Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thanks to your understanding and support I can continue to share my story

And so the journey continues
and starts for real on Wednesday.

My deepest gratitude to all of you who made this happen.
UK, here we come!

Póilin puppet says Thank You Corina Duyn to Nottingham Puppet Festival
Póilin says Thank You

What an amazing few weeks it has been.
Two and a half weeks ago I received an email with the disappointing news that I was refused funding from a government and council funded Arts organisation to go on the Biggest Creative Journey of my life. To develop my Arts Practice.  But it brought out the best in all of you. 
Thank you.
I have yet to receive a response to my email in which I expressed my disappointment and asked for feedback.

Many of you truly understood the hugely significant opportunity to share my explorations of illness/disability through art and puppetry, and to engage with many others involved in puppetry and disability. To share, to learn, and to share again.

My brother Kees and his wife Janet, and some friends suggested I'd start a Crowd Funding Campaign. I was hesitant as I know we all struggle to keep our finances in tact. Also, I did not have the energy to embark on exploring the usual crowd funding platforms. Time on the computer has been severely curtailed the past 6 weeks or so, due to being ill (more ill than normal). And I had to write my presentations.  But, I thought, I could perhaps make a page on my website.

Oh boy, did you all come out with such kindness and understanding.

I received 50 donations and book orders to date. And thereby reaching my basic target, to have funds to pay for accommodation and one meal a day. THANK YOU. 
But besides the funding, I also received such amazing emails, and letters, and cards, and messages. Others shared my story on social media. And in doing so brought awareness of the challenges of living with M.E.
My goodness, you all truly warmed my heart.

I was in tears by every notification. I am in tears now, while writing this.

Tears from gratitude.

  • I was interviewed on The world in View in which Bernadette and Stan Philips were supportive of my journey and were very disappointed that I did not receive funding. They highlighted M.E., and being an advocate for M.E. through M.E. Advocates Ireland . They highlighted disability, the power of art, and of course the travels to the UK.
  • And by by Emily Ahern from the Avondhu Newspaper.
  • Rachel Reeves contacted me for an article for the Nottingham Puppet Festival: The Power of Puppetry.
  • And Greg Crowhurst made a (tribute) video to celebrate the making of his puppet through distant learning: Here comes Johnny which is a celebration and the power of sharing the art of puppetry to bring people out of isolation.

Avondhu newpaper, page 22, 15-3-2018. Emily Ahern
Avondhu newpaper, page 22, 15-3-2018. Emily Ahern


I am ready to go.
As ready as I will ever be.

If you like to stay in touch with the stories emerging from my travels:
  • please sign up for email updates - see top right of screen when viewing web version or on laptop/computer.
  • Or "like" my Facebook page
With every best wish, and thank you So much for coming along on my journey.

UK dates:
  • Both are Free events, but tickets can be booked in advance 
  • Talk in connection with Puppet Place Bristol 29th March - details to be anounched  

Monday, March 12, 2018

Cecile's story will live on through Póilin (Puppet)

Life can be so amazing, 

and sad, and inspiring, 

and full of contradictions 

and syncronicities all at the same time.

Cecilia Maier Gilchrest March 23, 1944 - March 03, 2018

The past few days I have finally started to put words and images together for my first talk in Nottingham Puppet Festival. The thoughts were well formed in my mind. I just hadn't found the moment yet to put the thoughts in order and into a presentation.

Friday was the day 'it happened'.
The thoughts, and the many notes I had made during the past 6 weeks of pretty much 'hugging the couch', were put in a reasonably orderly manner on a large blank page!

One of the notes I found were by my friend Cecile

"What an auspicious way to begin spring*. 
The energy that propels you so gracefully to give the gift of puppets to others."

* 21st March is first day of spring in USA & Holland anyway

21st March also happens to be World Puppetry Day.

My first talk is on the 23rd March. Cecile's birthday.

Yesterday I added a very short film to my presentation, of Cecile and Póilin Puppet having a moment of deep connection.
A few hours later I heard that Cecile had passed away on the 3rd March.

Rest in peace my dear friend.

Cecile and I met last month for the first time. But we had been in contact via email, and via our spiritual beings for over two years. Read her/our story here. It is beautiful.

