Nathan Mannion - Migration, Family and Stories at EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum.

December 31, 2020 00:56:50
Nathan Mannion - Migration, Family and Stories at EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum.
The Plastic Podcasts
Nathan Mannion - Migration, Family and Stories at EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum.
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Show Notes

Nathan Mannion is the senior curator at EPIC, which stands proudly on Custom House Quay in Dublin. Founded by Neville Isdell in 2016, EPIC tells the story of Ireland’s emigrant people throughout the ages. IOT’s been visited by some 750,000 people in its first four years and was voted Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction for an unprecedented two years running in 2019 and 2020 at the World Travel Awards.

It’s a far-ranging and fascinating discussion taking in Spitfire Paddy (Brendan Finucane), Margaretta Eagar, tutor to the last of the Romanovs, Lord Haw Haw and Eamonn Andrews.

Plus, Rosemary Adaser places Edna O’Brien on The Plastic Pedestal

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:03 <inaudible> Speaker 1 00:00:22 How are you doing? I'm Doug Giovanni and you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. We're taking a cultural turn of the plastic podcasts today. Epic the Irish immigration museum stands proudly on custom house key in Dublin and tells the story of Irish migration throughout the ages founded by Neville Isdell in 2016, it's been visited by over three quarters of a million people in that time and has won the award of Europe's leading tourist attraction for an unprecedented two years running in 2019 and 2020 at the world travel awards. Nathan Mannion, is it senior curator? And clearly COVID has affected his line of work as well as everyone else's. So the first question I need to ask him is how you doing, Speaker 2 00:01:06 I'm doing well, dog. Thanks a little bit cold here today in Dublin, but you know, we're, we're quite off piece and quite happy to have the doors of the museum open again. Speaker 1 00:01:14 It's the, uh, the 9th of December. So you opened when, Speaker 2 00:01:18 So we reopened on the first and, uh, Speaker 1 00:01:21 How's the response to the public being too. So just getting back into museums. Speaker 2 00:01:25 Oh, I think it's been fantastic. I think, um, a lot of people have felt that they're that a little bit of an absence in their lives. They've been desperate to go and attend on-site events to see face to face and to engage with the exhibitions and the content that we have downstairs. Um, it was a little sore the first day, but from since then it's really started to grow. So we're very pleased at the minute. Speaker 1 00:01:47 Well, listeners who've been unfortunate enough not to visit Epic. Um, w how would you, how would you describe it to someone? Speaker 2 00:01:55 Yeah, so Epic is our islands immigration museum, the first and only one in the country. Um, it opens just over four years ago in May, 2016. Um, and so really what it does is it tells the stories of the 10 million people that have left Ireland from the sixth century to the present day and the 70 million strong Irish diaspora around the world. So those buyers, descent that live all across the world. So it looks at that how will those people left Ireland? The means by which they left? Um, it looks at why the push and pull factors that cause so many people to leave their still Island in the North Atlantic. Um, it looks at then the influence that they've had in a whole range of different areas and fields from sports to science, to acting storytelling and music, and then it looks at modern connections. So how do we connect and communicate from Ireland with that diaspora? Speaker 2 00:02:45 How has that the aspirin turn changed, how we perceive Ireland on our Irishness and what does it mean moving into the future? What was the impetus behind founding it? Yeah, so it's actually quite an interesting story and it takes us all the way back to the depths of the recession in 2013. And Heartland's, um, times were quite bleak. Money was even scarcer. Um, the Irish government had the idea that if wanted to organize an annual celebration called the gathering, which she may be familiar with, where they basically invited everybody, uh, via sunset street that they could track down through a big kind of reverse genealogy project to come to Ireland throughout the year, um, for a big celebration and to reconnect with villages, towns all over the country and that they could trace some of their ancestors back to it was a great success. Um, and from that, it really, we still really started to see that the Irish diaspora, there was a real longing for a connection with Ireland and a place within Ireland where they could actually engage with their history and their heritage, um, from that as well. Speaker 2 00:03:45 The point is first minister of state for the diaspora started to put together a diaspora policy at the department of foreign affairs, which has never done before it started to take the Jasper seriously. And one of the ideas that they saw then was that they should have a cultural site within Ireland where they could come, you know, um, lots of different things went on. They had no money to perform to the proposal. It was a great one. The government would recognize a successful tender for the designation of Ireland official, the aspirin center or cultural center. Um, lots of different bids came in from all over the islands. Um, but it would with a little funding available, they actually ended up scrapping the scheme, which was, which was quite disappointing. Um, but one of the ones that went through was, was what would later become Epic, um, by, uh, a philanthropist called Neville is Dale. Speaker 2 00:04:34 So Neville would be the founder of Epic, um, and, and Irish immigrant himself from County down when he spent most of his life living all over the world. Um, I think at 151 countries last count. And the reason for that is because he became chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola for a few years. So that involves quite a bit traveling, as you could imagine. Um, but never, never stepped up. And he put his own money in, invested in Epic, spent nearly four over 15 million euros, um, out of his own pocket to create the museum, which is an offer profit. So there isn't any dividends being paid out or any shares or anything like that, but all the money that main museum makes goes back into it. Um, and then we had the good fortune to open in 2016. So since then, um, we've been welcoming people through the doors. Speaker 2 00:05:20 Um, and now more recently, also online. And when did you get involved? So I actually, when I went in a couple of weeks before Epic officially opened, so when I walked in, the first thing I had to do was stick on a high vis jacket and a hard hat true as the exhibitions were being fitted out and designed. So that was quite fun. Um, and a great benefit to me now later on having, um, orchestrator of the museum to see how everything works, to see the, the concepts behind it and to take over, um, from the original design team and the academic panel that create most of the contents in the museum. So, uh, having enhanced, and Amanda's a lot of that content since, um, under my own stewardship, it was, I think, really important to be there at the beginning. Speaker 3 00:06:06 And it's an unusual thing in many ways, isn't it? Because most museums, um, we'll, we'll, we'll, we'll, we'll, we'll concentrate on, what's come into a country. Um, if you look at, um, you know, national museums or natural history museums and so forth, that they're very much a celebration of what the, what the country is accumulated and yet with Epic it's, it's in the opposite direction Speaker 2 00:06:25 In many ways. Yeah. So as I said, Epic is the Irish immigration museums, or our focus is primarily on