• Wee Yarn Productions

First of all, I will just clarify for all my Aussie visitors. When I say "Craic" I mean the wonderful Irish word that translates to fun! I have been caught out way too many times here in Australia asking people in bars, "any craic?" or telling people that parties were so good because, "we had so much craic!!". It gets a very unsettled reaction.... So before I delve into this post, Craic = FUN.

However, since I was about 10 years old Craic is a word that has meant more to me than it's humble meaning of 'fun'. For those of you that know me well, you'll know that the CRAIC Theatre in Coalisland (my hometown) has been a big part of my life from my preteens, throughout my teenage years, and right up until now as I sit here, a not much wiser adult.

My experience of CRAIC Theatre began when my mother had realised that all my magnificent and incredibly annoying performances of "Tomorrow" from Annie were really and truly going to waste in my living room. My grandmother had often said that I "should be on the stage"! So it seemed to only make sense to start sending me on a Saturday morning to CRAIC theatre so I could focus my dramatic energy in a more productive way! Well, I can honestly say, it worked. And so began my addiction, my obsession, my passion for the stage.

As a child I wasn't athletic. I know some of my wonderful close friends will read this and laugh at athletic even being in a sentence alongside me. Playing football, camogie or any kind of physical activity was absolutely foreign to me. However, teach me a dance routine or encourage me to run around a stage and I was your girl. I felt free! I felt inspired! But most of all, I actually knew I was good at it. CRAIC theatre gave me such a gift at that young age. I finally felt a strong sense of belonging and excitement.

As I got that bit older, I was then offered the opportunity to have main, leading roles in CRAIC's productions. A memory that I will never forget, is being cast as a leading role in CRAIC's annual pantomime, "Treasure Island". It was the most lines I had ever had, the most stage time, the most responsibility! The opening night, we finished our final number and the curtain closed, (we had a curtain/gauze back then!!) and I remember standing and watching the audience continue to stand and cheer and celebrate our performance. They were celebrating our hard work. They were celebrating our bravery, as young kids, putting ourselves out there. They were celebrating our community. Their community! I remember that as a very defining moment of my life. As a young girl, around 13 years of age, I felt important, appreciated and seen.

My journey with CRAIC continued and I was driven then to study Theatre at university. That seed that CRAIC had planted 10 years before, had officially paved the way for my career to begin. When I finished my degree, with impeccable timing, a job opportunity came up, for a new Drama facilitator in the theatre. I jumped at the chance to apply, regardless of the fact that I had JUST graduated and wasn't even quite sure if I could do the job. I remember they phoned me and asked me was I sure I could do it? Was I confident to write, direct and facilitate? Was I ready?

With incredible false confidence I proclaimed, "yes, absolutely".

How lucky was I?! To have the opportunity to grow up with CRAIC and then come back, full circle, and have the opportunity to work with kids, just like myself. Through this experience I learned so much. I learned about how to facilitate, I learned how to stage HUGE productions, I learned how to write, direct and produce my own work, to an incredibly professional standard. But most importantly, I learned how much this work means to our community. How much it benefits our audiences to come and relax and laugh. How much it develops our children's confidence, hones their theatre skills and shows them a professional stage environment, in their own area. How much it brings people together, of all ages, of all backgrounds.

That is exactly was CRAIC gives to people. Opportunity. Opportunity to grow, to learn, to develop. Opportunity to laugh, dance, have fun! Once you are a part of CRAIC, it never leaves you. It supports all your ventures, celebrates your wins and offers you a safe space to always return to. Working with the most magnificent Youth Theatre, I can confidently say, there are so many kids and young people that rely on CRAIC for support, for learning and most importantly for fun and joy.

The pandemic has meant that CRAIC is now closed for the foreseeable, meaning they have taken significant cuts to their earnings from the box office. They have just released a crowd funding campaign and I fully encourage people to donate as much as is possible for them to protect and support an organisation that is so vital to our community.

Community theatre is so much more than "just entertainment". It's a space for young people to feel safe, to feel a part of something and to utilise their incredible talents. It's a space for all the amazing creatives in our area to gather, to share in their gifts and to delight audiences, time and time again. It's a space for the past, the present and the future and it would be more than a shame to ever see it disappear.

I have left a link to the crowd funding page below and I really hope you can take the opportunity to donate. Craic helped shape my life for the better, and we must support it so it can do the same for so many others, now and well into the future.

Thanks so much you lovely folk! I appreciate you all reading more than you know.

Sending good vibes, happy times and plenty of community theatre to all of you!

Aoibh x

  • Wee Yarn Productions

Lately I have been fascinated with exploring, learning and uncovering the life and artwork of Frida Kahlo. For most of us, she is known as the woman with an intense uni-brow, who has been printed on numerous t-shirts and mugs of late! And it's true, she did sport a magnificent singular eyebrow, with admirable confidence. Absolutely no signs of a dodgy razor job to the middle of those brows, which so many of us sport! (Yes, I'm talking to you).

However, I decided to dig a little deeper and find out more about her and what the big shake with Frida really was. Turns out, she's a pretty phenomenal and inspiring artist.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about her, however I'll tell you some things I've learned about her and from her on my journey of Frida discovery.

