Asylum Archive: “How Reminiscent of Our Previous Scandals”

The Direct Provision scheme has been an issue in Ireland since its creation twenty years ago, effectively ghettoising asylum-seekers and refugees, placing them out of the control of their own destinies for years at a time. Processing his experiences in this purgatory via visual documentation has kept curator and photographer Vukasin Nedeljkovic going in recent years. He speaks with Mike McGrath-Bryan about the Asylum Archive, currently on display at the Triskel Arts Centre.

The ‘direct provision’ scheme, for asylum seekers and refugees looking to Ireland as a place to escape conflict, famine and other humanitarian issues, was introduced as a “temporary” measure in November 1999. There have been 150 centres located across the country; some of the buildings repurposed for a situation made semi-permanent by government inaction include convents, army barracks, former hotels, and holiday homes. Most of the centres are situated outside of the country’s cities, on the periphery of Irish society, reducing integration with the local population, and often leaving asylum-seekers without a community, says Vukasin Nedeljkovic, curator of the Asylum Archive, himself still reeling from his time in the system. “Asylum seekers live in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, where families with children are often forced to share small rooms. The management controls their food, their movements, the supply of bed linen, and cleaning materials exercising their authority, power and control. According to Ronit Lentin, direct provision centres are “holding camps” and “sites of deportability”; which “construct their inmates as deportable subjects, ready to be deported any time”. According to Flac, these privately owned centres, administered by the Government of Ireland constitute a “direct provision industry”, which makes a profit on the backs of asylum seekers.”

Over the past decade, Nedeljkovic has set about creating photographic excursions of direct-provision centres around the country, contrasting the outward respectability of some of these buildings with the conditions of those therein, and illustrating the historical parallels the situation has with other Irish institutions. “I continue to explore the processes of collaboration between me as an artist and activist, and asylum seekers’ community; to archive and document Direct Provision as a reference for one period in the recent Irish History, in the relation that we have very little visual information about other previous Irish carceral sites, including the Magdelene Laundries, borstal, Mother and Baby Homes, and Lunatic Asylums.”

Individual pieces, indistinct in terms of location but definitive in terms of intent, like an arresting photograph of a memorial simply entitled ’61 Deaths’, are haunting to say the least. Documenting those horrible moments of gravity and realisation of the circumstances for those involved must be a heavy burden to bear, and the duty of framing them as artistic pieces is evident in Nedeljkovic’s approach. “The title of the work that’s displayed in Triskel Arts Centre is titled: ‘At least 70 people have died while in State Care’. In 2019’s Ireland, we don’t know the names of the people who have died, the causes of their deaths, or where they have been buried. The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) don’t keep any of these records. How reminiscent of our previous scandals, like the Mother and Baby Homes.”

Found objects are perhaps the most haunting part of the project – allowing the people viewing these photographic studies to imagine the daily uses the objects received, and contrast their mundanity against the sheer gravity of the situation. These questions are posed, and weigh heavily. “I have been working on collecting and archiving found objects from the children that once lived in Direct Provision, and who were either transferred or deported from the Irish State. The questions remain: ‘What had happened with the child that owned a yellow truck, to give you an example? Is the child safe? Has the child been deported? Has the child been separated from their parents?”

Following his own time in direct provision, Nedeljkovic has maintained this project as a record of the abuses and injustices of the Direct Provision system. Curating and maintaining it has been a coping mechanism for the artist, and he offers to help those exiting Direct Provision and trying to relate those experiences to others in their new communities with the outlet he has created. “Asylum Archive has its contributory aspect, a collaborative and collective space, where individuals from other social and political subcultures can contribute or take part in creating an online repository of Direct Provision. The contributory aspect of Asylum Archive is deliberately designed for asylum seekers to upload their visual or written experience from Direct Provision centres. Asylum Archive is not a singular art project that stands ‘outside of society’, engaged in an internal conversation; it is a platform open for dialogue and discussion inclusive to individuals that have experienced a sense of sociological and/or geographical displacement, memory loss, trauma and violence. Asylum Archive has an essential visual, informative and educational perspective and is accessible, through its online presence, to any future researchers and scholars who may wish to undertake a study about the conditions of asylum seekers in Ireland.”

The exhibition is currently at the Triskel, where it will be for the next two weeks from press time – the public response to the current exhibition from the people of Cork has been significant. “It is absolutely brilliant to have an exhibition in Triskel Arts Centre. We had a great opening with a packed house, and Joe Moore and Nomaxabiso Maye from Anti Deportation Ireland (ADI) officially launched the exhibition.” This response and support has provided a bottom line for the project to grow and develop over the coming years, with the exhibition continuing to travel, and Nedeljkovic’s work to catalogue the issue deepening. “I continue to document Direct Provision Centres dispersed across the country. After the Triskel, the exhibition will travel to Source Arts Centre in Thurles, and I will also get into the second edition of the Asylum Archive book.”

