Remembering Gaza, PalFest Ireland


The monumental canvas of Handprints for Palestine has continued its world tour, after Paris, Bruxels, Berlin, Barcelona, Beirut, Alger, Tunis, Casablanca, Geneva…..just imagine these hands tearing down the apartheid wall!


A year has passed since the fourth massive and devastating attack on Gaza since 2006, from the Israel forces… I’ve always been an activist, driven by injustices in the world, and never more so than by the genocide being perpetrated on the Palestinians, living under siege in their own land, the borders closed, kept on a starvation diet by Israelis blocking deliveries of food, medical supplies, water, electricity, rebuilding materials, educational supplies… schools and hospitals being deliberately bombed…. this was not a war between military adversaries but a systematic genocide where the vast majority of casualties were defenceless civilians; the casualty figures paint the stark picture…in the 51 days of bombing last July, one Israeli child was killed, and 551 Palestinian children….one child killed is one too many, but the disproportionality of this conflict is devastating.
How do we live with the knowledge of what happened, and what continues to happen before the eyes of the world? (never mind that the strictly controlled western media does not in any way carry the full story). What do we do with the feelings of powerlessness, when we feel helpless….all we can do is add our voices, show our solidarity, spread the word.

Last Friday I travelled down to Dublin with my good friend Jackie McKenna, to take a very small part in the PalFest Ireland’s event “NO MORE – Dublin Remembers the Children of Gaza”


The PalFest Ireland installation of 556 children’s vests, on Sandymount Strand, Dublin, in memory of the innocent Palestinian children killed in 51 days last July.

On the Friday night we went to a presentation by Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has worked in al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza over the last 15 years…a truly remarkable man. Those two hours were a roller coaster of emotions…it was inspiring, harrowing, uplifting, horrifying, heart breaking…the theatre was full, and not a dry eye in the house. What shone through was the dignity, pride, resilience and indomitable, steadfast courage of the Palestinian people…and the humanity of volunteers like Dr Mads, who go to help, to witness and to show solidarity with them.The following clip was a short talk by Mads after one of the theatrical performances for PalFest Ireland. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go to those, but this 16 minute clip gives a picture of his work there.

 Dr Mads has now been permanently banned from entering Gaza, and as he wrote in his new book, ‘Night in Gaza’, “When a pen, a camera and a stethoscope are seen as security threats, we know we are dealing with a regime that is afraid of the truth, and that believes power confers rights”.
No one can forget the images of seven small boys playing football on the beach in Gaza, and the deliberate Israeli shelling that killed four of them, from the one extended family. I won’t post the harrowing photos, just this iconic image from Amir Schilby, of Jewish Voices for Peace.


The three friends who were playing with them,, and who were injured with broken bones and abdominal shrapnel wounds, are traumatised by their loss, and cannot go back to the beach…..In their words: “The beach was our favourite playground”…”We used to play on the beach and go fishing together. I don’t know what we’ll do now.” The traumas inflicted on innocent children will reverberate for generations.

On the Saturday, PalFest Ireland created a family Fun Football event to champion the right and freedom for all children to play freely on the beach…


There was some beautiful face painting done by Katie Burkenshaw, and a wonderful magician and balloon man, Simon Toal, who captivated the children there……and me too, he was excellent!




Jackie and I had worked with Manorhamilton children, making and decorating paper boats…boats to represent freedom, the right of Palestinian refugees worldwide to return to their homeland, and the international humanitarian aid boats that are still being prevented by Israel from reaching Gaza, and the boats of the fishermen prevented from making a livelihood by the Israeli gunships curtailing their rights to fishing fields.



Gabrielle McKenna and Stewart Dowie….our wonderful hosts in Dublin x



Stella by name, and a wee star by nature!



Out of the mouths of children…


A sweet wee lass who came to help make paper boats ….she reminded me of the wee Palestinian girls injured last year in Gaza, which we saw in Dr Mads Gilbert’s presentation …and their indomitable spirit. How can Israel ever justify the slaughter of innocents?