"And then we stood on the wall, held hands, 
and flew in one of the most beautiful dreams of my life."

Cecile Gilchrest

In short, the book-in-a-box format of my book Into the Light  was conceived in room 4 of the Care Centre at Dzogchen Beara. Cecile stayed in room 4 a few months after the book was officiallly launched there. She connected with the words and images, and with the author on a very deep level. When made aware of the connection with the very room, email contact was initiated.

How beautiful a journey we have had over the past two and a half years. Not beautiful in terms of our health challenges, but beautiful to develop a deep understanding of our lives, and the way we find ways to live the best way we can.

We often shared a 'cup of tea', while I'd sit beside her bed.
All via our emails and thoughts, as Cecile lived in the USA, I am in Ireland.

We often shared 'virtual' time in the conservatory of room 4 at the Care Centre. Again in our thoughts, and with the idea, that ONE day, we will actually be together.

It became a reality.

We booked a stay at the Care Centre for the first week in February 2018. Cecile was accompanied by her daughter Monique and friend Dolores (Dee). They travelled all the way from the USA.

I am so immensely grateful for having had time with Cecile.
We talked. Cried. Laughed. Hung out.
Unfortunately I was ill during my stay, so didn't get to spend as much time as I would have hoped, but we met every day in room 4!

Last year we realized we also both have a connection with puppetry.
Cecile used puppetry until the age of 26. She clearly never lost her skills, as watching her animate my puppet Póilin, was just pure magic. I had only seen my puppet as an object I was working on.
In Cecile's hands she came alive.
So, Póilin was truly born on the 2nd February 2018.

Thank you Cecile.
Your story, and stories, and I have many in my head and heart, will live on through Póilin.

Rest peacefully my dear friend.
It has been an honour to have been part of your life.


12th March 2018

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How hard does one have to fight to be heard

Beware this is a post about disappointment.
About the feeling to always have to fight for support.
About feeling gutted, and NOT be heard by an arts organization.
About always trying to find ways to live the best live I can.
Regardless of M.E.

I don't give up.
But I need support 
to live
to survive
to progress creatively.

Throughout twenty years of illness/disability 
I continue to learn.
And share my experiences.

I love life.
Even though I have to plan every single day 
in the tiniest segments 
to make my (creative) life happen.
And am digging SO deep (mentally and physically) 
to follow up on the amazing opportunities 
which have been presented to me.

What am I talking about?

Well, as you might have read/heard my puppetry work 
has taken me out of twenty years of (almost) creative solitude. 
It is hugely exciting.

I requested funding through an arts funding organization, 
to support me during this four week long opportunity.
To be able to 
Share and Learn.
have just heard that I have been unsuccessful. 
A very generic letter was forwarded to me:

I was invited to talk at the Broken Puppet Symposium last year. This has lead to the opportunities in the UK starting in a few weeks.  In brief, I have been invited to give talks about puppetry, disability & health  at the Nottingham Puppet Festival. The Broken Puppet has their second symposium in Bath, where I have been invited as keynote speaker. In between these two opportunities I get to meet other artists and puppeteers. See more HERE

Don't get me wrong. 
I am not looking for easy hand outs here.
And, I have been unsuccessful with applications in the past. And with some I was successful.
The rejections this time however is hitting me deeply.
VERY deeply.

I feel (maybe unjustified, I don't know) that this is a rejection on the very journey I have undertaken to make life with M.E. bearable, and even fun. 
A rejection as an artist with a disability. 
A rejection as an artist who lives with M.E., which is so often still not seen as real. 

I have learned so much and have taken the opportunity to share what I have learned via my books, my art and this very blog. And recently sharing my work in a more hands-on way. Through facilitating puppet making workshops. 
Which is a beautiful journey. 
But is a huge challenge on my physical wellbeing. But my mental state is as important as my physical well-being.  And that is Also the experience I hope to share during my talks in the UK...

A few of the notes from my application:
  • At this pivotal junction in my artistic career as a disabled artist, writer, puppet maker and facilitator, I have been invited as Keynote speaker at the 'Broken Puppet' (2) Symposium on Puppetry & Disability, and give lectures & and workshops at Nottingham Trent University during the Nottingham Puppet Festival, and Bath Spa University. 
  • 'Puppet Place' in Bristol, whom is developing a knowledge base within applied puppetry, invited me to exchange knowledge and practical skills with their artists.
  • All explore the intersection of the art of puppetry and disability;  how this can produce innovative art forms, and bring disability into the minds of a wider audience through the creative arts. 
  • Throughout this month of talks, festival, symposium, research and training, I will have the opportunity to network and learn from other puppet makers and puppeteers, to greatly enhance my own puppet making practice.  
  • Due to illness/disability I require a PA to support me throughout this month-long opportunity.

Abstract of support letters:

Nottingham Trent University
o   “Nottingham Trent University, in partnership with the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall and City Arts Nottingham, is producing the first Puppet Festival for Nottingham in March 2018. As part of the Festival, we are promoting the craft of Puppetry through a series of talks and workshops. Your expertise, in both writing and disability arts would be empowering to both students and professionals. We would be delighted to extend an invitation for you to present the following: Puppetry- Health and wellbeing.  & Writing for puppetry.”
§  Sean Myatt, Senior LecturerDesign for Performance,School of Art & Design, Nottingham Trent University
 Puppet Place, Bristol:
o   “Puppet Place is developing a programme strand – Interchange –specifically to look at how to develop puppetry as an innovative art-form for disabled and diverse communities and we would love to share this research and our findings with you to develop both your practice and ours in the future. We would like to invite you to deliver a talk at Puppet Place to our community of artists and partner organisations regarding your experiences. We can also facilitate meetings with other artists and organisations in the city as you may wish to further your own practice.”
§  Rachel McNally, Puppet Place Executive Producer

 Broken Puppet (2) Symposium on Puppetry and Disability & Bath Spa University:
o   “I am delighted to invite you to be keynote speaker. The symposium is a collaboration between Bath Spa University’s Arts and Social Change Research Group, the UNIMA Research Commission, and Puppet Place. It will bring together artists, ¨scholars¨, and members of the public to reflect on ¨analyse¨ and further develop work in the field of puppetry and disability performance through exploring the ways puppetry and disability intersect to produce innovative art forms.”
o   “Guest lecture for the Bath Spa University Arts and Social Change Research Group. & Conducting a workshop with Level 5 Drama undergraduates.” 
§  Dr. Laura Purcell Gates, Reader in Drama. Director Arts and Social Change Research Group, Bath Spa University

I will go.
I will prepare for my talks.
I will learn and share.
And come home exhausted but I can imagine, happy. And fulfilled. And filled with material for another book. For more facilitating work. Filled with ideas for my own development.

I will get paid for the Nottingham talks, and for my travel. I will get paid for the lecture at Bath University.  But I still have to finance much of the accommodation and cost of sustenance for myself and the kind friends whom are staying with me during the month.

There has been kindness from family and friends too, in way of donations:
Kees and Janet ( BIG thank you). Hans and Loes; Mary C.; John E.D.; Mary Q.; Cora F.

Thank you,
 Thank you all who are with me on this journey. 
In spirit or through financial means.
Or by listening to my thoughts today.

If... you like to support me, 
please visit my SHOP for books, cards, bookmarks...
There there is also a DONATE button.

Much gratitude.

PS  I have asked for feedback on my application, which I hope to receive next week.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I am stepping out of my cocoon, and with lots of support I can dance with life.

For the past four years the theme of my work seems to be

'Dancing' & 'Movement'

The Dance of Life - animation (still) by Corina Duyn. Two animated figures talking in a cocoon
The Dance of Life - animation (still) by Corina Duyn
To me, the various projects, like 'The Dance of Life' animation, the 'Reflection' Puppets, were about dancing again.
I literally meant Dancing! As in, moving one's limbs, freely. Standing on both legs, or even one leg, while graciously moving the other. Moving my arms, at will.

I truly and utterly believed that.
No one could have convinced me that the story of my work would have a very different meaning.


In September 2014 I was at Annagmakerrig, the Artist retreat-workplace.
An observations made by one of the other artists was that a lot of my artwork had figures in enclosed spaces. Eggs, Cocoons, Boxes...

I can only now see what has happened since then.

This residency was the start of Into the Light. At the start it was to be a book of essays on life with illness/disability. My health did not allow me to complete the work as intended. After many trials and almost giving up, I created a series of loose sheets, and gathered them in a box.

