Mrs Brown D’Exhibition

IMG_2127Within the past couple of days, there has been huge discourse online in relation to the city’s divide. In particular, how those inhabiting the South Side perceive those residing on the North Side and vice versa.

I’m extremely proud to say that I was born in Finglas and lived there for most of my childhood. I returned to Finglas to teach and it’s difficult to explain but standing in front of thirty children, teaching them about the positives and the successful people who have emerged from Finglas, I’ve rarely felt more at home.

One of those successes is Brendan O’Carroll; a man who has achieved great heights professionally but also struggled financially, even experiencing a failure or two. Yet, he never surrendered his dream, something which I greatly admire him for but more importantly, he never forgets where he came from and in every project he appears to recognise the city that born him and the town and streets that consistently support him.

For those reasons, I was hugely honoured this week to attend the opening of Mrs Brown D’Exhibition in The Little Museum of Dublin – my favourite haunt

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The initial concept of the exhibition came about but four weeks ago with NBC Universal exploring various avenues to interestingly promote the release of Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie. Upon this decision, Kimberley Foy curated the exhibition due to her being a loyal fan of the television programme and Agnes Brown’s personal cheerleader – a career I’m currently looking into…

Speaking with Brendan O’Carroll at the opening, he genuinely appeared a little taken-back by the presence of his family, the support of Dublin and the interest which The Little Museum of Dublin had in his life.

When I initially got the call, I was a little confused – I didn’t know what such a prestigious museum wanted but when they said that they wished to do an exhibition on Brendan O’Carroll and Mrs Brown, I was genuinely shocked.

We helped as much as we could but walking into the exhibition and seeing all of the photos of myself – it’s a little embarrassing. You know the first time you heard your voice played back on tape, and you think to yourself ‘Oh God, that doesn’t sound like me’, it’s a little bit like that here at D’Exhibition but I’m also hugely flattered and honoured.

Kimberley Foy, curator of D’Exhibition, did an incredible job in honing down the mass of material needed for the curation. In his opening address, Brendan O’Carroll admitted that the highest compliment he could pay Kim was that his mother would be extremely proud of D’Exhibition.

Both Kim and Brendan worked collaboratively to present a balance of information and props to appeal to those with either a passing or insatiable interest in Mrs Brown. But how does the exhibition give an insight into the film? Brendan explained;

With D’Movie, we really tried to expand Mrs Brown’s story and give the audience history and character depth. Here at the Little Museum of Dublin, attendees at D’Exhibition will gain further insight into the character of Mrs Brown and will hopefully leave understanding Moore Street, Finglas and even me a little more. For me, that was really important!

Brendan O’Carroll’s mother was the first Labour TD and was an advocate for worker’s rights, along with being the primary drive behind women being allowed to enter an Garda Siochana.

As you walk in the door of the exhibition, there is a beautiful photograph – Brendan’s favourite element of the D’Exhibition – of him and his mother, the only photo that exists of the pair. With such a strong female role model, along with having five sisters, I asked Brendan what impact this has had on the development of Agnes’ character.

More than I know! I remember when I gave Jenny (Gibney) the first book I ever wrote – at the time we were just working together, she didn’t know me that well – I picked her up for rehearsals and she said ‘I finished your book last night’. I was a little nervous and asked her what she thought of it. She said ‘Either you have a lot of sisters or you’re gay!’

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In this island, and on the other to our right, Mrs Brown’s Boys’ reputation alters greatly, depending on who you speak to. Some are engrossed in the programme, whilst others perceive it to be nonsensical. Speaking to the exhibition’s curator, Kimberley Foy, I asked her if this conflicting audience was a concern for the museum.

I think people need to take a second look at the programme and Mrs Brown, in particular.When I was chatting to people telling them that we have this exhibition on, I didn’t necessarily say to people that I was the curator because I wanted to see what their honest reactions were.

A lot of people questioned if it was a good idea but I tried to emphasise that the television programme and even the film itself isn’t just about crude language but offers a glimpse into Dublin of the past. Now though, I’m so close to the show that I feel almost offended when people discredit this great moment for Dublin.

However, my favourite moment from the opening of D’Exhibition came from the curator, Kimberley Foy in her explanation of what the exhibition means to her.

The highlight for me is definitely my first conversation with Brendan. Interestingly, the one phone that I could use to record the call was in my Grandmother’s house. If you can imagine the scenario, I’m on the phone talking to Brendan O’Carroll and beside me is my Grandmother, sitting in her dressing gown, trying to suppress her laughter at the antics he was describing. I had to take a moment to realise just how special that was, for my own family, that I could make a further connection to Mrs Brown, one that spanned generations.

D’Exhibition resides in The Little Museum of Dublin until July 20th. To visit the museum, it costs a maximum of €7 (but if you plan you’re clever when planning your visit – you may gain entry for free). On leaving you’ll come away with a sense of why Dublin and even Finglas, is so important to me. I can’t recommend it more highly.

Mrs Brown D’Movie arrives into cinemas on June 27th.

Thank you so much to Jill Guest for all of her assistance. All photos are taken with the Canon 100D – courtesy of Pembroke Communications.

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Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.