Speaker 0 00:00:01 <inaudible>
Speaker 1 00:00:21 How you doing? I'm Doug Giovanni and you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. We all come from somewhere else, find us and subscribe to [email protected]
My guest today is Tony Murray of the London metropolitan university, born and raised in London to two Irish parents. Tony researched the history and literature of the Irish diaspora, not only that, but he's also director of the Irish writers in London, summer school, curator of the archive of the Irish in Britain and a senior lecturer in creative writing at the met plus at least one of our interviewees talked about placing him on the plastic pedestal. No less exactly what he's doing, talking to the likes of us is anyone's guess. So let's start by asking him, how are you,
Speaker 2 00:01:05 Um, trying to spare my blushes after that actually, uh, well, well know, it's a thing for students to say. Um, yeah, I know, uh, I have listened to a couple of your other podcasts and, uh, a couple of the people I've had on the summer school actually have appeared. Um, Bridget Whelan and John O'Donohue. In fact, Bridgette was one of my former students and went on to become a successful writer and teacher and Joe I've known for years because I would go back to green ink days with John. Um, in fact, I in Sydney, John for a college project about grading back in God, I dunno about 1919 or something when he was involved in that fascinating guide, you know, full of ideas, loads of energy. I mean, it's a lot of hats that you wear there, isn't it? It is actually, I don't know how that happened.
Speaker 2 00:02:00 It's like I fell into a cloakroom and came out with about 10 hats on my head. Um, uh, they just sort of accumulated a bit, but I suppose, um, it might be something to do with always try to kind of keep a balancing act to maybe that comes from being second generation, you know, you always try and, you know, keep, uh, different things in balance and I've never, um, never been one for kind of walking away from something completely, always like to keep an eye on in the fire here. Uh, um, because I wasn't, uh, by any means, uh, uh, kind of academic, uh, I wasn't a brain box at all. Uh, if anything, my brother was the probably books in the family. Uh, I was the one that didn't go to university. When I left school, I became a technician. Uh, I spent a few years doing that and, um, in fact I didn't like school and, uh, believe it or not, I actually really hated reading two books.
Speaker 2 00:03:02 Um, so quite how I ended up doing the job I'm doing, um, uh, um, I think I was more into music, you know, it was a teenager literature. Um, but I, I may be, I think what it was was I, I kind of developed as I really got into the music and I read the enemy, you know, in the seventies and all of that. I, um, I acquired something of a critical take on things and I, when I reflect on it, I think maybe what happened was that, that faculty, um, that's that sort of critical faculty developed, um, with the music and then it just transferred over to the literature later in my career, because after doing an Irish studies degree in MIT, I ended up specializing in the literature of Irish migration and particularly the Irish in London. Um, so I, I guess I bought those, um, uh, how would to cook that, that those kinds of, um, interests and takes on, on using to, to literature?
Speaker 2 00:04:18 What kind of music did you listen to? Oh God. Uh, I was sort of on the cusp really between, um, cause I was, I was born in 56, so, uh, when I was really getting seriously into music, it was just prior to the punk era. I was, you know, I really used to like, um, I wouldn't call, I would just say I liked them so much these days, but certainly that time and that whole kind of, um, you know, sort of blues rock, I wouldn't say instant, progressive rock so much, but I got into blues rock and that, um, and then I went back to listen to, you know, the old blues guys as well later. Um, but it was so, so into, I think a bit of the folk music stuff that was happening in the mid seventies, particularly with those new, those Irish bands that came along like planks in the bothy band.
Speaker 2 00:05:17 But I found really exciting because they were doing some new, um, but then punk at home and that I exploded everything and I was kind, kinda caught on a cast there. I, I, there were certain things about punk clients that were amazing, you know, like that, just that pure sense of creativity and energy. Um, and he's still there. If you listened to, you know, the sex Vista, his first album is it's frightening as soon as you're putting on. It's just incredible. But, um, I think, um, there are other aspects too, which I didn't identify with quite much. So, um, I was, so I had mixed feelings, um, but it was a really productive and interesting time. I think that the energy that came out of that period and, and the ability for young, you know, guys and gals to get out and just do it, you know, um, just get up on a stage and start playing, you know, by maybe adding new three chords as this is, it was, uh, it was permission in a way to be creative in a way which maybe, uh, has got lost a little bit since. And he certainly wasn't there beforehand with a big rock band, you know, that was much harder to sort of gain and use and
Speaker 3 00:06:41 Kind of do it yourself element. I think pumps
Speaker 2 00:06:43 Brought in exactly. Yeah. You put it in. Yeah, exactly. That's what it was the self ethic. Really. It wasn't, um, uh, um, I think that was, that was very opposed to from, I mean, you know, sometimes it works, sometimes it didn't, but it didn't matter, you know, there were so many bands at that time. Remember, you know, I privileged living in London, growing up in London and just been able to go out, well, actually some nights it was a case of, well, who am I going to get to go to? You know, you've got Boontown ranch, HTC, you got, you know, the Stranglers, they're all playing on the same night. You could go to any of them, just pick which one, you know, um, embarrassment of riches just for a few years. Um, your parents were both from Ireland. I saw I, yeah. Um, my dad was from my own, um, my mum from Donegal.
