The Politics of Philomena

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The most startling thing to emerge from the premiere last night of Philomena was the lack of any questioning around accountability for the theft of a child, in this instance Anthony Lee from his mother Philomena, who was incarcerated in Sean Ross Abbey for 4 yrs in the 1950s.  The whole issue of criminality was avoided throughout the entire film and there was an uncomfortability in the Q & A emanating mostly from Steve Coogan, who was making every effort to be inoffensive in his efforts to appease Catholic sensibilities.  It would seem to me that Mr Coogan, producer, co-writer and star of the movie, didn’t really understand the politics of the issue of the banished babies and the criminal trafficking of children for profit out of Ireland and other countries that was perpetrated by the Catholic Church and religious congregations.

What happened here was that like many other children, Anthony Lee was taken from his mother without informed consent and for over fifty odd years the Irish Catholic Church, Religious congregation and indeed the State itself, concealed the whereabouts of mother and son from each other.  Yet, what we watched at the IFI premiere last night completely avoided the global issue of the “banished babies” of Ireland.  Nobody so far has been held to account for this practice; there have been no Garda investigations or Interpol investigations; nobody from the national Airlines (Aer Lingus) or Pan Am airlines that actually trafficked the children out of Ireland have been confronted. Indeed, this whole issue has been slightly saccarined and turned into a warm human interest story rather than a story of organised, joint-venture criminality.

The whole reality of this film is sentimentalised through a naive catholic spiritualism.  A lot of it is cliched and it never really deals with the horrendous tragedy and evil of what was perpetrated on thousands of mothers and their abducted children to this day.

The story of Philomena is based on true events.  True events that happened to generations of people and, while this abduction of children was going on in so-called Mother and Baby homes, there was also the rape torture and inhumane treatment of tens of thousands in what are now known as Ireland’s residential institutions.  The Mother and Baby homes like Sean Ross Abbey, Bessborough, Castle Pollard etc. formed part of a network of compounds where individual citizens were incarcerated and exploited till they died, made good their escape or somehow found themselves miraculously released.

The trauma of what took place in these institutions still permeates this society through the suffering of the individuals who were incarcerated there.  That suffering continues as many mothers seeking to find their children and many children seeking to find their parents are still not being given access to their personal records, to their authenticity, to their origins. There is an indifference, a disregard and a continuous punishment in the way Religious Congregations and indeed the State continue to behave around this issue, which borders on contempt.  There was an opportunity in Philomena to address these issues but the writers of the script chose not to do so.

This undermines the credibility of the movie and does a great disservice to this single story and to the big story because after all this tale is one of thousands of similar tales that are now emerging as part of Ireland’s social and criminal history.

Despite the warmth of the film and the good reception that it received at all the film festivals so far (Toronto, London, Venice) somewhere, the real issues that are at the centre of this story, the hard cruel facts, that unheard story, that brutality, uncomfortable as it is, has to be heard, has to be owned has to be accounted for.  It is not just the story of Philomena and Anthony Lee, it is the story of a society and as such the secret history of Ireland and the Irish State and religious institutions cannot be so simply packaged in a feel-good, heartfelt portrayal of real events that have not been dealt with so far.

We had to drag the apology from the Taoiseach in relation to the Magdalene Laundries and large parts of the truth have still been avoided in the massive whitewash of the Ryan and McAleese Report. The complete indifference and lack of consequences for all those that were involved in the criminality and abuses that were described in the Ferns, Murphy, Cloyne reports etc. There is a great danger here of assuming that we have dealt with these issues and that there is some measure of closure on them, but still the Church and State continue to deny wrong going and the myth that everybody was just trying their best in very difficult times continues to be perpetrated.

Judy Dench gives a fantastic performance as does Steve Coogan, the whole cast excelled themselves and it is a good movie, but that’s all it is –  a good movie, an entertainment, a night out in the cinema.  It doesn’t ask anything of us, it merely brings us along in a sad-warm way.  It’s a road movie that is very satisfying.  The danger here is, is that it smothers the ongoing issue of what’s happening in Irish society and elsewhere and can give further credence to the school of thought that wishes to put this whole issue behind us and let us get on with it.

