Tuesday, 31 October 2017


I was offline for the month of october and when i logged on to facebook this weekend, my wall was mostly "meToo". Upon closer examination it appeared to be my female friends who had unanimously decided to state their agreement. Such waves are usually broken by a "you missed so-and-sos birthday" message and a few newspaper articles, but on this day, the first two pages were exclusively meToo.

Now, i'm sure you know exactly of what i speak: the harvey weinstein-provoked wave of women opening-up on social media about sexual abuse and misconduct...

What surprised me most was not, as perhaps it should have been, the percentage of women coming forward to say they have been treated inappropriately, but the discrepancy between the online conversation and real-life conversation as i have experienced it. The earliest meToo that i could see was posted on october 16th. Between then and the day i was sat reading it, october 28th, a week and a half had passed in which i, living offline but among people, heard not a single word spoken about it. With the scope of the meToo movement, a great big shift in human-conscience should be happening! Is it?

That evening i asked a few people about it - the female reactions were inviting me for dinner and coffee to talk about their situations and how we can best act / react / change in the future - invitations that i will be accepting in due course... the male reactions were polarised between "it's a terrible world" and "its great that this is happening!", the latter reaction, i have been considering since - it's true, but what exactly? What is happening? This seems barely to be a dialogue - the issue of how we treat our fellow-humans has just been spread out clearly in front of us all. This should be talked about and addressed in that sort of face-to-face way that forces you to look in someones eyes and really understand.

Here i should pause to reiterate that i don't have a mobile-phone connected to the internet and am aware that most people do. I realise that the chatter on social media may supplement conversation in our now-time, and perhaps everyone else actually has been talking, listening and understanding. Perhaps the change is happening and i am going to catch up a bit late!

I read, as i'm sure you have also, all sorts of accounts from horrific situations of sexual abuse that you would wish on no person to the sort of situation where a hand rests where it shouldn't or a gender-specific slur is uttered when a neutral phrase would have been more appropriate or, quite simply, a stare lingers so long that it feels creepy and makes you avoid walking through the park on the way home... In public... In private... At work... At home... When stories of situations were brushed off as unimportant or as the sort of thing that women deal with every day... Well, i'm sure we can all agree that nobody should have to deal with this shit every day - nobody should ever feel uncomfortable and unsafe to call it out!

The more stories i read; the more i consider situations i have found myself in: both where i have felt that silent, recoiling discomfort, and also in close- and would-be-close- relationships where i may have caused discomfort to another, and while i have never forced myself on anybody and feel that i have never been abusive (physically, emotionally or psychologically), i feel i may be guilty of having acted inappropriately on occasion - continuing to try to convince such-n-such even though i knew they were not interested... There should be no ambiguous line here: inappropriate is wrong, and i just feel shitty that i may have caused someone to feel this way - i ask and expect to be called out, if i find myself there (though would hope not to).

Furthermore, i don't feel that we can, or should, isolate this conversation to men preying upon women. Having felt the discomfort described in some of the posts myself, i am aware of such behaviours and attitudes being everywhere. I imagine that most people of any gender have experienced this and can empathise which, in itself, is reason enough that inappropriate or abusive behaviour can not endure. We must constantly call out such behaviours, words and attitudes, whether directed at ourselves or somebody else, and stop situations before they become abusive, or even discomforting. I believe that most people are fundamentally good, and if we all identify and call out these things, it will become habit for each of us to stop in our tracks before mistreating or disrespecting people.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

a sunday in june

it was sunday, 2000.
we were woken up dry-mouthed and roasted at midday by an overly-joyous local brass band... we had been here since wednesday and this was just too much joy for the fifth day of any party! so almost without a word, we understood to walk shakely towards our lavazza man caravan...
we were 22: conor, maree and i; learning the world and finding, like so many other post-adolescents, a promising liberty in the blinkered world of the music festival... and we needed our fix; coffee and music would save us!
conor and i had been here before and knew that the line-up was secondary to the festival - and a good thing too, as this year's line-up was shit! our sunday was mostly spent walking lazily through the festival compound, consuming any magic that was on offer. besides nine inch nails and david bowie, this year's main stage line-up had little to offer us, but today was david bowie day!
as we queued for coffee, there were murmurs of the david bowie show being cancelled... allegedly, he had given a full-on show in new-york a few days prior, breaking into all the hits for the first time in decades... he had played a 5-hour long set - the wind said that he had fucked himself up so much, he had to cancel the following show... glastonbury was the next one after that - would he show up?
... we're all stood in front of the stage, i count at least a million of us (probably two million in hindsight) shouting in support and doubt of our hero's arrival. we cheered right through what i recognised as a nina simone song before his presence overcame us... then china girl and ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, the only of his songs that i thought i knew until he rolled out a setlist of fame, under pressure, heroes, lets dance, ziggy stardust... actually this dude has been part of my life all along and i didn't even realise it! a relentless and unexpected 90 minutes... never before had i been so caught up in a vibe... i'll never forget holding conor and maree in the pause between the set and the encore: we were ecstatic, and i didn't really know why but, in my 22-year-old self something had been awakened - music could go anywhere, i felt, and i wanted to go there too!
i can't remember the rest of the weekend so well - it seems to have stopped there... or was that the year that we were woken up on the monday after the festival in the bristol train station by a guard telling us that we could sleep a bit longer... ?
in any case, on this 12th january 2016, he drifts into the great unknown and i am surprised to be effected so, but fuck... he gave us so much and in the face of death screamed even louder!

