Often the best way to see the insides of a city is from the outside. It is only by standing alone, outside it, feeling its hard edges that you get to truly absorb it into your soul. It is often only by having to scrape your way through it that you appreciate all its nuances, its attributes, its quirks. For those who have chosen Galway as their home as their place to work, as their place to study and learn, many have experienced all of the aforementioned.
Although often many are loath to mention that this was their experience, they appreciate and love Galway because they know what it was like to walk the streets, belly aching from the hunger, not knowing where the next few bob could come from; what shape would have to be thrown, what it would take to earn an applause? What would it take to follow the dream that brought you here?
And when that has been done they can truly appreciate being on the inside. It is also thoughts of that that make us never want to forget the outsider, to ensure that the city maximises its level of inclusion, that we embrace the Other, that we give everyone the opportunity to contribute regardless of race, gender, ability or confidence.
And although this applies to all professions, those who work in the arts and culture experience it harshly.
One of those who came to Galway as a young performer and who had to put in the hard shifts, the cold days and nights rehearsing was Little John Nee.
Coming from Donegal then wasn’t at all as sexy as it is now. Back then Donegal Tuesday was just called Tuesday. Back then in the days before Jimmy started winning matches, the arts were a novelty.
And so it is with a great deal of satisfaction that I heard the news that LJN is to see the parade this year, not after he has brought smiles and warmth to the hearts of his audiences; but from the comfort of the Marshall’s car as it leads the spectacular through the city streets. He is a man who loves an audience, who loves to see the craft of what he does complete its full circle from conception to rehearsal to practice to performance to smile. And all with a humility and politeness of another age.
The invitation to lead off the Galway St Patrick’s Day Parade is recognition of the role that Little John Nee has played in the creative and cultural life of Galway over the last 30 years and ties in neatly with the theme of this year’s parade as Galway heads towards the bid to become European Capital of Culture 2020.
A storyteller, actor, performer, musician and playwright, Little John Nee is one of the most iconic and recognisable figures in the arts scene of Galway city and county. When he takes his place in that car at the head of the parade he is not just doing so because of his own achievements. His selection as guest of honour is a raised hat to all those young and not so young artists, performers, singers, writers, poets, and musicians who are battling the battle and trying to make their way in the way he did over the past few decades.
Well done, Little John and thanks for all you’ve brought. Enjoy Tuesday.