Thursday, July 13, 2006
Rattlebag Petition Hand-Over and First Day's Blogging
Today was the day out in the 'Big Smoke', as we used to call it in the Kingdom. The reaction to the petition I organised a few weeks ago has been fantastic. It's not often that your heroes personally endorse a campaign you launch, so when I saw the names of Paul Brady, Freddie White, Mary Coughlan, Hughie O' Donoghue, Aidan Quinn and loads of others supporting the campaign to keep the Rattlebag programme on Radio 1, it lightened the heart. More importantly as a Councillor was the great reaction from ordinary listeners (and voters!!) to the campaign.
It was even better that I could persuade my all-time favourite Irish artist, Bobby Ballagh, one of my all-time favourite singers. Liam Ó Maonlai, and Tania Banotti, representing the Theatre companies of the country to come along with me and hand in the petition. Unfortunately, RTÉ seemed to feel that these well-known figures would damage them from a publicity point of view, so they refused to let them in with the petition.
We had the mad situation of taking our publicity shots which you'll see here tomorrow, on the footpath outside the station. Even more worrying was the comment made by another artist that 'Today's petition is tomorrow's blacklist'. This shouldn't be the way in a National broadcaster, ach sin an saol.
In we went then to meet Ana Leddy, Head of Radio One and Lorelei Harris, head of Arts Programming. Jack Wall T.D., Labour's spokesperson on the arts played a blinder. He really articulated the importance of the programme to ordinary people, for whom it gave a great sampler of the arts, and stated that it was Labour's clear view that the programme should stay in the middle of the day, rather than be shifted to 11 at night.
I emphasised the importance of the programme to artists. Liam had told me that it was a great way of plugging new projects, shows or other events, and that you could see people turning up who had heard the work discussed on the show. We were reasonable in agreeing that some element of later programming could be a good idea allowing late night reviews on opening nights of movies, plays etc. but again pleaded for the afternoon slot be left alone.
Ana is a tough lady, and gave the clear impression that 'the lady's not for turning'. What she was outlining was an afternoon show in which Derek Mooney and company will reach into local communities meeting the characters and reporting on local events. Ironically, she's a sister of an old friend and student union colleague, Giollaiosa Ó Lidheadha.
One straw in the wind was the fact that the women told us clearly that they had been following the petition closely. Those who campaign online should take note of this. It's hard to know what will happen as a result, but I have a feeling that RTÉ will have to give in eventually and keep a real arts programme on the air.
In the papers today, the coverage focussed on John Kelly's axing from the Mystery Train programme and the even crazier decision to drop the Audioscope programme aimed at those with hearing impairment. Just our luck that that would hit the headlines today.
Meanwhile, thanks a bunch to Liam for the great chat afterwards and reminiscing on college days (He even remebered that I had given the Hothouse Flowers their first ever paying gig, playing to 40 people for about £100 for the band-at most!). To Bobby who is the bravest and most forthright person I know in Irish public life. We were members of the Reclaim the Spirit of 1916 campaign in the early 90's, organising the commemoration of the 75th anniversary. I was delighted to tell him about the official commemoration I initiated in Kilkenny on Easter Saturday.
Finally to Tania, who really is a chip off the old block. Her support in the past week has been magic, particularly her article in the IT on Saturday. The theatre operators and groups of Ireland are lucky to have such a live-wire in their corner. If she decides to follow Mam and Auntie into politics, I hope she picks a real left of centre party!! Sorry I forgot I'm not supposed to insult our 'pardners'. All in all a good morning's work. It's great to be back campaigning again-sure we might occupy the place the next time!!
Posted by Seán Ó hArgáin at 6:28 pm