the practice from Ireland and the experiences fires people and their descendants around the world that said, we do take a broader view of migration, as well as the, sort of the timeless movement of people around the world, sort of a global, a global phenomenon. So we do look at inward migration to Ireland. Now it wasn't initially part of the design of the museum, but over the last couple of years, it hasn't been something we've been taking into account more and more. We're also a member of the global migration museums network. So this is a body of museums all over the world that look at immigration to look at immigration. They look at both, um, all sorts of different things from 50 different countries at the moment. Speaker 2 00:07:08 So yeah, it is a little bit different. We're not, we're not unique. Um, in that sense, there are a number of other immigration museums around Europe and the world. So basically Germany. Um, there's one, there's another one in Italy where the only one in Ireland at the moment as well. Um, and in the UK, there are, uh, there are, there's a migration museum in London as well. And birthday look as kind of migration in its totality support what the inward and outward migration of people, um, to the Ireland. You've got some 20 rooms there. Yeah. So there's 20 galleries, um, in the kind of long-term exhibitions at the museum at the moment. And then we would have, uh, two temporary to kind of half empty exhibition vaults as well. It's funny, it hasn't been topic it's even architecturally. It's quite an interesting space. It's a, it's an old bonded warehouse. It's over 200 years old. It's right. And the hardest job in Docklands and the museum is nearly entirely based in the vaults underneath. So they're all wine and whiskey faults, um, upstairs was for dry goods like tea and tobacco. And so within the kind of very atmospheric vaults of the building is the 20 galleries, um, that makeup Epic. Speaker 3 00:08:13 And, uh, you've also got a genealogy, um, aspect to it. Speaker 2 00:08:17 Yes. So one of the last things you see in Epic when you come through is the more recent exhibition that we installed called power of a name, which tracks, um, Irish surnames around the world. So visitors bought to the museum and through our website can come on, they can upload the last, no one immigrants in their family that left Ireland, their name, their detailed, the year they left, if they were aware of it, where they went to, and then the surname will, will appear on an exhibition downstairs. Um, it's, it's a live exhibition. It's always being updated. So it'll also give you a statistics, like you're the 17th Finnigan to come from Merrylands in the U S for example, and so on. And it creates a kind of word cloud, the larger, the name, the more people of, um, heritage that has the advantage in their name. Speaker 2 00:09:00 Um, and then upstairs in the museum at the back of our gift store is our, is the Irish family history center. So it's our onsite genealogy partners. Um, they will provide onsite consultations for people who want to further their own geological research. Um, you can comment at any level, so you can walk in the door, we might know anything other than your granny's name, and they'll take it from there. Or you might be, you know, you might be fairly far along the process and you may have hit a brick wall somewhere. And you're trying to find that four to fifth generation ancestor that you just can't quite pin down and they'll help you out there. Um, yeah. And they've been involved in some pretty high profile genealogy projects over the years as well. I think they tracked Tom Cruise's ancestry, uh, back to the 12th century to the Normans in Ireland. They didn't make another film with it. No, but you know what, the title he comes from, the rest of cratic lineage and the title that his ancestors held in Westford was the barons of Hollywood. So you couldn't make it operate. Speaker 3 00:09:59 I'd also, um, Joe Biden, I believe, Speaker 2 00:10:01 Yes. The, or more recently they've been involved in the Irish, how many trays for president Bush, Barack Obama, and more recently then, um, president elect Joe Biden. Um, he, when he visited Ireland in 2016, as part of an official kind of state visits, they presented the, his family lineage and his family tree to him at the us ambassador's residence in the Phoenix park. And, uh, his entire extended family were actually present. So there was quite a number of them there. Um, and then let alone where they privileged enough to, to present this family tree to them. They were also taken basically as part of the entourage for three days, two counties, Mayo and flower with where his roots lie. So the blue wood family in Ballina and County Mayo, and then to the, uh, to come to cloud up near Carlingford as well for the founding inside of his family. Um, originally Barrow JFK, he's the he's, he's the only the second Irish Catholic U S presidents to be elected. So it is, um, quite special. I think he was actually, I think he, he commented on, um, being, being after his roots, shared with him that, uh, uh, he's waited this whole life, um, for this. So you can see the, kind of the importance. So a direct quote, I think from the, where this whole life for this to have his Irish family tree shown to him and all this project. Speaker 3 00:11:23 Wow, wow. Thinking of the genealogy project. I mean, has there been an upswing in inequalities from, from the, the, uh, the British diaspora, the, the RCS from Britain rather? Um, since the advent of Brexit? Speaker 2 00:11:37 Yes. So I would say definitely that's the case. And we found even before the museum had to close for a few, for a period beginning in March earlier this year, we had a lot of visitors from the UK. It's one of the biggest groups of is just in the museum as well. Are people coming from Britain? Um, we found the genealogy center, um, had noticed as well, a bit, a big uptake in inquiries for people looking to find the right bus routes, looking for, to, to can verify the grandparents, to verify great-grandparents and further afield, um, which may be related to Brexit. It could be the us they're looking for that Irish passports so they can remain an EU citizen. Um, but I think it was more than that as well. A lot of them were also looking to potentially make lives in Ireland. They were looking at moving here as well, and they were trying to kind of find where, where the family lay and where they should be kind of moving to a big, a big decision for anybody. Speaker 2 00:12:30 Um, but we've also been quite popular because even though put ourselves in the center of closed, they've been doing online consultation is now instead. So people have been booking in and chatting with one of the genealogists, um, over zoom or whatever it might be. Um, and I think a lot of people have taken that as a project as well during lockdown, you know, putting off the family tree for awhile. I think, you know, you're stuck at home, nothing but conversations, particularly coming up to things like Christmas as well. It's, you know, they're lovely gifts to be able to present, uh, all the family members and just to get that information down on paper, because I think a lot of people put it off, you know, and then next thing, you know, you know, that you're the oldest member of the family and all that kind of like familiar memory is gone. So it's quite important, Speaker 3 00:13:13 But there's a lot of problems on there. And people trying to find out that the roots in Ireland because of fires in Dublin and things like that, you know, the, um, th th the records aren't necessarily completely they're completely available. Are they? Speaker 2 00:13:26 Yeah. So it's one of the, one of the big moments in, I suppose, in any, the Irish just started the record when the biggest absences is the, during the Irish civil war, the four courts, um, which held records administrative records from, um, going