persona to get involved in the arts, or were you always just you?
I’d like to think I was always just myself, but the truth of it is I probably, I probably left things unchecked. I was thinking about that recently, you know, where I didn’t like what was happening in a room in terms of just the laughter or the joke of it all. And I suppose I look back on those times now and go, God I wish I’d been braver or bolder then to go.
Yeah, but everybody thinks that don’t they.
But then I hide behind a company name now completely like. So I don’t know.
Most people think I’m hiding.You know, they think that I’m hiding behind all of this and that they can’t talk to the real me somehow or something.
Whereas it seems the opposite to me.
Well, see, I agree with you. I think I’m exposing myself this way, not hiding. Naoise I’m gonna come back to you and let’s get into this, because this is super interesting to me. Writers, it’s a very solitary pursuit and we have theater and music writers in the room as well. But it’s mostly you’re alone in a corner at a desk. It’s very solitary. And so I know plenty of writers who the part they enjoy least about the industry is the part when the book is released and they have to suddenly be this public person. And I’m interested particularly to ask you about this for two reasons.
One, because on the surface, you would say that your autism might make that even more awkward for you. And secondly because you have gone from being a private to a public person and in a way you’ve become famous, you know, to us it would appear overnight, and you’ve done that at a time when you can’t go into studios generally and you’re not, in easons, signing books and all of the usual stuff that goes along with it.
You’ve become famous in your bedroom, in a way. What the hell is that like?
It’s been a time. I think, though, it is in a way easier to put boundaries on it the way it’s happened right now, because you do the interview and then you close the zoom chart and then you go back to your life or you do the ID live and then you sign off on that and then you go back to your life. Whereas I think I’d find it more jarring having to do something in a bookshop, say, and then still be me going away from that and still be me on the bus and just not knowing when to dial it down and when to go back to my actual self.
Yeah, but what do you feel you have you know, there’s a delineation between your actual self and your, I’m a book writer self.
Oh, completely. Because publishing is so slow. So everything the people learn now I learn’t a year ago or earlier. So you can’t have an authentic first time reaction in tune with everyone else’s. It has to be about them and sharing their excitement. So in a way, I’m the person it’s least about. But to come back to what you said about autism, I think that does make it easier in a way, because. I do that stuff on the day to day, far more than non autistic people do already, it doesn’t naturally occur to me when I see someone in the kitchen first thing to say good morning, because to me, that doesn’t communicate a whole deal.
Oh, my God, I’d love to live with you. I hate people who want to talk to me in the morning.
Yeah, and that’s it. Like while autism is a very specific neurological state of being, autistic experiences aren’t exclusively autistic. And there’s a lot of stuff I say that people resonate with some aspect of. It’s more like the wholesale thing that makes it autism, but it’s definitely not being cut off from the rest of humanity compleatly. I’d say on average, I’m probably more used to performing anyway than a non autistic person would be.
That’s interesting. I never really thought about it that way. But of course, when I was reading your story, I mean your own personal story, I immediately thought of someone else that I know Hannah Gadsby. And to me, there are strong parallels here. Getting an official diagnosis of autism, you know, as a fully grown adult and then retrospectively, it places you in the world somehow.
Yeah. Yeah. I found such strong parallels with Hannah Gadsby’s story as well. And I think before you get there, if you’re not someone who’s stereotypically autistic, so like a small boy who likes trains or what have you. A lot of what you try to describe of your experiences people are just like, well, it does be like that. Because we have this expectation that women should just live with a level of pain and difficulty in life that makes it extremely difficult to be taken seriously when you’re saying, no, I just have these troubles that other people don’t and maybe having a framework where I could deal with it explicitly would be better.
You know, autism isn’t an illness, it’s nothing wrong with you. But the way that society treats autistic people is absolutely an illness. And it’s one that we can’t address until autistic people are platformed to talk about our experiences.
Yeah. And so what was it that sort of. Sorry, what age are you now?
