April 2017 The Arts Show


April 2017

This month's Arts Show includes Gulliver's Travels, public art, Julian Barratt, Seán Hillen and Derry's latest teenage troubadour Roe.


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Transcript


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This programme contains some strong language.

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This is The Arts Show, and over the next 30 minutes

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we cover culture, no matter what its shape or size.

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This is our mission, we hope you choose to accept it.

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Why Gulliver's Travels is more Saturday Night Live than we think.

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The mighty Julian Barratt on the art that first blew his mind.

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Is this the most censored artist in the past 50 years in Britain

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and Ireland? Poet Leontia Flynn counts the peace dividend.

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And new music from teenage Derry-Londonderry girl Roe.

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We're on Twitter now, @bbcartsshow.

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Public art is a bit like Marmite, you either like it or you loathe it.

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Some are given affectionate nicknames,

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while others win prizes for the worst ever.

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Joe Lindsay makes his views very public for The Arts Show.

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I believe public art is of great importance.

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Not only is it sculpture outside of the often restrictive confines of

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a gallery, but it is, apparently, anyway, art made for the public.

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Here in Belfast we have a dramatic backstory,

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ample amount of sites and a much-needed purpose for public art.

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So why, in my opinion, anyway, are we so bad at it?

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There are many questions to ask.

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Is it because of our recent history

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and our responsibility to reflect that?

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Is it the fault of the political parties who all have to sign off

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on it? Is it the Commissioner's fault? How is it commissioned?

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Are the public consulted? Should the public be consulted?

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Let's look at some evidence.

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The Statue of Harmony or, as we've now called it,

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Lula with the Hula. Now, it's in a perfect spot.

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Right by the river, overlooking the east of the city.

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I know it's supposed to represent the harmony after the peace

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process and all that, but I think that's part of the problem.

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I think there is this responsibility put on artists to reflect that,

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to make art for our wee country.

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And it doesn't work.

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It just looks like a woman holding a Hula Hoop.

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Now, if public art does have a role or responsibility in

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reflecting its environment or the city it's in, I think this is

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a very successful piece and one I happen to like very much.

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It represents the working women of Belfast.

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Belfast is a very matriarchal city in a very matriarchal country.

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But if you look at some of the details on the figures,

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you have children's dummies, scrubbing brushes.

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And to me, that just says Belfast.

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And if you look at the position, which I think is particularly the

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bit I love about it, they're right at the top of the steps, you have to

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kind of walk around them, you can't, you know, they're right in your way.

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And they're looking at you, saying, "We're not moving for anybody,

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"so we're not." And there's nothing more Belfast than that.

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Now, a very interesting and mildly controversial aspect of this

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piece is, it's on private land. And there is a reason for that.

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Oh, excuse me, ladies.

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The title is Monument To The Unknown Woman Worker

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because of the unknown soldier, really.

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I think the thing for me was about that kind of, how do you

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celebrate a bunch of people who have never been celebrated,

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who are everywhere and are yet invisible?

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The site that we got was behind the Crown bar.

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And it really defined the area in terms of prostitution.

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I won the commission, and when my work was being discussed,

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a local Unionist politician went on...

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out in public and said this

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was a monument to prostitution and there was some Southern young one

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-doing it and it was a disgrace.

-Then the project took another turn.

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Because now it's on private land, outside the Europa bus station.

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Belfast City Council, they said, "If it goes up,

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"we won't maintain it." So that became a kind of political cause.

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But then I was kind of privately commissioned and it was

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technically private ground,

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so the upkeep is associated with that building and that site.

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And it's actually across the road from the Crown in

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a much more public space and it has become iconic.

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Should the public be consulted about it? My jury's out on that.

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I think it's like, what I worry about is

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the Daily Mail version of sculpture.

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You know, and I don't think that you shouldn't be consulted,

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I think you should be engaged.

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I think that there should be a kind of, if not a democracy,

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a sense of understanding,

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and I think work needs to be put out there and discussed.

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I mean, I don't want to be disrespectful to the artists, you know, taste is subjective,

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but when a piece of art is in the public domain, when you've no choice

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but to walk past it every day as you go around the city, it's yours

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to appreciate or to reject, you have some kind of ownership over it.

