Shout Out Friday – Go BIG

There was lots to talk about in today’s Shout Out Friday.

Angela Josephine’s new album Daylight went LIVE this morning. Check out her dawn chorus live on Facebook!

You can listen to Angela and I chat about the album on the Strut and Bellow podcast.

Karen Hickey’s solo exhibition Clothed launches tonight at the Signal Arts Centre in Bray, Co. Wicklow, my home town. Definitely worth checking out.

Isabelle Gaborit from Wildfire & Wax is exhibiting as part of As Na Studioeanna at Secret Garden Gallery in Kinvara, Galway.

Lorna Watkins’ exhibition heartfelt will be on later in June at the Hyde Bridge Gallery in Sligo. More details nearer the time but gosh, I love her paintings.

And Mel Wiggins is doing some mighty work with Assembly Gatherings – definitely worth checking her out if you love some soulful, soothing women centred creative community. I feel so excited to be part of her membership circle. We’re all going to do some exciting things together, I can just feel it.

Apologies to my newsletter subscribers, April’s newsletter and ebook are a bit delayed but both will be in your inboxes soon.

It’s a bank holiday weekend here in Northern Ireland so I’m looking forward to chilling with family. Hope you have a great one too.

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The why.


Never underestimate the power of women, friends.

At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t have imagined that in a mere 4 months I’d have a sell out show on my hands and a demand for it that right now feels daunting considering the size of the cast. But each of the women in the photo above, as well as our director Jo Egan, (not to mention our male assistant director Colm Gorman and two crew members David Willis and Stephen McVicker) have given their time and energy without compensation for this play. The box office receipts for Friday’s show have yet to come in and hopefully there’ll be a small amount for each of us but it’s nothing near what they all should be paid for the work they’ve done.

Friday night was very special. We arrived at the Black Box in the afternoon and walked through some of the play to get adjusted to the more limited performing area. There was no time for a full dress nor technical rehearsal. We hadn’t all been together in the same room since the show in February. We’d managed ad hoc rehearsals working around people’s full time work, child care and family commitments.

At one point, the twelve of us crammed in the tiny dressing room back stage, moments before we started the show, someone said what we were all thinking,

‘Why do we put ourselves through this?’

There was an outburst of nervous laughter, an admission of nausea, a crampy tummy, an irrepressible need to pee and at least one of us asked quietly ‘Do you actually think I can act?’ Someone’s babysitter was not following the plan at home, someone else’s elder child had been left in charge, someone had had to leave work early, someone else had exams looming. We all had other places we could have been that would not have needed us to go out in front of over 100 people and perform a show about vaginas, that would not have needed us to remember lines, overcome fear, expose ourselves to criticism, risk making a mistake and looking foolish.

But we lined up anyway, and on the word from the stage manager, we marched on stage and began;

TVM APRIL‘I bet you’re worried. 

We were worried.

We were worried about vaginas….’

It turned out to be a great show. The bar was raised high and every actress gave her all. There was laughter and tears and sounds of agreement and affirmation. It was with great relief that we bowed to a standing ovation from the audience who had been engaged and respectful throughout. It was good to leave the stage on a high.

At the interval, before we showed excerpts from Eve Ensler’s documentary film and hosted a post show discussion, a woman came up to me and introduced herself. Her name was Karin and she was my contact from Woman’s Aid, to whom we had donated the proceeds of the last show. This was her first time seeing the show and she loved it.

I want you to know,’ she said ‘that all of the money you raised from the show in February went towards creating Northern Ireland’s first rape crisis helpline.’

There it was. The why.

I was approached by a young guy in his twenties who seemed visibly moved. He talked about his mum and how she had instilled in him a respect for women that he was grateful for but that the show had really touched him and made him realise how important this conversation was for men as well as for women. He said he was going through a transition time in his life and had recently moved back to Belfast. He was questioning the model of masculinity he had grown up with and seeing some of its toxicity.

There it was again. The why.

In the post show discussion, a woman rose her hand to share that having been the victim of a violent attack in the past, she had ‘shut up shop’ but that the show had made her think that perhaps it was time for a ‘refurbishment’.

The why.

In the light of recent swinging cuts to arts organisations here in Northern Ireland, and a patronising attitude towards practitioners where we’re accused of being bad at business and incapable of managing our resources, Friday night proved to me how vital and valuable a show like ours can be.