Speaker 2 00:07:40 So both from the rural farming backgrounds, um, and they came over here in the late forties, uh, met in London. And, uh, actually you mentioned Holloway, um, which is where I've lived most of my life. Funny enough, um, after a few digressions elsewhere board, but, um, yeah, they, they met there and, um, like a lot of Irish couples, you know, they, they fell in love and married, had a family and we all grew up in Holloway and my dad was initially a labor. And then he, he, he got a job with the post office, which is a really good job, um, in the sixties and seventies. And my mum was, um, she was better educated than my dad in many ways. And she had quite good secretarial qualifications by the end of it. Um, I've gone off and Donegal. Um, she, she wasn't able to find work, you know, there was still a, quite a strong sectarian divide at that time coming from a Catholic background, she didn't get the opportunities that she might have. So she ended up coming to London and she, um, became a nurse. So she ended up working in psychiatric nursing.
Speaker 1 00:08:59 Um, um,
Speaker 2 00:09:01 And, um, we kind of, you know, myself, my brother and my two sisters, we all grew up in a very typical London, Irish background, I guess, you know, I'm Irish in the sense of the church. We went to the school, the schools we went to, um, you know, the classic holidays in Ireland, Debbie Salma.
Speaker 1 00:09:23 Um, but,
Speaker 2 00:09:25 Uh, at the same time it was, it was London and it was a very different background. So growing up in Ireland, um, so I think once I got to adolescents, I realized there were some real conflicts to sort out in terms of who I was. I mean, everyone does that in adolescence, everything's questioned, everything gets thrown out the car, whatever, you know, it's all up for grabs. And, um, I guess Irishness was part of that,
Speaker 1 00:09:56 You know? Um, um, but, um, you know,
Speaker 2 00:10:02 Chili, I think, as I said went, so once we dropped to the mid eighties, I started to realize that I needed to just explore my Irish background a bit more. I needed to understand where I came from and my history.
Speaker 1 00:10:18 Um,
Speaker 2 00:10:19 You know, I couldn't just assume things I felt because I kept meeting people from other so like second generation, but they had very different kind of backgrounds in terms of their parents, from what their parents did. Um, so that was, that was interesting. You know, I had to come to terms the fact that, well, you know, my sense of Irish news, which was very rooted in, you know, particular parts of Ireland, the West of Ireland, Mayo, where we used to go as kids every year where I loved and I've got fantastic childhood memories. That was just my personal sense, you know, kind of Irishness, there was loads of other,
Speaker 1 00:10:57 Um, forms
Speaker 2 00:10:59 Of Irishness, which, um, which I, um, started to read about and think about, and then ultimately kind of write about, um, so I spent my life, you know, playing around with these ideas of identity because I find them endlessly fascinating. They never stay still, they're always changing. It. Was that an expiration that was shared by your brother and your sisters? That's a very good question. And I think, um, my brother, perhaps not so much, I think for him, um, he wasn't navel gazing as we did mean. We just got on with it, the ego, a good job. And he, um, I think he, he certainly wouldn't disown his Irishness that's for sure. Um, if I proud of that box, he wouldn't, um, you know, it wouldn't be such big deal in terms of his identity. Let's say, um, um, my sisters, uh, too, a little bit more like me, but in their cases, they're quite interesting because they went back to live in Ireland about 15 years ago, because my, I didn't say my parents were back in the early nineties, uh, to live in Ireland in retirement.
