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Meet The Five Women Behind Dublin's Darkest Festival

By Sarah

October 18, 2017 at 4:21pm

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Ahead of next weekend's Bram Stoker Festival, which will see Dublin celebrate the writer of Dracula with four days of living stories and four nights of deadly adventures, we met five women who have made the festival into the success it is today.

You won't find any stuffy all-male panels here - these gals are pumping some much needed feminism into Ireland's art scene. Here's what they have to say...

Maria Schweppe

Maria is Co-Director of the Bram Stoker festival and has over 20 years experience working professionally in the arts; producing the Vodafone Comedy Tent at Body&Soul and the Father Ted Experience at EP. 

Maria also founded the London Irish Comedy Festival. 

Maria Schweppe Jpeg

For Maria, it's the adrenaline kick that you get when a festival is running smoothly and people are enjoying themselves that makes her really love her job.

Thankfully, she says she's never been held back or experienced discrimination of any kind because of her gender, but that's "not to say that it doesn't exist." 

"I have had some challenging working relationships," Maria says, "but always managed to overcome whatever difficulties there were.

"In the arts, a lot of the challenges are the same for men and women; it requires hard work, problem solving, constant learning and a love of what you do."

What's so special about the Bram Stoker Fest?

"I love working on the Festival, we have an amazing team and the scope for programming is very wide and varied, which means that we can have a lot of fun with it."

Maria and her team are interested not just in Bram Stoker and his works but also the Victorian, Samhain, and the supernatural. 

Part of the magic of the festival is making unusual venues open to the public - like a pop-up Victorian fun park in one of Dublin City Centre's public parks, discussions with a Vampiroligist in the Royal College of Surgeons and a series of horror radio plays in a former Georgian schoolhouse.

Megan Kennedy

Megan is a choreographer and artist whose work, Tasting Blue, will be presented in the Bram Stoker Fest. Her interests lie in creating work in unconventional spaces, working within non-specific genres and with a variety of collaborators.

Meghan

Are there any difficulties working as a woman in the arts industry?

"I believe less opportunities are offered to women in our sector," Megan states. 

"That’s not for vindictive reasons of any kind but because women and men are not yet truly equal in my opinion, and we have been following the same rules for centuries. 

"So I have to fight a bit harder for what I want sometimes and I have been treated differently than my male peers. 

"But things are changing and I believe in the change."

The one thing Megan loves most about her job is being able to think and act creatively - her "unhinged thinking" is essential to her work, and she believes that work thrives when there is no censor within the creative process. 

Sure, sometimes the ideas are watered down from the original, but it's the unhinged ones that are her favourite.

Megan's work in the Bram Stoker Festival is Tasting Blue, a performance which explores death.

As you peer through a series of holes framed in a web of fishing nets and human hair, the performers attempt to reflect the voyeur through the eye of the body, amidst hundreds of animal bones. The dark, sonic experience of the pieces "seemed like a perfect fit for the festival."

Úna Molloy 

Úna is an artist manager, booking agent, tour manager, event producer and she runs the music agency Turning Pirate. 

Úna will be bringing a one-off special to Bram Stoker Fest of the legendary Turning Pirate Gigs with famed artists such as Lisa Hannigan, Saint Sister and Adam Matthews.

Una Molloy Lisa Hannigan

In the early stage of tour managing, Úna reveals that it was tricky being a woman in charge of a full bus of band and crew - "people tended to pass over you and start talking to the guitar player to get the venue set up for load in."

But she figured out her swagger fairly quickly and learned that a few sideways looks and comments would let people know you're the tour manager without having to resort to any bad vibes.

Juggling motherhood and a career "hasn't been as simple as I had imagined"

Úna has just had a baby in the last six weeks (!), and says that it's always going to be a tough one for someone who works strange hours in a job that requires being out and about or on the road. 

"As a woman, it's hard to navigate when to do that and how to do it really and having just been through it, I imagine a struggle for lots of women in the arts, from musicians to people working behind the scenes. 

What does she love about her job? It's hands down the passion and the buzz of when everything comes together just right.

"The idea that work should be lots of fun is very important to me."  

Turning Pirate has an amazing group of musicians, and Bram Stoker Festival co-director Maria was keen to do a Mix Tape event for the festival.

Transforming into Turning Vampire for the festival, the Mix Tape show is a big house band playing loads of your favourite covers, everything from Radiohead to Ghostbusters. 

"It's a very unserious night, with a very serious amount of work put in to getting it up to scratch!"

Orla Clogher

Orla is the Parade Director of the Macnas Parade for Bram Stoker in 2017.

Orla Clogher

"It's very exciting to have the opportunity to transform the streets of Dublin for one night, to bring the Bram Stoker Parade to an exciting, dramatic close," Orla says.

The Macnas parade is famed in Galway, but taking place in Dublin for the festival is an exciting change, and Orla says how the landscape the work is presented in "can change the atmosphere dramatically."

What is the one thing you love most about your job?

 "I love the fact that I have the privilege to work with so many talented and interesting people with various skill sets. They are people whose work I greatly admire and I feel very lucky to have the chance to direct them. 

"Presenting the ideas and seeing what people bring to the work themselves is fantastic."

The Bram Stoker Macnas parade will bring mystery and imagination through the broad and narrow streets of Dublin’s Northside.

Hannah Mamalis

Hannah is a Dublin based actress, writer and comedian. Her screen credits include RTE’s Republic of Telly and Des Bishop’s:This is Ireland.

Hannah Mamalis

"I know that the fact that I’m a woman has made people question my work ethic at times"

Hannah says that working as a woman in the arts, she's been aware of people wondering "whether I deserve things or have ‘earned’ them in their eyes. 

"I’ve come up against people who have told me that my interest in pursuing different aspects of my craft, be it acting or writing or comedy, makes me look too flighty and that I should choose one and focus on it or people won’t take me seriously - to which I told them to fuck off."

Hannah's love of her work stems down to the constantly changing face of it and the fact that it allows her to amalgamate all the things that she loves into one big creative cluster.

What is it that attracted you to getting involved with the Bram Stoker Fest?

"The art that I enjoy always has an element of darkness to it and it's very satisfying to have a specific outlet through which to explore that darkness. Be it humour or horror or thrills.  

"I love the focus of the festival and how it allows you to hone in on genre whilst still being completely open in terms of your own specific expression of it. Horror and fantasy for me, are some of the most interesting ways through which we attempt to dissect the world."

Hannah will present a show, We Are The Monsters, alongside Lauren-Shannon Jones at the Bram Stoker Fest, which looks at how horror can help us process the world we live in. Sounds creepily amazing.

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