Asylum Archive is on exhibition at the Triskel Arts Centre until March 29th. It can be viewed online at asylumarchive.com.

Cork Sound Fair: “Challenges of a Different Kind”

Following a successful debut last year, Cork’s non-profit electronic music festival returns with a vastly expanded lineup at venues across the city, and new working relationships across its music community. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with curator and facilitator Conor Ruane about Cork Sound Fair 2019.

Last year saw the debut of a few different festivals and one-day events around an ever-shifting calendar for Cork music, with an increased focus on targeting specific genres and audiences. While metal one-dayers like Monolith, and broad alternative weekender It Takes a Village were among the group of maiden voyages, it was Cork Sound Fair that garnered attention and specialist headlines around the country for its ambitious mission and status as a non-profit. Citing the likes of Dimensions Festival as an influence in terms of presentation and programming, the festival itself was crowd-funded, with all ticket money, donations and merch sales going back into the festival or into artists’ pockets. Combining live performances with intricate sound-system installations and a fair amount of free workshops between its two outposts at Cork City Gaol and St. Peter’s, the festival was a critical success, and its immediate future was set in stone.

This year sees Sound Fair expand into new venues around the city for its sophomore installment. While the Gaol and St. Peter’s are part of proceedings, new spaces like the Crypt at St. Luke’s, and Washington Street venue The Kino form an important part of the proceeding, each considered specifically for their suitability for a certain artist, according to festival director Conor Ruane. “Each venue was chosen with the performing artist in mind. Friday’s show will have a visual aspect to the performances, and the Kino being a former cinema was the obvious choice to host audiovisual acts like Underling. Saturday sees us move into the familiar surrounds of St. Peter’s Church, which will host the UCC Javanese Gamelan Ensemble, a large room with ample floor space was required to host such a performance. CSF and UCC have teamed up to bring UCC’s Sound Sound Day to the Nano Nagle Place, where a series of talks will be held in the conference hall, whilst the live performances will switch to the 150-year-old, and stunning, Goldie Chapel.”

While the festival has been able to sell tickets directly this year, weaning itself off of crowdfunding and other first-year revenue raisers, the learning curve continues, as the expansion of venues and the facilitation of new artists is a never-ending task for any festival that keeps looking forward. The community basis of Cork Sound Fair, however, has acted as a powerful hook for early adapters. “The second year brings challenges of a different kind, new venues pose new production issues, and bringing people back a second year is always difficult, but the response has been great. Many of those who made last year’s fair possible are back again, and we are really appreciative of this.”

This process of setting down roots in the city’s DIY community, and staying true to those ethics, has been a difficult one after a certain point in time for many successful events in Cork, and around the country, as demand drives supply, and the thrill of supporting a small festival dissipates after a certain point in expansion, at which point more casual music consumers become the focus of attention. On its second year, Sound Fair’s trajectory seems to be pointing upwards, but it’s the community aspect that is at the weekender’s heart. “We operate on a non-profit basis. We feel this is intrinsic in ensuring attendees feel they are contributing to the artistic fibre of the community. We all love to experience genuine things in life, however many experiences these days, while very well put together, leave us feeling a little empty. Cork Sound Fair hopes to provide a multiple-beneficial experience, one where artists are given the support and exposure they rightly deserve, and those who enjoy the experience feel that they have help to establish something that is lasting.”

The line-up is hugely diverse, and in addition to the artists mentioned above, headlining acts include Limerick skratch alchemist Naive Ted and crossover metal duo Bliss Signal. The undercard is also, for the most part, drawn from local and Irish talent. Ruane divulges the booking philosophy behind Sound Fair, and the process of confirming a line up. “Last year, we received a number of really great submissions following our programme announcement. For this year, we wanted to give people ample opportunity to apply to play, and that is why we launched our Open Call in October of 2018. The quality of submissions made for tough decisions, a lot of which have gone into the CSF 2019 programme. Open-call artists, along with non-open call artists, were chosen on their proximity to CSF merits and values, which is original live sound and art, with experimental and electronic undertones.”

The festival also hosts numerous workshops and ancillary events again this year, including UCC’s Sound Sound Day, a showcase for the university’s Experimental Sound Practice MA, furthering a rich tradition of improvisation and experimentation with the lines between sound, music and performance art that reaches all the way back to the outset of the Corkonian avant-garde. “UCC Sound Sound Day, and their director Dr. John Godfrey have been doing something similar to what CSF has tried to establish, and as a result, a pooling of resources was a logical move. John has put together a programme of artists and experts, working in experimental sound, and I for one am very interested to see the multimedia ensemble that is CAVE, in the Goldie Chapel on the Saturday of the Fair.”

As the clock ticks down on the event’s big weekend, and anticipation builds in Leeside music circles, Ruane collects his thoughts heading into it, what’s left to get done, and the festival’s future. “I’m really happy for this year’s programme. I’m not going to lie, it’s great fun to put some of your favourite artists on the one bill. But I am also apprehensive, as we still have a large body of work to get through, so I’m not wishing the days away just yet. There are interesting projects in the pipeline, though, like potential input into Cork’s hosting of the annual ISSTA (Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association) conference, which will be launching their own open call soon.”

