Geneva Literary Aid Society

Some really good news from GLAS

Last minute problems with GLAS events have taught me to hide my despair at cruel twists of fate and to bite my tongue when dealing with a concierge who resembles an ex-gang member who has become an avid convert to clean living and a rules-based lifestyle. He can make life and death decisions about our access and use of our favourite venue.

Somehow we stumble on from gig to gig. There was the time when Luka Bloom left his guitar in a hotel room 100 miles away. We found a replacement. Tim Pat Coogan needed a lectern so I went down with Maryvelma O’Neill and unscrewed the pulpit from the floor of the darkened local Catholic Church. (Never darkened by Tim Pat I’m afraid!). Similar problem with the UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy meant blagging a lectern from the Crowne Plaza Hotel half an hour before she took to the stage. (None of these people like to sit at tables.)

On Friday night we were short three music stands for our six guest musicians. With about an hour to go, I called Paul Conneally to see if he could help out given the number of musicians in his household and he happened to be in a music shop where he duly bought three music stands for 20 Euros each and arrived with his posse of sons in time to buy a winning ticket in the GLAS raffle sold to him suspiciously enough by my own son.

It was a great evening of music, songs and poetry. The highlight for me was the mighty Mickey Dunne from Limerick, an immortal from the world of traditional Irish music, the last of several generations of travellers who made their living playing music up and down Ireland. He’s a cousin of the late Pecker Dunne. He was wearing a black shirt which he picked up last week from another cousin Finbar Furey who had just walked off the stage in the Cork Opera House when Mickey told him that he had no black shirt to wear for his gig in Geneva with Tale of the Gael. Finbarr stripped off on the spot and handed it to him. Mickey kindly offered it for auction by GLAS, impregnated as it is with the sweat of two of Ireland’s greatest pipers. Maybe we’ll just cut it up and sell it off in little patches, like scapulars.

Tale of the Gael are a class ensemble of musicians led by the harpist Catherine Rhatigan and the changing line-up always features interesting combinations. Friday night along with Mickey we also had the classically trained flautist, Robert Tobin, a Swiss virtuoso on bouzouki and double bass, Dave Aebli, and the beautiful voice of Judith Lowry from the Edinburgh School of Music. Catherine’s daughter 11 year old Anna, a prodigy, joined in and told me that everyone says she looks like Anne Frank. Also yesterday morning I had the pleasure of treating my neighbours to the sound of Mickey Dunne playing the uileann pipes after breakfast in my 8th floor apartment. The sound must have travelled through the whole building.
Finally, we had a fantastic turn-out Friday. It was the first time in nine years that we ran out of both booze and sandwiches. And we raised a mighty SwFrs 6,500 for the Edith Wilkins Foundation for Street Children. We also announced that GLAS is making a donation of £1,000 to the Nirbhaya project to bring the play about the short life and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey on tour around India. It was brought to our attention by Donal O’Kelly when he was here in September performing his Edinburgh Fringe award-winning play “Fionnuala.’ Nirbhaya which means “fearless” won the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and the company now want to bring the play on tour around India as a powerful vehicle for stirring debate on sexual violence against women. Their funding target is £50,000 on the kickstarter web site. If they don’t reach their target in the few days left then they receive nothing. They still needed £5,000 then and during the interval a young Irish businessman told me that he would pay the balance but did not want to be identified. I sent him an email yesterday and I believe he will be as good as his word.
We had a lot of fun but we also remembered Jyoti and the street kids of Darjeeling. Thanks everyone who came out on a cold night and the great GLAS team, Claire, Soph, Beatrice, Pete, Andy, Kiki, Kim, Martin, Oisin, Aidan and Tara. Big thanks to Shire, Ruth Creamer and her fellow librarians AILIS, and to Charlie O’Neills for their sponsorship of Friday night’s event. And Brian Tisdall for his support on accommodation for the artistes.