Friday, 31 January 2014

Gargrave Autoharp Festival, the weekend of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, June 27, 28, 29, 2014

Gargrave Autoharp Festival, the weekend of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, June 27, 28, 29, 2014

The core of the Gargrave Autoharp Festival, Yorkshire, England, is now in place - the weekend of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, June 27, 28, 29, 2014.

As ever, we are in alliance with the Gargrave Village Hall, in the pretty village of Gargrave in Yorkshire.  The village lets us use the hall, for free - for autoharp lessons and demonstrations.  And we give them music.

This year our autoharp tutors are...
Mike Fenton, and his wife Rachel - demonstrations and various classes
Guy Padfield, teaching the beginners
Nadine and Ian White - 2 workshops
Heather Farrell-Roberts - 2 advanced workshops
Basically, the A Team...

And this year, 2014, we are part of the Yorkshire Festival, the Cultural Festival of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.  The weekend after our Festival, July 5, the Tour de France starts out from Leeds, in Yorkshire.  Which is fun...

Gargrave Autoharp Festival posters can be seen and downloaded from
The two little ballerinas are pupils in a little dance school in Gargrave village.

The Gargrave Autoharp Festival on The Yorkshire Festival, Cultural Festival web site, see...

See also

For more on Mike Fenton see

Note especially his contribution to the new BBC version of Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Patrick O'Sullivan

The Irish World Wide, 1992-1997, SIX VOLUMES ONLINE

Much of my earlier work, rescued from pre-digital age, printed books, is now available on the web.

This includes the 6 volumes of Patrick O'Sullivan, ed., The Irish World Wide, 1992-1997.  See...

It is possible to download the 6 volumes of The Irish World Wide as 6 individual, large pdf files. 

But each volume is also separated out into individual chapters - each chapter in its own pdf file, and easy to download and carry around.  This solves a recurring problem, that I get requests for copies of specific chapters.

Special attention is drawn - of course - to my own chapters on The Irish Joke, in Volume 3, and on Famine Theory, in Volume 6.  But if someone wants to jump in at the deep end, I recommend reading my Introduction to Volume 5, Religion and Identity - gives an idea of the style and the method...

Patrick O'Sullivan

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Gargrave Autoharp Festival, 2014 - weekend of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, June 27, 28, 29

At the Yorkshire end the core of the Gargrave Autoharp Festival, the weekend of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, June 27, 28, 29, 2014, is now in place.

Many factors influence the choice of that weekend - what the Gargrave Village Hall could offer us, I was told to avoid the dates of the TT races on the Isle of Man, meeting up with Mike Fenton's fan base amongst the caravanners...

Yesterday we had a very good photo shoot for the Festival poster - in line with the Gargrave Autoharp Festival tradition that we have a beautiful and striking poster.

This year, 2014, we are part of the the Cultural Festival of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France. The weekend after our Festival, July 5, the Tour de France starts out from Leeds. At that weekend Yorkshire is FULL. No accommodation left.

Will that affect our weekend? Do I need to worry? As yet I do not know. There could be leakage forward from the Tour de France, as people extend their stay. Or Yorkshire might be empty. Or something in between.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Book Review, McCarthy, Scottishness and Irishness in New Zealand since 1840

This Book Review - or a version of it - will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Australasian Journal of Irish Studies.

McCarthy, A. (2011). Scottishness and Irishness in New Zealand since 1840. Manchester University Press, 240p.

We take into our hands a new book by Angela McCarthy, aware that there is already a body of work in place.  Amongst my favourites, amongst the published articles, is the 2001, ‘ ”A good idea of colonial life": personal letters and Irish migration to New Zealand’, which firmly laid ground rules.  New Zealand was going to study its migrants’ letters, and was going to contribute to our better understanding – and better use – of the Emigrant Letter elsewhere.  As for books, my favourite is the 2005 Irish migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937: 'the desired haven', which should be better known to scholars of the Irish Emigrant Letter.  That book explores its letter collections using the ground rules – again, ground rules – of David Fitzpatrick.  And it bravely shapes its Thematic Index alongside that of Fitzpatrick’s Oceans of Consolation.  Since I am especially interested in how knowledge is created and shaped, the Diaspora Studies geek in me always enjoys Angela McCarthy’s literature reviews.