Cork Sound Fair runs at venues around Cork City between Thursday March 28th and Sunday March 31st. Tickets for all events are on sale now at eventgen.ie/cork-sound-fair

Kaiju Gaming Lounge: “A More Positive Aspect to Gaming”

Placing itself directly in the spiritual Leeside home of modern social gaming, Kaiju Gaming Lounge has put a lot of stock in the city’s core gaming community, as well as the idea of videogaming as a casual social activity. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with end-of-level boss Paulo DeBrito.

Videogaming’s potential as a social phenomenon has been overlooked since the dawn of the medium. From the earliest days of its development, when multiplayer became a defining feature of pioneer computer game Space War and arcades became staples of urban centres around the world, to the massively multiplayer online environments of triple-A titles across multitudes of gaming platforms, collaboration and competition has been an important part of the medium’s enduring appeal. Cork, of course, is not without history in this respect: while arcades have been present to some extent in the city centre since the seventies, McCurtain Street’s Coliseum centre, now the Leisureplex, is the sole survivor of coin-op gaming’s heyday, while Barcadia on the Mardyke Road competes for the casual consumer buck with a strong lineup of refurbished arcade cabs and Neo Geo MVS machines.

A lesser-spotted part of gaming in Cork, however, has been the ever-shifting migratory pattern of the PC gaming community, serviced ably before the economic crash by outposts like Area 51 and the Webworkhouse. With its popularity growing on a cult basis in recent years, the time has been right for a while to revisit the idea of a physical centre in Cork city. For Paulo de Brito, it was just about mad enough to work. “Kaiju Gaming Lounge was initially discussed playfully between friends, while I was on holidays three years ago. I then realized that it was worth a shot to try to open a gaming lounge, and decided to take a start-your-own-business course in Cork, to understand how to plan a business. There were many challenges initially, such as budgeting for the machines, choosing each component for the computers, and the overall decoration and business identity such as the name and logo of the place.”

Offering a selection of custom-made gaming machines and augmented console experiences, Kaiju occupies a space in the city that’s been waiting to be filled. While the aforementioned venues hit specific beats in terms of gaming fandom, there are still groups of gamers in the city that have been going between available venues for a while, including the Cork Fighting Game Community, veterans of world-class competitive fighting games. A place like Kaiju is well-positioned to meet a variety of gaming niches, and challenge stubborn mainstream perceptions of gaming as an anorak pursuit. “Straight up, we wanted to offer a variety of choice between console and PC gaming, as there was no other place in Cork city offering this range of services, and I had visited other gaming lounges outside of Ireland that were successful by catering to PC and console gamers. The overall idea of the social events was definitely to bring a more positive aspect to gaming, that is still seen as a loner activity by some people. We wanted to create a place where you could meet up with friends or make new ones, without the need for alcohol, for people of several ages, ranging from children with their parents, to adults that remember fondly their videogame times.”

Arriving in the site of the former Area 51 on North Main Street was surely no accident. In the pre-recession times, the internet café was the centre of a then-nascent gaming culture, centred around multiplayer games at the outset of their popularity, like Counter-Strike, as well as demented sandboxes like Garry’s Mod, a user-led contortion of the Half-Life engine. Puerile in-jokes, like a stock of the inappropriately-monikered Bawls energy drink, abounded, while the overnight gaming deal made for great impromptu accomodation for gig-goers in the event of a missed last bus. Huge shoes to fill, then. “Area 51 definitely left a mark in Cork, and people have mentioned it as they come in, sometimes as a joke they even call it ‘Area 51 2.0’. Overall, the reaction has been great with some people saying that Cork was overdue for a place like this. We are fortunate to have been able to find this premises, as it not only brings back memories of friends playing videogames together late at night, but also have had some parents that want to bring in their kids on the way to or from shopping in town.”

The physically solitary nature of online multiplayer gaming, rife with broad and offensively inaccurate stereotypes of foul-mouthed youngfellas, is something the space seeks to combat in its own way, rather than simply play on nostalgia. There is an element of pre-internet social gaming to the space’s M.O. and configuration, though. “Online videogames can still be quite isolating, but I believe that to be caused more due to the convenience of being able to login, play and chat with friends from around the world, without leaving the house. It is, however, important to remember the origins of videogames, as before online gaming was introduced, players would have to gather around the living room and play together. What we aim to bring back is precisely that, a friendly place where you’ll want to meet your friends and make new ones.”

Virtual-reality gaming and console rental are also part of the space, mirroring the experiential marketing of the arcade sector and providing access to the cutting-edge of this gaming generation’s technology for a fraction of the retail price devices like PlayStation VR command. It also provides a little bit of people-watching joy for DeBrito and staff. “An unexpected side of VR gaming that we’ve seen at Kaiju has been how much friends enjoy gathering together to see the one that using the VR equipment, and either help out getting through a tough part of the game or have a laugh at how silly things can get. We haven’t had a dull moment with it.”

