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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Ag teacht amach mar ealaíontóir - Coming out as an artist

Working class people in the English speaking world face a number of huge obstacles when seeking to rise above their economic condition in order to get doing what they really want to do. Of course, ordinary people living in Third World countries face a daily struggle to survive but that doesn’t lessen the difficulties of trying to create your first novel, poem or painting whilst you are on the breadline in a “developed" country. I will return to this subject at a later date but one point that is important is the naming of the aspiration in question.
If the poor wait until artistry is bestowed upon them, or until they become artists via some process of creative osmosis, they will wait for ever. No, you have to declare to yourself and the world around you that you are an artist and then get your head down and begin "artisting". Yes it is vital to learn the craft which has you enthralled. Learn its form, its rules and antecedents but crucially, start work at creating from day one of that declaration. No one gives you permission to become an artist. You must create yourself as an artist.
For example, in the late 1980s when I was doing my BBC production training, I remember telling my colleagues that I was a film director. No, I was not a researcher, I was not a producer, I was a film director. Eventually, by dint of force of will and contrariness, I got my recognition as a documentary film director but my initial declaration as an artist produced wry smiles amongst my superiors and frequent bouts of tittering in the production offices, where people had to put up with my “superiority complex”. There is an irony in that I am now recognised as a film director but a “bloody minded” film director. I can live with that.
Now it is my experience that when a rich kid announces, with all the confidence that flows from being rich and therefore destined to run the world, that he or she is a poet, painter or round the world yachtsman (or indeed a film director) that everybody takes that statement for a truth. There are no bouts of tittering, no corners of mirth in the faces of the audience, there is simply acceptance. It is important therefore, that aspiring artists from less privileged backgrounds develop a thick skin and a Hobbit like determination to get past the Orcs who stand in the way of their artistic development.
The people who deny the above proposition - that things are a lot tougher for working class artists - break down into two groups: The first group is the rich who hate to think that it wasn’t from simple merit that they reached their hallowed status, The second group are the wannabe rich who probably had to lick a lot of ass to get where they are not going and hate being reminded of that fact that they compromised themselves. However, those more discerning readers who perhaps genuinely doubt that social class still plays a part in deciding the artistic fate of so many people should read Glaswegian writer James Kelman’s own recent account of his problems in being accepted by the ‘white man’ upstairs. This appears in the ever excellent Guardian Review, which comes with the Saturday Guardian:,,2146056,00.html

James Kelman

In the above Guardian article, Kelman gives a great line:
“These bastards think they own the language. They want to block your stories and they will if you let them.”

It is worth remembering also that our very own mentor, comrade and friend Brian Anson (the artist/architect who was a cause celebre in the 1970s) has reflected on the difficulties faced by marginalised people when they try to create for themselves.
Of course, rich people here at home in Ireland and their ass licking support base never give over desperately informing us that there is no such thing as class in Ireland. This is another topic to which I intend to return. Suffice to say for the moment that Ireland is a clique ridden society and guess which cliques are on top?

The arrival of a comet - an artist is born.

All this got me thinking about the actual point in my life when I realised that I wanted to spend more time in the realms of my artistic imagination than the reality that was apparently going on in front of my eyes. A crucial moment came when I was around ten years of age. There had been a lot of talk about comets crashing into earth and the teacher had raised the issue in the classroom. Of course, to a child, the threat of a comet crashing into your house has a lethal attraction. I was probably told what the chances of this happening actually were, but a crashing fireball loses its drama unless its coming right at you and you might have to run for your life; in your imagination at least. It should also be pointed out that we still hadn’t put anyone on the moon when this comet was about to strike my house and Captain Kirk still had his own hair. Space was indeed the “Final Frontier”, still mysterious and part of it was going to come crashing through the attic window below which I slept.
The comet came and went, landing in the Pacific somewhere as I recall, but by now there was a much bigger comet in my imagination. It actually became so big that I saw it one night ploughing into a field near my home and I described this dramatic event to my mam's best friend Shirley. We were actually passing the field at the time and I was accompanying Shirley past a lonely stretch of our road which Shirley never liked to walk on her own. We lived quite near the top of a long hill which overlooked the rest of Salford and I remember the exhilarating smell of autumn in the grass verge by the side of the field. It was one of those moments for an artist where you feel that the firmament is no longer hovering above you but that you are stretched across that firmament and holding everything in place like the master of the galaxies. The grass was made blue by the dark of the air and the vast space of stars which I knew would fade as we descended into the warren of streets and smoking chimneys below. The time for my first declaration was upon me. It was then or never. I would never be ten and in that place, that spatial shift, again.

