73 / Sartorial silliness

Post contributed by an old friend and former colleague. 

I would like to be able to ignore the incident reported below as a scurrilous slander but I'm afraid to say it has been authenticated (with great merriment) by Mary. Clothes shopping has never been a favourite activity of mine. In fact I could probably find the pair of trousers I was searching for then in my wardrobe now:

In a recent post, Mo wrote about co-founding a community arts organisation in Belfast in the late 1970s. This has reminded me of an early step along that journey, which I’m offering here in support of his pushback against hagiography.

A small group of us had met in Belfast while doing summer voluntary work. We wanted to continue this activity in some fashion and Mo – being by far the most experienced of us in such things – helped to focus our ideas on how a small arts organisation could be established.

Our needs were modest, but even naive young artists needed to eat, and so we approached the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for support. (This was in the halcyon days when public arts funding was available.)

For our first meeting with the funders, Mo, Mary and I were invited to the Arts Council’s offices early one morning. Normally the trip would have been a pleasant half hour stroll through a leafy part of Belfast. But on this occasion, Mo couldn’t find his trousers.

As I remember it, Mo only owned two pairs of trousers at that time and one of them was quite unsuitable for the task at hand. A search therefore ensued, and the absent attire was finally located. By which time we were late for our meeting and somewhat grumpy with each other.

The three of us eventually arrived by taxi at the Arts Council’s offices where we met their arts officer, Imelda Foley, for the first time. We got to know Imelda quite well over the next few years, but I never found out what she made of our first fraught appearance.

Imelda, if you are reading this, thank you for your forbearance.

© Poet James Simmons' 'Portrait of Imelda' 

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