Africa Day 2017 Dublin

I danced to east African music and then Galway Girl

The shuttle bus was packed. It was free after all and the alternative was a 25 minute trek through the Phoenix Park to Farmleigh House. I was excited for Africa Day, but not twenty-five minutes excited.

I was late, rolling up to the lakeside cafe fifteen minutes after everyone else had clearly arrived. Some not so subtly checked their watches. Amateur photographers can be so impatient. There was still lingering to be done, as a few more latecomers stumbled upon the group, made easy to identify with all brands of camera swinging from our necks. Of the 62 who RSVP’d, a decent 12 showed up, with more to wade through the throngs later.

As with all ‘Days’ at Farmleigh, we headed for the main area, today the ‘Malaika’ stage, behind the colonial house. And suddenly the group had dissolved. All that waiting, only to disappear into the air with the notes escaping from the strumming guitar of Ines Khai. It would be another forty-five minutes before I found some semblance of the group gathered beneath a crowded tree as the clouds emptied their contents for the first time that day. The group had new faces, replacing those who had wandered off to the ‘Kwassa Kwassa’ stage. Sadly, those unlucky few had tripped right into the middle of the Minister’s speech. Was it too late to slipd quietly away back to the bazaar. There was a colourful rug I was looking at that would have matched the blanket on the couch.

Head wraps were offered at a reasonable rate. Ladies chose from prints of red, black and green fish-like patterns, burnt orange leaves, diamonds on yellow fabric and blue and red lined strips of white. The smell of beef stew and chapati carried across the car park to campers who had staked their claim on a patch of flattened grass before the skies reminded them where they were. Some ventured over to the join an already long queue. Some glanced and weighed up their chances of losing their spot or cradling a warm belly, smiling at the mere thought of spicy rice and chicken.

If you ever held an image of Africa in your mind’s eye, it could be found here. Tall men in white robes swatted away the ant-like diligence of photographers intent on capturing the image of the day, showing their wares from Senegal and Lesotho. Under grey skies, colourful dresses, head wraps and tunics could be seen.

Drumming workshops, a language exchange, even a debating session was on the agenda. But my favourite part of Africa Day was the ‘Atilogwu’ stage and the energetic DJ Spaqz and his crew. And it was here that I danced to Galway Girl, after dancing to music from Kenya, Ghana and Egypt.

I’ll be back next year, for the tastes, sounds and sights of a little bit of Africa in the middle of the Phoenix Park.



Springtime glory

IMG_4469Tulips at St Patrick’s Cathedral


A sunny weekend, a generous park, reds and yellows and pinks. Barking dogs and laughing children. Sunbathers, ice-cream appreciators. This is Sunday in Dublin.

Trinity in Bloom

Springtime in Trinity College Dublin


It’s cherry blossom time again in Trinity College Dublin.

The Rose Garden shows off it’s pink petals with not a rose in sight. Surrounded by the noise of the city, the campus is an oasis of calm, and a lunchtime on one of the benches in the Rose Garden is a lunchtime well spent.

Bring a good book, or an even better article, and sit under the cherry blossoms. It’s what lunchtime is all about.

Disrupt & Repeal

Change is slow, especially for women

It didn’t rain! It usually rains. It’s International Women’s Day again and I wondered had anything changed since last year. Change is always slow. Changing an oppressive cruel law affecting Irish women, the eighth amendment, is going to be achieved inch by inch.

For anyone who isn’t aware of the eighth amendment, it was passed in 1983 and enshrined in our constitution, not that a constitution is the place for that kind of thing. It has resulted in almost 3,500 women each year travelling from Irish shores to get an abortion, usually to the UK. How Brexit is going to affect this terrible arrangement is a cause for concern.  Tighter borders will make the journey more difficult and expensive. The need to repeal, not replace, the eighth amendment is urgently required, lest we continue to torture women for being women.

We gathered at the Garden of Remembrance. It’s the usual meeting point for these now familiar marches. Wednesday night’s march was one of several organised around the country for International Women’s Day. Having taken part in two marches I thought I knew what to expect: the atmosphere, the crowds, the crowds. However, walking from O’Connell Street up Frederick Street for one of these protests was so exhilarating. I passed so many different strands of Irish society. Students, expectant mothers, mothers pushing prams, middle aged women, men. Some brought their bicycle along, some brought the family pet. Little kids were carried, pushed, cajoled to stay peaceful. Purple hair, green hair, no hair. Every definition of womanhood was represented. Well, almost everyone.

It had been a long day at work. Tales of women’s achievements reverberated around me and the campus turned purple in celebration. As much as International Women’s Day is about celebrating female achievement, gender equality and how far we’ve come, it is also a reminder of the steps yet to be taken. We’ve progressed but some have been left behind. It’s difficult to reconcile this.

This year;s events included two protests in Dublin, a strike4repeal afternoon demonstration and a later evening gathering. I was gutted not to be able to attend the lunchtime event. Sometimes it’s about numbers, and showing up is an important part of making your voice heard. No amount of complaining to family and friends can make up for simply showing up. At 12.30pm women across Dublin downed tools and set off for O’Connell Bridge to strike for a repeal of the eighth amendment. I honestly thought it would be a small affair, not about to bother anyone. However, given the global climate of anger, 4,500 women and men showed up and took the bridge. They held it too. For hours. People were naturally irked. Traffic came to a standstill. Disruptions everywhere. Laura Graham, writing in The Conversation has highlighted this point in a recent article, namely that civil disobedience is required, and yesterday’s stand was an excellent example of how to be civilly disobedient. Yes, some were put out, complaints abounded about blocking up the streets. But isn’t that what protesting is all about. You are not there to be nice; you are there to disrupt.

Back at the beginnings of the march we heard inspired and inspiring speakers rally the crowds. And then we set off. Over 10,000 people set forth to shout for change. We weaved our way across the city, first bracing the road works and bemused pedestrians on O’Connell Street. On the intersection of Earl Street North and O’Connell Street, where that great phallic symbol, the Spire, sits stood a feverishly worked up member of the Christian community. Complete with microphone to carry his loud message to as many distracted shoppers as possible, he reminded us of this passage and that passage. But it was all joyously drowned out by cheers, whistles, calls from the pink hat brigade. People lining the protest route cheered. Cheers went up for this encouragement. Cameras of all kinds were switched on. I’m sure I’m in a highlights video somewhere.

We carried on across O’Connell Bridge, the site of that famous afternoon struggle, up Westmoreland Street where business owners came out to cheer, passed in front of Trinity College Dublin, where I suspect many of the participants had rallied and ended on Kildare Street. All of Kildare Street. And maybe a little of Molesworth Street.

By then it was 7pm, so our politic officials had probably departed for the day. The site of that condemning amendment was also the site of progressive legislation. Perhaps a repeal could be next. Many spoke. Many more chanted, sang, cheered. People eventually wandered off, to the Sugar Club or home to pack away their placards and maracas and drums until the next gathering. Meanwhile, the Abortion Rights Campaign, the X-ile Project and many other local and national groups are continuing their efforts.

At the 2014 march for choice 5,000 attended. In 2015 that number went up to 10,000. In 2016 there was 20,000 demanding a change to this repressive law. We will march again in 2017, for this battle is not over. We are gaining ground and public support. We are noisy. We are angry and ultimately we will succeed. Three and a half thousand women a year need us to succeed.

What a difference a week makes

Back to the Sugar Loaf mountain yesterday for a successful ascend to the top. What a difference a week makes, with no sleet battering our faces, no slippy surfaces to contend with. And best of all was the view, a patchwork of green fields on one side and Dublin Bay on the other. This was a truly travel happy hike. img_4174