Lorraine Maher - Putting Faces on Walls Across the World

October 07, 2021 00:54:56
Lorraine Maher - Putting Faces on Walls Across the World
The Plastic Podcasts
Lorraine Maher - Putting Faces on Walls Across the World
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Show Notes

Born “the only black person in Ireland” in a small Tipperary town, Lorraine Maher has gone on to be a consultant, educator, trainer, creative and project manager. A director of Project 507 and Education Manager of Clean Break Theatre, she is also the founder of I Am Irish, which in five years has gone from photography exhibition to international support and training organisation, specialising in perceptions of Irishness, colour and identity heritage.

Plus Geraldine Judge raises not one but two Plastic Pedestals

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:21 How you doing? I'm Doug Nevani and you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. Now we here at plastic towers light to consider ourselves the fairly active sought so much. So it's a one man operation calling himself. We, but we've barely got the mattress of our backs compared to today's guests. Lorraine, mark raised in Tipperary and moving to London when she was just a teenager. She describes herself as a consultant educator, trainer, project manager, and creative. She's a director of project 5 0 7 education manager of clean break theater. And the founder of I am Irish, which started as a photography exhibition in 2016. And has since gone on to become an international organization, offering support and training over perceptions of Irishness, color and identity heritage. I have no idea how much time we've got with her. So let's start by asking how you do it. Speaker 2 00:01:12 Fantastic. Thank you really happy to be here with you this morning, but before we go any further, like people talk about me coming from Tipperary. I'm from Kerry can, Shaw is encountered Tipperary, but I love my town and I want to plug it in any way that I can Speaker 1 00:01:26 For people who don't know Kerrick, what's it like it's Speaker 2 00:01:28 Very community. It actually feels that there's about 10,000 people living in carriage, growing up as a child. I felt like I knew everybody let you know, you know, all the families that there are within the town. I think this it's changed over the years. There is actually a direct provision center in Cary contour. And I think that there's a lot of people that don't know that I know, certainly lots of people close to me had no idea what that was. Um, but it's it's as a town is a town that comes together to support each other as much as they can. Um, I would say that it's a town that could really do with some national support in terms of employment. And, um, you know, I think it really is a town that, that it given, given some thing we'll make something, um, from whatever it's given, there's real camaraderie in the town. Speaker 1 00:02:23 Right. And how much has it changed over the past X number of years? I mean, since you moved, Speaker 2 00:02:27 I mean, I'll be honest with you. I think our challenge apart from the kind of, you know, it's, it's, um, expanded as most places have to accommodate, you know, or let younger families and whatever, but the talent it, so I don't know that it's really changed that much. I think one of the biggest changes has been out our main streets, um, because the fact that there's, you know, these massive supermarkets that, um, can afford to, to sell cheaper groceries and things I think has had an impact. And, you know, we see, I don't want to mention some of the high street names, but where you can buy cheap clothes and then everything else, like I remember his child going up the town and you'd, you know, there was the shoe shop, there was a closed shop, he'd know way to go for your socks, the tire shop, the butcher's. Now some of those, some of those family businesses still exist in the town. But I think that there'll be many small towns in Ireland that will be suffering from the same, the same kind of thing. I'm a real, I'm a real supporter of kind of local economy and really, um, trying to give to the local community. I like to shop smaller wherever I can and to, to shop from independent, independent traders. I much prefer to give my money there. Speaker 1 00:03:40 You were growing up there. And I know that in your, um, in your interview with the Irish times, you described yourself as being like the only black person in Ireland. Did you feel very much psych uh, out of kilter or within the community at the same time? Speaker 2 00:03:49 There is a thing I know. I think that a lot of small towns will understand this is that you are different, but you're part of the town, even in your difference so that we can say what we like about you, but we want that anybody else say, so growing up in my younger, younger years, I can remember, um, things that were said without people, without me even understanding it or knowing like I'm I am. Um, my mother is Irish. My father is Nigerian. Um, I didn't know that until quite recently that he was Nigeria and I've always known that he CA he came from Africa, you know, growing up in Ireland, we knew Africa is a country, not a continent of 54 countries. So I knew that I knew that I was half African, I was Irish, but that my father was from Africa. Um, actually it was those moments where my grandmother used to tell me that my father was a Spanish sailor for, you know, when people would say, oh, look at that little black baby. Speaker 2 00:04:44 She'd say she's not black. Her father was a Spanish sailor. And then I'd hear, you know, when I go home, I'd hear the kind of conversations about, um, being, being African. But of course at that time growing up in Ireland, all we really learned was that people were starving in Africa. We didn't hear other kinds of narratives. We heard about the TRO Crow books in the saving of the little black babies. So for me, when I was growing up, I guess that that's, you know, I think that there was moments of people feeling like I was a bit of a novelty because I had this different bouncy hair, you know, that people would want to touch or want to pass. Like I was like something to be pet. Um, and I am in my much younger years, I remember kind of enjoying that, that kind of the feeling. Speaker 2 00:05:31 And I remember there was two American women that they used to, you know, in the town, they called them the acts and the acts would always, they'd love to see me and they'd give me like 10 bucks, but, you know, they'd get like a 10 pants or they can be lollipops. And I remember getting that and feeding, I mean, years later I realized actually I won't even go at two. I realized that they were, that was going on in those kinds of laymen to Ben feeling like I was this poor little black kid that they, you, that they need to just kind of look after it. But, um, as I kind of got into it, I didn't even realize what that meant for me till I was about 10. Um, I had an argument with my first cousin who he was orphaned, um, and, and lived with us, you know, grew up with us. Speaker 2 00:06:13 And, and I remember calling him a name and I didn't really under, I didn't understand what it was to be a bastard, you know, cause it was a word that was branded around a lot in them days. Um, and he taught me for sure who I was and what it was. And you know, I remember saying to me, you know, black bastard, um, and often now, you know, we talk about it and he's always said to me, I'm really sorry. I'm really sorry. I'm really sorry. But that was the first moment of it really dawning on me that that's, that's what it was. That's what made me different. And, and then I remember feeling at that time embarrassed by, by this same kind of narrative, because bearing in mind, the only narrative I had was that these were people that were starving. These were people that were an educated, not when I'm saying deeds, even like, this is who I am. Speaker 2 00:07:04 But at that time feeling almost like, um, you know, these, we didn't, we had one channel on the tele at the time, but the things that we saw, um, there was this kind of positive energy. So I learned at that time and also, you know, kids can also be quite cruel and other children then started questioning why I looked different, how I looked different and also in school at that time, you know, people would always talk about your mom and dad, your mom and dad, your mom and dad. And I had no idea who my dad was. Um, and so I was left in all those questions and I remember asking my mother and I tell him it was none of my business. And in hindsight, I think that she didn't have enough information that she could give me and probably didn't even really know how to long for me. Speaker 2 00:07:52 And you know how to give me the information that I felt like I needed. And I often do you think if, if I had had a better understanding of the other side of myself at that time, if I would have been better prepared for answering the bullies or, you know, when, when people like would call you names or say things and, and also, you know, Doug did lose this awful, uh, you know, as children, eeny, meeny, miny mug, we'd have, you know, people would do. And I be saying it because that's what, that's what I grew up saying and doing or people saying, what can I have that because time and I B and then there was the moment of thinking, but hold on, I am that issue. I am that you're talking about me and, you know, even like, so we grew up on the river shore, we went, everyone went to swim. Speaker 2 00:08:44 And even now you see the kids jumping off the old bridge into the water and in the summertime, we'd go swimming. And as soon as I'd go in the water, my hair would just become massive. And, and then that became the point of like, oh, you bet, mind the fish get caught in that. And you know, and all those kind of things that made me feel like I can't have that same experience. So I then would make up excuses as to why I couldn't. And as a result, you know, grow into adulthood, not known how to swim and then you'd go into secondary school. And at the time it was kind of two, two choices. Actually, they still it's the street, this is a Christian brothers school. This, uh, I don't really want to make sure the school it's just, you know, but, uh, I should, I guess, as I've mentioned, those three schools, it was green hill, um, school, which is the non, you know, where the non toyed with the tech and the Christian brothers school. Speaker 2 00:09:44 And I, you know, my, my grandmother at the time, very religious woman, there's no way she would have, let me go to the TAC. So I had to go to, to green hill. Um, I remember, you know, going to secondary school. So at that point, one of the, the, most of the kids in the town had grown up with me. They knew who I was. Um, and so everybody had the kind of nicknames that was attached to lots of kinds of things. And so I was just that person. And then going to secondary school, there was other people that joined the school that had lived in the country. And for them, they definitely never seen anyone like me before. And I remember being really young and thinking, you know, it's a teenage girl. You saw people would be talking about when they're going to get married and they have this hair style. Speaker 2 00:10:34 And that, and I remember thinking I'm never, ever in my life going to get married because my hair is not going to fit in a veil. I mean, it was quite strong now. Um, I remember thinking that like my head, my head is just not going to fit in, in a veil. And so about 14, I had my first haircut, which actually was just my, my hair was just shaved off. And I was so delighted to have a bald head with color, so happy to have this new hairstyle, um, you know, that age and feeling like, yeah, my hair is just like everyone else was, even though it clearly wasn't. But the best thing that happened to me as a youth with musical youth, pastor that shit, oh my God, I was the best thing to ever happen to me when I saw them. I was like, yes, this is who I am. Speaker 2 00:11:30 Because at that time, as well on the telling me he had fame and, you know, there was Leroy and fame that had the plats in his hair and they suddenly felt a bit cool that there was these people, but they then came to a place where the I then became a bit exotic. So it wasn't, you know, it went from one kind of experience to another of then being, yeah, a kind of this kind of skewed sense of reality in that, what, what people's perceptions were of what I then looked like, you know, once you get into your kind of mid to older teenage years. Um, so there was always that kind of just not fit and not fit in. And it's quite lonely, even though that you're amongst other people, because nobody else really understood it. And it, there wasn't a place to talk about it. Speaker 2 00:12:26 There wasn't a language for it. You know, there was definitely no police. I could bring it. And I remember even one time, one of the nuns telling me about how much shame I brought on my family, because my mother's first cousin was ordained in our church. Um, the same year I was born and he became a priest, um, he's retired kind of now. I didn't even know you could retire actually. But, um, he, he, I mean, he never made me feel like that, but, but the non-fat and he did that, you know, I was always