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This piece, I don't really know what it's about.

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I'm assuming it's about, you know,

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communication and tolerance and love and lack thereof.

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But the reason why I don't really quite know is because

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I've never really thought about it, because the only emotion,

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if you will, that it inspires in me is utter indifference.

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And art's not supposed to do that.

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See, it's not all bad. I love this piece.

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You'll recognise it, it's kind of like an Airfix kit of the Titanic.

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I wasn't taught it at school, but all of a sudden,

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after James Cameron's film, Belfast became Titanic town.

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What I love about this piece is,

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it almost puts the ship in, like, a pop cultural context.

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It's become this kind of object that's instantly recognisable,

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it's an analogy of the worst-case scenario.

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And just over there is where the ship was built.

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These men built what was supposed to be the indestructible.

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And by some kind of inexplicable bad luck, the rest is history.

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I just think it's lovely.

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Y'know, at the start of this,

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I couldn't quite put my finger on what my problem was with public

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art in Northern Ireland, but after looking at the work and particularly

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speaking to Louise, I think I've got a better handle on it now.

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I think I've got it.

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It's too cautious.

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It's trying to please everybody, and that just doesn't work.

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And do feel free to tweet us at #bbcartsshow for your thoughts

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on the best - and worst - public art.

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Well, one of the highlights of last month's Belfast Film Festival

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was the premiere of Mindhorn, a comedy homage to '70s cop shows

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with a soundtrack from local producer David Holmes.

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It stars Julian Barratt of the cult heroes The Mighty Boosh.

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But what art makes him tick?

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Alien was probably one of the most powerful experiences I had.

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And I watched it on a TV, because I was way too young to see it.

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I couldn't have gone to the cinema.

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So, that film has stayed with me now.

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Every day I think about stuff from that film and Giger's designs

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and the direction and the strange,

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compelling sort of horror of that film.

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It's still really one of my favourite sort of films.

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ALIEN SCREECHES

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I was very affected by concept albums in the '70s,

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when I was growing up, chief among them being War Of The Worlds.

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No-one would have believed, in the last years of the 19th century...

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I love the music, I love the narration,

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Richard Burton's sumptuous tones.

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..human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space.

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# The chances of anything coming from Mars

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# Are a million to one, he said... #

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The music is great, I think still.

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# The chances of anything coming from Mars... #

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Before I did comedy, I would go to Edinburgh quite a lot to see

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comedians, and I was sort of obsessed with certain people.

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Steven Wright, the American comedian,

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I loved his one-liners and his view of life.

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I went fishing with Salvador Dali.

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He was using a dotted line.

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He caught every other fish.

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His timing was phenomenal,

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I couldn't really understand it and couldn't get enough of it.

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I was Caesarean born. You can't really tell.

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Although whenever I leave the house, I go out through the window.

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Steven Wright was pretty incredible, yeah.

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I was really amazed by his jokes.

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My dad took me to see lots of odd jazz-rock gigs

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in the '70s and '80s.

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I remember seeing a bass player, Jaco Pastorius,

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when I was very young.

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MUSIC: Birdland by Weather Report

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Very cool - he had a headband and used to have his...

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Never wore a top, you know? And he was playing the bass.

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And so I was really into Weather Report and Jaco,

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and when I took my sort of excitement to school,

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I was met with just stony silence and confusion as to why I wanted

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to listen to this strange music.

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So that's a bit of a guilty pleasure.

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Now, while size does matter for some works of art,

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other smaller works still carry an epic punch.

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Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is a classic 300 years on,

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but if Jonathan Swift were alive today,

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I reckon he would be a scriptwriter on TV satirical shows like

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Saturday Night Live or Tracey Ullman,

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as writer and actor Ciaran McMenamin discovered.

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You are my prisoner and shall be presented to

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Our Royal Highness King Theodore.

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On the surface, Gulliver's Travels

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is a fantasy adventure for children.

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But if you look just behind the shipwreck and the little people

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of Lilliput, you'll find a satirical commentary

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on 18th-century society, politics and science...

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with a Northern Irish connection thrown in, as well.

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Swift was born in Dublin in 1667.