Adoption Rights Alliance and other such organizations and individuals are desperately seeking information and the rights today for open access to all of their paperwork, their birth certificates, medical records etc.  They are seeking their truth that has been held from them all their lives as it was for Philomena Lee and her son Anthony Lee.

The film will certainly throw light on all of the issues that I’ve mentioned above and it will find its place in the cultural representation of Ireland’s social history, albeit from a British perspective and sensibility. This is a British movie, but what’s not uniquely British about it and what came across last night in the Q & A and in the movie itself, was its unwillingness to ‘go there’.  While I welcome the film, I note its lack of responsibility to the overall story, its insistence on the sensibility of the human story at the cost of the politics and the truth of the issue.   When, in actual fact what you have here is organized criminality on such a scale that it should really warrant a massive European, if not global investigation or tribunal, not dissimilar to that which is conducted by the United Nations into crimes against humanity because that is what this is.

With due respects to all of those who were involved and with deep respect to Anthony Lee who died searching for his mother – who died being told a lie by the very people who thieved him from his mother and continued that thievery by robbing him of his mother’s whereabouts – this story is not just theirs; it is all our stories. And unless you deal with this story in the way you would deal with any fascist of dictatorial regime, like the institutional Catholic Church, like the institutionalized Irish State,   all you are doing here is facilitating and enabling the closing down of the story, the othering of the story and the perpetration of further suffering.

There were comparisons made last night with the Magdalene Laundries so on so forth, but you can’t compare ongoing trauma and truth with films that are by-and-large commercial enterprises to the story of institutional tragedy.  The story of Philomena Lee is essentially a political one involving a sovereign state and its inactions to protect its citizens and a global church that professes Christianity love, truth and respect, but is engaged, in this instance, in joint venture acts of appalling inhumanity and cruelty.  It is up to us, the cinemagoers to inform ourselves to the highest degree on all of the issues that are missing from this film.  That said I would urge you to see the film because some truth in all its horrors still manages to reach out and touch us. Perhaps because of what we already know in relation to the culture that still exists in our country.

It will take some time for society to extract the truth on this whole issue.  Memorials at the Garden of Remembrance, Magdalene Sisters films, and films like Philomena can never be a substitute for the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in fact sometimes such films can damage truth and authenticity as they can perpetrate the lie that it was ‘all done in good faith’. This film will now be promoted by Harvey Weinstein and may possibly even win an Oscar, however there is always the possibility that it could damage the ongoing advocacy for truth and accountability.

With all that in mind – please go.  And when you come out of the cinema, get involved, demand answers.  Seek accountability.  Don’t let the Church or the State off the hook. What happened here was on an enormous scale and that enormity has not been reduced, but has been added to by the continuous refusal of the congregations of nuns at the centre of the Mother and Baby homes who were willfully engaged with the theft, trafficking and sale of children to be held accountable, to hand over the many documents and files that they have in their possession.  These documents need to be given to their rightful owners without any hindrance whatsoever. Everybody has the right to their own information. The lie that is about that these documents were lost through fire damage or floods etc. needs to stop.  People have memory. The congregations duplicated many of its documents. Every child had a passport forged.  People know.  Including Aer lingus, Pan Am and emigration.

In essence the film is about secrecy which forms an unbroken web. That secrecy is never challenged.  And even the cinema goer is asked to accept that secrecy.  It is this very secrecy that gives rise to gross abuse in society, from the institutions of the state, the institutions of the church and the very institution of the family and here right before us in the IFI that secrecy is well maintained by the cultural industry and the film community.  This is far too serious an issue to be turned into mere entertainment.  Philomena the film is not Rabbit Proof Fence, or Los Ninos Robados.  It is a vehicle for the desires of Steve Coogan and the advancement of his career at the expense of a real truth, a real politic.  Mr Coogan needs to be aware of this, that in doing what he did he places himself firmly on the side of those oppressive regimes that wish to keep us all silent, all stunted and childlike and all contained.