Speaker 2 00:12:17 Um, and then my two sisters followed. So it is strange sorta why I was the one who was left behind in London, um, because my brother lived in Crossville and, um, I, um, you know, uh, it was a way it was, it was a very interesting turning point. Um, I realized in some ways that maybe through the studies and the research I was doing that Ireland was coming to me in London, drop me going into Ireland, if you know what I mean? So it was some compensation for that. Uh, but then later I realized that she, no, that's, that's quite a strong position to be in because, um, it is about both. It's not just about being Irish. It's also about being a Londoner. Um, and these days you can always go back, well, not right now, but yeah, generally you can go backwards and forwards to Ireland drop of a hat. So I kind of get the best of both worlds in a way,
Speaker 3 00:13:18 Talk about London Irishness in a moment, but I just want to catch on to something that you've mentioned there, which is that your parents went back to Ireland in the early nineties, you say yes. And from their perspective, was it a very different country from the one that they left? What was the reception that they got having come back? Because having talked to nivo earlier last week? Um, not that weeks mean anything when it comes to podcasts. Um, there's a, there's a sense that there's a, there's a resentment sometimes with those that come back because after all, they didn't stick it out.
Speaker 2 00:13:50 Absolutely. Uh, that's called common experience. Um, I know that, um, my parents are very lucky. Uh, just look, I think they, they went back to Donegal, which is where my mom is from. And I think there was a bit more support. Uh, sometimes of her sister, my cousins, uh, there was a network if you like a family support network. Um, but it wasn't easy. Um, I think, um, oddly enough, I think my dad found the easier, although he was a mailman, he was kind of a Donegal. He was the, um, the sort of slightly unusual because there were very few Mayo people around me. Yeah. He, he played that up. He's kind of Gary's character. And, uh, he was also an arsenal fan amongst the load of menu fan. So that was another, you know, he enjoyed all of that. Um, of course, as a man, he had the opportunity to just go down the pub and then sort of have a drink, whereas for my mom or to be enough, I think it's much more difficult because any, even in the early nineties, it was much more difficult for a woman, certainly of my mom's age to go just out socially in that way.
Speaker 2 00:15:03 Um, and it took time for her to reintegrate, having not having been away for 42 years, going back, she left at age 17, going back if he put, he knew her, but she didn't necessarily know who they were. She had sort of put the jigsaw puzzle back together again very slowly. Um, and gradually she sort of, you know, found herself a relaxed again. Well, I noticed about my mum was, you know, initially when they went back, she was still very kind of like, um, I dunno, she had the uptightness about living in London. She was always sort of on the go, she was doing this, that and the other and very, um, whereas, you know, three years later she'd slow down into Donegal pace. She relaxed a bit let go. And that was really nice to see. Um, so I think for them, yeah, they were very lucky. They, they had a good, so 15 years of pretty idyllic retirement, I have to say, you know, when they died, it wasn't great. But yeah, they, they had, uh, had a great time.
Speaker 3 00:16:18 And what is it, your sisters did your, your, your brother moved across to Brussels, so I'm presuming with Europe.
Speaker 2 00:16:24 Yeah. Um, yeah, he worked, um, he worked too for a kind of consultancy firm. Russell was with the, and then my sister, um, one of them would lives on a go away. She's, um, she's a painter actually. Um, and she also teaches fine art as many painters do. Um, and, uh, the other sister works in Dani. Golan is a debt counselor and she's brought her family up there. So my nieces, daughters, although they were born in London, they, uh, they're effectively brought up in Donegal. So they have Donegal maxims, and they're kind of very Irish in that sense. It's another dimension it's, uh, when I talk to them, they say, well, no, actually, you know, the real Donegal that their peers, if you like the ones that they went to school and, uh, find them quite odd because they grew up in London. So they had that, you know, kind of crisis of identity as well. So it's just passed on to another generation in a funny way.
Speaker 3 00:17:32 <inaudible>, you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora, like many of my guests, Tony Murray likes to describe himself as part of the London, Irish before looking at what means I asked him to describe growing up in London,
Speaker 2 00:17:52 Grew up in a well, who took a tough MoPOP kind of access all the way Candon Tufnell park. Um, and oddly enough, I, I moved back to this area. So I've now lived between gospel open Tufnell park. Um, moved back here a few years ago.
Speaker 3 00:18:14 There's a description of what term Tufnell park Camden area was like at the time.
Speaker 2 00:18:18 It's very different to the way it is now. Now it's classic sort of North London, Bosworth kind of, you know, um, not so much Holloway, I think, hallways and change the lunch, but Tufnell park, um, you know, a lot of, um, single occupier, big houses, um, middle-class, uh, families, people who've done very well. A lot of media people, a lot of people, politicians, uh, labor policy politicians. It's very much with that deal, I suppose. Um, whereas when I was growing up, um, those houses were much more run down and now look immaculate beautiful Victorian and Georgian houses. But at that time in the sixties, uh, they were all let out, you know, there was like maybe six or seven flats and some of those houses, um, we grew up in a basement flat and one of them, um, and, um, yeah, uh, it wasn't that no, after the war, you know, I mean, it was still at least 15, 20 years after the war.
