Category Archives: Reviews

The Killers on stage, Source Wikipedia

The Killers Live at the RDS in Dublin – Accessibility Review

My boyfriend and I went to see The Killers with special guests Franz Ferdinand in the RDS Dublin last week. Both are fantastic live bands and the crowd got almost 4 hours of amazing live performance. We bought the tickets last winter and when I realised it was going to be an open air concert, I envisaged myself getting drenched. Fortunately the weather was fantastic 24°C, a heatwave as far as Irish summers go. This post is more about my experience attending the concert as a fan with vision impairment.  For a music review have a read of this excellent Hot Press article.

 

We got the DART to Sandymount where the crowd was directed out of the station by security staff. We used our canes and followed people to the venue. The RDS is a massive complex. I had been in the main arena for a graduate fair before, but never in the open air area. We are still able to see the security people in their high vis jackets, so we asked the first staff member we saw for assistance. A lady called Emma looked at our tickets and brought us to the right gate. We had to walk around the outside wall for over 10 minutes,, which is no problem but would have been difficult without assistance due to the crowds and the fact that we are unable to read the signs.We were allowed to skip the queue where the bags were searched. Emma told us about some of the concerts she gets to see and showed us a place near the back where we could stand.

 

We arrived early to hear Franz Ferdinand.  I know some of their songs and they are a great live band. We put our canes away and went a bit further into the crowd. People will probably not notice them anyway when it is packed and dancing along to the music with a cane looks a bit silly, unless you are trying to use it as a limbo stick. During the break we asked another staff member to guide us to the toilets. We walked to the main arena, thus avoiding the massive que outside the provided WC containers. Again, it would have been hard to find our way there and back without help.

 

“Somebody Told Me” live at RDS Dublin on YouTube

The Killers came on stage around 9. We stood somewhere in the middle and for the majority of the concert it was not too packed. We couldn’t really see anything on stage or the big screen, but a good band for me is mainly about the music. Some of the green light effects when it got dark were cool. The Journal .ie reported the next day, people found the concert really loud. I try to avoid loud noise and I´m one of the first people to put tissue in my ear at concerts, but I didn’t find it loud at all. On the contrary, I couldn´t understand some of the announcements.

 

Irish Fan Danny playing drums on YouTube

 

The concert was brilliant. I love the band’s first 2 albums “Hot Fuzss” and ´”Sam´s” town. Some of their later stuff is still good, but I feel they got a bit too electronic and poppy for my taste in the last years. Live however, even their newer songs I don ´t know that well sounded great. They played more guitar and drumm riffs. Brandon Flowers´ voice is very distinctive and he is a fantastic live-performer who gets the crowd to sing along. People loved when he called a fan holding a poster saying he is a drummer up on stage to perform with the band. He was brilliant, whether the  part was pre-arranged or not.

 

We were delighted that they played many of our old favourites like „Somebody told me“ „Jenny was a friend of mine“, „Smile like you mean it“ and of course „Mr. Brightside“. It was a great experience to sing along with the rest of the crowd. It got a bit messy towards the end and especially when people were leaving. We didn’t buy the totally overpriced drinks, but by the end of the evening  my clothes were sticky with spilled drink. People were generally polite enough. One girl though had an umbrella hat and one of the spikes got entangled in my hair. That  was dangerous and I´m surprised  security let her in with that.

 

“When You Where Young” The Killers live at the RDS Dublin on YouTube

When leaving everyone got stuck in a bottle neck and I had to hold on to my boyfriend otherwise I would have been rushed along. It was much harder to find a staff member on the way out. We followed the crowd, not exactly sure which gate to go to. When we got to the gate and asked security staff for directions to the DART a guy came out of the crowd and said he was going there too and we could go with him. Turns out he works at one of my boyfriend´s previous workplaces and recognised him. Without help we would probably have missed the last train. Only in Ireland you meet someone you know at a concert with  20,000 people.

 

Fazit

Overall, we had a great time and whenever it got tricky we got help from staff members or other people. I generally find the security people at concert venues extremely helpful. But of course there will be crowds and some pushing at every concert. If you are worried about that you could try to contact the venue and ask if you can stand in the wheelchair accessible area, which is often less crowded. I have heard that some ticket providers give free tickets if you bring assistance, but I have never tried that. Here is a great article by Holly over at her blog Life of a Blind Girl on how to make concert venues more accessible for blind and visually impaired people.

