The Forum Theatre, Waterford, Friday 11th June
I love this room. It is run by Ciaran O’Neill who has a passion for his venue and what goes on in it. If every heavily subsidised Arts Centre in Ireland had such passion at its heart, Our large circuit of publicly funded arts centres would surely enjoy a more egalitarian position within our Island community. There are notable exceptions, but, on the whole many of OUR arts centres exude and air of exclusivity and elitism … it must surely be part of any arts administrators brief to make their centre relevant within its community … the doors should be thrown open to all areas of society. People should be attracted and encouraged to become involved in THEIR arts centre. I sometimes feel that the very name “ARTS CENTRE” creates a delusion among some arts administrators that they breathe a finer air than the rest of us … Open your doors to the youngsters who have no youth centres, to the teens who have nowhere to listen to or play music, nowhere to converse, laugh, play or to make art, to the elderly who often need a place to meet, talk and share. Even bingo is preferable to Arts centres being black – Anything that keeps the centres open and encourages communities to feel part of their art centre. Come down from your lofty eyeries and smell the tea bags …
We kicked off last night at 8.05 … After a 2 week lay off we were ready for road. There was a grand gathering in the room with listeners from all over Munster and some from as far afield as Canada, Connecticut and Clonmel … We played:
Smoke & Strong Whiskey
Minds Locked Shut ( For Lord Saville)
Back Home in Derry
Cry Like a Man
Peace in the Valley
Black is the Colour
Weekend in Amsterdam
No Time for Love
After the gig we got together with the crew and had a sweepstake on the world cup. I drew Germany and Paraguay, South and North Korea. Jasus Lads did ye see Thierry Henry claiming handball in their opening game? What a feckin mebs.
Saturday 12th June
I was up at the crack of dawn to be well seated for Ireland V New Zealand at Rugby. The Hotel had a 15″ screen placed 12 feet up the wall.I had a crick in my neck which got worse as our “anthem” was beamed around the world. I moved a table over in front of the TV and put a chair on it. I was then haphazardly perched at the same level as the screen. This felt quite normal while I was in the lounge on my own. As other guests began to drift in I began to feel a tad conspicuous. Jamie Heaslip accidentally kneeing a New Zealand player in the head (twice) started the rot and when Ronan got yellow carded minutes later I had to climb down and depart for the breakfast room where all the crew were gathered … they being GAA afficionados with a fondness for the Rasher.
The rest of the day passed without further setback. I had a good walk around the City of Waterford. Passed Reginalds Tower and The Theatre Royal, on down to the quays for a good tramp along the yachtie bank. Looking over at the old grain silos and abandoned dockland it seems a shame that such a potential beauty spot be left lying ugly and fallow. I can only hope that it belongs to the city and not some mucksavage gobshite. The eye was then drawn up the hill to what was once known as “The Ard Rí Hotel” which totally dominates the entire Waterford City Skyline. It is now called “The McAniff Hotel” and has to be one of the ugliest architectural landmarks in the entire country. Even in its heyday it was a aberration. Now it stands abandoned, windows smashed, curtains fluttering – a 5 star for rats, wild cats, rabbits and pigeons. It would make a perfect backdrop for a video for “Peace in the Valley. (A Handsome Family song covered on Burning Times)
Back on the South Bank, Waterford is a most beautiful city in the June summer sun. There was a great atmosphere on the streets. Many visitors, like myself, pottering about and putting in a grand bit of a day doing nothing in particular. Bumped into a few visitors who were in town for the gigs and garnered a bouquet of requests. Back at the hotel, Declan and I rehearsed a few songs, then it was siesta time, dinner, and back to The Forum for night 2. A grand gaggle of listeners gathered to hear songs … We played:
North & South
Lawless (accompanied by the fire alarm)
Smoke & Strong Whiskey
A Stitch in Time
They Never Came Home
Black is the Colour
One Last Cold Kiss
Go Move Shift
No Time for Love
Thank you Ciaran O’Neill for two grand nights. Thank you to all listeners for the atmosphere ye created. See you along the way …
We gathered at the National Concert Hall to celebrate the 65th Birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi. For most of the last two decades she has been interned by the Military Junta which overthrew the democratically elected government. They were elected in a landslide victory which the Generals refused to accept. Since then, Burma has been ruled by terror and fear whilst Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest, denied access to her people, to visitors and even denied use of a piano. The corrupt military dictatorship show great fear for the peaceful and loving ways of this woman. The deny her everything, even music itself. We should think of her, speak of her and even sing for her. Every small action in every distant corner points up the cruel injustice of her incarceration. The night was a true celebration of her birthday and was capped when 65 children of Burma joined the cast on stage to sing “Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi”. We all stood together, 1200 people in the Dublin night and we sang our hearts out for the brave and precious Lady of Burma.
Sunday, 20th June
I was invited by One in Four to be part of a concert in The Peppercanister Church, Dublin.
One in Four is a voluntary organisation formed to help counsel and support the victims of sexual abuse in Ireland. It was a harrowing and challenging night as indeed it should have been. There was poetry, prose, music and song, all of which had sexual and physical abuse as its central theme. Never has a church been put to better use. It seemed to me the perfect venue. There was calm and peace, hurt and pain, anger and nurturing love … and not a moralising prosleytising clergyman to be seen. Any clergy that may have been there took their places amongst us as we sought to support the work of One in Four. The healing power was in the room. If religious ring leaders had any antennae amongst their congregations they would soon learn how to fill their churches once more.
Thursday 24th June
We sailed upon the SS Jonathan Swift from The North Wall to Holyhead (the shed was closed) where we sped off to Bath, our HQ for the following 3 days. Walked the parks ans canal banks. Declan and I rehearsed in anticipation of the weekends gigs. Played The Anvil in Basingstoke on Friday night. An excellent venue where we were welcomed by both staff and audience. My first time to play in this town which we reached after an exhilarating drive through the lush countryside around Salisbury Plain. Cherries and Strawberries and St. Georges Flags. Saturday it was in to Glastonbury for a 10.30 gig in The Acoustic Tent. Met Imelda May and her band after catching some of their set. Listened to Nick Lowe deliver some of his great songs and then we went on and played for 90 minutes. It went well but I have to admit its hard to beat the real thing. Muse were on the Main Stage and their sound could be clearly heard in The Acoustic Tent. Minor quibbles from this grumpy old man … it seems to be a much loved event … the organisation has to be seen to be believed. There were 180,000 listeners and, I am reliably informed, 40,000 people involved in putting it on and holding it all together. Certainly it is interesting to witness it all. I have watched it grow since my first gig there in the mid 80’s. I played on the main stage on previous occasions. Perhaps my most memorable spot there was on my first visit.I played Sunday afternoon on the Pyramid Stage. I had a handful of people listening until I took up the Bowrawn and played a protracted solo on the old drum during which the crowd seemed to swell and my gig turned into a lively affair. (Some of the performance was used on the Traveller album in 1999)
Back up the M4-M5-M6 … into Holyhead (shed still closed) and back in time for Dublin V Meath at Croke Park … Plenty of handballs there …
The Glastonbury Set:
Morth & South
Minds Locked Shut
Smoke & Strong Whiskey
No Time For Love
All the best …