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OUR CUP WILL BE FULL AGAIN

A few weeks ago, my friend Gary Dunne, who curates an incredible artistic slate for the London Irish Centre asked me to contribute a poem to their online season. Gary and the staff of the LIC do incredible work for the Irish community in London and they have been very good to me down the years – they hosted the London premiere of Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About, and I have also showcased sketches with The Brownbread Players there too. It’s always a warm, giving audience that finds a connection through a shared tribe in a generous welcoming environment. So I was honoured to be asked, and frankly, I was happy to have a creative project to focus on in the rare moments I had to myself during this uncertain time.

The theme was HOPE which really spoke to me, and the image of a paper cup delicately dancing on a wave is one that has been with me for decades, but never found a proper home in a piece of writing. As soon as I sat down to write the poem I knew that this was where it had been drifting towards all along. It came together relatively quickly (thank goodness because time is a rare commodity these days) and it allowed me to marry it to a piece of music I wrote many moons ago that had also never found a creative home (unsurprisingly, the music was also written around the same time the image of the cup first washed into my brain). I also knew that the focus should be on the words but have a strong simple visual to guide it, so I went down to the sea by my home to film the waves but they just weren’t right. I resigned myself to using what I had and then serendipitously my friend Jim posted a short video that day on Facebook of the Irish Sea, that connects this island of Ireland to the UK, and I simply knew that it was the perfect accompaniment. Jim graciously allowed me to use it, and I lent my rudimentary video editing skills to piece it together. The end result feels ever so slightly imperfect but absolutely right, and I am immensely proud of it.

I hope it resonates with all of you, and I would be grateful if you shared it onwards with anyone in need of a message of hope right now.

Solas Creation #1

As part of our new Solas Season, we are commissioning Irish artists to respond to a theme. In Solas Creation #1, poet Kalle Ryan responds to 'hope'.

Posted by London Irish Centre on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Cooking is Creativity

One thing that gives me joy and has allowed for a moment’s pause in all of this uncertainty is cooking. Learning new recipes and making good food with my parents was such a cornerstone of life growing up and we have continued the tradition of making our family dinner as the anchor in our day. Under lockdown , I have occasionally had the opportunity to cook and explore recipes once again. This weekend we made a Southern meal of Fried Chicken (brined in buttermilk), Waffles, and Kale (collard greens style). It was a team effort and ended up being a delicious family dinner that just sparked joy & creativity.

What we see in the shadows…

There’s an amazing Instagram account by a guy called Vincent Bal, who calls himself a Shadowologist. He uses random objects to cast shadows on a page, and then creates wonderful cartoons based on the shapes those shadows throw out. He is currently doing a challenge for families/kids to try out, and today’s challenge was using glass for shadows, so myself and the boys gave it a shot (glass). Clearly not gonna win awards, but proud of our efforts nonetheless.

Roll out the barrel

Over the past few weeks in quarantine, myself and the kids have been working on an ambitious, colourful art project. We took this old whiskey barrel that my dad got from his days as a biochemist in Irish Distillers (and subsequently housed his dreadful elderberry wine) and sanded it down, primed it, and then spray painted it graffiti style with vibrant colours. It is such a burst of brightness and joy in the corner of our garden. Adds some much needed light during this darkness. Art is good for the heart

Big Night – A tale of culinary creativity

Many moons ago, my dad and I watched a beautiful film called Big Night, which has this remarkable food dish called Timpano as it’s centrepiece. Essentially a massive multi-layered baked pasta drum. We were so taken with it, we tried to make it together one night back then with my friend Jakob, and it was moderately successful. But the experience of making it has stuck with me ever since.

So I had wanted to make it again for decades and this birthday felt like the perfect moment to bring beloved family and friends together to make it , and share in this experience. Myself, Jim, Doug and David spent hours laughing and cooking, as we created exquisite bubbling sauces and ragus, boiled eggs, grilled meats, rolled “polpette” meatballs, sliced salami, made and rolled out huge sheets of pasta dough. We made several feasts that would have fed a large percentage of Ireland. And then we layered all those myriad of feasts into not one, but three Timpanos — one veggie and two meaty.

Into the oven they went, and once baked, there was still an element of doubt that they would come out of the dish in one piece, and when slicing into it, if it retains it’s structural integrity, and comes out in a solid perfect layered slice. As you can see from the photos and videos below, they came out absolutely perfect – a moment of true joy.

Then it was time to taste. I can tell you, they were absolutely delicious. All of them. And on top of that the joy of sharing them with friends old and new over a glass of wine was the real treat.

We then chatted and sang songs till deep in the night. All seated around the gorgeous tables so artfully decorated with care by my brilliant wife, Jessica. She brings people together and draws the best out of them, and today was no different

Inevitably my mind drifted to those who could not be with us and the fire they carried into my life. I thought of my mother who was the same age as I am today when she passed away. She would have loved this , especially the meatball Timpano. I thought of my father who would have been in his element in the kitchen and spinning jazz records on the turntable. He would have loved this, especially the veggie Timpano.

It was a great day. A perfect day. Fun, family, friends. And fabulous food. Most of all, it was an experience I will treasure forever.

Today, I will definitely be eating lots of leftovers and as evening falls, we are going to stick on Big Night and watch it with the kids. They have to carry the fire now and I’m counting on them to make Timpano with me in a couple of years too.

The art of conversation isn’t dead

Found some old sketches in my notebook for a series of large scale paintings I wanted to do called The Palate Series (or maybe The Pallet Series) which used sayings and phrases from different languages (English, French, German, Swedish) that played with the idea of language – often a linguistic turn of phrase or idea. Also, I was enamoured with the idea of these kinda pop art style paintings that used words as the central imagery, and how the words were literally exploding with colour at the heart of the canvas. I hope to return to these some day and paint them on large canvases.

A stream of consciousness about creativity

I’m fascinated by creativity (hence this website) and I admire so many forms of creativity. In a world increasingly dominated by automation and technological solutions, creativity is quickly becoming the most precious asset any employer or industry can have. But what is creativity? It’s not that easy to define, yet we all know creative people when we see them. We all know when we have sparks of creativity and ingenuity, but you’d be hard pushed to define it, or how to access that place in your brain easily.

I think there is a lot of bullshit spoken about creativity, and in different ways, almost everyone has some semblance of creative thoughts – be they artistic impulses, inventive problem solving, flair for cooking or handicrafts.

To me, creativity is ultimately about making something new.

Asking a question and finding an interesting path to the answer. Sometimes that question is directly posed and other times it appears to you (but not necessarily to others) and only you can see an inventive way to respond to the prompt.

All art is a response to something. The world around you. The challenges or restrictions placed in your way (creativity loves constraint). Or indeed the need to put an idea or piece of art out into the universe to bring a creative balance to the world you perceive & receive.

Creativity is a key.