Listen to a full audio interview with Mel HERE
ON GETTING STARTED
I’m a spoken word artist, a multi-media artist. I started off writing gothic horror fiction. I got talked into reading one of the pieces at the Sunday Sessions at the Playhouse. I saw Debbie Caulfield performing which blew me away. I had never experienced performance poetry before in my life and she just stunned me. It was amazing to have the hush and hear the collective intake of breath of people in the audience and that was it, I was bitten.
ON POETRY AND PERFORMANCE
I grew up hating poetry because it didn’t speak to me. We never read any poetry in school that spoke to me. Then I spent a long and arduous night with Percy Shelley and Ozymandias and fell in love. That was when I realised what poetry could do. It’s terrible to say but also really honest to say it, there’s something about the applause. That thing of being on a stage and sharing a conversation that is ‘ here is something that is from me, it’s part of my soul’. The pandemic forced us into thinking about things in a new way and this global community of poets opened up. We’ll regularly meet up in places like Nashville or New Zealand on a Sunday morning at a ridiculous AM to share work and it’s lovely. Check out the online spaces because it’s a nice way to break into sharing your work without having the fear of getting on stage but then go and be brave. Be brave is what I would say.
THE MARY PROJECT
This started as a conversation back in 2017. I’m from a Unionist background. Here in the North you see shrines. I lived for a long time in the Brandywell and the shrine there was part of my daily life walking past and seeing women praying so I did have that but my partner is from Donegal and going into his world and down to Donegal and they’re everywhere! We thought maybe we could ask people to send us images of their shrines and then the idea percolated. For that International Women’s Day I was working with Eden Place Arts Centre and it was the centenary of women having the vote and we were exploring the idea of what does womanhood mean. I was working with a women’s group and we sat down and had a conversation and they were telling me about this woman who was a stalwart in the community. She set up the first mother and toddler’s group and the first women’s group and so much support for women in the community. When she passed away everyone was there in the community and this young American man came in and he said ‘that’s my mother’. Nobody knew, none of her family, her husband didn’t know and her children didn’t know that she had been in one of the mother and baby homes and that her child had been sent to America. So then it was like, okay there’s something more here. The Mary Project now is very much a feminist platform. It’s about taking Mary and reclaiming her as a human.
One of the pieces from the show is called Dearest Women. I thought if Mary could speak to the women of Ireland what would she say. This is Mary’s prayer to the women of Ireland.
Mel will MC and perform at the Promising After Party on 26 November at the Nerve Centre as part of a series of events for the Festival Club at Foyle Film Festival.
Festival Club is an event curated by Dead On Events by way of Nerve Centre's OCN Events Management course.