CIARAN WOOD (21/6/22)
Check out Ciaran's exhibition with OUTPUT here

Hello and welcome to this first episode back of the OUTPUT podcast, returning after a big break. Regular listeners will have already noticed one change, which is that Gabrielle is no longer hosting the show. Im Michael Lacey, the new host and also the new director of OUTPUT gallery. Well actually not that new, I’ve been doing it for about a year now. Gabrielle has very sadly had to step back from the role due to Long Covid but is still very active as a writer with the white pube, so. Head to thewhitepube.com to catch up with her. There’s a blog on the website too now which is very informative about Long Covid, something that everyone should get familiar with.

While the podcast has been resting the gallery has continued to be quite active, so if you’re a listener outside of Liverpool, please do have a look at the exhibitions page on our website and explore those recent projects. We’ve been on a bit of a run of showing films lately, by Aline Costa and Tommy Husband, a collaborative film they made called UNEASE that creatively documents a new dance piece devised by Aline. And SCOUSE REPUBLIC by Kiara Mohamed, an experimental, biographical film takes the viewer on a journey through trauma (both medical and personal) and towards radical possibilities for healing, and the role that Liverpool’s green spaces can play in that healing. Both those films can be viewed on our website and our YouTube channel, and we’ll be talking to the artists in future episodes. 

So! Today I’m talking to Ciaran Wood, whose solo exhibition opened at output on 16th June. 

The exhibition is focused on a film called Echo in Time which Ciaran made over the first lockdown period. It’s a poetic examination of various Liverpool histories, pieced together using footage shot by the artist’s father in Coopers pub in the late 2000s. Coopers is a well known landmark in Liverpool City Centre, a pub that seems to have people singing karaoke at all hours of the day and night. Karaoke footage is woven through the film alongside lockdown-era footage of the empty pub and material which relates this closely-knit community and its camaraderie in song to the social and architectural histories of the area. Its a nostalgic and really warm film that has a lot to say about the marginalisation of working class culture in contemporary Britain.

But in keeping with the format of the podcast, we’ll get to that in a bit. and the first question I’d like to ask Ciaran is, to go back to your childhood and ask how and where did your relationship with art begin?

I think it began, I would say, reluctantly. My dad's a photographer and studied fine art painting I think, originally. I was always in and around books, books about art, photography books and music and this sort of thing, going to openings and stuff with him, so I was conscious of it but naturally, as the teenager that I grew into, just pushed away from it, and attempted to rebel. Then I picked it up at random when we left Merseyside and moved to North Wales and I had to go to a sixth-form college. I couldn't do the things I wanted, the subjects I wanted to study, so it was literally art or media studies, and I just said - oh, I'll do art then. And that was it. 

Right, so there wasn't necessarily a huge enthusiasm for it, then?

Not really, I was caught up- in those formative years, maybe it was in my head and in my spirit or whatever, but by the time I was 16, 17, 18, I probably just didn't think it was cool or didn't think it was a thing. My dad had never made any money from anything and we were always aware of the lack of money in doing anything that he was doing. My mum was always edging me towards something academic. It was a really last minute decision to do art. And again, same with studying it, doing an art foundation. I just couldn't make my mind up of what I wanted to do at uni, and it was I think a friend of mine said, why don't you just do an art foundation for a year? Then you go can to uni and study whatever you want to study afterwards.

Or if it's not for you, you'll find out...

Yeah, pretty quickly. Then, after the art foundation, I didn't even apply to anything at uni and it was after the fact I was like, oh I'll go to art school.

Was there anything specific that made it click, that made you say OK now I am going to dedicate myself to this?

I think it was only during the foundation course, I'd made the decision, I had a very nice art teacher in sixth form and they kind of, I don't know. I think I got a bit of freedom that I hadn't got ever doing art GCSE or whatever. That had given me a tiny little bump to be like, OK I could do foundation, if I didn't want to do anything. And then I think purely the freedom of the foundation course, I got really immersed in collages, in cutting out images, in text and I was like, oh I can write stuff, and use that, and cut that up and then I can use all these scraps of photographs that my dad's thrown out or magazines, books. I honestly came out of my bedroom six months later with a hefty amount of stuff that was pretty good!

