Abstracts & Biographies

Panel 1 – Women in Popular Music in Ireland


Dr Caroline O’Sullivan (DIT), “If anyone says you are doing it wrong they are lying” – Being a female DJ in Dublin

This paper will outline the ongoing barriers that women face to gain access to all sections of the DIY and underground electronic music scene in Dublin and investigates why more women have not subsequently broken down the gender barrier. Based on research conducted with performers from 2008 to 2018, I outline the motivating factors for women to become involved in music performance and production and contrast them with those of their male counterparts to see if there are fundamental differences in why and how either gender become involved. Recognising the recent attention amongst member of the scene for gender parity, I question what, if anything, has changed Why, having appeared to have made a breakthrough, are women either not getting involved or choosing to leave?

I posit that through social interaction, the prevailing messages that women receive is discouraging to their sense of ‘belonging’ to the DIY music scene. I contend that rather than women gaining access to the positions that incur capital, both economic and cultural, such as headliner or producer, they often continue to find themselves corralled into roles that offer them very little in terms of monetary or cultural rewards. Finally, the relative success of female centred collectives in both the US and UK have been discussed in the work of Farrugia (2009), Giffort (2011) and Downes (2012). This paper will examine the grass-root strategies that women in Dublin have developed to encourage and motivate other females to become involved.


Dr. Caroline Ann O’Sullivan is a Senior Lecturer and Head of Creative Media in Dublin Institute of Technology. She conducts research in the areas of popular music, reality television; the culture of social media; Identity and expression online; Internet youth culture; creative industries education and gender. She completed her Ph.D. at the Department of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin on the changing practices of Musicians in the age of Social Media. Caroline has been lecturing since 2000 in the areas of Cultural and Media Studies, Popular Music, Contemporary issues in Creative Media Industries, Research Methodologies, and Practice-Based Research. Caroline is the external examiner for the MA in Design Experiences based at the University of the Underground in Amsterdam and the BA in Interactive Media at Ulster University. She was the coordinator for the Skills programme in Southern Ireland and a member of the management committee of Honeycomb – Creative Works a €5mil INTERREG IV project funded by SUEPB promoting the Creative Industries across the border counties of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and West of Scotland.


Dr Ann-Marie Hanlon (DkIT), Zrazy and ‘Women’s Music’ in Ireland

In the Irish popular music scene the pop-jazz duo Zrazy, vocalist Maria Walsh and saxophonist and pianist Carole Nelson, stand out amongst their peers in their consistent commitment to making explicitly feminist art. Over the course of their twenty-six year long career their musical output has engaged in a range of Irish socio-cultural debates, from the abortion referendums in the 1990s and 2010s to the role of women in the 1916 Easter Rising. Songs such as ‘Come Out Everybody’ (1997) and ‘You Make Me Happy’ (2015) address LGBTQ+ themes and the duo have won awards recognising their contribution to LGBTQ+ cultural life, including an Out Music Award and a Gay and Lesbian Music Award (GLAMA).

In addition to promoting lesbian visibility, Zrazy epitomize a form of lesbian feminism in the Irish musical context most typically associated with the North American women’s music movement of the 1970s and 80s. This radical feminist movement established a female-run socialist music industry in order to challenge the mainstream male-dominated capitalist paradigm. In this movement an artist identifies as both musician and cultural worker and therefore, her music and musical activities are expected to promote feminist consciousness. This paper situates Zrazy’s music within this lineage of ‘women’s music’ and investigates their contribution to Irish feminist debates through their music. Moreover, it explores how their music represents a form of lesbian feminism specific to the Irish cultural context and its changing landscape over the past 30 years.


Ann-Marie Hanlon (PhD, Newcastle) is a musicologist with specialisms in cultural theories of music, popular music and French modernism. Her current research explores the intersection of feminism and popular music in Ireland and North America. A lecturer in popular musicology and performance at Dundalk Institute of Technology, her publications include chapter contributions to Music, Art & Performance: From Liszt to Riot Grrrl (Hawthorne, 2018), Erik Satie: Music, Art & Literature (Potter, 2013) and articles in the Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (2012). Annie is also a performer of rock, pop and folk music on piano, guitar and bass guitar.


Michael Lydon (NUIG), I Don’t Have to be that She: Magda Davitt the Artist Formally known as Sinéad O’Connor

On the 16 January 2018, the artist then known as Sinéad O’Connor made a surprising musical return during the Shane McGowan 60th Birthday Concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin. Arriving on-stage without introduction at the end of an intermission, she proceeded to stun the audience with a beautiful rendition of McGowan’s ‘You’re the One’ after which the MC for the evening John Kelly addressed the audience: ‘Ladies and gentlemen on a night of moments, I think that was a moment [applause] Magda Davitt! Magda Davitt!’. Thus, acknowledging the wishes of O’Connor to dismiss the name of Sinéad O’Connor and recognise her anew as Magda Arjuna Davitt.

This conference paper will look to examine Davitt’s decision to disregard any association with the name of Sinéad O’Connor framing the analysis around the significance of naming and re-naming in instances of trauma. The paper will undertake a close reading of Davitt’s most recent studio album under the name of Sinéad O’Connor, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss (released August 2014), paying particular attention to the tracks ‘How About I Be Me’, ‘Take me to Church’, and ‘Streetcars’. In addition, the paper will offer a close reading of Davitt’s demo release dropped in August 2018 ‘Milestones’, a track taken from the forthcoming studio album No Mud No Lotus; a track which features the lines, ‘I don’t have to be that she, this is where I get to be me’. The paper will also look to utilize Anahid Kassabian’s theory on the lack ‘sourcelessness’ in what she regards as the current era of ubiquitous listening, and Marie Thompson’s theory on an a ‘ethico-affective approach’ to the use of noise by recording artists. Ultimately the paper will look to re-evaluate our understanding of Davitt’s position within Irish popular music as she seeks to re-invent herself and her work through the process of re-naming.