 

I would definitely recommend going to  The Killers concert.

 

Has anyone else been there and what are your experiences with the accessibility of concert venues? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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Accessible Guided Tour of Dublin Zoo

a group of elephants standing on stone steps leading into water

My last visit in Dublin Zoo was over a year ago. I wrote a German article at the time, however we were so impressed with the visitor service, that I wanted to write an English version – so here it is, cute animal pictures included.

I had wanted to visit the zoo for a while, but we thought it would be difficult for two people with vision impairments to navigate the grounds without sighted help, since we are unable to read signposts or maps. So we called a day in advance and asked if someone would show us arround. The lady at the visitor centre said one of their volunteers would be delighted to give us a guided tour of the zoo.

The friendliness of Irish people towards strangers fascinates me. Our guide Catherine was lovely. The guided tour was more like a stroll around the zoo with a friend. We had interesting conversations and some great laughs. All volunteers are trained and have an impressive knowledge of the zoo, including historical facts and information about the different species it houses. It was great to be shown the zoo by someone who is passionate about their work.

Dublin Zoo offers a number of facilities to make its grounds accessible to everyone. Apart from the guided tours they have wheelchair, accessible toiletes, facilities for minding service dogs and a number of tactile objects with braille. We could touch an elephant skull with tusks, a set of giraffe teeth and a tiger fur. It was helpful to feel the different structures and to get a better impression of the shapes of the animals.

The best part of our visit was watching the feeding of the elephants during which even the baby elephants came close to the water. The carer told us how much and what they eat. Some fun facts: The elephants are trained to lift their feed to get their nails cut; And as part of  the regular health checks their poo needs to be tested. In order to determine which gigantic pile belongs to what elephant they are each fed a bit of differently coloured tinsel.  Well, at least the carers can see the bright side of an otherwise not pleasant-sounding task.

Some animals like reptiles or birds can be hard to see for people with vision impairments. I brought a magnification tool, which I normally use to look at traffic lights and bus numbers. Another trick is to zoom in with the phone camera or to take a picture and zoom in afterwards to focus on an animal.

The landscape the animals live in resembles their natural environment. Especially impressive is the ape area consisting of numerous islands. The penguins with their black and white colour contrast were also easy to sse. We could even watch them swimming under water through a glass wall. It was similar with the giraffes and zebras in their savanna.

More fun facts> Catherine told us about a scientist who uses video footage to study how long each of the flamingos stands on the same leg. I would love to know the answer for my fun facts collection.

a group of pink flamingos

In many ways it is difficult for people with disabilities to live independently in Ireland (public transport is my favourite example). However, what makes it a lot easier is the willingness of many people to give extra time and effort to other people´s special requirements. In contrast, in Germany many employees only do what is required of them according to their job description. Volunteering is not as as large a part of German culture as it is in Ireland. There are special guided tours, but often only if you bring a goup, pay extra for it or arrange it months in advance. In Ireland we were always accommodated without lengthy arrangements.

Monkey climbing along ropes

Unfortunately, we could not find skunks, my favourite animals. I suspect it is because of the smell. Dublin Zoo is always worth a visit. Nature is fascinating and without institutions promoting the continuation and procreation of endangered animals a significant number of animals would have died out by now.

Clothes Shopping with a Personal Shopper

I’m not exactly a fashion enthusiast. I obviously want to look well and feel good about myself, but easy maintenance and practicality always come before style. When I moved to Ireland, I could no longer bring my mum a bag full of ironing every weekend. She gave me a precise list specifying which items could be washed together and at what temperature they had to be ironed and suddenly I was on my own. I gave up the good intentions of separating and ironing my laundry in the second week, colour absorbing tissues had to do the job and all the blouses and skirts, which definitely had to be ironed where banished back into the suitcase. Jeans, T-shirts and jumpers became my best friends.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I wanted to bring a bit of variety and colour into my wardrobe this season. Shopping in general, whether it’s for food, household stuff or clothes, does not rank high on my list of favourite activities. I can think of tonnes of things that are more fun than wondering aimlessly around a gigantic shopping centre, full of stressed people hunting for the latest bargains.