david bowie - blackstar

... mind blown

Saturday, 31 October 2015

simon's place

it's the best sort of institution to me... like school or college, this café has been a constant through my entire adult life, even when home has been far away.

i am 15, i first walk through their door with schoolfriend, dave after skipping school and spending the start of the afternoon in the university with college students, smoking weed in a society room on one of the top floors of the 16th century landmark building - i hadn't noticed this portland stone beauty before that afternoon! we went downstairs with a coffee and a cheese sandwich, where i struggled to find the beginning of the cling-wrap - we were going to sit here for hours, there was no rush!

i sit here again, some 20 years later, pull the ends of the cling-wrap and watch the sandwich spin open, before searching the surface of the sandwich for where to begin unwrapping - simon has mastered the simple cheese sandwich, and i still have trouble opening it! i don't eat so many cheese sandwiches these days, but with a side of nostalgia and a chat with the charming staff, i spread mustard on the bread, add some cheese and onion crisps and bite in...

i am 16, visiting the never-ageing white-haired gent across the arcade, getting my nipple pierced with fake id, as only the nipple or the cock would go unseen!
i am 17, adding rum to my coffee.
i am 18, feeling up a goth girl i met at the central bank.
i am 19, and one of the lucky few that got inside to see the frames play a secret filmed gig.
i am 20, changing microphones at a venue up the road at my first "big" gig.
i am 21, on a break between lectures, after finally going to university to study something "proper" in an attempt to take myself more seriously - it didn't work - i'm still a joke!
i am 22, studying in a corner downstairs between soundcheck and show, as regardless of what "serious" is, music is where my home is!
i am 23, having coffee with my lecturer, as i'm on a year away from college and he's cool!
i am 24, missing living here and thinking of coming home to finish college - music didn't work out!
i am 25, and finding my voice as a singer and meeting musicians.
i am 26, studying my ass off in the corner and writing about bach and palladio.
i am 27, sticking up posters for my very own concerts.
i am 28, taking a break from busking.
i am 29, playing songs with ben and kevin at closing time for esther, annie and simon.
i am 30, 31, 32, ... popping in whenever i'm home to shoot the breeze and talk economically of adventure - these people are some of my favorites - i wish i knew them better!
i sit the afternoon away in the window, writing and reading and watching people walk by, with the odd friendly exchange or smile, happy that as dublin closes down around him, simon stays put, washing the cups.

Monday, 28 September 2015

lunar eclipse: viewed from a rooftop in bruxelles, 28th september 2015

at 2h, armed with camera, guitar, cushion, blanket, some candles and a cup of tea, i climb out on to the roof of my home. the night is calm and fresh. i spot the moon sitting brightly above the church on the horizon, set up the camera pointing at it and wrap myself in the blanket. tonight's full moon will be eclipsed in two hours.

i hear voices drift up from the porte de hal, below - the final few steps of a weekend's partying, by the sound of it! as they shout and bang away into the distance, they are replaced by a burst of police sirens and city noise - why so loud at this time of night? i play quietly, all the same, so as not to further disturb the neighbours. i expected to be greeted by a city of people on the rooftops to witness this mornings full lunar eclipse, but i appear to be alone.... the city calms...

the moon has a pale blue hue and a lovely halo surrounding it - well, more of a misty aura than a halo, but it looks heavenly! the sky is clear, except for this light layer of humidity. i play a couple of songs, then take a photo and continue like this until about 3h30, when my neighbour's bedroom lights up. i hear a shuffle and hope to see someone appear at the window - it would be nice to share this moment with someone, not just the thought of an interworld of people, each going at it alone!

i sip my tea, no one arrives... i play another pair of songs!
i'm learning a bunch of old soul songs at the moment, as i finish mixing my band's album - i run around the repertoire... i hear a whoop and applause at the end of "dark end of the street", so i know i am no longer alone.

the moon remains blue, but the aura has gentle specks of red and yellow appearing in its edges.

i go to make a second cup of tea, and when i return, the dark side of the moon is a glowing dark desert brown - a spectacular colour. a small breeze picks up and the sky begins to flash with people taking photos of nature's dance.