In tandem with such studies of Irish settlement in New Zealand there has appeared a sequence of articles studying Scottish settlement and letters, and a book which combined perceptions, the 2007 Personal Narratives of Irish and Scottish Migration, 1921-65:'For Spirit and Adventure'.  I should pedantically make the point that it is now easily possible to track the influence of all these works using online resources like Google Scholar and JSTOR – and if we are going to theorise about ‘the Irish’ and the Emigrant Letter, New Zealand will not be ignored.

We are therefore looking at scholarship about, cumulatively, two emigrant groups, the Scots and the Irish, and scholarship which often studies them in a comparative manner.  Since most statements about ‘the Irish’ are disguised comparisons, this approach is valuable.  And this approach is rare – partly for almost geo-political reasons, and here I would include the politics of academic careers.  Communities themselves are interested in difference – to track the real life effects of prejudice, or as a way of shaping a distinctive identity, or as part of generation control systems.  This new book by Angela McCarthy is about identities, Scottishness and Irishness.  It is thus an exploration of repertoires of identity, which – I have pointed out elsewhere – mostly coalesce around leisure activities.

There are obvious dangers, for the writer and for the reader.  The specialist reader is inclined to read with most attention the material about one specific group, and I must confess that that is what I did, at a first reading of Scottishness and Irishness.  This is, sort of, fair.  We see how the writer handles the material with which we are most familiar.  There are dangers with cumulative material about ‘Irishness’ - literature reviews can, over time, develop into a kind of shorthand.  Detail is lost, time and place, research discipline and methodology.  An inter-disciplinary approach must be critical.  Here, for example, Stivers (p17), is a study of alcohol use in the USA and American stereotypes – it is not a study of ‘the Irish’. 

A second, closer reading, truer to author’s intentions, took on the themed chapters, the matched Scottish and Irish detail – each chapter shaped by a knot in the research material and in background theory.  This sent me back to the literature on Scottish identity – see above, online resources – so that I could begin a better dialogue with the book.  There is no doubt that, at times, the book can be a bit programmatic – but after a while I found this to be a strength rather than a weakness.  The geek in me sees this book as the literature review, writ large.  And I am struck, as I read the material about the Scottish identity alongside the Irish, not by difference, but how similar the two groups are.  Both groups move from one little archipelago in the northern hemisphere to another little archipelago in the south – and, for the most part, entirely within the structures, economic, control, patronage, of the British Empire and its successor organisations.

It is always possible to find a difference, of course – but is it, to coin a phrase, a difference that makes a difference?  One difference that McCarthy does highlight is that whilst Irish societies in New Zealand frequently articulated political aims, Scottish societies were predominantly cultural (p 142).  In our own time, when there is a restored and active Scottish Parliament – and, soon, a referendum on Scottish independence – this certainly makes us pause.  We are certainly looking at matched control systems here.  And the detail of the ways in which the Scots of New Zealand ‘forged’ – to use Linda Colley’s word – a cultural identity are revealing.  Look, for example, at the Scottish use of Robert Burns (p140) – there is no matching Irish use of Thomas Moore.  In another part of my working life, the study of song, I look at Burns and Moore as models for nineteenth century lyricists.  When it comes to repertoires of identity some bits of the possible repertoire simply work better than others.  In the new country, in the new communities, selection processes take place.  Yes there will be discussion of authenticity, but there will also be a willingness to invent tradition, as the need arises.

