Public speaking is just a vocal act of storytelling, a performance in itself.
Since I am comfortable with talking out of my arts, I have been thinking that it would be advantageous to start a podcast about the social history of pole dancing in Ireland, through an autotheoretical lens. However, to my horror, I saw an Instagram post by an acquaintance recently that openly criticised the proliferation of podcasts. Now I am not so sure.
As there is a highly visual element to my practice, perhaps TV would be a more effective method for dissemination. A growing number of acquaintances (4 and counting) have been appearing as guests on The Tommy Tiernan Show. With a bit of digging through my contacts list I could probably wrangle my way onto the show to talk about my art…
What follows is a creative writing piece where I visualize how this encounter with Tommy Tiernan would play out.
Fred Cooke announces in his signature slightly unhinged manner, ‘Tommy, your next guest this evening is Arlene Caffrey!’. Tommy shifts alarmedly in his chair, mild confusion on his face. See him now going through the rolodex of his mind, as he searches for previous references and crossed paths.
I saunter on stage waving at the audience, smile beaming as if it’s my wedding day. I’m wearing something cute and floral like a respectable female artist. Wait, no. I am wearing something leopard print and my nails are freshly painted fluorescent yellow. The look is now on brand. I also am wearing my pole dance shoes, after a backstage debacle where I couldn’t make my mind up whether I should wear them or not.
Sitting in the chair opposite Tommy, I purposely place my elbows on the armrests; heart open, vulnerable, ask me anything. Tommy looks at me for a few measured moments, brow furrowed, before he leans into his line of questioning, starting with the shoes. ‘Sweet Mother Divine, lookashh those shoes!’ he says hunched forward, legs crossed, furrowed brow deepening. The camera pans to my feet (my shoes are probably glitter covered).
I respond in a light and breezy fashion, like a ray of sunshine ‘Yes Tommy, I am a Fine Artist. These shoes are not just a stunning fashion accessory, but they a tool of my craft and a signifier for my journey to self-actualization’.
After some more animated banter about my shoes, we move on to the more serious part where I talk about my practice. I answer so articulately using all of the fancy words, and then elegantly rephrasing in a charming colloquial way for the folks at home bamboozled by the art speak; they think I’m delightful. So relatable!
We move onto the left-of-field questions where Tommy asks me about my upbringing, who my parents are, why am I doing what I do. This is where I pull out the big guns and tell my story about how I was a social welfare statistic in the last economic recession, a poor art college graduate for whom emigration wasn’t an option. Living with my parents, multiple unpaid internships that amounted to nothing, blah blah. The folks at home remember their own adult children who had to go to Canada or Australia. They recall the Bailout, Brian Cowen and buccaneering bankers. They are moved to tears! ‘Well, fair play to her! Look at her now with the big words and the art job! What a lovely girl!’. (I am actually 36, but I am not able to make this feminist retort because I am on TV and they are at home watching).
Tommy sits back, his eyes search the ceiling as he finds the words. ‘D’yeh knowww, as I’m lishtenin’ to yeh shpeak Arlene’… (A pause longer than necessary follows). ‘You have this… inchredible energy about yeh. I see… a woman who’s makin’ from the heart. That’s where the art is in yeh’. I bow my head slightly to convey a socially appropriate level of bashfulness, so the folks at home don’t think I’m a stuck up bitch. ‘It’s aboush Love, d’yeh knowww?’. I just about get the words out ‘Thank you, Tommy’, as the audience errupt into uproarious applause. The folks at home are crying. Twitter is exploding. My mum’s Facebook page is getting flooded with messages from acquaintances and friends, ‘Hi Tina just after seeing arlene on the telly with tommy tiernan she came across so well you must be so proud of her great to see shes still doing the art hows eddie keeping we must meet up for a coffee soon hope u are keeping well x’.
The following day I am featured in the Sunday Times magazine in a double-page spread where I talk further about my art and feminist hot takes, as well as talking about my appearance on the Tommy Tiernan show. There’s a great buzz about my work for the full working week; I am a guest on several radio shows again to talk about my TV appearance. I use all of this as material for an Arts Council funding application.