Caelainn Hogan is a writer and journalist. She has reported internationally on issues of conflict, migration, and marginalisation from diverse locations such as Lagos, South Africa and Syria. Her acclaimed book Republic of Shame explores and documents the ongoing legacy of the religious-run institutions in Ireland. She is currently based in Dublin writing about inequality and politics.

Caelainn is curator of Breaking the Silence, an evening of word and song responding to the ongoing legacy of Ireland's Mother and Baby Homes, presented by the National Concert Hall and International Literature Festival Dublin. This free event, which can be viewed here on RTÉ Culture, will be streamed live from the NCH on Saturday May 29th at 8pm and features Elaine Feeney, Loah, Terri Harrison, The Mary Wallopers and more.

We asked Caelainn for her choice cultural picks...

FILM

A friend who lives in The Liberties showed me the brilliant No Plan by Norwegian musician Kristin Vollset/The Musical Slave (aka Norwigi) about the traditional horse culture in Dublin's inner city and the need to protect against rapid gentrification threatening the strong community in this historic part of our city.

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Marion Bergin also made a powerful and intimate short documentary film Saoirse which highlights the importance of horse culture to communities, especially to men who have found a sort of sanctuary and hope through it.

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Also, I recently collaborated with Dave O'Carroll and Philip Blake on the short documentary Republic of Shame: Mother and Baby Home Survivors Speak published earlier this year by The Irish Times, which includes insights from three survivors who I spoke to for my book.

MUSIC

I wrote a piece in 2017 for Vice Magazine about Irish rap and had the opportunity to speak to innovative artists like Mango X MathMan, Celaviedmai and JYellowL, all of them have put out exciting new work during lockdown. During the first lockdown, Mango X MathMan released a beautifully stark and poignantly timed video for a remix of Lonely Night off their album Casual Work, a track featuring haunting vocals from Loah and capturing the isolation of loss but also resilience in the connections we form, even at a distance: "Know that your sorrow measures your love."

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Loah has a new single called The Body to the Soul, a poem by Eva Gore-Booth set to music, which I am excited to hear:

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I am really looking forward to hearing her own creative response to the legacy of the religious-run institutions at the National Concert Hall on May 29th.

BOOK

One of my favourite books of the last year was Oein DeBhairduin's Why The Moon Travels (Skein Press) compiling stories Mincéirí have passed down through generations. It reminds us of the power of oral tradition to carry histories, testimonies and culture into the future, especially those that have been threatened with erasure. Skein Press is also publishing Rosaleen McDonagh's book Unsettled soon and she wrote a powerful piece recently for The Irish Times. I have been made hopeful by manifestos advocating for systemic change published in recent weeks, particularly Emma Dabiri's What White People Can Do Next and Mona Eltahawy's Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls. I subscribe to Dublin Inquirer for their investigative work especially on housing.

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I devoured Róisín Kiberd's exploration of digital fixation The Disconnect and Sophie White has me quoted saying her book Corpsing is like sucking marrow from bones. This year will give us the memoirs of two indomitable Irish women who broke silence and demanded truth and I can't wait to read them: Sinéad O'Connor's Rememberings, out in June and Belonging by Catherine Corless published this September.

PLAY

It might not be strictly theatre but I'd highly recommend watching Ciara Ní É's multilingual spoken word REIC event which was shown as part of Cúirt. It features poetry in Irish but with enough translation to follow along. Performances included an incredibly moving and insightful poem by Darragh Ó Caoimh as well as a compelling performance and personal narrative by Osaro from the Fried Plantains Collective.

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All events at this year's Cúirt are now available to watch back on their YouTube channel, including a talk I did with Louise O'Neill and Melatu Uche Okorie on the future of feminism.

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Caitriona Daly is bringing out a new online performance of her play Normal presented by the Bewley's Café Theatre and The Lock Inn, starting May 26th. Home heard testimonies from survivors of Ireland's institutions on the stage of The Abbey and was curated by Noelle Brown, who will share a new piece she has written about her own experience for Breaking The Silence.

GIG

One of the last live performances I saw in person was on the stage of the National Concert Hall at the Imagining Ireland event curated by Sinéad Gleeson, featuring Denise Chaila, Radie Peat, SOAK, Sorcha Richardson and Lisa O Neill. I remember O'Neill performed a song about Violet Gibson, the Irish woman who shot dictator Mussolini in the nose and Chaila performed her eponymous track that became the song of the year.

