Thanks to clicking, out of idle curiosity, on a chance link to a vaguely familiar name that came up in a computer search this week I had a vision of what might have been.
As I've mentioned once or twice, in a former life
– over 30 years ago – I was involved in the world's unlikeliest
clown troupe. In Belfast, at the height of “the troubles”. But
in 1983, due to several devastating incidents which happened within
weeks of each other, I just had to escape. It was meant to be
temporary, but on the very morning I was supposed to take a plane
back there to discuss a new project I had a severe panic attack of a
kind I have never experienced before or since, and could not board
I later recovered the confidence to fly to visit a
friend in the UK, during the year of the Miners Strike and Battle of
the Beanfield, and saw a country I no longer recognised and no longer
wanted to be a citizen of. To cut the story short, it was 1988 before
I ventured off-island again, and then only to travel to Israel at the
start of the Intifada, a two month adventure which (for reasons
totally unconnected to the political situation in Israel) finally
gave me the impetus to break back into a satisfying profession and
From the odd thing I saw on TV, I knew the Belfast
projects were doing marvellous things, but never managed to get back
into contact with old colleagues, even when in Belfast for a weekend
of atheist subversion in 2005 and my hosts tried to help. So all
these years I have wondered what happened, especially to my
co-founder of the world's unlikeliest clown troupe.
Then, this week, that chance click on a vaguely
familiar name revealed an astonishing story. My co-founder (then a
startlingly individualistic 18 year old who, like me, left school
unqualified at 16 having been told by teachers she would never amount
to anything) carried on clowning, and other remarkable things. This
should have been no surprise because, as I may have also mentioned,
the whole point behind the clown troupe was that if you are in a
hell-hole where conventional wisdom says you cannot do anything, you
may as well go all out doing what you love, because even if you fail
you will have had far more fun than conforming.
Then, in the late 1990's, she decided to take a
B.A. in Archaeology, graduated with a first, went on to gain her Ph.D.
in 2005 and to contribute to academic journals on a topic on which
she is now almost Ireland's only authority. Remember again –
written off as a no-hoper at school, living in a city where most of
her generation were condemned to unemployment anyway according to the
conventional wisdom. She's now, as far as I can gather, living
happily in Galway, surrounded by other interesting and unique people
and in every way defying the false logic of those who run these
septic isles and think we should shut up and accept our place in
their scheme of things.
It's odd enough running away to join a circus.
Being one of only two people so individual they ran away from a
circus is even rarer. Knowing the other one then, and knowing now
that she went on to defy the odds (the norms?) for over 30 years, is
an absolutely unique pleasure.
3 years ago