Tuesday 27 June 2017

Singer Glen Hansard makes history as the first ever recipient of the Brendan Behan award

The inaugural DIT Brendan Behan Award presented this evening to internationally acclaimed song-writer, musician, actor and Dubliner, Glen Hansard. Photo: Sasko Lazarov
The inaugural DIT Brendan Behan Award presented this evening to internationally acclaimed song-writer, musician, actor and Dubliner, Glen Hansard. Photo: Sasko Lazarov
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Singer songwriter Glen Hansard made history tonight as the first ever recipient of an award honouring the legacy of legendary writer Brendan Behan.

The former Grafton Street busker from Ballymun who went on to win an Oscar and become a household name on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond was presented with the inaugural Brendan Behan award on behalf of the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) where Behan attended in 1937 as an apprentice house painter at the former technical school on Bolton Street from where he was later expelled.

Behan later said he chose to write because "it was easier than house painting."

"We were probably doing Irish literature a favour," DIT's Director and Dean of Arts John O'Connor said of the writer's expulsion from the college before introducing the award.

But his literary genius and legacy as of one of Ireland's greatest writers despite his premature death at 41 was what inspired DIT's student societies to establish the award to honour those "who have demonstrated excellence in the area of arts and culture " and who "paved the way for those artists abroad."

Mr Hansard, meanwhile, said he was deeply honoured to be selected for the award that recognises his significant contribution to the arts through his work as a singer-songwriter and frontman for The Frames, The Swell Season, as well as an actor in 'The Commitments' and star of the low budget film 'Once'.

The film, made on a shoestring budget of €120,000 not only won him an Oscar for his song 'Falling Slowly',  but went on to become a Broadway musical that has toured London, Dublin and North America.

"The fact it's from Dublin means the world to me," he said of the Behan gong.

"I'm really knocked out and truly honoured to receive this award in Dublin," he said.

Addressing the mostly student audience about his early days as a recalcitrant youngster who discovered music after being inspired by a Bob Dylan cassette that he still has today, he recalled the first 20 pence he earned busking off Grafton Street before he got up the nerve to hit the pedestrianised shopping street.

"I used it to buy a cup of tea which was the best ever because I earned it," he said.

He also paid tribute to his old friend Pete Short, whom he first met selling 'In Dublin' magazine outside Bewley's on Grafton Street, who introduced him to the world of poetry and literature, including poetry readings with Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.

Like Behan, whom he described as "a rough acerbic man" from inner city Dublin who went on to become a literary star on the world stage, he paid tribute to a "poetic arc" that in the words of his friend Bono, saw him go from "Grafton Street to the Kodak Theatre" where he won the 2007 Academy Award for best song in a motion picture.

"There's a poetic arc that makes sense," he said.

"But all of this is a bit overwhelming to me," he said to a standing ovation.

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