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I recently watched the Notes From A Quiet Land performance streamed live from the NCH, also curated by Gleeson, with performances by Gemma Dunleavy, FeliSpeaks, Annemarie Ní Chuirreáin and Fehdah, whose EP Kinematics is out now.

The Mary Wallopers, whose online sessions have been going strong since the first lockdown and who are joining us for Breaking The Silence, have said they will do a tour of outdoor gigs from a van around Ireland as soon as it’s possible, which I hope to see.

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TV

The next season of Derry Girls can't come soon enough. Siobhan McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael, joined me for a launch of the paperback of my book last year and did a very powerful reading. We are in need of Sister Michael's withering eye roll, which artist Emmalene Blake captured in a recent mural taking aim at Dublin's housing crisis and hotel scape.

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FeliSpeaks and Tolu Makay have a new show together on YouTube The Tolu & Feli Show which will provide a regular dose of the wonderful energy and conversation between these two creatives.

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I watched Avoca Reaction's recent Queer Cabaret which included a brilliant sketch by Goblins Goblins Goblins on Cailiíní Spíosra/Spice Girls. I am eager to watch the new season of The Handmaid's Tale. I was very moved by Margaret Atwood's support for Republic of Shame after meeting her in Dublin and by her words about "the true stories" of Ireland's religious-run institutions on the cover.

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ART

When it comes to visual art, I've enjoyed the spontaneous outdoor photography exhibits by the gem that is John Gunn Camera Shop in Dublin in collaboration with photographers Ishmael Claxton, Ruth Barry and others.

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Maia Nunes is a multidisciplinary artist whose new improvisational work SPECTRAL (in collaboration with AfterEffects) can be watched online from May 14th (see below) and in person if you're strolling by NCAD gallery windows, where it will be projected from 8pm that evening.

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One of the last art exhibits I went to was Doireann Ní Ghrioghair's Declaration of the State Metropolis at Tara at Pallas Projects/Studios in Dublin. She created 3D-printed sculptures of buildings that would form the capital of a theocratic ethno-nationalist state in Ireland envisioned by a fascist Irish political party in the 1940s that saw women's role being solely to produce as many offspring as necessary to form a strong Irish army.

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The exhibition reminded us of the dystopian vision the far-right has tried to achieve before in Ireland as new parties promoting racist ideology and opposing reproductive rights try to establish themselves. Doireann recently a wrote 'Women's Safety on City Streets’ for The Irish Times about the murder of Urantsetseg Tserendorj in Dublin and discrimination, with some lives treated as more "mournable" than others. Her work will feature in the forthcoming exhibition HOME: Being and Belonging in Contemporary Ireland at the Glucksman in Cork.

TECH

The all-island union for tenants and communities CATU Ireland has been using social media to alert people when an eviction is taking place so they can mobilise to protect against it through direct action and protest. I reported on the anti-eviction movement in Spain during the wave of evictions that resulted in suicides and homelessness following the last global recession. The pandemic has shown eviction bans and rent caps are possible with political will and are saving lives. This week we discovered that Jigsaw, a beloved and radical space in Dublin for creative collectives and community initiatives, is being shut down. One of the last times I was there was for an anti-eviction training. Dublin Digital Radio was set up in Jigsaw and I spoke recently with their podcast Nervous State, which I highly recommend for an incisive and independent take on political realities in Ireland today.

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The Next Big Thing...

I think we need to reimagine, reclaim and make accessible shared creative spaces once it's safe for us all to come together again. Online events have shown how important it is to connect through creative responses. We will need spaces for releasing and processing all this pent up grief, and for discussing the changes needed to address inequalities this pandemic made impossible to ignore. I recorded a podcast in Axis Ballymun last year and could see how integral that arts space was within the community. There are encouraging initiatives like Weft, which is a "landmark investment in the future of the Irish cultural scene" by Dublin Fringe festival, an 18-month body of work creating new space for expiratory and experimental work, focused on "talent development and network building for emerging and early career Black artists and artists of colour in Ireland" on and off the stage, working with Hot Brown Honey, Origins Eile and Dylan Coburn Gray.

I am grateful that survivors, writers and musicians can come together for Breaking the Silence. The official report of the investigation into mother and baby home institutions contradicted and misrepresented the testimonies of many survivors. We need to create more spaces for survivors to connect and to be heard.

Breaking the Silence, an evening of word and song responding to the ongoing legacy of Ireland's Mother and Baby Homes, presented by the National Concert Hall and International Literature Festival Dublin, will be streamed live from the NCH on Saturday May 29th at 8pm - watch it here on RTÉ Culture.