Pantisocracy Sunday 25 December 2016

Panti Bliss hosts a late night cabaret of conversations with, and about, contemporary Ireland.

In this series, the Queen of Ireland, Panti Bliss invites a diverse gathering of intriguing, high profile and articulate guests into her parlour to chat about their life’s journey and share stories. From singers to scientists, athletes to actors, writers to rebels - all are citizens of the Pantisocracy where Panti herself holds court in a wry and incisive programme combining talk, song and performance. A cabaret for the times we live in, Pantisocracy is a society of equals. 

Pantisocracy is an Athena Media Production for RTÉ Radio 1.   #pantisocracy. Hear a teaser from the show here.

Pantisocracy: Episode 6  ‘The Past is a Foreign Country’  TX October 31st 2pm

Host Miss Panti Bliss, the unofficial Queen of Ireland, invites her guests into a special October bank holiday Pantisocracy parlour. The show’s ‘cabaret of conversations’ is set by Panti in an insightful ‘Panti Monologue’ exploring our relationship with the past.

Her guests in her parlour, in this show, are the award winning novelist John Boyne, (author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), the artist and Illustrator Annie West, the Scottish born Islamic scholar Dr Amanullah De Sondy who lectures in University College Cork, singer Hozier and the acclaimed actor/singer Bronagh Gallagher. Bronagh offers a song to the cabaret with a performance of ‘Hand on My Heart’ and Hozier sings his song ‘To Be Alone’.

Panti with HozierThe audience and artists!

Panti with Amen (above) and Bronagh Gallagher (right)

And here are some of the previous episodes... 

Episode 1 - A Window on Change - Tuesday, 23rd August, 10pm

Host Panti Bliss opens Pantisocracy with the Panti Monologue, a personal observation on life as she sees it. In her parlour are guests Donegal pro-surfer Easkey Britton, who shares stories teaching surfing to women in Iran with writer/actor Mark O’Halloran whose new film Halal Daddy is about a Muslim family in small town Ireland. Scientist Shane Bergin critiques the myth of the left-right brain theory and sings The Galaxy Song while singer/actor Maria Doyle Kennedy shares stories of her life in Canada. Maria and Kieran Kennedy entertain Panti Bliss, guests and the Pantisocracy audience with an intimate performance of her song ‘The Most Beautiful People are Broken’. Listen to the full show here.

 Before the show and before the transformation

Episode 2 - What Are We Like? - Tuesday, 30th August, 10pm

Host Panti Bliss opens with the Panti Monologue, a personal observation on life as she sees it. In her parlour are guests Eleanor Fitzsimons, a writer whose latest work is a biography of Oscar Wilde told through the women in his life - ‘Wilde’s Women’ - and award winning actor Olwen Fouéré who has brought both Joyce and Beckett to the stage this year. With them in the Pantisocracy chambers is Pauric Dempsey whose explains why the Royal Irish Academy wants to put ‘women on the walls’ for 2016 while broadcaster Dil Wickremasinghe says, as a new Irish citizen, the 1916 rebels inspire her. Performer Jack Lukeman, shares stories of travelling in the United States during the Orlando massacre and entertains Panti, guests and the Pantisocracy audience with his song Open Your Borders and The Foggy Dew. Listen to the full show here.

Episode 3 - Turning Points - Tuesday, 6th September, 10pm

Host Miss Panti Bliss opens the show in her parlour, welcoming guests and offers a ‘Panti Monologue’ a personal observation on life as she sees it. In this episode, her guests talking of turning points in life are Mark Pollock, the blind now paralysed adventurer who is exploring ways to walk again. Lawyer Simone George, Mark’s partner, is  in the mix talking about her journey to make Ireland safer for women. Scientist  Dr. Niamh Shaw talks of her dream of going into space, comedian Jarlath Regan shares what he has discovered in making his hit podcast “An Irishman Abroad’ and composer Michael Gallen,  the lead singer with the band Ana Gog, talks about his new opera project, A Month in the Lock, and sings from the James Connolly songbook ‘ We Only Want the Earth’. Michael’s band Ana Gog join him to close the show with their new song ‘Roze’s Kitchen’. 

 Ana Gog singing Roze's Kitchen

 Panti Bliss

Panti's monologue for episode 3: Turning Points

When I tell people that I was diagnosed with HIV twenty years ago in my mid twenties, a time when a HIV diagnosis was a death sentence, they usually assume it was a huge turning point in my life. They assume something that big, that dramatic, must have turned my life upside down, shaken me to the very core, and changed me in some profound way. No doubt I must have learned something about myself, about life, perhaps about the cruelty or haphazard nature of life’s twists. And they imagine that I have gained some kind of wisdom from it that I will now impart to them. Maybe something about living each day as if it’s your last, or grabbing life by the horns and taking every opportunity that comes your way. Maybe I’m going to tell them to take time to stop and smell the flowers and to not sweat the small stuff. But I have to disappoint them. I have nothing profound to impart.

