Lights Out NI

As a child of Northern Ireland I am used to rolling my eyes in disbelief as our elected representatives make decisions which better….. nobody. I am used to not understanding how such hate filled statements can roll out of the mouths of those who supposedly represent us and our better interests. Nothing changes, nothing gets better and it seems like we’re always on the losing side. I feel like, my whole life, we’ve been sittin’ on the naughty step, continually punished for something we haven’t done. And now, to sprinkle lemon juice in the wound, the government wants to remove funding from some of most vital cultural events…without even a thought, without even a consultation process. The rug is gone, taking with it the hardwood floor and all the furnishings.

The arts in Northern Ireland is the one breath of fresh air in the midst of our historical angst. It is the one place where people can band together and recognise kindred spirits without even thinking about our perceived religious or political identity. It is the vibrant lifeline of a city, of a country, that needs to break out of the mould of what we once were and realise who we are going to be.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs looks like this:


It tells us that as part of reaching the ‘Self Actualisation’ stage which involves recognising talent and creative pursuits, we need to work through these other levels. Here’s where my problem with the cuts comes in.
The government consistently takes things away from us. They cut services to benefits and hospital resources, meaning that the lower physiological and safety levels are hard to achieve. They tell us who we can or cannot marry or date meaning that the love and belonging stage is unachievable and now they cut our access to creative culture, which means we will not be able to achieve the top two levels of esteem and self actualisation. The government and our elected ones are continually chipping away at everything that we should be working for to become well-rounded human beings. Is it any wonder that they find it so easy to throw the same small-minded barbs at one another? We are essentially struggling underneath the weight of this triangle. We are so low there isn’t even a level for us yet.
These things make me very upset and frustrated and I also worry about those who are coming behind us, who will, if we don’t get our finger out, never have access to the arts and culture. We must stand together and do something to stop this idiocy from going any further.

Other people have written far better than I on the subject and I encourage you to check out the following posts:

Adam Turkington (@AdamTurks) Culture Night Director

Scott Edgar (@thesneakybandit)

Conor Shields (‪@ConorJShields‪)Community Arts Partnership

You should also follow the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #lightsoutni

And on Facebook:

You should also write to your MP:

How we travel.

I like to travel. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that. And now as I contemplate another country move I’ve been thinking back over some of the trips I’ve had recently.

I had an amazing trip during my Easter break this year and it got me thinking of a few things, mainly about the type of traveller I want to be. The type of traveller every one should be. Of course, you’re your own person, you make up your own mind about what kind of travel life you want to have but here are my thoughts on it.

I went to Cancun for a few days. I didn’t stay in the all-inclusive beachy part of town (mainly because I couldn’t afford it) I stayed in the downtown area. On one of the days I got the local bus to the Zona Hoteleria where the beach is. The only beach I could find access to was the public beach, which was a rocky mess. Hardly any clear sand at all, no room to sit, no restaurants with waiters begging you to have a seat, a drink or a lounger. It was choc-a-block with Mexicans having a whale of a time. It was real authentic Mexican. I thought about those swanky hotels and realized that they probably had their own stretch of pristine, bleached beach attached to their hotel. That’s why it costs so much. Anyway I had a lovely walk along and then headed back on the bus to my part of town.

The next day I was going to spend a few days in Chichen Itza so I could see the ruins and the Cenote, which is near by. I got the local ADO bus. As we drove out of Cancun, I noticed the area becoming more and more desolate, with closed up businesses and properties lying in rack and ruin.


IMG_1999 IMG_2009 IMG_2010


When I got to my hotel in Chichen, which is right beside the main road, I watched the tour busses fly up the road in their droves. And the realisation dawned. It’s tours like this, which are day trips from the swanky hotels in Cancun or Playa which are the cause of the desolation in the surrounding areas. I know that this is not a new notion for some of you, and I apologise for being late to the party….but hey I get it now.

I could have easily booked a day trip tour, paid through the nose for it and been carted about by a guide and shuffled through the tourist highlights of an area but I didn’t. It’s important to go on holiday, it’s important to travel but it’s also important to leave the all inclusive resort and go and see the real country. I got to meet so many interesting people on this trip. One morning at my hotel one of the waiters was trying to teach me Mayan and we had a slow Spanglish conversation about how important it is to keep the Mayan language alive. I was also able to go to the Chichen Itza ruins at 8am, right as they were opening and see them in the tranquillity of the morning before the tourist rush began. My money has gone into the community. Not into the pockets of a corporation who clearly have no interest in keeping a place afloat. Cancun is fine but when you are lying in a four star hotel with waiter service you could be in any resort in any country of the land. When you are pigeon speaking Spanish/Mayan/English with a 70 year old waiter who was born and bred here in Mayan country, well then you really know where you are.

I’m not knocking people who travel and don’t leave their resort, or who only leave it for a day trip in an air-conditioned bus. That’s fine. But that’s not the type of traveller I want to be. I want to really see a place. I want to meet random people and get a glimpse into their lives. I want to spend my money in a way that I think is healthy and helpful. I used to think that any money going into a country was helpful but after driving through the outskirts of Cancun and towards Chichen I can see that it isn’t. If the money goes in to a place via a tour company or big business such as Hard Rock Hotel or Virgin holidays then it doesn’t really go too deep. In fact it may not get there at all.

So let me know your thoughts on how to be a healthy proactive traveller? How do you approach your summer vacation?