28. So you were 26, 27 or something when you got your diagnosis?
Well how come so late?
Just that after I got my book deal, I had the time and space to research it properly and to pursue it. And that’s one reason that while I’m glad to have one, because it’s helped me come to terms with my neurology, I’m adamant that we can’t frame this around who has a diagnosis and who doesn’t, because that excludes the very most marginalized autistic voices. It excludes women, it excludes working class people, it excludes black autistics, autistics of color, just anyone who’s less likely to have had the diagnosis as a child.
And it’s not a coincidence that I was able to get it after my own life changed.
Well, I mean, I guess I’m very aware of the power of labels, too. For good and ill. But I can’t imagine, you know, if I hadn’t had the label queer or whatever it was to put on myself, how do I explain myself to the world? Because it’s a big part of me. So I can’t imagine, you know, not having a label for something that is a big, huge part of you until you’re 26 or 27.
Yeah, yeah. Completely. And I think because I’m also queer, it’s been this parallel thing that I found really useful for considering it, because I think my experience of the state of LGBT versus autistic rights and I’m not speaking for anyone else, has been that it was much easier to deal with and label and embrace queerness at an earlier age than autism. And some of that might just be that there are more LGBT people in the world than autistic people, or some of it might just be the state of public discourse.
But when I compare those experiences, you know, I think we’re at a state now where, you know that those things exist and can pursue identifying with them as a teen whereas that’s not the case with autism or wasn’t maybe it’s improved.
Well, I think it’s improving. But no I can see that totally and entirely. You need an autism pride parade.
Yeah, yeah. I really resonated with what you said earlier about people projecting things. If you don’t give them something to go by. And, you know, it’s not that people know me entirely because they know I’m autistic, but it’s one less way that they can misunderstand me.
Yeah, I agree with that. Labels have their uses. Now, Louise, you in a sense, well, from reading your history in a way, I think maybe you might have felt labeled with a label that you weren’t necessarily entirely comfortable with or
Are responsible for.
Yes that’s the word. You should write my stuff . You know is that fair, that you felt that the label was slapped on you and therefore and that labels somehow got in the way between you and the work you wanted to be doing?
Yeah, but I suppose I wonder now, maybe it’s maybe it’s age. You know, you get older, you get maybe a bit wiser. I wondered how responsible I was at that. For holding on to that as well.
But just for the benefit of the listeners actually tell, where are you from?
So I was born in Foley Street just in the north inner city. And I’ve lived in the north inner city most of my life. And I just can’t afford to anymore. Which is tragic in loads of ways, still live on the north side, just not where I’d like to be back bang with the rest of my family in the north inner city. But, I suppose, for me I was always interested in art. I probably thought I was going to be a visual artist for a long time.
Until you realise you can’t draw and that’s going to be a crap way to try and think of making your mark on the world. But I was obsessed with visual arts. I loved it. I would go and I would just gaze on pictures and galleries and places and try and understand the stories that were going on in them. I had no access to theatre, I didn’t go to a play. I don’t think I stood in the abbey until my mid 20s.
So at that stage I was starting to make my own work. But I think beforehand it was galleries and images and probably music as well that made me go, there’s stories to be told or frames to be pushed onto things. And yet, I suppose, me thinking back to my time as a teenager or early 20s going, me saying I want to be an artist may have felt like me saying I wanted to walk on the moon, it was so removed from where I thought I could be or who I thought I could be.
And then you kind of look around you and go, cop the hell on, because you’ve got so much other considerations going on just to survive.
So art feels very removed from what that daily life is or that, you know, that expectancy in your world, in your life. But I suppose a lot of that time nobody came and slapped it on me and said, you can’t. So I think looking back at it now very much, I was responsible for thinking I couldn’t.
Imposter syndrome almost.
Absolutely. You know, I do think that a little bit more. And I thought about it, you know, in the last little while.
Yeah. But it isn’t really the responsibility of a young person to step up in that way. It’s the responsibility of older people who know better.
