I jumped at an opportunity to join an audience at one of the “Othered Voices” events as part of Dublin’s Tradfest in January 2013. It promised to be a representation of marginalised groups’ artistic interpretations of contemporary Dublin.
I had been at a poetry recital last year where some established writers bemoaned the lack of writing in contemporary Ireland.
So I was ready to be enlightened about my country, eager to see how the marginalised artists grappled with the state of our poor country, dying to be roused, moved and optimistic that the contemporary writers would have their bemoans unbemoaned.
I was faced with two female Hip Hop Rappers and an almost inaudible and angry male Punk Poet.
Ophelia McCabe belted out hardcore Hip Hop tunes and to be quite frank I knew she was angry but about what specifically? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe she didn’t like her synthesiser.
Temper-mental MissElayneous was somewhat more coherent. Her rhythmic message nearly kept to the beat of her off and on accompanying music. Her accent wavered from inner city Dublin to somewhere west of Blackrock, Co. Dublin. She was clever enough to string together and hurl out tried and tested anti-establishment sound bites. But her words came across as empty echoes of archetypal ideologies stolen from oppressed and bygone decades.
The last performer was Jinx Lennon, a Punk Poet from Dundalk who was a little more to my taste than the previous two. Still he either whispered or shouted most of his poems into the microphone, dealing with unemployment and youth violence in a melodic fashion. He painted Dundalk as some sort of dystopian nightmare you would find in Orwell or Burgess.
Mannix Flynn provided me with the highlight. While he spent most of the evening as compere, he did recite a catchy poem where he described contemporary Dublin and wondered where the ‘Joyces’ have gone.
I believe that everybody has a right to express themselves within the confines of the law. The second part of my sentence belies my own ideology. I believe in the system but unfortunately the system is currently fueled by greed whereas it should be fueled by goodwill.
I believe also that you don’t have to like something because it is true. There are parts of both anarchy and the establishment that need to be changed but it is not by replacing one with the other.
Some say art is whatever you want to be and any reaction is a result. That is a cop out.
I want my Art to give me food for thought.
I applaud Mannix Flynn’s attempt to give a platform to these marginalised voices, everybody deserves a chance.
For me “Othered Voices” seem to trade on rotten lemons and all they cannot have. I was unable to find any answers here only despair and bitterness accompanied by loud and often random noises. At its worst it was was unoriginal and under-rehearsed. I was left wanting a pint.
This Art isn’t for me.
It is too easy for artists to complain, it is easy for anyone to complain, you can hear it everyday on the radio, or read it in the papers or listen to it with your eyes on social media.
But it is not easy to complain constructively and with style, neither is producing great art an easy task.
People are bitter, people are on the dole, people hate the government. It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times… yeah, yeah.
If we don’t start being optimistic and producing a healthy petrie dish for cultural and economic growth, especially and particularly at the margins, our national identity will become warped and twisted.
It has to start with us.