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Beyond the Pale: This Is Who We Are.

How can I sit here and wax lyrical about this or that happening, when so many of my colleagues and friends, and people whom I admire and look up to are once again brought to the ground?

I have struggled, dear readers, with my words this week. My primary aim with this blog is to feature and cover all manner of theatrical and artistic events happening all over the country, except for Dublin. Dublin, as the Nation’s capital and the home of the largest number of theatres, companies and makers gets so much coverage already, it does not need my help. And yet, this week, it feels like this blog in this small part of the universe is a literal manifestation of the current state of affairs in Ireland right now. Events can, and indeed, are happening (albeit with restrictions) all over the country right now. Except for Dublin.

It feels cruel.

During the week, as is my usual routine, I watch my social media feeds, I look at the culture sections of newspapers and other sites, I’m subscribed to newsletters of many venues and companies in my quest to shine a light the best of our events. I made a list, and scribbled some thoughts. However, when I sat down on Friday afternoon to start typing, I couldn’t. I couldn’t shake the feeling of heartbreak for all the shows and events, that despite putting in so much work to make sure they could be held safely, now wouldn’t happen because Dublin has plunged to a Level 3 lockdown.

For those of you who watched this week’s episode of Stage Door Live, you would have seen us break the news of that very possibility. For those of us behind the scenes, we saw Emma Martin’s face drop dramatically in the moment as her show, Birdboy, would be directly affected. I was thrown back to that moment on March 12th where I stood in the green room of Visual Carlow watching in horror and heartbreak as Leo Varadkar pulled the rug out from under us and our show, that we had spent three months working on, was halted in its tracks. That sick feeling in my stomach, the heaviness on my chest, the fear, the anxiety, the utter heartbreak and devastation is not one I’m ever likely to forget. I’d hazard a guess and say I’m not alone in that.

Culture Night dawned however, so I put my laptop aside, broke open the wine and settled in for a wonderful evening of cultural happenings, all delivered to the comfort of my own sitting room and it was brilliant. If anything, it proved, in the middle of the all the darkness, that we are one incredibly talented, creative and artistic nation. It was a celebration of all that we are in our souls, and although, as any of you who read my recent blog on the subject will know, I am not a big fan of online theatre, Culture Night was a masterclass in delivering brilliant performances and work from all over the country. It was fantastic, and a testament to all involved. RTE did cover it, to their credit. A 30 minute programme and a mention on the news. Further coverage on the radio, of course. One programme. An entire nation celebrating its arts and culture, hundreds of events, from Cobh to Ballyhaunis boiled down to 30 minutes on TV and 60 minutes on radio. What does that tell us about our place in this world? What does that say about how our value and worth is perceived by others?

And so as I sat once again at my laptop yesterday, the feeling of despair persisted and the words would not come. How can I sit here and wax lyrical about this or that happening, when so many of my colleagues and friends, and people whom I admire and look up to are once again brought to the ground? Their events and work once again halted in its tracks? When I feel like the rest of us are mere moments away from the same fate? When it feels as though, with winter looming, we are staring directly down the barrel of the Coronavirus gun?

I’m so tired, readers. Tired of fighting, tired of trying to find the good in so much bad, tired of striving to be positive and forward thinking, tired of adapting, tired of turning adversity into opportunity, tired of the fear, and anxiety, tired of doing everything I’m supposed to do and getting angry and frustrated at the people who don’t, tired of taking one tentative step forward only to be thrown ten steps back.

I am tired.

So this is where we need to dig deeper than ever. This is where have to stand with one another, for one another. This is where we need to take that big breath, swallow hard and set our jaw. It would be so easy to give in, to give up. To throw the towel in and say “I’m done.” For many people, I understand, they will not have a choice in that, and my heart breaks for them. We have already lost so many people, and I have no doubt that by the time this is over that number will grow and our industry will have a giant gaping hole which will take years, if not decades to repair.

So as tired as I am, as deflated and despairing as I might feel, as much as I have spent more than a few hours looking into alternative career paths and going back to college, I will continue to fight. To find the good in the bad, to adapt and find the positivity. Not for myself, because God knows, it is doing nothing good for my mental health, but for everyone, for all of us. For the future.  Because, I don’t know how to do anything else.

This is who I am.

This is who we are.

Whoever you are, reading this, please take a moment to click this link so that we can make sure that when the time comes to turn the lights back on, someone is there to flick to the switch.

Next week readers, I promise you normal service will resume as I take my spotlight and shine it on the AIMS Awards 2020, which took place virtually on Saturday night. It was quite the event – congratulations to all!

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