The Beginnings (Dee Keogh)

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Dee Keogh (North East Kerry Development)

Woman Stood Regardless came from a combination of factors, mainly my desire to get the women's stories out there, into a public arena. I felt there was a richness of input from the women that was in danger of being lost. By that I mean the women all came with a story of their lived experiences. These were wide and varied, but there was a common theme that I felt was overlooked and that was an undervaluing of themselves and a lack of self-belief in all they had overcome. They were lacking in confidence on many levelvs, yet when we met and gathered together, they seemed to unrobe and loose a lot of the self fulfilled labeling. Unassuming in nature, these women had resilience beyond anything I had encountered. They 'got on with getting on...' I got in touch with a friend in Dublin, Niamh Byrne, who herself is a self-taught writer and poet now doing a Masters in "The Power of the Story.' It seemed like an ideal opportunity to invite her to Kerry to meet the women in Tralee and do a piece of work that could support the women to get their stories out.

There was no production in mind when we started, that was an organic happening. It has showed the importance of the Arts supporting and illustraing the nuances behind these women's lives. Most of these women were oral by nature, and writing was a real challenge for the majority. Yet I experienced an incredible range of talent, wisdom and resilience. I realised that we needed to find ways to capture these stories and document the women's lives in context. For some women the fact that they were making a conscious decision to take the time out to participate in the EWM course was in itself an achievement. I was struck by the multiple responsibilities the women carried. For some the course was the starting point for them to evaluate their lives, and unravel all the layers of the unspoken. We had no agenda in mind only to give the women an opportunity to tell their story and put it on paper. Niamh gave the women three words 'Woman Stood Regarldess' and each of the women wrote for 15 minutes unedited. The result, it was like we struck oil, we had found their gold within. It prompted us to stage an evening's performance of these monologues to depict the women's lives through a more appropriate lense and this took place at St. John's Art Centre, Listowel back in November 2012.

This coincided with Catherine Young, Dancer in Residence, who had worked with our EWM earlier in the year and had spoken at our previous women's conference about the power of movement and dance. I contacted Catherine to see if she would work with some of the younger women in the programme who did not want to write a monologue but wanted to participate in some way. Again we had no agenda as such (which seems to be the key) - just for the women to meet with Catherine and perhaps explore their stories through movement.

What has evolved from all of this and what has been incubating with dance artist, Catherine Young, for the past year has now grown into this evocative and captivating production Woman Stood Regardless. In the same way the women took those three words, Woman Stood Regardless, Catherine has taken the same three words and through her medium which is dance, and inspired by the women she worked with, she has created her own 'Woman Stood Regardless.' It is a testament to women and the many roles we hold and that regardless of all that happens in our lives, we still get back up and say 'Yes' to life. This is what Catherine saw in the women in Kerry and is universal in theme. The piece asks 'What makes us as Woman Stand Regardless amid the madness and mayhem, the magic and wonder of Life...?'    [Dee Keogh]