back as far as the 12th century were destroyed, um, only mere fragments of them survived. And since then, a lot of genealogists and historians have tried to piece together a part of what was there from copies that were made as were stored, stored in other parts of the world. Um, even recently they've started to scan some of the burnt pieces of paper that basically descended on Dobbin after it was bombed. It rained, you know, centuries of records, um, some of them which were locally saved and they've started to try scan, digitize and piece them back together. So there's little bits of information still coming out even today. Speaker 2 00:14:15 Um, but one of the great things as well is places like the Irish family history center and elsewhere have done a lot of work to digitize existing records. So like church records that show baptisms marriages deaths. And so on census records that give you a little bit of an idea, um, land, valuation, taxes, wills, everything that you could freely imagine. They've been trying to gather these from organizations like, you know, the kind of church in Ireland, the church of Ireland going to corporate record offices in the UK, in the United States, and trying to piece together these little stories. And that's the kind of bedrock for a lot of kind of family histories. So without that work, um, really wouldn't have happened. Speaker 1 00:15:00 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram from the institutional to the personal, having talked about the founding of Epic with Nathan Mannion. I wanted to know more about his own family background. I must admit I've got more than I was. Speaker 2 00:15:18 Yeah. So I suppose, like money people, um, on my father's side, my parents, my grandparents would have left Ireland as immigrants. Um, they were quite young themselves. Um, my grandfather was originally from Canberra. Um, you couldn't get a more remorse part of the, of the orals to be honest, and having visited many times. It it's a little peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic on three sides. Um, there's one road heading down into it. And apparently everyone else on that little peninsula is related to me in some way. So that was, that was quite nice to see. Um, and then my grandmother is from County Carlos. So she's from just like Carla town and they bought, they immigrated to Britain. Um, when they were quite young, the ages of about 17 and 16 years of age, they didn't know each other. Um, they mess a pile. Speaker 2 00:16:06 My grandfather was working in construction. He was in the Irish Navy. And while my grandmother would have been working with the NHS as a nurse, um, they met and you're nodding a mint and I ever socialist. So it doesn't really get any more stereotypical than that. Um, but it was that they hit it off. And, uh, as a result, then, you know, my father was born in Britain. Um, he, they would've returned to Ireland. And when he was about two years old, um, they've by wealth of stories of their time over there as well. They really enjoyed it. And I suppose, like money, it was a tough decision to make if they wanted to come home, but they wanted the support of, of like the family network, especially to help with, as the children were coming along as well. So their parents and grandparents, um, so they decided to move back and they've lived in County Carlo ever since. Speaker 2 00:16:51 Um, particularly my granddad tell me some wonderful stories of assigned there. Um, he's 80 now. And he was saying that in the, in the very early 1960s, while he was working there, he arrived off the ferry. Having never left Galway. Really, you got the train over to Dublin, took the ferry across to Britain and started working in construction because he had a cousin who was already over there. Uh, he didn't speak any English when he arrived coming from the Gaeltacht in Kanamara. So he had to learn as he went. Um, he used to obviously was, he was quite, um, a devout Catholic as well. So he used to go to mass, but he would end up going to Polish mass instead. Cause he said he could pick up a couple more words there, then he could from, from the English alternative. So it was quite funny. Speaker 2 00:17:35 Um, he'd used to go to confession then once a week with the Polish priest, but neither of them had a clue what the other were saying to each other. So they went through the motions. He said it was fantastic. It was like, you could say whatever you want and you still got absolved. It didn't matter. And nobody was aware of it. So he, he loved us. Um, he was digging a trench, I think, um, as part of roadworks outside Nottingham at one point and, uh, another Workman stepped on his boots and he started giving out to him. And the two of them started to kind of squaring up to each other. They started fighting. <inaudible> strange until they realized like a few minutes in that they were both shouting at each other, an Irish they're both from Connemara. And it turned out it was actually his cousin that he hadn't seen in 20 years. So they ended up going home. He brought them home for dinner. He stayed for two nights. So like Ronnie said, yeah, she really back one day and the two of them are sitting in the kitchen, so you couldn't make it up really. Speaker 4 00:18:25 But so I give them what the difference was maybe between psycho going out and coming out Speaker 2 00:18:28 Baca. Was it really not that big a deal? Yeah. So there was no, it was a big decision for them to make as well, going out as well, just, just even getting the money to go on the first base and to get set up. You know, you're really relying on that kind of community support network, extended family, whatever you could manage and to get a scale, to, to be able to train somebody. My grandmother would have trained in Dublin initially before she was able to, to move to Britain. And they wouldn't take you without either that recommendation from, from a peer group, peer in Ireland or a kind of a family Tania abroad slightly different when you're working in construction, because it was really, you know, you might get a stars and then it was up to you to prove yourself so that my granddad, maybe he had a little bit of an easier time there. Speaker 2 00:19:12 They also, through that, one of the reasons people, even if you were just after arriving, what you do is you go rub Mark on your boots because if the guys pulled up to pick workers for the day and they saw you had nice clean, shiny boots, they didn't think you were worth anything. So they wouldn't get you, you know, there could be 20 guys waiting there and they only want seven. So, you know, you try to make yourself look like a veteran. This is a, quite a, quite an interesting little thing. Um, yeah, but then moving back was a big decision because, you know, they've kind of built a life up for themselves in method Mary's um, they, they were starting the family, they were, and they had a house that they bought a house in Nottingham as well. So they were deciding, you know, okay, well, do we want, if we need it's now or never, we need to decide, are we staying? Speaker 2 00:19:51 Where are we going? And it was really a visit from my grandmother's motor and that convinced them to return to Ireland. She said, basically, do you want to bring up all your children here? Um, or do you want to come home? And, you know, you'll have from, from everybody. And it was the support network. I think that really won them over in the end. It was getting back and getting, you know, help with the children and getting, you know, having someone to rely on. And that's what brought them back. And they were given the choice. They did want to go back to Galway, to Kanamara did want to go to Carlyle. Um, they opted for Carlos because my granny decided that there was no way in hell she was living in Panamera. Um, so that was super to fall down on the ground as the eldest son. Speaker 2 00:20:29 So he was Jewish inherit, a little farm, like 20 or 30 acres. But as she said, yeah, it's 20 or 30 acres, but which like 25 is just rock. So she wasn't going to be a farmer's wife and Panamera and that's that's. So they've been in Carla now, ever since they've been there 50 years now. Brilliant. What about your parents? Yeah, so my, my dad then obviously he grew up in Carlo and that's, uh, all my father's side then, um, are basically on all his siblings. Then he would have been born in Britain with the rest of them would have been born in Ireland and Carla, and then my motorcycle from Kenny. So not only down the road in, in Irish terms, you know, half an hour, 30, five minutes away. Um, and they met because my dad's ended up joining the army when he was quite young. Speaker 2 00:21:12 And he became, uh, joined the Irish army. He served with the peacekeepers in Lebanon for a couple of years as well. And the barracks is based in Kilkenny James Stevens. There isn't any in Carlos. So they met on a, on a night house in, in Kilkenny sort of wireless soldiers. My mom at the time was a hairdresser. So it was, uh, it was, um, quite cool to, to go out with the soldiers on a night out as well. So they're all quite young to be 18 or 19 at that time. Um, yeah. And my motorcycle, plenty of them ended up moving to Britain as well. Actually, my great grandmother, um, was from London. Uh, she was a sharp, so she ended up, um, she was the only child of a, it was a head groomsmen to a neighbor of the queen mother, which was quite an interesting one. Speaker 2 00:21:58 So it looked after the horses basically. Um, and he had one daughter and she went completely. So he would have been involved kind of with the aristocracy. She went completely against the grain and she ended up marrying a member of the, uh, IRA at the time in art. And so the kind of movement for the war of independence and at the time in the 1920s. Um, so, eh, who was from a company awfully, so she moved, ended up moving to Ireland, marrying him, uh, completely kind of breaking with her father who did come round in later years. Um, he remarried as well. Her mother had died, so, um, he would visit them once or twice a year and he'd come over. Um, and eventually, yeah, they kind of made peace, uh, gave it a few years. They made peace. It was quite a clash. Yeah. It was a little bit of a cultural shock. All right. They're slightly, slightly well to do kind of English, English, kind of a family marrying into a very, very, at the time, very Republican Irish nationalists family. Speaker 4 00:22:56 So the, around the other way as well, a Republican family taking on somebody who is obviously very, very connected to the English system. Speaker 2 00:23:04 Yeah, well, they, they found, uh, like they were basically, they were, they fell in love. It's, it's that story. She, they had family in Ireland and my great granny would have come over and visited them for the summer every now and then to get out of London. And it was there that she ended up meeting my great-grandfather, um, and obviously, uh, definitely a forbidden romance, but, um, when it came to make your breaks, she decided that she prefers to stay with him and make her life in Ireland then to go back. So, yeah, and as a very turbulent time, as you can imagine with the war of independence, just after ending and the, uh, the, uh, civil war that followed, um, he ended up in the army and after the war, he came an officer with the, with the Irish free state army, um, and, uh, ended up, um, based in Kilkenny, which is how they ended up being, uh, being brought there in the end as well. Speaker 2 00:23:57 This, this brings to mind, um, you know, particularly with regards to immigration and the, and the, and the fraught history between, between, between Britain and Ireland and so forth that an awful lot of members of the, of the BAS bruh, particularly over the course of the seventies and eighties, when the, when the Boeing campaign on the mainland is like, all it was was that its full height would have had distinct distinct problems. And so like in just like either, either claiming their Irish roots or, or indeed, so like feeling as though they could actually fit into the countries. Speaker 2 00:24:26 Yes. So that was certainly certainly an issue. Um, you know, luckily things have improved since then, but there was, um, you know, there was profiling people just based on their accents, um, at the time in Britain. But I think that's sort of like hyphenated identity as well as something that's still very central to Irishness here and in Northern Ireland. Uh, one of the stories that we featured at the museum is of Anne Carey. So she would have been, and is still alive today. Um, and Irish immigrant from Belfast who ended up moving to Canada, um, at the height of the troubles because she had basically recently married as well. Um, and then she had found out that, uh, neighborhoods burst in the door saying that, um, Amanda, with the same name as her husband had been killed, um, she assumed it was him and they rushed out later to find out, luckily, luckily for her, but not for the others. Speaker 2 00:25:16 It wasn't her husband. It was, it was another man with the same name who had been killed, but she decided that, you know, it was just too difficult to place to bring up their children as well when they were starting, their family supported them, left Belfast and moved to Canada, brought up their family there. And I'm her husband only passed away a couple of years ago, but she, her story is one of 330 that are told within the museum. So the idea that, you know, one of the things that people forget is while the trouble is, you know, where are centralized in Ireland and you came in and as well, um, they also had a global impact. So lots of people, I think thousands and thousands of people left Northern Ireland during the twice at the troubles as well, um, with the hope of a peaceful life somewhere else. So should, they would have settled in Toronto, became involved with the, with the, uh, Canadian hockey as a sport. So it shows you like how things can change. The children are really into hockey. Um, one of them worked at an Irish bar, so they, you know, they're Irish, but they also have, they considered themselves kind of true Canadians and the sort of like nuance changes that came about as a result of these, this type of immigration is something that's kind of understudied. Um, not as well known. I think Speaker 1 00:26:31 You're listening to the past podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora, if you're new to the plastic podcasts or even if you're not, and you haven't got round to it, why not subscribe simply go to the [email protected], scroll to the bottom and place your email address in the space provided one confirmatory click later, and you'll be getting details of each fresh podcast, plus a collection of personal thoughts on the interview from yours. Truly. What more could you possibly want for free? We'll be back with Nathan Mannion in a moment, but first it's time for the plastic pedestal where I ask one of my interviewees to raise up a member of the diaspora of personal or cultural significance to them this week, Rosemary Anissa with a particular favorite Aetna Speaker 5 00:27:16 Brian, she's the one, she's the one because she was, I, I remember hers was a book that was absolutely forbidden in the institutions. And one of the girls in this industrial school got her hands on this book and this book went around the houses, but these a hundred girls read this book and it was absolutely forbidden. The nuns eventually found it and the original burning of the book. Um, but what I loved about her was the honesty that she showed in that book. You know, she, she wrote about local girls, absolutely clueless about anything to do with life. And I absolutely identified with that. So yeah, there was one Frank McCourt would be another, but, um, the authors of contract girls absolutely stayed in my mind over 40 years