Growing up, the closest I came to ‘culture’ was a Betamax cassette of Emmanuelle 3 – the French soft-core porn film – which I’d found while hunting for Christmas presents, aged nine. The boobs on the cover instantly set it apart as a prize find. I just knew that when I pushed it into the player on Christmas day, having quietened my young cousins and siblings before the big reveal, the place was going to go off.
And so it did. For about ten minutes. Until Emmanuelle and her mates started speaking, a clunky narrative kicked in and I had a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang mutiny on my hands.
Now, this doesn’t end with me building a porn empire, or even going into the film industry but it stuck with me; the high expectation of blowing minds v’s the disappointing reality. It could be that I just felt generally cheated that year – only days previously I’d hauled Santa and the Tooth Fairy out of the closet – but life just wasn’t the same.
I began rooting myself in reality to the point that I couldn’t connect with fantasy in any form– books, films, imaginative play. Whimsy wasn’t a thing in our family so there was no resistance there. During college, I subscribed to a monthly magazine that profiled infamous serial killers (I had a folder) and expected to follow in the footsteps of my frustrated-DCI mum.
Ok, so Emmanuelle 3 wasn’t entirely to blame for my fact-focusing cynicism but I like the porn intro so I’m going to call it a ‘trigger.’
Throughout this time – from about sixteen onwards – I wanted to ‘write’ but had no idea where to start. I was a messer at school, not taken seriously by any of my teachers (rightly so) and was too embarrassed to share my ramblings with anyone. I was also a sceptic; on the one hand believing that creatives or people working in the arts took themselves far too seriously, on the other feeling totally intimidated by their alien language and encyclopaedic knowledge.
Accidentally bagging a job in the marketing department of one of Dublin’s main theatres altered my thinking again. I had been working for a hardcore, sales-first, publishing house just out of college. It was chaotic and unpredictable, all the richer for the wired characters, Gardaí raids and perpetual drama; but ultimately it was about swapping your soul for cash. Nobody was there because they wanted to be there.
The theatre was different. Everyone who worked there – from the Production Manager, seamstress and Artistic Director to the barely-paid runners – loved what they did. Of course there were bad days, problems to negotiate, technical issues to overcome; an egocentric lead actor bawling you out of it; an over-familiar Director dropping lewd comments; but there was a sense of community and generosity of spirit beyond that which saw you through. And we were all, in some small way, contributing to a creative end. Or so it felt. The more I was exposed to these people – actors, lighting-, costume-, set- designers, writers, directors – the more receptive I became to accessing my own creative notions.
And although I later moved to London and abandoned a career in the arts to go back into magazine publishing (I couldn’t sustain a basic rent & eat lifestyle on a £12k salary) I continued to tap the London arts scene up for inspo when I could. Now, I’m back in Dublin and doing the same thing, trying to see as much good stuff as I can, while working and continuing to write my Tome. In whatever shape or form it emerges, committing to finishing a book has been as heart-breaking as it has been purposeful and fulfilling.
So, that’s my (very long) story, the porn to artistic enlightenment trajectory, where I suspect I’m currently a solid 65 on the 0-to-100 progress graph.
I’m not telling everyone to get out there and write a book or lash out a performance art piece but I am hoping to inspire some of you to follow your gut and put yourself out there, to shed your cynicism and get stuck into something completely new: maybe you’ll reignite a love you abandoned years ago or maybe you’ll book tickets to see a play. Who knows, if George Bush had stuck to painting the world might just be a happier place right now.
Each week, via the Only Rapid social channels, I’m going to be:
- Highlighting a selection of my favourite Dublin-based upcoming events – from art exbo’s and installations to independent films, festivals, theatre, some music and live comedy.
- Sharing information on current and future multi-level courses – writing/ stand-up workshops, photography, life drawing, print making, dress-making, weaving etc, again Dublin-based.
- Supporting creative community directives, from open forums for deeper cultural understanding and social inclusion to visual artists coming together to make public art.
- Championing the cause of the many displaced artists and makers who have lost their studio spaces due to the recent rise in property prices and the subsequent landlord cash-in.
- Hosting a weekly Q&A with some brilliant people sowing their own creative paths, from established artists and makers, people who are making art happen and new writers putting themselves out there.
- Dishing out lots of book love with reccos a-go-go.
- Sourcing endless material to hero the power of lateral thinking.
Creative Ireland has committed to putting creativity at the heart of society as part of a five-year initiative, mobilising schools and communities, investing in our cultural infrastructure and presenting Ireland as a ‘centre of excellence in media production.’ This can only be a good thing though is likely building on the World Economic Forum’s 2016 report predicting that ‘creativity’ is set to be one of the most in-demand skills over the next five years, as we head towards almost total automation. Independent thinkers will be the new gods.
So, c’mon, let’s get on it. I was late to the arts, late to taking myself seriously, late to stretching my tiny mind. I’ve got Emmanuelle to blame for that, what’s your excuse?