It’s an interesting one to consider, how a space like Kaiju develops: without precedent for change in recent years, and with the explosion of competitive gaming as a spectator attraction, potential is definite for something like it to expand and maintain its own niche in the city’s social life. “Once it becomes possible, we’ll start investing in promoting eSports which is an area that goes deeper into competition and specialization into a specific game. This should definitely change how gaming is perceived by anyone that hasn’t had the chance to be introduced to this kind of entertainment, from simply playing a game to a challenge for the mind, in terms of coordination and team cooperation.”

Kaiju Gaming Lounge is open now on North Main Street. Find it on social media, or email info@kaiju.ie for more information on social gaming packages and party rates.

Elaine Malone: “Like a Little Burial”

With her debut E.P. having launched just this month, and her first Electric Picnic appearance under her belt, Elaine Malone’s time has seemingly just begun. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks to the singer-songwriter.

As we get to sitting down at a corner of the bar of the River Lee Hotel, Elaine Malone’s gears are already turning for the next step: after a chat here, she’s out to find the manager, to location-scout some of the hotel’s lengthy corridors for an upcoming video. It’s this kind of seemingly innate ingenue – identifying a means of telling a story in the environment around her, and tying it in to personal imagery, that has made Malone an important part of the Leeside scene in relatively short order.

Her knack for storytelling is best summarised in debut extended-player ‘Land’, self-released over the summer. A collection of brittle, alternative-inflected songs given life by Malone’s clear and increasingly confident voice, the E.P. takes in both external stories and internal monologues. For Malone, it was a long time in the making, but the work is starting to pay dividends. “It was kind of overwhelmed with how well-received it was. People were very generous with their time, their reviews, which is overwhelming, because it’s a nice little bonus, but you can’t rely on that (for motivation in the event of a bad review). I try not to read them too much, but it’s nice to have support from people. I’ve been getting some more opportunities as a result, it’s great.”

Written initially as solo guitar pieces, some of the songs on the record were years in the writing and refinement, before being played and having live arrangements worked out over a number of months at open mics, etc. To finally be sharing them with the world, with expanded arrangements with live band members Sam Clague and the brothers Sampson, represents a turning point. “It was such a long process making that E.P., two years from start to finish, and one of those was written when I was seventeen. I’m 24 now. It’s been a long time. And I suppose, in a way, it was like a little burial of them. I just wanted them to be made, and go into the world their own way, just to find a place there so I could free up space in my mind to write more… Because I started quite young, I think there’s a lot of teenage angst, which I’ve come to realise is kind of funny. It’s a timescape, almost, this little capturing of the last ten years of my life, in four songs. I don’t let go of things, until I make a deadline that’s irrevocable.”

Leadoff single ‘No Blood’, recounting the story of the death of Ann Lovett and its societal fallout in a country that had just begun life under the Eighth Amendment, had been a regular part of her live sets, before being released during the Repeal campaign. Having appeared at several fundraisers in Cork for the Together for Yes civil campaign, Malone is beginning to see the song, and what brought it about, in the rear-view mirror. “I feel immense pride, I think, for the Repeal campaign. Everyone that was involved. It was the biggest example of courage I’ve seen on a wide scale. So many women, and so many men, that were affected by (the Eighth) and had shared their stories. And that was such a pivotal thing: is this going to be a new Ireland, or are we going to stay the way we were? Be oppressed and hold on to Catholic guilt. We’re still not at a point where anything has changed, no legislation has been written. I was glad to be asked to play so many fundraisers. I saw how it affected people. There was no triviality to any of it.”

Accompanying the release of the extended player was a pair of visual pieces, in the ‘You’ and ‘Mindless’ promo videos. In different ways, each draws from the city’s landscape and people, with different circumstances bringing out the best in the pieces’ directors and focal points. “The video for ‘You’ was a last-minute thing. Celeste Burdon was fab, she’s a great photographer. Super-talented, and my friend Izabelle Balikoeva, we both had an afternoon free, it was like, ‘let’s get it done, let’s make it impromptu’, and I love improvising in general. Went home to get changed, pick a cool outfit for the video and shit. And then, I’m outside my house in last night’s mascara, looking really manky. Couldn’t get into the house. Door locked. A broken lightbulb in my bag for some reason. Jesus. I just legged it up to Celeste’s house to try and get something together. I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable (laughs). A couple of months ago, then, myself, Oriane Duboz, Mary Kelleher and Inma Pavon made this video for ‘Mindless’. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever been a part of. I suppose I co-directed it in a way. I had this image in my brain of a woman wrapped in plastic, and we were very lucky with where we shot it, it was a lovely space.”

