Monthly Archives: February 2014

RTE Radio 1 Documentary on One broadcast entitled: Act like a lady, lift like a beast.

By Declan Brennan published 8 Fed 2014.

This particular radio documentary story profiles a female weight lifter, Clare Connolly, who recently joined a training group called the Dublin Female Strength Club. The producer is a close friend of the weightlifter for over ten years now, and focuses on her new hobby of weightlifting and how she plans to travel to Glasgow to represent Ireland in the World Drug free Powerlifting Championships with the rest of her team. It features on her current lifestyle and how it has changed to incorporate her new profession, from what she eats to how she is seen in society.

Its told through a very conversational interaction between her and the narrator Declan Brennan, the links of which are them constantly switching between Q and A interview format to Declan relaying facts about Clare to the listener. For example, it opens with a very feature-like introduction full of suspense. We hear a knock at a door and a male voice calling out good morning. A woman replies saying come in, and what we automatically assume to be the presenter speaking to this as of yet unidentified woman, saying he has a surprise for her. We then hear her laughing and expressing her joy at seeing a speaking scale. Just as we begin to get the picture, that this is an athlete and it is a fun poked interaction between two friends, the narrator addresses the listener by saying “My friend Clare Connolly is…”

Other link ins include the announcement of where they are or where they are going either by Clare through a proclamation or by Declan through a colourful observation of the place they’re now in. There’s about seven or more of these in total, with Declan painting a brief picture of each scene before they continue the interview. For example when they arrive at the gym, Clare ends whatever she was saying by declaring “were here at the gym now,” and Declan replies “you won’t find any colourful kettle bells in this gym.”

These links from place to place include the gym she trains in, her flat, a bar in Dublin city after she’s had a bad day, her family home in her town of origin. He also begins a countdown halfway through the documentary of her daily weigh-ins either over or under her goals and he documents how many days it is before the competition. Then before the big event, it opens with a discussion between the team of girls, Declan asking questions about some of their weight conscious references we too as listeners would not be aware of. Every time, Declan almost poetically describes the setting. He then continues to narrate the actual competition, building up to it with a discussion with the girls, their breakfast, the opening ceremony music, his explanation of the competitions rules. Then during the actual power lifting, the music picks up and the shouts of the crowds are enhanced. He keeps us updated on her levels of strength through the trials with extra comments from Clare in between.

The entire opening is quick and keeps the listener active with the story, which is exactly the format for the rest of the documentary. The seriousness of the presenter Declan counteracts well with the upbeat tone Clare has, the listener can easily tell Declan is trying to portray Clare and her powerlifting seriously whilst having fun, and Clare is very relaxed and forthcoming with the interview answers. It flows quite well as a feature piece with no awkward pauses.

They hold interviews in places we easily recognise by what I assume the amplified background noises to add dramatic and audio effect to the music. We can hear the clinging of weights above the music as Clare talks about her weight and size, and we hear the fridge door closing when her and Declan discuss her typical diet.

Other sources and characters introduced are some of her teammates, and they’re hugely diverse pastimes. Eimear who is a part-time burlesque dancer and beautician and Lynn with her two kids who accompany her to the gym every Sunday as she is a single mum. The show includes her two kids giggles amplified in the background. After Lynn announces the difficulty of training with two kids, it cuts to her daughter giggling and eventually saying to Declan “Act like a lady, lift like a beast” and the room erupts in laughter. Here we click the humorously cute origin of the documentary’s title, and automatically as a listener you feel a fondness for it.  Another is her mother when they travel to her hometown, a typical Irish mammy filled with concern or her daughter, and the typical Irish dad joking about not wanting her to turn into a man.

The documentary paints an honest picture of Clare, and what the world of female powerlifting really looks like. The difficulties they face, their diverse background, the stress of keeping their weight down in the preparation for the competition and so on. The constant diary like responses Clare gives make us feel closer to her, and both her and Declan’s stark examination of her faults hide nothing from the listener. The background music fits in with the mood of the documentary, between calm and pensive to upbeat and intense when the documentary calls for it. We really hope she wins the competition in the build-up, with her family screaming and the emotional music coming in. Finally we find out she’s taken world champion in her age category, and feel like we’ve been there with her throughout the journey and smile as she deserves her reward as the documentary closes.