Michael Lydon is a PhD Candidate at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), working under the supervision of Dr Méabh Ní Fhuartháin. At NUIG he teaches an undergraduate and Masters level module on ‘Popular Music and Ireland’ as well as work as a the Course Coordinator for an Irish Studies course for visiting students entitled ‘Irish Life and Culture’. He is the current and inaugural Student Officer for The European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies (EFACIS), and holds a First Class MA from Cardiff University in Popular Music Studies having worked under the supervision of Dr Sarah Hill.


Panel 2 – Women in Country & Folk Music in Ireland


Dr Daithi Kearney (DkIT), To Stay or Leave: Revisiting Creative Outputs Through a Feminist Lens

Artists can pre-empt and initiate discussion and debate in wider society and artistic works may be critiqued subsequently in the context of later discourses. The musical To Stay Or Leave, first staged in 2006 and most recently in 2015, presents a feminist perspective on Irish history and cultural traditions that challenges stories and folklore that focus entirely on male characters. Although not initially read in this context, the development of Waking the Feminists and Sounding the Feminists in theatre and music respectively provides a new lens through which to engage with the narrative and the author’s message. The masculinity of the author also challenges a preoccupation with the gender and sexuality of the artist/author in lieu of a broader feminist approach that engages with themes explored and developed in the artistic output.

In this production the role of women as outlined by the 1937 constitution of the Irish state and accepted by mid-twentieth century society is challenged in song by the leading female character. Róisín is no longer the weak allegorical figure of cultural nationalism and her daughter Aisling becomes the inheritor of a musical tradition and who further develops her mother’s revolutionary voice, challenging the male-focused narrative of musical traditions and folklore. This paper critically examines the narrative of To Stay Or Leave, focusing on the central metaphor of the transmission of Irish musical traditions to a female character, in the context of current feminist discourse in Irish theatre and music. It highlights the importance of creating strong female roles through which dominant culture and ideologies may be challenged and alternative stories presented


Ethnomusicologist, geographer and performer Dr Daithí Kearney is a lecturer in music and co- director of the Centre for Creative Arts Research at Dundalk Institute of Technology. His research is primarily focused on Irish traditional music but extends to include performance studies and community music. His publications include contributions to the Companion to Irish Traditional Music (ed. Vallely, 2012) and the Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (ed. White and Boydell, 2013).


Joanne Cusack (Maynooth University): A consideration of post-feminism in Irish traditional music with particular focus on the all-female band, The Bridies

The Bridies are an Irish traditional music band, formed in 2003 by Michael Flatley’s lead fiddle players Máire Egan and Brenda Curtin. The line-up for the band was completed with Máire Egan’s younger sister, Éilis on accordion, Michelle Mulhaire on percussion, and Cary Novotny on guitar. In 2004, they released their first album 4 and 9, and a year later released their second album 13. Contrary to their name, The Bridies were portrayed in the media as ‘Trad’s sexy ladies’, and were noted for bringing ‘the S-factor back into Irish traditional music’. As an all-female band the Bridies image and persona arguably illustrated trends of a new type of feminism, commonly found within the Pop, and indeed classical music scene from the 1990s.

Reflecting on scholars such as Angela McRobbie (2004), and Stéphanie Genz (2009), this paper will question how to consider The Bridies within a postfeminist context, and how they relate to similar groups within a broader popular and classical music culture, particularly all- female groups such as The Spice Girls (1994) and Bond (2000). A second research aim is to develop an understanding into the commercialisation of Irish traditional music in the post- Riverdance era, with a particular focus on objectivity, iconography, and performance.


Joanne Cusack is a button accordionist and doctoral researcher from Swords, Co. Dublin. After receiving a Graduate Teaching Studentship, she began her doctoral research in Maynooth University in October 2017, under the supervision of Dr Adrian Scahill, and Dr Daithí Kearney. Her thesis is influenced by the changing gender roles in Irish traditional music from the 1990s.


Christina Lynn (DkIT), Creating a Narrative: A woman’s voice in Irish Country music

Ireland now has the pleasure of experiencing the most creative music culture of its history. The availability of such a variety of genres means that there are more options to those of us who wish to study music. From jazz to country music, there is an element of each genre which remains the same, women and their contribution to the music. This paper will examine one female artist in the genre of country music and analyse the narrative that she has portrayed through her songs/ music. This examination will take an in-depth look at Susan McCann and the lyrical content in her most renowned songs. This will also include a comparison to the original context in which the songs were performed and gain an understanding of the crossover to the Irish context. Are these songs a true portrayal of Susan McCann’s lifestyle, in essence generating a narrative of her life through her songs, or are they a replica of the songs original format from their creators in America? There is limited academic writing conducted to date on country music in Ireland, and it is even more limited in terms of women in country music. This paper aims to address this gap which exists on women in country music.


Christina Lynn is a funded first-year PhD student at Dundalk Institute of Technology. Her main research areas are popular culture, ethnomusicology, feminism, gender and identity. She is a graduate of DkIT with a BA (Hons) in Applied Music and received her Masters from UCD in Musicology. Christina is a researcher and performer of country music, both Irish and American styles, and aims to promote the academic research of country music in Ireland.