That collage style, even though you're working with video now, it's still very much in keeping with that, isn't it?

Yeah, I always kind of, even though it can sound simplistic, collage is still the first thing that I did that I really loved, or that I was like, oh wow, this is cool. Just doing something and like, I'm thinking now of when I tried to learn guitar and wasn't that good, but you've got to keep doing it, but I was never that into it or whatever. Whereas I just, like I said, six months later came out with all this stuff like - wow, I did that? OK, great! Even now with the films and videos it's the same approach.

So you never really start a project with a blank canvas so to speak, you always try and find some material that you can work with to start generating new work?

Yeah, I think so. If I do start something with a blank canvas it's more of an idea or some kind of text or theoretical information, or exploration into something. But yeah, even just with doing video, it's tactility that brings me in to then generate sequences or polar opposites or something that sparks me a bit and then I can go into the story or whatever.

You mentioned earlier about going to openings with your Dad - are there any particular galleries you have strong memories of?

I think, Open Eye - not the new one, the old...

Wood Street?

...Wood Street, Open Eye. I remembered that because my surname's Wood. Obviously as a 10, 11 year old, it's very easy! So yeah, Open Eye, Bluecoat, I remember because my dad had some friends who probably still work at Bluecoat or were at Bluecoat at the time. And the Walker, I just remember the Walker being massive, that was the main thing. But even... what's the gallery in Birkenhead called?

The Williamson?

The Williamson I think I remember more, over the Walker. But yeah, it's rare, my dad's not a flyer or a keen traveller or... he doesn't really go to many of his openings or anything like that. It would be quite rare to go to something other than something he was doing locally. So a lot of that early traipsing around galleries was pretty much based solely in Merseyside yeah.

What kind of work were you making while you were at University? Were there any particular archives of any subject you were working with then? 

I'd started making collages and books, I got quite into Joseph Cornell and his bird boxes and bird books. I was making collages and loose little stories, just sequences basically, with scraps of postcards or nice landscape pictures from old books about Wales or Pembrokeshire or something like this. I'd buy them for like 20p, or my dad had some. I would take some scraps. I wouldn't really use any of his photographs because they were too bright, it was a thing, it was generally old, a lot of black and white, quite emo little stories... it went with the music I was listening to at the time, at the age of 18, 19.

Which was what?

Which was, I'll say it, Blink 182. And, no, I was getting into indie I think at the age of 19. I still held on to that sentimentality and nostalgia for the easy listening that I had got into, maybe it was more Angels & Airwaves at that point. I did follow Tom DeLonge's career arc for a couple of years. 

So what was the first video iteration of this style of working in collage, working with archives?

Because I hadn't made the decision to fully go to "art school", to go to uni to do art until quite late on the foundation, I didn't apply to anywhere. So I took another year off. But the college I was at, Yale College Wrexham, they let me use their Final Cut 7 edit suite which was quite cool, at the time. I still think Final Cut 7 is the best editing software.

What are they up to now? 

I don't know - they've gone beyond 10, but it's not a thing anymore, it turned back into iMovie. It de-evolved itself.

That was the peak?

I will at some point get an older version of the OS system and then get Final Cut 7 back and never touch the computer. Anyway. I got allowed to use their computers and started scanning all the pictures that I used to use and stick in my books, basically, and made these really fast edits. I got into Stan Brakhage. My dad had shown me Stan Brakhage and I'd kind of batted it away but then when I'd figured things out on my own and had a bit of time on my own I started scanning all these ripped up pieces of landscape pictures and everything, scanning them in and made these really fast video edits of still images. I went to Goldsmiths with that, just one DVD of stuff. I hadn't studied, or done anything to do with film. But I was like, I've made all this in two months after my art foundation. Here's a book I did, here are some videos. Then I got into Goldsmiths and from there, they had an edit suite and I just remember trying to dabble in stuff at Goldsmiths. There's maybe too much freedom there, if anything? It depends how distracted you can get by things. But yeah, after six months or so I just started, got a video camera and started filming stuff. Going back and doing similar type of edits that I'd played around with in the college, and then didn't really look back from there.

Was there anyone else from Liverpool or the North West on your course at University?