This story and the thousands of stories like it will one day escape from this place and find a place where their truth will be heard, understood and accepted.  To avoid is to deny.  To deny is further injustice.  The struggle and the search for truth continues. Mr Coogan had an opportunity to inform the public.  He chose instead to protect the wrong doers – the Irish State and the Catholic church.  He needs now to correct this if he is to have any credibility.   He needs to inform himself of the reality by speaking with those many people who are desperately seeking their children, desperately seeking their mothers.  Its important to note that Philomena Lee didn’t write the book. Didn’t make the movie.  And the problem now is that the story is in the hands of unscrupulous, unprincipled Tinseltown merchants.  And we all have an obligation here to ensure the right thing is done and that the truth is told. Only then can a society grow. Only then can true faith be meaningful.

Talk: Art for Parties and Street Theatre, Barcelona 1926–1948 by Xavier Palet Sabater

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From March 1st-March 5th 2017 Xavier Palet Sabater will set up his exquisite Catalan shop in Dublin at 18 Ormond Quay.  As part of his week-long residency he will be giving a talk on the history of the objects and collectibles along with a workshop (10 persons only) on Saturday 4th March.  See below for details of both.  

TALK: Art for Parties and Street Theatre, Barcelona 1926–1948

Saturday 4th March @ 3pm, 18 Ormond Quay Upper Dublin

The talk will start with an introduction to late-19th-century Barcelona to give an idea of the historical and social context that saw the establishment of El Ingenio, a shop specialising in party favours, street theatre and curious miscellanea. It will then take a tour through the story of the shop from 1880 to 1975, focusing on the years around the Second Spanish Republic, when most of the objects in the collection presented in Dublin were made.

In addition to giving an engaging talk that incorporates objects and costumes rescued from the old workshop, Xavier will also deploy his artistic and theatrical skills to present an original performance.

WORKSHOP: SATURDAY 4TH MARCH 2017 @ 1.30PM – 18 ORMOND QUAY

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Xavier will also run a 1-hour workshop in which he would teach participants how to make different styles of paper hats.

The group would be maximum 10 persons

Participants would need to pay €10 to cover the cost of materials.

 

img-20161230-wa0005Workshop details:

Date: 4th March

Duration: 1 hour

Time: 1.30 pm

Place: adifferentkettleoffishaltogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper, Dublin 7

Participants should bring their own scissors ✂

 

Please email: farcryproductionsltd@gmail.com to book your place.  (Only 10 places available)

 

 

Xavier Palet Sabater was born in a small town in L’Empordà, Catalonia. In 2000 he embarked on an artistic career restoring antique furniture and artwork while managing his workshop and the Kamerino shop in Calonge. Since 2007 he has also worked in the field of performance art and theatre, designing, directing and performing his own work at a number of festivals. In 2016 he launched the Kamerino de l’Enginy project in Barcelona.

 

Tim James Morris grew up on the south coast of England to a family with Welsh roots, but has lived for the last 15 years in Barcelona, where he translates for art exhibitions, festivals and other cultural events.

Tim will translate Xavier’s talk and workshop on Saturday 4th March 2017

FarcryLogos.indd

Kamerino: Catalan shop comes to Dublin

KAMERINO POP-UP SHOP. Barcelona

Exclusive five-day sale of a unique collection of handmade pieces from the old workshop of a historic Barcelona shop specializing in party favours and theatrical curios.

You’ll find cardboard masks, hats and instruments, genuine Japanese lanterns, paper toys and a dazzling array of other weird and wonderful objects made between 1926 and 1948.

From Wednesday 1st March 2017 until Sunday 5th March 2017

Open: 10am-6pm daily

Adifferentkettleoffishaltogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper, Dublin 7

The Catalan artist/performer/scenographer/collector and antique furniture restorer Xavier Palet Sabater will set up his exquisite shop at 18 Ormond Quay Dublin 7.  Now the new home of Dublin Civic Trust.  This will be the final event to take place in this historic building before the Trust begin renovations and the scaffolding goes up.

