XNTHONY does the awkward artist 2016 round up blog post
My eyes roll when I see the plethora of artists and performers publicly rounding up their year online for all of us to see. Of course I see the usefulness but since I didn’t get any arts council funding this year I’m pretty free to leave out any mention of success, increased public engagement (of which there was plenty) and self-evaluation. Instead I will keep this largely of a personal nature since I know how many of you are invested in my life and my success. I say that with tongue firmly in cheek/check. This is for me a chance to consider the year (I’m going back on what I said I wouldn’t do). It’s been a quietly massive year for me. No big buzz shit, it was more a sleeper success year. I’m coming up behind you. Boo.
Mainly this year I walk away with this main success – I gave up smoking. I was smoking heavily. It affected my energy, and as my work begun to get booked up more and more, and realising Bowie (who hadn’t really been an idol of mine, but I adored his final album) had apparently died having smoked a packet every day, I said bye bye ciggies. And with that ended my frequent anxiety and heavy chests. These symptoms had become a permanent aspect of my adult life. I’d even gotten counselling. I had methods in place to avoid panic. Not to say I’m cured of whatever trauma I’ve been enduring (lol) but the anxiety has passed over. Quit smoking guys. It ain’t good for you.
Then the shows began. We started with a quiet bang at Quarter Block Party in Cork. We commenced a tour in April which then kept on going which seems never ending. And that’s fab. During the tour we visiting The Glory (a place fast becoming a fave of mine), Prague Fringe Festival, IYAF in Kingston (total baes) and many other exciting places.
Probably the most important place we visited for me personally was my home town Roscommon. In 2015 Roscommon remained the only area to vote against marriage equality in Ireland. Bringing my campy, queer, aggressively fun work to this space was naturally a big deal for me. We feared it wouldn’t sell. We feared people would be a bit awks. We were of course completely wrong, they loved it. And it sold out. AND some lovely older lady smacked my bum in the middle of it all. Yay! Roscommon people remain my favourite people. I’m a bit of obsessed with them really. You’re going to be hearing a lot from them in 2017. I hope.
The amazing arts organisation Limewharf welcomed me in their arms (big thanks to Tam and Emma) giving me a space and a home in London. London is a hard place. I had considered leaving. But their invaluable support has made me feel a sense of belonging I haven’t felt in years. To survive in London you need a community. There are many here very eager to present themselves for your attention but they generally aren’t for me. I’ve always been a bit of a loner in a group (as much as I love to socialise, I inevitably creep away to spend time on my own) but Limewharf with their community driven support feels like an anchor rather than a clique. They do amazing work to support artists of all walks. It’s selfless support. It just doesn’t come like that in the real world. So I am very lucky.
Depression / or feeling down a lot / feeling trauma
Oh the naughty word. I never really talk about this. I don’t know if I really should. I’m always a bit awkward about publicising that sort of stuff. But maybe it’d make it easier for me though. I’m happy to say that I seem to be coming out of a pretty tough period. A 18 month period. A swings and roundabouts period. I’m grateful the shows and whatnot have taken off because without that I would probably sink into my bed permanently. It’s all down to relationships and not loving yourself, and the affects of that mindset makes waves throughout your life until you are brave enough to say NA HAW HONEY. I’m trying to keep mindful, focused, clear and I’ve gotten better at binding that madness together, though occasionally I can feel it unravel before me, but my strategies exist. Mindfulness is useful. So is not drinking. So is not being too hard on yourself.
Then there was XNTOPANTO
In July I had an idea to do a panto. It wasn’t a good idea. Then in August I had the same idea again just in a different way and this time it was good. This often happens. Ideas drop in and out until they are ready to play ball.
I teamed up with my producer David Doyle and thus the XNTOPANTO platform was born. We received a million bazillion applications. We had to make our way through a lot of talent. Ireland is exploding right now and we wanted to give those millions of explosions a stage. I know there’s a degree of ‘having notions’ attached to that but when speaking with the artists I would repeatedly say ‘we’re all taking a risk’ with the project and so we were. I’m thrilled with the platform we’ve developed (with a special thanks to Fringe Lab and Limewharf) and I am excited to fine tune the experience. Bringing artists together is important, especially doing so away from established streams.
The creativity bustling in London and Dublin are exciting but essentially very different beasts. I’m caught in between. Dublin with its obsession with form, finished-ness, belonging. London with unfinished-ness, DIY, disregard. Both tightly wound places. I feel unhappily/happily caught in the middle. I wish I knew where to position myself. But often when I take a moment I realise that belonging somewhere isn’t really all that important. The position on the outside is altogether far more exciting.
This year I learned not to expect too much of yourself. And also chill guys. We’re young. Mistakes are fun. Crucial. Hard. Nurturing.
Unexpect the expected
Amidst a tour of what felt like the world but was really just a bit of England, Ireland and Europe (actually that’s a lot), I had a lot of copping on to do. I was a bit ugly. I recommend touring for anyone who has notions of themselves. You’ll soon realise you’re a gorgeous, glittery speck. But that’s just it. You’re a speck. A nothing. With the tour came the shocking realisation, get this, THAT I WAS PROBABLY NOTHING IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS. And while that realisation turned me into a dick for a while (I got defensive soz) it’s actually ended up being quite freeing. It has the effect of freeing you up of the strange ties we feel to our groups, gangs or troupes. They are all great, sure, but I could see that for me to survive I needed to be making meaningful connections outside of my own world. If you were one of these connections then Thank You!
Also small tip – don’t expect to sell any tickets, when you do you’ll feel really good about yourself. The opposite just makes you stressed and feel worthless.
Amidst the tour, I married Tiffany (one of my main collaborators). This is part of a career change coming in 2017. I hope it’s a success. The project that is. The marriage is …well… we do what we do to get on don’t we?
I hope to continue touring, I quite enjoy it now. I have a health craze focused project in the works, I’m developing my writing skills, writing more songs, learning the guitar, maybe do some clowning, start a podcast (advice plz!) and commence research for a new musically themed show about my hometown and my confirmation in 2002 (I am essentially still a catholic boy), see if my Tess of the D’Ubervilles meets Britney Spears music musical has legs, lose my belly, accept my age, continue to cut down drinking and any type of addiction (trying to…). I’m going to enjoy myself, enjoy failing, enjoy being outside of it all (still), and finally ask why every project I complete feels like another attempt to prove that I’m maybe useful to my audience, and maybe learn to use photoshop.