The Cork music community is a tight-knit one, and among dedicated gig-goers and musicians, Malone has been an important part of it: this year alone has seen her open Quarter Block Party, be the first live performer to tread onstage at Dali, and perform at fundraisers for the Sexual Violence Centre. “The city’s so different now from when I arrived. Even the places we used to go to. It goes in waves. A genre grows in popularity and dies off. We’re fortunate to have a group of people that are constant, and are keeping the levels really high. People have space to develop and experiment. There’s some great youngfellas and girls coming out of the city. Jimmy Horgan’s got PLUGD, and the Roundy’s developed a lot more. I’m excited to see more alternative spaces, to be loud and make weird noises.”

With a landmark year nearly sewn up, it’s not too long to go before the next set of milestones presents itself. Malone is looking at 2019 on a step-by-step basis. “To keep tippin’ away. Writing as much as possible. Keep playing. I’m in the frame of mind now where I want to learn more now, about my craft, just being a better musician. That’s where I’m at right now. Maybe a new single after New Year. Just more cool shit like that.”

Elaine Malone’s new extended player ‘Land’ is available now on all streaming services.

Prime Time Clothing: “Cork Has to Be in the Background”

Cork’s streetwear mecca Prime Time has long been a part of the fabric of local hip-hop culture. As the shop looks to the future after 26 years and counting on Washington Street, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks to director Niall Hassett.

An undeniable part of the appeal of Cork City is the gems of its independent culture and homegrown entrepreneurship, embedded in the city’s layout and grid of side-streets. As the city slowly gives way to an encroaching monotone in the form of seemingly-endless chain stores and ill-considered installations, the value of the city’s community of independent traders, and the value they offer in local service and knowledge, is drawn into ever-sharper focus. For shops like Prime Time, right at the top of the Washington Street ‘student superhighway’, recognising this value is key.

Established in 1992 and still resident in its original premises, the shop has long been a supporter of local music and youth culture, with its co-founders developing an interest in street fashion amid the plurality of teenage tribes that lay at the foundation of youth culture throughout, according to director Niall Hassett. “(Cork) would have been very ‘High Street’ at the time, so your main drags would have been what they were. One, you could call it following the crowd, but two: no other choice. That’s where we came in, at the right time. We were at the bad end, I suppose, of the ‘first’ recession in my lifetime. There was just a greyness, a deadness to the town at the time. That, in its own regard probably helped us. You can feel the same thing going on now, there’s a lot of monotone fashion, everybody on the one thing, which is where we differ. When you do something different, that helps you stand out. Once you get people in the door, the clothes speak for themselves.”

The shop’s first few years of business were a formative experience for the people behind it, with the aforementioned plurality of youth subcultures providing fertile ground for Prime Time to put down roots. The process of getting a shop together and developing their interest in street fashion into a business presented a profound but vital learning curve. “One of the things was finding a shop. There would have been loads of empty doors, but at our age, late teens/early twenties, you weren’t probably being taken seriously. So if it wasn’t for Andrew Moore, who would have been from O’Sullivan-Moore at the time, we’d probably never have got off the time. Louisa (Heckett, owner) would have been travelling a lot at the time, and would have seen bum-bags in Camden Market, picked up a couple of dozen of them, brought them home and tried selling them at shops around the city. One of the responses was ‘they’ll never take off’ (laughs). I suppose Lou felt that if this was the struggle to get places to stock what she wanted, was there other people that were in the same spot?”

The changes happening to Cork’s music scene at the outset of the Nineties, including the rise of current fixtures like Stevie G, made for perfect timing. Attending gigs and club nights on the regular anyway, Louisa and Niall found it easy to leverage their enthusiasm for local music into a bottom line of support, a relationship that continues to this day. “It’s because we were part of it. We were more the retail, than the fashion end of it. We used to be trying to get into clubs around Cork, in our clothing, and we’d be turned away the whole time. ‘Nah, nah, nah’. The first thing we had to try and change was to get the bouncers on side, and that helped us allow more music events to go on. We used to have DJ contests when we were a smaller store, fashion shows, things like that. That helped us blend in. It’s trying to break barriers down, of other people’s perception of what you were. We looked different, we were a bit noisier, a bit loud. That would have invited (hip-hop people). When they came in, we didn’t look at them, or follow them around the shop. Plus – on Friday and Saturday, we would have been in the back bar, listening to Stevie, in Sir Henry’s. We were part of it, we were enjoying it like anyone else. We gave the understanding that we weren’t whoring the scene, or the music, we were part of it.”

Fast-forward to this year, when the shop led an expansion in social media reach and scope, with a marketing campaign that placed Cork hip-hop personalities centre-stage across a series of videos, including the likes of wordsmith Spekulativ Fiktion. Striking a balance of community and putting its message across was a priority throughout the campaign. “It was more the artists’ idea, to be fair. We have a studio above us where we could shoot it, plus then we could obviously help to dress it, and give it an edge. Most of the things we’ll do will come from brainstorming, I suppose, it’s just people starting to talk. It’s someone coming to us with an idea, and us going ‘we have the ability to do this, fuck it, let’s give ‘em a platform’. What is it? An evening in your life? It’s Cork, it’s local. One of the big things with our Instagram campaigns is, Cork has to be in the background. How did Brooklyn become Brooklyn, how did Fifth Avenue become Fifth Avenue? Because people saw their iconic places. So that was always one of our big things: to do Cork, in Cork. Local music, local artists, local people. We’ve got some great stuff here.”

As the years have worn on, those relationships to an ever-changing youth culture have passed through the hands of waves of young staff and managers. Trusting new people with the direction of the shop and its identity has been a key part of Prime Time’s longevity, but so too has been its relationship with the city itself. “Being local. We never opened another door. We’ve had opportunities to open in every town in the country. We got it all the time, we still get it. Somebody opens a new shopping centre, and they ask us ‘will ye come, will ye come?’. We always felt we couldn’t replicate it, because we’re from Cork. People feel that, whether they’re tourists or a local. I wouldn’t go to Dublin, I think it should be Dublin people speaking their locality, their youth culture, what growing up has brought you to.”

After 26 years at the forefront of streetwear and new brands, the shop maintains a steady trade, change being a constant, as the brands they once stocked exclusively slowly became main-street staples. Staying ahead of the game is foremost in Hassett’s mind, however. “We’d love to do our own brand, it’s something we’ve been tip-toeing around. Obviously we should be selling online, but it’s not as easy as people make out. You’ve got a whole new business in delivery, returns, etc. We did it twice in the past and got stung badly, but we did it wrong. We piecemealed it. We would like to get into that. And the new wave (of staff) do want to open new shops in new towns. Maybe I’m a bit longer in the tooth, but I suppose, if I’m to follow through on leaving the youth do their thing, maybe we should. But the brand is the next thing, and perhaps that will give us the opportunity to sell in different place without having to open new doors.”

Prime Time Clothing is open Monday-Sunday on Washington Street in the city. For more info, check out prime-time.ie or find them on social media.

Talos: “There’s Been Zero Change”

With his debut album winning him a major-label deal, and another full-length on the way, Talos’ creative figurehead Eoin French stands on the precipice of mainstream success, ahead of being among the headliners of October Bank Holiday weekend’s Jazz Festival. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with French about the process, the changes, and the hype.

The story of Talos, the nom-de-plume of Cork composer and singer Eoin French, is one that seldom happens anymore. While the post-rock-inflected electronic pop project slowly gathered pace on the local music scene at its outset following the demise of French’s old band, it soon became evident to gig-goers and those in the know that big things were on the way as a revelatory live show began coming together. That hunch soon turned out to be well-founded, and Talos’ debut full-length, ‘Wild Alee’ was picked up for reissue by SonyBMG in an expanded edition that marks the beginning of French’s stint on the label. And while it’s all excitement in camp Talos at present, the mundanities of sealing the deal over a period of months were as much to do with creative as with legal issues. “Signing with them took a while, to put pen to paper, as these things do. It was just one of those stories, where the guy that signed us had an intern that just played the album in the office on a daily basis, and he enjoyed it. He got onto us, and it went from there, it was a lot of back-and-forward. That’s all the boring stuff, I suppose. There were the conversations: were they open to me not being directed in any way, doing what I want, and it turns out they were (chuckles). It was super-straightforward. The reality of it was, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with anybody that had an input. It was quite easy, they’re quite an open group anyway, so that was handy. That was it, and then we signed it in the States. These things aren’t very interesting (laughs).”

You’d imagine moving from an independent distribution setup to signing with a major would be a sea-change, especially as the traditional industry continues to find a foothold amid constant demographic and technological changes. But for French, revisiting his debut to add new content for its release in the form of an entirely separate EP entitled ‘Then There Was War’, simply bolstered his existing work flow. “There’s been zero change, to be honest. The only thing that’s changed is deadlines, they’ve gotten tighter. The other big thing is, I don’t do anything else now. They were quite supportive of the EP coming out, it was quite a step away, quite weird, quite dark, and I wanted it to be accompanied by these four videos. It was important that they were supportive, and they were. My experience with revisiting the record was placing the EP as a full stop. Setting the thing on fire and seeing what came of it.”

Revisiting ‘Wild Alee’ to put the full stop to it brought out a better understanding in French of the storytelling ability he possesses in spades. With something of a Kierkegaardian take on subject matter, moods and emotional content, French recounts how he became able to draw a line under the record before proceeding. “I don’t really listen back to my work, once I have it mastered. I’d revisit it very, very rarely, but I’m very proud of it. It took a very long time to make. If anything, you’re probably always going to see gaps, which is the only way to make something better. Me revisiting it wasn’t sitting down and listening to it, it was talking about it, d’you know what I mean? You have to do all these interviews about the tracks, and I was looking back at what songs were about, and it was like ‘ah, fuck, that’s what that was actually about.’ In a way, they gained new meanings, which was really interesting.”