defenders the shame, the shame. And I think I held a lot of the shame that people probably try to put on my mother. Um, because, and, and even for my mother, I was the public evidence of whatever, you know, whatever mistake it was that she was told that she had, must've been very hard for her. And I looked back, rest, her soul she's passed away. Now I live on 20 20 12. Um, but she never, she'd never talk about it. She never talk about it. Speaker 1 00:13:35 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else, find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram as founder of I am Irish, Lorraine Moz life is one of pushing against boundaries and finding ways to help others express themselves. In this section, we discuss how she got here. From there, there being a small town, Irish teenager just arrived in London in the early 1980s. Speaker 2 00:13:59 It would be mesmerized by people to seeing so many different types of people. But the one thing that happened to me, Doug, I met, you know, I can't say into a black community because there were individual peoples people that happen to live in a particular environment. But I, with one time of my life, I was just me. Nobody questioned me. No, that, you know, the only things that people said, oh, that's a weird accent. Cause I had a really strong Irish accent at that time. And, and I, you know, I feel a bit embarrassed to say it now, but I worked hard to get rid of the accent at that time because it didn't feel like something that, that, um, really spoke for me because it felt like that wasn't like I remember coming to England and go in up to, you know, they had, um, BD mulligans and killed the Galtee hall and, you know, lots of other kinds of places. Speaker 2 00:14:54 And I remember going to those places and people looking at me like, what is she doing here? People actually say, and like, I show you're in the white place. Um, and they were the places that I would go in to get my sense of home in those, in those places. But they were places that I was met with a welcome. Whereas when I went into, into the Afro-Caribbean club, there was just a welcome lack of come in. Do you want something to eat? Do you want to drink? Um, there was that welcomed where I just felt like I found a place that I want to be in. This is the place that I belong and it took a long time for me to rebuild my love of my home. Although I've always, you know, I've always been I'm Irish because it's the only identity I've I've ever known is that of being Irish. Speaker 2 00:15:40 Because I, you know, there was the, the dad from Africa, but I knew, I knew my Irish ancestry back thousands of years. I, you know, I knew who they were. I knew, um, the, whether those members of the family accepted me or not, I knew who they were. And I knew that that that's who I was as a person, but I spent many years not talking to any of my Irish family. Um, because I just felt like that. Yeah. I felt like the island, wasn't a place that was accepting of me. You'd have to London, to be honest with you. When I, when I left, I don't think, I thought that's why I was leaving. But the truth is, is that a friend of mine that was in school, we've got in trouble and we just decided we're going to run away. And I don't know that I really had any reason and that we, we, we set up on the train we got found in, in reflect. Speaker 2 00:16:39 And, um, um, you know, my mother was like watching what you do it, I was, I don't want to be here anymore. I want to leave. Um, and then I, and then I really started thinking actually I really don't want to be, and even is an option. And so I, you know, I remember threatening that I would do it again unless I was allowed to go. And so my mother arranged me to come to London to stay with him because, um, so that's what happened. But to be honest, I stayed with them for about a month and then I left and, um, yeah, I've been in London fence surfing thing. Yeah. So for surfing, like I remember I had these friends that used to come home on holidays from London and they had an auntie that lived in Hackney. I didn't even know that she existed actually. Speaker 2 00:17:28 Um, I think she was a bit like me where like, she wasn't really tight with the rest of the family. And she said that the couch day, you can, you can stay on the couch. And she happened to live in an environment where there was lots of vibrations, lots of Caribbean families actually at the time. And I remember that was, you know, the first opportunities that I actually met people to talk to. And actually one of the first people that I met is a Jamaican guy called Danny Smith, who was just, you know, and he spent hours talking to me about the connection back in it, you know, through ancestry and he's family and feeling like that there was Irish somewhere along the line and talking to me about the language and, you know, um, often talking to me about Irish potatoes and I, you know, I just felt like at the time that there was, I met people, individuals and communities that were just living harmoniously together and were really accepting and wanting to know and, um, feeling like they wanted to see me elevate it and not see me feeling like I was the person that needed to be hidden or not feeling that same kind of way. Speaker 2 00:18:33 So that became like a, you know, a community of people that I really became part of. Speaker 1 00:18:40 Um, what, w w did you have a job at the time? We, you, we, we assigned to them, Speaker 2 00:18:44 I was really, really young at the time. I think I did like a training course. Um, and I remember working for the sickle cell society. How should I have no idea how I got that job? When I looked back talk, we're going around schools kind of talking about me, I became very knowledgeable about and really interested in, in sickle cell. And because also kind of thinking that, I wouldn't know if that was, if that was an experience for me. So sickle cell is, is, um, the bleeding disorder that generally affects, uh, the African Caribbean community. It can affect other people, but generally the have Caribbean community. Um, and I remember thinking that this is something I really need to know about because I didn't know any of this kind of history. Um, and so yeah. Worked with them for quite a while. And then, yeah, I mean, I got pregnant quite young as well. Speaker 2 00:19:36 I had my first son when I was 18. And, um, I can't remember some of the other, I was trying to think about what are the earlier jobs that I did at that time, but I know certainly in my younger years, um, like I got into working with the arts probably in my mid twenties, Oxford did kind of numerous courses and things, but I remember certainly in those years feeling like I had been very creative, I talked to kind of, you know, live out, these wore lots of different masks while I was younger and pretending a lot at the time that I was okay when I really wasn't. Okay. And having to fit and blend a lot of the time, like a comedian, um, in order to just feel like I could just be someplace, I I'd be quite happy in the back. No, no draw any attention to me and just kind of cracking on what life do you remember speaking to? Speaker 2 00:20:34 I was going to sound speaking to a therapist once, but not in a therapy session. I remember that Austin made, if, you know, if they thought that I was attracted to drama because, you know, when people have dramatic life, life Seville, it's like, whoa, I sure I'm not sure about that. But I think that the thing about the arts that always said, I think before to do, um, you know, getting involved in creative work, uh, worked in a community center for quite a time. And what I think I realized quite early on is, is that I felt like a real empathy for particular situations that people found themselves in based on my, my own lived experience. And I realized that I, what was really driving me was really being able to empower other people. And so I think in my early days within, um, so w you know, I currently work in the theater company, um, but I worked in the creative industries. Speaker 2 00:21:32 I worked at the round house in Camden for about 10 years, um, as a community development manager there and, um, managing their outreach program. And I think that what really excites me about the arts full-stop is all of the kind of transferable skills that there are. And given people an ability to really be able to, um, think about different scenarios for themselves, different choices, or just being able to explore in a way I think that, you know, the arts is, is I think, I know you think that there's, um, enough credit given to the impact that arts culture has on us as a society of people. You know, even when we think about the pandemic, it's often it's, what's kept us going. And I often think is somebody who is Irish. It feels like it's really inherent in us because from early childhood that were great storytellers, who was always somebody telling a story, always someone singing in this, you know, the session and, and people always appreciate, and what they heard, not necessarily it, they didn't have to be really polished or what you would see in a recording or people just appreciate it. Speaker 2 00:22:42 And uprooted and I stood. It's one of the things that I love when I go home. When we see, you know, you go to any bar, I don't even drink. I love going to the pub to listen to the bands. There's always a band playing in the bars. There's always, you know, children, uh, it it's there's opportunities for children to get involved in music. And, um, at the amateur dramatics in our town, I know it's kind of is outstanding as the years have gone by, although I didn't feel like that was the place for me. I have to say Doug, kind of growing up. And I still, like, I remember my mother coming to visit one time when I was working at the round house. And I remember I was saying like, what? This is, this is the job. This is the job you get. Speaker 2 00:23:24 I'm like, yes, people earn in living, you know, whacking working in the office. The fourth is, but the thing that I just, I, I love about it is just seeing other people empowered, just watching other, like in my day job now, um, I worked for clean break foods company, um, and it's a company that works with women affected by a criminal justice, mouth, mental health, and addiction. And so we work in prisons and in the community and just see in people that, you know, that have had an horrendous journey and seeing them sometimes come through the door and they can't even lift their eyes off the floor and seeing them after a 12 week process stand up in front of an audience and perform something it's just outstanding, but you couldn't. No, no money could give me the same enjoyment as, as what to now. So I think I'd be very lucky to have been able to find a career that I really enjoy. Speaker 1 00:24:27 We'll be back with the rain Mar in just a moment, but first it's time for the plastic pedestal, that section of the podcast, where I asked one of my interviewees to raise up a member of the diaspora of personal cultural or political significance to them this week, Geraldine judge, AKA Geraldine, Maloney judge raises up not one, but two inspirational figures, one famous, one personal, but she'll explain Speaker 3 00:24:55 For some reason, this is, this is a very famous person who Springs to mind. And I absolutely love her. And I, I want to marry her, even though I'm not gay, but I I'd love to marry or anyway, Kathy Burke, I absolutely, I think she is. I I'm watching documentary and then get <inaudible>. You know what I mean? She's, I don't know. She's just the epitome of, of, of someone who's like an eye exam and her dad was Irish. I know, I'm not sure if my mom was Irish well, but I know my mom died when she was quite young. My dad was Irish and she, she just does really good impersonation of a dad when he, when she used to take messages on the phone and we'd never write anything down and automate school. I rang me earlier on left a message with your dad, and you'll never told me, um, but you know, I just, I just, I just, I love her. Speaker 3 00:25:47 Um, I mean, this does love me and with my family, obviously there's loads. I mean, I've got a really good friend here in Liverpool, KIRO O'Neil she's from Lurgan and we, we we're actually gotten together again, comes emic, prevailing. Um, we, we actually got, we, we had this idea we've got together and we're gonna, we're gonna do a piece about being Liverpool, Irish women. And again, the generation like carers in our twenties and she's from Logan and I'm in my fifties and I'm from Dublin and I different lived experiences of, of being a livable Irish female, and how over the years, how we've been perceived and treated in that way. And we we've got these stories and ideas about doing a, uh, a theater theatrical piece and presenting it possibly maybe next year or somewhere along the way we were kind of, I don't know, just the way things are going at the moment with work and stuff like that and pandemic. Speaker 3 00:26:48 So, um, Carol Neil, there you go. She's my, she's my plastic bag. It's way kind of like the full circle in terms of like really discovering how, how Irish you really are and how kind of, um, again, kind of people's perception of you and people's understanding of you. And like, obviously again, care has experiences, you know, coming from the north of Ireland is very different and her background and growing up and, and you know, how people see her and they think she's a terrorist because of her accent. Um, you know, so just, just, and again, it's, it's like our kind of empathy for each other in terms of like, when people say, you know, not wanting, not wanting to, you know, it's not that you were an IRA supervisor, but you have to kind of go, well, you got to look at the situation and you need to understand why that situation is there. Speaker 3 00:27:44 Why did these things happen? Why, why is that happening? You've got to go back into your history. You've got to go back, you've got to go back. And, you know, it's, it's, it's, you know, you're automatically GaN. People's perception of you. You open your mouth, the words come out, they hear X, Y, and Z ads, what they perceive, and they don't get to know the person behind the accent or get to know your history, that's know your culture, get to know your background. That's know what makes you, who you are. You know what I mean? So I think we've got a really good kind of empathy and understanding of each other. And like, we've done a couple of plays with the children and we just like, we were, we were doing this play about, um, again kind of like old Liverpool, Liverpool, Irish type thing. Speaker 3 00:28:30 And, and the guy that wrote the play was he used to go to see the marches in Liverpool. We would just go and see the marches. And it was all great fun, and it was all great crack and all the communities were great in Liverpool, in the thirties and forties and fifties and the north end. Oh, there was no sectarianism. Like MaineCare, we're like, oh, for God's sake. You know what I mean? No, there was a very different thing going on to what you were. He was painting a very sanitized version of growing up in north end, Liverpool in the thirties and forties and fifties. And, you know, everyone left the door open, which probably did happen. But, you know, there was no, there was no numb, you know, it was almost like all that, um, sectarianism never happens. Not in our community. It's it's it was almost like there, there was no domestic violence. Speaker 3 00:29:22 No, we were a great community. There was none of that going on me and care all over, you know what I mean? So we kind of clicked a mom does in that way. So we've, we've um, we've we provides us quite a lot of support or which will your views, like few years, three years of known her. And I feel like I've known her for years. So it's, she's, she's just, she's a lovely go-to person as well. You know, she's, she understands if I'm feeling a bit down or a bit stressed or a bit homesick and, you know, we get each other in that way. So she's just, she's mine, she's on my pedestal. Then you go Karen ale, Speaker 1 00:29:57 Geraldine, judge there. And if you want to hear more of what Geraldine has to say, and why wouldn't you then why not listen to her, or indeed any of our other interviewees simply by going to the [email protected] also available on Spotify, Amazon, and apple podcasts. And if you want to keep up with the latest from TPP, as well as the bloggiest of blog posts through yours, truly with each new episode, why not subscribe, just insert your email [email protected] And with one confirmatory click, the plastic loot of the world will be yours. Now back to the rain Maher. And in this section, we talk about the growth of Irish, an idea that in many ways was a lifetime in the making. Speaker 2 00:30:44 I am Irish is a real heart project of mine. I think over the years, kind of grown up. As I mentioned, there's a direct provision center in our town. And I remember years ago, going home, there was a moment when, when I'd go home, anyone that was around that was, you know, in brown skin, people say Lorraine must know them and dislike how I'll often stop. Um, but the, you know, the, the, the face of Ireland 10 now I have three really clear that there's black people in their thousands that have lived in Ireland for forever. This is not, it's not new. And I feel like I need to be really clear about that. It's not new, but we often, you know, in Ireland there's so many different small towns and things that I'm going back years ago, transport wasn't even, it's not where it is in London. Speaker 2 00:31:35 Um, and people didn't it, you know, going back years ago, people didn't always travel. I actually met far more, um, brown skinned, Irish people. And when I came to London, I was like, oh my God, there's loads of us. And, um, over the years I remember friends of mine kind of saying, you know, you you'd be really well placed to go home and do some integration work because I often talk and I still feel the same way. Like we see in, in small towns. Um, there's often an outcry when they see, um, uh, groups of refugees that are brought into, into towns. And I often wonder why the government chooses often small towns, where there is already a real stretch on the economics of the town, where there's no employment where there's shortage of houses, where there's, you know, where the towns are already struggling. Speaker 2 00:32:29 And then often what happens is that they dumped a whole community of people often that they don't even speak the language. And then, you know, there's no real work done where to even introduce the people that were living there before, and those that might be new to the town. There's, there's no real way. So, so often what happens is they end up living in isolation and I can't help, but think, and how awful that must be for people that have already gone from something horrendous to go to a new country, to be in a nice space and feeling like that, that they're not being accepted now in our town, on the whole. Um, there, there is an acceptance, but I still think not for me anyway. I don't feel, I don't feel like it's full integration in the way that I would like to see integration. Speaker 2 00:33:16 And I think that that often is the pace and in small towns. And so, so friends of mine were like, shouldn't you be doing? Self-image, shouldn't you be doing something to help it? And in the earlier days I was thinking like, this is massive. Do I really want to put myself in that position? And again, feeling like I didn't want to be the person that's been called names or the person, and I want to put myself through that. Um, but as the years we'll go and buy a suite and I can remember going home with my kids actually on my mother's funeral. I remember crossing the road with my sons and someone shout, shouting the N word them out for the car window. And, and I remember saying to my, you know, my sons who are young adults, like just ignore it, ignore it. And I was like, why should we keep having to ignore this? Speaker 2 00:34:01 Like, this is my, my life that we're having to go through this over and over and over. And the thing is Doug, like, and I just want to be really clear that I have a lot of incredible cousins. I have a particular first cousin at a time told his children not to play with my children because of the color of their skin. This is my first cousin. So if we're experiencing this in our family, now, what hope is there kind of externally to that? And so I, I lost, um, one of my children in 2014 to cancer. And, um, he loved Ireland a lot is, you know, you spent a lot of time where he's he's island kit. Um, a lot of the time he was really always really proud of his connection to Ireland and on his, on his grave, we've got his photo and there's an, you know, there's an Irish flag as well as, you know, it's that same nation. Speaker 2 00:34:54 So there was those flags for that. And there's a lady that used to come every Sunday and she'd always say, why is he got that? I mean, in hindsight, when I look back, I actually think that that maybe the lady had dementia. Cause she, we had the same conversation like consistently all the Sundays, Liz was his birthday, 2016. And I remember kind of feeling like, I just can't do this with you today, do this with you today. And somebody, one of his friends actually had been to Ireland and came back and they had a newspaper and he was like, look at that, that'll put a smile on your face. And it was saying that the mayor of Venice was going to Muhammad Ali's funeral show one of our own. And it did put a smile on my face cause it's like, okay, that's what it takes. Speaker 2 00:35:40 That's what it takes. Like when you're the heavyweight champion, people want to own you and I, and it was in that kind of moment of feeling like a bit fraught about why this lady was questioned. And yet again, why, why my son, you know, what, why he was able to, to, um, how the Irish flag beside him was? I hadn't seen the newspaper before. And I remember the next day kind of looking online for the newspaper and reading a headline that said two black south African students were refused entry to a bar in Dublin. Um, I remember the contrast of that and, and knowing like, I don't know how true that is, but I do know Doug, it is true that there are people at my sons have experienced turning up the clubs and then take one, look at them, looking at their face and not letting them in. Speaker 2 00:36:29 So I know that this hundred percent happens and that, you know, whether it happened in that club, I don't know, but it does happen. Um, and you know, people being turned away based on the color of their skin, it's very, very real. And those things were really quite annoying. Me. And I remember at the time the association of mixed race Irish was just in the early days of formation and we were at a meeting at the Irish center. Um, and you know, just thinking about the formation of, um, the association and they was an exhibition on, at the time of Irish creatives. And actually because I'm a little, I can be a bit mischievous at times. And I remember saying to Gary, I think I know that woman. I mean, I obviously knew who they were, you know, there was people like James Joyce about law and maybe they were, and I was like, I think I know that woman. Speaker 2 00:37:25 I think I might've seen him before. And I remember him being really diplomatic about, you know, the saying is this person was, and I like, wasn't it, anyone like me on your work? And, and, and he was like, you know, I think that you're, you're asking a fair enough question. And I was like, well, I'm putting my picture. I'm putting my picture on your wall and put my picture on your wall. And, and he was really receptive to that. And I have to say that the London Irish center has been incredibly supportive of the Irish journey since then. Um, and so that same day I went to a friend of mine. Who's a photographer, Tracy Anderson Chasey, grab your camera. We're gonna, we're, we're gonna take some photos. Um, and the idea of the exhibition at the time, I really just wanted to put the faces of Irish people of color on the walls. Speaker 2 00:38:17 I even really liked that terminology of color that we're all of color is there's not a person that exists that is not of color, but I wanted to put those that identified as being Irish and African Caribbean or Afro Asian descent on the walls. And that was June. I remember even people saying to me, oh, you know, that's a really good project. You'd be able to get funded for that. I haven't got time for that. I just want to do this project. And we began collecting the stories because for me, I've always been really interested in history. And, and so, uh, you know, we, it was an oral history project that we documented, but for the exhibition itself, we just wanted to show the faces and the family crest of the individuals and the narrative of that is these people are Ireland, sons and daughters. Speaker 2 00:39:04 And it was as simple as that. I didn't want to give no explanation as to how why, if you know, what the ifs buts or maybes were. And I remember even at that time, thinking after I've made this declaration like that, I remember thinking, where am I going to find all these people? I've got to find them. And I realized really quickly that actually these are all people that I know they're all people that are around. And they were just, you know, because, because as a community there know people that I already, I knew well or had a connection to. And if I'm really honest, when I did it, I, it was like a bit of a two fingers. Like it was a bit like it's about time that we're seeing, because I remember going into these, you know, it brought me back to all the times going into Irish spaces and people saying what you did in here, or looking at you, like you don't belong here. Speaker 2 00:39:53 I really just wanted to make a stamp that said, this is a space that we belong. We belong in this space and no one should be questioned in us. We are Ireland, sons and daughters. These are people that are all born in Ireland too, with Irish ancestry, not, you know, because we, we also have been hearing a lot about the new Irish. And I'm saying that in a very common, because the new, the new, and I was like, flick say, I'd like to think that I'm quite young, but I'm now kind of going into the next, I I'll tell you about the amount of decades, but we're not new. We're not new. And we look, you know, there's people that are in the exhibition that are in their eighties where we're not new, we've been around for a really long time. And it's almost like that we've been