Speaker 2 00:19:25 And, um, I suppose the legacy of that was still in the air. Um, uh, I tell you something, uh, it was very interesting with lockdown. Um, I noticed just wandering around the streets where I live now. I, I, I felt like in a way I was from who's going back to those days and I was going back in time because there were no cars on the streets. Everything was much quieter. Um, and, uh, kids were playing in the streets like we used to do, you know, um, that's been on her to walk, you know, for like decades, but in this last few months, certainly in April may time and, you know, the lockdown was at its height. Um, I noticed that, and that was quite a nice aspect to, to the lockdown experience for me. It kind of brought me back and made me think about what my childhood was like on those streets, growing up in the sixties. I felt a real sense of connection again. Um,
Speaker 3 00:20:31 Yeah. So when you, uh, to, to, to carry on with this thread, which is that when you were then reconsidering, what your childhood was like, as you look around, uh, London and lockdown, what were, what were your thoughts?
Speaker 2 00:20:42 Um, I dunno if I thought about it in any, um, kind of deliberately conscious way or even, you know, a theoretical way, you know, I didn't think about it in terms of the way I would, my work and my research. It was much more of an emotional, um, experience. And I, I found, uh, just this sense of connection, which I hadn't anticipated. I wasn't, I was supposed to was joined was, um, right down to just the, my Utah of, uh, literally the physicality of certain streets, uh, walking down streets. I hadn't walked down for years because that's what we were doing in lockdown. We were trying to find places to go for a bit of exercise when actually humps to teeth was more, but, you know, with joggers and cyclists, we couldn't go there. So we're out in the Backstreet walking round. And, um, I, I kind of rediscovered all strengths that I had sort of forgotten about, uh, from childhood and, uh, discovered ones, which I didn't even know existed, you know? So it was, fate is very interesting time. Um,
Speaker 4 00:22:05 It is, it is, it is curious. I mean, it's like, it's one of the things that we often talk about on this, which is that lockdown kind of reworked your relationship with the idea?
Speaker 2 00:22:13 Um, very much. Yeah. And, um, I think there's some, uh, for me has been, um, a massive kind of reconsideration of home because I've actually spent half the summer in Ireland because my partner's mother died and we were over for a long time, came back, went back again, deal with family matters. And I've, I went to see my family as well as sisters. And, um, yeah, uh, I've sort of, um, had a deep immersion in both, uh, you know, my, my London existence to the, to the lockdown, the early lockdown period. And then in the more recent, um, couple of months, I've spent more time in Ireland, then I spent, since I was a kid going over and holidays those long holidays. Uh, so I was seen, uh, I suppose, uh, aside to Ireland, which may or may not have seen before, it's almost like, felt like at times almost living there, you know, temporarily, uh, unlike just being over for a visit on holiday.
Speaker 2 00:23:23 So that was an insight as well. Um, I think calm, balanced, so it felt, um, really to get back. Um, it wasn't the happiest times I have to say because of, you know, because of family circumstances. So that's not fair, but sort of some, you know, we did a little bit of driving around and, um, you know, there's what it is, you know, particularly in the West, it's just gobsmacking and you keep coming across such wonderful places and people, um, that never changes, uh, even with all the Celtic tiger stuff, all of this very different sensibility to him, people liked to chat. People liked to tell stories, you know, and, uh, I always feel more teas talking to Irish people in English, people, you know, um, I don't know that just, that's just me. And, um, despite having grown up here in London, all my life, most of my life in London, and that's still the case, um, I just slip into various people in aware of English people so easily.
Speaker 4 00:24:31 Th th th there's there's a lot here. That's kind of about change. And also on the other hand, it's about, uh, status, I suppose, for want of a better term. Um, and as much as you you've, you you've spent you'll, uh, a lot of your life in the same kind of area in London, or you come back to,
Speaker 2 00:24:50 Yeah, I always come back to it. I lived in Manchester for three years. Um, I would say the self-managed those student over a year, and I was only employed for two years, which left a real Mark. Um, that was an experience when I, you know, it was, um, very shaping experience, let's say, um, yeah, that was in 79 to 82. So it was in depths that that factor is, it was not the place to be living Manchester at that time. They took it really hard, you know, um, all the, you know, the, the shutdown of manufacturing and industrial North. But, um, yeah, when I, when I discovered up there, it was, my London is came, my, my sense of London identity was much more apparent to me because Mancunian saw me as a posh southerner, you know, which I, yeah, because it's not North South thing.