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After graduating from Trinity College, he moved to England,

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where his writing skills caught the attention of

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the Tory Prime Minister,

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who made him his "polemicist", or chief literary spin doctor.

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Swift had also been ordained in the Church of Ireland.

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Religion and politics would shape his future.

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Following the collapse of the Tory government in 1714, Swift returned

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home to Ireland and became dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.

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His time in the hot seat of power in politics was finished,

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but his experience would certainly

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influence his most enduring literary work.

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When Gulliver's Travels was first published in 1726,

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it sold out within days.

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People loved the depictions of Lilliput, squabbling nations,

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savage Yahoos, or humans,

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and of course societies governed by civilised horses.

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But they also loved Swift's lampooning of the monarchy

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and high society after the events of 1720.

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George I was on the throne, and the country was in financial

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crisis after what was essentially the first stock market crash.

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In order to get to the bottom of things, King George put his

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good friend Robert Walpole in charge of an investigation.

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But as far as the people were concerned, all Mr Walpole

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was interested in was looking after

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the interests of his wealthy friends.

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Hogarth's famous cartoon of Walpole's bottom made it very

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clear whose ass you had to kiss to stay in favour.

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Let those who present themselves as c...candidates for the most

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high office of Principal Secretary of Private Affairs to

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Their Imperial Majesties...

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Swift was outraged by the behaviour of the great and good,

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and he used Gulliver's travels in fictional lands to satirise

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various aspects of English society.

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The route in, maybe, to satire in the book is through the first

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voyage, to Lilliput,

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and Gulliver gives us really detailed descriptions of their life,

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so we have all the political machinations at court.

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So, in order to win political office, high office, you might find

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yourself dancing on ropes or leaping or creeping over sticks,

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and the person who can leap the highest is the person who

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gets the highest office.

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So you can see that Swift is obviously poking fun of

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the kind of political machinery of his day.

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And the Lilliputians are a really good example of satire,

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because one thing we might say about satire is that it seeks to

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diminish its targets by laughing at them.

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Was Mr Swift a sort of trailblazer

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for what we think of as satire today?

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Satire has been around since classical literature,

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but satire's greatest age is the 18th century,

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so Swift wasn't alone, but he was certainly the best.

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And I think lots of contemporary political satire today -

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it might be Have I Got News For You, Tracey Ullman, I don't know whether

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they've read Swift, but certainly we would say their work is Swiftian.

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# Referendum-dum

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# For a Scottish kingdom-dom

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# Nearly won the last one-one

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# We were robbed, we were done-done-done-done

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# Referendum! #

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You see lots of kind of parallels today.

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Are you sure Russia was behind hacking?

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I mean, maybe.

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But are you really, REALLY sure?

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It was China.

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Er, I mean Canada.

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It was Meryl Streep. OK, this press conference is over.

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Chris Riddell, for example, a very famous political cartoonist,

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he was involved in a version of Gulliver's Travels that came

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out in 2004, when Tony Blair was Prime Minister.

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The most famous illustration in that book is an illustration where

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we see Tony Blair as one of the politicians.

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Armagh Robinson Library holds a very special copy of Gulliver's Travels.

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In fact, it's the only known one of its kind in the world.

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-We know without doubt that this is Jonathan Swift's own copy.

-Wow.

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So it's one of the first editions.

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What makes it so, so special is it's the one in which

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he made changes in his own handwriting.

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But he didn't do it out of choice.

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He did it because he was very angry with his publisher.

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Benjamin Motte made changes without Swift's knowledge.

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You've got a great passage here

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about receiving silken threads from the Emperor.

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In fact, interpreted, that means

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receiving honours from the monarch of the day.

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So you've got the awarding of honours such as the Order of

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the Bath, Order of the Garter, Order of the Thistle,

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and each one of those has its own particular colour.

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Benjamin Motte knew straight away those are the people who have

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received those orders who are being attacked, so he changed it to

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colours which had no links with any Orders, any awards.

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Benjamin Motte's argument was he feared they'd both end up in court.

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Could you tell me anything about

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Swift's personal connections to Armagh?

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Yes. He certainly had friends in the Armagh area,

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and in particular the Acheson family of Markethill.

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They were great acquaintances, they were politically in favour,

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and he often went to stay with them for lengthy periods.

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Swift also satirised himself in verse. In his poem Lady Acheson,

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Weary Of The Dean, he acknowledges his own shortcomings as a guest.

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"The house accounts are daily rising

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"So much his stay doth swell the bills

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"My dearest life, it is surprising

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"How much he eats, how much he swills."

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Swift is really known for his connections with Dublin,

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and I don't think his connections with what he called

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"the northern part" of the island are nearly as well known.

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Swift begins his career as a clergyman in Kilroot.

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There's a good case to be made that the three major prose works that

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Swift published - Tale Of The Tub, Gulliver's Travels,

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A Modest Proposal - all have links with the North.

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I have it on good authority that there's

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a 1791 map of Belfast with somewhere on it called Lilliput.

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Can we lay claim to that being the influence for the Lilliputians?

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Well, it's VERY interesting.

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You know, 1791, a bit of time after Gulliver's Travels is published,

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but town lines and place names

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tend to have been around for a very long time.

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So I don't think it's beyond possibility

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that Lilliput existed in Belfast before 1791.

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-I think we should claim it.

-Yeah.

-I think we should just claim it!

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So, Swift's time here in the North certainly helped to inspire

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his masterpiece and nearly 300 years after it was first published,

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Gulliver's Travels has never been out of print.

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It's a genuine classic enjoyed to this day

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by children and adults alike.

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Newry native Sean Hillen has been dubbed

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the most controversial artist in Britain and Ireland

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over the past 50 years and despite an international reputation,

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he's only just had his first-ever solo show in Northern Ireland.

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So, what is it about his trippy, anarchic mash-ups

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that have divided the critics?

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MUSIC: God! Show Me Magic by Super Furry Animals

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Well, I'm a collagist and I work with postcards a lot

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and I make new worlds out of them.

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I want to stop you in your tracks.

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I want to make something you've never seen before.

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I want to grab your attention.

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Sean Hillen, it all began in Newry.

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I grew up... Born in '61 so I grew up

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in actually a very optimistic phase of human history, I think,

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you know, and then of course the Troubles happen

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and I remember the morning of internment

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and the big armoured cars, looking through the Venetian blinds

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at the neighbours being dragged away.

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I think I was, you know, a little bit weird and very sensitive

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and both traumatised and excited and energised.

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The work that you have become known for,

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this photo collage montage, when did that start?

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I was taking the photos and in the '80s in Britain,

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the papers had been full of it, and once Gilles Peress

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and Don McCullin have done it,

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there's not really a lot you can add to that

0:19:360:19:39

and so nobody really wanted to see the photos.

0:19:390:19:42

So I started making my own,

0:19:420:19:43

which turned out to be these fantasy worlds,

0:19:430:19:46

so I would take highly-coloured London tourist material

0:19:460:19:51

and collide it with my gritty black and white photos of the Troubles.

0:19:510:19:55

And it is sort of saying, "How would you like it up your street?"

0:19:550:19:59

but it is also doing it in a very accessible way with humour.

0:19:590:20:03

And I did that for about 13 years and got a lot of attention for it.

0:20:030:20:08

For instance, "Who Is My Enemy?", which is where I took a photo

0:20:080:20:12

that I took of an observation post outside Long Kesh, the Maze,

0:20:120:20:15

and put it in Piccadilly Circus in the place of Eros

0:20:150:20:19

and into a touristy late '50s,

0:20:190:20:23

probably early '60s dreamlike Piccadilly Circus.

0:20:230:20:27

And I've sucked the North back into it, you know,

0:20:270:20:31

so it's a simple power inversion,

0:20:310:20:32

but it is actually quite powerful, and the visual punchline

0:20:320:20:36

is that I've taken a kind of James Bond figure

0:20:360:20:38

from a pulp comic who's leaping towards the camera

0:20:380:20:41

with his gun in his tuxedo

0:20:410:20:44

and the comic book was called "Who Is My Enemy?",

0:20:440:20:47

and so that's the punchline.

0:20:470:20:49

So, say the one of... It's The Goddess, isn't it, Appears...?

0:20:490:20:53

Yeah, The Goddess Appears In Newry, Easter '93.

0:20:530:20:55

I was, like, the golden boy, to some extent, of the family.

