One’s Point of View

It’s an odd thing being an Irish Catholic over in Britain on the Queen of England’s Jubilee weekend. Whereas it’s always good to experience a country en fete, the abundance of union jack bunting has a disconcerting impact on someone of my cultural background. Still, I went out with my camera this morning with the intention of capturing the natives celebrating their Britishness –  but to my disappointment, most were just shopping, eating ice cream and enjoying the few hours of sunshine – and not doing anything remotely Englishy or Britishy or Queeny.

I’ve always found that watching other nations investigate and express their identity allows me to regard my own with fresh eyes – and this fact feeds my writing. I write endlessly about Ireland and my Irishness. I don’t particularly want to – attempts have been made int eh past to focus on other locations where I have lived or spent time, but my writing always revolts, and brings me back to the land of my birth. And I have not lived in Ireland for a long, long time (I’m in good company, James Joyce put himself into exile for twenty years before he produced his masterpiece set in Dublin on June 16th 1904…)

Other nations’ relationship with their identity that has always held a mirror. It was through grappling with the extreme, blinkered, inward looking nationalism of elements of Eastern European culture that I began to see parallels with a certain promotion of Irish culture in the arts. Can I count the number of twee, riverdancy depictions of us all as mystic Celtic fairies? Oy vey. I’m far more a follower of the school of Synge and Playboy of the Western World and it’s investigation of the dark and surreal side of the Irish identity.

So, I’m here in Norwich on the Jubilee weekend watching a native people largely apathetic to the event – but enjoying the four days off and (weirdly) I’m rather annoyed that they’re not being more British about it all because that would make more sense to me. And now I have to go think about why I feel that way, and why we Irish have to have a St. Patrick’s Day and Riverdance type cultural promotion? Or why Irish writers often feel that they have to write about Irish identity – when British writers rarely feel the same obligation? It’s an interesting question and not quite the one I expected to pop up from today’s excursion…. I feel a short story coming on….

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About suehealy

Award-winning Irish writer/playwright Sue Healy’s work has been supported and developed by Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, the Peggy Ramsay Foundation and Arts Council England. Her full-length stage plays include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s work has also been performed at the Finborough, Arcola, Hackney Attic and Sterts theatres, and at festivals including the Claremorris Fringe (New Writing Award winner), the Brighton (Sussex Playwrights’ Award winner), the UEA Contemporary European Drama Festival, Norwich. December 2017 will see her work showcased at the Criterion theatre in London. Radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. She has been a finalist for BBC Scriptroom 12, Eamon Keane Playwriting Prize, Nick Darke Award and the Old Vic 12 New Voices. Sue's prose has won the the Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award and has been published widely. Sue has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from juried artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. Sue is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumna. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She is currently London-based, completing a Ph.D. on the Royal Court Theatre. Sue is an Associate Lecturer in Playwriting at the Universities of Lincoln and Portsmouth, and tutors Creative Writing at City Lit. She is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre. View all posts by suehealy

18 responses to “One’s Point of View

  • cyclingrandma

    Fantastic photo! Not sure why there isn’t that much excitement about the Queen’s jubilee– not on this side of the pond either! She doesn’t have the star allure like the younger royals.

  • marlenedotterer

    I have an idea about why, but full disclosure first: I’m American. Half Irish, half Italian. I often say my soul is all Irish, but it’s probably true that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Oh, I’m also not Catholic. My Irish side was of the Protestant persuasion.

    Why do the Irish need to celebrate Irishness? Could it be because “Irish” has long been considered second class? Over the centuries, In the eyes of the British, the Irish were the “other,” and could never measure up, no matter how wealthy, educated, or cosmopolitan any particular Irish-person was. To be Irish and Catholic, brought one even further down the ladder.

    Today, we know that such bigotry is not only cruel, it’s wrong – meaning it’s both morally reprehensible, and inaccurate. Consider a person who has been bullied and mocked for years. This person may know, deep inside, that he or she is worthwhile, and may even have cut ties with the abuser(s), and gone on to accomplish many wonderful things. But there remains a lingering need for validation.

