Entertainment

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Ireland's got talent... and singing priests

Kirsty at large

Scout and about: Louis Walsh at the Ploughing Championships looking for next big thing
Scout and about: Louis Walsh at the Ploughing Championships looking for next big thing
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

The call out for Ireland's Got Talent is becoming increasingly broad - not to say, weird.

At first they wanted a man playing the spoons, then a dancing dog, then a yodelling nun.

This week, Louis Walsh began scouting talent at the Ploughing Championships, pleading with the insane to come forward.

"I want crazy, crazy, crazy! I want dancing pigs!" he said, before lowering his expectations and adding: "Or, if you can walk or talk, come along".

It looks like the clergy could be making a big appearance in two of Ireland's upcoming talent shows next year.

Not only are the producers of Ireland's Got Talent looking for "priests with special talents", but Father Ray Kelly, who became a viral sensation thanks to his version of 'Hallelujah', could be taking part in next season's Dancing with the Stars.

After all, the Church of England's Rev Richard Coles has been labelled the 'the new Ed Balls' this year on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing.

Coles knows a thing or two about rhythm, given that he was formally a member of 1980s gay pop duo The Communards, alongside Jimmy Somerville.

The pair recorded 'Don't Leave Me This Way', before Richard did in fact leave that way, ditching pop and becoming an openly gay priest.

There have been some objections that he isn't dancing with a man in this year's contest. But the Reverend posed an unanswerable question: "Who would lead?"

Dance shows always need a good comedic and/or novelty act. Last year, we had Des Cahill and his signature dance move, 'the Dessie Swim'.

As RTÉ have a tendency to follow the tried-and-tested Strictly formula (or, as some might say, lift it entirely), I had thought Fr Brian D'Arcy might do the foxtrot in his dog collar.

But producer Larry Bass brushed off the suggestion, before adding, "There are other singing priests in Ireland whom we may be considering".

As Fr Kelly is Ireland's premier singing priest (and there is substantial competition), I have decided to jump the gun, and have imagined that he will be lacquered in tan, and shimmying around the dance floor.

So I rang him to ask if he's up for it. It seems that he's currently on tour in the US, going around Vermont and Baltimore where they are big fans of his soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen's anthem. "I would definitely be open to it," he said. "Although, as it airs on a Sunday night, then I would need someone to cover Mass for me."

It must be hard juggling it all. Fr Kelly added that he is a better singer than dancer, but if he's half as good at box steps as hitting the old high notes, then I reckon he's a shoo in.

Plus, Fr Kelly's fandango has a certain ring to it, don't you think?

Corporate virtue-signalling is not pretty (in pink)

Corporate do-gooders don't like their work to go unnoticed.

They recognise its importance. It builds their profile, makes them look progressive and wholesome, and let's not forget, it also bolsters sales.

Sometimes these work - like when Gillette sponsored Movember moustaches. But other times it can all become a little forced - like when Skittles announced its logo was going 'nude' during London Pride as there "should only be one rainbow" that weekend. This sort of heavy-handed corporate branding feels David Brent-esque, and can result in lots of digital eye rolls.

But it's worth remembering these companies have reach and pushing health awareness issues or images of inclusivity has to be a positive thing. Even if it is schlocky as hell.

The real danger comes when companies start to co-opt events and campaigns for their own commercial gain. This week, an Irish PR company working for a large electrical retailer sent out an email in relation to Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The PR was aware that many magazines and newspapers would be running "pink pages" to raise awareness about women's health.

In the mail, the PR company presented a range of products available from the retailer that were various shades of rose gold and bubblegum pink, suggesting they would fit the tone of the page.

When asked if a proportion of the sales would go towards the charity, they admitted they were "not linked to the Breast Cancer Awareness initiative" but were sharing the images "for your consideration".

Surely this must be the most cynical form of corporate do-gooder; all that virtue-signalling, but with none of the profit of the products going towards the charity.

Which, in case you had forgotten, is funding breast-cancer research. It's an illness that affects 1 in 9 Irish women, and a campaign that relies on 98pc fundraising.

PRs may argue that by emphasising pink products the brand is rallying behind the campaign.

But the colour pink is not a metonymy for breast-cancer awareness.

In this case, this brand is using the success of a charity campaign to increase the visibility of their products, and bolster sales.

Later, the PR company said that it intended to make a donation to the charity late this year. It did not disclose how much.

This sort of cynicism does no one any favours: not consumers who may reasonably think they are giving money to charity, not the brand, but most crucial of all, it does little for women, or breast-cancer research.

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