Interview: Andrew Madec (That’s Life)

Andrew Madec is a workshop facilitator with That’s Life – an arts, leisure and personal development program of the Brothers of Charity services, Galway. The vision of That’s Life is of a society in which people with intellectual disabilities experience and contribute to its cultural and artistic life and are an integral part of it.

On Monday March 27th That’s Life are organising a new club night for people with intellectual disabilities in the Róisín Dubh called Bounce.

Hey Andrew, Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved with That’s Life?

Andrew Madec.

I’m a Galway based musician and workshop facilitator with That’s Life arts programme for people with Intellectual Disabilities. I first got involved with that’s life in transition year when a group of us from Colaiste Iognaid were given the opportunity to participate in a music project. We worked together to write a couple of songs and spent a day recording in a studio in Headford. I think my bass playing was so sloppy that day that it was unusable for the track but that’s over ten years ago at this stage so hopefully I’ve improved. It was a great experience that made an impression on all of us and subsequently lead to my involvement in other projects and events in the coming years. I’ve been working closely with that’s life since 2015 where I lead my first major music production “In Flow” and have since become a full time member of the team. In my free time I play bass with original outfits VOIDS and Zinc and have a healthy archive of unfinished beats and electronic music projects as is standard.

How did That’s Life originate? 

That’s life was originally set up in the nineteen nineties by the Brothers of Charity Services as a personal development, leisure and arts initiative. Originally the program was delivered solely by Claude Madec but the project and team has since expanded and developed as a fully fledged arts program which contributes to the development of arts and disability in the west of Ireland and beyond. That’s Life is a very progressive program that promotes inclusion in the arts and works with local artists to create high quality work.


Creativity and connection are at the heart of That’s Life – can you tell me more about the link between the two and how creativity is beneficial to people with intellectual disabilities?

You could say that the work we do is in line with the model of Arts and Participation. It’s all about working in collaboration with local artists to create beautiful work and for the people we work with to be an integral part of the process and outcome. In all that we do we try to enrich peoples lives through participative arts practice whether through music, visual arts, prop making, creative writing or drama. What the arts can offer people with ID is no different from the reasons for which artists in general choose to engage; self value and contribution to the wider community, engagement with others, self expression, being heard etc.

Preparing for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.


Electric Dreams are a band that came out of That’s Life – they recently played Citóg in the Róisín Dubh. Can you tell me more about this and why it was important to the band?

That’s Life have been supporting indie/pop ensemble Electric Dreams to develop musical skills/rehearse and write original music. There are four musicians with ID in the band as well as myself and local guitarist Aengus Hackett. We get together once a week to rehearse and write new material. There’s a great vibe in the band and all the musicians are really committed to developing their skills and the band is constantly improving as a result. Playing Citóg was a big milestone for us because it was our first gig in a proper music venue and to a general public audience. The message that That’s Life try to promote is that people with ID can make valuable contributions to the artistic community and that’s what we’re aiming for with Electric Dreams, to be a valued part of the music scene in Galway.


Club Tropicana has been an important date in the That’s Life calendar for a few years – can you tell me a bit more about this?

Club Tropicana is one of our biggest yearly bashes. It’s a themed club night for people with ID and it’s been happening in the Black Box for the past seven years. It’s a big space which requires a lot of props and installations to make the place come alive and preparations for the event begin months in advance. We work with artists to execute our ideas and bring them to the large scale and create a space that’s spectacular. Our resident VJs and DJs with ID knock out the tunes and visuals as well as performances from Electric Dreams and Galway cover band The Lewd Tunes for a night of high quality entertainment.

Club Tropicana.


Bounce is a new club night for people with intellectual disabilities launching this Monday. What’s happening?

Bounce is essentially a response to the demand from people with ID for more events that they can access but also to create more opportunities for our DJs and VJs to play. Our aim is to create a fun, safe and accessible space for young adults with ID to socialize, listen to music and dance in a club environment. All our DJs and VJs with ID are supported by experienced Galway DJs and VJs and play a wide range of music including pop, rock, hip hop and RnB. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find a venue that is suited to our needs and we’re delighted that the Róisín Dubh are supporting us to make this happen.

The first night takes place on Monday, March 27th from 8pm-11pm in the Róisín Dubh. There is a €5 admission charge and it is wheelchair accessible.


Finally, can you tell me some of your own personal highlights working with That’s Life?

The highlights for me without a doubt have been my involvement with “Trickster” in 2014 and “In Flow” in 2015-2016. “Trickster” was a large scale music theatre production staged at the Black Box in Collaboration with Jes Colborne / Mind The Gap from Bradford. It’s hard to describe exactly what Trickster was but it was awesome; there was a live band playing throughout, performers leading you through a fluid narrative with use of huge props such as a cherry picker and shipping container, all delivered in a promenade style of theatre.

And then, there was “In Flow” which we toured last year in the west of Ireland. This was a forty five minute audio visual experience with an inclusive Gamelan ensemble at it’s core, together with a rich layer of electronically processed beats, vocals and Gamelan sounds. This project brought together my love of electronic music, sampling, effect processing and the Gamelan, but this time in an arts and disability context. Composed in an inclusive and accessible way without ever compromising on the quality of the overall work, “In Flow” was performed by a seamless ensemble of players with ID and local musicians. It was very exciting. It was arts and participation at its best. The highlight for me was for our final performance at Nuns Island Theatre where we collaborated with Subversion Sound to take the sound quality to the next level. We put massive bass bins under the audience seating rig to create a more immersive and physical experience of the music, particularly the gongs. Hearing the music we had created together being represented with such high quality sound was amazing.

The cast of Trickster.