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Mercury nominee Lisa Hannigan to play the R—is’n

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Lisa Hannigan rounds off a fruitful year with an Irish tour that takes in the Róisín Dubh on Tuesday next, December 8. She first emerged singing alongside Damien Rice in 2001, her beguiling voice adding immensely to the Kildare man’s songs. When that collaboration finished, Lisa began working on her own material, releasing her debut album last year. Sea Sew was met with very warm reviews and was nominated for this year’s prestigious Mercury Prize. All in all, it has been a busy but exciting year for Lisa Hannigan.

“It’s been pretty hectic, in a brilliant way,” says the Dublin based singer. “I had week off but I’d just come back from LA so I’m mad jet lagged. Most of time I’m at home at four in the morning going ‘Sleep!’.

“We were over doing a tour with David Gray. It was amazing craic; they were so nice, his crew, the band and the audience and everything. It was just brilliant.”

The short break at home provided some much needed downtime, but Hannigan is not bemoaning her packed diary.

“Myself and the band have been touring the whole year, pretty much. We’ve had a couple of weeks off here and there but mostly it’s been going all the time. There’s no complaint out of me!”

The Mercury Prize is one of the most respected awards in the music industry. It lauds big-name acts like Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead but also has a penchant for surprises, like when Klaxons were awarded the prize. Although Lisa was beaten to the Mercury by Speech Debelle, the nomination alone gave her profile a huge boost, especially in the UK.

“I wasn’t expecting it all; it wasn’t in my mind,” Lisa says. “I know my manager had entered the record but I didn’t even think about it aside from that. It was so unlikely; I was absolutely over the moon when I heard. The record we were bringing out independently, here and in the UK. It was such a gift; it’s hard to even get your record in the shops over there. That [nomination] really helps; it’s like a big kick!”

Lisa Hannigan and her band attended the ceremony in September and enjoyed the industry junket thoroughly.

“We kind of treated it as a bit of a Christmas party. We went and played our song, and it was great to watch everyone else. Then we just got pretty drunk! It was a brilliant night.”

The hand sewn artwork for Sea Sew really makes the album stand out from other dour looking releases. How did Lisa come with the eye-catching concept?

“I had wanted this idea of a needle book, of thread and fabric,” she explains. “I just thought I could stitch all the lyrics in. It worked out really well in the end. It took about a month to make it but I really enjoyed it.

“I’m actually sowing today as well, because we’re doing a special edition of the record,” she adds. “It’d got a live CD with it and some new videos. I’m stitching a new slip cover over the top so that’s what I’ve been up so late the last couple of nights.”

Although the singer’s first forays into songwriting were tricky, Sea Sew is the work of an artist who has found her feet.

“I used to find it very difficult,” Lisa says about the writing process. “I think it was the blank page syndrome, when you just don’t know where to start. A couple of years ago I started writing songs to some thumpy old bit, a really simple piece or a bass line. I’d write to that and figure out all the music afterwards which I found much easier.”

Lisa Hannigan is ably backed up by an excellent band. Do the musicians help her arrange her songs or does she bring finished songs to the table?

“A little bit of both,” she says. “Usually I would arrange them and say ‘this is the song’. Sometimes I’ll play it and they’ll all find their parts. It just depends really, if I see them the moment I’ve written it or whether I’ve got a couple of weeks to myself.”

Lisa and her band enjoyed a triumphant set at this year’s Electric Picnic but they didn’t have time to soak up the buzz for too long afterwards.

“I usually go down on the Thursday and get dragged out [of there] on the Monday,” says Lisa. “This year, because the Mercurys were on, I had to go down on the Saturday and leave on the Saturday evening. It was really brief! I hardly saw anything; I went for a really quick spin around the Body and Soul area and that was all I got the chance to do.”

Despite all this hurrying around, Lisa is glad to be as busy as she as is.

“I’m enjoying every minute – how could you not? The travelling and the playing, and the gigs have been going really well. I wanted to make the record, and I knew there were a couple of people waiting for it but you don’t know anything beyond that. I’m just so glad it’s gone down well – I still get really excited when I hear something on the radio!”

Before Lisa Hannigan released her album last year she embarked on a nationwide tour of small, intimate venues.

“I’d never stood at the front before,” she explains. “I really felt like I needed to do a tour and just figure it out, in front of an audience. They were brilliant those shows, it was so scary and so fun and exciting to be travelling around and doing it for the first time. I’ll always remember those shows very fondly.”

Within the space of a year, Hannigan has found herself going from these smaller places to playing bigger venues like Vicar St in Dublin and the Radisson show in Galway. Fans of the singer will be glad to know she’s excited to be coming west.

“I’m really looking forward to that gig,” Lisa says. “Galway’s one of the best place in the country to play, not just for the audience, but to just be in the city for the day. It’s always great to wake up and go ‘I’ve got four hours before sound check and I’m in Galway. Sweet!’.”

Lisa Hannigan plays the Róisín Dubh on Tuesday, December 8. Tickets €23 from Zhivago, Shop St or www.ticketmaster.ie or the venue.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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