Black clouds were rolling in when we tried to launch the paper boats…the tide was so far out that we tried to float them on a pond, but the wind was blowing them over and capsizing them…




…so we later took many boats to the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.When we got there, we were approached by a member of the Public Works Dept, and feared that he’d stop us launching the paper boats for Gaza, but we explained what we were intending, and luckily Jackie had had the foresight to bring a fishing net to take the boats out afterwards, and the P.W. man gave us his blessing…and a good chat!



Jackie with her fishing net!


Stewart Dowie, a great help!

Once again, the wind was separating the boats and sinking some, and so the remaining 100 or so undecorated boats were taken to be decorated in youth workshops run by Stewart…..the word spreads.
This is a short clip showing the Family Fun day….

And lastly, but far from least, a Huge Thank You to Eimer Murphy, who brought me a piping hot coffee when my feet were totally soaked with cold sea water….a life saver! So many people working away quietly behind the scenes…every one a vital part of the event. We will never forget. Together we speak out.


The Derry Peace Temple

It’s far too long since I last blogged, and it’s been four months of real highs and lows….It seems I need to put a wee bit of distance before I blog about all that… here’s an intermediate blog about the Peace Temple in Derry.


I only heard about the project last Wednesday, but it took me no time to decide to go up for the burning. In the past I’d dreamed about going to the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert, whilst thinking it was not likely that I could ever go, and now the Californian Burning Man artist, David Best, had been brought to Derry to design the Peace Temple, in honour of people who had died in The Troubles.

Catholics and Protestants came together to work on the project, and I felt a palpable sense of unity, both at the site and around the town.  Community groups and schools also got involved in contributing and building it,  and in the first week of it being open to the public many thousands of people had visited, and left mementos to lost loved ones. Other hurts and troubles were also commemorated, with hundreds of photos and writings.

This is a wee clip about the making of it on Youtube, and there’s more there.

The project was two years in the planning, and over 100 individuals worked on the build.

Derry is known as the city of five hills, and it was a fair walk up to the Temple. It is also a city of many spires; the Temple was visible from all over the city, and was lit from within after dark, with a wonderful backdrop of the far hills, the city lights below, and the spires of two cathedrals and many other churches.


Inside, the lattice effect was awe inspiring…with this wonderful chandelier hanging from the pinnacle.


Below that there was an Altar reaching up to the chandelier, and covered in messages.


I made the three hour drive up to Derry on the Friday, the last day that people could go inside the structure. There were thousands of people at the site that day and there was a very warm and reverential atmosphere…it reminded me of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The laser-cut lattice work panels of birch plywood completely covered the heavy construction beams, and gave a  wonderfully airy feel to being inside……looking up to the heavens, where all the pain and loss would be released to.

All around the top were circles inside squares, with cut-out words and images, which came from local community groups and schools.



Derry people are very friendly, and I had many conversations around the town; many local people were saying that it shouldn’t be burned. A newspaper reported that an older woman had met David Best and said “I can’t believe you are going to burn it down. That seems awful”, to which David replied “It seems awful to have that much pain and sadness and not to have a place to put it.This is a way to get rid of that pain.”

Here is an poignant book wrapped in ribbon…


…and a message of hope from a young lass:


Under the awning, and around the whole structure, there were small constructions where people could pick up pieces of wood to inscribe..




One of the pieces I put into the Temple, a photograph with writing about my birth parents…….


(I’ve just watched a half hour long programme about the Temple, on RTE1, and the presenter picked my picture from among thousands, and read out the writing on it….”In memory of my beloved parents who died far too young, when I was 2.1/4 and 3.1/4 years old. I carry you with me, but I SO wish I had known you. Charlie.” And yes, I did tear up when my piece was read! There was definitely a huge acknowledgement of and healing of sorrows ….for so many involved.)
Here’s a photograph of Francis, the big love of my life, who died 23 years ago, and wee sticks remembering my other beloved friends that have passed away.


Sundown on the Friday, when over 27,000 people visited the site….in total there were over 60.000 visitors, with over 25,000 visitors for the actual burn.

The Night!

I was told that the family of a young man who had committed suicide a year ago, amongst other people, were chosen to light the temple with six or so torches…


The photo’s aren’t great, because in the dark I couldn’t see  how to change the aperture…I’ll need to practice that one. It was a cold night, but mercifully dry and not windy….and when the temple went up the heat was joyous!


The billowing and swirling smoke was like souls rising from the fire….with tiny red sparks running through the smoke…

The final embers…..

A wee video, and you’ll find more and better clips on this page!

Readers of my past blogs will know how I’m learning to ‘let go’, there was one thing that I was going to put in the Temple…but I didn’t. However, the whole event was so cathartic, and so creatively inspiring, that I’m now pondering on building a small temple of my own….with a few more things in it! …..

An Au Revoir, with reblog.

Back here, briefly…. Monday night’s storm was right overhead…I felt like the attached cartoon….Leunig, not the dog


and then, at 7.30 a.m., there was an almighty CRACK! and I thought the house was hit. Pantomime panic as I ran round in me jammys, (barefoot…. Ouch!), checking cats, chimneys, and cardiac arrest potential.

Nuttin’ obviously struck so back to bed, clutching Rasta the cat.
Came down at Dawn (Dawn being a state of mind, it was 8.30 a.m.), to no electricity, and an exploded inbox for broadband. The lid was a charred lump of plastic, 12 foot away from it’s wall. The landline was shot, too.
One of the lessons from 24 hours without broadband, was to always print out your ferry ticket for imminent journey as soon as ye get it….
There were other lessons, maybe for a future blog;  however, for now,  I am looking forward to quite a long spell off line, off on a roadtrip to visit dear auld women friends, and dearly beloved  second son, … and happy that on coming into ‘puter before I leave gave me this gem of a blog to repost…enjoy!

Cunning Hired Knaves

I took great satisfaction in watching Russell Brand wiping the floor with the egregious Evan Davis in the above video. One of the things I liked most was the way Brand supplemented his habitual mateyness with a certain edge: he refers to Davis as “mate” and pats him repeatedly on the knee, but at the same time, warns Davis not to patronise him. It is a moment of subtle sharpness. Davis doubtless lacks the self-awareness to know he is being patronising.

Brand isn’t to everyone’s taste. He has a chequered history, some questionable acquaintances, and has said and done some grossly sexist things. This, believe it or not, is not that uncommon in men. You wouldn’t put him in charge of anything. At times he can say dubious things, but here he was quite sound. He voiced solidarity with the Fire Brigades Union, the Focus E15 Mothers, and rebutted Davis’s…

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Ireland, Water Wars, Human Rights, and some Big Questions…

crowd, 1

A Press photo that I can’t credit.

On Saturday I took the train down to Dublin for a Right2Water Demonstration, without any particular thought of being a photographer…or else I’d have taken more batteries! There had been talk of maybe 15,000 people attending; the last demo that I went on in Dublin was on a day of worldwide protests about GMO crops, and all of 300 people turned up…… I seriously thought my demonstrating days might be over!

When I arrived, Dublin was at a standstill, and at the end of the day it was estimated that there was at least 100,000 people there….certainly, when I went to catch my train home, after three hours, with batteries dead and me exhausted too, the last of the march had only recently left the Start place, and the beginning of the march was yet to arrive back.


crowd at R2W

Not my photograph, and sadly can’t credit it.

There were professional banners made by a whole range of left wing political parties, Unions, and Campaign groups, campaigns against Fracking, and against mandatory fluoride in our water, (a crime! No other country in Europe adds fluoride, though I believe some American States do.), but what captivated me was the home-made signs folk had brought.
when God....


Some of the humour may be lost on non-Irish…a jax is a toilet!


Careful now


Sadly out of focus, but I did like "Keep calm and have a bubble bath!". Not so funny for mothers wondering how they will protect their children's health if they can't afford water.

Sadly out of focus, but I did like “Keep calm and take a bubble bath!”. Not so funny for mothers wondering how they will protect their children’s health if they can’t afford water for baths, or to flush the toilet.

Enda Kenny is the Prime minister of Ireland, (I can't spell the Irish title for him!)

Enda Kenny is the Prime minister of Ireland, (I can’t spell the Irish title for him!)