One of the great tropes of music in a post-CD age is that the playing field is even, that artists can go ahead and conquer the world on their own with no need for a label (decent PR people notwithstanding). For French, though, it’s been a little of the opposite, assembling as he has a team of collaborators, managers and visual artists working to convey the scope of French’s cinematic pop. In a time when conventional music-biz wisdom is being disregarded, it’s a big move. “It’s just that thing of, ‘many hands’. It was a great benefit, because before the album was released, there was this energy and belief in what I did. That was the best help of all – a support structure propping the whole thing up.” Among those in camp Talos are Feel Good Lost, the audiovisual studio headed up by cinematic wunderkind Brendan Canty, having sharpened his teeth with Scandipop-influenced duo Young Wonder. Canty’s preternatural technical and storytelling ability are a huge part of Talos’ visual identity, and for French, made for something of a sounding board for ideas. “It varies from song to song. I would have had a lot of input on a video, and maybe less so other times. It went that way, y’know? A lot of the time they told very different stories as well, they were kind of detached, and that was important too, they shone a new light on the stuff. They always came in post. The images I wrote from were my own, they didn’t really get transcribed onto the video, but they became something else, kind of tonal, or coloured. We worked together closely on some and maybe not so closely on others.”

One more stop for French, ahead of what lies next, is the release this past month of a live extended-player, recorded at St. Luke’s Cathedral on the city’s northside. Since falling into the capable hands of promoters Joe Kelly and Ed O’Leary (The Good Room), the now-deconsecrated church and its crypt have become a unique destination for culture lovers of all stripes in the city, with gig-goers lining the pews and taking in the stained-glass atmosphere of the building. “I’ve worked with Joe from the very conception of this, prior to that even the band I was in before it (post-rockers Hush War Cry). He’s an unbelievably generous guy, he’s always told me how he felt about the music, whether it was positive or negative. He’s always been really helpful, you’re always going to get an honest and truthful answer out of him. But beyond that, the two lads are amazing promoters, and they have the best stage in Ireland, which helps. The EP in itself is really important to me because that probably is my favourite place on the planet to play. To capture that was a really important thing, to be able to showcase the live show, the six-piece as it is, because that’s a key thread for this project, working with these guys.”

The full live line-up has its biggest gig to date on October Bank Holiday weekend, playing the Opera House as one of the Jazz festival’s non-jazz headliners. It’s not French’s first dalliance with the 800-capacity auditorium, but it is a massively important one. “The Opera House for any Cork musician is a hugely important thing. So that alone is an especially big thing for us. The fact that it’s on the Jazz Weekend as well, as musicians we’d always be aware of it, and growing up, with my parents it was always very much a thing in our house. I’m really, really excited about it. We’ve got a lot of new music that we’re going to play that I’ve been working on for the last six months. I’m intrigued to see how that goes down. It’s a big deal, like.” Talk of new music is the perfect segue to posing the typical ‘what next?’ question, but French isn’t one for hanging around while opportunity awaits. “Literally just finishing my second album. I’ve no dates, I’ve no release stuff yet. There will be something relatively soon, and I hope people hear it and enjoy it. That’s what I’ve been at, down in West Cork, holed up for the last month or two, finishing stuff off.”

Talos play the Cork Opera House on Sunday October 28th, as part of the Cork Jazz Festival. Kickoff is 7pm, tickets are €25.

Ó Bhéal: “The Atmosphere Has Been Welcoming from the Beginning”

For the past eleven years, one poetry night has provided a lifeline for the artform in the city, going ahead every Monday night, rain or shine, 50 weeks of the year. For facilitator Paul Casey, overseeing the activities of Ó Bhéal is a matter of duty to the city’s poetry community, and for the social potential of the artform. Mike McGrath-Bryan finds out more.

Since its first edition in 2007, weekly poetry event Ó Bhéal (pronounced oh-vale) has provided the city’s spoken-word and verse community with a sounding board for ideas, a platform for visiting poets to have their work heard, and various challenges for aspiring poets to wrap their heads around, as they develop their technique and storytelling. With over 500 installments under its belt, and a number of annual anthologies stemming from its weekly ‘Five Words’ challenge, Ó Bhéal, alongside other semi-regular nights such as Cara Kursh’s Sling-Slang open mics, is a lifeline to the city’s cultural offering. Founder and facilitator Paul Casey discusses how the idea came to him upon coming home to Cork after years away. “There were a number of factors. One was that I was moving back to Cork, and I wanted to work in an area that I was familiar with. I have a particular skillset, I worked in film and multimedia for many years, and I wanted to see if I could use those together, but poetry at that point was my mainstay. I ran a venue in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which was quite productive in terms of creativity, being a remedial, neutral space for tensions in the area. We had a poetry night there that ran every three weeks, and that took off. I was supposed to be back in Cork for the 2005 Capital of Culture that was my aim. I got delayed with a few legal issues, the Habitual Residence Condition kind-of hit me, when I got back to Dublin, I found there was this new law in place to stop me from getting any sort of help until I got a job. I was stuck up there for a few years, in which time I got a good feel for what was happening on the poetry scene. I literally went to every city in the country, to every event I could get to, to get a sense for what was happening. Cork didn’t have anything regular. There were lunchtime readings that Bradshaw Books and Tigh Filí had, they were occasional, not very secure. There was a gap.”

