Newton Emerson has a skit on some of the condescending commentary we’ve seen on Slugger and in the mainstream on ‘the culturelessness of Unionism’. Here, as they say on Big Brother, is
some of his best bits the whole thing:By Newtown Emerson
As another season of republican festivals, summer schools, workshops, concerts, recitals, readings, exhibitions and fire-bombings draws to a close, several commentators have observed that there are no unionist equivalents to these vibrant ethnic events. Some suggest this is because Ulster protestants have no meaningful culture, no notable intellectuals, no real sense of community and nothing interesting to say. Sadly they are quite correct, as my own empty life makes only too clear.
Take last Friday evening, for example. I could have popped down to the QFT to see Len Roach’s new film ‘The Hidden Agenda that Shakes the Corn’, then discussed the plot with friends in the John Hewitt afterwards over a glass of fairly traded Mecca-Cola. But what did I do instead? I mowed the lawn. Not very enlightening, I know – but you have to do it before the grass gets too long to pick up the dog dirt. Saturday was even worse. I’d planned to attend a panel debate at the Ballymena Summer School, entitled: “Prods – wilfully ignorant or just plain thick?” But I got stuck in Belfast all afternoon because the girlfriend had to pick something up from Boots and leave something back to Primark. In any case, by the time we’d got home, made dinner and watched The X-Factor, I’d completely forgotten what I wanted to ask.
On Sunday we went for a lovely drive through the Mournes, stopping for ice-cream in Rathfriland and polystyrene cups of coffee in the car park above Spelga Dam. I really must buy one of those fold-down table and chair sets that everyone else seems to own for such occasions. Also, I really must apply for that writer-in-residence post at the Kilkeel Literary Heritage Centre, so that I can fulfil my ambition to become the unionist Seamus Heaney. A three-month sabbatical should suffice – it doesn’t look particularly difficult:
“My passport’s blue. No glass of ours was ever raised in toast to you. Keep digging, digging. Will that do?”
However, those mountains can play havoc with your wireless broadband connection and the Arts Council only gives money to people who knit their own underwear. Maybe next year.
On Monday I decided to do something about the yawning cultural chasm undermining my British identity by organising a music festival in the community centre. “If we can’t watch Atomic Kitten in a loyalist context then the union is doomed,” I warned the girlfriend. “Don’t be silly,” she replied. “We’re middle class. We don’t have a community centre.”
On Tuesday night I really meant to catch Doublegrant Theatre’s new production of Billy Shootspatrick’s groundbreaking play ‘Drumming It In’ but we ended up watching Lost on Channel 4 instead. Then we switched over to E4 and watched the next episode as well, although that means we’re now a week ahead of ourselves. It’s really difficult following a series with all these new channels, isn’t it? Especially if you have one of those cheap digiboxes that doesn’t work with the video.
Curiously, in Lost, the castaways have reached an uneasy truce with ‘the others’ by agreeing to stay on their side of the island. Perhaps I should submit a PhD proposal to Queen’s on accidental unionist allegories in popular culture. On second thoughts, I might have more luck sending that one to Coleraine.
On Wednesday I was supposed to attend the launch of Dean Rector’s new biography of Sir Reg Empey, ‘Himself and David Ervine Alone’, at the University Bookshop, followed by an Ulster-Scots question-and-answer session at Yon Cultcher-Bildin. But I couldn’t leave the house because I had to wait in for the boiler repair man. You’d think it would be easy to get your heating fixed in August but no – they still make you waste a whole day while they turn up whenever it suits them, leave again for some part they’re too tight to keep in stock, then come back five hours later. Still, maybe things will be different once tradesmen are organised on an all-Ireland basis.
So here we are on Thursday morning after another week in which I have failed to undertake any community-based cultural activities whatsoever. No debates, discussions, lectures or seminars have affirmed my identity. No plays, poems, songs or stories have been written for my cause. Surely this proves that unionism is nothing more than a post-colonial illusion brought on by fear, prejudice and too much Schloer at an impressionable age? Yes, I think the game is finally up. I’d better call Community Restorative Justice and turn myself in.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty