Sheila Pratschke, Chair of The Arts Council

ConanK.: Hi Sheila.. I’d like a grant for my mother please.
Sheila P.::What does she do?
CK: Installation art.
SP:I see. What sort figure would you have in mind?
CK: I’m thinking in the region of fifteen and a half thousand euro. Ballpark. But I’ll leave the details up to yourself.
SP:  I see...well...can you elaborate on the whole proposal?
CK: Certainly. I’d like to present my mother’s iconic performance  as innovatively contextualising her role in the community.
SP: Fair enough. Where’s she based?
CK: Glasnevin Cemetery.
SP:Oh, does she work there?”
CK: such.
SP: Well
CK: OK, while she doesn’t actually work there, I would see her role as being intrinsic and indeed essential to the public perception of Glasnevin Cemetery as being part of what we are, as a community, where we come from, and where we are going. It’s all about contextualisation, isn’t it?
SP: Yes, very important, context.
CK: Good, we’re on the same page then.
SP: Indeed. So your mother, eh, well, what exactly...does she do?
CK: Nothing, really, not really. She just sort of lies there.
SP: Lies there?
CK: Yes she’s dead.
SP: Hmmnn. Tell me, how did you get this idea, of applying for a grant for your mother?
CK: Well I was reading the Irish Times...I know, I know...and I saw this article about the Arts Council giving grants to people’s mothers.
SP:People’s mothers?
CK:Well more precisely, to one person’s mother.
SP: Oh?
CK: Yes, I saw you gave a grant to the mother of one of your executives. A grant of fifteen and a half thousand euro. 
SP: Well there are several points here. That particular matter is under review, and I cannot possibly comment on it. Though I will say that, in the wider context...
CK: Context is very important.
SP: In the wider context, I have to point out that our executive’s mother was, in fact, alive.
CK: So you’re discriminating against people who are dead?
SP: It’s not a question of...
CK: Huh. If my mother was black or a lesbian you wouldn’t refuse her a grant. In fact you’d go out of your way. But just because she’s dead. I dunno. It’s not really very satisfactory, is it?
SP: We have to operate within certain parameters.
CK: The Impressionists didn’t.
SP: Your point being?
CK: My point being that when they first started painting in that style they were laughed out of court, nay mocked, indeed reviled by, by who?
SP: Who?
CK: By the arts establishment, that’s who. The hidebound fuddy duddy conservatives who wouldn’t know innovation if it came up and bit them in the arse.
SP: Well there’s no need to...
CK: Oh yes there’s every need. Here am I making a legitimate application for a grant for my mother, my mother who is presenting an iconic performance, an iconic performance  that innovatively contextualises her role in the community. And presenting, let me add, the said performance on a twenty-four seven basis. Without payment. Free gratis and for nothing. Surely it’s the role of the Arts Council to recognise and encourage such dedication?
SP: But everyone is dead.
CK:I’m not dead. I don’t know about you, are you dead?
SP: What I mean to say is, everyone eventually does die, eventually. And while I will admit that individual deaths do contextualise the role of death in the community, it would be impossible for us...we just don’t have the funds...we have to be selective in our decisions as to who to grant aid or not.
CK: What is the basis for such decisions?
SP: Oh, innovation, relevance. Many things.
CK: Context?
SP: Oh certainly.
CK: Like the context of the applicant being the mother of an Arts Council executive?
SP: I cannot possibly comment on matters which are under review.
CK: I quite understand. I’m all for responsible journalism and am quite aware of the limitations of free speech. But tell me this...
SP: Certainly.
CK: Does the context of an applicant being the mother of an Arts Council executive weigh heavier than, say, the context of an applicant being the friend of an Arts Council executive. Or lover? Does a friend rank higher than a lover? What I mean to ask, is there some kind of classification system?
SP: Certainly not, in the terms you are suggesting anyway. We have an independent selection panel.
CK: Who, I read in The Irish Times, are appointed by the sons of the mothers who get the grants?
SP: Have you any more questions, I have an appojntment.
CK: Just one, any jobs going?
SP: The Arts Council has no current vacancies, why do you ask?
CK:I just thought there might be one coming up. Silly me.

 [ Next week. Earlier interviews, including with 
Kevin O'Sullivan, Editor of The Irish Times, 
scroll on down ]
*Conan Kennedy's online partwork novel CHRISTMAS.EVE is now up and running right here.

*Those interested in the peaceful world of very interesting old photographs and genealogy and stuff could do worse than taking a relaxing few minutes at his CONNECTIONS site..


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