0:20:580:21:01

I was obviously weirdly, you know, sort of...

0:21:010:21:04

I was technically a genius,

0:21:040:21:07

but a genius who didn't know what fucking day it is,

0:21:070:21:09

literally didn't know what day it is, and my mummy said to me once,

0:21:090:21:12

"Seanie, could you not make pictures of lovely flowers?"

0:21:120:21:15

So for her, I did that picture which is the whin bushes bursting through.

0:21:150:21:20

-Cos the colours are so strong.

-The colours are really beautiful.

0:21:200:21:23

I can nearly smell the whin when I talk about it.

0:21:230:21:26

And a little soldier that I photographed,

0:21:260:21:29

a young soldier with a little moustache

0:21:290:21:31

that I found hiding, basically, under a staircase

0:21:310:21:35

in a block of flats in Newry around 1990,

0:21:350:21:38

and I saw him and I had to have the photograph

0:21:380:21:41

and I just said to him, "May I take a photograph?"

0:21:410:21:44

and he said, "Oh, you want a picture, sir?"

0:21:440:21:46

and posed for me, which was wonderful.

0:21:460:21:49

Irelantis was a huge success for you.

0:21:540:21:58

Talk to me about that particular series.

0:21:580:22:01

In Irelantis, I was trying to show the world what it could be,

0:22:010:22:04

letting the imagination go flying.

0:22:040:22:06

So, the conflation of Ireland and Atlantis...

0:22:080:22:11

It's just so evocative, isn't it?

0:22:110:22:12

And it is humorous in itself.

0:22:120:22:14

It's just a wonderful licence for me.

0:22:140:22:16

-I knew immediately what I was going to do.

-Which was what?

0:22:160:22:18

Well, I was starting a series called Ancient Monuments In Ireland,

0:22:180:22:23

but the joke was I was stealing them from elsewhere.

0:22:230:22:25

Two years ago, you found out, you discovered that you had...

0:22:330:22:37

-Yep, got diagnosed, really, by accident.

-Autism.

-By accident.

0:22:370:22:40

It is autism.

0:22:400:22:42

Somebody said to me that you might have Asperger's

0:22:420:22:44

and I went and looked and I said no,

0:22:440:22:46

and then I went and looked and I went, "Oh!"

0:22:460:22:49

And then I read about it and I am a textbook Asperger person.

0:22:490:22:53

-In what way?

-Well, it is a bag of tricks.

0:22:530:22:55

Look at this - this is probably quite Aspergery.

0:22:550:22:58

The hoarding could be one thing.

0:22:580:23:00

High anxiety could be one of the things.

0:23:000:23:02

I went to New York for the first time in 2006

0:23:020:23:06

and I got off the bus and threw up on the pavement.

0:23:060:23:09

HE LAUGHS

0:23:090:23:11

It's the opposite of what the Pope does!

0:23:110:23:13

THEY LAUGH

0:23:130:23:14

What makes you do it?

0:23:180:23:20

I'm no good at anything else.

0:23:200:23:22

Really probably no good for anything else

0:23:220:23:24

and I don't see the point in life, actually, frankly,

0:23:240:23:27

if I wasn't making art.

0:23:270:23:29

Somebody once wrote in a visitors' book,

0:23:290:23:32

"Fair play to you if you can get away with it."

0:23:320:23:36

And I have got away with it to some extent, you know?

0:23:360:23:39

What else is new, then?

0:23:530:23:54

Belfast, long the blight and blot on lives has now brought to an end,

0:23:540:23:59

or several ends, its grim, traumatic fight.

0:23:590:24:02

The pay-off packet and the dividend amid the double-dealings,

0:24:020:24:07

halts and heists.

0:24:070:24:08

A building boom and shopping malls thrown up like flotsam

0:24:080:24:12

by our new security.

0:24:120:24:14

Here are our palaces of snow and ice and so, folks,

0:24:170:24:21

with esprit de corps, we'll shop ourselves to civilised maturity.

0:24:210:24:25

Belfast aspires to be, then,

0:24:280:24:30

every place where shopping is done less for recreation -

0:24:300:24:33

this might apply to all the Western race -

0:24:330:24:36

than from a kind of civic obligation.