Oh sure it was a big deal. Twenty years later and can still describe every minute detail of my doctor’s 1996 office. His pen lying on his open notebook, the post-it notes by his hand, the colour and texture of his corduroys, the clock on the wall beside a drug company sponsored wall chart, peeling away from the clumsily applied BluTack on one corner. But a couple of hours later at home, I was hungry and had to make a sandwich with the fridge-wilted lettuce I nearly threw out the day before. And that evening I still had to wash the dirty dishes. Life’s mundanities didn’t stop just because someone told me I was going to die. The dog still needed to be walked, the bins still needed to be put out, the electricity bill still needed to be paid. I didn’t start grabbing life by the horns. I couldn’t. I’d just run out of bin bags and Tesco was closing in thirty minutes. Life’s turning points are often much more mundane or unexpected.

In 1986 I went to a gay bar for the first time. I’d never really met other gay people before that. I went because I was desperate to meet other people just like me. And hopefully to finally get laid. (I did both!) But walking nervously through the door of that innocuous basement changed my life as profoundly as Harry Potter’s first letter from Hogwarts. It revealed to me a previously hidden secret world that had existed all along hidden in plain sight. A magical world of Witchcraft and Faggotry where a hundred people just like me were dancing sweatily to the Pointer Sisters, while feet away, on the pavement above our heads, the Muggles were passing by, oblivious, on their way to catch the night bus home.

There, under the pavement and under the mirrorball, I discovered a tribe like me. Hidden and ignored, they were building a whole new world where we were free to make up our own rules as we went along, and where everything was up for grabs. And over a glass of Campari and orange juice I was changed profoundly. I wasn’t the only gay in the world, I could be whoever I wanted to be, and nothing would ever be the same.

Episode 4 - Influences - Tuesday, 13th September, 10pm

Host Miss Panti Bliss brings us into a ‘cabaret of conversations’ with guests including filmmaker Vivienne de Courcy, whose new movie ‘Dare to be Wild’ was filmed both in Ireland and Ethiopia while singer Shaz Oye shares stories of growing up black and gay in inner city Dublin with the Sierra Leone-Irish singer Loah.  Sinead Kane, the blind marathon runner talks about challenging stereotypes and combating bullying. Joining them in the studio is artist Jim Fitzpatrick, creator of the iconic Ché Guevara poster. Both Shaz and Loah entertain with songs, Shaz sings her solo version of WB Yeat’s poem ‘ When You Are Old’ while Loah is joined by some of her ensemble to sing her song ‘Cortege’.  In this episode Panti Bliss explores the people who influence and inspire us and share her own journey, and tales of Aunty Qy, in another of the often funny and insightful ‘Panti Monologues’.  

Watch Panti deliver her monologue here!

Episode 5 - That’s How the Light Gets In - Tuesday, 20th September, 10pm

Host Miss Panti Bliss invites her guests into the Pantisocracy parlour for the ‘cabaret of conversations’ exploring how we learn and grow. Panti opens with a Panti Monologue sharing her own experience. In this episode, psychologist and youth mental health advocate Tony Bates shares the floor with children’s author Siobhan Parkinson,  who says not being able to read books is the worst part for her in losing her sight. Nanoscientist Jessamyn Fairfield talks about her unusual childhood growing up in Los Alamos, New Mexico - home of the Atomic Bomb and why scientists need to embrace comedy to communicate. The guest performers is the episode are Jack O’Rourke and Camille O’Sullivan (above). Jack sings his song ‘Silence’.

Panti's monologue... 

When I was in primary school I was in the Ballinrobe school marching band. And I was good.

My glockenspiel and I were as one, and only the coldest of hearts could remain unmoved by my lyrical flourishes and precision marching on A Nation Once Again. Sister Frances wasn’t supposed to have favourites in her band but everyone knew I was her favourite.

Our nemesis was the Claremorris marching band. Fifteen miles and light years away across the bog, their band was older and bigger than our’s, and although we would never admit it, their uniforms were nicer and fancier than ours too. (They also had a train station and a swimming pool and thought they were better than us, but everyone knew you could never get parking in Claremorris so they could feck off with their ideas above their train station)

Claremorris was the bog standard by which Ballinrobe judged itself, so in a spirit of competition that would have touched the cold heart of the brand new British Prime Minister Thatcher, beating the fancy-costumed Claremorris band was our carrot, while Sr Frances’s stern displeasure was our stick. (Not mine of course. I was her favourite)

So when we qualified for the All Ireland School’s Marching Band Finals in Killarney, it wasn’t the thought of lifting the trophy after a spectacular performance of Amhrain na bhFiann that spurred us on through hours of practice, but rather the thought of the Claremorris band’s crumpled faces as they stood (hopefully in the rain) and watched us lift it. Before they got the train home.