later. I don't think I have found an, um, another person that I would say, God died to meet you. I don't think, you know. Yeah, definitely Speaker 1 00:28:27 Are there. And if you want to hear more of Rosemary's interview and frankly you'd be a fool not to simply go to the [email protected], where you can find the archive of not just her, but of all of our interviewees or indeed you can find them on Amazon, Apple podcasts or Spotify. Now back to Nathan Mannion. And I asked him about what a museum like Epic offers to the present and indeed the future. We also get to talk some favorite stories Speaker 5 00:28:55 In the last four years, the idea of what is the museum and how should you be watching the museum do and what the museums represent to people has changed a lot over the last couple of years within the museum community. There is, uh, the largest group of museum practitioners in the world is called ICOM. It's the international council of museums. They have a branch in every country in the world. Um, they're part of, kind of the United nations as well under UNESCO. And I've been involved with the, with the Ireland committee here they've been trying to grapple with, what does it mean? What does the museum they've been trying to redefine what a museum is? So every periodically, maybe every 10 or 15 years, they tried to come up with a new definition of what museums are. Um, and it's been quite contentious for the last couple of years. There's been a lot of disagreement. It was supposed to be decided last year. Speaker 2 00:29:42 Um, a new definition was put forward, uh, volts every three years, the entire kind of global body meets the mountain Kyoto in Japan last year, they were meant to adopters it didn't pass. So they've gone back to the drawing board there. Um, so it really shows you like, you know, you've 20,000 museum practitioners in this group trying to get a consensus on what a museum actually is or should do. Isn't easy. Um, it changes depending on where you are in the world, how you relate with your local community, um, how they relate with you, what you perceive your mission to be versus what it might be. Um, and you know, if it's just as simple as a dictionary definition or a space, does host exhibitions, preserves and collects objects, um, and safeguards and for the future, or is it one that needs to, you know, actively engage in like the spread of democracy? It needs to, you know, co-produce with those communities that are dictate to them, um, that needs to go beyond the kind of walls of the physical institution and do much more than just be a space. Um, so it's still ongoing, but it's been, it's been fascinating following it all. Speaker 3 00:30:46 And you mentioned that, um, you, uh, have had a kind of digital presence particularly, um, in the last six months or so, because of, because of, uh, because of COVID and so on, and it has not changed the way that museums are perceived and has, does that definition then come under, even under yet another form of scrutiny, because now we're no longer looking at the physical space necessarily. Speaker 2 00:31:05 Absolutely. Um, I think that's been one of the most interesting things, like in our own circumstances, we've been through two lockdowns now at this stage. Um, the first began in March, um, we were open then briefly for a few weeks there in the summer. And then we closed again until the last week. Um, so we had to move a lot of our activity online, which we were doing a little bit of already, but we, you know, like everybody else, we had to speed it up, get online, start giving lectures and zoom start doing children's workshops online. We started to produce and make all of our education packs available for download. We started creating a kind of museum at home hub. We started some story collecting projects as well. Um, and that's been brilliant because we got huge engagement, um, and still have, um, for us in particular on like, I guess a lot of other museums, the value of being online has been, uh, we've been able to directly engage with the diaspora when there are San brand communities around the world who couldn't really walk through the doors and attend a lecture in our lecture space at the museum, but could definitely take part in something that's open zoom. Speaker 2 00:32:06 So we've seen, you know, an average lecture might have 40 or 50 people. The ones that we've done in line have been hundreds, you know, we had three or 400 and the first of a new series we launched on the hidden histories of the Irish abroad say it's strong since then. So we've had people from all over the world, join in, we've partnered with groups in South Africa groups in North America. And the time difference has actually been relatively minimal. We thought that might have an impact. It didn't really, um, and they've been coming and they've been really happy that they've been able to. So it's something we'll keep doing. We're not going to stop even when the D with the doors now, and the ability to hold smaller onsite lectures, we're going to keep streaming them, making them available. And the recordings, instead of those are all up online on our YouTube channel as well. Speaker 2 00:32:49 So it's great. One of our most popular series at the minute is the hidden histories of the Irish abroad. Um, so they look at kind of lesser and well-known stories of Irish communities outside of Ireland. So the first was on the Irish and the USSR. So it looked at Irish immigrants living in the Soviet union, um, throughout the 20th century and their involvement in, in the stage, their involvement in understandings of Irishness, um, in, in the Soviet union at the time that was immensely popular. Um, we've looked at the Ireland and the black Atlantic was there a second talk? So it looks as parallels between movements in Ireland for independence and civil rights. In, in, uh, in North America, it looked at the, all the, all the legacy of, of transatlantic slavery as well. And it looked at the, uh, Morrisons and mixed race communities in North America. Speaker 2 00:33:37 So we did that in partnership, wait, Aiden, which is the African-American Irish diaspora association. So groups of, of, um, African-American Irish people that live in North America, a lesser well known part of our diaspora. Um, but an interesting statistic that they shared with us during that, during the talk was that one in three, African-Americans have Irish ancestry. Now, in most cases, you know, that's a very dark story. Um, you know, going back to plantations, slave owners, um, and potentially forest relationships POS it's something that they are grappling with today, and they're trying to connect a lot of that community with their connections to islands. So it's a, it's an area that a lot of work has been put into. Um, and hopefully we will have a forthcoming exhibition, um, in 2022, which we'll look at that in more depth, it was a very popular talk. Speaker 2 00:34:24 Um, and it, uh, Gary, an area that is less well studied than it should be. So that was very popular. Our next one will be on the Irish behind bars. Um, so it's looking at Irish people incarcerated all around the world. Um, mainly looking at those who are, who are silver protesters or activists that have been locked up, um, over the centuries and up to the recent day as well, we'll be bringing the star of our 2021 program. We've got Irish Jewish and Irish Jewish Jaspers and the Parlez and links between them. Um, we're looking at Irish travelers abroad as well. So they are as traveler community, mainly in the United States and places like Georgia, but also in the UK and elsewhere. Um, and then we're going to look at contemporary migration. So the impact of immigration to Arland as well and new our communities and how that has in turn influenced our diaspora and immigrant policies and communities in Ireland. So it's, it's quite diverse. It's, it's a very popular program. And I go online to our website, anybody