At the same time of deciding on the book-in-a-box, I created the small sculpture 'Stepping out of the Box' (I honestly did not see the connection for months, maybe even a year).

This small box, became the template for the Life Outside the Box  Puppet Project I facilitated with my then fellow members of the Irish Wheelchair Association, during 2015/6.


I can now see that these boxes were there to step out of.
To take my place in society again. To be heard. To be seen.
I have been put into boxes for far too long.
And I probably also created a space (a box, a cocoon) in which I felt safe and could function. Function within the limits of what M.E. has dictated in my life for almost two decades now.

The Life Outside the Box puppet project led to the invitation to talk about my work at symposiums, universities and festivals. It lead to being confident to teach again, which I now do in my studio and via distant learning.

The Reflection Puppets also came about from that residency at Annaghmakerrig.
Four years in the making, but they are done! Just the short film to be created: One of the puppets, faces her reflection in the mirror. She is standing with her walking sticks, but wants to see the dancer in her.

Two years ago I started the Dance of Life animation figures. The idea again being based on dancing. On freedom, on being able to move...

My health is far from allowing me to move freely.
My ability to move is more and more curtailed.

I perhaps I am dancing with life in a different way.
With a spirit which is soaring.
My spirit is dancing.

I am dancing but not as I had hoped.
Not as I had envisaged.
But I am dancing, in my own way.
And take my dance with society, at puppet festivals, symposium, and universities. 
Dance through my work.
Dance with my work.

During my recent retreat at Dzogchen Beara I had intended to create an animation film I had in mind for a year. But I was too ill. I barely left my room. I did manage to film a few very short clips and took some photos - at the nick of time (half hour before going home). At least I could go home some bit satisfied. See below for an impression on what I would have liked to create.

"I" am stepping out of my cocoon, and with lots of support I can dance with life.

And to top it all, my journey through illness, puppetry and 'dance' is to be filmed tomorrow by our national broadcaster. More about this later. 

The Dance of Life - by Corina Duyn (preview) from Corina Duyn on Vimeo.

Further reading and links:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Call for Change: Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E)

Today is a hugely significant day for all us us living with M.E. and/or Fibromyalgia in Ireland.

A small group of amazing advocates for both these illnesses have organised an Awareness and Educational event at  Leinster House (our Government buildings):

Call for Change: Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.)

This is an abstract of the letter that went out to all our politicians:

In Ireland Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect between 90,000 and 180,000 people while Myalgic Encephaloymelitis (M.E.) affects approx. 12,000 to 14,000 with no clear pathway to care, or the necessary supports to enable patients to live independently in the community.  There is no education about M.E. among medical professionals and no specialist facilities or treatments. This large cohort of patients and voters are left in the dark with nowhere to turn, abandoned by the HSE. 

These patients are at a monumental disadvantage by having a chronic illness that falls between the cracks of HSE knowledge and services that require those with M.E. to negotiate an additional hurdle to the usual challenges faced by those living with a disability applying for essential supports, as we wait for the UNCRPD to be ratified.

I am honoured to be part of this group of 6 women who have worked way beyond their own levels of wellbeing in order to make this happen. 
We are all ill. 
We have not met in person. 
All the communication was done via Facebook's messenger.
Presentations were written, shared, checked, amended.
Flyers were designed, rewritten, printed.
Badges created.
MEAI logo designed, email address set up.
All relevent information copied, printed and collated.
A huge amount of work, especially when energy is at a premium.

I won't be at the meeting myself today. I am certainly there is spirit!
And MEme is representing me.

I will profile some of the advocates here at an other time. And will update any information when I have it.

For now, please, please tune your focus onto the event of today. 
And channel your energies to the speakers. 
They need it. 
Use your psychic power to bring your attention to the politicians, 
and make sure they are tuned in. 
That they will listen.
And ACT.

We need our voiced heard.
Changes need to be made.
We deserve a health system which supports us.
Which listens to us.
Which does not disregard us

Badge for the 'Call for Change: Fibromyalgia
and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E)' meeting today

 FibroIreland  (Fibro Ireland)
Badge for the 'Call for Change: Fibromyalgia
and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E)' meeting today