Friday, December 23, 2011

Introducing - Malawi Project:

This project is kindly supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund  To be continued!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Irish Times Review of 'Doreen - Telling the Dancer from the Dance'

This is Mick Heaney's review of 'Doreen - Telling the Dancer from the Dance' as it appeared in the Irish Times on Saturday November 5th.  You can make your own mind up by listening to the podcast of the documentary, which is available by clicking here.  Would love to hear your thoughts on it!

In the meantime, I am grateful to Simon Cumbers Media Fund who awarded me a grant in their most recent round to go to Malawi next month to document the pilot programme of TCD Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering's part Irish Aid funded M-Power Stove Project.  So I'm busy organising that and will keep you posted on how it goes.  As I will be over there at the start of the holiday season, I'm hoping to stay on and volunteer for Concern Universal for a few weeks.  Can't wait to discover Malawi.  I'll be looking out for their traditional dancing and theatre too.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

'Doreen - Telling the Dancer from the Dance' on Lyric FM this Friday Nov 4th

Doreen – Telling the Dancer from the Dance

In 1927 WB Yeats founded the Abbey Theatre Ballets with Ninette de Valois, the Irish woman who would go on to create the Royal British Ballet.  WB Yeats is well known as one of the world’s greatest writers.  His prophetic vision for dance, and the body are less known however. Thanks to an exclusive interview with Doreen Cuthbert, who danced in the Abbey Theatre Ballets from its inception in 1927 until its demise in 1933, in this documentary we reclaim this lost cultural history, and in doing so, tell the dancer from the dance.  

Commentators include Roy Foster, Yeats’s biographer, Richard Allen Cave, author of “Collaborations: Ninette de Valois & WB Yeats”, JW Flannery, author of “Yeats and the Idea of a Theatre” and Anna Meadmore, head of Academic Studies at the Royal Ballet of Great Britain. 

Aurally, this documentary takes the listener on a musical journey, from the music danced to by the Abbey Theatre Ballets - Schubert and Chopin - to Victor Sylvester, to original music composed for dance by Philip Feeney (for Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre) and The Edge (for Morleigh Steinberg’s “Cold Dream Colour”).

The documentary will be broadcast on RTE Lyric FM’s “Lyric Feature” slot on Friday November 4th at 7pm., and afterwards will be available as a podcast via .

A Deirdre Mulrooney Production for RTE Lyric FM
Sound Supervision by John Davis
Narration by Pat Laffan

Funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, with additional support from the Arts Council of Ireland

* For more information/ images call Deirdre on 086-6075785, or email Deirdre at
Sunday Times Culture Magazine
RTE Guide

Saturday, October 29, 2011

WB Yeats and Laundry... in VILLAGE MAGAZINE

I'm delighted that my ponderances on what WB Yeats might make of Contemporary Ireland, and in particular of 'the tiny theatre show Laundry', appear in the current edition of VILLAGE MAGAZINE. Check it out, and please do let me know what you think...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In the Footsteps of the Fab Four... etc

A Magical Mystery Tour to Rishikesh! (as seen in this weekend's Irish Times "GO" Magazine).
Ah, those were the days...

Additionally, I've been busy. With the help of my fantastic sound engineer, John Davis, I have just finished a first mix of my radio documentary "Irish Monsoon Wedding", about the aforementioned family wedding in Darjeeling, that preceded the Happy Rishikesh adventure. So watch this space (or should I say, listen out for this space), 'til I line up a broadcaster so you can hear all about that unlikely Cork-Darjeeling love story. Stay tuned! :-)

In the meantime, you can catch my BAI-funded radio documentary, on the Abbey Theatre Ballets, entitled "Doreen - Telling the Dancer from the Dance" on RTE Lyric FM on Friday November 4th 2011 at 7pm in the "Lyric Feature" slot. More of that anon.


Remembering June Fryer - Ireland's First Modern Dancer

Alas we lost the lovely June Fryer, Ireland's first Modern Dancer recently - above is her obituary which I contributed to the Irish Times, outlining her achievements, and the fantastic forgotten world that she was part of.

"June Kuhn (nee Fryer), Ireland’s first Modern Dancer, who was described in a 1940’s review as “lyrical June Fryer, a lovely-eyed, willowy girl”, has died at the age of 85.