0:24:360:24:38

The upshot - on the whole we're better dressed, as Auden wrote,

0:24:400:24:44

though maybe on the whole we find we suffer no less from neuroses.

0:24:440:24:48

Despite our retail therapy, "we are depressed, tired or infertile,"

0:24:480:24:54

finds some book or poll.

0:24:540:24:56

Each week, I hear of a fresh diagnosis

0:24:570:25:00

among old friends, at least.

0:25:000:25:03

It's not, I think, merely the fallout

0:25:030:25:05

of a far-off war fought in our names,

0:25:050:25:07

not so remote its stink can't reach us in our hiding places,

0:25:070:25:11

nor fears for the planet that make us feel sad.

0:25:110:25:15

The waste, the global warming, melting ice,

0:25:150:25:18

our ravenous consumption of resources,

0:25:180:25:20

though few would gainsay that this news is bad.

0:25:200:25:24

I plugged my laptop in to read it twice,

0:25:240:25:27

such are the depths of my profound remorses.

0:25:270:25:30

Now, what is it about the North West Regional College

0:25:330:25:37

in Derry-Londonderry that seems to produce musicians

0:25:370:25:39

practically fully formed,

0:25:390:25:41

from PORTS to SOAK to Our Krypton Son?

0:25:410:25:45

Now, it's Roe.

0:25:450:25:47

18-year-old Roisin Donald is getting serious traction

0:25:470:25:50

in the music industry in Ireland.

0:25:500:25:52

Here she is in her first-ever BBC TV appearance.

0:25:520:25:56

# Tiptoe over people in their numbers

0:26:120:26:16

# Watch the world go by

0:26:160:26:19

# Bite your tongue and turn the other cheek, boy

0:26:190:26:24

# Push away, push it all aside

0:26:240:26:27

# I'm waiting on the last train home

0:26:270:26:31

# Saving up my words

0:26:310:26:34

# And I've been waiting on a time to come

0:26:340:26:38

# But you're gone away

0:26:380:26:40

# You're gone and I will run from you

0:26:400:26:44

# Run from you

0:26:440:26:46

# Honestly and I won't come back

0:26:460:26:49

# I'll run from you

0:26:490:26:51

# Run from you

0:26:510:26:53

# Honestly and I won't come back

0:26:530:26:57

# Come back to you

0:26:570:26:59

# Cutting corners, walk the other way from

0:27:060:27:10

# Everything you held so dear

0:27:100:27:13

# Rarely do they walk from the surface

0:27:130:27:17

# Sly hands with nothing in between

0:27:170:27:20

# I'm waiting on the last train home

0:27:200:27:24

# Saving up my words

0:27:240:27:27

# And I've been waiting on a time to come

0:27:270:27:31

# But you're gone away

0:27:310:27:33

# You're gone

0:27:330:27:35

# And I will run from you

0:27:350:27:38

# Run from you

0:27:380:27:39

# Honestly and I won't come back

0:27:390:27:43

# I'll run from you

0:27:430:27:45

# Run from you

0:27:450:27:47

# Honestly and I won't come back

0:27:470:27:50

# Come back to you

0:27:500:27:53

# I'll be all right

0:27:530:27:56

# I'll be all right

0:27:560:27:58

# When I'm lost out here, I'll be all right

0:27:580:28:02

# I'll be all right

0:28:040:28:06

# When I'm lost out here, I'll be all right

0:28:060:28:10

# I'll be all right

0:28:110:28:13

# When I'm lost out here, I'll be all right

0:28:130:28:17

# I'll be all right

0:28:180:28:21

# When I'm lost, I'll run from you

0:28:210:28:23

# Run from you

0:28:230:28:26

# Honestly and I won't come back

0:28:260:28:29

# I'll run from you

0:28:290:28:31

# Run from you

0:28:310:28:33

# Honestly and I won't come back

0:28:330:28:36

# Come back

0:28:360:28:39

# Come back to you. #

0:28:390:28:41

And that's it for this month.

0:28:430:28:46

We are back on the wireless

0:28:460:28:51

and online, where we have a feast of digital content.

0:28:510:28:54

In fact, we have you spoiled. Goodbye.

0:28:540:28:57

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