whitewashed out some out of history in some way. Speaker 2 00:40:41 We're just not seen in that kind of way. And so even now, when we look at, um, lots of the services that we know that the Irish government are, you know, there's lots of changes that they're making to try and ensure that we're becoming a bit more equitable in the, in the language use and in the things that we do. But, but still there is there, there's always a thought of like the new Irish and wanting to get that opinion, but actually we've always existed. And in lots of ways have a far more in depth understanding of what some of the challenges might be. Um, because we've been in those households, like we've been in the households where we're hearing it from all kinds of sides and having a rounded understanding of what the experiences Speaker 0 00:41:32 You're listening to. Speaker 1 00:41:33 The plastic podcasts, email [email protected] in three short years, I am Irish had gone from hashtag and photography exhibition to support network training specialists and event producers with their own Irish roots festival. But then Speaker 2 00:41:52 COVID, we knew that what we were offering at that stage probably wasn't the thing that was needed straight away. And, you know, lot's out because all of our team were, um, volunteering for I'm Irish, like a hundred percent volunteer. And, and so there was lots of people that felt like that they needed in other places. And we decided that we wouldn't apply for funding because we need a funding needed to go to frontline organizations who had, you know, a real strong, um, strong experience we've been able to deliver work in that way. And then a few months in there was the merger of George flood and that threw everything on its head. And we realized really quickly that we were needed far more than we, than we could've ever imagined. Um, and we knew that, that our community was really affected by what was happening. Speaker 2 00:42:46 And again, it became really clear that there were so many nuances with who we were as a community of people who were biracial, um, because you know, at that stage like most, and, and I'm speaking really generically, and I know that I'm not talking for everybody, but there's a vast majority of people who are biracial, who identify as black, because that's how society identifies as, so the experience in the world is that, um, excuse me, and people are treated in particular ways in the world because, you know, based on that tone alone. Um, and so we, we then kind of came back into work. And so we'd been working a lot since that. And so it meant that we've, we've now pulled together a really strong board, and we've got four areas of wax that we've shown on last year. We had our first ever, uh, mixed race Irish day and we know mixed race and terminology. Speaker 2 00:43:44 We don't even want to be using, but we used it because it was a global celebration. And we knew that it was terminology that was understood across the world. So, um, and it was phenomenal because we had a four day festival with three events and a virtual festival, um, when nobody got paid, everybody that contributed did it voluntarily, and we just needed a, it was really needed. And it was seen in fact, two different countries by 140,000 people. Um, so we knew that, you know, that this is something that we want to do. So we've now, when we started thinking about Loteria festival, it was a festival that we wanted to have in person, but obviously, um, COVID meant that that's something that we couldn't do. So we do plan to do that in Ireland every second year with activity that will happen. Of course, the world's cause, you know, we had two organizations in the states and London and in Ireland that were involved in that festival. Speaker 2 00:44:39 So that will go from strength to strength. We'll continue to have hashtag guy Myers. I'm really excited to say Doug. Um, on the 16th of October, we have a really special event elevate that is, um, a spoken word event. We're bringing two artists from Ireland with two artists from London, and we're going to have a really lovely outdoor spoken word event. And, um, we're going to project the IMI Irish exhibition on the building of the London Irish center. So we're really excited about that. So really we'll mess around in London, come down and, um, to celebrate with us. It's the first, so first in-person event that we've been able to have in in 18 months. Um, we've got a whole series of online workshops that we're going to be delivering for our October, um, in celebration of black history month. But again, I must be really clear we're in the skin 365 days. And so we're celebrating our history 365 days, but throughout October, it's kind of a, it's a, uh, celebration. Um, and so we will be, we'll be doing lots of different workshops, so anyone can, can have a look on our website. All of that will be, we'll find all of that there. Um, and the exhibition is going to Chicago Speaker 1 00:45:57 And in five years from being a, uh, an ex an exhibition with, with faces on the wall, and then how many, how many, how many pictures was it? Speaker 2 00:46:03 So originally there was 22 photos, um, were 25 people in the 22 photos, but it's expanded. Like I mentioned before, I'm really into localization. So what's been really excited about this project is everywhere that it's gone. We've had a local offer and we've worked with local photographers to add images to the project. And so, as an example of that, when we took the project to Dublin, it was in access and body Mon. And we did a tour of schools, primary, secondary, and universities. And, um, we invited people to, to create their own Portage, to draw their own poetry and bring it and put that into the building. And we did a whole series of creative workshops. Um, when it went to New York again, there was, you know, there was, um, uh, like an event that when it was in Galway, we did poetry with young people there that talked about their experience of Irishness. Like everywhere it's gone, it's been in the London mayor's office. Um, yeah, it's, it's had quite a journey, tad, quite a journey, um, and really excited about it being back at the London Irish center, even if, you know, it's in a very different way. Um, and that again is because we, you know, we were very mindful that COVID still exists and wanted to be careful. And so that's why we're having an outdoor event. Speaker 2 00:47:30 Yes, it does. I mean, the thing is that I genuinely genuinely see the impacts of this work. I've seen it grow over over the years. And I see, like we see, um, like Leon and Bonnie and them were black and Irish in Ireland. There's so many different organizations now that have