No, I don't think so, not at Goldsmiths, not on my direct course. I think there was one lad who, we were in the same primary school, he works at Goldsmiths now still, Graham Sale? I think he did art but he was a few years above me, and a couple of people a few years above me from Chester or Liverpool. But I don't think, on my actual year. My best friends now are still the friends I made in the first week, from Sheffield, Blackburn, Manchester, Manchester and Sheffield again. We just gravitated towards each other.

How would you describe your overall university experience? You've done Goldsmiths and then you did a masters, is that right?

Yeah, I graduated Goldsmiths in 2011 and then I did a masters course in 2017, so I had a big gap. I did the masters course in Holland at a place called the Dutch Art Institute which was completely different model of study to any other masters course I think that's out there at the moment. The Goldsmiths experience, ultimately I don't know... you go to uni and you meet people, you make friends and you go out and you're free and all that sort of stuff, Goldsmiths was absolutely perfect for that. In terms of a London university that was the best one because it was all on campus and you had your own area to bounce around in New Cross, South London, you're out of the centre, you didn't have to get the tube, you can figure things out on your own, that sort of thing. You weren't spread across London. Also the class sizes were quite small, at that point. They're definitely not now... I think we were the last of the 9 grand total, before the fees rise. I loved it, it was just... maybe too much freedom, you could literally do what you want. You could do nothing and conceptualise it, but maybe that's important, to realise that you could just sit there and do nothing. There's research strands you could go into, if you wanted to read and write about that, you could! But also if you just wanted to get on and paint and figure things out, in your studio. All the tutors there were practising artists, I think that's really important actually, having come out of it. I think at the time it was maybe, you'd realise you'd meet people at Slade or St Martins or whatever and realise there were a few more maybe, committed tutors. Not committed in terms of energy and effort but a commitment in terms of time and being on the clock. But having left Goldsmiths, coming out and realising you're mixing with the same people who were your tutors or supervisors or people who had come in for talks. They're still around now and they're still practising artists. It was quite, not to say that just practising artists tutor in Goldsmiths but there was a huge chunk there and I think that was really important and kind of a bit more of a reality check, just in general, which is maybe why they let you do whatever you want to do. Or they move you slowly in one direction.

Yeah. How was it then when you left? If you're doing a course where you are firmly kept in a lovely tight bubble with all of your peers, where you're able to focus on your practice and other people's practice and moving yourself forwards and then you get ejected from that bubble when you graduate into the real world. How was that transition, how did you manage that? 

I felt, maybe halfway through the three years, looking back it feels like we were just roaming around anyway? I think maybe that's a Goldsmiths thing, maybe it's being in New Cross because you can't really... New Cross is just a train station, it's a tiny little place so people just spread out. You mixed with other students who had to live somewhere else because their university was in central London or whatever. So you knew a lot of people. In the third year I was living with a group of musicians and I was the visual member of this band. I'd started making music videos for people in and out of Goldsmiths, people just congregated around. By the time we left it already felt a bit like, yeah, we've got a bit of a footing here, at least in terms of circles of friends or creatives, just going to things. This time of year now, all the school shows, the RA show, Slade, Goldsmiths. So you kind of just get used to mixing with different types of people which I guess you don't get in a one university city. As much as that was nice and felt comfortable and everything, obviously I was poor, I didn't have any money or a job and it was just a bit more of the same apart from having no loan at that point...

It gets harder.

We all, everyone just went back to their mum and dads for the summer and then some made it back down the next September to be like, right, are we going to try and get a house, are we going to try and do something? I'd moved in with some musicians, we found a cheap flat somewhere and I kind of just stuck with that for a bit, carried on doing that and then the reality of life and having to get a job then hit, hard. On the flipside of it, London is a horrible place to have to try and do that in, a horrible place to have to literally just earn a paycheck and then pay it back immediately to your landlord. 

That group, that network of peers and friends, is that group still firmly together? Do you still exchange, do you have a Whatsapp where you send each other pictures of your work and stuff?