 

I n a leather skirt, black tights and a dark top with flower patterns.

Being visually impaired doesn’t make it easier. I have to take every item out of the shelf and hold it really close to my face or even use a magnifier to see what it is. Apart from people staring at me, this is very slow and frustrating. Initially, I was ashamed to ask for help and bought whatever I could identify. I ended up with rather random stuff in my trolley and if I was really unlucky I got meat pizza instead of the vegetarian version. After a while, I overcame my pride somewhat and now I get the shop assistants to help me. Most of them are very friendly, but in places like ALDI it can be hard to find someone. More upmarket places like Tesco do home delivery.

I enjoy clothes shopping with my mum. We are having great fun laughing about some of the more ridiculous fashion trends and I know she is honest when something doesn’t suit me, sometimes even too honest. But my mum is also the conventional Jeans-type, so I ended up buying similar clothes twice a year when I was home in Germany.

I have seen personal shoppers on TV, transforming slightly uncomfortable looking participants into completely new people with the help of high-maintenance haircuts, lots of make-up and pretty clothes nobody would wear in everyday life. But my boyfriend had used it before and was very happy with the service and encouraged me to give it a go. In fact, he made the appointment in the biggest New Look store in Dublin, otherwise I would probably still be talking about doing it soon.

I was very nervous and self-conscious in the beginning. I showed the lady who helped me some pictures of clothes I liked from the New Look website and half expected her to shake her head in despair saying these styles don’t suit me. Of course she didn’t. I managed to say that I want to wear something more adventurous and elegant than jeans and off we went through the fashion labyrinth. I took whatever she suggested. No harm in trying I thought. While I liked some pieces at first sight, I would have never even thought of trying a leather skirt for example. Surprisingly, it looked really good and I bought it. It’s one of my favourite skirts now and it doesn’t have to be ironed.

I had a whole changing area to myself and actually really enjoyed this shopping trip. We had a great chat about what colours and styles go together and it almost felt like a shopping trip with a friend. I realised that I had been too hard on myself when it comes to what goes with what. I’m a perfectionist, but as my granny says: “Nowadays almost everything goes together”. The challenge with skirts and dresses is to find matching shoes I can walk in, but we managed to find a pair with relatively small heels and like everything else it’s all about practice.

Since I don’t want to go shopping anytime again soon, I bought lots of stuff. That way you can make sure every top goes with every skirt, instead of buying single pieces, only to discover that you have nothing to go with it once you get home. I would definitely recommend availing of personal shoppers for everyone, visually impaired or not. It’s fun, efficient and full of surprises. A new style can make a huge difference and I got only positive feedback from my friends. The shop assistance are passionate about fashion and helping customers is a welcome break from stocking shelves or standing at the till to them. I’ll definitely be back in the winter season.

Review: „The Wake“ by Tom Murphy with Audio Description at The Abbey Theatre

Photo Narrations

A few weeks ago we travelled to Dublin to see the latest production by the Abbey Theatreof Tom Murphy’s “The Wake”, a play portraying the materialism of Irish small-town communities in the early 1990s. It reveals how far most members of so called respectable families are prepared to go to satisfy their desire for power and wealth.

Accessible Performances

So far 2016 was a great year for fans of audio described theatre performances and I hope the continuing international interest in Irish arts will further not only creative art production, but also help to increase the availability of caption and audio description for patrons with visual and hearing impairments. I have written about how audio description works and the importance of making culture and arts accessible to everyone in a previous review.

The staff of the Abbey Theatre is very friendly and the lady who hands out…

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Review: CARE by WillFredd Theatre with Audio Description

Photo Narrations

Although the number of audio described and subtitled live-performances has considerably increased over the last few years, they are still rare outside Dublin. Consequently, I was delighted when I received the Arts & Disability Ireland text newsletter notifying subscribers that WillFredd Theatre Companywas to bring its newest production CARE to the Galway Town Hall Theatre.The show featured audio description for visually impaired audience members and subtitles for patrons with hearing impairments.

What is Audio Description?