Yeah and I think it is now. I think I would be absolutely conscious of it all of the time to champion the voices who aren’t on the stage, who isn’t in the play, whose voices and whose stories are we not listening to. And I suppose I’ve now spent the last 20 odd years trying to find those unknowns, or those little knowns, or those who are on the sidelines. And going, actually, let’s talk about the Ireland, about who we are and why we are.
And that’s really propelled and pushed my practice forward.
And I would say now I think that perhaps it’s very clear, reading your story, that you are the kind of person who really needed something because tell me about your leaving cert class.
There was eighteen girls in my leaving cert class and six of us remain, you know, alive. And that’s I suppose,
And you are only in your early to mid 40s, something like that. I mean, that’s astounding.
Yeah, it is. You know, in loads of ways I look at it and go, there’s a social genocide that happened at some point and continued to happen throughout the Irish history, I think, in certain points of places that we have left people to their own devices and to their own survival in lots of ways. And I think there’s been hard stories for everyone.
A third are left.
Yes. I suppose I just become aware of it because you see, you see the impact on those lives, on those families and on lots of the children that remain from those women who were in my class at the time.
And a lot of it was the 80s, sort of a heroin epidemic. Was it?
Some of it. Not all of it, absolutely not all of it. But yes, some of it. But I think, I think a lot of it is environmental and in many ways it’s more difficult sometimes. You know, and I very recently spoke with a GP who I was working with for a project and he was going that statistically, I would be more likely to die 12 years before everybody in this room, not because I am particularly living a hard life or anything now, but because environmental factors at a young age will dictate what will happen to you in terms of being, you know, more open to certain kinds of cancers, more, you know, attuned to just more environmental factors that already in your DNA.
So you’re going to, and we see that across Ireland and across the UK, there’s particular pockets of places where the average age of people passing are much younger than the national average.
And do you, I mean, your work clearly has a social conscience. It always has. And props to you. You often are raising issues that don’t sort of come into the mainstream, you know, debate sphere. So years afterwards, you were talking about race, in 2009 you were I mean, all sorts of things. Um, is that all informed, do you think, by your background?
My work is about questioning the world I’m living in. So yes. Yeah, no, I think I would describe myself as a socially engaged artist first and foremost. I’ve tried to make work that asks questions about the world that we live in. And sometimes I suppose it is, I’m very tenacious and very cheeky. And I think those, that kind of mix, being shy, tenacious and cheeky is a really weird mix Panti, do you know. You’re half pushing yourself through a door and at the same time wanting to run in the opposite direction from whatever it is that you’re looking at.
So, so very often it’s like, oh, I see this and I want to talk about it and I want to ask about it. But I try never to tell people what they should think about it.
Yes. I mean, that’s always very clear, I think. But what was weird for me to hear you say that you felt you once limited yourself in a way. Because if you look at ANU’s body of work, your body of work, my God, there are no boundaries involved. There is art, you know, there are art exhibitions, there are large theatre productions, small theatre productions, there’s immersive theatre. There’s, there are no boundaries to your work. So that’s very interesting to me that you look back and think
I think that was probably in the past. I’d say, you know, once you give yourself permission to leave that starting gate then, you know, for me, you know, forgiveness is often easier than permission. And there’s certainly no, no, at the beginning of the company and setting it up with Owen and the brilliant collaborators that I work with now, we don’t limit ourselves. We go, well, what’s the best way to tell the story?
And that’s really the starting point of it. And going, well, where does that take us to, whether that’s World War One, the Magdalene Laundries or whatever we’re looking at that it just becomes like, what’s the best mechanism to talk about this?
Yeah. On to David now, because I see in my head, you know, I look at you Naoise and I think here’s a solitary artist writing, in a sense, for one person. You know, you imagine one person reading your book at any time. And then we have ANU here who pioneered like theatre for tiny audiences in someways, you know, immersive theatre where you are sitting in a an ambulance or in a cloakroom somewhere and it’s happening there.
And the audience is, you reduced the audience in a way if I can sort of say that. And then, David, you are in a field where you’re projecting, I assume at 16 years old, you saw the visions of the thousands of people out in a festival field somewhere. It’s a totally different way. And is there in some way some connection between that and you deciding to create an alter ego?
To escape it or I don’t know enhance it?
Maybe, maybe to kind of show it in a different light, perhaps what I was doing in solitary confinement, the creative process.
But you were in a band from the beginning, so. It’s unsolitary really.
Yeah. And even though I’ve put out two albums under my own name and then the first one under Join Me in the Pines in 2014.
What kind of name is Join Me in the Pines? Where does that come from?
It was just, it was basically where I was at when I just got so sick of searching for a name, you know. It’s like, the album 2014, I wanted to I didn’t want to release it under my own name, but I couldn’t come up with anything I was happy with. So cut to like five years later and I go, right, that’s it I’m going to come up with something so.
And Join Me in the Pines was your something?
Yeah. Yeah, it was. I just liked the inclusive nature of join me.
David, you are going to do us some music. Yeah. And are you going to do it as yourself or as the pines, your drag queen pines. That’s what I was pushing at.
Drag Me in the Pines.
Yes. Join Me in the Pines is your Panti Bliss.
Yeah I guess so. Yeah. Yeah.
Not as pretty obviously.
Obviously not as pretty.
And funnily because you’re going to do the song which is also, it’s not about a drag queen per se.
Yeah. The director basically thought of the idea of, why don’t we just steer away from the obvious she being she steps into the light and just think outside the box here for a minute, you know? So the wonderful Coco Ri, who is the star of the video, put on an amazing performance. You know, the idea of the video is that it’s
It’s lovely, by the way
Oh thank you. That women no longer exist on the Earth. So you get this bar where all these kind of lonely men are hanging out. And next thing Coco Ri appears and everyone’s like, whoa, what’s going on? And then at the end of the video, it’s like Keyser Söze moment, disappeared.
A Coco Ri is a young Dubin drag queen.
She’s a young. Yes, exactly.
She steps into the light is the song and performed today by, shall we say, Join Me in the Pines, even though to me he’s David from Leixlip
Join Me in the Pines performs She Steps into the Light
Gorgeous, really gorgeous.
Now, Naoise, for the benefit of the listeners, the book is set in Hong Kong. It’s about a young Irish woman who goes there, she’s teaching English, and she has two affairs, the first with sort of a posh English banker man. And then when he’s away, she starts an affair with a more lively, life fulfilling woman called Edith.
So it’s polyamorous. It’s very modern in that way. Like my mother would say to me, what’s bisexual and polyamorous, you know. So was that a conscious decision that you wanted to sort of do something modern in a way or you’re just telling the story?
I think maybe it’s modern that stories like this are told and celebrated in the mainstream, but it’s definitely not modern that they happen. And Emma Donoghue has been a huge influence on my writing and so much of her work is doing that with historical figures and taking these people who might be a footnote in the margins and then writing them in the life that she imagines they might have had. So, yeah, I suppose it’s modern in terms of how it’s situated in its reception, but it wasn’t modern in my head.
It’s interesting the Emma Donoghue influence, was Emma Donoghue, was it because of her sort of queerness that she was unafraid of or just from a literary perspective?
I think both. I didn’t initially know that she was a queer writer, but her work had even more resonance for me, resonance for me after I found that out, and this was all before room. So I was kind of bemused to have all these people not even know that she was a queer writer and overlook what to me was a huge aspect of the affinity that I felt with her writing. And that’s one reason that I think it’s important to be open about my sexuality too, because it meant so much to me to be able to find that representation myself.
Yeah, because in one way you could argue that it doesn’t matter who wrote it, you know, you’re taking the work on its own terms in a way. But on the other hand, I get it, because I read it with a different experience if I know it’s another queer person talking to me.
Yeah. And we’re still not in a position where we can trust mainstream queer representation. We’re still not at a point where if there are lesbians in a show or a bisexual girl in a book, that we know that someone who’s actually had those experiences has read this and said, yeah, that feels right.
So if it can give that level of trust, that just someone has a stake in the community when they’re representing it, it makes me feel, I suppose, more comforted reading it. It’s not that I’d go into a straight depiction of a queer person expecting it to be bad, but I’d be, I suppose, a tiny bit more apprehensive. So it’s just nice to, I suppose, be able to set that out.
Yeah. And you’re going to do a reading for us. Do you want to set it up or.
Yeah. So I thought I’d start from the start. The con is that it doesn’t get gay until later, but in terms of not having to describe the plot at length, it’s still probably for the best. So I’ll just launch in.
“July 2016. My banker friend Julian first took me for lunch in July, the month I arrived in Hong Kong. I’d forgotten which exit of the station we were meeting at, but he called saying he saw me outside Kee Wah Bakery and to wait there. It was humid. Briefcase- bearers clopped out of turnstiles like breeding jennets.
The Tannoy blared out first Cantonese, then Mandarin, and finally a British woman saying please mind the gap. Through the concourse and up the escalators, we talked about how crowded Hong Kong was. Julian said London was calmer, and I said Dublin was, too. At the restaurant he put his phone face-down on the table, so I did the same, as if for me, too, this represented a professional sacrifice. Mindful he’d be paying, I asked if he’d like water – but while I was asking, he took the jug and poured.
“Work’s busy,” he said. “I barely know what the hell I’m doing.” Bankers often said that. The less knowledge they professed, the more they knew and the higher their salary. I asked where he’d lived before Hong Kong and he said he’d read history at Oxford. People who’d gone to Oxford would tell you so even when it wasn’t the question. Then, like “everyone”, he’d gone to the City. “Which city?” I said. Julian assessed whether women made jokes, decided we did, and laughed.
I said I didn’t know where I’d end up. He asked how old I was, I said I’d just turned 22, and he told me I was a baby and I’d figure it out. We ate our salads and he asked if I’d dated in Hong Kong yet. I said not really, feeling “yet” did contradictory things as an adverb and there were more judicious choices he could have made. In Ireland, I said, you didn’t “date”. You hooked up, and after a while you came to an understanding.
Julian said: “So you’re saying it’s like London.” “I don’t know,” I said. ” I’ve never been.” “You’ve “never been” to London.” “No.” “Ever?” “Never.” I said, pausing long enough to satisfy him that I’d tried to change the fact about my personal history upon his second query and was very sorry I’d failed. “Ava.” he said, “that’s incredible.” “Why?” “It’s such a short flight from Dublin.” I was disappointed in me, too. He’d never been to Ireland, but it would have been redundant to tell him it was also a short flight that way.
We discussed headlines. He’d read in the FT that the offshore renminbi was down against the dollar. The one piece of news I could offer in return was that a tropical storm was coming. “Yes.” he said. “Mirinae. And a typhoon the week after.” We agreed it was an exciting time to be alive.
Both storms came. Unrelatedly, we kept getting lunch. “I’m glad we’re friends,” he’d say, and far be it for me to correct a Balliol man.
I felt spending time with him would make me smarter, or would at least prepare me to talk about currencies and indices with the serious people I would encounter in the course of adult life. We got on well. I enjoyed his money and he enjoyed how easily impressed I was by it.
Yes, because I think we probably forgot to mention in all our preamble that it’s actually really funny. It’s laugh out loud funny at times. I’m thoroughly enjoying because I’m in the middle of it at the minute. Let me ask a silly question, because I, you know, sometime have to talk about icky things that I know my parents are going to hear. Your parents are nice people from Bushy Park and there’s all sorts of polyamorous bisexuality going on in there.Do you find that uncomfortable or your parents are that cool it doesn’t matter?
