ACCORDING to Bono, music has gotten “very girly” recently. According to Aisling O’Riordan, it hasn’t gotten girly enough.
The multi-instrumentalist and events organiser from Cork’s northside sighs and rolls her eyes at the reference to the U2 singer’s recent remark, where he blamed the increasing ‘girliness’ of rock music for young men turning to hip-hop during an interview with Rolling Stone.
“You feel that things are going along and progressing, and then you see something like that and you’re just like, ‘Cool man, great. That’s great,’” she says, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
In Aisling’s experience, both as a performer herself and as a gig booker and event organiser, it’s still a struggle for female artists across many disciplines to get heard.
“I could go on for hours about the things I’ve seen over the ten years I’ve been putting on shows,” she says. “It took me a long time to get sure of myself as a creator and as an artist because I see guys I know who pick up an instrument and I don’t know if they have that same level of voice in their head saying, ‘You’re going to have to try hard now, you’re going to have to prove yourself’. I’ve also been the token girl in a band, put there because I was a woman.”
Aisling’s response is to create opportunities for female artists in her work. She co-presents a radio show called Quiet Angry Women on Dublin Digital Radio with Ruth Murphy, where they play music made by women, but most recently, in her role as music programmer for Quarter Block Party arts festival, another opportunity to showcase Irish female artists emerged, and has evolved into an hour-long multi-disciplinary performing arts show, Radio Mná.
Offered a midnight slot by The Triskel Arts Centre for a performance during this year’s Quarter Block Party, Aisling seized the opportunity to produce an all-female show.
“I was talking to artist Eilís Collins last year and I was saying, ‘Why aren’t we getting this’ and ‘Why aren’t we getting that,’ and she just said, ‘We need to make our own opportunities,’ so it’s kind of a response to that too. We’re using the space in a very different way, that will be revealed on the night, and we’re using that hour to make an opportunity for ourselves to present this work because it wouldn’t be seen otherwise.”
Doesn’t it run the risk of bringing tokenism to the extreme, by corralling a group of artists purely on the basis of their gender? Aisling doesn’t think so.
“A lot of the time, even if it’s not said, all-male shows happen very often in my experience,” she says. “It’s not about exclusion or trying to make a huge point, we’re just trying to occupy a space and come together artistically to create something. It’s not about what’s in your pants, it’s about the energy they’re all bringing to the piece.”
Radio Mná unites some exciting talent from across a spectrum of performing arts: music, dance, spoken word and visual arts.
“It’s pre-existing work that each artist already has or has been working on, brought together to form a show,” Aisling says. “Each performer will do about 10 minutes of performing. My job as director and co-ordinator is to make the show flow together.”
Aisling’s challenge, in her directorial debut, is to help to weave the individual artists’ contributions together, inspired, in part, by Radio Mná’s proximity to St Bridget’s Day.
“We’re talking a lot about the pagan versus Christian traditions of St Bridget,” Aisling says. “We’re looking to St Bridget a little bit for certain elements of the show; it’s not going to be Bridget’s crosses flashing everywhere or anything like that, but there’s definitely something running through the work.
“Each person involved is coming from a different discipline, so finding the middle ground where everyone can perform together has been a challenge. Everyone’s been incredible so far though, and I think it’s going to be gorgeous and a really special night for everyone.”
Radio Mná takes place at Triskel Christchurch, on Friday, February 2 at midnight, as part of Quarter Block Party arts festival. Tickets from uticket.ie, entry included with a Weekend or Friday pass to Quarter Block Party 2018
WHO IS FEATURED IN RADIO MNÁ:
MAGDALENA: Cork-based duo Muireann Levis and Roisin Kelly are MAGDALENA; Using vocals, spoken word, looping, and instrumental accompaniment, they explore Irish female heritage and identity. 100 years after Irish women were granted the right to vote, MAGDALENA perform feminist and personal retelling of myths and Bible parables that have had very real repercussions for the women of Ireland both past and present.
FELISPEAK: Born in Nigeria and raised in Longford, spoken word artist Felispeaks has an ambition: to change the face of poetry in Ireland. Celebrating different influences and art forms, she draws on personal experiences of love and life and the social concerns of young people.
She is the winner of a Best Media, Arts and Entertainment award from the African Professional Network of Ireland.
EILÍS COLLINS: CIT Crawford College of Art and Design graduate Eilís Collins is a multi-disciplinary artist based in West Cork.
She works with performance, sound, film and photography. Since 2015, she has made music videos with Cork-based bands including Fixity, Morning Veils and The Great Balloon Race. She is currently a member of improvisation group Hex, and The Council for the Dark Arts Orchestra.
IRENE BUCKLEY: Composer Irene Buckley, a graduate of UCC Music Department and Queens University, Belfast, composes music for film, theatre and dance productions, and comes from a Cork family that includes four full-time musicians. Her theatre credits include productions of Juno and the Paycock, Disco Pigs and King Lear, while she has composed original scores for numerous silent movies including The Fall of the House of Usher and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.
INMA PAVON: Originally from Spain, dancer, choreographer and visual artist Inma Pavon has lived in Cork for the past 20 years. Her choreographic work has been shown across Ireland and the south of Spain and has included the critically acclaimed production of Dido and Aeneas at Cork Opera House. She has made and appeared in several short films, including 2017’s Best Cork Short Film at Cork Film Festival, Everything Alive is in Movement. She has taught at Cork School of Dance, The Firkin Crane, Cork Youth Ballet Co. and the Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh Dance programme.
EMILY O’FLYNN: Emily O’Flynn is the visual arts programmer and in-house curator of TACTIC, Sample-Studios, Cork.
Since graduating in 2012, she has continued to live and work in Cork curating numerous exhibitions and performances, as well as working on her own practice. She’s a founding member of artist collective and union, with fellow artists Kevin O’Shea, Andrew McSweeney, David Máthuna and Dervla Baker.