Neo Soul Playlist – By Clara Rose Thornton (African-American Traditions Fused With the World)

V&V - DUBLIN monthly poster

Story, Song, Sensuality, Attitude

By Clara Rose Thornton

Vice & Verses: Neo-Soul Brigade is a new celebration of word, sound, and multicultural craic. The nature of tonight’s event takes traditional African-American forms of expression — soul, hip-hop, jazz, blues, spoken word poetry – and fuses them with the international cultures and expressions they’ve met in the contemporary age. Soul updated and operating with other forms was coined “neo-soul” in the late 1990s. In recent years, Ireland’s joined the bandwagon, and we’re not talking about “The Commitments.” Here’s a journey through neo-soul to get you in the mood.

Dallas, Texas: Erykah Badu – “On and On,” 1997

And so we begin with the “Queen of Neo-Soul.” Erykah Badu, cloaked in historicity while conjuring the new, debuted with “Baduizm” in 1997, a sumptuous mix of contemporary R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and funk. “On and On” was the album’s first single. The video is phenomenal, as it takes us to the roots of black music: the South, toil, hardship, where African-American musical forms from gospel to electronica have their foundation. Creating beauty from uncertainty were these sounds’ raison d’etre. The video is steeped in so much cultural nuance, even down to why African and African-American women would wrap their hair — to keep it up and away during days of sweltering outdoor labor. Badu, along with early neo-soul contemporaries D’Angelo and Maxwell, injected international sales appeal into what had been a niche American market.

Richmond, Virginia/New York: D’Angelo – “Brown Sugar,” 1995

What many considered a love song is actually a comically self-aware ode to Mary Jane. The butter-smooth vocals and laid-back beat combined hip-hop and R&B in a way that spread around the world, an influence seen in Irish musicians today such as Funzo. D’Angelo plastered the image of alpha mascuinity and male sensuality onto singing, showing that a male R&B vocalist could be more complex than a lovesick crooner.

Toronto: The Weeknd – “Tell Your Friends,” 2015


The Weeknd is interesting to me due to combining old hip-hop lyrical themes of partying, boasting, and bravado with Michael-Jackson-esque vocals, a consistent indie-film video aesthetic, and references to contemporary digital life. His music and image is everything enjoyable about hipster culture (just look at his hair): the postmodern “it’s all been done before” wink, the irreverance, the sleekness. But he’s also self-aware, artistic, and genuinely soulful. The Weeknd is akin to 2015 Brooklyn youth meets “I Wanna Rock With You” MJ.

London: FKA Twigs – “Papi Pacify,” 2013

FKA Twigs is a time-bomb of innovation. The half-Jamaican, 1/4-Spanish, 1/4 English, London-born dancer, songwriter, and singer also concieves of and directs her own videos — each a piece of boundary-pushing art. Her sound, to me, is firmly trip-hop, which originated as England’s dark, psychedelic answer to hip-hop in the early 1990s. The most recognized names in trip-hop are Tricky, Massive Attack, and Portishead, all associated with ’90s Britain. Twigs takes the smoky, glitchy beats and silky vocals associated with the genre and injects them with wholly distinct new life.

London/New York: Floetry – “Say Yes,” 2002

No neo-soul compendium would be complete without the gorgeous afrocentric essence of Floetry. Floetry, who got their start in the British spoken word scene before moving to New York, was part of the early consortium putting neo-soul on the map. In fact, along with Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, their presence on the music scene pushed the very idea of what neo-soul is, and confirmed its feminine dominance. Being British, they also gave it an international flavor for the first time. They mix vocals with spoken word and tout the attitude of performance poetry culture. The video oozes authenticity; it takes me right back to Harlem. Neo-soul’s about pride: in one’s self, in one’s culture, in one’s message. It’s all here, the scribbling in notebooks on a subway, the dreadlocks once they were finally de-stigmatized, black love, black art, ahhh.

Dublin: Funzo, “Take Our Time,” 2012

Dublin’s Funzo is a perfect example of how diverse neo-soul is today, 18 years after the term was first coined by Erykah’s Badu’s label exec, Kedar Massenburg, to market her sound. Liam McDermott, who performs at Vice & Verses, has a voice I like to call “a powdery pink fog.” When you first spy this Leixlip, Kildare-bred lad, you mightn’t expect the emotion-rich timbre and personal lyrics of his style, unique in Ireland. His is arguably the mot recognized name in Irish R&B today, and this beautiful ode to human fragility and relationships lets you know why.
Vice & Verses: Neo Soul Brigade, Tuesday 1 December, 8 p.m., The Liquor Rooms, 5 Wellington Quay

Clara Rose Thornton
Spoken Word Artist | Culture Journalist | Organizer

M: +353 87.391.7222 (Dublin)
M: +1 917.675.3291 (New York)


Video-Poem – Where is My Mind, by Jack Keating


Today my Making Poetry Now class at the American College Dublin will be showcasing 8 new and original poetry-films made as course assignments.

