Yum Creative

Yum Wrap – Irregular musings on film, art and media

Béal Feirste, Northern Ireland September 23rd 2023 – Come Home Journal #33

A reckoning of the journey (turas) to tour Dancing Shadows in Ireland, a retrospective of my film works as part of the Come Home project.

Dún an doras (shut the door)

Oscail an doras (open the door)

In Belfast for my second screening at the Strand Art Centre and with an invitation from the BBC to come into the studio, I’m aware of the lengths and people and support it has taken to get me here. And I realise my job as part of that is to be fabulous. Grateful and fabulous.

The Strand is a jewel of art deco design from 1935 from a time when Belfast had over 40 picture palaces. It is now the last of its kind. Kinda like every woman I know over 40!

It’s the day before. We do a tech run and sort out the installation and the little bugs that appear in different places at each screening. I get the tour of the building including out onto the roof they hope one day can be a bar. It overlooks the harbour and the shipbuilding that has shaped this area for many years. The building is reminiscent of a ship, with lights as portholes and windows for the bow. Delightfully run by a family and staff who treat the place as a child demanding constant attention, with so much love. We talk about bookings for the screening and those who have registered for the workshop and shape both to fit expectations of the community.

Back at the hotel I prepare my list of items:

  • Banner – a beautiful fabric banner of Deanne Gilson, Wadawurrung artist. She has been part of the making of the film Precious Fragments, which screens as part of the retrospective.
  • Drive – holder of the film programme as backup
  • Cards – calling cards, postcards and project booklet
  • Guest book – for audience to sign and leave a message of home
  • Dress Up – I’ll go cool 60s style filmmaker (black black on black) with artist made jewellery
  • Gift – for the cinema in thanks for their support
  • Present – for Aimee, a bandana like mine.

Day of the screening and my Northern Ireland family let me know they are coming. When they arrive I show them to their seats in the centre of the room. However Aimee decides its easier for her to see if she sits in the walkway. It’s no bother to anyone. I sit at the back. I find screening unnerving and revealing. Midway Aimee joins me with her booster seat in the back row. She whispers questions to me about who is that, where is that and how did you do that. She has the brashness of child and the questioning technique of an elder. She doesn’t know it but it is a big comfort to see my work through her eyes.

I introduce myself in Gaeilge (Irish in Irish) like I have done at previous screenings. It’s not registering here either. I lean into the idea that my pronunciation isn’t the problem, its problematic sure, but its not the only reason audiences are reticent to discuss it. There are those that will work to reclaim it, for others it is a painful memory of their childhood, for others it’s the invisible embedded language of the colonisers and others still a regressive pointless dead language that does not service a progressive country.

At the end I give a talk about why my motifs are meaningful, how the music was created and why using a family archive is important to connect with my ancestors. Snippets of my mother’s words in Gaeilge swim in and out of my ears. Dún an doras (shut the door), prayers that went so fast she was speaking to God himself, and the inimitable póg mo thóin (kiss my arse). My door into the language I’ve been chocking open for years, this is the time. I’ve been learning the language on an app so I recognise words as written and can write, but the speaking part eludes me.

Then QandA where most of the questions surround the use of family archives. It’s big in this community and in this specific place. The Stand has been collecting Strand Stories, for many years as an archive to celebrate the community. At the workshop after the screening we work on the development of story, how visual and aural components work together and show some more of my experimental works.

My family take me to dinner after before they drive home to Washing Bay. I’m grateful I was able to show them my works in a cinematic setting, and make plans to return as soon as I can.




IMAGE CREDIT: Radio Ulster by Erin M McCuskey

Image journal Collection – Ireland –  Flickr Album – Album – Belfast


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