Speaker 2 00:25:52 Um, Oh, you come from London. Yeah. Oh, you must think we all live in. Yeah. You know, um, there was a real sense of, I don't know. Um, I mean, I love Mancunians as well, and I, I got know still friends up there, but I, uh, um, I found that difficult. I, I just felt like they saw me as something, which I wasn't, I didn't see myself as, you know, posh in any way, but because I came from London, that's how they saw it. Um, uh, so that was interesting in terms of identity, because you don't always deter. I realized then that you cannot always determine your own identity. It's not entirely within your own hands. You will always be defined by other people in a particular way, and you didn't have to deal with that. Um, um,
Speaker 1 00:26:47 But then I lived in Spain for a while as well. So I, uh, that was another kind of experience around identity. I love Spain always come back to Spain. Um, discover when I lived, there was one of the positive things was weirdly enough. I could a second generation Irish person. I could just say I was Irish. Um, if I wanted to, yeah, because I didn't have a London, you know, I'm supposed to Irish. So most Spanish people just accepted it straight off the minute questions. I didn't have to go through the whole written to an English person explaining, you know, my background, why was I called myself Irish family history, blah, blah, blah. I didn't have to do that. And I was a kind of, um, relief in a way could just sort of express my more sensitive if I wished, you know, um, my sense of inheritance, which we couldn't do in England,
Speaker 3 00:28:09 You're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. We all come from somewhere else. We'll be returning to Toni Marie in a moment, but now it's time for the plastic pedestal and raising up her personal icon of the diaspora. Here's Neve Leah.
Speaker 1 00:28:24 I really thought about this for a long time, you know? Um, and I found it really difficult because there's so many people, um, who are part of the Irish diaspora. Like it's, it's, it's huge, there's so many people who've done such amazing things. Um, but the person I thought of, I don't know if you've heard about squid, Samantha Berry, um, and she is currently the editor in chief of garner magazine. Uh, she worked for CNN. Um, she did, she left the BBC to have St and she's done political journalism. And she's now, as I say, editor-in-chief for the gun magazine in New York, and she's just such a wonderful, intelligent, adequate sassy sort of woman. And, um, as an Irish person and as a female, um, in our society, I just think she's incredible. And I love the way she goes into stuff. And I love the way she presents herself. And I love the way she honors her, her, she has an Irish immigrant herself. She's not a second generation, but I love the way she, um, embraces her Irishness. Um, rightly so, and, and just goes into things with such possess, you know, like,
Speaker 3 00:29:42 So it's a strong sassy woman, which I, I appreciate, I endeavor to be a strong sassy woman Neve Leah, they're talking about Samantha Berry currently editor-in-chief of glamour magazine. Now back to Toni Marie. Now Tony's life seems to have taken a number of different routes. And I wonder if he believes in the idea of turning points.
Speaker 2 00:30:03 I think I do. We don't always recognize them at the time, but certainly in retrospect, you do. Um, I do. And I think that, um, we can control a certain amount of what we do, um, when we can maybe, you know, just sketch out a career for ourselves. And some people are able to do that perhaps, but I think for the vast majority of us, uh, there are all these certain points and they're just, they come out of the blue and you're given an opportunity. You either go with it or you don't, and, um, they can change your life. So there's a real randomness and luck factor to it all on to, I do believe that. Um, so I suppose I'm a bit of a fatalist in that way. Uh, I don't think you can determine it now. I think certainly the older we get, the more I realized that, you know, you just have to accept that things are continually going to change and that you continually have to be ready to adapt. And now what we've just gone through with COVID, you know, that's the biggest one out alone.
Speaker 3 00:31:16 What we found with, with, uh, with, uh, other interviewees is that the attitude towards the diaspora and Irish and the diaspora, his own attitude towards itself has changed over the course of the last 40 to 50
Speaker 2 00:31:30 Massively. Yeah.
Speaker 3 00:31:32 And how do you, how do you think that that that's, that that's changed more importantly, do you think there was a turning point?