People may know Audio description (AD) from TV programmes. It is a voiceover telling blind and visually impaired viewers, or indeed anyone who chooses to use it, information that is not conveyed through dialogue, music or sound. For example It would say something like: “John enters holding a folder under his arm. He is a well-dressed man in his forties.” I’m not familiar with the production side of AD, but it is…

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Review: „Sisters of the Rising“ by Christiane O’Mahony at the Galway Theatre Festival

The two sisters on stage. Copyright Enrique Carnicero

One hundred years after the Easter Rising historians, the media and artists are exploring the Easter event not only from the perspectives of the executed leaders, but try to represent the experiences of the wider Irish society, including women and children. This one-act play follows two sisters who in their own way fought in the rising.

Although, this two-woman-and-a-harp play did not tell me anything new about the failed rebellion with regards to historical facts; it is an entertaining and engaging performance mixing fact and fiction. So far it is the only commemoration adaptation that captured my attention from start to finish.

The two little girls playing Joan of Arc and Queen Méabh made me smile; their teenage sibling rivalries turned them from fictional characters from the past into real people; and even when they finally get into the GPO, where they are initially only allowed to make sandwiches, their gossipy banter and flirtations sometimes lets the audience and the characters themselves for a moment forget that they are in the middle of a war and not at a pyjama party. Comic dialogues and poetry-like monologues together with extracts of a traditional Irish song, accompanied by an on-stage harp, lighten the play up and emphasise the tragedy befalling the family at the same time.

The plain stage setting and costume suits the play, since the hauntingly beautiful girlish voices and the harp which is also used for various sound effects carry the storyline. Other character’s speeches are indicated by both actresses saying their lines together and although it sometimes took them a second to get synchronised, it worked for me.

The O’Farrell sisters Josephine and Gillian are fictional, but their surname pays tribute to Elizabeth O’Farrell, the woman who delivered the surrender note and was subsequently cut out of all pictures depicting this historic defeat. Until recently apart from Constance Markievicz,  the contributions of women who fed and hid the rebels and worked as couriers had not been acknowledged. In an interview playwright and actress Christiane Mahony said she based her fictional account on witnesses statements of real women. Thus giving them a voice and remembering them.

The play starts in 1936 when Josie (played by O’Mahony herself) attends the state commemorations and discovers that her younger sister Gill’s name is omitted from the list of those who fought and died during the Rising. Angry and disillusioned Josie begins to tell her and her sister’s story, starting with their dreams and aspirations and their deceased father, who appeared to have lived more for the future republic than for his family and wanted his daughters to be “warrior queens”.

Josie: “I’m not a girl I’m a soldier!”

Gill: “Well you are a girl.”

Josie: “I’m a girl soldier, I have to get in”

Inspired by Constance Markvievitch and Maud Gonne, Josie is enthusiastic about the Irish language and wants to be a soldier. The completely apolitical Gill (played by Roseanne Lynch) on the other hand, has more modest and practical ambitions: She dreams of a beautiful wedding dress and having kids. However, the two sister’s personalities are more complex than it appears at first and as the audience follows them throughout Dublin delivering important messages to the various occupied buildings it becomes obvious that they need each other and that pure “male” strength is not all that is needed in a war.

“Sisters of the Rising” highlights once more the contributions and courage of the women who participated in the Easter Rising of 1916: All the kitchen-helpers, nurses and couriers, who defied conventional gender roles and often their parents’ orders and risked their reputation and their lives to fight for a cause they believed in.

“Women were perfect allies: Armed with charm and unsuspecting; with hiding places like petticoats to carry notes. The words of the leaders hidden in hairdos, puffed out up-dos, and pins. And tucked away in all that splendour a million military messages and that last one to surrender.”

One hundred years on, the contributions of the Irish women who participated in the Easter Rising are finally acknowledged and remembered and their descendents have – at least officially – the same duties and rights as Irishmen.

“Sisters of the Rising” runs for two more performances at the Nun’s Island Theatre as part of the Galway Theatre Festival:

  • May 1. 2pm
  • May 2. 2pm & 8.30 pm
  • Tickets €12 /€10
  • Duration 80 min. No interval

Team:

  • Cast: Christiane O’Mahony and Roseanne Lynch
  • Composer: John O’Brien
  • Director: Anushka Senanayake
  • Lighting and Set Designer: Brian Mitchell
  • Producer: Naomi Daly.

Links:

Photo copyright Enrique Carnicero