Right in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, on a Friday night, we packed out a top venue and talked about issues central to women’s experiences; menstruation, birth, body shaming, the male gaze, sexuality, violence and rape. At one point two audience members left after collapsing in giggles during the monologue inspired by the rape of women as a weapon of war during the Balkan conflict in the 90s. We later discovered that each of them had been victims of rape and that the piece in question had triggered a nervous reaction that manifested as laughter, a very common reaction to trauma.

With the #metoo movement highlighting just how prevalent sexual assault is and with numerous women all over the world rising to say enough, there was never a more important time to talk about these things in the public arena. We are proud to be taking the conversation out of the kitchens and behind the closed doors and into the heart of public discourse. Come with us as we continue our journey.

The Vagina Monologues will be returning to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast for two nights on the 1st and 2nd of June. Tickets will soon be available from the Lyric box office. Spread the word and sign up for the email to keep updated on news about the show.






Shout Out Friday – Angela Josephine


I’m so thrilled to be able to share with you this wonderful recording artist who I had the pleasure of talking to back in October of last year. Her new album Daylight – Stone, Bright, Solid Vol 2 is out on May 4th and her latest single, Got to Believe, which she sings on the podcast, releases today. You can hear the single here. And pre-order the entire album here.

Based in North Michigan, Angela is a folk musician and songwriting who began her career in 2002 and has since recorded three albums. She has been compared to “a modern, female Nick Drake” (David Faulkner, CRD), while Northern Express reviewer Kristi Kates cites “a more jaded Sarah McLachlan.” She’s going to be performing next month here in Belfast as part of Pete Rollins’ WAKE Festival so I’ll be sure to keep you informed of details nearer the time.

Angela’s album Daylight is at once a folk-rock opera and personal exploration. A project spanning seven years, from its demo inception in a pole barn in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2011) to a fully produced album recorded in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan (producer Chris Bathgate) (2018), Daylight delves into themes of darkness and light .  The cinematic prelude “This Light” invites one into an expansive landscape that unfold with unexpected beauty and lush discovery, culminating in the haunting finale “Face to the Wind”.

Check out the video for “This Light” here. For more information on Angela and her tour dates.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud and sign up for the newsletter to be the first to hear about new events and opportunities. 


Shout Out Friday – Vicky Blades

Here’s the video of my Shout Out Friday chat with Vicky Blades. Details of the event she mentions, Investing in me, in Belfast next month are below.


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Investing in Me – An insightful and inspiring day of mindfulness, coaching and learning to support good mental well-being for those involved in the Arts in NI.
We will be hosting a variety of workshops, classes and talks on the subject of Resilience and Self-Care. Come along and learn practical tips on how to build self care practices in to your life, including yoga, mindfulness, EFT and coaching. 

12 April at 10:00–16:00

Accidental Theatre   12-13 Shaftesbury Square, BT2 7DB Belfast

Other helpful links:

Aware NI

Inspire Well Being

Theatre NI

Lifeline  Dial 0808 808 8000 All of the people who take calls from this number are trained counsellors and there is free crisis counselling for anyone who has the need.

Samaritans – you can call 116123 from anywhere in the UK or Ireland for free and you’ll get an compassionate voice on the other end.

But don’t forget if you or anyone you know is in immediate danger from self harm, or in need of urgent medical attention, please call the emergency services on 999.


Shout Out Friday – Amy de Bhrún


I first came across Amy de Bhrún when I heard about her through her sister, actress and singer Fiona Browne. My sister and I went to see her one woman show The Female of the Species at the Mayfield Restaurant in Dublin a couple of years ago. She was funny, poignant and gorgeous, clearly a talented actress and a terrific writer to boot.

Hopping between London and Dublin, film work and a thriving career as a voice over artist, Amy has diligently set about creating a model of being an actor that has an autonomy and independence that is seldom achieved.

Now about to take her new show I See You, inspired by the life of trailblazer Lady Mary Heath to the Theatre Upstairs in Dublin this May, Amy has created a crowdfunding campaign so that she can properly finance the venture. People seldom think about the cost of doing a show and assume that we make theatre for the love of it, which we do, but we also have to eat and pay the rent.

