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“New York had CBGBs, Manchester had The Hacienda, but sure we’d Henrys like”, is how Eileen Hogan, one of the three curators of the forthcoming Sir Henrys @UCC Library exhibition, sums up the Corkonian attitude to our most famous nightclub and venue, “I’ve been researching the contemporary music scene for the last few years and the overwhelming sense of pride in Cork’s musical life remains evident. Cork people are proud of anything good that happens here, but it has to be a particular kind of ‘good’. Anything that stinks of ‘hype’ or inauthenticity in the cultural sense is dismissed. I think people are very supportive of things that happen through people, through community, through social interaction… think of Cork City FC, or IndieCork, for example.”
Her colleague Martin O Connor, from UCC Library, described the sparking of this Sir Henrys @UCC Library exhibition, “there was an exchange on Twitter about Sweat, the legendary Saturday night in Sir Henrys. I posted saying that I love this remembering of Henrys but what about the non-dance side of it? Stevie G (Evening Echo Columnist and RED FM DJ) joined in the conversation, I liked what he had to say on the topic and I contacted him about perhaps doing an exhibition for the Boole Library. He jumped at the idea to do something that would move all the talk of Sir Henrys beyond the nostalgia. Crónán O’Doibhlin, Head of Special Collections in UCC Library, suggested getting an academic onside. I knew Eileen would be the perfect fit for this project – her PHD is on Corks live music scene.”
Eileen finds quite a coincidence in being involved in Sir Henrys @UCC Library, “Martin was my first sociology tutor and the first sociology essay we were asked to write was ‘Pick something you feel passionate about and write about it from a sociological perspective’. I chose to write about Sir Henrys… and got a great mark too! So it’s funny to be doing this project together now, 15 years later!
Martin is pleased with how Sir Henrys @UCC Library has developed, “the original idea was ‘wouldn’t it be great to do an exhibition on Sir Henrys’ and it is has grown from there. We did not expect this sort of huge response. We cannot believe the material that people have held onto and the condition that people have kept this material in. Trying to condense 25 years has been absolutely delightful but difficult, not only because of the sheer scale of material received but the quality of it. I seriously think there is something of the archivist in all of us!”
Using social media to encourage submissions has proved quite successful as Martin continued, “the interaction is essential to us curating the exhibition as it has been a way to promote the exhibition but also at the same it’s been the way we have gotten material for the actual exhibition. In short we are using the interaction to crowdsource the material.”
Eileen is also pleased with how productive using social media has been, “I think we happened upon the right model, none of us has previous experience of doing anything like this and we’ve been learning-by-doing, it has been made possible only through the incredible support and generosity and community of Henrys fans.”
As you’d perhaps expect from a Cork audience all the research thus far has not raised a consistent attitude, as Martin explained, “I have followed all our social media and talked with many people and I still cannot definitively say what makes Sir Henrys resonate with people in the way that it does. No matter what generation it is, what scene it is, we are hearing the same thing – Sir Henrys is remembered by all with great affection.”
Eileen gives her insight about why Sir Henrys is thought of so highly, “people have a sense of ownership about it, driven by their remembered sense of belonging within that community. It was a very significant space for local bands and DJs to perform in – so it was very much of the people, for the people. I also think it relates to Cork’s sense of ‘otherness’, its sense of uniqueness… Cork is emphatically not anywhere else, if that makes any sense. Most obviously, it is not Dublin, but also, it is not London, or New York, or any of the bigger cities. And Cork is so cocksure of itself that it can favourably compare itself with those cities.”
Martin and Eileen have both noticed that for all the reminiscing Sir Henrys @UCC Library contributors are not rooted in the past, Martin explained further “nostalgia for me is a wistful longing to return to something in the past. I don’t think the people who are interacting with us are wishing to return to the past. They are thinking back ‘what great days they were’ and happily remembering those days.”
Eileen agreed, “ I’ve described it as ‘transformative nostalgia’, a strange temporal shift that prompts people, through looking back and remembering the happy days, to look forward more positively. And I think that matters after all the misery and pain and exclusion that we’ve been experiencing since the economic crisis.”
The exhibition will also draw people onto to UCC campus, which is also a goal of the exhibition, “for UCC and the library it is important to engage with the wider community – UCC is part of Cork and Cork is part of UCC. We are hoping to demystify the library for people. We love the idea that when students visit the UCC library they will see an exhibition that they will see as relevant to their lived experience and this exhibition is going to bring people who perhaps have never been on UCC grounds.”
Finally Martin is still searching for a specific item for the exhibition, “does anybody have a copy of the poster for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s Henrys gig? It had a typo and was advertised as Ned’s Automatic Dustbin!”
You get involved on twitter via @sirhenrys2014 or http://www.facebook.com/sirhenrys.exhibition
Sir Henrys @UCC Library opens on Wednesday July 9 and will run until Saturday September 27.