Speaker 2 00:31:38 Um, I think the probably was a turning point, but I don't think it happened to any particular moment if it was a much more gradual change. And I think that took place, hopefully in the early nineties, mid nineties in Ireland, um, I think had to change, change the diaspora in the sense that they no longer took the diaspora for granted, um, or, um, simply forgot about the migrants who left, I think by the mid nineties, um, an awful lot. Well, there was a, there was a phase of a term, which my parents were potentially, a lot of people came back to live in Ireland. Um, people who would suddenly come straight off to the, or like my parents, but others from the 1980s, actually the eighties generation who went back to live in Ireland in the nineties. And I think their understanding of what it meant to Irish in Britain and the conflicts and ambivalences of that experience were brought back to Ireland and they've formed, you know, the general cultural debate about Irishness.
Speaker 2 00:32:55 So I think that that was a positive thing. Um, um, and I think as a consequence, Scotland policy started to adapt to reflect that. So the good support program became major plank of, you know, the Irish board policy. Uh, there was a sense that, you know, the, the government had to, couldn't just forget about the Irish report. They had to do something to support, particularly in Britain. I mean, America has always been a different story. Uh, the Irish had tended to do much, you know, dumb, well over there, much easier than they have here. Yes,
Speaker 4 00:33:35 We have Irish Americans. We don't have already Britain's do, you
Speaker 2 00:33:37 Know, you're done. And it's all those political kind of historical complications around the term, Irish Britain, Irish British, um, um, I think that's where the London Irish term probably comes from. It's a way of circumnavigating that to some extent, certainly in my case. Um, but yeah, I think, uh, the Asperger's or word is interesting. It's interesting that the Irish adopted it, uh, because prior to the eighties and nineties, it wasn't a word you would heard any Irish person use, you know, um, it was, the jury was associated much more with the Jewish guests, but I think that that's, um, if academia makes any kind of contribution, I wonder whether it does often, you know, and we'll make any claims, but in terms of a more general kind of cultural Amelia, if you like of what's happened in Ireland over this last few decades, I think the Asper, which is a factually trying to theoretical idea, you know, it's a term, I think it has helped to, um, broaden people's awareness of, uh, what Irish Mister means and how complex it is. Um, I think that's been a really positive thing and people like Mary Robinson, who've got up and used the term formally for the first time in 1990, I think it was, no, it was an absolute turning point. Um, again,
Speaker 4 00:35:04 So we talked about Mary Robinson and turning points in our famous candle and all that sort of thing. John, John O'Donohue and our first interview, he talked about how the, the, uh, the, the diaspora in Britain had a tendency to wind their next in his, his term there, uh, to, to not really talk about their own Irish. And now we have a situation where I'm talking to you and you're, you're, you're a doctor who, who, who did a six year degree in Irish studies and so forth something that wouldn't have been bien, bien, bien, bien, conceivable 40, 50 years ago, which is, which is, which was a click of the fingers in, in, in, in, in historical terms. Um, and, and
Speaker 3 00:35:38 So how is it that the, the, the, the Astro's approach to itself in this country has changed rather than an Island?
Speaker 2 00:35:44 Do you think if you mean to diaspora, if you mean, do you mean the Irish community is second, third generation? Yeah. All that, yeah. Very good question. Um, I think, um, it's generally been a positive one. Um, I think that, uh, there's been massive challenges for the Irish yeah. You know, coming through the troubles and the peace process. And I think, uh, how do we feel about ourselves? Um, I don't know. I, I, um, I feel in some ways, the fact that maybe in my experience, people perhaps don't talk about it as much as they used to. I found that maybe 10, 20 years ago, people were much more embroiled in those conflicts of identity, perhaps because Joe was, was still going. And we were all talking about what I did, whereas now maybe it's a good thing that we don't have to anymore. We're kind of, we've accepted ourselves as, you know, these curious hybrid or hyphenated individuals, you know, and we all kind of just get on with that. We don't have to necessarily feel we should choose one way or the other about our identities in the same way anymore. You know? Um, maybe that's a, that's a good thing. Um, because, and yet
Speaker 3 00:37:09 There's Brexit and yet there's, um, uh, Russia, Irish passports, and yeah.
Speaker 2 00:37:13 Yes. And that has quotes, it's resurrected a lot of that old stuff hasn't been around the colonial relationship. And, um, and, uh, some of the, you know, more extreme right-wing views you encounter, um, in regards to, you know, immigrants genuinely some of that style start to rub off on attitudes to the Irish in places. There's no question, um, you know, um, so, so nasty kind of echo really of the time, which, uh, was not very comfortable to live through. And that certainly made me feel less than well disposed of living in this country.