the eclipse was announced for 4h11, it is almost 4h. the sky is clear now; the aura is gone... the sun's light is almost entirely absent from the moon's surface, only the refracted desert red remains. a dog barks... the last time i saw an eclipse this clear, was the solar eclipse of 1999: i travelled to the boglands outside edinburgh. for that event, the world went entirely dark at around 11am and all the animals responded in chorus - this lunar eclipse is almost mute!

a light cloud builds once again around the moon, cradling it as its blue hue returns... the first of the mornings airplanes and the urban sirensong fill the sky. my eyes are heavy now, and the fingernail clipping has grown too bright for my camera to capture so i collect my belongings and make for bed. i meet my house-mate getting up to watch the end of the eclipse and the rise of the dawn as i retire to dream.

Thursday, 16 July 2015


i love taking off in airplanes! watching the landscape reveal itself in more and more dimensions initially, before reducing itself to only two as we gain altitude.

today, as we take off in zurich, i watch the forest descend and reveal turquoise melt-water rivers rushing and meandering through glaciated valleys; lakes so clean that you can jump in them naked and drink her colour up; snow-capped peaks - shining and melting, feeding the rivers in this july heat.

i travel today with the scent of an edelweiss plant, gifted me by the wonderful people at kulturfestival, where we played a concert last night, in the courtyard of an ethnology museum in st. gallen. i'm not sure how well this alpine rock plant will survive in the bruxelles climate - i'll figure it out... maybe i should water it with ice!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

where are the audience?

each summer, especially in ireland, i notice less and less people attend the summer festivals. this summer, one festival that i was meant to play at got cancelled due, in no small part, to low ticket sales.

where have all the people gone?

i think the simple answer is that they are hiding behind ticket prices. furthermore, i imagine that those who do put their hand in their pocket and go along, are shocked out of future festivals by the 7-euro sandwich, the 6-euro beer and similar.

so i guess the question should be: why are festivals, and the amenities provided at them, getting so expensive? especially in a climate where festival-goers have less and less money themselves.

i began to piece together an answer this summer as i read about the amounts of money that certain bands demand and the shrinking amounts of funding and sponsoring available to organisers.

what can we do to try and reverse this?

firstly, why should any band's festival performance cost upwards of 500,000-euros before expenses (and i feel i am being extremely generous with this amount - a tenth of this should be largely adequate)?

a knock-on effect of these astronomical costs is that the pool-of-fees remaining for all other acts is reduced significantly. this means that the acts who agree to play, either take quite a blow to their fee or, if some of the medium acts don't take that blow, the smaller acts will most likely not be paid anything at all. also, it can lead to line-ups that are mostly pants!

with my own independent projects in which i am singer and bandleader, floatinghome (www.floatinghome.org) and lord altmont (www.facebook.com/lordaltmont). i constantly find myself in situations where i can't pay the musicians adequately (myself included, of course).

i would love to see a situation where festivals stop geographically blocking bands and instead work together with local programmers to ensure diversity in the festivals. i would love, also, to see a situation where bands charge honest fees for the case presented (i understand that it can happen that a band need be flown in). i feel that this would in turn reduce ticket-prices, allowing festival-goers to go to more festivals, so no-one looses out - bands play more shows (and we love to play) - festival-organisers can realise their dream festival - bookers and programmers see better crowds at the shows - festival-goers have a more diverse selection of events to attend, and can afford to attend several and not just a single festival each year.


secondly, why should vendors need to sell their wares at such insane prices?

i presume that the cost of permission to sell at these events must also be increasing, but if heineken sponsored the event, does it really cost them so much to justify selling their beer at such exploded prices? and for other non-sponsor vendors, i presume the price of their license has been driven up by many of the other points raised in this article.

i know we can find more honest companies with better work-ethic and better selection to offer festival-goers! in this magical new age of the return of the small-scale crafts-people there are so many quality options that are not more expensive than the current big distributors rates. if we start working together with them, everything will grow cheaper as we grow together... if a small business can predict demand for their product, they can increase efficiency, reduce cost and adjust the scale of production accordingly. this helps remove spikes in demand, thus increasing the consistency and quality of the product, creating more regular employment, and hence making new festival-goers - everyone wins!


thirdly, what can we do to get by in a time when sponsorships are reduced?

i have recently been talking to friends who work in the domain, and i learned that some of the smaller festivals find themselves with a page full of sponsors just to pay the acts, before any other costs are considered. i guess, also, that if ticket sales are down, certain less-important things get overlooked and the festival experience becomes less comfortable.