Originally from Mount Merrion, Dublin, June was introduced to Modern Dance by German-born Erina Brady, who was mistakenly suspected of being a spy. June’s headmistress at Park House School on Morehampton Road put 16 year-old June in touch with Brady, who came to Dublin in 1939 to sow the seed of Mary Wigman-inspired Modern Dance at her “Irish School of Dance Art” on Harcourt Street.

June soon became a star pupil at the school where she trained until 1946, alongside wartime bohemian refugee Jacqueline Robinson. Informed by what she learned in Dublin, Robinson went on to set up l’Atelier de la Danse, the first professional school of modern dance in Paris. In her memoir “Modern Dance in 1940’s Dublin” Robinson remembers June as “obviously gifted for dance”.

At Brady’s Harcourt Street studio, June mingled among a fascinating Bohemian milieu, comprising Basil (“Benny”), Racoszi and Kenneth Hall of the White Stag Art Group; film-maker Liam O’Laoghaire; composer Brian Boydell; stain glass artists Patrick Pye, Adolphus Grauer, Mainie Jellett and Hugh Barden; painter Barbara Warren; gallerist David Hendrick; art collector Gordon Lambert; architect Noel Moffett; and the wartime diplomatic set, including British Embassy press attaché and poet John Betjeman and Dr. and Mrs. Hempel of the German Legation to Ireland. This “Emergency” Bohemian set enjoyed soirees of poetry recital, music, and dance in Brady’s studio, - referred to as “bottle and pyjama parties” by the detectives who were monitoring them.

Unusually for women of their day, June and Jacqueline attended fortnightly bohemian meetings in a pub on Dawson Street, where they would discuss “ideas and art”. As part of their training they also attended Francoise Henry’s History of Art Lectures at Trinity College, and taught dance classes in Brigidine Convents in Kildare, Carlow, and Kilkenny.

Eamon De Valera opened Brady’s choreography “The TB Ballet – a propaganda ballet against Tuberculosis”, starring June, in the Mansion House in 1945. At the Peacock theatre in 1946, June performed in plays choreographed by Brady, including “The Magic Glasses” by George Fitzmaurice, “The Viscount of Blarney” by Austin Clarke, and Brady’s adaptation of Tennyson’s poem “The Voyage of Maeldune”.

After obtaining her Diploma, June continued her training with Sigurd Leeder in Oxford, where she took up a position teaching dance at the Oxford Theatre School for two years in the late 1940’s. She also performed in London’s Rudolf Steiner Hall, and in Archives de la Danse, Paris.

June joined Stella Campbell’s Dublin dance school when it expanded to include Modern Ballet and Ballroom in the 1950’s. One day Campbell sent June to Dunlaoghaire, to collect a Swiss dancer coming to procure his ballroom dancing certificate. Walter Kuhn had been to Ireland in 1953, with the Ballet Jooss, dancing the iconic role of the young soldier in Jooss’s epic anti-war ballet “The Green Table” at the Olympia Theatre. His photograph was among those adorning the walls of Brady’s Harcourt Street Dance Studio when June was training there. ‘A match made in heaven’, June and Walter soon married, started a family, and began teaching ballroom dancing classes in their Blackrock living room, overlooking Dublin Bay.

Raising their family “you kept very quiet about being a dancer”, recalled June. “Barefoot – can you imagine? It was considered almost indecent.” June helped Carolyn Swift and Alan Simpson in their shortlived Pike Theatre, and continued teaching in schools like Killiney’s Holy Child Convent. Walter took up a job in Fryer’s Electrical Contractors in Ballsbridge, owned by June’s parents. June became an avid painter.

Born on March 3rd, 1926, June Fryer died on September 22nd, 2011. She is survived by her husband, Walter, her daughters Kathrin, Monika and Sonja, her grandchildren Niall, Darragh, Sinéad and Finn, and her sister, Ann."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yeats and the Arts Conference at NUIG Moore Institute