Well, because my brother and I are both queer it’s kind of kitchen table talk a lot of it. Yeah, like it’s fine. There’s a degree of distance, so I don’t talk to them about the book and I don’t ask them if they do or any of that. But I think that’s just me in general.
I think it’s just a human thing though. Like I’m 51 years old. My parents know, you know, I’m an open book. I literally wrote a book about it which they read, but I still just, they’re your parents, they’re not meant to, you know, there’s some stuff I’d rather they just didn’t even think about it.
Louise it does seem to me like, Naoise is sitting at home writing and she’s looking inside herself to find a story and drawing on her own well of experience, whereas it seems to me that your work is mostly concerned with investigating. true stories in a way, or some aspect of it, but that has been hidden from us.
Absolutely. And I suppose those moments for me was when you discover someone like Seán McLoughlin being the the commandant general of the Irish Republic in 1916. Who the hell knew who Seán McLoughlin was, a 16 year old lad from North King Street. It was just part of that story that you don’t know or that 215 thousand Irish men fought in the World War. I don’t think I would have touched that story by myself. But, you know, when when a provocation or a proposition comes at you sometimes you just go, actually, I don’t know what I can make about, you know, posh boys going off to fight in the war and a Pals Regiment.
But actually, when you start to dig deep and see the human story behind that again and the weekend Pals opened in the National Museum I was coming down in the lift and there was a little old lady who was sitting watching the show. And I knew through a set of secret doors there was a lift.
So I didn’t introduce myself to her as a director or anything like it or as a maker of it. I said, look, I know where there’s a lift so you don’t have to go back down all the stairs. I said I’ll show you. And we were in the lift and she took a medal out of her pocket and she said, my father’s name was John Horner he lived in Mountjoy Square and she gave me the number of the door and she said, and this is his medal.
And I’ve never told that to anyone else. And I wanted to bring the medal to see the show. And I remember thinking, my God, what an amazing thing to happen and how fortuitous that it was to me and their opening weekend. And all of that was going to be, you know, fantastic. And we met the curator of military history down at the bottom of the stairs and I went, I think you should talk to him about your dad and share the story.
And I remember going home thinking that was an extraordinary moment and it wasn’t because Pals, like other works provides an opportunity, it was like an avalanche of people bringing things to the museum. They brought objects, they brought records, they brought medals, they brought broken jars of whiskey. They brought uniforms. They brought things to talk about the people that they felt they couldn’t talk about before because we’ve been eclipsed by nationalism, you know, and they’re coming back from World War One.
And suddenly it doesn’t become so cool to talk about their stories or the reasons for joining, which could be anything from home rule to, you know, king and country to needing shoes.
Have you ever felt resistance from people about some of the things you want to make shows about?
Sometimes resistance from myself. You know, where sometimes you’re halfway through a show and, you know, we had massive failures, too.
I think we got so used to talking about, no seriously like we made a show a number of years ago where we just, it just had taken so much time to get to the point of production that the why of making it didn’t exist anymore because Ireland had changed. You know, we’d had a referendum, we’d had different things going on repeal the eight was well into its making. And you just look at it and go, actually, the momentum of why we would be doing this has altered so much.
I never you know, I never told the cast this and now they’re all going to know it, I was hiding myself in toilets going, I don’t want to come back into rehearsal.
David now you, you’re going to perform another song in a moment. But that song is inspired, in a way, by the new Ireland, if I can maybe say something like that.
The next song yeah.
Yeah. Tell us about it.
Basically, it’s a song about feeling first and foremost national pride that back in May 2015 where we voted in, that everybody can get married, why the hell not. How dare anyone ever have put a stop to that. Which in itself is ridiculous. I basically wanted to write a song that celebrates that sense of national pride. Where we could actually get together collectively and majority vote, put something right. Put a wrong, a long, you know, something that’s been a long time in Irish society, put it right.
And not that it should matter here at all, but just for clarity sake you’re a straight man with their two kids who are growing up. And I suspect sometimes that having kids then makes you want to, I don’t know, it spurs you on to make the world better or want the world to be better.
