Outside in the damp, Autumn, open air; the smell of beer, the feel of cobbles, the wisps of smoke float with ambivalence.
And all around the glorious sound of untrained, organic voices.
The raw presence, of human voice and human finger tips, singing with unbridled spirit .
No stage, no make up, no lights, no cameras. It’s not a show – there’s no space between players and participants, musician and mass are one.
Strolling in a drizzly Dublin on a Sunday afternoon, the discovery of this little courtyard one step from the street filled with the warm and voice of 2 dozen or so bodies, was impossible to ignore. As was the Guinness, which it is true, does taste better in Ireland!
With the imminent move of my boyfriend to this new city, I found myself paying particular attention to the life and culture of ‘Dubliners’ as we explored. Not only, is this somewhere I could spend a weekend, but is this somewhere I could move to, integrate with and build a life in?
What I found in the city, and in this particular bar, was something unique that I have not ever encountered in London – or anywhere else in the world.
As the musicians, who were seated around a wooden table in amongst everybody else, struck up their instruments the feeling was at first of listening in to a casual practice session ‘Oh, so people just bring their instruments to the pub to meet and practice – that’s novel’, I mused. But then a deep, rich voice rang out with such force I was taken aback and the atmosphere changed immediately. Feet on cobbles began to tap, a 2nd voice joined the first, and then a third, a fourth. Claps rang out, the bassy thuds of fists on tables. We were no longer listening in, but a part of the performance.
Finding ourselves comfortable in the presence of strangers. Not strangers any longer, through the power of shared experience. Shared spirit, and shared history in the telling of Irish stories of old, through the power of song. I didn’t know a word of the Irish rebel songs that rang out in that courtyard, from the sound of it a lot of them were about the persecution and repression of the Irish under English rule, but that didn’t matter. If I had happened to have a song in my heart and a guitar in my hand, nothing would have stopped me striking up a tune and being met with a round of notes from fellow musicians and voices.
Back in London, the city is filled with people from all walks of life, from all cultures and creeds. Although the city has a rich history, we do not seem to share in it, celebrate it or memorialise it in the same way the Irish do. Sometimes, on a jam packed tube train or a crowded, pushy shopping street it can feel that though we are living on top of each other here, in our millions, we have lost our ability to connect at all. Maybe we don’t share a common history or a common culture, but we do share something much deeper than that – a common humanity – which can still be reached. Performances like this one in Dublin, which is just an example of the many of their kind across Dublin and the rest of Ireland, unite people with a shared feeling. What performance can be devised to generate that feeling of shared experience here in London? How can we remind each other that we are all human?