Above is Jack Keating’s Where is My Mind, part of the showcase.

The poetry-film is a 21st Century poetry form and, alongside performance poetry, is rapidly displacing the poetry-book-collection as the central medium of the art.

My students and I are all very proud to be the first third-level poetry making course in Ireland to recognise and go with this.

The poets showing new films are Jack Keating, Thomas Morgenroth, Christopher Brooks, Immortan Andrew, Alexander Kneip, David Dolan, Sende-Maria Davis, and James Mckenna. The reading will be held in Room 4 of the main building.

All are welcome to the showcase which takes place American College Dublin 2 Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland Dublin 2 from 5 to 6pm.

Email you would like help in producing a poetry film – something every poet who wants to reach out beyond the tiny audience of text-only poetry should consider.

Dave Lordan

NHS #WTF? – How Has It Come to This?

NHS last as long

When I first arrived in England, I was handed a medical card and my first thoughts were that either it was crazy, or a brilliant idea. Growing up in Ireland, I watched my mum saving receipts year after year for the Voluntary Health Insurance annual return. I still wonder to this day, what happens to the people who don’t qualify for a medical card, yet are unable to afford the VHI contributions.

Twenty years on, I am proud to say that I work in one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The NHS consistently ranks in the top 20 World Health Organisation’s rankings of best global healthcare systems, since 2000, way ahead of other developed nations such as the US and Australia.  In a 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund, the NHS ranked first in several indicators such as safety, effectiveness, efficiency, patient-centredness and co-ordination of care.

Our beloved system however, needs some serious resuscitation.  Due to what is now widely acknowledged as severe underfunding and negative interference by successive governments, the future of the NHS is in grave danger.

As usual, all good press gets buried by the major media outlets. The latest consultation on the future of the NHS, where the public gets to have their say, was as good as buried. There is very little in the way of integrated discussion of how things have gotten this bad.

Many healthcare workers of all disciplines, that I speak to on a daily basis, are of the belief that the NHS is being systematically underfunded, so that it can be called broken, leaving it wide open for the private sector to fill the gap. This has already begun by stealth.  Support services such as Estates, Housekeeping and Sterile Services have been outsourced in many NHS trusts for some time. Private consortiums now run out of hours GP services and operations are outsourced to the private sector. This may be good for efficiency, but often actually costs the NHS more.

The building of new hospitals has been almost wholly outsourced to the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  This is a particularly neat scheme, which will build a new hospital, then rent it back at x rate for a minimum of 30 years, while retaining the contract for maintenance that the Trust pays for.  Ownership reverts back to the Trust at the end of the lease.

What no-one talks about is how difficult it will be to get any maintenance done on that building during that 30 years; how long you will have to wait to get a door closer fixed.  Then there is the aspect of building under PFI that means if the light switch hasn’t been written into the plans, it won’t be included in the building. It will be very interesting to see the state of these buildings when they are finally handed back to the NHS and after the financial havoc wreaked on the NHS as a whole.

One of the worst things is that healthcare workers’ terms and conditions have been under attack for some time now.  If the government gets to push through these unsafe changes, it not only gets to continue underfunding the NHS, it can also lay the blame at the door of healthcare workers, thereby providing it with a convenient scapegoat.

The latest attack on the NHS comes in the form of proposals to change the Junior Doctors contract. If these proposals go through, it will shove the faces of an already demoralised workforce into the mud all the harder.  What the general public does not really realise, is that “Junior Doctor” means every doctor other than a consultant or General Practitioner (GP).  The proposals mean that all junior doctors will work more and harder, earn as much as £15,000 less pa, and have the legal right to a proper break on a twelve hour shift removed. The threats that these proposals pose to patient and staff safety are self-evident.


I have done the twelve hour shifts alongside these doctors; they don’t get food or toilet breaks as it is, yet they drop everything and come when they are called, night and day, to stop people getting sicker and save lives. Doctors who work part time (invariably women with children) will not be able to make ends meet and so not only will the NHS lose talented doctors, it will also become a discriminatory workplace.