Because your kids are seven and eleven.
Little boy is seven
So in 2015 and all that time, like they were new to the world in a way.
They were. Yeah. And I just, you know, I inside I was angry like that anybody, church or state or any person, could dictate whether somebody could or couldn’t undertake the act of marriage and be legitimate in inverted commas, you know, in the eyes of church and state.
Well the church can make up their own mind but in the state’s the important part.
Well exactly. But I just, you know, so the song being Two to Fall in Love is just basically two people but also
And the title here is very interesting in our context of our brevetti conversation because it’s clever.
The title is
The title of the song is Two to Fall in Love.
Yeah. An you can mean that in two ways.
Two ways. Well it was yeah it was two to fall two that fell which church and state and then also just two people who can be left alone to fall in love and do live their life.
Louise, your work is concerned with Ireland and things we did wrong in the past and things were hopefully going to get better in the future.
And you are Naoise very representative in a way of, I hate the term the new Ireland, but it’s all I have for the minute, you know, open about who you are and your sexuality and your autism and your very representative of a world that I don’t think my grandmother would have recognised in a way.
Do you also as two women look at May 2015 and that decision as a marker or just another step on a long, winding road. map. Because obviously then there’s another referendum layer which might get closer to most women’s active lives and well,
No, I think, I think what Dave is saying is that it was time. It was the day I felt most proud to be Irish. But that was, I was struggling with that because I didn’t feel it should be a vote at all, I thought it should be just a thing that happened.
And then when it happened and when I went through and I remember watching those scenes in Dublin Castle and going, god love wins, you know, regardless of whatever love has won today and being really proud, probably one of the first times in my life, feeling proud of Ireland, proud of the Ireland that you were living in.
See that’s very interesting to me, because to me, obviously, it was a big day. And I do sort of you know, it changed my life, I think, in a way, as a queer person in Ireland because, you know, we’re unique in the world, really, in that I know exactly to a percentage point what the rest of the country thinks about me, you know. And that turned out to be very powerful in a way that I didn’t know.
But it’s always so interesting to me when, you know, when people who are outside in the way of our community, of that community also see it as some sort of marker.
I looked at my mam and she was in the early stages of dementia then, and she was crying. And with joy, I never thought I’d see this. But I’m just going, wow, I feel like that’s incredible.
Yeah. Now you see one of the things that the effects of that period, I’m going to say, not particularly just that referendum at the end, the women’s reproductive rights referendum and other things happened around that time.
I think they changed young people in the sense that I think there was a generation who, or generations, who felt they couldn’t affect any kind of change, that the levers of power weren’t available to them and they were just banging their heads against a brick wall forever. But I think the generations from you down sort of Naoise, well every weekend they’re marching about something else, and it’s amazing to see because they feel actually we can change the world. We’ve done it twice already.
And to me, that’s I find that liberating just watching it. Are you aware of that?
I don’t know how generational it is, but I think there is an increased faith in grassroots methods of change, which is sorely needed in this country because we’ve seen time and time again that electoral politics will only ever catch up, it needs to come from outside that.
And I think that’s something that makes it frustrating sometimes about being Irish abroad, because, for example, when the abortion referendum happened, you know, I sailed home to vote, then back over to Oxford the next day. And there are all these English people talking about this as a victory for the Irish government and a sign that backwards Catholic Ireland has caught up with the institution. And it’s just completely erasing the people who actually did it, the people who braved an incredibly hostile landscape to tell extremely vulnerable stories who were working before anyone was and who are the last people that these boring academics would ever think to cite in their paper on the power of bringing things to referendum.
So that’s a frustrating gap in terms of our international representation. But within Ireland, I think there is keen awareness of where that actually came from and why that’s the best recourse for any other change we want to affect. So that’s why the Irish response to further issues and things to agitate around is to organize a protest and not to write a petition to a politician, because we know they’re not all bad but most of them are just catching up.
