Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

Heritage Week 2010

23 August 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

The Department for Tourism Sport and Heritage have announced that there were over 1.4 million visitors to museums, galleries, archives, libraries and concert halls in Ireland in the first half of the year. Considering the decline in Irish tourism, this 9% rise is quite an astonishing number over a six month period and it shows that we are more committed than ever to supporting culture . The biggest cultural event of the year is taking place this week and I was prompted by their beautiful new tv advert for Heritage Week to go online and check out what is going on. The ad promises such a huge amount (art, music, history, archeology, genealogy… the list seemed endless!) which is not surprising considering so many organisations and institutions around Ireland can classify themselves as heritage and are taking part. The scale of the Heritage Week line-up suggests that it has not been hit by the budget cuts but this probably has more to do with the fact the week seems to run because of the  enthusiasm of already involved staff members who are keen to promote their organisations rather than increased government funding for a week a year. Indeed, with such an impressive list of free events its not surpsiring that Irish people are turning increasingly to events like this for entertainment. Read more

Choose an Irish Writer, any Irish Writer

16 August 2010

By Christina Morin

I mentioned in my recommendations for August having read and been thoroughly dismayed by a recent Irish Times article, ‘If ever you go to Dublin town’. In it, Rosita Boland reports that Dublin ‘might be a Unesco City of Literature with a rich literary history to be proud of’, but Irish visitors, locals, and tourists alike all seem a bit uninterested and uninformed about this history. One Texan tourist calling herself ‘just a clueless American’, for instance, said that she couldn’t actually name ‘any writers or books from Ireland, let alone from Dublin’. Others echoed her response with heart-wrenching regularity.

Boland’s unofficial experiment doesn’t bode well for Dublin’s new status as Unesco City of Literature. Dublin was awarded the designation – one of only four such honours – after a three-year long process headed by Dublin City Council under the auspices of Unesco’s Creative Cities Network. Other cities that already boast the ‘Unesco City of Literature’ title include Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Iowa, but what exactly does this mean for the cities involved? Reporting on Dublin City Council’s bid for ‘city of literature’ status in March 2009, Irish Times writer Charlie Taylor suggested that it all comes down to the tourism industry. As Taylor then wrote, ‘According to estimates, landing the prestigious recognition in 2004 has generated about £2.2m per annum for Edinburgh and an additional £2.1m for the rest of Scotland’. Read more

I was dreaming of the past… History songs

27 July 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Sometimes when the collective editorial brains on Pue’s get to storming, there’s no end to the great ideas that get churned out. So when Juliana suggested we do a list of historical songs or concept albums (we didn’t get very far on the latter), well…

The rules are simple: the song must have been conceived and written about a particular event or personality in history, so no folk songs (e.g. Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Partisan’, a raft of Dubliners or Planxty songs, Woodie Guthrie’s Oklahoma ballads) and no songs written about contemporary events (Bob Dylan’s ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’, Christy Moore’s ‘Joxer Goes to Stuttgart’, or a big chunk of Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue).

Here are a few to start things off. Additions, comments or corrections welcome in the usual manner (i.e. the comments box).

1. The Band, The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down (1969)

If you can excuse the occasional historical inaccuracy and the fact that it was written by a Canadian (though sung by an American: the brilliant Levon Helm), this is probably the greatest evocation of the American Civil War in popular music. Who else could sing the line ‘There goes Robert E. Lee’ and make it sound so cool?

2. The Decemberists, Shankill Butchers (2006)

This is a strange one. Based on a mother’s warning to her children to settle down at night – ‘The Shankill butchers want to catch you awake’ – the images it evokes of men ‘picking at their fingers with their knives / And wiping off their cleavers on their thighs’ are truly chilling. But it’s the lullaby melody that’s the real killer. Read More

Horrible History? Ciaran Wallace is pleasantly surprised by the North Side Ghost Tour

21 July 2010

Contributed by Ciaran Wallace

As a tour guide in the capital I have noticed an increasing number of locals  popping up on my tour- not really that surprising considering that most of us are taking fewer holidays abroad. This got me thinking about discovering our own locality. Pue’s has sent 6 people out onto the streets of Dublin to review new walking tours, like the Ghost Tour below, old classics, like the Literary Pub Tour, and even unusual museums, such as the leprechaun museum. Over the next 6 weeks we will bring you those reviews and hopefully some ideas for historical things to do this summer.- Lisa Marie Griffith