who wants to take a look, it's Epic, chq.com and it'll outline most of the upcoming talks. So Speaker 5 00:35:28 One of the things that, um, that struck me when I went around, um, Epic, um, was the enthusiasm of, um, of staff. Then Speaker 3 00:35:38 I think we were looking at the, uh, the world war two, section a and a, and a gentleman whose name I forget, um, just all about, Oh, have you heard this story and this story and this story I would, so we, we, we started talking about them, Spitfire Patty, I think it was, yeah. Yes. Speaker 2 00:35:52 A lot of people they want to speak to, they want the human connection. They want to talk to somebody that works there. So that's why the staff in every gallery used to move around. Um, they can add more depth to the stories as well. So as we mentioned, the space is limited. You can, well, I've given, I've been given and set strict word counts for each entry that we can, we can work with, um, just to keep me in line as well in many ways. So they don't have a whole story there, but every piece people want to know more. So like, like your experience, where you engage with the stories, but for your Patty and Stafford air, to give you more information, um, to direct you to new resources as well. If you want to find a book on the topic, you want to go and read some of the archival materials, whatever it might be, and they share their own stories as well. You know, they have their own favorites as you go throughout the museum. Every staff member kind of find, feels drawn to different parts of the exhibition, or maybe it links to their own experience. So that's always been really popular. And the feedback that we guess at the end of the museum, one of the sections is about the staff and it's, it's universally. So universally praised. So all the staff trout museum and Speaker 3 00:36:54 In the shop now then, um, I've already introduced the notion of Spitfire Patty. So I suppose it's probably only right. And apt to, um, to tell the story. Speaker 2 00:37:02 Yeah. So I think I'm not surprised that you were drawn to that one. It's it is fascinating, um, for anyone who knows. So Spitfire, potty would have been, would have been an alias is his, his real name is Brendan for, and, um, and he was a born rap minds in County, Dublin in 1920. Um, his family, uh, moved to, to Britain when he was quite young as well. He, he attended school there, but he was fascinated with, with flight and with potential potentially being a pilot from a young age. You know, obviously at that time, you know, it's only 20 years since the first airplane took off. Um, so it's a, still, it was still a relatively new, new invention. Uh, his father didn't want him to be a pilot. He encouraged him to become an accountant. Um, he tried it for a little while after he finished school, he hated it, absolutely hated it. Speaker 2 00:37:49 So he decided to try and follow his dream and become a pilot. He, at the age of 17, he took a, he began a four year course, um, to train as a pilot, by all intents and purposes, all the reports of it, he was terrible. He was a, he was an atrocious, he was an atrocious pilot. Um, he was involved in a number of different accidents when he was trying to take off. Um, and when he started his written exams in, in an advanced flying school in Scotland, uh, his scored very poorly. Um, and to be honest, has the second world war not broken out that he probably wouldn't have been accepted into the Royal air force at all. So that just shows if you persevere and you try hard enough and the right circumstances come along, maybe you can still achieve your dream. He racked up over a hundred flight time as well. Speaker 2 00:38:36 Um, but actually once he, once he took to the skies, um, during what was a very tense time for anybody living in Britain, he actually became, it became very obvious that he was a naturalist. So he became, he was a natural pilots. And more so than that, he was also kind of a natural natural leader. Um, he aimed the money he needed. He earns the monikers before our party, uh, because he used to, obviously he was from Ireland, but he used to paint a Shamrock on the tail end of his cockpit of his Spitfire of a Superman Spitfire. And his Yunus were known as flying shamrocks. So he actually Rose through the ranks as well throughout his brief career. Um, by 1942, he had earned the rank wing commander, which would be the equivalent of a Lieutenant Colonel in the, in the armed forces, the youngest ref wing commander in their history still to this day at 21 years of age, um, which really could only take, only happened during, during a global crisis, like the second world war. Speaker 2 00:39:36 Um, sadly he was shut down as well. Uh, only a month after this promotion in coming back from a sorority over France. He, his plane was damaged in the attempt to do a, uh, kind of a crash landing in the, his channel, um, which didn't go to plan. And he was lost that day, um, bus to, to stay as well at the time he was considered quite a hero, um, in Britain and he appears regularly and all the British papers, he received awards at booking and policy received a distinguished flying cross tube with two virus and distinguished service order as well. And, uh, was a kind of a propaganda icon in a way because they wanted to show that, you know, anybody could, could get behind, um, the, the war efforts and achieve ratings you needed to achieve. I think five Ariel Ariel kills to be given the moniker of area lace. Um, and I think he S depending on the source you refer to, he is 28 confirmed. Kayla is up to 32, depending on the sources for probably so his career as a, as a, as a pilot and a fighter pilots during the time is very impressive. Speaker 3 00:40:44 Obviously, as a, as a senior curator, you're, you're kind of like a father with 330 children. Um, uh, I suppose it's wrong to have favorites, but inevitably you may well have some, um, if you were just a visitor to the, uh, to the, to the museum, what do you think would be the standout things for you? Speaker 2 00:41:03 Oh, I think it varies that really a personal taste dictates that so much, but there are some remarkable stories that a lot of people are generally drawn to. Um, one that I always find quite interesting, um, just because it's a little base quirky is the story of Margret's eager. Um, so she was from Limerick, um, but she was nanny to the last star of Russia and the last service, his children. So his four daughters, the grand duchesses, um, of Russia, she was their English tutor at the Russian courts for six years. And she taught them, she taught them English and they were actually remained quite close, even after she left. Um, she ended up opening a boarding house in England, and she used to correspond with them by ladders quite a lot. And she even wrote a book about her time there. But one of the things that people are really drawn to is the fact that when they spoke English, they spoke it with the lyric accent, which you can imagine as the senior Royal family of Russia, um, uh, Paul's desire and his wife. So they ended up having to fly somebody in from England to teach them proper Queens, English, but for all, for a period there get imagined the Royals of Russia speaking with, uh, the Limerick Twain would have been quite something the old Romanovs. Yes. Yeah. Those perhaps, yeah. Speaker 1 00:42:22 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. That's more than just a hashtag. It's a philosophy. One of the things that struck me most as part of my visit to Epic was its layout and design in particular, a series of walls with a selection of Sergeant pepper style montages of the diaspora. One phase that particularly caught my eye was a stern looking and Andrews, it was a display I could get lost in for days. And so in this last section of my interview with Nathan Mannion, we start by talking about that. And then frankly, we move on to all sorts. Speaker 2 00:42:53 The gallery