Since its inception, the night has been a place of first call for new and aspiring poets, with an inclusive and beginner-friendly ethos. An open-mic section for poets gives them immediate access to feedback from the night’s knowledgeable regulars, the night’s regular international guests have also provided advice and assistance. As a result, numerous area poets across the age and social spectrum have found their makings at the night, from veterans like Stanley Notte to still-emerging young voices like Matthew Moynihan and Megan Cronin. That accessibility and drive to develop poetry in the city has informed the night from the outset. “We get a lot of first-timers come into us, at the open-mic, reading something that they’ve been afraid to share previously. An equal amount of people have written their first poem at Ó Bhéal, because of the Five-Word Challenge, which was put in place to break the ice for the guests, but also to make the art, the craft itself available to anyone that walks through the door. We’re seeing people get up and read a poem they’d written 15 minutes previous, be blown away by the results, and be encouraged. I found it very contagious for people who came in, and the atmosphere has been welcoming from the beginning, which has become a personality trait of the night.”

Casey’s background in multimedia stood to him as the night’s remit expanded and developed, with one of Ó Bhéal’s hallmarks being the annual Poetry Film Contest, conducted in conjunction with IndieCork Film Festival. Maintaining it over the years, building and screening the contest’s archive on a weekly basis, has been a major point of development for Ó Bhéal, introducing another layer of storytelling to inform new and seasoned wordsmiths alike. “I was involved in film for many years, and became disillusioned with it, because of producers essentially destroying scripts, leaving creatives at their behest. I responded to that by writing poetry. One of my first published poems was a satire against the commercial film industry. I packed that life away for good and was sticking with poetry, and about five or six years later, a year or two into running Ó Bhéal, I was invited by the Munster Literature Centre to attend the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, 2008. I’d never heard of the two words put together, I had no idea that it was a completely unique collaboration of artforms. I was blown away by it, I must have seen over 300 films in a few days, all a few minutes long. It opened that world up to me, and reawakened my skills in film, specifically editing and directing. I saw an opportunity there, and because this is a generation that is visually oriented, that this could be a way to bring back those people, those visually-oriented human beings, back to the written word.”

The night’s remit of accessibility and innovation, reaching people where they are, has created opportunities for social outreach in conjunction with the City Council and Library. The annual Book of Unfinished Poetry, compiled by local teenagers with help from mentoring writers, and Creative Cork, a programme of culture and integration for the city’s new Irish, have been equally important to the community as they have been to Casey, in ascertaining the place and potential of poetry in Cork’s community. “The Unfinished Book, which the Library started during the 2005 City of Culture, and is a legacy of that… I only took it over seven years ago, when the City Council asked me if I’d be interested. I’ve given workshops to writers of all ages for many years, so it worked for me, and I had a base of poets in the area, so it made sense. It’s one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever been involved in. Teenagers get nine intense sessions with an established writer, and they come out with the requisite skills to develop into a fully-rounded writer. It’s extraordinary, the quality of poems we get back are good enough to go into adult journals. The enthusiasm is phenomenal. It’s a difficult one to co-ordinate, ‘cause it’s five schools, five local libraries, five writers. We’ve just finished this year’s one, and because the city is bidding for City of Sanctuary status, a number of schools have been identified as Sanctuary Schools, and we’re working with them.”

Ó Bhéal’s annual showcase event is the Winter Warmer poetry weekender, happening this November at venues across the city. International guests join nationally-established writers and the night’s regular clutch of poets and attendees for a series of special events that comprises the jewel in the Ó Bhéal crown. “Winter Warmer is the culmination of the year for us. We have over twenty poets, usually over two days, and we try to get as many international poets as we can afford. It’s funded by a lot of local businesses. It’s very piecemeal funding, so it’s more of a shoestring budget. But we have a number of partnerships that help us overcome that, such as Ark Publications, who send us over three or four high-quality international poets every year. We put them up, and pay them a fee. We mix it up with national and local poets, but you need that international flavour. We also fuse the artform with others wherever possible, so you’ll have the poetry films, but this year, we have The Ballad of Reading Jail, a three-hander play of Oscar Wilde’s epic poem. We have hurling poetry on the Sunday, and we’re going to have 25 visitors from different festivals join us for a sequence of hurling and camogie poems, before taking them to a hurling match.”

Ó Bhéal happens every Monday night at the Hayloft Bar, upstairs in the Long Valley on Winthrop St.