Ciaran Wallace’s review:I admit – I had my fears. Heading out on Hidden Dublin Walks’ “North Side Ghost Tour” it was only natural that I should be a little anxious. I might encounter dodgy history and cringe-worthy performances in underwhelming locations. As it turned out I was pleasantly surprised.  We met at 8pm at the corner opposite The Church bar and restaurant (formerly St. Mary’s Church of Ireland on Mary Street). Our guide, John, held a discreet sign and a large umbrella displaying the Hidden Dublin Walks logo. A decent umbrella was essential; the tiny folding ones were almost useless as the rain flogged down on some of our fellow travellers huddled in shorts and sandals. It was a tribute to the tour content and John’s delivery that everyone kept walking through a most unseasonal evening. Read more

Top five: Things to do in Dublin this Summer

16 July 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

So like many others, I am confined to Dublin for the summers and I will not be embarking on a summer vacation abroad, although I will get to Cork for the July bank holiday weekend. I have been compiling a list of things to do in the capital for my summer (things to drag my poor boyfriend to really) and thought I would share my top 5 with you.

1. Slattery’s Sago Saga: I am a huge Flann O’Brien fan so I am really looking forward to the performance of Slattery’s Saga Saga. Described as ‘One part carnival, one part surreal satire’ this play is being performed at Rathfarnham Castle. Adapted by Arthur Riordan for the stage, it is based on Flann O’Brien’s final and unfinished novel.

2. Death of a Salesman at Gate. I saw Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Gate last year and it was very enjoyable so I am looking forward to this.

3. Irish High Cross exhibition at the National Museums of Ireland, Collins Barracks. This exhibition opened 1st of July and explores the tradition, significance and art work of the Irish high cross and explains the importance of these crosses to early christian communities.

4. Films on the Square. I am a big film fan and try to make it along to at least one film in Meeting House Square every summer.

5. Revisit the Caravaggio at the National Gallery. On loan to the National Gallery from the Jesuit Community of Dublin, ‘The Taking of Christ’ was part of an exhibition in Rome this year and has just been returned to the NGI.

Tell us about your summer! Pue’s Occurrences would like you to submit reviews of plays, productions, exhibitions, museums, events and cultural activities you have encountered in Ireland or even internationally over the summer. You can email us at

Thank God it’s them instead of you: Live Aid and Ireland

13 July 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Think of Africa in the mid-1980s and a distinct set of images comes to mind. Ethiopia. Sudan. Famine. Michael Buerk on the BBC lifting the media veil on Korem refugee camp, “the closest thing to hell on earth”. Band Aid. “Feed the world”. Live Aid. Bob Geldof imploring the watching public to “give us your money NOW”.

In Ireland Live Aid evokes memories of a unique public display of energy and emotion. Pride that on 13 July 1985 one of Ireland’s own was the driving force behind the first global media fund-raising extravaganza of its kind. Pride in the £7.5 million pledged from a country crippled by high taxation, unemployment and emigration – the highest per capita donation in the world. Pride in U2’s performance, as Bono’s famous off-stage foray catapulted the band into even greater realms of stardom. And, above all, pride in the role played by Irish NGOs like Concern, Goal, Trócaire, Self Help, Gorta, the Irish Red Cross, Christian Aid, Oxfam, even the IFA, in assisting the millions affected by famine in Ethiopia and Sudan. Read More

Review: ‘The Pacific’ (HBO)

14 June 2010

Contributed by Joanne Mc Entee

The sphere of operations has shifted. The theatre no longer resides in the Pacific or Europe: it occurs amongst the audience of HBO’s latest miniseries ‘The Pacific’.  Tensions are high regarding the changes in the 2010 war series from its precursor ‘Band of Brothers’ (2001). Although structurally similar to ‘Band of Brothers’, the ‘The Pacific’ has left many die-hard fans of the forerunner up in arms.