Listen to the documentary online here:

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/documentary-podcast-female-powerlifting-strength-club.html

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ST Marys Park Floods, Loss turned to Triumph

There’s a distinctive sense of abandonment when there are forces destroying your home and you have no control, your only option but to sit back and watch. That’s how we all felt the morning we woke up last Saturday not to our houses being flooded, but to our entire bottom floors already submerged knee deep in river water. We didn’t even see or hear it coming, we just woke up, heard a gurgle and a creak downstairs and switched on the light to see all our possessions floating past. If we had received a weather warning the night before or were awake to see the first stream come trickling in we wouldn’t have felt as helpless as we did that morning.

The second stage of the nightmare was trying to do a full comparison with the rest of the community. What do we do, should we wade through the water to try and see how the neighbours are doing, or do we sit and wait on the stairs for word from some or any authorities. Our entire blocks bathrooms are situated at the back room of our bottom floor. I did my first and last dash attempt into the water to get to the bathroom that morning. Making my way through the two rooms in a pair of old boots that were spare was possibly the coldest water I have ever put my feet into. Then the blind panic of remembering the animals and pets we had outside. Thankfully my own dog had a wooden dog house that was on a higher level than the rest, so he was okay. But I heard how hard family members further in the centre took the news that their dogs had drowned.

In the midst of peering out our front windows upstairs and everyone posting their photos to Facebook to see if their shock was in line with our own, something truly uplifting happened. People started rescuing other people. Of course, the armed forces and fire brigade were the pillars of our community those few horrible days. But everyone else really stepped up to the plate. St Marys park still remains one of the oldest community’s in our city, and I think that day when everyone was at their lowest and most desperate did its residents remember that. Everybody did their best to restore meaning to the word community that morning, with people rescuing the old and young alike.

When the worst of that day was over and the forces pumped away most of the water there was nothing but quiet assessing left to do. Many people had been evacuated from their homes but my mother, like many others down there, was too proud to leave her house behind. We were all told to stay indoors and upstairs for fear of another flood. To this day, despite the stack of sandbags that’s permanently outside our front door, that fear has been haunting us. That evening, once everyone had received the most help the authorities could give, fear led way to its closest friends – confusion and rumours.

With the few on hand officials and the limited knowledge they could tell us of the floods, rumour began to rip through the houses on our street. The electricity was being shut off at seven. It wasn’t. It’s going to flood again tonight. It didn’t. They’ve stopped giving out sandbags. They hadn’t. It’s natural for a group of people living in fear of the river five feet away to be desperate for information, but the past few days have been a constant torture of relying on ever-changing rumours.

Then it felt like the nightmare was never going to end. After the weekend had passed and we were just about coming to terms with the possessions we lost and the danger we were in, came the contamination warning. Everything the water had touched, from furniture to wallpaper had to be thrown away for fear of contamination. But there’s still the silver lining on the edge of our little grey cloud.  The local government employees are coming around on a daily basis to help clear out furniture and lend a hand. We’ve had local electricians come in to assess the damage and have been given free use of humidifiers for inside the house. There’s even been an immediate relief fund given out to all of us before any real financial aid can be assessed. The entire city has been amazing in its support. We have received all manner of donations from hot lunches to fresh bed sheets from organisations and individuals city wide. Even though we couldn’t be more at a loss at this moment in time, I have never been more grateful to the people we live with. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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Paul Maguire on Investigative Journalism

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I have a real hatred for Injustice”

Paul Maguire, although from humble beginnings as his first job in a Superquinn store, now stands as the head of RTE’s Prime Time Investigates (PTI) and today addressed the journalism students of UL on the skills needed for investigative journalism.

As the seasoned journalist put it himself, you have to have a real joy and love for the job because sometimes it won’t always love you back. “If you’re standing behind a bush in the lashing rain for six months for the sake of one shot, which is literally what we did, you will feel like saying oh feck this and going home.” But you must really love it, and one of his own reasons for taking such pride and joy in his line of work is that he loves talking to people and hearing their story, “and I have a real hatred for injustice.”

But don’t fool yourself into the idea of becoming a rebellious vigilante of the public’s interest. Mr Maguire stressed that under no circumstances would PTI willingly hand over all or any of their information to Gardaí on an issue before it went to air. “We are not the second arm of the state.”