Junior Doctors, most of whom are members of the British Medical Association, have voted to go out on a series of strikes by an unprecedented majority of 98%. The last time doctors ‘went on strike’, it was more of a work to rule.  The current proposal for a series of three strikes has much farther reaching consequences.

The Junior Doctors are, on some level, going out for all of us.

Nurses* in particular, do not go on strike, largely out of a fear of disciplinary action, but also because the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the biggest nursing union in the UK, does not truly support strike action by its members, with a stipulation about patients not coming to harm.

Nurses are working longer and harder, in a background of continual change, both to the service infrastructure and equipment they use to deliver care.  An enormous amount of the mandatory continuing professional development requirements imposed on all healthcare professionals already takes place in their own precious off-duty time.

This is what’s been happening to the nurses since 2008:

  • Government reneged on a pay deal made in 2008, promising 3% that year, 2% in 2009 and 1% in 2010. Nurses only saw the first year of that promise.
  • There has been no rise in salary, except through the increment system. Nurses at the top of the increment who don’t move banding will not see any extra money at all.
  • When everything is taken into account, nurses have taken a real terms pay cut of nearly 10% since 2008.
  • Nurses already don’t get their breaks – time the NHS does not pay them for and most never get the time they are owed back; whether it’s through not being able to take their break, or having to stay behind to either ensure situations are safe, or something essential gets done.  Nurses also do all of this, all the time.
  • NHS Pension terms and conditions have been drastically altered, while the minimum contribution has been forcibly raised. Combined with the higher retirement age being imposed on everyone, this means most healthcare workers will be working longer and harder, for less return.
  • The latest attack is on student nurse and midwife bursaries, which the government proposes should be scrapped altogether. This means that students will basically be turned into unpaid skivvies, undervalued before they even begin practising as qualified. They will then graduate with debt. This will likely lead to serious problems with recruitment as students cannot afford to study and will not apply for or complete courses.
  • Time given over to professional development has been cut year on year.
  • The new revalidation requirements coming into force by the Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) council in 2016 are very likely to take more hours to complete than under the previous system of PREP.
  • All of the above means nurses are being asked to do more with less, year on year.

Lately there has been the much trumpeted figure of a several billion cash injection into the NHS. However, proper examination of this proposal reveals that it would effectively mean a 20% overall reduction in funding across the NHS as a whole, in order to come up with the money.

Apart from the obvious reasons of why people in the UK should be seriously concerned about any of this, there are additional reasons why people in Ireland should be concerned:

  • Irish family and friends in the NHS face continuing sustained financial pressure, while working longer and harder, in a culture that undervalues their contribution to society.
  • Irish people who need to travel to the UK for treatment that can’t be carried out in Ireland face increased bills, especially if care becomes privatised.
  • The thousands of women who travel to the UK for abortions every year.
  • Young Irish who intend to train in the UK may face an increased burden of debt

The NHS is one of, if not the best, healthcare system in the world. It is safe, efficient and patient centred – I would have no hesitation in having a member of my family treated by the NHS.

It would be very foolish to stand by and watch it being dismantled piece by piece, which is what will happen if things continue on the current track.

It would be impossible to resuscitate it.

OlympicNHS image

The term *Nurses* as used here, encompasses nurses, midwives, operating department practitioners, healthcare assistants and many other staff who are subject to the same terms and conditions.

Barbara O’Donnell

#saveournhs #LoveYourNHS #bigupthenhs #NHSunited #NotFairNotSafe #juniordoctors #juniorcontract #nhs #patientsafety #healthcare #hearnursesroar #odp #midwife #StrongerTogether #IminworkJeremy

What Should Be Done to Increase Equality of Opportunity in the Irish Arts? by Fiona O’Leary


The Abbey Theatres ‘Waking the Nation’ 2016 commemorative programme has once more highlighted the long known fact that the level of gender bias and sexual inequality within the Irish arts is at an unacceptable level. With only one of the ten chosen plays penned by a woman! An even worse imbalance exists when one looks at the pitiful number of plays directed by a woman over the last few decades.

However gender discrimination is commonplace in all aspects of the Arts including Public broadcasting, Radio and Television.

It is also true that discrimination does not just stop at gender but also relates to those who are different in Society.

Those with a disability or conditions such as Autism are very rarely given opportunities to create careers in this field or garnish the support they need to achieve this goal.

So for me, a woman on the Autistic spectrum, the odds of inclusion and success within the world of the Arts is severely challenged from the outset.

What can be done to improve the situation? I believe it must start in our schools, with our children.

The very soul of Art is expression and inclusion for everyone regardless of gender or difference; it is what brings us as a community together.