Not really, I guess it's more social than creative but there's still a few of us who are making work and doing things and it's nice having that very easy support network. Especially when I moved out of London in 2018. I studied one foot abroad and one in the UK which I'll explain afterwards. But it's kind of nice having that thing to fall back on when you don't have a studio. I don't have a studio anymore and a lot of people, a lot of my friends don't have studios in London anymore because of the balance of having to pay rent and studio rent is too much. So it's nice to have that intimacy and also just the - what's it called? The easy of... if someone knows me well enough, they will tell me if they think something is a bit...

You've got a short hand with each other. So you're working away... I think you said you graduated in 2011, and then 2018 you go to this Dutch masters. What made you say, right, I need to go back and study now?

It was like a by hook or by crook situation. You know, take a bit of distance away from doing art after I graduated. I got into music videos which I thought could be a source of income. It's not, anyone who thinks it is, it's not! Then yeah, I met an artist called Laure Provost. I graduated in 2011 and I met her in 2013, just before she got nominated for the Turner Prize and she needed a video editor because she was pregnant. I was recommended to her by someone on the Master's course at Goldsmiths because she was on the Master's course at Goldsmiths in 2012 and then left because she got quite successful quite quickly. It was snowballing for her, I think. And yeah, she needed a video editor and I was recommended to her as someone that had a similar style, I like to think. Or maybe that's... I think that's how it worked. I met her and went in her studio and we sporadically worked together. Maybe once or twice a week I would help her out on edits and it just really naturally fitted. She's a great friend, if she's working on something now she still calls me up and we still sometimes collaborate on things or she puts things my way or whatever. I met Laure after a year of doing music videos, trying to get a job, hating the reality of London life. Then Laure's career kind of snowballed and I think was just in the right place at the right time. She needed an assistant so I became her assistant, she needed someone to manage her exhibitions so I figured that out and then started managing her exhibitions, she needed someone to travel and install the shows, so I did that. That really was like, I got all my training within being an art technician or a studio manager, all that sort of stuff.

Almost like a masters course.

A masters in art life! I did that and she, yeah, it was amazing. After doing that with her and being really involved in her work, her films, her installations and her life for I guess like three solid years after she won the Turner prize, it feels like we just travelled the world for a bit, did mega shows. Then I got the urge to make my own work. After years of working with Laure, I would get ideas and not have time to fulfil them or realise them or whatever. Obviously it was great being around art in general and museums around the world and galleries and institutions and then obviously Laure, I think is an incredible artist and just being in her process and part of that process was obviously really influential and supportive. She was super supportive, she would always ask what I'm doing and push that I should do something. She would help me apply to things, or even just the simplest thing of asking me what I'm up to. You want to do something to then have an answer. So after that for a few years I got the itch to then be like, right, I need to formulate my own ideas and back them up now. Remove myself from other people's work for a bit. Around 2016 I eased off and 2017 I applied for the DAI, the Dutch Art Institute, then I went there until late 2019.

How was that experience?

Incredible, really good. I don't want to sound too positive about the whole thing but even compared to Goldsmiths, it wasn't really a comparison, but compared to a Master's course, maybe it was just me but I wanted to remove myself from the UK. I didn't want any type of UK-centric or London-centric bubble around me, being very aware that I'm making work which contains a lot of stuff about the UK and Ireland and my own contextualisation for that, it's fine to begin working but it's important not that everyone understands your work, but... it needs to be able to make sense, it needs to be able to sit.

Was it quite conscious then you wanted your work that would deal with England, English histories to be critiqued and understood and tested out by viewing it with people who don't have any of those references to fall back on? It would have to construct its own reality for them.

Yeah, that was kind of apparent. I'd done a couple of shows before the Master's. I did a show in Rupert in Vilnius and I had done a residency in Northern Ireland. They were two different types of audiences that I made work and showed work for, or in front of, I guess. I'd applied to the Royal Academy and I'd applied to the Dutch Art Institute and in both interviews it was really, it felt a little bit like it was always the big questions. Why are you doing this? Why would someone be interested in this three minute video you've made about Steven Gerrard, Liverpool's captain? It makes sense to me, not being about football - it wasn't about football - but why would someone in Indonesia understand this? Why would they need to, why would they care about this, who cares? You're making something about this footballer... that's valid as well, I'm not saying that's the ultimate question. But yeah, it just verified what I had in my head, that I needed to get a bit of a more theoretical understanding or grounding to what I'm doing, ultimately if I'm interested in history, nostalgia, sentimentality, I can't just say these words. I need to validate them, for myself, more than anything. Not to answer questions, more just to understand where I'm coming from and position it in the context of what it is, in the art world, showing something and understanding it, putting something out there...

Having spent time at the DAI, in Ireland, in New Brighton, in London, do you ever feel like Liverpool could be a viable permanent base for you or the work you do?

Yeah, I feel like I've threatened to move to Liverpool at least ten times in the last five years and haven't gone through with it for various personal reasons or commitments. But yeah, maybe the most, just before I went to study in Holland I was going to move to Liverpool. It was move to Liverpool or do a Master's actually, that was the decision I made, I went for the Master's. The course itself was a bit, like a spaceship course, the director describes it as. We would land in different places, you could move to Rotterdam or Amsterdam and travel by Flixbus to various locations on the continent - pretty much Holland, Belgium and Germany - and meet up with the course and we would just study for eight intensive days, ten til ten, everyone eating together, sleeping, drinking, everything. Like living in a hostel but our own kind of... a bit like the Big Brother house. When I came back after my first week I was like, that was mad. You just wake up, you're doing stuff, the tutors travel around with you. When that was happening I thought, I should move to Liverpool and do that. But then, I had to pay for the course, I was living in a very cheap flat in London at the time, staying with friends basically in their spare room, that was the best reason. Then I came out of the course and I again was thinking, maybe I'll move to Liverpool? At that point my life had moved on, I felt like I had moved further away from the idea.

And then very soon after that, the whole world went...

The whole world stopped, yeah! All these plans and things come further into your mind, maybe that's why I did the film about Cooper's when I did.

So this, the work that's in the exhibition at OUTPUT, this film Echo in Time, that deals with various histories within Liverpool - your family history, social history, architectural history, I was under the impression that lockdown had happened and this had made you think about your roots and that had given rise to this film. But Liverpool was already in your mind at this point?

Yeah, it's always been in the back of my mind, probably growing in New Brighton, it's the thing, we could see the river from the house. I was thinking about this, this morning. You couldn't see the Liver Buildings but you could see Bramley Moore Dock, from where we lived. It's always been there looming, obviously it's a day out, a weekend out, that sort of stuff. Having left, then it always, because I was 18, it felt like all my mates were going out in Liverpool, people would move to Liverpool and that's then the place I would hark back to. I wouldn't think like, ahh, New Brighton, that street I grew up on. I was more nostalgic for what I felt like I was missing out on but what I knew as the big city. I've always compared other cities to Liverpool, I don't think they stand up to be honest. It's always been there in the back of my mind, I made some work about Steven Gerrard - maybe naively, a few years ago - but that had kind of triggered, started working with a writer, Neil Atkinson, who hosts the Anfield Wrap podcast, and he's an amazing writer. Him and his writing, his voice, when I worked with him on the Steven Gerrard project, kind of opened up a bit more, the Liverpool part of my brain again. I've always been interested in my family and Ireland, which is where a lot of my family are from, family history, stories, that kind of thing. The Liverpool aspect of that hadn't been tapped into until lockdown I guess. 

So before we talk about it in any more detail, can you describe the exhibition at OUTPUT?

So the exhibition is showcasing a film, Echo in Time. It's a film I made over the lockdown period with the support of the Grundy Gallery in Blackpool. They had put an open call out for remote workings, in the pandemic at the time, it felt like a really obvious connection to make of everything being closed and empty and then here's this footage. Over lockdown I had found some tapes that my dad, a photographer called Tom Wood, he'd shot in 2000. He shot a lot of video over the course of my childhood but this was a very small chunk of footage that was malleable and manageable and it just sparked a few ideas in my head of stuff I'd been reading and researching when I was on my Master's course about cities and geopolitical structures. I was looking at supporter culture in Liverpool at the time. A few ideas came from some of that research. This exhibition shows the film but it's the first time the film is going to be shown in Liverpool which I'm quite nervous about. Just because Liverpool is like a village, everyone knows everyone. I'm sure people will see themselves in the film and hopefully they'll like it, I guess! It was a long time ago and it's always nice to look at yourself in the past.

Was your dad involved in the making of the film at all, did you use him as a sounding board? How did he feel when he saw it?

No, he wasn't involved in the making of it. 

Did he know you were going to do it?

Yeah, I told him... he's a man of few words! He liked the film, basically. His next thing was like, there's more footage that you didn't use...

When's the sequel coming out?

I think at the time he had planned on doing something with it. I don't know whether he was applying for a grant at the time, he was always photographing people in the street and I guess a lot of the people he knew drank in Coopers, or sang in Coopers. He knew Steve and Maria who are still there, the landlords. I think he just knew the people that were in there and slotted into the background, they let him film. It was amazing that they were so comfortable with him. Some people would say that he documented the social life of Liverpool, the people but also the nature of a lot of his photographs, the fact that they can be so intimate or so emotional, is because he lived in and around all these people, he was one of them. It was less fly on the wall, more in-amongst. What he was doing was documenting Liverpool, documenting the people of Liverpool, which is what he did with his photographs. So I think a natural strand of that was also that he would occasionally video. A lot of the time he would just video the kids, me and the family, and normal day to day life. Occasionally I think something would be too difficult to photograph that was really interesting to capture on moving image, that was something he tried in Coopers. Then I found it!

So your dad's photographs - if I wanted to see more of them, are they online, or-?

They are, there's a website now, there's an instagram, @tomwoodarchive and a website, tomwoodarchive.com.


And he will have a retrospective at the Walker in May 2023.

Echo in Time contains collaged together video footage, footage shot by yourself, photographs, but it also has a lot of text which comes from different sources. Can you talk a bit about how all that came together and the role it plays in the film?

As raw footage it was an interesting journey to embark on trying to make a film out of it I guess. As we talked about earlier, often my entry point has to be something tactile, something I can collage together to get through the door creatively or aesthetically. With this, the footage from Coopers, there was a lot of sound I felt I had to remove, a lot of conversation. A lot of background noise. I had to rewatch the footage to understand what was actually there, being said. I was asking myself, what is the sound of Coopers? What's the sound of 2000? I had to rewatch a lot of the footage silent, just to not be distracted by the audio, which was a completely different thing. I would go back and listen to the audio separately and try to pick out different phrases. In this process of watching things silently and picking out phrases in the dark, things overheard, I started to write down lots of text and then kind of try to start to write a response to the footage as it was without formulating any type of creative decision, an edit decision, splicing anything.

The poems are collage, as much as your other....?

Yes. Basically I wrote a lot of text, I sent it to a friend of mine, Kev Kharas who is a musician under the name of Real Lies. He's someone who can do stuff with words very well, much better, simpler than I can do. I sent some stuff to him, he sent it back to me, it felt a bit like remixing each other's words. I started off with a big bulk of text, he then responded to some of the footage, and mixed up some of my text, then I got Tommy Calderbank involved who is an amazing poet based in Liverpool. Tommy, as well as writing a new poem for the film, which is Between The Crick & The Crack, which exists completely uncut within the film, because it was perfect. Tommy then took on my writing, which was mixed with Kev's, and sent it to Jude Mazonowicz who is also in the film, and then he spliced everything together and read it out loud. I cut that up, made sure he paused between sentences so I could cut that up, and that became more of a... even though the original idea, it was a very organic process, but it came from a text-based response to the footage and then I used that to form at least the skeleton of the flow of the film, more than the footage. 

One of the things you mentioned in this interview earlier on, and you put it quite nicely in the Q&A that can be read on the OUTPUT website; 'My artistic practice has persistently returned to questions of location, extimate biography, and the intimacy of geopolitical feeling. For me that’s Liverpool and Ireland, where a lot of my family are from'. I wanted to dig into that statement and that idea a bit, and get specific, and ask you - what's the precise shape of the influence those places have had on you? Has it made you more down to earth or funny, do you know what I mean? I'm interested in how you would actually quantify that in real terms.