Note overhead helicopter. The PPS refers to people’s individual National Insurance numbers; now, Irish Water is NOT a Government body, it’s a semi-privatised, For Profit company, and has no statutory right to ask for PPS numbers….The Irish Government is a shambles when it comes to bringing in Household charges, Water charges, etc, as it appears to have no central records of who lives where, who’s on a private water scheme, who has only a rainwater system (me),etc, . In the event, they are trying to frighten people to sign up for a water tax, by threatening to cut people’s water down to a trickle…. learning from Detroit? Shameful!
Then there’s the matter of the water meters they are installing, with no consent sought from householders, and reports that they emit radiation, a real health hazard.


Money for water has been taken from Road Tax, (whilst the roads are in a parlous state); from Income tax, (which hits middle income folk the worst), from VAT, which is rated very high here, and from Property tax. Meanwhile, there is a vast amount of water lost in leaks, in an antiquated infrastructure which needs urgently to be overhauled.
The Irish people are picking up the tab for 47% (!) of the Banker’s Bailout in Europe…the gap between the Haves and Have-nots grows ever wider. Pensioners, Carers and Education are all facing cutbacks, and the way that the Water Tax has been brought in is the last straw for many folk. It was remarkable how people of all ages, and from all walks of life and all areas of Ireland, came together….Thank God there was no rain, and the atmosphere was wonderful.

Of course, the whole issue of water begs a LOT of questions…

Would people have come out in their thousands to protest for people the world over who have no access to clean water?  Probably not.

Should the Government have been educating people about how clean water is a precious commodity, and finding ways to encourage people about how to conserve water, and not to waste it?  Undoubtedly.

Should Government be more transparent about how all the various taxes people pay are utilised?  Of course.

Are water charges inherently wrong? I’ll stick my neck out and hesitantly say not necessarily, because although water IS a Human Right, purifying water is no doubt costly, and essential to a nation’s health. However, denial of water to people who cannot afford to pay is wrong, and could cause even more health problems which would tax the health service.
Irish people have always ‘paid’ for water via other taxes; perhaps charges would be more acceptable if presented in a transparent way, and designed to be a completely fair system. Perhaps.

We’re seeing wars over oil, and protecting oil pipelines, worldwide, but future wars will be about water.

About 4 years ago I objected to an American friend about American Big Business bribing tinpot dictators in Africa, to be allowed to privatise their water supplies…Why were they wanting to sell water to Africans? She said “don’t be naive, Charlie, it’s for when America is short of clean water, and they’ll ship it to America.” I had read that 40% of American fresh water was irrevocably polluted….you can’t wash water. In campaigning against Fracking I’d come across the quote “All the water there will ever be, already is.”


To end, here’s a photo of a dear friend, and the wonderful water pump he carved in wood.

Dave and pump
And the story behind the making of it, in his words.

“I was disappointed when I learned that all the trees on our street were to be cut down. Although many of these were old and nearing their life span, many were healthy and mature and gave a full leafy aspect in the summertime.
For the sake of enhancements to the footpaths, cyclepaths and the calming of traffic, the Council argued that more suitable new trees could replace the mature ones. The other reason given was, “the upgrade of utilities” which turned out to be a euphemism for water metering. So, in March of 2013 the tree cutters arrived and took out 40-50 years of mature growth, leaving dozens of stumps ready for removal as the roadworks got underway.

For years I have been photographing old cast iron pillar fonts all over Ireland, from which communities drew water as a shared public resource. Many around the country are still in working condition and others abandoned relics;
The question arises, are we to also to abandon the principal that water is a human right, owned by the citizens, only to be privatized and commodified for the benefit of some tax exile oligarch/overlord?

It struck me that the dimensions of the tree stumps which remained on the street resembled that of the pillar fonts and that a tree itself reaches down into the ground for water just as people did at communal wells in times past. I selected a stump, still putting out leaves in a last gasp at life, (which I had incidentally photographed the previous autumn) and determined to make a replica as an affirmation of shared social values in opposition to the kind of free-loader capitalism, monetizing everything for the benefit of the few.

And so I began carving on site with a vague notion that I would work there and allow people to see the piece take shape. The interest of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists was evident and many voiced their admiration and encouragement for the effort.
I decided not to seek any official or bureaucratic permission. The project had an exciting open endedness which I enjoyed. I was testing how far the conventions of the art system of selection, curation and approval could be circumvented and officialdom denied the policing of what is permitted as art. Inevitably and as expected it was not too long before a Council worker arrived and said the work could not continue.

