Questioning The Heart

I have always been labelled a bit disruptive, now I see it as something to be proud of. It’s a good thing to question the powers that be.

In 2009, while our island home was disappearing down the tubes, I was leading a collaborative project called the ireland: iceland project. Our mission was to join cultural dots and open up a conversation between people living on the islands of Ireland & Iceland. The Icelandic DIY entrepreneurial spirit has really inspired and influenced me. Those formative years at the ireland : iceland project fueled a passion for hooking up people with great ideas and seeing what happened next.

Around this time I found myself curating a project called The Office of Non Compliance as part of Dublin Contemporary {a contemporary art exhibition held in Dublin in Autumn 2011}. This gave me an incredible building on Earlsfort Terrace to play with and we decided to curate experiences with some of Ireland’s brightest lights in the field of non-compliance. This is where we hosted the inaugural ‘Trailblaze’ event, billed as a creative gathering of people who blaze trails in their own spectacular or intimate way. The Trailblazery took flight at The Office of Non-Compliance while Ireland was spectacularly falling apart. The timing was perfect.

Kathy Scott (right) pictured at an event hosted by The Trailblazery.

We wanted to highlight the stories and spirit of people who rock the boat, turn the tide and participate in creating a new kind of culture. We invited some brave people to share their personal moments of risk and inspiration We also invited some super talented musicians, poets, filmmakers and writers to showcase their work. We found a combination that somehow worked – a mixture of the right people, places and cultural climate. We have flocked in many moving patterns since that first experience and we have gathered momentum along the way.

It’s been a massive privilege and thrill for me to see ideas that start scribbled on the back of napkins become something that makes a difference in people’s lives. We have taken The Trailblazery on tour around Ireland, inhabiting abandoned buildings, historic venues, courthouses, churches, fields and forgotten spaces. We have made collaborations with Galway Arts Festival, Body&Soul, Cork Midsummer Festival and Dublin Fringe Festival. We also designed a collection of special landmark projects along the way.

The Trailblazery 'Rites of Passage' event.

In September 2013, we curated and produced a large scale spoken word and music cycle Rites of Passage in Dublin involving over 50 participants and performers from Ireland, Iceland, Greece, Canada, The US, Britain, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We also designed a series of Hedge Schools and pop up events around the city. This included an educational music project involving a bespoke choir of 101 children from St. Brigid's School in Killester with Nina Hynes and our own contemporary music ensemble.

On St. Patrick’s Day 2014 we hosted a large-scale cultural event inviting some of Ireland’s brightest innovators, thinkers, artists and creative entrepreneurs to explore what it means to be Irish. Featuring inspiring Trailblaze style talks, interspersed with music, comedy, poetry, film and a large-scale choral spectacle, We Need To Talk About Ireland was streamed live on RTÉ Player and The Washington Post.

Our latest project, Census of the Heart, was an alternative census inviting anyone living on the island of Ireland to participate. We wanted to get straight to the heart of things by asking people to tell us about their experience of being alive in Ireland in 2016. We had an overwhelming response (almost 12,000 people which translates into almost half a million answers). Census of the Heart is now a unique repository of knowledge that holds the intimate values, loves, hopes, fears and dreams of almost 12,000 people living on this island in 2016.

I guess at its heart, The Trailblazery is about human connection and belonging. There is a real need in Ireland for deeper engagement & conversation about issues that matter to us as individuals and as a society. There is a need to challenge the status quo and there is a need for cultural experiences that inspire, provoke, disrupt and stir things up. We felt those needs and decided to do something about it.

I have met some super extraordinary people on this path from my collaborators Mari Kennedy, Clare Mulvany, Ciara Cavanagh and Fran Hogan to inspiring trailblazers from all over the island of Ireland and beyond. I have witnessed hundreds of people step up into their power and share their inner worlds - their despair and hope, their vulnerability and courage, heartbreak and humour, their yes and their no. Nothing can touch that feeling – it gets me every time.

Something totally profound happens when people step up for something they believe in. I think Ireland is experiencing that wave of potential right now. People who blaze trails go on to lead movements like YES Equality and Repeal the 8th. They lead organizations like A Lust for Life and Pieta House. They make cultural experiences like Drop Everything and THEATREClub. They make club nights like Mother and festivals like Body&Soul.

We have hosted trailblazers from all walks of life aged 12 to age 84. They are all blazing trails in their own spectacular or intimate way.

Join the revolution! If you know someone who has a story to share, let the team know at thetrailbalzery@gmail.com