you're thinking of is the influence gallery. So it's the beginning of the, of the section that looks at kind of Irish impact around the world. Um, that particular space, it kind of shows kind of iconic moments, the proud Irish people abroad and at home closer together. So, you know, like, you know, where were you when, and it's like the Italian 90, it's the first year of vision when on one side and on the other it's, it's, you know, things like IRA bombings, um, and, uh, you know, the nine 11 attacks. So it's a sort of a good and the bad, but the space had that you're thinking of that collage. It, it shows, um, a good number of the people that are featured within the museum, kind of interspersed among a crowd. And the idea is that each of them is holding or next to something that's linked to their story in some way, um, a little bit humorous in most cases. Speaker 2 00:43:40 So you'll find, um, JFK is having a cup of tea in a little chair because when he came to Ireland, he had a cup of tea with his relations from Wexford. Um, you know, WBA is sitting there holding poetry for dummies, um, the peer rice or renowned architect to D who was the engineer at the Sydney opera house was holding the blueprints there and that kind of thing, but it's kind of, can you spot and how many names and faces can you recognize? But it definitely does connect. There is something there for all generations of visitors, unlike him and Andrews that peop people appreciate, you know, um, and anyone they see that they will be able to find their story elsewhere in the museum as well. So the idea is to kind of encourage you to look a little further and a little bit deeper. Speaker 2 00:44:22 Um, one of my favorites from that sort of era as well is, um, Dave Allen, I think he's featured in our comedy section among many others, um, who made their, made their name and Britain likes to Tara Brene. Um, but I think Alan is, is fantastic. And even today, some of his, some of his course and interviews about what it means to be Irish, um, abroad are still relevant. Um, still quite telling. And, uh, you know, I think him and the likes of Ayman Andrews really start to kind of change how Irishness was perceived in Britain and many ways when you see it on TV, Wolgan obviously went on to do that themselves then a little bit later on, but you find it was the, and now even today, people like Graham Norton as well, like Ireland has contributed a lot to kind of, um, TV show hosts, um, late night TV and so on and in the UK. And they definitely have an impact on how Irishness and what it means to be Irish is perceived, and they have a platform and a voice that, you know, many other groups don't. So I think even today that that's still quite strong, Speaker 3 00:45:18 There's something that you, you mentioned there that, um, that was that, uh, stuck out. And that was that you talk about, there's a wall there, there's got nine 11 and, and, and, uh, IRA bombings and so forth. And it's trying to look at that. There's a darker side to the, the, the Astro history as well. And so on. I mean, as we talk about Spitfire Patty, there's also the story of William Joyce, uh, Lorde hall hall, who it's like a ended up broadcasting, radio propaganda for the Nazis and so on. And it was, um, is it something that you try and steer away from it and you do have to acknowledge it? What's what, what was the feeling of balance here when it comes to actually having to deal with some of the, some of the stories aren't necessarily the most positive that you can have? Speaker 2 00:45:57 I think it's important to acknowledge both sides because, you know, the experience isn't universally positive, nor is it universally negative. We would, we would lean slight, slightly positive. Um, within the exhibition, we like to leave people on a high, but throughout the rest of the museum. Yeah. There are quite dark stories. You know, things like the modern baby homes in Ireland, the marketing laundries, um, the persecution of members of the LGBT community up until the 1990s, it was a criminal act in Ireland, 1994. Um, and these were all causes for migration people who were either voluntarily or involuntarily, um, taken from Ireland and sent abroad. Um, and they're important parts of our history as well. And then similarly Irish people who have gone abroad, um, not all of them were, were, were saints, quite a number of them are centers as well. Um, and you need to acknowledge that. Speaker 2 00:46:43 So there were Irish people involved in criminality around the world. Um, you know, some are polarizing figures as well. You know, obviously Che Guevara has Irish ancestry as well, and be able to come in one way or the other on, on, on his legacy. Um, Ned Kelly as well, obviously he's a romantic kind of Bush ranger figure in, in Australian folklore at this stage. But for many people also, it was just, uh, a dangerous, dangerous TIF and Robert, um, and people learn like hahaha as well. And Joyce, you know, who's, again, it's actually very hard in, today's still very in Galway and in, um, I had the opportunity when I did my undergrad in Galway, the kid's grave is still there. Um, you can go and see us and everything, but how their legacy is handled is quite important. And I think that's one of the things that museums do is that they create a platform and a space for conversations like where aren't in the target of source on every aspect of the past. Speaker 2 00:47:32 But what we do is we want to start those conversations. You have to be a space where these stories can be shared and interpreted, and then people can come and they can engage with them and make up their own minds. Um, and I think that's really important, especially today where you can find if I difficult, um, the, find a, a kind of an, almost like a safe space to have these conversations, because, you know, they are quite polarizing generally. And I find that true bringing to light stories that maybe are lesser. Well-known like, I like the impact of the Irish involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, or, you know, difficult legacies around colonial pasts that we have today. Museums are all grappling with these issues all over the world. Um, but they need to, they need acknowledge them. They need to engage them and they need to listen to the people whose voices are being raised. Speaker 2 00:48:17 So we, when we're currently working on an exhibition that will focus on art and LGBT diaspora in the world and their experiences, it's, it's, co-produced, it's done with the communities. You directly link, you link in with the mall, you find the kind of community experts. You talk to the people themselves, whose experiences you're trying to portray, and you get their side of the story because for too long, I think there was a sort of, and it's hard to have driven, um, curation of museums where you become a subject expert in a particular area. And then you just create an exhibition based on your own research or resources. And that was it. And it wasn't done. It could be done about someone, but never with them. I think museums have been moving into that space a lot more, um, over the last decade or so. And it's really just become something you just, it's not defensible anymore. You have to work with people to tell their stories. And that's just the way it has to be. Speaker 3 00:49:09 That leads me neatly onto a question that, uh, that's also sprung up there, which is that there are other issues that the arise where, um, say, uh, the mixed race, uh, Irish or, or travelers within Ireland themselves, and, um, feels that they're underrepresented and so on. Do you think that that museums have a part to play in that? Speaker 2 00:49:32 Oh no. Absolutely. Um, museums, again are spaces where if you're a national museum or a local museum, people consider you custodians of that local story or that national story, and you construct identity in what you choose to display and what you don't. If people