Thursday, September 26, 2013

Arthur's Day

My daughter and I were here in Ireland on holiday at this time last year, and coming up Aungier Street one afternoon we noticed a different energy and I wondered what it could be. There wasn't a match on but people were rushing in different directions - some seemed to be piling into pubs and some seemed to be in a hurry to get out of town. When I asked the taxi driver what was happening he told me that I was right to be getting my daughter home because it was going to be a mess on the streets that evening. "This is Arthur's Day in Dublin" he said. I was interested to know the reason for the celebration but it appeared it wasn't really an event, just an excuse for alcohol consumption. I was really surprised to hear the event being promoted on national radio with outside broadcast units put to work as if it were a national day of celebration, when it was clearly a promotional event. I believe there is a place for alcohol. I've recorded drinking songs and I enjoy the occasional glass of wine and the odd brandy in the winter. But I can't support an event whose sole purpose seems to be to gather large amounts of people together in order to consume alcohol. Adding music into the mix seems to have been a recent development: the original idea was to gather in a pub at 6pm, raise a glass in Arthur's name, and then presumably raise a few more once you've got them in there. I've performed in all kinds of venues over the years from Carnegie Hall to Disney Hall to the odd hole-in-the-wall. People in the States have occasionally assumed that because I'm Irish I will want to play in their local Irish bar. I've gotten the greatest welcomes in some small lovely bars where they have made a space for the music. For me there is a tangible difference in the intention behind an event. If the intention is to bring people together as a community to enjoy the experience of art of any kind it evokes a very special kind of feeling and it's lovely to enjoy a drink or food around the event. I have a completely different experience when an event is put together for the purpose of encouraging people to consume large amounts of alcohol: bringing in music in order to bring in people who will drink. Then the intention is a bit off. It can get a bit sloppy. I'm told the reason why music is played so loud in bars is because it encourages people to drink more. And that to me implies they will communicate less. It was a £2500 Kaliber Arts Achievement Award as well as a bursary from The Arts Council of Ireland that allowed me to go to New York in 1990 to take up the scholarship I had been awarded by a Performing Arts School there. I commend companies that support the arts. Diageo could find a more creative way to do this. I have some ideas.

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