Ailbhe Reddy is one of Ireland's most acclaimed young singer-songwriters - she has just released her debut album, Personal History.

Ailbhe is also one of Music Network's seven ambassadors who feature in their new series of short films, Why I Play, in support of our new initiative Instrument Hub. 

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FILM

I'm usually a regular cinemagoer. However, during the last few months, I've only been able to stream films, which has been great for catching up on older films! I recently re-watched Magnolia, a film from 1999 that I first came across when I was about 16. That film introduced me to the music of Aimee Mann, who just recently covered Leonard Cohen for a new HBO show, in her typically incredible fashion. Magnolia was the first of many Paul Thomas Anderson films I ever saw and I immediately loved it at age 16, and still love it now. The music is very central to the film, PTA has even said that some of the characters were heavily inspired by Mann's music. The cast includes Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who all give pretty incredible performances. It is definitely worth a re-watch (or first watch) in 2020.

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MUSIC

If you feel like sitting back and digging into a concept album over the next few days, you should give Andy Shauf's The Party a listen. Shauf is a true storyteller. Each track gives us an insight into the same party from a different person's point of view. One character has arrived too early and stands around awkwardly, feeling like an imposition on the stressed host. Another character gets too drunk and twists their ankle. Another tells their best friend that they are in love with him, only to be rebuffed. I could go on! It's a wonderful album to listen to on a drive or sitting around the house. His production is also top-notch.

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BOOK

The last book I read was Notes From An Apocalypse by Mark O'Connell, which has just been adapted for theatre by Dead Centre. I loved this book because I'm really fascinated by the subject matter. The research for this book took place over a few years but it came out right in the depths of lockdown. It was pretty timely as a release and I did wonder if it was a good idea for me to delve into a book about the apocalypse while in the midst of an increasingly dystopian reality. Ultimately though, Mark's observations are so funny and his tone optimistic that it made for the perfect read at the time. He manages to make a visit with a friend to Chernobyl or a tour of a luxury underground bunker relatable.

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PLAY

A play I saw at the beginning of this year which I really enjoyed was Faultline. An immersive play from Anu Productions and the Gate Theatre took place in a recreation of the headquarters of the Irish Gay Rights Movement and a nightclub which were all located around Parnell Square. I, admittedly, don't go to see enough theatre but I loved this. I couldn't help but become invested in the characters excellently performed by the cast and the set was phenomenal. It felt so real that I saw one of the actors on a plane two weeks later and almost said "Hi!", forgetting that we hadn't actually met out in a pub one night. The intimacy of this play really made me appreciate the passion and craft of acting in a whole new way.

On a more personal note, as a queer woman living in Ireland in 2020 it really hit home with me how much progress we have made and how much work past generations did which I often take for granted.

TV

There has been a lot of binge-watching in my house over the last few months. I'm sure everyone is in the same boat, looking for more to sink their teeth into as we face more lockdown measures going into the winter months. I really enjoyed Mrs. America, which is loosely based on the struggle between Phyllis Schlafly and the various figures of the second wave feminist movement. While it is a highly dramatised version of events, I found it interesting that neither side of this struggle were painted as all good or all bad. If you're a fan of Cate Blanchett, she gives an incredible performance as a particularly unsavoury character here.

Cate Blanchett in Mrs. america

GIG

The last gig I attended was Julia Jacklin at The Button Factory. I have listened to her second album Crushing a lot since I discovered it last summer and her performance was excellent. She is a great songwriter and I definitely recommend checking out that album for the next time she is in town (very optimistic, I know).

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ART

My favourite artist is David Wojnarowicz. I saw an exhibition of his work called History Keeps Me Awake at Night about two years ago and really loved it. His work is at times political and full of rage, other times more intimate and reflective. As someone who doesn't know a lot about art, I just really loved his work, in particular his most famous self-portrait.

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PODCAST

I listen to a lot of podcasts and my favourite investigative one is In The Dark. Each season covers a different miscarriage of justice and I find the narrator Madeleine Baran to be a considered journalist and interviewer. In The Dark has also won two Peabody Awards. While the host is an excellent storyteller, the research and journalism is also very precise.

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TECH

The Apple Podcasts app. It has saved me on many a long, lonely journey over the years.

THE NEXT BIG THING...

The incredible band Pillow Queens! They released their debut album In Waiting in September and they are worthy of every bit of the hype. Their album is beautiful and I can't wait to see them play live again.

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Personal History by Ailbhe Reddy is out now.