‘The Pacific’ follows marines Sledge, Leckie, and Basilone in Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Parallels with ‘Band of Brothers’ emerge as soon as the opening sequence rolls. The voice of Hanks provides information on the war in the Pacific, while contemporary black and white footage, coupled with veteran accounts, brings the narrative to life. The opening credits echo the ‘Band of Brothers’ formula, both visually and melodically, while the type-faced of the title of each episode mirrors its predecessor. All these structural similarities merely fuel a desire to compare content. Yet it is here, at the most fundamental level that variations emerge. In direct contrast to the action packed, bloody, assault of the prequel’s ‘Day of Days’, the beachhead in the ‘part 1’ confronts a deserted strand, while ‘japs’, though often alluded to, rarely emerge on screen. Aiming small stones into the severed skull of the enemy and forcing gold fillings from the dead are Marine acts which fly in the face of the heroic US military rhetoric of 2001. Read more

Review: Part two of The Limits of Liberty, RTÉ1

11 June 2010

Contributed by Adrian Grant

(Review of part two of The Limits of Liberty, broadcast on RTÉ 1, Tuesday 8 June, 10.15pm.)

The second instalment of The Limits of Liberty started off by looking at the massive project that was the construction of the Ardnacrusha hydro-electric dam in County Clare. Here, Ferriter rightly commended Cumann na nGaedheal for what was a great achievement. There was no mention of the striking workers on the scheme though. However, it appears that this second part of the programme had another axe to grind and Ardnacrusha was an excellent way to begin the programme. This was a symbol of a new Ireland, a self-governing Ireland that could compete on the world stage. Ardnacrusha provided the electricity for 87% of the national grid. Ferriter then gave the information that allowed the viewer a glimpse of where the film was going next. The national grid only covered 10% of the population. In 1945, only 2% of rural Ireland had electricity, at a time when Denmark had 85% coverage and the Netherlands 98%. Read More

Top five: football histories

26 May 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

It’s now only sixteen days until the beginning of the most bloated, over-hyped, quality-diluted, greed-driven (see FIFA’s recent clampdown on South African airline Kulula for advertising themselves as the ‘unofficial national carrier of the “you-know-what”’) sporting show on earth. But do I still love it? Will I still collect and pore over a variety of free newspaper world cup guides in the way I did as an eight-year-old watching Francois Oman-Biyik head that goal against Argentina in 1990? Absolutely, although I think I might give the Star sticker album a miss this time.

Brian Glanville, The Story of the World Cup (newest edition: London, 2010).
First published in 1973, Glanville’s book is now on its eighth edition, and still offers by far the best synthesis of the competition’s history. In his long journalistic career, including columns for World Soccer magazine and frequent match reports for the Sunday Times, Glanville has been an original and refreshingly honest voice. The Story of the World Cup is an extension of that writing, managing to walk the difficult tightrope of match description, background information and pithy asides with confidence and style. I can’t think of any other writer who could quote William Wordsworth to describe Maradona’s ephedrine-fuelled exit from the 1994 World Cup – ‘Men are we, and must grieve when even the shade / Of that which once was great has passed away’ – and get away with it. Read More

Life before Fascism: Mussolini in wartime Milan

21 May 2010

Contributed by Niamh Cullen

Currently showing in the IFI and Lighthouse cinemas in Dublin, Vincere (meaning ‘win’), seems like a fitting title for a film about Mussolini’s younger days and his rise to power. Told from the perspective of his then mistress and fellow revolutionary Ida Dalser, the film follows his early career as editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti! in the heady atmosphere of turn of the century Milan. A leading member of the young, revolutionary contingent of the socialist party, the young Benito broke with the party’s pacifist stance in 1914 and rushed to support the war. In his eyes, war was the perfect opportunity for Italy; a chance to bring about excitement, revolution and national glory. According to the film, it was the ever admiring Ida who sold her draper’s shop to give Mussolini the capital to start his own newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia. It was through this new daily that he began to build up the mass following that, with the help of his Blackshirt militia, would propel him to power in 1922. Soon afterwards, Ida and Benito’s paths separated. After the war, having abandoned his revolutionary lifestyle for the respectable image necessary for his political career, Mussolini returned to his wife Donna Rachele. Left alone with their child, and convinced she was actually his rightful wife, Ida was unable to forget Mussolini as easily as he had cast her aside. The film follows their troubled lives against the background of the continued rise of fascism. Mussolini and fascism are only present in distant glimpses from then on – in statues, newspapers and newsreel footage – but even as the figure she sees from afar develops into the remote, imperious and even faintly ridiculous character of the dictator familiar to us from history, his presence continues to haunt Ida.

Stylishly edited, with original newsreel footage from the archive of the fascist film board – the Istituto Luce – interspersed throughout the film, Vincere offers a fascinating portrait of life in wartime and fascist Italy. Read more