I could say this about other nationalities or cultures or whatever, but I think from what I know, definitely Irish and Irishness, Liverpool and Liverpudlianisms, there's a real sense of place, a real strong sense of I guess your place within a place, belonging. Within that there's also this mirrored nostalgia. Mark Leckey spoke about where he was from, maybe Ellesmere Port? It's always stuck in my head, people where he's from, round there, wallow in the mire of nostalgia, or something. Maybe it's to do with the water, it being a port, things coming and going and really knowing your position, this sense of place. Being aware of where you are in the world and the country. I think, in terms of a country, Liverpool I guess a lot of people would say that Liverpool is quite an anti-English city. Which I kind of agree with. There's all the history to back that up, but I think it is a very English city and holds a lot of qualities that England or whatever would like to think that they hold. It's quite interesting, that relationship to Ireland and Irishness, Ireland's relationship to England. I mean, Ireland was England's first colony. The history of migration, oppression, that sort of thing. There's a lot, you can draw a straight line from Ireland to Liverpool in terms of the migration of families and here you've got third, fourth, fifth generation Irish families. 

What generation are you, was your Dad born in Ireland?

My dad was born in Ireland so I'm, I guess second generation? That's a very easy to thing to be like, my dad was Irish, I was born in Liverpool. A lot of people do that. Or my grandad was Irish, I was born in Liverpool. I think there's a reason, there's a connection there, even going to football which I wouldn't want to go to easily. The history of Liverpool Football Club, built by two Scottish men you could say, Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalgleish. Scotland and Ireland are geographically very similar and close... that's a really lond-winded answer but the sense of belonging and place and the personality comes through that, a personality, a collective understanding comes through that.

It makes sense that the qualities that are Liverpudlian and Irish would be the same.

Yeah. If you're interested in people being a collective, if you're interested in a sense of belonging or on the flipside, nostalgia and questions of nationalism, it's an interesting place to start.

I've always found it interesting listening to the other podcast interviews and hearing artists from New Brighton, Birkenhead, the Wirral, how they talk about Liverpool. I was brought up on this side of the water, in Liverpool, and there was always a sense of Liverpool being slightly inferior to London or people going across to Manchester to go clothes shopping because there were better shops over there. Liverpool being a bit, not ashamed of itself because it is a very prideful city, but being aware that there were a few places that had fancier things. But then if you talk to people from Birkenhead or whatever, Liverpool just seems like this shining beacon on the horizon, like the Land of Oz.

Yeah. That's the wool...

It's interesting because Liverpool was maybe, it's a friendly place but it's also a playfully hostile place that's quite protective of its borders. So if you've got a wooly-back accent, someone will let you know that you're not a scouser, do you know what I mean?

Yeah. I haven't got an accent at all any more, it went. But yeah, I think when I was here there was a hostility and since I've left completely and been looking back to it, it's that really easily pulled over cloak of nostalgia.

My final question, obviously Echo in Time features a lot of karaoke performances in Coopers. I wanted to ask - do you have a go to karaoke song? What's your number?

It's - a lot of people say, really? - Atomic Kitten, Whole Again.


There you go, it just came out, yeah. I feel like that's not a go to because of a vibe, it's maybe more performance based. As in, I feel like I've had a good reception to performing that enough times for me to now say, that's my go to. I know I can fall back on some solid performances.

You've had audience feedback...

I've had audience feedback and I feel like whether I'm on form or not, I can really knock that out. It was my birthday last week and usually every birthday I would go to a karaoke bar in Hackney, the Globe on Morning Lane, karaoke Saturday to Monday. I missed that for three years. But if you need to pull someone up on stage with you, Whole Again, you can do that. It's got the stool, you can sit down and rise up, Westlife, Boyzone style. The audience find it hard to resist that.

You've had a few conversations with the Coopers staff through the course of this project haven't you. Have they ever mentioned anything about what it was like re-opening, the first karaoke night back after lockdown? 

No, that's a great question though. I will ask them that ASAP. It was very weird being in there with them, Maria the landlord, during tier three. Just setting foot in this pub, I'd watched and edited so much of the footage and then I went there. It was empty and it looked completely different. It looked huge, it's tiny in the film. That's quite interesting, the sense of space in there. It was just a really tough time I guess for everyone, anyone who owned a business like that. When I was there that was the most apparent thing, would they even properly open again? All that sort of stuff. Thankfully they did.

It's a bit of a landmark isn't it. As we've seen with businesses in town that are on the bubble at the moment, use it or lose it, is the message, isn't it?