Another way into McCarthy’s material is to explore gaps and absences.  If we were to indulge a typical focus group study of Irish identity, discussion of violence would loom large – particularly a willingness to use violence for political ends.  This is how we were seen in the world, and still are, to a certain extent.  Lee and Casey (2006), the standard work on ‘Making the Irish American’ – ‘making’, not ‘forging’ – must pause to give Kevin Kenny a chapter to explore that very issue.  And this makes discussion with our colleagues in the Armenian or the Basque Diaspora so… productive.  There is very little about this part of the repertoire in McCarthy’s book, but the author is, of course, aware of debates – there is discussion of the 1988 movie, The Grasscutter, a standard thriller in which a violent secret organisation intrudes into the idyll.  But in that case the secret organisation is Irish Protestant and loyalist.  Mostly we see the Irish and the Scots behaving like a standard subaltern group within the British Empire – if anything McCarthy’ selected quotations give an impression of Irish unwillingness to engage in violence.

So, a book that makes us work hard, and makes us think – especially when we place it alongside wider study of diaspora.  For this we give thanks.

Patrick O’Sullivan


The rescue of 'Tolkien in Oxford'

A quick report, to thank those who expressed interest...

I nipped down to London for 2 days last month.

The BBC paper file of Leslie Megahey's 1968 film 'Tolkien in Oxford' was made available to me, and I was able to go through it.  I spent all of Wednesday, December 18, in the editing suite, with Leslie Megahey and Charles Chabot, film and video producer.  The video file supplied by the BBC Library - technically a PRORES 422 HQ file - was of very good quality.  We were all very pleased with the quality of the images - especially remembering that the film was originally shot on 1960s 16mm film. 

Just to sum up what was done on the day...

1.  Captions
Captions were inserted where they would have been inserted during the original transmission.

2.  Credits
The original film was broadcast in 1968 as part of a BBC arts magazine series called 'RELEASE'.  It shared the evening, I understand, with a film about Barbara Hepworth, and combined credits for both films were floated in towards the end of the slot.

On Wednesday December 18 2013 we created and installed a sequence of credits for the 'Tolkien in Oxford' film ALONE - the sort of thing that would have appeared in 1968, had the 'Tolkien in Oxford' film been broadcast alone.  In re-creating these credits we called upon our joint memories AND the BBC paper file, which we had to hand.  So, we think they are right.

Typefaces for the Captions and Credits were simply a judgement call, as were placing and timing.  Since we had the original director of the film in the room, there was no argument about that.

3.  Some tidying of the actual video file.  A few scratches were removed, as were most of those jumps and clicks that are artefacts of the original negative cutting technology.  These are especially noticeable in the rostrum camera sequences.  A little bit of theological discussion here, about how much we should interfere with an archive 'document' - but from the BBC side an insistence that what we were aiming for was a 'transmission quality' file.

The amended and restored video file has been returned to the BBC.

I think we are happy enough with the quality of the restored piece.  The image quality is generally very good.  The overall structure, now that we can see it, is good.  The gags work - now that we can see the complete piece.  Individual contributions are good - we were struck, for example, by how good a job Joss Ackland had done with the readings. 

And, I think I will add, we liked the integrity of the piece.  Leslie Megahey remind me about the decision to NOT include talking heads academics - for example, he remind me that I had negotiated on his behalf with J. I. M Stewart (Michael Innes), before he decided that that was not the way to go.  And you have to think, what, in 1968, could the talking heads academics have contributed to the discussion?

I understand that there is now beginning within the BBC some discussion about how these BBC TV arts 'magazine' films might be restored and re-displayed - though they were not broadcast as individual pieces, they were costed and created as individual films, and work as standalone films.  So, we might have started something.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Love Death and Whiskey - now on Amazon at £1.17, including postage

I have mentioned before, in this blog, my mix of amazement and consternation at Amazon's pricing of my song lyric book, Love Death and Whiskey...

Last year the price seemed to have settled down at around £3 per copy.

Ok.  Now amazement, consternation, bafflement...  Amazon is selling the book at £1.17 including postage.  Including postage.

This, of course, is a price far below the price I can manage.  It practically guarantees that no other book shop will stock the book.  What will it do for sales? And, if copies do sell, what part of that tiny price will eventually reach me?

Well, I wanted my song lyrics to be in the hands of singers and musicians.  The book was meant to work as a box of samples.  I guess that I am, maybe, in the end, happy about this strange development.  But baffled.