The job is becoming increasingly harder. There’s long hours, increasing difficulties with the Freedom of Information act, no paid overtime, and hours of waiting. According to Mr Maguire, a good investigation can take up to 18 months – which is true for the case of their documentary Profiting from Prostitution. The investigative piece on the trafficking and conditions of prostitutes in Ireland took over two years to produce.

But the stressed point of his entire message was that the people who you deal with are everything. You must realise that when a victim of whichever violation you are investigating willingly comes to you with information, you must consider yourself honoured. Mr Maguire revealed the extensive aftercare that his team provides to those directly affected by their work.

For example, take their aforementioned documentary on prostitution. They offered the prostitutes they encountered a range of external help from professional bodies, ensured those volunteers who spoke on camera were completely unnoticeable through the use of wigs and voice changes and even returned to those they were worried about to offer more help.

Mr Maguire stressed the importance of ensuring the people you work with are happy and safe. Even on the very last day of production, the RTE team will be willing to remove any content that their interviewees may be uncomfortable with. “When dealing with sensitivity, you must realise that they’re human beings. Don’t forget that fact in your haste to get a good story and reach a deadline.”

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Tanning – A Fatal Attraction

We always want what we can’t have, fat-free chocolate, a rain-free summer, instantly glossy hair out of the shower and particularly in the case of Irish women, a tan. We are a nation who pine for darker complexions, and the gathering of freckles across our cheeks and shoulders during the two scarce months our watery sun decides to grace us with its presence doesn’t count. Therefore to not look like a support group for the deathly pale when we hit the pub, Irish women resort to fake tan. But just when you think you’ve found the answer at the bottom of a bottle, a whole new world of problems crop up. Keep in mind this is strictly referring to self-tan; we don’t have near enough time to branch into sunbeds, injections, tanning pills and the world of complications they bring. To join the cult of pale, freckly, tan-happy girls is a big commitment, and it doesn’t come cheap or easy. Such tormenting difficulties that come with wearing fake tan are the cost, the frequency, the choking and suffocating biscuit smell, brand judgement and stigma, stained hands, a hoard of orange mitts stacked in the corner of your room and the nightmare of scrubbing it all off – just to name a few.

Cost and frequency go hand in hand; they’re part of the everyday problems that come with wearing tan. The amount of money you spend and sheer quantity you apply typically depends on how vibrant your social life is and how much skin you dare to bare. You could be the type of girl to only need a bottle a month to apply the barest coat each time they get their legs out. Or you could be the other type of girl we all know and love to mock – you know the one, she uses an entire bottle on her face just popping down to the shops so her skin tone matches her maroon pyjamas. As it currently stands, the fake tan business is worth over €100 million and is still growing. You’d think with all that money tucked away nicely in their back pockets, they could finally figure out how to get rid of that annoying biscuit smell. Certain brands of tan should start marketing their products as not only offering flawless coverage, but includes its very own scent of burnt toast free of charge.

The reputation of a fake tan can crop up out of nowhere, both good and bad. They can get shamed for dousing you in that biscuit smell, get praised for their easy application, and others can become stigmatised for the most bizarre reasons. Some of the most reliable fake tans known to our very own Limerick City are Sally Hansen and the budget tan St Moriz. Conveniently enough both are sold in Penny’s, who have made it easier once again to gather all the ingredients for a night out in one stop. But despite being sold in the same place as Sally Hansen and widely sold in all manner of other stores and pharmacies, I don’t know one girl who doesn’t refer to St Moriz as the “Penny’s tan.”

Women and fake tan share a love-hate relationship full of orange mitts and stained clothes. No matter how much fun it is to bond over a glass of wine with fellow females about the stress of finding a good tan, we can’t take it for granted. It’s there for us on hand before all special occasions, it’s there for us at a budget price when we’re stuck and at an outrageous one when we’re in the mood to brag, it’s there waiting to take us back into its open arms when we’ve cheated and gone on holiday for two weeks. Bless its little heart it’s even there for us to put up a fight against the lashings of pouring rain that attack our exposed legs on the run from taxi to bar, mind you often enough it loses that fight. That’s usually where the hate part of the relationship comes screaming back into it. But come the next night out and we’ve manage to get the right balance of sun-kissed glow before reaching Fanta Orange delivery truck car crash, all is forgiven again.