It was an honour to be part of this fantastic conference on "Yeats and the Arts", organised by Adrian Paterson and Thomas Walker at NUIG's Moore Institute at the weekend. It certainly was an erudite gathering! So while I was fairly intimidated delivering my paper on "Late WB Yeats's Late Bodily Visions" in front of such a pantheon of Yeatsians, it was so worth it to hear the wealth of insights, information, and, yes, footnotes from everyone else present! An extremely stimulating, thought-provoking, and enlightening weekend. I particularly loved all the visual art - there was loads of that, and publishing projects, in Yeats's milieu. Of course there was, with his father and brother being painters, and his sisters being wonderful craftswomen, and publishers. It was also nice to think again about scansion of verse, after not thinking about it for such a long time. Terrence Killeen was a particular beacon of verse scansion - the three sentences in Among School Children, for example. I could go on, and on and on and on, but I'll save it for another occasion. Massive thanks to the organisers, and the other participants.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with Sean Hillen

Yesterday, I interviewed photographer Sean Hillen about his eerie and insightful exhibition “Ghost Shops”. Photographing these tragic yet visually marvelous scenes of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland ‘through the looking glass’, made Hillen reminisce about the ‘famine evictions’ of yore, and wonder at how history can repeat itself.

Catch the final week of this poetic and somewhat disorienting exhibition before it ends at 5pm this Sunday! To get there, climb the stairs to the summit of “Base Camp”, on Middle Abbey Street (opposite Epicurean Food Hall, beside Arnotts), and behold the vertiginous view. (With sugar levels in mind, sweets & chocolate await you at the top). A hidden gem of an exhibition, in an exciting new space, we are sure you will agree. And thought-provoking too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Taking the Plunge

Documentaries have been made drawing parallels between pilgrims bathing in the Ganges river in Varanasi, India, and swimming in Dublin’s Forty Foot. But I wouldn’t dare mention those pretentious theories to the down to earth swimmers of Byrnes’s Cove, Kilkee, County Clare. You know what you have to do but you just don’t talk about it. Jump in. Get moleculary rearranged. Say “lovely”.

Blue lips, purple skin with orange polka dots, goose-bumps… Baywatch, eat your heart out. These attractive hues and skin-textures may sound like the description of a corpse, but no, coupled with a triumphant smile, and the grab for a towel, you’ve got ‘the look’ of emerging from Byrnes’s Cove, swimming mecca.

To the uninitiated onlooker this practice may well appear like a strange native masochistic ritual, but for regulars, whose forefathers have been coming here for generations, this icy dip is heaven. No, really.

Until recently though, “Byrnes’s” (as it’s referred to in local parlance), was one of those men-only, ‘women out’ precincts, frequented by Earnest Hemingway types like my own father. That was, until people like sprightly aunties and their ilk started showing up, brazenly reclaiming one of the best bathing spots on our planet.

I myself was once confronted with a naked man on the slip-way. (I, of course, as a past pupil of Cahercon Salesian Secondary School was modestly attired). He stopped for a friendly chat. “My father swam here, my grand-father, and my great-grandfather before him”, he declared. “Really?” I responded, keeping my gaze above his (imaginary) belt. “So did mine”.

Then, in honour of the aforementioned ancestors, I tried to make as little of a song and dance about getting into the icy water as humanly possible. (It’s not unusual to get stuck with waves lapping at knee-level for a good five or maybe even ten minutes before mustering up the courage to take the plunge).

But, if you’re lucky enough to get caught in a sunbeam (sunbeams do happen), out there where sky and sea meet, drifting out into the middle of the bay, it can feel mystical. Then there is that psychedelic green of the seaweed. Just around the corner, I hear there is another swimming spot called ‘paradise’ which reveals itself only at certain rare confluences of tide, gravitational pull, and phase of moon. I haven’t found it yet, but it’s on my to-do list.

Life here revolves around tide tables. There’s a time for the Pollack Holes (the natural sea water pools across the bay, which emerge when the tide is out); a time for Byrnes’s (high tide); for Myles’s Creek; for the boards; for the strand. Days are spent chasing the tide around Kilkee’s perfect horseshoe bay from one swimming spot to another. Running into seldom-seen cousins from near and far-flung places on the prom, the conversation revolves around ‘how many swims have you had?’. There’s bravado, boasting, peer pressure, and, yes, competition.

The cold concrete, then the cold, wet stones underfoot. The ice bucket that is the chilly Atlantic lapping around your ankles, then your knees, then slowly, bit by bit, the whole way up until you stop at your hips and wonder: ‘Me? In there? I don’t think so’. You feel the fear and do it anyway. Suddenly, you are back to the basics of who you are, humbled and invigorated by the mighty Atlantic.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Letter to Irish TImes, July 6th, 2011

I am very grateful to the Irish Times for kindly publishing this letter on July 6th. I have had a great response so far, and I am very excited to see what comes out of it, in this project of piecing together the jigsaw of Erina Brady's overlooked life and influence in Ireland. Watch this space! & please do get in touch if you have any information to contribute to this story.... Also if you have any fellowships, post-doc's, or basic money to fund this important project!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist, at the Royal Ballet School

Anna Meadmore of the Royal Ballet speaks about Ninette de Valois by

Thanks to a Travel and Training Award from the Arts Council, I was lucky enough to get to the Royal Ballet Conference "Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist" on the first weekend in April, in Covent Garden and at White Lodge, in Richmond Park. It's actually mindblowing to consider that this institution was founded by an Irish woman. Ninette de Valois was proud to be Irish, as you'll hear if you listen to the soundcloud above, of an interview I did with Anna Meadmore of the Royal Ballet. The whole event really was quite a revelation, about this wonderful Irish artist, who is totally overlooked in the country of her birth (She was born Edris Stannus, in Blessington, County Wicklow; her first dance was an Irish jig). Listen to the chat I had with Anna Meadmore, head of Academic Studies at the Royal Ballet about Ninette de Valois, and her relationship to Ireland, above. More to follow!

Did you know, incidentally, that the tenth anniversary of Ninette de Valois' death fell on International Women's Day, March 8th - which makes it all the more poignant that she wasn't even mentioned at the International Women's Day Events in Dublin. Maybe next year?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blue Sky Dreaming on Paddy's Day, Swans, & finalist in Irish Blog Awards

Had a fantastic alternative Paddy's Day yesterday, with a lovely stroll to Baily lighthouse on Howth head, and blue sky dreaming as far as the eye could see. Then went to the fabulous Swan Lake by the Russian State Ballet at the Grand Canal Theatre. Love that new Ireland sophistication! & in AOB - is a FINALIST in the Irish Blog Awards tomorrow night. How amazing is that? We are thrilled to bits for Regnum Hibernia Vulgo. Will let you know how we get on...

Thursday, February 24, 2011 update - we're 'talk of the town' today in the Irish Daily Mail

Apologies, I have been neglecting my own blog due to being up to my eyes running
But at least it seems to be going really well, we have got some wonderful contributors. Aisling Ryan on Contemporary Music; Gerry Wardell on Climate Culture; Julia Judge on what's hot in NYC; Honor Molloy on her own personal connection to the 45th Anniversary of the Bombing of Nelson's Pillar at Dublin Book Festival; and A LOT more. Check it out. Today we got our first mention in the Irish Daily Mail's "Talk of the Town" for our new resident "culture guru", Ciaran Mac Gonigal - stirring it up a bit on public art. We also discovered that we are nominated for an Irish Blog Award. So it's all good. I'm also working on my radio documentary for RTE Lyric FM, "Doreen's Yeatsian Dance Adventures" and planning a trip to the Royal Ballet School in London for their conference "Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist", and tipping away at an historical novel, that is slowly (but very slowly), but surely taking shape. More of which anon. In the meantime, well, it's nice to be 'talk of the town', see above.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hear "My Scene with Daniel Day Lewis" on RTE Sunday Miscellany, this Sunday

I bet you're wondering how I ended up in the picture, above! (And how the picture got so crumpled). Well, finally after all this time... all will be revealed this Sunday.

Tune in to RTE Radio One between 9am and 10am this Sunday, and hear this funny true story...

You can visit RTE Sunday Miscellany online here

You can catch In the Name of the Father on the big screen as part of the current Jim Sheridan in focus season at the Irish Film Institute on Tuesday, February 8th, at 6pm.

Sunday Miscellany 6 February 2011

Duration: 43.16

Imagine by Gail Seakamp

Hamster by Mark Roper

Money Laundering by Cyril Kelly

The Waterford Penny Dinners by Cathleen Brindley

My Scene with Daniel Day Lewis by Deirdre Mulrooney

Music content:

Out on The Ocean from The West Ocrean String Quartet

Romance No 1 Opus 22 by Schumann performed by Elizabeth Cooney and Daniel Hill

The Teetotlar, St Anne’s performed by Dé Danainn

Evening Dew, Morceau de Salon, Opus 90 by Alexander Osborne performed on piano by Una Hunt

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 interview with Colm O'Grady of Clowns without Borders, Ireland

I met Colm O’Grady, ‘the best juggler in Inchicore’, and Winner of the alternative Miss Ireland ‘poise’ award, near Druid’s rehearsal space in Galway on the first morning of rehearsals for an upcoming “Clowns Without Borders” expedition. Clown Timmy Hannington arrived in from Belfast; Clown Rachel Devir from Letterkenny; and Clown Jonathan Gunning, founder member of Clowns Without Borders – Ireland, from just outside Galway.

The clown equivalent of the international medical and humanitarian aid organisation ‘Medecins sans Frontieres’, ‘Clowns Without Borders – Ireland’, is funded by Culture Ireland, and private sponsorship (pub-quizzes, fundraisers). Their maiden tour in 2006 was to Nepal where they worked in 7 refugee camps, often performing to 4,000 people ‘with one microphone and some antennae speakers’, liaising with local orphanages and NGO’s. Colm O’Grady recalls it as a ‘life-altering’ experience’. Bringing ‘psycho-social relief’, it firmed them in their resolve ‘to bring laughter and joy to communities and people in crisis’. They felt an affinity with refugees, and sought out countries ‘where people had been displaced’ – Nepal, Uganda, and, closer to home asylum seekers and refugees here in Ireland.

‘I’ve got a lot of experience of being in bad areas, and am very attracted to all the places you are not meant to go’, explains O’Grady. Over a decade ago, at the age of 23, O’Grady dropped out of nursing school in Bournemouth, and began travelling the world. Before long, he found himself wandering into Jerusalem’s Arab Quarter with a vague utopian wish to make the children laugh.

It all seemed to be going horribly wrong when the throng of children who gathered around him began to stone the pale, lanky stranger. However – Colm picked up the big rocks as they fell from his body, and ‘then I started juggling with them. The stones coming at me started to change velocity’.

Bemused, the children stopped and stared. Curious, like children everywhere, they joined in the stranger’s game. Soon, O’Grady was in their homes, helping them with their homework, and teaching them an array of circus tricks.

Subsequently, O’Grady got serious about clowning, saving up to attend Philippe Gaullier’s famous clown school (Ali G’s alma mater), for two years, by working as a stunt man on ‘Mystic Knights of Tir na nOg’.

When at home, he offers workshops like the one he tells me about in Finglas, where as soon as he walked in to the room he was told to ‘f*** off’ by one charming participant. By the end of his session, O’Grady had the same boy wearing a stupid hat, juggling, and imploring him ‘Aw mister, mister, look at me mister!’ Working out of Beflast Community Circus, where he is a sometime teacher, he found himself teaching juggling and unicycle in the hall of the Maze Prison.

The day I first met him, Colm O’Grady was looking for Ugandan songs, to incorporate into ‘Lost’, a show about a lost football team, for a month long North Ugandan tour into Lira, Pedar, and Gulu. Liaising with the UNHCR (who requested that they address the topic of landmines in their show), that itinerary took them, their Giraffe unicycle, and array of puppets around ‘areas that the guidebook tells you not to visit because it’s full of refugees and there is nothing to do, precisely where we want to go’. They performed two shows a day, and gave workshops. Among others they worked with a group of girls who had been abducted, and sexually abused by the LRA, ‘doing workshops to try and encourage eye-contact… There are a lot of problems with shame, and through circus and acrobatics they will gain self-esteem’.

Clowns Without Border’s mission is simple, to: ‘give children back their childhood’.

O’Grady has performed in Barabbas’s hit show “Circus”, in the Tassel Club, at the Sugar Club, as a guest act in La Clique, in Spirit nightclub, and has devised own shows, ‘Grandmother’, the award-winning ‘anti-glam’ Salivation Army Granny & band. For more details see

Follow their latest diary, from Somalia, here on VULGO.
For more details about their great work visit Clown Without Borders – Ireland. Laurie Anderson Interview part 3: On the Violin, 2011 Projects, Lolobelle, and Inter-Species Communication

Friday, January 14, 2011

Laurie Anderson for on truth, dreams, delusion, and being half Irish

Interview by yours truly. Iphone video & editing by Angel Gonzalez.
For - the transcript of this interview is up on
should you be interested in reading it.