spun up in Ireland. And you know, that Liam was saying, cause I was saying like, I think now I can hand it over. And they're like, no, you can't because there's still so much work to be done there still, um, there is still so much need, um, um, things are changing in Ireland. They certainly are what the work that we're now focusing on here in the UK is so like our work spans second, third, fourth generation people arrive because what we've seen over the years is those live in the UK, um, that might identify as biracial mode label that my mom is Irish. Speaker 2 00:48:31 They never say like this, this is, this is part of my heritage. It's someone else's. And that again is often because of how people are perceived. So we do not have right now to really kind of look at the wider Jasper and to, to really, you know, get people excited about their heritage and having an understanding of their heritage that, and I'm also, we've started doing some research because the other thing that we've seen is obviously that there has, there, there are, um, when we look at the demographic of violence is very different to what it might have looked like years ago. I'm really interested in the conversation about immigrant and migrant and when to someone become one of the others. When, uh, when, uh, uh, kind of media gonna stop talking about people in particular ways, but equally because of what's happened is, is like we see lots of young people who might be Afro Irish that leave Ireland and come to England. Speaker 2 00:49:25 But again, have that same experience that there's Irish organizations that I might have gone to years ago. They still get the same experience of that, oh, this might not really be the place for me. So they actually stopped identifying as Afro bearish, and then they just Afro in Britain or, you know, the Africa, Caribbean that lived in, in the UK. And so I feel like there's something lost in that because we're talking about people who have a real rich Irish heritage, um, and we need to hold onto that because they, there was so much that is added to the fabric of Ireland in, um, you know, have an all it's a glorious diaspora, you mentioned. Speaker 1 00:50:03 Yeah. And it was, uh, it took you a long time to, to read redevelop your connection with Ireland and Irishness. Did that happen over a period of time almost. So when you guys saw, I go, yeah, I'm comfortable with this now. Speaker 2 00:50:15 I think it was, um, like when my son was unwell, he wanted to be an island at the time. And I also watched, you know, I think I, so my town in a new, in a new light and I just saw different things that people were doing in the town just to support other people, not, not necessarily my son, but just to support other people. And, and actually, you know, one of the things that stayed with me, um, the, the childhood image that I used as a kind of, you know, it's probably still, I think on the socials, um, a friend of mine from school sent it to me. She found it in the heritage center of all places. I had never seen the image. And looking at that picture, I was looking at a picture, you know, almost like outside of myself, thinking this is a beautiful child. Speaker 2 00:51:05 If only this child had realized that they were so amazing, they could. I mean, yeah. Uh, you know, I acknowledge that I have done some incredible things in my work in life and in my family life. Um, but I think kind of, uh, going home in later years and, um, see in a different view of right. And now I have to say that that actually probably happened more in Dublin than it did at home. That in Dublin, there was so many different people. I was having a different experience being in Ireland. I wasn't that obvious anymore in Ireland. I wasn't that, you know, people didn't point me out in that kind of way. I could just be without there being kind of anything else. And I think that, that I really enjoyed that. And also, you know, having lots of friends in lots of friends is, is, is, um, is that's been over dramatic. Speaker 2 00:52:01 It can find lots of friends in Ireland who speak Gaelic, but I have, uh, a group of friends in Ireland speak daily. And when, whenever I go to Dublin, they start speaking gay to me. And I realized I really like it. I really like having that part of my heritage. Now it's something that I don't very often speak publicly because I'm not very good at it because, and that was to do with being excluded from Irish class in school because my teacher felt like I didn't need it. Um, so she said that I could, I didn't have to do it, but I really wished that somebody had made me do it because I, I think it's sort of, you know, such an important thing. It's such a rich language and, and I really enjoy that. And I think that, that, and, and people, people with brown skin speaking to me and gave me a good feeling like, you know, this is the island that I feel like I really can be part of. And that's really what helped me to get more connected with it. Last two Speaker 1 00:52:57 Questions. The first of all is what do you do to relax? Speaker 2 00:53:01 What does Speaker 1 00:53:04 The rule there's, what the heck do you do to relax? Speaker 2 00:53:07 I spend time with my grandchildren. I mean, w we, yeah. Uh, I don't think to be honest with you, like when people, people said to me before, what's your hobby. And I think work is my hobby work is my hobby. That's what I do to relax. I do. It makes me feel too that for me, I think that there's, there's far more joining given and there isn't receiving. And I always feel overjoyed when, when, you know, when I can do something that, that make somebody else's life that little bit better, or little bit easier. Speaker 1 00:53:43 My final question. And it's the one I asked her and we're pretty much all my, my interviewees, which is what does being a member of the Irish diaspora mean for you? Speaker 2 00:53:49 Yeah, it's, it's always been the one thing that I've, I've never had a question about. Like, that's always, it's just been a given it's. The one thing that I have in my life that has, is, is interchangeable. Even my skin tones have changed over the years. My hair texture has changed over the years. I found my bleeding dad over the years, but the one thing that's never changed about me is being an Irish. Speaker 1 00:54:20 You've been listening to the plastic podcasts with me, Doug Devani, and my guest, the rain rainbow, the plastic pedestal was provided by Geraldine, judge and music by Jack devalue. Find [email protected] Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or email [email protected] The podcast is a production of the plastic projects.

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