I couldn’t believe it. The noise it made. And it was massive, I said, breathless.
And did you see it Paul?
Yeah it passed right over me and d’ye see where that big furrow is in the ground over there Shirley? Where its all dark? Well that's where it ran into the ground and disintegrated.
Shirley stopped in the bend in the road and looked at me directly.
And did you see that Paul?
I did. The smell was incredible. I think it’s sulphur or brimstone that smell. It was over in a flash but I'll never forget it. It was so near I thought I was going to get burned up by its tail. Y’see there’s all this gas and ash and debris that follows it. That's its tail, which is like a big train at the back of the ball made of ice.

Never once did Shirley contradict me. On that walk to her house, she never once sought to humiliate me or drag me into her adult, common sense world. A world, which for me at the time was a disaster zone created by my alcoholic father who was never able to realise his artistic dreams, a fate far more devastating than any comet. For. lovely person that Shirley was, she saw that I had a story, a fantastic, impossible story bursting out of me. In effect, she gave me recognition as an artist and in a small but significant way launched my artistic sensibilities into their first public flight.


It's just so difiicult so get the time though. Real life keeps on getting in the way. In many ways the most important aspect is the support you recieve from your loved ones and your 'mates'. Just like Shirley. I remember my days playing in bands in Salford and the support and the goodwill that we recieved from our pals was crucial. A few of thm went on a sun hoilday and took a tape of the bands music with them and played it on the ghetto blaster - oh the irony - around the pool! All the other sun worshippers loved it too! I'll never forget how good that made me feel.

Reading about Marx now and how he was always skint and that the baker, and the landlord, would be banging on the door looking for the rent and he'd be in the British Museum out of the way while the wife and the kids ducked and dived from the debtors at the door. And how when ever he got a few quid he'd blow it on the best wine and nights on the town and treats for the kids.

They'll never win ar kid!

Keep on keeping on!
by: Likkle Brian (contact) - 24 Oct '07 - 15:10
You’re dead right bro (This is my brother Brian - readers!)
I think part of the pleasure that an artist feels is that the world has been altered (even in some small way) by what he/she has created. See those people at the pool, they were enjoying something that you had created. What a privilege for both parties. I remember making a film for BBC ‘Norn Ireland’ which my bosses hated and I reallly had to take deep breaths and hold my nerve in my fight to get the film broadcast – the film was called Belfast Black and was about the life of a Falls Road black taxi.. It got a very good audience, but more importantly I got a letter from a viewer down the country which said that the film was beautifully made and that it had helped change his view about 'Falls Road' people. One letter, one changed perception, had made all the pounding heart and gritting teeth sessions worthwhile.
I was listening to Danish wireless yesterday (as you do) and there was a discussion about the explosion of business and financial news that we have seen in the last decade. This is particularly the case in continental Europe. Of course, none of the business reporters are writing the kind of challenging reports which Karl Mark was filing for the New York Tribune. Anyway, all the guests, in what was otherwise a very stimulating discussion, agreed that Capitalism had won the final victory and that ideas of social ownership had been put to the sword. Now there was me sorting through seven different plugs for a mobile phone all of which are now obsolete, reading reports telling me that one billion people are obese in the West and one billion people are starving to death in rural economies across the world. So I switched the discussion off and wrote the above piece for my blog – thereby destroying the capitalist in my head at one stroke.

Suerte hermano!
by: Pol (contact) - 24 Oct '07 - 15:58


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Title: Ag teacht amach mar ealaíontóir - Coming out as an artist
Date posted: 22 Oct '07 - 08:38
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