Friday, March 14, 2008

revisionism rocks


I heard a joke recently.

Q. Why are pirates called pirates?

A. Because they just aaargh!

Last night The Mullet and myself hooked up with an old mate from our pirate radio days. Aidan Kelly lowered the Jolly Roger a few years back, he picked up his Kodak Brownie and he is now carving a bit of a niche for himself in Dublin’s design world as both a photographer and with his input to Candy Collective. This is in addition to his other creative pursuits which are too numerous to list. Last nights Sweet Talk session was introduced by Aidan and in keeping with the Seachtain na Gaeilge theme at this time of the year, all of the guest speakers were from the auld sod. The audience was populated by many folk from across the wide spectrum of Dublin’s creative set. It was like an NCAD reunion or at least it was like how I imagine an NCAD reunion would be. Given the bohemian nature of proceedings there were also a few blokes there who looked like they’d come to audition for a job as drummer with The Klaxons.

Aidan kicked off proceedings with an introduction that was not dissimilar to the part of mass that usually took place after communion. For any Irish Catholics reading this they’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s been a while since I was there but it reminded me of that bit in mass when the church collection took place and the priest took the opportunity to read out notices about the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes or any upcoming Novenas. Unlike mass, Sweet Talk had beer on sale and a smoking area just outside the back door. Once the obligatory thank you’s and introductions were proffered by Aidan it was straight down to the business of design.

First up was illustrator, printer and administrator of the Monster Truck Gallery, Colm Mac Athlaoich. One interesting piece of trivia that came to light about Colm was that he was an aspiring classical trumpeter when he was younger. As someone who played the flugelhorn as a young fella I can appreciate why Colm may have wanted to become a classical musician. Thankfully the music world’s loss was the design world’s gain. In my case, I’ve heard that the music world is still lamenting the loss of my precocious talent. You can never have enough flugelhorn players. Colm presented many of his quite brilliant illustrations and some of his print stuff and a common theme for the evening was quickly established. It appears that the now defunct Mongrel magazine first published Colm’s work.

Similarly, the next speaker, stylist Aisling Farinella did plenty of work for Mongrel magazine. If I’m not mistaken she also mentioned that they were first to publish her work. Aisling then went on to present several samples of her styling from her trips to London and New York fashion weeks as well as plenty of stuff that was done locally around Dublin. All in all she was quite an affable young lady with a keen eye. However I’m still not sure exactly what a stylist does. Whenever I hear the word stylist I just think of that Graham Cruz bloke and it makes me shudder. Aisling mentioned that she had worked with a bloke I went to college with many years ago, Peter Evers. I bumped into Peter at a wedding about a year ago and he very kindly took a portrait of my assembled family and e-mailed it to me a few weeks later. It's the only photo of my folks and brothers and sisters together as adults. Nice one Peter. Coincidentally the couple that got married that day just had a baby girl the other day. It's a small world, but I wouldn't like to have to paint it all.

The third speaker, photographer Matthew Thompson, also showcased some work that had appeared in various publications and once again Mongrel came in for special mention. Amongst the material on show was a selection of photos of Dublin’s homeless community. I missed an awful lot of this speaker because I was talking shite with two of the Mullets acquaintances, filmmaker Lorcan Fox and his Dom Joly lookalike partner in crime from the now defunct Ringsend hip-hop outfit Satyrix.

In light of what I heard last night it appears that I might need to apply some revisionist principles in relation to my publicly quoted views on Mongrel magazine. I stand by the fact that I oftentimes found it disjointed and not funny but I must now reassess it in light of the influence it had on many creative types working in Dublin. I never really questioned how the illustrations or photo shoots got into the magazine or even who was behind them all. All three speakers mentioned above appear to hold the magazine and its editorial team in high regard as it provided them with an outlet for their endeavours. In many cases the initial opportunity then turned into a stepping-stone for bigger and better things. Eoin Butler, Ireland’s ex-premier social diarist was on hand to mop up the plaudits from his position at the back of the room. Fair fucks to Mongrel for stoking the creative fires of Aisling, Colm and Matthew.

The last speaker of the evening was Daragh O’Connell from Brown Bag Films. The Mullet insisted that I mention that he went to primary school with the other half of Brown Bag, the affable Cathal Gaffney. Cathal wasn’t there last night but Daragh was on hand to provide the audience with a whirlwind history lesson on Brown Bag Films, from their early stop-motion creation of Peig right up to their current work with HIT Productions (the guys who make Bob the Builder). In between we were treated to several short films, a few of their recent commercials and an Oasis video that they made.

I was only speaking to Cathal Gaffney a couple of months ago when he told me Brown Bag had moved into new premises in Smithfield. He also mentioned that they had about sixty people working for them. I wondered at the scale of the business at the time but I never realised the amount of work they have on hand. Its incredible that the two lads have made such a good fist of their business. In fact last night’s talk served to give me a greater insight into the stuff that goes on here in Dublin unbeknownst to most others and myself. It reaffirms my faith in the city when I see so many people doing such good things. Sweet Talk and the related Candy magazine have now become essential reference points for me. Both serve to keep me up to date on the world of Irish design. You could do worse yourselves than to turn up at the next one for a bit of a look and listen.

4 comments:

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Ross said...

There was always good reading in Mongrel, you just had to dig through the self-indulgent shite to start with. Not that there's anything wrong with self-indulgence, but I guess it depends who's doing it...

Jim Carroll said...

Magazines like Mongrel (and State or Foggy Notions) are important because they are hubs around which a whole bunch of people gather to do stuff and get the impetus to do a lot of other stuff in the future.

Regardless of what you think of the articles, it's the fact that the magazine exists in the first place , nd allows all these people to be creative, which is the most important thing of all. Mongrel's legacy will be all the people you mentioned and what they go onto do.

Matt Vinyl said...

Ha ha! The longer its gone the more I like it.

On a related note, Eoin Butler did a great piece in last weeks magazine for the Irish Times.

All in all there's nothing like a bit of revisionism.