Please call in and visit over the week.  Xavier is selling rare Catalan stock from 1926-1948 and will be giving a demonstration and talk on Saturday 4th March at 3 pm in 18 Ormond.  (Adifferentkettleoffishaltogether)

This is a free event but limited seating – 20 persons

Please email farcryproductionsltd@gmail.com to book a place

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Kamerino shop, Barcelona

 

 

POP-UP SHOP KAMERINO. Barcelona

Exclusiva venta durante seis días de la inédita colección recuperada de un antiguo almacén de Barcelona dedicado a la fabricación artesanal de artículos de teatro y fiesta entre los años 1926 y 1948.

Podréis encontrar máscaras, sombreros e instrumentos de cartón, auténticos faroles japoneses, juguetes de papel y una infinidad de objetos curiosos…

Además, programaremos una charla teatralizada para dar a conocer el proyecto.

Estaremos en a different kettle of fish altogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper, Dublín, del 28 de febrero al 5 de marzo de 2017.

Horario: 10 h a 18 h

Encontraréis más información en la página de Facebook Kamerino Collection in Dublin.

 

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Please join us for Xavier’s workshop on Saturday 4th March at 3pm in 18 Ormond Quay Upper (adifferentkettleoffishaltogether)

 

xavier.jpg  Xavier Palet Sabater was born in a small town in L’Empordà, Catalonia. In 2000 he embarked on an artistic career restoring antique furniture and artwork while managing his workshop and the Kamerino shop in Calonge. Since 2007 he has also worked in the field of performance art and theatre, designing, directing and performing his own work at a number of festivals. In 2016 he launched the Kamerino de l’Enginy project in Barcelona.

 

timTim James Morris grew up on the south coast of England to a family with Welsh roots, but has lived for the last 15 years in Barcelona, where he translates for art exhibitions, festivals and other cultural events.

(Tim will be translating Xavier’s talk on Saturday 4th March)

Further information on the Kamerino Collection in Dublin Facebook page.

Supported by: Dublin Civic Trust/Farcry Productions/The Temple Bar Company/DCCFarcryLogos.indd

Dublin Civic Trust Bookfair Saturday 10th December

Saturday 10th December 2016 from 11am until 5pm, Dublin Civic Trust  who now reside at 18 Ormond Quay Upper Dublin will hold a book sale of their  many publications covering interests from the streets of Dublin to best practice in maintaining your heritage building.

Perfect Christmas gifts, walking tours of Dublin, Conservation and restoration manuals, Trees of Trinity, and many, many more…….

Drop in and get to know the Civic Trust.  They Rock!

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Dublin Flea Christmas Market

Hop along to the Dublin Flea Christmas Market

Friday 9th December – Sunday 11th December 2016

The Local Enterprise Office Dublin City (LEO Dublin City) is proud to support Dublin’s best loved, free entry, Christmas Market, which comes to the Point Village (beside the 3Arena) from Friday 9th December to Sunday 11th December.

 

Greg Swift, Head of Enterprise and Economic Development, Dublin City Council, commented, “We are delighted to be supporting the Dublin Flea Christmas Market in the Point Village this year.  There will be over 100 stalls showcasing the work of independent designers, craft makers and artists.  By purchasing Irish-made gifts you will be supporting local jobs and buying unique gifts that are not available on the high street.”

He continued, “The market is free of charge, it’s a place to come with friends and family and spend some time browsing the stalls, enjoying the festive atmosphere and getting a bite to eat or drink.  The market is indoors so you will be cosy whatever the weather is like.”

Stalls will be spread over 2 floors of this ultra-modern repurposed shopping centre with 15,000 visitors expected to come along over the weekend.  The relaxed atmosphere offers lots of space for shoppers to take their time and enjoy the annual hunt of the perfect Christmas gift.

The Dublin Flea Market is a family friendly day out with lots to keep the children entertained including well know magician Hamish Urquhart working his magic on them.  There will be food for everyone with a great selection of hot pie stalls, falafel, sweet treats and seriously good coffee, all under a covered hangout area where buskers and carol singers will entertain satisfied shoppers.

Whether browsing for presents or decorations for the home, haggling for bargains, feasting on the food stall treats or simply meeting up with friends to soak up some Christmas atmosphere, it will be impossible not to feel the festive vibe at the Dublin Flea Christmas Market.

 

(Featured image by Bill Hastings)

Mr. Pussy book launch tonight

Alan Amsby is a true champion and one of our most provocative artists.  He challenged this society in a way that very few did.  He gave an outlet and an opening to a lot of men who were coming to terms with their identity.  Before Brendan O Carroll or any of the tame Panto dames, there was Alan Amsby (Mr Pussy).  Dangerous, provocative, innovative, ground breaking and loved by everybody including all those in the shadows and underworld of Dublin’s then unlawful gay scene.

I hope President Higgins sees fit to honour Alan Amsby in some way. It is fantastic to see this book finally come out of that big wardrobe that Alan Amsby has.  Its part of our social and political history as well as our artistic cultural identity.

Alan Amsby, a British citizen, gave this city and this country his life and a fantastic service well before the Belfast agreement.
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In 1969, a young Englishman named Alan Amsby arrived in Ireland with a frock and a wig. He was booked for one week, but was an overnight sensation, and made Dublin his home. Catholic Ireland had never before seen anything like the beautiful and outrageous Mr Pussy. For almost fifty years, Alan has delighted audiences and demolished boundaries.

Here, he recalls his early days as a drag princess and model in Swinging London, partying the likes of Judy Garland, Noël Coward and David Bowie; being heckled by one of the Kray twins – and snogging Danny La Rue. He also remembers grey 1980s’ Ireland, shocking the country with its first adult panto, and losing friends to the Aids epidemic. Then there’s his 1990s’ renaissance, ‘doing time’ with Paul O’Grady and Daniel Day Lewis, and opening Mr Pussy’s world-famous Café De Luxe with Bono.

Full of hilarious celebrity yarns, sequinned characters like the remarkable Stella Minge, and a lot of shameless name-dropping, Mr Pussy is the story of a legendary, ground-breaking entertainer, full of pathos, charm and wit.

 Alan Amsby (aka Mr Pussy) was born in London and performed a popular drag act before moving to Ireland in the late 1960s. 

Hidden Cultures, Public Platform

Big thanks to Rosaleen Mcdonagh and the cast of Mainstream at The Project Theatre, Dublin tonight, a very relevant socio-political play.
Many layers, many themes, many betrayals, including the betrayal of one’s own body. This play needs to be taken on tour to educate this nation about our collective cruelties, our indifference, our racism and the crimes we perpetrate on each other.
This is a brave courageous work by a fantastic playwright, who has travelled the long road of prejudice. She operates in her own uniqueness and compliments the great work of Christy Brown, Paddy Doyle, the Pecker Dunne and of course Sean O Casey.
While the work is about class, prejudice,Travellers, mainstream society written by a female playwright, it’s literary scope is universal and all-embracing. While disability is also a theme that runs through this work it is extremely intelligently portrayed and given expression of great integrity and is not reliant on any gimmicks or tricks. These are proud people, strongly portrayed by some of the finest acting I’ve seen anywhere. (Donal Toolan, John Connors, Grainne Hallahan and Neili Conroy – cast)
These characters are human beings like ourselves different and equal and their pain is like our pain. It’s a deeply humanising piece and sparks off the idea in us all that we all have a bit of a flaw. We all have our abilities and disabilities. We are all prejudice to one another.
mainstream

Cast of Mainstream – Donal Toolan, Grainne Hallahan, John Connors, Neili Conroy – Written by Rosaleen McDonagh

But Rosaleen McDonagh is a great playwright who won’t remain silent and fights that prejudice. Won’t be stereotyped. Won’t be pigeon-holed or marginalised, no matter what. She takes on feminism, male prejudice, class divide, racism, disability, traveller culture, child abuse, body betrayal and gay identity in one great lash of the pen. Excellent.
 
The centre of the work is about exclusion, prejudice and marginalisation but she manages to bring us as an audience and a public right into her fold.
I felt great coming out of this play even though its themes were dark. This playwright has kicked the door open into the light, and it’s very welcome. Anybody who has any prejudice or any doubts about the Travelling community or any ‘othered’ member of society should get to see this work.
Arts Council, Dublin City Council and all ye people out there with the public purse make sure this play gets out on a National tour – Please – for all our sakes.
This is a work of national importance.  
Outstanding honesty.