A period of uncertainty followed. I asked the workers on the job if they could cut the stump out for me. Understandably, while always helpful and friendly, they were preoccupied with their work and vague about who might do it and and when, if ever, it might be done. I was always prepared that the work might come to nothing, except the satisfaction of having attempted it. The day came when the half-worked stump disappeared and I then reconciled that I had made a good try. Later, to my delight and surprise one of the workers called to me and infomed me that the stump was at the depot waiting for me to collect.
I set to work.

Now, after a year the sculpture is finished and ready for the ‘launch’. That is, the anti-water tax march, Dublin, Saturday, October 11th, 2014! Was this always my deadline?”

And from me again…one last photo. What a Grand Day Out!
m4w 19

A wee update to my last post.

This was my last piece for the Fundraising for Gaza exhibition in Galway; a calligraphic

version of Khaled Juma’s poem:

Final 2 DSCF9546

This photo shows the (sometimes tortuous) stages along the way…. Assorted roughs, 2, DSCF9553 And here’s the final stage of the piece…can you spot the mistake? ROUGH DSCF9542 I’ve written before about the curse of being a perfectionist…and about the illogicality of being a left-handed calligrapher…Well, there I was, at 11.00pm on the night before the Opening, filling in the colour of the outlined words. Being left handed I worked from right to left, (not to smudge the paint), and on the fourth line from the bottom I come across the first word…. ant….I’m like, What????? At that late hour, I had to just squeeze in the W, so the diamond shape does not “read” perfectly….and so it goes!     Gallery Opening IMG-20140912-00105 After a three hour drive to Galway to deliver pieces, we went for a great, Al Fresco meal in Eyre Square, relaxed, and watched the world go by, playing Spot the Tourist,Guess the Nationality, and Spot the Students! When we went back for the Opening it was overflowing with donated artwork, and the gallery was so well attended that people were overflowing onto the street…Thank heavens it wasn’t raining! Lots of red spots to show pieces sold….Great! Wandering happily to our hostel at 10pm, on a wonderfully balmy night, there was entertainment all the way up Shop Street…and loads of tourists and revellers…a great atmosphere. Homeless man and dogs  2 IMG-20140912-00118 This man was a great singer and guitarist, and we perched on a shop window to hear him sing. He was homeless, sleeping in a car with his two dogs, who were delightful, well fed and friendly and so well behaved…(especially for a Jack Russell and an indeterminate terrier!). It made me think how life can go from cruising along, reasonably happy and reasonably secure, to tumbling out of mainstream society in a few small disasters, a run of bad luck or bad planning. There appears to be an ever widening gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots…I thought of this brave and caring man as we tumbled into freshly laundered sheets for a well earned rest, and it made me sad. Here is a piece in the exhibition that really struck me…as an artist I did not have the money to purchase it, but I was glad I had a few euro for the man and his dogs…There, but for the Grace of God, the help of good friends in the past, and much Luck along the way….. Charcoal girl, IMG-20140912-00108 (I believe the artist’s name was Shona McGillivray).

On the Origins of Fuck Part 2: But what about the D?

So glad that I stumbled across this! Not least for the calligraphy, which I love…Would that we could scrape out mistakes off vellum these days!

so long as it's words

Last week I got to visit the manuscript that started it all. The one with the brilliant little note in the margin insulting some unpopular cleric with one of the earliest recorded instances of the word fuck:

whole page adjusted Brasenose College MS 7, f.62v [photo mine, with thanks to Brasenose College, Oxford and Llewelyn Morgan]

What this picture shows is one full page of a fifteenth-century manuscript. The two main columns are a section of Cicero’s De Officiis – a moral treatise on good behaviour – which was the second-most frequently copied text of the Middle Ages. And at the bottom of these two columns someone has come along and written the following:

1.  false are the works wich this Abbot writ in the abbie of Osney alias Godstow 1528
2.  O d fuckin Abbot

This handwriting is found on several pages throughout the manuscript and, very unusually, it gives us…

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