Getting your fix of culture can be challenging during lockdown. That's why our British Council Ireland team have decided to share some of the ways they've been engaging with, and experiencing, culture during lockdown.
Mags Walsh - Country Director
This month audio has really been king for me. So much of the work day is given over to screens, I’ve been switching off by concentrating on all things audio.
Salena Godden’s poem Pessimism is for Lightweights has become something a household anthem recently so I’ve been heartily enjoying her regular radio show now as well. Presented alongside Amah-Rose Abrams and Matt Abbott, it airs monthly. A mix of music, poetry and unapologetic opinions and activism, these long episodes are very satisfying.
A retreat to audio has also been facilitated by the RTE Radio Documentary on one app. A very usable interface that allows you to dive into past episodes of the series. I particularly recommend this documentary about Irish Australian woman Helen Oxenham and her work with victims of domestic violence.
Liz McBain - Senior Programme Manager
Over the years, I have been a passionate follower of the American poet, author and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou. There’s no better time than Black History Month to pay tribute to this extraordinary, funny and inspiring woman. I’d recommend all seven of her autobiographies, starting with ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and if you’re not much of a reader, you can listen to a dramatization of the works on BBC Radio 4. If you don’t have much time, even just listen to ‘And Still I Rise’, a verse that has more meaning than ever for us all today I think.
The Belfast International Arts Festival – Northern Ireland’s biggest contemporary arts festival – is back, running from 12 October – 01 November. Amazingly, British Council Northern Ireland have supported the festival since its inception, and in this 58th year, audiences can expect a world class and eclectic fusion of theatre, dance, music, visual art, literature, films and talks. Two FREE events I’ve already signed up for are ‘Call Nina!’, a documentary that shows how art can provide a space for debate and change and the 139th RUA Annual Exhibition, 250 works that reflect the times we are living in and share deep messages with hope, humour, passion and integrity.
A final shout out goes to a great friend of British Council Ireland, Dr Niamh Shaw, who last week launched her book, ‘Dream Big: An Irish Woman's Space Odyssey’. Watch Simon Delaney’s virtual chat with Niamh about her memoir and her inspirational quest to get to space here.
Aysylu Mutigullina - Programme and Partnerships Manager
If anything good came out of pandemic it’s that I finished my 2020 Goodreads Reading challenge three months earlier, with Anne Enright’s Actress – a misleadingly realistic (oh, the number of times I had to Google all movie titles mentioned!) account of a life of Irish actress Katherine O’Dell as portrayed by her daughter Norah. As my country man Leo Tolstoy once wrote: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
As I’m writing this Culture Fix on 13 October, I think it’s only fair to include Ireland Music Week which took place last week: conference by day and showcase by night. Attending the panels and tuning in for evening programme made me a) amazed and inspired by resilience and creativity of music industry during these tough times b) really miss going to gigs! There is a great review on The Last Mix Tape, and IMW team compiled a Spotify playlist of 50 performing artists from Ireland and Northern Ireland and it’s been on repeat non-stop for me – check it out!
Aoife Ward - Office and Project Administration
It would be amiss of me to start off my culture fix for this month with anything other than Halloween. This Halloween is going to be spent a little different than most, although I’ve still not missed the opportunity to indulge myself in one of my favourite aspects of the holiday – horror movies. I wasn’t always a fan of the genre. When I was fourteen I watched ‘Orphan’ for the first time and decided that was enough horror to last a lifetime although I re-discovered my love/hate relationship for it as an adult and haven’t really looked back since.
Something I’ve recently been watching more of is Horror Noire after watching the documentary ‘Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror’. The documentary examines the history of black people in horror films and how their relationship with horror has developed over the decades – from being cast as the subject of people’s fear to being able to tell their own stories and showcase their own lived experiences through the genre. The most popular recent example is the 2017 film ‘Get Out’ by Jordan Peele. The film I’m most looking forward to seeing in the coming weeks however is ‘His House’ which is being released on Netflix this month and follows the lives of a family of asylum seekers living in the UK.
On a lighter note I also binge watched Schitts Creek this past month which, if you’re looking for a break from the constant bombardment of horror and haven’t already gotten around to watching it, is the perfect show to watch if you’re looking for good vibes.