Amy’s aim is to raise €4000 which will go towards paying her actors, director and crew. costume, set and promotional materials. This is not a huge amount of money and she’s almost there! Let’s get behind her and get her and Lady Mary Heath’s story heard.

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Happy International Women’s Day!


Photo on 05-02-2016 at 12.36 #2Two years ago today I launched the podcast and blog at the Waking the Feminist event in Dublin for International Women’s Day. I invited my friend Noni Stapleton to be my first interviewee and we mostly cackled through our chat. My vision for the podcast has grown and expanded and only now am I beginning to get the chance to create what I’ve always hoped for the site.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of posts on keeping creative. I went back to my conversation with Noni and took notes and came up with four things that I think were key to her creativity and mine. The best way to come along for the ride is to listen to our conversation and follow along as I unpack it. Then we’ll catch up with Noni again in a few weeks and find out what’s been happening with her and her play Charolais in the intervening couple of years (spoiler alert: a LOT has happened!).

I’ve lined up conversations with some other inspiring women who I know will have a lot to offer to us.

So stay tuned and if you’re interested in getting the whole series as an ebook at the end, sign up for my newsletter. Subscribers will also get to hear first about a couple of upcoming events I’m involved with. The newsletter goes out next week so be sure not to miss out.

There’s no Live Friday Shoutout tomorrow as I’m at a conference for a couple of days but check back in next week when I’ve got a great chat lined up with a wonderful artist who you’re going to want to get behind!

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, so you never miss an episode.

In the meantime, keep struttin’ and bellowin’!


Shout Out Friday – replay

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Here’s the low down on how our sell out show The Vagina Monologues that played at the Lyric theatre on the 25th of February came to be.

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to get the latest information on upcoming shows and events first. 



The Vagina Monologues (2)This was awesome to discovery yesterday morning and when I called just now to see if any of the extra seats they’d released were left, I was told they too had gone. So on Sunday night we will have a full house which for an actor is a wonderful feeling. When you stand up on that stage, with all the preparation you’ve done, all the presence you’re bringing, knowing that there are people there ready to go on a journey with you is half the battle.

There’s a rule of thumb where a show will only be cancelled if there’s the same number of audience as there is cast. So it only takes one more person to take their seat for a show to go ahead. I’ve been in a play where there was a cast of seven and we had heard that there were only seven people in the audience.  At the last minute, an eighth audience member walked in and took his seat and with a sigh of resignation the stage manager gave us the OK to start the show. There is not much more sad than a sizeable cast on a stage and a tiny audience.

Theatre is magic. It’s an incredible privilege as an actor to take the audience on a journey. It’s a sacred thing for an audience member to suspend their disbelief and allow an actor to embody a story and to take them places that they may never have been before – even to very uncomfortable places. The power is of course in the imagination of the audience. The actor and writer make suggestions, the audience create the picture, each one with different nuances but glorious nonetheless.

So on Sunday night, we will hold space for the words of the Eve Ensler to take the audience to places that may make them laugh, or cry, or feel uncomfortable or affirmed. Through our bodies, we’ll give presence to the voices and bodies of the many women Ensler interviewed in the creation of the piece.

And if there’s one thing I want our audience to feel it’s rage. And this might be a hard thing to hear. But I am done being polite. What is happening to women, what has been thrust upon women for eons must stop.

I had a conversation a while ago with a woman who told me how it took her years to understand that the behaviour of her partner, his manipulation, coercion, control was actually not normal. He may not have beaten her physically, she may not have had bruises or broken bones but she lived in constant fear that nothing she did was to his satisfaction and he was constantly changing the goal posts. The toll this took on her emotional and mental well being was such that now she has chronic physical ailments long after she managed to get out from under the same roof.

Gaslighting, dismissing, controlling, emotionally blackmailing are all acts of violence – perhaps not overtly physical but the effects of emotional violence can ultimately have an impact physically. The body can only take so much and it is intricately connected to the health of the mind and spirit.


Eve Ensler’s book  In the Body of the World deals frankly and openly with her own disconnection from her body due to the abuse she suffered as a child and how her battle with uterine cancer led her back to connection and embodiment. She had to go through a difficult to get there. There was pain she had to face up to to heal. A profoundly moving part of her story is the connection she made with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo with whom she’d spent time.  Many had suffered wounds like traumatic fistulae from having been victims of rape as a weapon of war. Ensler then experienced the same injury due to her cancer surgery. Something about embodying a similar wound brought her closer to wholeness and connection to the wider world.

Violence doesn’t just happen to those women over there or behind that closed door or to a anonymous woman in a different social circle. It’s happening everywhere and to the extent that it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. Because we’re all connected really. Our bodies are being violated, objectified, dismissed, sexualised without our consent. Our bodies are despised, found wanting, shamed. Our bodies are beaten, bruised and broken on a daily basis and it has to stop.

I’m glad we have a sell out show on Sunday night because it means more money can go to Women’s Aid here in Northern Ireland and to women directly affected by domestic violence. 10% of the proceeds will also go to Ensler’s V-Day campaign which works globally to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women.

To those of you who can’t make the show, please consider donating the price of the ticket (£10/$14/€11) to Women’s Aid or V-Day or a women’s shelter local to you. To the rest of you who were lucky enough to get a ticket, come prepared to laugh, cry and rage with us and let’s see if we can’t start to see change happen.

Don’t forget to like and follow Strut and Bellow on Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. And stop by for my Facebook/Instagram live on Friday morning (11am GMT) when I will be giving a shout out to the amazing creative team behind our production of The Vagina Monologues at the Lyric. 

The V Word

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There’s nothing quite like it. Being in a room with other actresses giggling over the various names for our most intimate body parts. There’s nothing quite like being in a room with other actresses full stop. But add to the mix a very female subject matter, the fact that most of us have children and therefore have either had to take time out from our careers or have a constant struggle to manage both and some fairly dark Northern Irish humour and you’ve got a recipe for sheer joy.

I didn’t know many of our team of actresses well before this project but what I can tell you is that they are all great and their commitment is second to none (don’t forget, this is all voluntary, no one’s getting paid). Having had limited female camaraderie in recent months since our move, this feels like a warm bath at the end of a very long day. I’m the newbie, the unknown entity but I’ve been welcomed and accepted as one of the tribe and that has been every bit as special as getting the play on its feet.

The V word. It’s been fascinating jumping in the deep end and delving into the text. It’s at once hilarious, outrageous, informative and desperately, desperately sad. It’s a very strong reminder that for many women around the world, their bodies are not their own. Women have been conditioned to consider their bodies dirty, defiled and disposable and the very idea of a woman having bodily autonomy is taboo in many cultures.

The V word. Standing up on a stage and talking about vaginas is of course empowering but there’s something else going on just below the surface and that is vulnerability. It’s an act of courage to speak about these things in a public space and why indeed shouldn’t we talk about our bodies and the joy we can derive from them, the sadness that we’re made to feel because of them. We all carry our own unspoken shames and fears about our bodies, our disappointments and our scars and, I know for me personally, I’m grateful to have someone else’s words to give voice to some of my feelings.

I’m not yet at that glorious nirvana of complete comfort in my own skin. There’s still the young woman in me desperately comparing my body shape with others and finding it wanting. There’s the anxiety over the changes that are happening as my body ages. In a culture where women’s bodies are still commodified and objectified, it’s an act of defiance to speak the female truth about the female body in a female voice. It’s a reclaiming of the autonomy and modelling a different way of existing in the world.

This becomes especially important to those of us who are raising daughters and find ourselves reinforcing the old conditioning, however unconsciously – be quiet, be nice, stand back, bow down. In order that my daughter be free to be her true self, she needs to see me model it. She needs to see me embrace my own self, to get up off my knees, shake off the old ways, to strut and to bellow.

I look back at the women in my family, my maternal heritage and see all the ways we’ve been kept down and held back. I’ve seen my mother’s generation push back and move beyond the tightly formed boundaries. And now there’s my generation, my cousins and I who get to take another step forward. I can’t wait to see the leaps my daughter and my nieces make. I feel proud to lay the groundwork for them.


Sign up for my newsletter for news about an upcoming version of The Vagina Monologues that I’m involved with. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. If you’re looking for an inspiring conversation with a leading Irish feminist activist, check out the episode where I chat to Lian Bell, founder of the Waking the Feminist movement.