This week I linked up with Stephen Murray, the curator of Inspireland’s summer camps in the Limerick School of Art & Design, and in Hotel Doolin, Co. Clare. I asked Stephen about the projects in the workshops, Inspireland’s creative team, the Brave New Words blog, their online courses, highlights from the workshops, feedback about the courses, and Stephen’s publications.
Hi Stephen! You have workshops in Poetry, Storytelling & Creative Writing; Animation, Puppetry & Shadow Art; Urban Art, Illustration & Stencils; Film, Drama & Performance; and Craft Books, Print & Portfolio. Can you tell us more about these workshops, and when they take place? Are there spaces left?
Hi Megan. Every week is completely different, but some things are retained. On day one we do creative writing with myself. This is either a poetry or fiction workshop. The work they produce sets the narrative for all the art they produce that week. The second thing we always produce is an art book, which this year is steampunk. They are real treasures, books as we dream books should be, like something from a bookshop in Daigon Alley. The rest varies from week to week. So last week was comic art, the week before steam punk modelling; bronze portraitures. This week is shadow puppetry and silent movies. The following week will be claymation. We still have spaces left for our Hotel Doolin workshops and for our Limerick School of Art & Design (not next week, but the two weeks after). We only have four spaces in each of those and next week is completely booked out. One of the things that sets these camps apart, is that we only allow 7 students for every adult mentor/teacher. So no one gets left out or lost and everyone gets expert tutoring.
Can you tell us about your creative team?
Well, the conception and branding was done by myself and Anastasia Pappas, an incredible Texan/New Yorker writer who worked for MTV and wrote and directed loads of stuff.
Martin Shannon of Lumen Street Theatre is our artistic director, he and I conceive the course and then he makes our ideas happen. We have also started working with Esther, a graduate from LSAD who is a phenomenal artist.
You have a blog for the workshops, entitled Brave New Words. Can you tell our readers about this blog?
From September to May I travel the country giving poetry workshops to secondary school students – they are the most popular schools’ poetry workshops in Ireland. I walk into classrooms of kids who hate poetry (the curriculum succeeds in destroying poetry in the minds of teenagers); by the time I leave, they have all had the best craic they have ever had in school; 80% have written a poem and published their work online, and they all now think poetry is cool. I basically sell them poetry as the eloquent articulation of rebellion and cite the history of poets and revolution. I have been running these workshops for ten years now and am booked out every year, so it’s all good. Making a living as a poet. Woo Hoo!
Fantastic! You also have online courses available on the Inspireland website. Can you tell us more about those?
Right now they are offline, I am just too busy with summer camps, booking out the next school year and writing projects to take them on, though I do hope to develop online software that can deliver my workshop exercises to anyone and everyone who wants them.
What have been your highlights so far?
Discovering new young talent is always an amazing experience. But also seeing how poetry can help young people open up about issues that affect them. I suppose my highlight was a young man in an all boys South Dublin school who came out as gay in his poem, published it on the Brave New Words Blog and put his name to it. He was the first openly gay student that the school had ever had and it is a really cool school so the school were thrilled. That shit rocks my world.
Can you give us examples of feedback you have received from students?
Actually, every year I get emails from parents, teachers and students thanking me for the workshops. I also get one or two complaints every year from conservative ultra religious types. I actually got asked to leave a school early by a county Galway girls school. There is a line where Catholicism and Wahhabism get so close they can blow kisses.
Are there any other links to your publications or previous workshops that you’d like to include?