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Story Season Part 2: Sé Sé

My 18-month-old son has recently started nursery. His name is Séaghdha (‘Shay’) but if you’re in the know, you call him Sé Sé (‘Shay Shay’). When I was his age and my mother needed childcare I was looked after by my great aunt, my grandfather and two ghosts. My grandmother had just died and Granda [...]

Story Season Part 1: Dredging

I have a slow burn project I’ve been working on for a few years: a documentary podcast about part of my family’s story during the Troubles. I’ve been going through some of the audio recently for the first time in ages. Two years ago last month my family came together in Donegal to celebrate my [...]

Story Season

When I do story work the first thing I have people do is divide their life up into chapters and answer a set of questions about each time period. They decide when chapters begin and end. I’ve received and read countless of these life story exercises and for most people a new chapter begins in [...]

21 Days of Place: Day 1 – Echoes

I can’t see a red Tommee Tippee sippy cup without flashing back to the ruins of an old school house along the road from Derry to Dunfanaghy. When I was three my grandfather took me on a ‘road trip’ to Dunfanaghy, the place of my grandmother’s birth. The journey is only an hour long but [...]

21 Days of Place

I’ve stared at the camera roll on my phone more over the past 10 months than ever before. Usually it starts in the evening after the kids are in bed. I pull up a picture of the baby and show it to John, “Look at this one I took of him today.” Next thing I [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 21 – Unresolved

“I had a pretty dark period myself not so long ago,” my friend told me. We were talking in the pub about another friend who was in the midst of a significant personal struggle. “I didn’t realise that,” I said. He told me a little more about it and then returned to his point about [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 20 – Glimpses

Last year I gathered a small but eclectic group for the first Dunfanaghy Retreat. People travelled from England, Colombia, Australia, and all over the US to come together in Donegal. The location was, as one participant put it, not even the middle of nowhere but the end of nowhere. On the first day we gathered [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 19 – Smoke Signals

I always thought of English as one of my weakest subjects at school. By the time my GCSEs rolled around I felt pretty confident with English Literature – I’d studied the texts, followed in class when the subtext and deeper meanings were explored, and I understood the breakdown of the characters and their motivations. English [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 18 – Extraction

“Now, what extraction is he?” We were at a wedding in Derry and an older woman was asking one of my mother’s friends about John. I know older people in Derry who claim they can tell whether someone’s Catholic or Protestant just by looking at them but put a non-white person in front of them [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 17 – The Mystery of Joan

There wasn’t a huge amount of space for one-on-one time when I was a child. That’s how it is in big families, there are always plenty of people around. But for a few years I had an hour or more of undivided one-on-one time with Joan every day. I’d walk to her house off the [...]