Archive for September 16th, 2010

Babybeef is the name of the electro pop solo project of multi instrumentalist Sarah Carroll Kelly. Her music combines pure hyper-coloured unashamed 1980’s influenced FM plastic pop with darker driven sounds & undercurrents that references A-ha, New Order, Devo and the more contemporary, fresher sounds of LCD Soundsystem, The Juan MacLean, Daft Punk & Yeasayer. In 2009 she was invited by Sligo’s The Model Niland Gallery to perform as part of their New Spaces For Music programme and this year, she played a special show at The Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin as part of their BIORHYTHM exhibition. This month, she releases her debut album on After The Quake Records. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/babybeefmusic

What’s the first record you ever bought?
Technotronic’s Pump up the Jam single on cassette.

What’s your favourite smell? Fresh cut grass (makes it seem like there’s an endless teenage summer ahead, and I’m about to drink some mi-wadi and try to ready a comic without the glare of the sun bouncing back in your eyes, on a tartan blanket).

Have you ever had a nickname? Jackie (after Jackie Stallone).

What is your favourite room in your house? The sitting room. It’s full of Flea Market and vintage finds and has a gorgeous painting over the mantelpiece by Chris Jones.

What are your guilty pleasures? eBay, vintage furniture, sad stories (with happy endings), Judge Judy and Tayto.

What would people be surprised to know about you? Four songs from the album were written in two weeks. Stephen Shannon, my producer, convinced me to turn my then EP into an album.

Who is your closest female friend? My sister, Joyce.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Yes, several.

Where would you most like to live? Am happy where I am on my street in Kilmainham (but in another life,  I’d live in New York or Berlin).

Who was your first kiss and where did it happen? With DG in the French classroom after school.

What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked? “What’s your favourite smell?”

What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received? An electric guitar from my parents when I was 15. I nearly lost the plot. Still have it and it has a great sound.

What is your favourite word? ‘Pucleimnach’ (only the Irish language could come up with a word that describes perfectly the crazy jumping and frolicking of lambs).

Who was your first love? Had a huge crush on Macgyver. I tried to watch him when he started on Stargate but he wasn’t half as hot… must’ve been the bombs made out of apples and chewing gum that impressed me.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what might you have become? I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as an artist and designer, a tutor and a musician. As long as I’m doing something creative, I’m happy.

Is there a book you’ve bought several times as a gift for someone? ReadyMade: How to Make [Almost] Everything. It’s an amazing book I got in the IMMA bookshop. It’s full of things to make out of rubbish like a recliner out of water bottles, mats out of clothes pegs and clocks out of chopsticks. It sounds lame, but it really makes you want to start a make-and-do session.

What happens after we die? Hopefully your mates and family have a good cry and chat about how great you were!

What female historical figure do you admire most? (Not sure if this counts: This person is relevant to me in my history) Cindy Sherman had me in a spin in art college. The constant invention and portrayal of characters and scenarios broadened what a female artist could do in my eyes. Her work helped me find my ways of working and thinking and pushed me towards performance and video. That in turn got me started on Multimedia and digital sound so without it, Babybeef wouldn’t exist.

Sum yourself up in three words: Creative, quirky and hard-working.

And finally… what are you anti? Getting unprovoked hassle from chavs. Makes me want to turn into Clint Eastwood in Gran TorinoWhat are you pro? Using empty spaces and units for pop up exhibitions and gigs. Dublin has reverted to its creative roots out of necessity. It’s the best thing to come out of recession.

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Ladybird, Ladybird

The other day I walked into a shop filled mostly with items made of red and white spotted fabric, or rose-printed fabric, or brown paper and string – you know the look – and there among the pale pink and green teacups (fetchingly mismatched, made in China) a mug caught my eye, and instantly, automatically, I reached for it. The image on the mug was of a very familiar book cover, the first book I ever read at school, in what we called Kindergarten, but most schools now call Junior Infants. It was Play With Us, book 1a of the Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme, and the cover showed the faces of Peter (in feathered headdress) and Jane (in yellow cardigan), poking their well-fed and rosy-cheeked little faces out of a tepee.

I loved the Ladybird readers in 1976, though it was nothing to do with the stories inside. I loved the sense of checking off each word in the sentence, of progressing down such a few lines to complete a whole page, of looking at the new vocabulary words at the bottom of the page and realising I’d just read them without stumbling. I loved the rapid progression from book 1a to book 1b to book 1c, moving into the sudden glamour of the 2s: 2a We Have Fun and 2b Have a Go, with more words to a line, more words to a page, getting the feeling of a real book. I loved the physical curves of the text, the confident reach of the letters’ descenders, the large stamp of the capitals (the words, apparently, were in a hand-lettered typeface created for Ladybird) and the detail of the illustrations.

Lots of original Ladybird books are collectors’ items, now, particularly books from their series How It Works, Well-Loved Tales and Adventures from History. The rarest title now, apparently, is the MOD limited edition of The Computer from the How it Works series: Ladybird collectors’ site The Wee Web notes:

This private edition was limited to 80 – 100 copies and was printed without the usual Ladybird copyright information, and was produced in plain boards. The plain printing style of these 80 editions was at the request of the M.O.D., as they did not want their trainee staff to know that they were learning from a Ladybird book.

Do admit, that is the purest brilliance.

I read the Key Words books during that year only, because that was the work my teacher gave me to do. I can’t say I was ever drawn to any of Ladybird’s rather unimaginative story books, because there was so much else in the book world to choose from, and that may be part of the reason that despite the good memories, and despite my weakness for any old over-exploited iconography (I coughed up for the Penguin teatowels, and playing cards, and mugs, and all the rest), I put the Play With Us mug back on the shelf. The other reason, of course, is that I don’t actually want, every time I stir my coffee, to revisit Mother and Jane endlessly and without bitterness doing the washing up while Peter and Dad share a pipe in the shed.

I was thinking about all this, and about what books mean to children, the other day while a friend and I watched a queue of excited child readers at the Mountains to the Sea festival waiting for Sarah Webb to sign books for them. I chatted to my friend about not buying that mug, and she laughed and said she’d had exactly the same experience – the automatic reach, the pause, the recoil – though in her case the Ladybird image was of Little Red Riding Hood, but she’d quickly decided her childhood memories weren’t up for grabs and she didn’t want branded merchandise trampling all over them. She’s right. Peppa Pig, Dora the Explorer, Thomas the Tank Engine, or those godawful Disney princesses – give them an inch. It’s possible to theme a child’s life with these brands, made flesh in sippy cups and lunchboxes and t-shirts and hairbands and duvet covers. I resist that for my children. I’ll resist it for myself, too.

The Ladybird mug – and whatever else you can get – is part of the reclaim-your-childhood vibe that swept over us a few years ago, and part of the mock-vintage thing too: a nice clean print of the Ladybird book cover on your coffee mug, so you can nod your sentimental old noodle to the past without actually having to have a nasty, dusty, broken-spined, and possibly crayon-defaced book on the shelf. I don’t celebrate the sexism and snobbery of the Ladybird reading scheme. I don’t celebrate the unlikely, steady perfection of life chez Peter and Jane, in a world where high tea was always laid on a clean cloth at half-past five by a neat-waisted mother without a migraine. I do celebrate how I felt about ploughing through the books, and the early joy of independent reading, but I don’t need props to do that. I don’t want to live a Ladybird life.

Well. Have I become completely humourless? Did you learn to read with Mother and Jane up to their elbows in flour, and Peter and Dad up to theirs in WD40? Are you living a themed life?

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