Friday 23 March 2018

Revolutionary notes and words

Camille O’Sullivan will contribute to ‘England’ at the same venue on March 29
Camille O’Sullivan will contribute to ‘England’ at the same venue on March 29
Writer Joseph O’Neill, who is taking part in ‘On Revolution’ at the National Concert Hall on March 31, 2016.

When you think of home, what does it evoke? The National Concert Hall prompts such questions in its 2016 centenary programme. 'Imagining Home' is a seven-concert series in spring: America, England, Into Europe, On Revolution, The Literary Imagination, This is Ireland and Out of the Tradition.

Singer-songwriter Lisa O'Neill and Camille O'Sullivan are among the England line-up on Tuesday, March 29 2016, hosted by John Kelly. 

"Musically, we are so connected," Camille explains of England/Ireland relations. Both have toured considerably in England. O'Neill says: "I've worked with some wonderful musicians like Neill MacColl and Billy Bragg and I've learned from them."

O'Sullivan has also worked with MacColl, who is leading the England concert band. One of O'Neill's most evocative songs is 'England Has My Man'. And while it 'seems to resonate with a nostalgia for emigration', she says, 'it was originally written about a short-lived romance'. 'Lyrically I think in English', she says 'but when it comes to melody and tone, it's coming from somewhere more rooted'.

She often uproots to tour and has crossed the Irish Sea "maybe 50 times" to perform in England. However, it was a recent "more than choppy" night ferry from France that brings to mind her image of Ireland: "I lay rocking in the little cabin bed and I imagined Ireland being a little green survivor bouncing up and down on the ocean," she says.

The concert promises to be a 'magical' evening, according to O'Sullivan. Among the other performers are Martin Carthy, Cait O'Riordan, Paul Brady, Andy Irvine and Cathal Coughlan. She is looking forward to performing at home. 

"It's like being amongst the family, they know you so well," she says. 

Writer Joseph O'Neill, meanwhile, is taking part in On Revolution on Thursday, March 31. He believes it is "important for everyone to look back at the past... because the past is constantly changing and constantly contested. Art, if it's good, offers a special proximity to truth," he says.

And when it comes to looking back at Ireland's cultural successes of the past 100 years, he notes "the Irish culture of words - Joyce, Beckett, late Yeats, Flann O'Brien, Heaney, Friel, etc". 

He adds: "I'm not a big fan of nationalising artistic achievement, but I can't willfully fail to notice the asymmetrical per capita achievements of 'our' writers. Ireland has been to writing in English what the Dominican Republic has been to baseball." 

Alison Martin

Tickets for Imagining Home, from Monday, March 28 to Sunday, April 3 2016 are available from

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News