there are so many festivals popping up around the country and some of them appear to be working in competition with each other. i feel this to be counter-productive. there could be the same number of festivals with reduced costs and they could all be really nice, if they were to work together... there is no point in suing a festival because their name and vibe is similar to yours, give them a shout and see can you work together to reduce costs. rent the gear together to get a better price or hire caterers and security for several events at the same time (again, they will be better able to predict demand for their service and will be therefore more efficient); maybe one of the festivals have gear that they own that they could share with the other, and vice-versa, so both could avoid the astronomical rental price on a backstage tent, or the second stage monitor desk...

festivals could work together to increase ticket sales: for example, persuade the audience of one to attend the other (i am aware that one inevitably happens before the other, but i am talking about a longer-term plan than a single festival summer); a reduced ticket price if tickets to both are bought at the same time; a shuttle from the site of one to the other, so transport need not be such a problem (i am assuming here, of course, that the dates of the festivals are not the same). maybe, a mention on the timetable of the other, even a discount coupon.

lets try to keep festival-goers going to festivals!

Friday, 23 May 2014

dave's eyes

DRAWING by david hedderman, "the artist"
WORDS by aidan, "the sitter"
:: 15.08.2011 ::

... the sights... to my left, in the middle of the studio is stood an easel with a large blank page upon it... to my right, a bright window, split into smaller squares with two segments open, allowing in the summer evening slowly changing colour outside; by the window, a spider plant pushing out of its pot is sat beside a wooden box, bubbling over with different shades and sizes of charcoal and puttyrubber; at my right knee is a long coffee table, slightly chaotic with jasmine tea, bread & hummous, my notebook, pencil and a pair of cameras

... the sounds... a baby crying; another laughing; music in the distance - "is that live?" asks dave; birds singing over the rooftops; billie holiday on the radio; a conversation between a fashion designer and a jewlery designer in the next room; charcoal on wood, like chalk on a blackboard; my breathing... it's peaceful here in this yard, hidden in the heart of kreuzberg!

our afternoon began slowly, sitting on the rooftop with tea, looking out over berlin - sun warming our heads as the clouds rolled around the horizon... chatting about friends, adventures and the breeze...

sitting by the window, in the studio now, making more tea - there's three good infusions on these leaves - dave moves the canvas around...
"does it bother you, me being this close?"
"not at all!" i quite like it actually - i've never been drawn like this before - it feels nice...
walking around the room, he runs at the paper - no sound...
walks back, comes at me, then the paper again - no sound...
he stills, slowly scratching the first marks...
walks backwards again...
"i'm having difficulty finding you!"
                      ... slowly back to the paper

... i let my mind wander...
... the paintings... stacked against the walls... a canvas, awash with blue, with a figure holding balloons; three heads, like an over-exposed sepia print - a close-up at a party; boys playing at the edge of a pond, one reaching in; now rachels plays on the radio; a room, a familiar room, like the lobby in the old DDR media building on nalepastr...

dave, standing above me, close; left arm bent slightly forward with putty and charcoals; right arm poised to scar the page - each time with a line or an arch or a blotch that goes a step further toward defining me; takes three steps back, head cocked; looks down his face at the canvas; makes a motion in the air; lunges forward, coming to rest with his right foot resting on the easel; scars the page with the same motion;
eyes darting to my version of me;
to his version in progress;
reading me intensly and scribing his findings to the blank parts of the page...

dogs at a junction - five dogs, then i see only four, then three, then two, then one, as i find my point, one eye higher than the other - head of a terrier, a brown blotch over his left ear, the scar from where the ear was before, perhaps?, the beginning branches of a tree in the sky - a hint to why the shadows are as they are! - a work in progress - running? walking? his right leg like human, but perfectly dog, stray lines, like seams yet to be covered over - perfectly imperfect, mysterious light by his front left leg, he's nearly left the painting; top three floors of a building afloat, waiting to find their link to the land, waiting to land...

... i let my mind wander...
an edible euro with a bite taken out of it on a white portion of wall, fashion designer with strong hands and pretty face walks back and forth with cuts of material...
dave's markings get stronger...
he walks back, cocks his head and sees something...
walks faster to the page, eyes dart back and forth from me to paper to me to paper, from me to the image of me forming...
he stands back, pauses

... i let my mind wander...
like the tides, his wanderings and strokes grow more intense, faster and stronger, he moves! dancing - it's beautiful to watch...
"i'm really enjoying this" he says as he slows down and the intensity subsides,
"it's you!"
and it is... splashes of colour - just enough to balance the darkness in the eyes - a darkness that i wasn't feeling today, but he recognised anyway - i've seen me look exactly like this in concert shots, when i allow my innermost come out and play - he saw through my good mood!
"you have so much expression in your face - it changes so much", he says,
"i thought i was being relatively blank, it must change with the music!"

dave lies down on the couch by the window, as the sun sets through the potted plants outside... he stands up, turns the easel to face him, lies back down and after a few seconds, announces
"i like it"
"me too", i add... "it's me!"

the sitters
will be hanging in rha, dublin between 27th may and 09th august, 2014.