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The Brownbread Mixtape – Vol. 1

For over a decade I hosted and curated a live monthly variety show called The Brown Bread Mixtape, and it took place upstairs in the legendary Stag’s Head pub here in Dublin. Those eclectic, electric nights in that old Victorian room were some of the most fun and creatively exciting times I’ve had.

The night always had a theme, and then I invited independent musicians and spoken word artists & poets to perform, with their sets loosely based around that theme. And I would always write a handful of radio-style comedy sketches that I performed with my dear friends (and infinitely better actors) Gus, Eva and Sean (aka The Brownbread Players). The atmosphere was always buzzing in that packed room, and the audience was a huge part of that consistently magical experience.

Recently I stumbled across a digital treasure trove of recordings from the shows and put the word out to see if there was any interest in hearing them. I was delighted to see that the answer was a resounding “Hell yeah”, so I have put together the first of a handful of mixtapes from the shows that captures some of the finest musical performances on the rarest nights.

Hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed revisiting them. Let me know what you think and feel free to share the soundcloud link onwards to anyone who might dig it. And please support the featured artists — Marc O’Reilly, Rook & The Ravens, Harry Bird & The Rubber Wellies, Lindsey Horne, and Enda Reilly

Pickling Creativity

Food is a place where I love to play creatively. I have no demands upon myself and adore the freedom of creatively piecing together ideas. Today I returned to the pleasant pastime of pickling things and inventing new concoctions & creations. And I love the thought that the true final output won’t really be known for a while when I open the jars once again, but for now I have adored playing with the palette of colours and palate of flavours.

Three Men Talking again

I’ve written at length before about Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About on here and this year marks the 10th anniversary of the show. I met up today with the other two men to embark on a special little project to mark the occasion. Stay tuned!

Where do you get your ideas from?

This is a classic question that often gets directed at creative people like you and me. And there really isn’t a satisfying answer for it. At least, not a definitive, simple explanation that the person asking will be happy with. For me, it’s about allowing space for little connections or sparks to happen in my brain. Often a good idea will come to me when I am thinking about nothing at all – sometimes when I’m on a walk, or in the shower, or simply staring into space and daydreaming. One pattern I have noticed with myself is when I am beginning to really zero in on a particular project that excites me (most recently this was a comedy play I am writing). Often I will then spot something in the everyday, or a cool concept/thought enters my consciousness, and I instinctively try to connect it to the work I am currently focused on.

So, what could have been a random idea that simply makes me smile or intrigues me and ordinarily gets jotted down in a notebook and filed away, now instead seeks out connective tissue to the project I am working on. I see possibilities for how it could be woven into that project. In the case of the play, I recently had an idea for a cool way of displaying visuals on a screen on a stage, and I quickly realised that this could be something that might work for the play I’m finishing up.

If I was to step back and analyse this a bit more closely, it starts to become a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. In my subconscious there are things rumbling, and I was possibly inspired to think about theatrical staging because I was working on a play. Or its equally possible that this idea was sparked by something else I observed and I was able to draw a connection to the play, and to then find a way to fit it in creatively to the piece.

More broadly though, I think the more you allow yourself to simply daydream and give a project time to breathe & formulate, the more you find that these flights of fancy come to you and, by extension, are something that you can start attaching to your current project like little lego ideas.

Deadlines can be a great forcing function sometimes, but I personally run into trouble when I am pushing myself to write something very specific and am demanding my brain to cook up inventive ideas that simply aren’t accessible. It can be done of course. And I have done it for many projects. But generally I find that you end up going back to cliches, standard tropes and things you’ve done before. If I have the luxury of time, the more I allow myself to not demand a creative idea, but rather give myself leeway to let it take shape in my head before committing it to a page, the better and more interesting it can be,

Everyone has a different process, and many creative people like prompts to spark new ideas, and others simply let the muse take them. As for me, my ideas come from everywhere, usually where there is space to not overthink.

Feltface for my Wonderwall

Was going through some of the kids old toys to give away to charity and became engrossed in playing with this felt face toy. I did the only thing you can do in a situation like this and did a felt portrait of former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher. Sometimes the simple act of playing unlocks great parts of your brain in the creative process.

Liam Gallagher. Non-felt version

And now for something socially distanced…

Did a film shoot in the back garden today for work – a training video with a humorous twist. It was so good to be creating with others once again, and fascinating to see it all operate under strict COVID-19 protocols. This shot is a great summary of the day. Sunny, smiling, and having fun again.

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