I think there are still a lot of people using it. I mean, we were installing on Monday, I tried to go in there at 4 o'clock but it was rammed, heaving. 4 o'clock on a Monday. 

Didn't you say it's the only place you can get a decent pint under three quid?

A pint under three quid. Shout out to Nick Smith for finding that out...

Previous OUTPUT exhibiting artist Nick Smith, of course.... 

They've removed the carpet, the carpet's gone.

Have they?

The carpet's one of the key characters in the film.

It's a shame you couldn't rescue that from a skip and frame a section.

There's a carpet in there but it's not THE carpet.

Not the iconic one from the films...

Thank you to Ciaran for chatting with us, his exhibition is on at OUTPUT until Sunday 10th July. We’re open 11am - 5pm, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you’re not able to make the exhibition you can also view the film online, just go to www.outputgallery.com and click through to the page about Ciaran’s exhibition, or you can find that on our YouTube channel by searching output gallery on YouTube. As ever you can also keep up with us on Facebook and instagram and twitter where our username across them all is @outputgallery.

The OUTPUT podcast will be making its debut on Melodic Distraction An internet radio station & online magazine amplifying the sounds of Liverpool and beyond, Sunday August 7th at 3pm. It’ll be a new format for the show with a focus on music, both local music from past and present and tracks picked by our exhibiting artists and other guests. very excited about that and if you’d like to get familiar with melodic distraction in the meantime head over to their website, melodicdistraction.com which has a big archive of past shows

We would also like to thank FACT, Liverpools fact gallery, for sponsoring this new series of the podcast and there’s some conversations and material springing from that partnership that will pop up in future episodes.

To end today’s episode here’s a reading from the poet Tommy Calderbank, recorded by Ciaran in Tommy’s flat last week. 


There are places I remember
Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-coloured way-we-weres
Captured space and time
Tom’s lens came to Ada Cooper’s
Following his crowd
A haven from the cold
Inviting light and sound
Relief from the rigours
Home away from home
All chitterchatter bustling, jostling
Cosy, friendly, warm
Filled with characters larger
Than life itself, stars that might have been
Still alive inside an echo, echo, echo
The room too small to hold their dreams

Pathologically friendly, this lot
Talk to anyone, whether they want to or not
The Unconscious Carpet beneath their feet
Soaks up the dancesteps and many pints spilt
The memory of all in the fabric’s weaveworld
Its crazy patterns are lysergic cobbles vibrating
Trip to the loo, my darling
And beneath the carpet, the beach….
Here, its always time to cut a rug
Some cuts are rough,
And may not make the final film
Ending up on the cutting room floor
Where all the dancers meet
Two left feet or no feet left
Just dance, will yer…

Transforming the everyday with booze fuelled magic
Adding to their lives a layer of glamour
They grab the mic like there’s no tomorrow
Karaoke democracy!
Good old fellas and goodtime girls trade tunes
Belted out or gently crooned
(If you look hard enough, you can see their souls when they do)
….Be my, be my baby….
…All you wanna do is ride around Sally…
…How would you like to be, down by the Seine with me….?
…Fate. Up against your will…
…It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing…
…They had dreams and songs to sing…

Dockers imagine themselves on Top of the Pops
Milkmen playing the Albert Hall
Office girls smashing it at Wembley
Locksmiths headlining Glasto
Singing songs in the key of Yale
Churches swerved on a Sunday
Swapping priests for barmaids
Crisps for wafers
Collection plates for overflowing ashtrays
Pints for communion wine
Old couples still holding hands after all this time
Singing The People’s Hymns
They congregate to elevate through secular song
“And now, a reading from the book of Our Gerry…”

So before last orders are called on such things
Let’s look at why the caged bird sings
These aren’t the folk who killed Clayton Square
Or made entire districts disappear
These crimes committed by sharp-suited men
Who made it all come tumbling down, again and again
These are the survivors of mass demolitions
Whose suspicions we’re ruled by fools proved true
Let’s celebrate these places, these faces we knew
These people deserve poetry and song
Their desire restless, relentless, strong
See the magic in their mundane
The epic in their everyday
This portrait of a people in their public home
Who lived and loved life to the bone.