I don’t remember now which saint Sr Frances had decided was concerned with the outcome of School’s Marching Band competitions rather than the sick and destitute, but whoever it was, we obviously prayed hard enough and often enough, because when we were clambering back onto our coach to return home from Killarney, Sister Frances proudly clutching the All Ireland School’s Marching Band Winner’s Trophy, everything was perfect with the world and train stations and swimming pools and fancy uniforms seemed but trivial things.

When the coach stopped on the side of the road for a pee break not long into the long journey everything was still perfect with the world. And when Sr Frances took me and my two sisters aside and walked us a little away from the rest of the victorious peeing band, everything was still perfect with the world.

And then she told us that Granny had died.

Granny Hoban was a formidable woman who’d raised five kids on her own on a Guinness’s secretary’s wage. She used to just come and visit us on the train or we’d go to Dublin to visit her, but for the last while she’d been living in our back bedroom which hummed constantly with the sound of her ventilator.

Sister Frances said she was up in heaven now, and I’d say God was already regretting letting cancer get her because she could be quite stern when she wasn’t pleased with you and I’d say she was giving him a proper bollocking.

I knew what death was - after all we’d buried a whole cemetery worth of various pets in the garden - dogs, cats, budgies, hedgehogs, rabbits, sheep - but I never knew a person who died before. and I knew this was going to be a much bigger deal. We wouldn’t be burying Granny Hoban at the bottom of the garden. And while the bus bumped its way back to Ballinrobe and my sisters cried I cried too.

I cried because I wouldn’t see Granny Hoban again, but I cried too because I wasn’t sure what not seeing Granny Hoban again would actually be like. But mostly I cried because I was sure Mammy would be crying and Mammy crying was a rare and awful thing. I dreaded arriving home. Sr Frances said there’d be a lot of people in the house when we got there and I imagined my Mammy coming to the door to meet us, crying and sobbing terrifying grown-up tears, and inside in the sitting room there’d be lots of grown-ups, some of whom I’d know and some I wouldn’t, all sitting around crying quietly and looking sad and looking at me with big significant grown-up looks because I was a Granny orphan now. I didn’t want to go home.

And Mammy did come to the door to meet us. And we were still crying. But Mammy wasn’t crying. She was smiling and hugging us and telling us that Granny Hoban would be very proud about the trophy and inside in the sitting room there were lots of grown-ups like Sr Frances had said, but they weren’t crying either. They were drinking and chatting and laughing and eating sandwiches and biscuits and telling jokes and remembering that time Granny Hoban gave some fella a proper bollocking. It turned out it’s great craic when someone dies. There were no biscuits and sherry when Sunny the budgie died, and I hoped someone else would die soon because the biscuits were fancy.

Like everyone, as I got older, I became more familiar with death. There was Granny O’Neill whose hand I touched as she lay in the coffin on her bed and immediately felt better because that cool, plastic feeling hand was definitely not Granny O’Neill’s hand anymore. She was somewhere else, presumably better. Then there were neighbour's and friend's parents, and eventually friends.

A lot of friends when AIDS was decimating my community.

 And I became familiar with death in other countries, other cultures, and I learned that we do death well in Ireland. Much better than in other places. My English friends worry they will be intruding at the funerals of acquaintances whose families they didn't know. And they go back to work the day after their father passes and work for sometimes two weeks before the funeral happens. They worry about what to do and what to say.

We don’t. Everyone knows the rituals. We know what to do, and we know what to say. Neighbours gather, meals are made and delivered, drinks are raised, stories remembered, a life anecdoted. Lifts are organised, cars shared, removals to St Mary’s, hands shaken and we are sorry for your troubles.

The rituals are familiar and comforting. Everyone knows their role. They are easy and we are eased through loss. And losing things is the human condition. As we grow older we lose our hair, our eyesight, our strength, our memory, our youth, our friends, our loved ones. And if growing older is a process of losing things, growing wiser is perhaps learning how to cope with that loss.

Episode 6 - The Past is a Foreign Country - Bank Holiday Monday, October 31st, 2pm

Host Miss Panti Bliss, the unofficial Queen of Ireland,  invites her guests into a special October bank holiday Pantisocracy parlour. The show’s ‘cabaret of conversations’ is set by Panti in an insightful ‘Panti Monologue’ exploring our relationship with the past.

Her guests, in her parlour, in this show are the award winning novelist John Boyne, (author of the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), the artist and Illustrator Annie West, the Scottish born Islamic scholar Dr Amanullah De Sondy who lectures in University College Cork, singer Hozier and the acclaimed actor/singer Bronagh Gallagher. Bronagh offers a song to the cabaret with Bronagh performing ‘Heal Me’ from her new album.



"The Heart of Memory, the Song of Home" - A special Christmas Day edition of Pantisocracy.

Music Played on the Show

The St. Louis Blues March

The St. Louis Blues March

Glenn Miller


A Mhuire Na Ngrast

A Mhuire Na Ngrast

Roisin Elsafty


The Joy Of Living

The Joy Of Living

Grace Toland


Sonnet 40

Sonnet 40

Gavin Friday




Presenter: Panti Bliss


Ways to Listen

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