I totally agree.
I think possibly some of it as well is just that there’s less to gain from accepting things. It’s not that you’re going to get a house out of it anymore, so. And like, I think teenagers now, even more so, you know, they’re doing the most climate agitation of anyone.
Yes. Yeah. David, can we hear the song that we were talking about. Yeah, that would be rather lovely.
It is called, Two to Fall in Love.
Join Me in the Pines perform Two to Fall in Love
Beautiful. Unfortunately, we’re gonna have to wind this all up, so before I do let yous go.Thank you all for coming and all. What’s next for you all.
To get more music out there and, you know, just and embrace the enjoyment.
Getting it out there is one thing, but getting people to come is another, because at the moment and Louise you’re sitting there and I’m saying, what’s next? What is next for someone who’s making theater?
Yeah. You know, initially when, you know, we spent the first part of the year un-making what we’d planned, this was going to be one of our busiest years yet. In the next couple of weeks, we were planning to be in New York with BAM and like an extraordinary year ahead. And I thought, I remember thinking when this started to happen, I was like, I wonder will this be over before rehearsals start for Shadow of a Gunman in the gate.
Maybe we’ll be alright. That seems so naive now, you know, even looking back at that time. But we were lucky in ANU because we weren’t actually in production. We were planning for productions. So in lots of ways, we’ve been very, very fortuitous for us to be able to hold on to them. And I look at some of our colleagues and the decimation that happened for them mid production or mid festival with this and just going oh my God, your heart and your soul being torn apart at that point.
But I don’t know is the truth. I mean, we were very popular at the start of covid because everyone came to us going, well, you make work for small audiences.
Yeah, yeah, we do. But you know what we know how to move small groups of people. But the connection and the communion and the intimacy that we try to find with our audiences is what sets our work apart. But at the same time, we are artists and you know you’ll keep question and you’ll find the curiosity and the torment and the torture.
But I’m so much better looking in three dimensions than in two.
I know. I know.
Naoise, you’re a writer. You can just do your thing.
It’s fairly covid proof yeah just me and my laptop. So I’ll just get on with that. I’m useless at describing stuff until it’s completely finished because the description then alters how I do it and I don’t like that at all.
Well, if there’s any profession that is kind of covid proof, I think yours is it. You can do it at home and you can sell it, you know,
Everyone needs a good book during lockdown.
Yes. Yes. Anyway that unfortunately, is it from Pantisocracy today. I’d like to thank you all for listening in and hope you’ll be back for more. And I want, of course, to thank our three wonderful guests today, Naoise Dolan. Good luck going back to London. To David Geraghty. Good luck dealing with being from Leixlip. And Louise Lowe, who I worship and feel like I know you, even though I haven’t really met you properly until today.
What happened you in Leixlip Panti, what happened you?
I’m a culchie. I’m allowed. Listeners remember you can find all the episodes in this season and the previous seasons of Pantisocracy at Pantisocracy.ie or indeed on your favorite podcast platform and if you need a video to keep you interested Pantisocracy.ie has loads of those as well. Thank you all for listening. Thank you all for being here with me.
Sometimes, to make things happen, we need to go out on our own, to fly solo, and realise our inner vision. In this episode of Pantisocracy host Panti Bliss is with three people who did just that; musician and singer David Geraghty, theatre director and founder of Anu Productions, Louise Lowe, and queer, autistic novelist Naoise Dolan who is creating quite a stir with her debut work ‘Exciting Times’.
David Geraghty, a founder member with the band BellX1, created a solo, alter identity, some six years ago, in Join Me in the Pines, and David performs two very apt songs for Panti Bliss ‘Two to Fall in Love’ inspired by the 2015 marriage equality vote, and ‘She Steps Into The Light’ starring, in the video he made, – a drag queen!
Naoise Dolan shares a reading from her work and talks about why it was important to her to get her diagnosis as autistic a year ago.