Many Autistic people including myself depend greatly on the Arts as a communication tool.

The songs I write are cathartic and vital; the words I write are my deepest feelings which I find otherwise impossible to impart.

All artistic endeavours, intertwined with inclusion of those who are different, need to be embraced with the same seriousness and appreciation as the academics right from the start of our children’s development and on in to adulthood.

Perhaps then in time a change will come for all.


Fiona O’Leary is an Advocate for Autistic Rights and founder of Autistic Rights Together




SILENCE – The Greatest Weapon of Gender-Based Violence

4 rain
Are you a witch or are you a fairy/ Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?

The thing about gender-based violence is that it doesn’t just happen during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. It doesn’t just happen in the street. It doesn’t just happen to working class women or Traveller women or women in third-world countries. It doesn’t just happen to women. And it doesn’t happen overnight.

It begins even as you do, as quietly and insidiously as any other form of bullying. Headstrong. Cantankerous. Lively. A handful. Good at giving lip. Good at giving cheek. Good at the back-chat. Good at crossing the line. Good at overstepping the mark.

It might crop up in jest – seemingly innocent. It might be a teacher or carer, “heehawing away” as Galway Kinnell wroteall of us, without asking if, underneath we weren’t striking back, too late at our own parents, for their humiliation of us”.

It might be you laughing the loudest.

But it might be you also lying quite still in the dark and wondering later how even jest can twist and turn and morph.

It might be a look, a word, a warning.

It might start out as a feeling. This is often how gender-based violence happens at first, taking such firm root that long before blood or fists of breakages – and even if you never experience one single physical incident – it has hold of you.

It happens in hundreds of ways that seem petty, mundane, bordering on ridiculous: school afternoons when – as a girl- you were kept inside to knit or sew as the boys ran wild in the yard. It might be six or seven or eight of these school years, sitting inside and waiting for their football to knock against the window. Knock, knock, knocking: reminding you – this is just how it is.

It might be bloodless, leaving no marks.

It might happen verbally: words becoming bullets. There are no strikes to a little girl as effective as a well-delivered threat. You better watch yourself, better watch your step. You’ll be left on the shelf, you’ll be left holding the babies, taken away by the fairies, taken away by the men in white coats.

Gender-based violence makes you the watchman of yourself.

And the watchman lives and thrives in the nervous system. He’s the reason your breath quickens when you think you hear footsteps behind. He is why you blame yourself for taking the short road. He trembles your whole body, even as you look around and find no-one there. Illusive, evasive and visceral, gender-based violence leaves you feeling like a fool. And when someone says smile, it might never happen, you smile.

But you know: it’s happening.

And gender-based violence affects men too. Look what is happening to estranged fathers, troubled youths, the number of men with mental health difficulties, the suicide rate. If anything, the war on men is a point-in-case that gender-based warfare is much more than brute force.

But for the war on women we reserve extra efficient artillery, and one more than any other trumps all: silence.

Deadly, easy to access, easy to use: silence is, perhaps, the greatest weapon of everyday gender-based violence.

In 1895 Bridget Cleary was the last ‘witch’ burned in Ireland by her husband and relatives. Today we don’t burn, we turn the volume down to a level so low it is, in itself, a terror of sorts.

In Ireland, for example, the number of sexual offences against women is steadily on the rise, as resolution through the court declines. Women in Ireland are not speaking out. Make no mistake, women are still being scarred.

 Dramaqueen. Diva. Looking for attention. Looking for an audience. Looking for it. Bitchcuntwitchwagonslutwhoretramp.

We silence women in the courts, silence women in the health-care system, silence women in the church, silence women on the national stage. Last month Waking The Feminists was born to try and discuss what happens when women in theatre are prevented from sharing, directing and acting out their stories.

‘We tell each other stories ‘in order to live’ writes Joan Didion.

So, what happens when we are not allowed to tell our stories? We begin to die a little. The girl inside, with the ball knocking against her window over and over and over again, withdraws into herself, further wounded.

If we cannot hear stories that reflect our lives, our lives become inaccessible, irrelevant, dreamlesss. If we are to end gender-based violence, we need the arts in the same way that we need politics, media, technology. These shared social spaces are the radios by which we hear ourselves and others; these are the mirrors. These are the places in which, finally, disarming can begin.

Until 10 December 2015, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign aims to raise awareness of all types of violence, including physical, emotional and psychological. Use this opportunity to explore a deeper understanding of what gender-based violence really means and the depths to which, over a lifetime, it happens to us all.

Annemarie Ni Churreain