Number one: She was a magnificent Mexican artist, who focused mainly on self portraits. Hence why her striking face, eyebrow and all, has been adopted by popular culture. The images you are seeing of her, are often her own self portraits. Pretty badass.

Number two: She was severely injured in a bus accident. When I say severely, I literally mean, she was impaled by a railing. Sorry if that's a bit intense, but it truly only adds to how magnificent she was as a woman and artist. Her injuries meant she was confined to bed rest for months and had to leave her studies. But did she let that hold her back? Not our Frida! She began painting with a specially made easel that allowed her to create masterpieces from her bed, using an overhead mirror to paint her famous self portraits.

Number three: She was pals with Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. Lucky guys.

Number four: In 1953, Frida received an opportunity for her first solo art exhibition in Mexico, however at the time, she was severely unwell and bedridden. Yet again, with great Frida style resilience, she wouldn't let that stop her! She arrived to the exhibition in an ambulance and lay up in a four poster bed discussing her work, greeting her guests and just generally displaying a great example of magnificent-ness.

Number five: After her death, the feminist movement of the 1970's sparked a renewed interest in her work and life. This meant she became an icon of female creativity. She is one of the most widely quoted female artists and her work has transcended her initial goals of passing the time while she was sick.

As a young female artist, it only stands to sense that I am incredibly inspired, moved and motivated by Frida, not only as an inspiring woman, but as a resilient artist. She gives me hope, she champions the unconventional and she celebrates the Arts industry, even in death.

The industry is currently under so much pressure due to Covid19. Artists, venues and spectators are scraping the barrel for funds, yearning for live performance and feeling what can only be described as grief for our arts world. However, we can learn so much from the artists before us. We can learn so much from Frida's unrelenting resilience.

It gave me ultimate joy to see that the Dublin Theatre Festival is going ahead. And yes, there are restrictions, yes there are less people allowed in the auditorium, yes there are inconvenient measures in place with regards to masks etc. But how amazing is this?! How resilient is this?! How absolutely and utterly inspiring and motivating is this news?! In this, we are seeing first hand how we CAN shift and remould our industry to fit this new world. We CAN find a way, where there seems to be no hope. We CAN make moves towards an arts filled world again.

Frida was once quoted saying, "At the end of the day, we endure more than we think we can". She's right. Whether you're an artist, a venue, or anyone at all who feels impacted in any way by the past year's events, you can endure more than you think you can, you will endure more than you think you can and you have endured more than you thought you could. And in knowing that, we can do anything.

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  • Wee Yarn Productions

Picture this. I was around 13 years old, sitting in my living room with my family, watching a documentary about Fleetwood Mac. A scene flashes on the screen of Stevie Nicks, looking windswept and absolutely blow your mind magnificent, as usual. (Can you tell I'm a big fan?) She speaks slowly into the microphone with her smooth, dulcet tones and says, 'This is a song about a welsh witch'.

Thirteen year old me is



Totally overcome with admiration for this absolute female powerhouse.

She continues to sing the most beautiful, passion-filled and all round magic version of Fleetwood Mac's song, Rhiannon, and my life is changed forever.

You might be wondering, how can watching one clip of Stevie Nicks have changed your life for good? How can a Friday night, in your own living room, with a poorly recorded version of this performance displayed on a tiny 24'' TV, (and yes I know, we've all really grown in the TV department), have altered your 13 year old self?

Well, the truth about this is, that I can pin that moment, as the moment I learned that all I wanted to do was perform. I knew in that moment, that I was meant to perform. I knew in that moment that regardless of what society taught me about money, about success and about what was tangible for me as a 13 year old girl from the North of Ireland, I would create a life for myself that meant I could perform.

When people ask me why I chose this field, this industry, that is unreliable, underfunded, under appreciated and in many eyes, unimportant, all I can really answer is that I feel it is my vocation. When I perform, I feel that my soul is set on fire. When I write and someone tells me that it has resonated with them, I feel such a sense of belonging.

This year, I performed at the Adelaide Fringe with my own play The Daughters of Róisín. The play is very much an Irish play, with very Irish themes. When I got to Australia and realised how difficult it was going to be to convince a city full of Australian people to come see an international artist perform a play about history they know nothing about, I would be lying if I said I didn't feel like cutting and running. However, I thought back to my defining moment with Stevie Nicks. As a thirteen year old, I didn't know what that song was about, or where it came from. But what resonated with me was her passion, her undeniable stage presence and the feeling she gave ME 30 years after she had performed originally. That's exactly why I have chosen this path. That is why I feel such certainty about a life of creativity.

So yes, I enter into this uncertain industry with open arms. I refuse to believe that everyone who chooses a career in the arts has to fall into the 'starving artist' hole, and I do believe that in our society there is a perfect, important jigsaw piece for creative people.

So let's start celebrating, financing and supporting artists in our communities. Let's start valuing that creating, writing and performing has as much skill, value and importance as any other profession in our world. Let's notice all art in the world around us, and realise that without creativity there would be a serious lack of joy, beauty and hope.

I'm hoping that some time soon, everyone will value artists so much that I'll never be asked, 'Yeah, but what's your real job?' because, yep! I am an artist and that job is as real as they come.

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