Speaker 3 00:38:11 You are listening to the past podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. We all come from somewhere else, find a subscribe to [email protected]
And the last part of my interview with Toni Marie, we talk about being London, Irish, and what that means.
Speaker 2 00:38:29 Uh, I suppose I have the advantage with the privilege of living in London, which feels like a little bit of a cocoon, maybe from Brexit land. You know, I have this sense of London been so rounded on most of the siege now by, uh, you know, um, Brexit land, um, you know, non-metropolitan England. Um,
Speaker 4 00:38:57 And yet if you're defined by others, as you say, um, with regards to our Irish-ness or your, or your identities, or the fact that you are in London is regarded by others as being something of a, um, well, it, the, that you don't understand how the rest of the country is going. Okay.
Speaker 2 00:39:12 Absolutely. And, uh, I think, um, you know, the, the referendum was a wake up call for Londoners. I don't know. I think it was a necessary one actually. I mean, I don't agree with, you know, leave me a U. Um, but I do think that we became very myopic. Um, and, um, I remember going to a wedding in Coventry about six months ago, uh, maybe longer just before COVID, but I, um, I remember going to a pub the night before the wedding, just for, by two weeks with my phone. And, um, three guys sat down just close this middle-aged guy, same age as me. And, uh, there was a nice kind of convivial sort of pub there's band on my sadness fear. And we got into conversation as you do, you got North, you know, people talk a bit more than they do in London.
Speaker 2 00:40:16 That was nice and had a chat. And then, um, they had my ex and that was it. He was like, what my conversation from then on it was all about Brexit and how you London is and got cleared. Um, and I, um, you know, okay, they, they, they probably, you know, picked up a lot of their attitudes and reading the sun of the, you know, whatever, uh, online about, uh, you know, Fiji's and blah, blah, blah. And, um, underneath it, I had to come away and reassess, you know, what had happened to people in order to me, small towns, the town and country, and how they had actually been left behind, um, and how I think their sense of identity has been eroded, you know, that their sense of belonging had somehow slipped away, um, because they didn't recognize country that we're living in anymore.
Speaker 2 00:41:24 Um, so I think, um, you know, I can, I wouldn't disagree with wants those views, but I can certainly empathize to some degree with, you know, their sense of conflict over their identity, because after all, that's where we've come from, we've come from, you know, this, um, engagement with what it means to be Irish for the last 30 odd years, you know, Irish, Irish identity. Well, now the English are having to do that, and it's a really difficult process to go for it. Um, because things are changing. I mean, Scotland, Wales move, no. And, uh, not for practicing, you know what I mean, bouncy is, you know, certainly either the UK looks like it is starting to break up, um, because the English will start to realize that they want something different. Um, I think it's a fantasy they're looking back to, you know, empire the wall and all of that, which gave them a sense of worth that's phase two, after like 10 years of austerity, you know, having your nose rubbed in the dirt, you know, by successive governments, uh, it's not surprising. A lot of people felt fed up and just decided soldier, you know, I'll show you what I think and vote when I've got the one chance to do, or we'll say two fingers. And, um, that's partly what the referendum is about.
Speaker 4 00:43:00 Speaking of identity, um, you described yourself on a number of occasions being London, Irish, and, um, I, is there something that's very, very specific to being London, Irish, those two things together?
Speaker 2 00:43:13 I think it's the duality for me, which is important. Yeah. Being both things at the same time without necessarily the two kind of diluting. Um, but it's also about London in the sense of London been a place where lots of migrants have come to live, make a living and contribute. Um, and as a son of Irish migrants, I feel part of that massive post-war change in London, along with, you know, the African Caribbean community in community now, Eastern European community. Um, I feel that London that's always been partly what love is about. It's always been an evolving place and it's been a place where, you know, largely not all the time, but largely there's been, uh, a tolerance to allow people to live the life they want to live. And where you come from, you know, is, um, shouldn't necessarily get in the way or that it doesn't always happen in course, but yeah. Is
Speaker 4 00:44:29 That any different from say livable, Irish or Manchester, Irish, or Leeds Irish, or any other major city
Speaker 2 00:44:36 You had to mention? Well, the thing, all those cities you mentioned are fairly multi-cultural in their own lines. And I would imagine that that probably applies to them as well, whether individuals who call themselves Manchester's relive a glorious, think of it in the same as I do. It says that multicultural dimension, I would like to say. Um, but, um, you know, I think that that certainly is part of the history of certainly someone like difficult, which was built on migration really, and empire that whole colonial. I mentioned. Um, I, um, I think that being able to say Liverpool Irish or Birmingham, Irish, as opposed to English, Irish has been a form of liberation for lots of second-generation people, because it's enabled us to say two things at the same time. In other words, will not be defined one way or the other. We, um, give equal credence to both sides of our inheritance.
