14 Feb 2017

Drop Everything. In May, on the edge of an island called Inis Oirr off the Irish West Coast, six Pussys met properly for the first time at the centre of a yet-to-be-constructed 'geodesic dome' (which, even though we had never heard of one, we were going to put together). Galway, Portlaoise, Cork, Dundalk, Wexford and Dublin. We spent three mornings in our B&Bs getting dressed up in costume;  three days playing tunes off our phones and beating together a 25ft high dome covered in pink ‘breast cancer awareness’ silage wrap; And three nights getting mad out of it on Buckfast at 'tin-whistle-and-techno' parties all around the tiny island. We added 6 freaks to the native population of 220 and became an instant crew. 

We talked about growing up different in smaller places around Ireland, imagined if we'd known about each other sooner and wondered about all the different kids in all the towns(and islands) around Ireland and wanted to find them. So I hit up Ellius Grace - with his medium format camera and his Mam's jeep - to do a 'portrait road trip' around the country, picking up young people along the way and talking to them about growing up in smaller places, outside of the main culture. 

Here's the first five 'Outsiders'. 

Otto - Kilcolgan, Co. Galway

When we started working on the piece I'd put a call out to all my friends who'd grown up in little towns and asked if they knew anyone; and I linked up with Otto through my old housemate Emil. I'd heard about Otto loads from living together. They'd gone to school together and used to go skating, tagging and taking photos around rural Galway. One of those people who kind of lived nowhere in particular, buzzing around from city to city and back to Kilcolgan in between. At the time of researching he was hanging around Berlin with some other guys from Galway doing illustrations. By August he's back in Kilcolgan washing dishes in the the village pub and we grab him for a photo during his shift. And in pure Otto style, by the time of writing, he's completely offline. I have no idea where he is but if he ever comes back I'll ask him what it's like living in Kilcolgan lol. But basically, he's a sicko and could be from anywhere. (lol @ this story, don't stop reading tho).

Cathal & Roisin - Shrule, Co. Mayo

I asked my mate in Nine Crows Galway to keep an eye out for any cute lil weirdos and she sent me a snap of a lad who was in the shop - ‘’Will he do?’’

X-factor-style ‘’it’s three yesses!''. ''Where’s he from?’’. Somewhere called ‘Shrule’.

Shrule is the border town where my own mother grew up in the 70s and where I spent (lonnnng)weekends at my Granny’s. I remember it as the smallest place I’ve ever been ("200 people when I was there’’ according to my Mam). I was only there as a kid but it did feel like time moved slower there. You wouldn’t go anywhere because you were already there and for entertainment we actually used to paint this wall with a bucket of water and literally watch it dry..

So, I have to meet this kid.

I text Cathal and ask if we can drive down and meet him. I dunno what he’s gonna make of the whole thing. A straight kid from this tiny town - does he wanna get his picture taken for this thing on the internet called ‘Pussys’? But he agrees to it anyway and we arrange to meet him in the old handball alley where my uncle used to sneak fags. And when we get there he tells us about his younger sister who was building her own halfpipe in the garden and she comes down to meet us outside my Granny’s old place.

What's Shrule like?

- Cathal

So Shrule is a tiny village of about 418 mass-going, tractor-driving, sport-playing farmers...and fucking Cathal and Roisin Berkeley. Its basically one street with about 4 pubs. The street itself is dull, the only colour is from the neon lights of the Lucky Kebab.

Are you different there?

- Cathal

We have a really unorthodox house. I didn't play sport really in school, I played music and did martial arts. So I wasn't in the loop with the guys in my class but I made friends doing silly shit that got me into trouble. But I just wanted to be normal, I couldn’t imagine what people would say or do if I dressed up in anything funkier than a shirt and jeans. Then I cut my hair so that the top was long and the sides were short and everyone flipped. It was like a revolution haha, I kind of got popular because of that. 

There’s nobody in Shrule like me or Rois though..I wish there was.

"So Shrule is a tiny village of about 418 mass-going, tractor-driving, sport-playing farmers...and fucking Cathal and Roisin Berkeley."

What's it like being you there?

- Roisin

People call us 'hippies'. I do have friends but the general vibe of the place when we were kids was that no one really liked us and we moved schools. I wanted people to like me at our new school so I dressed differently and I tried to get into football(I still have a Mayo jersey) and eating meat because everyone else did too. People still thought we were strange though, like we live in a wooden house and get collected from school in a green bus thing my dad converted into a camper van.

What are you into? Would you get that in Shrule?

- Roisin

I've liked art and clothes since I was a kid. I met my best friend when I was about 12(she's not from Shrule unfortunately). We both dressed differently and bonded over our hatred for where we lived. We started skateboarding because her cousin did it and my style was influenced by that. There’s nowhere to skate where I live so me and my Dad built a half pipe in our garden. I got my first smartphone this summer and found loads of cool people on Instagram, which was really good in a way but also frustrating because none of them live in Shrule. I play the harp as well and draw and I'm starting to learn how to make my own clothes they’re all good distractions.

Is it hard?

- Roisin

Sometimes I find it really hard. Kids laugh at my Thrasher hoodie or my puffa jacket. They just don’t know about life outside. Last year I missed like a month of school just because it’s so shit and I refused to go in. Students literally drive tractors to school and last month one of them  brought in a cattle taser and started electrocuting people. I have two friends but my best friend is in college and I really miss her. Cathal's finished as well but I'm glad he still lives here.

''We started skateboarding because her cousin did it and my style was influenced by that. There’s nowhere to skate where I live so me and my Dad built a half pipe in our garden.''

You got on the bus to Dublin to build a queer art show with a bunch of gay lads after meeting us once/never. Where does that come from?

- Cathal

Like I guess i just want to experience everything. The first time I was taken back was when I met you to take my picture. You were wearing the coolest outfit I had ever seen in probably my whole life and you were wearing white nail paint. After that I started to look through Instagram and I found lots of pages that I liked. I definitely don’t get anything like that from Shrule. Building Pilly Willy was only an excuse for me to meet up with you guys. I met such amazing people. I would've come up for a dinner honestly. The whole experience of meeting new people, hearing the stories and making friends was really special. And of course the actual party was insane too. 

What are you looking forward to?

- Roisin

I want to go to NCAD. I don’t think I'll get in, but regardless of that I'm still moving. I plan on doing loads of stupid shit to make up for my years wasted in Shrule.

Nathan & Courtney - Stoneybatter, Co. Dublin.

In my kitchen Nathan describes himself as ‘’a skinhead faggot who lives in his Nanny’s house with his transgender girlfriend’’

So yeah he lives in Dublin, but fuck me if that's not an outsider situation. 

Tell us where you live. 

The last of 26 houses on the estate - St Brickin’s Park Road in Stoneybatter. The area would kinda encompass O’Devaney Gardens, Arbour Hill Prison, the old Military Baracks and over as far a Phoenix Park Gate. A lot of old families, it’s one of those parts of Dublin that if you have family they’re all there. My family on Dad’s side who I don't really have contact with live two minutes down the road Manor St.

It’s surrounded by a lot of class struggle in terms of old families being pushed out. But where I live remains the same and it’s actually really tranquil on the estate. Even when I was struggling with anxiety, I always felt good at home. Even though there would have been a lot of violence in the area - stabbings, shootings, cars on fire - it never really touched our road.

So, not to say that your setup is 'weird', but it's beyond uncommon. How did you and Courtney end up living with your Nanny?

Long story short - her house wasn’t working out and it was just natural to be like ''stay here''. My Nanny's so easy going. There wasn't even a conversation about it really, it was just like ''that's it''. Like when it was rough for me to think about she was just like ''well it shouldn't be. That's the person you love and that's it''..and it was. 

She's 74 years old, grew up working church, never had anybody gay in the family, never heard of transgender, didn't know people even felt like that. And she's like ‘’This is my gay grandson and his transgender partner and I’m totally cool with that’’

So like, now she knows who Caitlyn Jenner is. Cause she made an effort to educate herself. This is a lady who can't use the internet, can't use a phone, but she'll sit down surf though Sky looking for documentaries and asking me when stuff was on. 

''She's 74 years old...and she's like ‘’This is my gay grandson and his transgender partner and I’m totally cool with that’’

If you didn't have that do you think..

Well I wouldn't be here talkin' to you. I'd be at home like..watching the football.

With your wife haha.

If she wasn't around, my family could have viewed things very differently. If she wasn't such a force in the community I could have had a very different time. Her friends are like 70/80 and they’re like ‘’oh there’s Nathan and Courtney cool’’. 

And I think there's little kids, or little gay kids around there that see us now.

Your situation is different from the others in that they only live where they live, you could go outside into the bigger circle. 

Yeah those lads I was hanging around with when I was younger, they lived on that road, that was their community. But it just where I slept. I'd get out and go clubs, went to a different school where I met the people who are my best friends to this day. But before I met those guys, hanging around O'Devaney gardens or those quintessentially 'rough' areas, I definitely had that toxic masculinity that's imbued in a lot of people in those environments.  

At the time there was definitely change in perception. I was jumped a couple of times..but I suppose I've been jumped a lotta times besides that haha. I didn't feel isolated, but I did feel other. Particularly in a working class area. Even though working class people are more accepting and progressive - and working class people overwhelmingly voted yes - initially, they were resistant. 

Me having the luxury of being able to leave there, I was able to meet the right people. There's so much hidden in those communities and I think at the end of the day even if my Nanny hadn't been the person she is, you can always get out and live the way you wanna live. Most of my friends who live in like Glasgow or London, who I went to visit and learned shit from, are people I met when Instagram started. So there is ways.

Regardless of being gay though you were obviously gonna be different anyway. You were gonna have those boots, you were gonna be a skinhead. Where did you find that?

My Grandad was really into ska music in his youth. Not so much when he was older, you know he was on man, he wasn't like boppin' away to ska. But he introduced me to that, which is the baseline for skinhead culture. I dunno if that's acccurate but that was my experience of it. He was like ''this is ska'' and I went off like looking up shitty youtube videos and was like ''shit those guys look fuckin sweet''. So I like went off and like bought my first pair of boots, got myself a pair of Levis, always had a shaved head anyways. And just started wearing that shit to town, and met some other skinheads. I had the look before I had the people to go with it. And they just saw me and were like ''oh shit, there's another skinhead''. They wouldn't really be my friends anymore but I still love that style. 

We wanted to get to know some young Pussys, maybe follow each other on Instagram or be Facebook friends. Now we use Nathan as our poster boy and he comes to our parties. Cathal ends up on a bus to Dublin to build Pilly Willy with us. He models for us, come to raves with us, stays in our gafs, gets snuck into Berghain with us and has the P tatted on his leg. So yeah you could say we kept in touch.

And Roisin is just about to graduate..