don't see themselves in an exhibition, they don't feel part of that story. Um, and that's something that people recognize now. I mean, it's been said for decades, but it's something that people are starting to take seriously now. And they're starting to engage, like if Ireland is a very different place today than it was a century ago. And those stories that have come along since then need to be represented. So if you're an immigrant to Ireland, you remember the traveling community, and you've never seen your story on display in a museum. You know, if you feel almost like a second class citizen, in a sense. Speaker 2 00:50:15 So the there's been a lot of work and here at Epic as well and elsewhere to make sure that those stories are incorporated because they're part of our national story, the part of our diasporic experience, whether you like it or not, they a part of that Nate and narrative. Um, and if we're not represented, you're not really telling a complete story. It's, it's, it's the elimination of that kind of what conscious or unconscious bias. I think the museums really are striving to remedy. And then that becomes a platform for broader discussion in society as well. Because once people are aware of a story, they'll start to start to interpret it, start to engage with it, start to bring that conversation along a bit further. You say the Island's changed. Do you think that the sexual, the diaspora, as far as the Irish are concerned, have changed? Speaker 2 00:50:58 Oh yeah. Most certainly. I think, you know, Ireland has come a long way in the last couple of decades as, as a country, as I mentioned earlier, one that galleries at the museum is being redeveloped at the moment and launched in about six weeks time. Um, and that's bringing in insulation on contemporary migration. So it's looking at the 19th century experience of Irish people abroad, um, true personal stories and what that was like, but it's juxtaposing against contemporary migration from Ireland as well, and actually want the contemporary story. And we're looking at is that of Emma Dewberry. So obviously a Nigerian Irish woman currently living in the UK. So her story is, is a little bit more nuanced in how we connect with her Irishness so that the installation looks at things like, you know, the change in communication methods that we've had to over that time period. Speaker 2 00:51:42 So from kind of that right into the internet and smartphones from travel by sea and ship on probably a one-way journey to frequent returned migration by air from anywhere in the world, and then how we connect with Irishness. So what does it mean to be Irish and who, who decides that and how is it interpreted in the world today? So is it people that connect with Irish culture? Is it people that were born on the Island of Ireland is the people of Irish parentage grandparents. Um, is it people who have no Irish ancestry whatsoever, but a huge affinity with what it means to be Irish? Maybe they went to school here, maybe they, you know, they did part of a year abroad or, you know, there, they only read Irish destructure, it's the, Speaker 5 00:52:20 Of Ireland, um, of Ireland Speaker 2 00:52:23 And, and for Ireland. So it's just, it's, it's changed quite a lot. And it's the called the department of foreign affairs. I'm calling the affinity Irish people who aren't from Ireland, or haven't got a connection to Ireland, but love the place, engage with all of our, you know, music or literature visited frequently, um, and then immigrant communities as well, and their interpretation of what it means to be Irish, because it's, it's, it's, it's hyphenated identity. In some senses, people are like, we're much more diverse and multicultural society than we were even 30 years ago. And it's time that kind of, that notion of what it means to be Irish evolved, it's evolving here. Um, and then they asked for it as well, like for a long time, Ireland didn't acknowledge it, staffs birth, even though they did so much for us, you know, the, the remittances alone that were sent back from Irish immigrants all over the world, kept the economy afloat for decades. Speaker 2 00:53:12 Um, just from an economic perspective. And, you know, I think, I think it was Amy devil era who had mentioned that there was, there was, there was plenty of employment in Ireland and those that left were, you know, giving up on the kind of national ideal, um, that was more of a political stance because from an economic reality, it wasn't viable. Um, but the, as I said, the, now we have it now have a minister of state for diaspora. We have to ask for policies, we have an diasporic museum. Um, people are getting much more aware of that story. And Ireland is unique in that. It's the only country in Western Europe that has a smaller population today than it did at the middle of the 19th century. That's in the wake of greenish famine, but we have one of the largest diasporas in the world, um, which is again, partly to do with that. Speaker 2 00:53:58 Um, and how we link in, you know, if 70 to 80 million people is 1% of the world's population today that have an affinity for an Island, is that, you know, has, you know, just about 7 million people on it. So it's, it's, it's crazy. It's at least 10 times the size of us, um, population is today. So I think it's a, if we don't acknowledge it, it's, it's ridiculous. One final question. Under normal circumstances, I'd asked one of them, my interviewee, what does being a member of the diaspora mean to you? Although you've got, um, you've got to be asked for background, you were born and raised in Ireland. So I'm going to ask it in a slightly different way, which is, um, over the course of the four years that you've been with Epic, what does Epic meant to you submits a big question. I think it's a mental it's meant quite a lot to me. Speaker 2 00:54:43 Um, mostly because I can see the stories of people of my own family represented in the museum, but I can also see the stories of people that are not enlightened me represented in the museum. You know, stories that I would never have come across if I hadn't been involved with this project or if for hadn't worked here. And it's the people that come through the doors as well, because migration special because many museums are dedicated to historical events and things from the past, but with migration, it's old, historic and contemporary. So anyone that walks into the door can share a story that may end up on display in the museum. That would be the case moving into the future as well. Migration is never going to stop. It's a universal part of our identity and a place where that can be told and where those stories can be displayed is, is really important until Epic opened. Speaker 2 00:55:28 It didn't exist. Um, and we've just seen the overwhelming support and positivity. Anyone who's come in about what we do and what we continue to do into the future that I think without it I'd be a different person because I wouldn't have met so many extraordinary people. I wouldn't have been able to engage in so many fun and interesting projects. And I definitely, um, I'd be a different person myself. So it could be, it could be a banker, which, you know, I'm glad my, my, uh, story took a different route, but I think, yeah, the importance of, of global identity and being able to share it with so many hundreds of thousands of people every year from all over the world is, is phenomenal. And I think it's something that's quite special and long over to in Ireland. Speaker 6 00:56:16 You've been listening to the passive podcasts with me, Doug Devani, and my guest Nathan manual. The plastic was raised by Rosemary Anissa music by Jack Devon. Find us at www dot capacity, podcasts.com or email [email protected] Alternatively, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the plastic podcasts, this sponsored using public funding by arts council.

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