Speaker 2 00:45:47 I think that that's really important. Um, but ultimately what I would also say is that labels like that are, um, inadequate in terms of really giving really describing the, um, complexity of what it means to be second generation Irish or Jewish or Asian. And that's where, for me the writing and the narratives, the fictions and the autobiographies come in, because they enable a story to be told. And I've increasingly come to the conclusion that identity is actually about the storytelling process. It's about an evolution over time, as well as space. You know, I mean the migrant identity is about space because migration, but it's also about time in terms of, you know, how, uh, an identity doesn't stay static. It evolves as we get older. Um, and I think that that's, um, you know, something might shine. It's an idea which I'm very keen on.
Speaker 2 00:47:01 And I, I feel maybe still doesn't, I don't hear enough about, you know, just that, that sense of, um, how important people's stories are. I mean, that's partly why I jumped at the chance of doing this with you, because I thought it was a great idea to do these podcasts, to get people to time give allowed, allowed us all plenty of time to actually just, um, you know, talk at length about these, uh, these complications about being second generation Irish. Um, often we don't get that chance. We're told to sort of provide a soundbite for, you know, a newspaper piece or, you know, um, and I don't think that does that can do justice really. Um, can we do need that time? Let's see
Speaker 3 00:47:56 Best you think he was saying. So, um, we, speaking of time or we don't have much more left, um, as a, as a, as I know that, um, that our days get filled. So I'm going to ask a couple of things, first of all, um, I just want to follow up on a thought there and, um, uh, which is how do you feel that your identity or your sense of identity has changed over that time?
Speaker 2 00:48:22 I think it's changed from, uh, um, I suppose a static sense of my identity to one, this much more fluid, um, that might be seen as, you know, somehow dilution, but it's not actually, it's a strengthening, uh, because when I was younger, when I get into debates about the troubles, I've taken a very, very rigid stance. You know, it was an emotional stance. It was where my family came from. And I, um, you know, I would, I would see myself as totally Irish, no situations. It was like, you know, not guitar. And I was, you know, I was authentic as any, anyone born in Ireland. Um, um, I still feel largely, but, um, I've realized as I got older that, you know, my, my childhood and my, my lessons and growing up here and the work I've done and lived in London most of my life, but that's actually just as important.
Speaker 2 00:49:32 And that has to be referenced as well. It has to be given, um, fair June. So I suppose that's where the mixed sense of identity comes from. I didn't use to light, I didn't use to like, uh, adopting that, um, sense of ambivalence, but now I, I feel it's more, more strength because the more I speak to people, the more interviews I do you do with people in second generation backgrounds, the more I realize that there's full of contradictions and there's all sorts of nuances, facts, and evictions get mixed up, you know, but in a wonderful creative way. And it's, uh, I think, um, you know, I think that I would prefer to think of myself as someone who's had a story to tell about the change in my sense of self, rather than think that I'd always true to that original kind of very monolithic sense of Irishness.
Speaker 2 00:50:42 The time might've had a noise in my teams. Tell me about the archive. Oh, it's full of these stories. Uh, we did loads of interviews, um, both from in the 1980s. We did a series of interviews with people who came over in the 1930s and forties told their stories about being Irish in Britain. Oh God. Some heartrending stories. I'd also did some in, um, the early part of this century. How would you call that? The first decade, the noughties we did, um, we did us, you sort of film interviews. And, um, that was my office experience because originally I just want to do audio, but then a producer and a film producer said, why don't you film it? We did the similar kinds of interviews, just asking people about their experience coming over older people, um, my parents' generation, um, and, um, they really Rose to the occasion and, um, they told some magnificent titles, um, and they talked so well. They were just fascinating to listen to. So, um, we put that film up on our archive website. You go to the website and you can see it is called. I, I only came out for a couple of years.dot dot.
Speaker 5 00:52:14 You've been listening to the plastic podcast with me, Doug <inaudible> and my guest, Tony Martin, the plastic pedestal was provided by ni they're using by Jack Devani. You can find us and subscribe to listen to www.plasticpodcasts.com or just look for us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, the plastic podcasts hasn't been sponsored using public funding by arts council, England.