Mad, Bad & Dangerous

  • Thu 17 Mar
  • Fri 18 Mar
  • Sat 19 Mar
  • Sun 20 Mar
  • Ages
    All Ages
    Content Warning
    Contains discussion of mental health and infant death

    Mad, Bad & Dangerous

    A celebration of "difficult" women.

    A documentary series of interviews profiling leading Irish women over 70 who were moving mountains long before hashtags

    A documentary series of interviews between influential women over 70 created by Emma O’Grady in 2020 profiling leading Irish women who were moving mountains long before hashtags. Featuring Lelia Doolan, Margaretta D’Arcy, Bernadette McAliskey, Pauline Cummins, Nell McCafferty and Jo Murphy Lawless.

     As a result of the pandemic, the relationship that intersects age, gender and public space has never been so fraught. The need to see, hear and prioritise older people has been rendered explicitly visible. These women have been blazing trails for 50 years. They were moving mountains long before hashtags. They are the ‘difficult’ women, the brass necks, the sharp, the fearless: the mad, the bad and the dangerous.

    Ep 1: Lelia Doolan & Bernadette McAliskey
    Ep 2: Margaretta D'Arcy & Lelia Doolan
    Ep 3 Pauline Cummins & Jo Murphy Lawless
    Ep 4 Nell McCafferty & Lelia Doolan

    Produced by Up Up Up, with Copper Alley, in association with Dublin Fringe Festival and Age & Opportunity’s Bealtaine Festival, with support from Galway County Council and the Irish Women Lawyers Association along with the Community Knowledge Initiative, Institute for Lifecourse and Society and The Feminist Storytelling Network (NUI Galway) and 168 donors on GoFundMe

    MBD was originally recorded in Aug/Sept 2020 and screened for free online as part of Dublin Fringe Festival and Age & Opportunity's Bealtaine Festival AT HOME.

    • Leila Doolan

      Lelia Doolan was born in 1934. She is a film and theatre director, producer, journalist and activist. Her contribution to the artistic and cultural life of Ireland is nothing short of ground-breaking. In the 1960s, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid once referred to Lelia Doolan as ‘mad, bad and dangerous’. Lelia began working at RTÉ in the 1960s.

      By age 27, she was directing The Riordans, and soon after founded 7 Days, the precursor to Prime Time. She co-authored a book Down and Be Counted following her resignation from RTE over their commercial policies. In 1971 she became the first female artistic director of the Abbey Theatre since Lady Gregory.

      She has a PhD in Anthropology and also has qualifications in the Irish language, in science, and in Homeopathy. She established Ireland’s first course in Media Communications at Rathmines College (now DIT). Michael D Higgins appointed her chairperson of the Irish Film Board when it re-constituted in 1993.

      She co-founded the Galway Film Fleadh and the Cinemobile. She was part of the Burren Acton Group against the building of an interpretive centre in Mullaghmore ending up in the High Court successfully preventing the build and resulting in fundamental change to Irish planning legislation. S

      he has joined in the protests against the use of Shannon airport by US military, the Corrib Gas Pipe Line and lent her support to the equal marriage campaign and Repeal the 8th. M

      ost recently, she was involved in the re-opening of Yeats’s Tower Thoor Ballylee and spearheaded the building of Galway’s art-house cinema the Picture Palace. 2011 saw the premiere of her critically-acclaimed and award-winning documentary about Bernadette McAliskey called Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey.

    • Bernadette McAliskey

      Bernadette McAliskey was born Bernadette Devlin in 1947 in Co. Tyrone.

      She has been a civil rights activist since the 1960s where her lived experiences of the forces of injustice and inequality led to her becoming an advocate and an instigator of socialist reform in the North of Ireland.

      In 1969 she was the youngest woman ever elected as an MP to Westminster.

      She was jailed for her participation in the Battle of the Bogside in Derry in 1969. In 1981 she was shot 9 times in her home in front of her children.

      Today she works for STEP, South Tyrone Empowerment Programme, which provides services, mentorship and training and empowers marginalised groups and individuals to participate in the socio-economic life of their community. 

    • Margaretta D'Arcy

      Margaretta D’Arcy was born in 1934. She is an experimental theatre practitioner, and her dedication to using theatre for radical change complemented by her film-making, pirate radio production and activism.

      Margaretta and her husband playwright John Arden embarked on a productive collaboration from the 60s onwards using dramas to extend the boundaries of national identity and human freedom. They co-authored culturally, socially and politically radical shows like the six-part Non-stop Connolly Show in 1977 and the BBC radio series Whose is the Kingdom?

      They were ousted from the British theatre in 1972 when they were the first to strike at London’s Aldwych Theatre over the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Island of the Mighty. Their play The Ballygombeen Bequest, based on the eviction of an elderly widow in Oughterard, Co Galway, was at the centre of a libel action heard in London.

      In 1961, Margaretta joined the anti-nuclear Committee of 100, led by Bertrand Russell. She supported the women in Armagh Jail and spent 3 months in prison there during the Dirty Protest. She once said the best thing that ever happened to her was being put into Armagh jail because it changed her whole perspective - she understood the oppression of women. 

      Margaretta’s book about  Armagh - Tell Them Everything: A Sojourn in the Prison of Her Majesty…– was an alternative best-seller. She was at Greenham Common Women’s Peace camp off and on for 19 years and with bolt cutters and legal challenges outwitted the British and US military between 1982 – 2000.

      In 1982 she became an invited founder member of Women in Media & Entertainment (WIME), which has consultant status at the UN. In the early-1990s she started up annual seasons of Radio Pirate-Woman. She has served time in 5 jails, twice for participating in demonstrations against the use of the Shannon airport as a stopover for US military flights. Her latest venture has involved linking up with the Raging Grannies movement in Canada and the US..


    • Pauline Cummins

      Pauline Cummins was born in 1949. She is a performance and video artist, a sculptor and a painter. Her work examines issues of identity, gender, power, embodiment, womanhood, maternity and socio-cultural relations connected to communities. She has exhibited and performed nationally and internationally over the last 30 years at venues including the RHA, Tate Liverpool and the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. In her work and in her activism Pauline strives to situate the work of women artists into a lineage of practice that has been under-researched, under-archived and under-documented.

      She co-founded The Women Artists Action Group’ in 1987 and later took a position on the executive committee of International Association of Women Artists.

      In 1984 she painted a mural at the National Maternity Hospital called The Beginning of Labour and it painted over by the hospital within a couple of weeks without consulting Pauline.

      She has taken part in dozens of residencies, and received many commissions and awards for her work including The George Campbell Painting Award and The Sir Mark Turner Memorial Scholarship. She has been artist in residence on several projects with women in Mountjoy Prison. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. She performs with The Performance Collective and since 2008 has collaborated with Frances Mezzetti on Walking in the Way – a series of performances exploring control of public space and masculinity. She lectures at NCAD and continues to create and to be prolific in her work.

    • Jo Murphy Lawless

      Jo Murphy-Lawless was born in 1946. She is a sociologist, an educator and an activist. While she was a student in UCD she became involved in the protests surrounding the so-called ‘Gentle Revolution’ in 1969. She went on to receive a PhD from Trinity College Dublin and for many years she was a lecturer there at the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

      Jo Murphy-Lawless has been critical of how Irish maternity services have been governed and in 2014 she co-founded the Elephant Collective with the aim of raising public awareness of the tragedy of maternal death. Many people were unaware that if a mother died in childbirth in Ireland an inquest was not mandatory.

      Their activism spawned a touring exhibition called “Picking Up The Threads” which commemorates the lives of the eight women who died in maternity services, a documentary made by Anne-Marie Green and, eventually, a private members bill brought to the Dáil by Clare Daly.

      In 2019 landmark legislation was passed by the Oireachtas to make inquests mandatory in all cases of maternal deaths in the State. She has written extensively on childbirth and the politics of maternity and obstetric care in Ireland and she has contributed to over 100 publications. She has undertaken considerable work in the area of poverty, class and drug abuse - in particular the social and economic damage inflicted on women.

      Today she is a research fellow at the Centre for Health Evaluation, Methodology Research and Evidence Synthesis at NUI Galway.

    • Nell McCafferty

      Nell McCafferty was born in 1944 and grew up in the Bogside in Derry. She is a journalist, author and civil rights campaigner. She was involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s in the North of Ireland. She is probably Ireland’s most well-known feminist and is a much-loved public figure. Her work and her voice has been crucial in creating the changes we have seen in Irish society over the last 50 years. In 1969 she began writing a column for the Irish Times called ‘In the Eyes of the Law’ and reported on events in the Bridewell courts in Dublin. She never named defendants but always named the judges. It was published 5 days a week and it ran for 8 years. She was a founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement in 1970. When the IWLM formed, the Marriage Bar was still in place meaning in many cases women had to leave their jobs after marriage, marital rape was not a crime, women were paid less than men for equal work, women had to ‘opt in’ to jury duty, women could not choose their own official place of domicile, women could not collect the children’s allowance, and homosexuality and divorce was illegal. Nell once talked about the time she bought a bed on hire purchase and had to get a man to sign for her. The Irish Women’s Liberation Movement manifesto Chains or Change was delivered to the people of Ireland on the 'Late Late Show'. Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald left his home to go to RTÉ and intervene in the debate. This significant moment in Irish women’s history is unavailable to view because RTÉ wiped the tapes.

      In May 1971 Nell travelled from Dublin to Belfast on the Contraceptive Train, and in protest against the law prohibiting the importation and sale of contraceptives in the Republic of Ireland they publically smuggled illegal contraceptive products across the border. Her 1981 book The Armagh Women was about thirty Republican women in Armagh jail who endured the dirty Protest for ten months. It sold well for 2 weeks and then was suddenly withdrawn because of a libel suit and the books were pulped. A number of copies were saved and illicitly sent to Canada from where they are still sold today. Among her many books and publications, her 1985 book A Woman to Blame: the Kerry babies case is seen as one of the most important critiques there is of how Irish society was at the time. It described the events surrounding the Kerry Babies’ case as “a model for Irish male attitudes to women”. 

      She was awarded a Jacob’s Award for her reports on the Italia 90 World Cup for the Pat Kenny show on RTE Radio 1. She stated in her autobiography the Jacob’s award was “the first and only one of my life. For football. For celebrating Irish men”. In her acceptance speech she said she “looked forward to an end to the broadcasting ban which kept Sinn Fein off the airwaves” She published her autobiography ‘Nell’ in 2004 and spoke directly for the first time about being a lesbian. It ends with the words “The best is yet to come. While we await that glorious day, the sensible response is to laugh and be a disorderly woman”.