    I suspect this is partly where the Irish are at, and I, for one, am happy to provide all the validation I can. The fact that Ireland celebrates its Irishness is a boon and a delight to the rest of the world. Never stop, please.

  • Typehype

    “Can I count the number of twee, riverdancy depictions of us all as mystic Celtic fairies? Oy vey.” hahahaha This is what I love about your writing. Can’t wait for your next short story.

  • georgehamilton

    I agree with Marlene’s view on this. I’ll state it from the other POV. I believe when the people of a country feel confident with their position in the world, they don’t feel a need to promote themselves. This is where the British are at. It can be a false confidence, because as you in reality decline, you fail to recognize it or do anything about it, and the bottom to which you descend can be deeper. But isn’t that how all empires fade?

  • karenlee thompson

    Very interesting post and a thoughtful response from marlenedotterer too. We down here in the Antipodes have a soft spot for the Irish, the spot for the English being a little harder. Just a generalisation of course. Despite embracing my Australian-ness and reading and writing about it constantly, I am not much of a flag-waver. In fact ‘Australia Day’ makes me cringe, partly because it is seen by many of the population as ‘Invasion Day’ but also because all that flag waving reminds me too much of a war-time insular mentality.
    I’d best not get started on the Queen’s Jubilee…I might never stop. Suffice to say that, whilst having nothing against the Queen or her extended family, I do find the whole idea of the monarchy a wee bit outdated and a little too ‘Englishy’.

  • Mark

    You should come and experience Australia day next year then. It’s interesting to see regular folks suddenly feel the urge to have a barbie, cook a damper, play cricket, and adorn themselves in Australian flags.

  • lauras50by50

    My first time in Ireland in 1995, I felt a sense of lack of national pride amongst the Irish that shocked me as an Irish-American who, though many generations removed from my mother land, felt a stronger sense of Irish pride than actual Irish citizens did. It is a phenomenon common in the Irish diaspora. Returning in 2008, I saw much Irish pride…quite a difference.

  • Ian Moone

    I don’t know what Englishness really is, but I do know I always seem to cross British off the form and put in English. Living in Briton in theses years is sometimes a little odd, all those connected countries trying to separate. Some times I think it is because we got conquered more from Anglo Saxons times so as we absorbed cultures we have lost the ability to define English(y) things so well. Love the comments and thoughts

  • EllaDee

    Great photo. Interesting isn’t it? We watched news reports about the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and went “yeah, yeah, big deal, a bit OTT” but Australia Day is a different kettle of fish entirely 🙂

  • wightrabbit

    I have Scots/Welsh heritage and was brought up in Wales. So I find it confusing being surrounded by national fervour for an institution that oppressed and exploited my ancestors! Pity that the weather is so ….British…..though! 🙂

  • redjim99

    Probably more going on with overseas ex-pats? I think we do more when at a distance from home, we miss it more perhaps.

  • kjanehealy@gmail.com

    Very good comments made there, however you did interupt my union jack napkin making hour..

  • lambskinny

    Wondering Sue, if you might buy my novel there in Britain at Amazon.com/uk. You may recall that it’s called METAL MAN WALKING. I’d love your feedback, especially on Amazon.com/uk.

    Now I realize you likely receive an enormous number of requests, so I understand if you can’t do this.

    I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Thanks in advance, Carley

  • darkjade68

    Thank you for Following “The Dark Globe” Sue, We Really Appreciate it… It’s June Follower Appreciation Month over there, you should Check it out

    DarkJade-

  • paigeaddams

    Hey there! The Dark Globe follower appreciation post sent me, and I wanted to say I really like your blog.

  • Searching for the Light

    I am not sure why it is the Irish feel always the need to promote and have their Irishness recognised, but I do remember from my school days a very idealised dreamlike version of our history where the oppressed Irish possessed a legendary strength of spirit that would one day see them throw off their oppressors and claim their rightful place in the world. Maybe Irish writers are still trying to capture that dream.

  • jpbohannon

    Lovely piece. I too share many of the emotions and much of the thoughts that you bring up here, and the queen’s jubilee made barely a blip on my consciousness over here in far Amerikay. Anyway, i wanted to thank you for following my blog. Jpbohannon.

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