Thursday, 19 November 2009

Irish Tour - day three

Well a lovely breakfast at the Castletroy Guest House followed by a nice walk round the corner to the University of Limerick’s impressive campus. Andreas met us at reception, led us to his office where we covered costs, tickets and receipts.

Andreas took us on a quick tour of the campus before heading off to the lecture theatre for the screening. On this occasion, we decided to sit out the screening and wait outside for the Q&A session.

I remember my days at university and what lectures were like. Most students are killing time and even the motivated ones would rather saw their own legs off than draw attention to themselves by asking questions. I got the impression that they enjoyed the film but were a little shy in coming forward. Andreas covered this by asking questions for them and I tried to give longer answers and include relevant anecdotes. It went well but it was a little subdued. You definitely got a sense that questions were in there somewhere, they just weren’t for coming out.

We were soon thanking Andreas for his warm welcome to Limerick before jumping in the taxi into town. We had a little time to kill so we wandered along the Shannon river for a bit and enjoyed looking at some of the neglected parts of town.

After soup and a sandwich in the Georgian Quarter (why does every city need ‘quarters’?) we were back on a coach and heading towards Galway. To our amazement, the coach had free WiFi on board. As frequent travellers on public transport, it made you wonder why Ireland was doing so much better than the UK on WiFi.

It was felt like a long drive, mostly in the dark (I think) but we watched an episode of 24 Season 1. We’re concluding that it’s rubbish, but highly watchable. A bit like like McDonald’s – it feels you’re consuming something but it holds little or no nourishment.

Galway’s rush hour took us a little by surprise but we checked into the Ivies Guest House at around 5.30. We were almost straight out and walking the mile or so to Galway University.

The DAAD teacher, Berit Carmesin recognised me as I walked into the arts building. It was great to meet her face to face as I have a lot to be grateful for. Without Berit there would be no Irish tour – it’s as simple as that.

She took us to one of the upper floors and showed us the Berlin Wall anniversary exhibition her department had put together. I particularly liked the polystyrene mock up of the Berlin Wall and an East German clothing catalogue. I got to meet other people in Berit’s department and a representative of the German Embassy. I took these opportunities, yet again, to express my thanks for everyone’s support.

I’m not really sure why but we decided to attend the screening rather than sit it out. I think we like to share the mood of the audience. The volume levels were really low and I don’t think the AV system was great but people seemed to enjoy the film.

At the end, I was invited up to the lectern. Before the questions, I took the chance to publicly thank Berit. This was received by applause that suggested I wasn’t the only one to appreciate Berit’s work. Then I asked if anyone had any questions about the film.

I’ve done quite a few Q&As now – and they’ve all taught me something. They’ve made me think about the film and why I made it. They’ve also taught me some simple techniques to help with the variety of questions the film provokes. But no other screening has been quite like the one at Galway.

The Q&A lasted about an hour and could probably have gone on longer. There were some thoughtful questions and some very strong opinions. Some direct challenges and some debates between audience members. It was a genuine heated debate and a pleasure to take part in. It was great to know the film had really provoked some questions and really got people thinking. I also enjoyed being able to share some of my conclusions about East and West.

Without doubt and by a considerable margin, Galway’s Q&A was the most animated I’ve been to and it was kind of electrifying to be part of. Hats off to Galway.

After the Q&A, a group of about 12 of us made it to the ‘Latin Quarter’ for a delicious meal and yet more lively conversation. We also found a moment to give Berit the little fossil stone bowl we’d bought near Doolin. She seemed to like it and I really hope she finds a place for it. It was a small token of our huge gratitude.

All in all, it was a great and memorable night. Galway has earned itself a really special place in my thoughts.

No comments: