"The Ark and I have been building a really strong connection with St Patrick’s Boys School in Ringsend over the past few years. Since I’ve been engaged here, we’ve facilitated numerous school trips to see shows and exhibitions as well as having some great council members from both the Girls’ and Boys’ side of the school.
This year saw our relationship with St. Patrick’s develop even further with the development of our first Intergenerational Drama Project. The idea came through a conversation between The Ark and I last year about creating space for the voice of the grandparent in our work together.
I was immediately interested in this prospect because I have witnessed before how the voices of the younger and older generation can be similarly marginalised but for different reasons. This new opportunity was a great addition to my responsibilities within The Ark and the ideas for the project came fast after meeting with both groups in September, 2017.
The concept was to create a stylised verbatim performance derived from the interviews that I would facilitate across two generations of the Ringsend community. Every month, Liam (The Ark’s Project Coordinator) and I spent the morning in Ringsend working with a group of grandparents from the area as well as a motley crew of boys from St Patrick’s 5th and 6th class.
When interviewing, I was struck by the genuine concern the older group were presenting for the younger generation- while differences in perspective on childhood felt really stark across both camps. I knew straight away that there was a lot of material to explore further but immediate themes relating to a perceived loss of innocence as well as initial experiences with death and grieving rang out the most.
These direct accounts coupled with the more unique insights into Ringsend customs and traditions were aspects of this community’s lived experience that I was so excited to help represent.
I just didn’t feel like it was a theatre piece...
Having worked with Luca Truffarelli on The Ark Children’s Council’s Talking to the Taoiseach film, I knew he would be a great match for our Ringsend project when I decided we should adapt the concept into a film piece. The Ark were a great support in allowing me to flip the script and develop the idea into something else with Luca now on board.
Luca has become something of a staple within the audio visual realm of The Ark. He’s responsible for the images of young people that adorn our windows and has a great knack for communicating gently and efficiently with people who may not be used to being in front of the camera.
When working within a community context, it’s important to take your leads where they lie and that meant that I had to listen and negotiate the collaboration on the terms of the participants first and foremost.
Our young people responded less to the interviewing aspect of the process while the older participants point blank refused to get up on their feet and pass a clap around! As the text and material took shape, it made sense to use the words of the elder participants in this regard while making it so the wildness of the boys from Ringsend- their off-the cuff remarks and random demonstrations of pure skill (see Nathan’s cartwheels) became the core aspect of the film’s visual language.
For me, The First was a Boy is a window into opinions, perspectives and experiences on childhood within the Ringsend community.
When watching the film, I would love the viewer to consider the voice of the adults, their perception and concerns- but also the reality of the young people as we found them. Chaotic, full of life, extremely fun and full of promise...
The juxtaposition of our young people in very joyous and playful imagery was how I wanted that concern from the older generation to be framed.
Since finalising the edit, we have hosted a screening of the piece in The Ark as well as showing the work at PROJECT POP UP in Project Arts Centre.
The Ark, Luca and I are so proud of this film and we plan to make sure we do the rounds with it across film festivals and other potential screenings in 2018/19.
For the time being, we are delighted to share with you a short teaser for the film below. You can find out more about the project here. We will be sure to update you with the films whereabouts over the coming year.
A big thank you again to the participants of the piece, as well as our project funders (Dublin City Council, South East Area Local Area Office (Neighbourhood Grant Scheme),The Ireland Funds, Dublin Bus Community Spirit Awards) and the staff and local community of Ringsend."
If you have any questions about the film or its distribution please contact The Ark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The participants of the Ringsend Neighbourhood Intergenerational Drama Project at the first screening of their film The First Was a Boy
Shaun Dunne is one of The Ark's Artist in Residence, with responsibility for The Ark Chidlren's Council.