Anonymous | Ireland | 05.10.2020

Richard chats with a multi-faceted performer who incorporates burlesque, aerials and pole dancing into her shows. That’s when she’s not modelling, organising events, producing, or booking talent. She also runs a burlesque and cabaret variety show. This interview has been redacted in places, with certain sections cut to ensure the interviewee’s anonymity.

Hello! Hi! You went to see a show in 2009 and that was what inspired you to take up burlesque. Yes. And what about the aerial arts side of things, when did that become a part of the picture? Well, it was actually my son who started doing the aerial stuff as a part of his occupational therapy when he was a kid. And when the unit closed, I went to find somebody that was doing some kind of aerial work to see if they could help me to buy the equipment and if I could possibly do it with him at home somehow. So that’s how I started taking classes. And when did you begin pole dancing? I started pole dancing in maybe 2008 or 2009, originally. And I started aerial, maybe 2010. But my first aerial performance was 2012.

It must be very strange for any people who perform that all of this restriction is in place now. I presume there’s been a virtual burlesque show or two in the last few months. Absolutely, there’s loads of them! I’ve performed at a few, I know loads of people that are running regular shows. There’s some great ones running from Ireland as well! There’s a lot of variety out there. Roughly when did you begin using cannabis? As a teenager. I would’ve started smoking hashish, I don’t think I ever saw actual cannabis. I didn’t see weed until… I was maybe seventeen before I ever saw it. Before then, it would’ve been hash. But I probably started smoking at about fifteen, sixteen. Okay. So you’re tenured in that area! She laughs Do you ever use it as a part of the rehearsal process or a part of the show, and if so, does it help in terms of skills and stage presence? Does it enhance the overall experience? I wouldn’t smoke before I go on stage, because obviously you need to be quite sharp. And I’m not a sativa smoker. It wouldn’t be my preference. And if you want that kind of mental clarity, that kind of sharpness, you’d want to be smoking sativa. 

My preference would be for indica and I would use it for several different things. Often for anxiety, or for nerves if I’m particularly anxious leading up to a performance. You always get a certain amount of nerves and that’s a good thing. You want that, you know? It means you care. If you stop getting nervous, then you should worry. She giggles Yeah. And you should throw in the towel, probably. Yeah, because that’s when you’re getting complacent and then that’s probably when you’re gonna make a mistake, or you’re gonna fall over yourself, or something’s gonna happen. Just to keep you on your toes. I also would predominantly use it for stretching, because I would do a lot of flexibility kind of stuff. And I didn’t start anything to do with flexibility till I was nearly thirty. I couldn’t touch my toes. Okay. And everybody thought I should not aim for it. Everyone was kinda like: “Ooh, I wouldn’t really bother with the splits.” Doubters! “You don’t need it!” And I’m like: “What you really mean is I’m not gonna get it, right?” And they’re like, “Well, you’re just on the wrong side of twenty. And when you’re twenty-five, your flexibility doesn’t really get any better.

So you’re just not gonna get anywhere. And look, don’t worry if it doesn’t happen!” And I was like: “Oooh girl, watch this!” Very supportive! Laughter Well, you ultimately proved them wrong. Yeah, I got my splits at thirty. Nice! And very proud of it. And I still have splits on both sides. But that’s because I take time to work them. But I also take time when I do want to relax and I want to stretch for a few hours. I’ll have a smoke and then I have the patience to stay still for long periods of time and actually really relax and move into a stretch, so that I’m not holding or pushing against it, which is kind of counteractive. So you’d say it helps you to get in the zone, in the right mind state as well.  Very much so. And I do know a lot of athletes that would use it specifically with things like that, when they need to focus and concentrate and they need to stay in one position for a long time and relax into it when your body doesn’t necessarily want to, you know? Yeah, or if you yourself are kind of restless with all of the thoughts going on in your head. Yeah. 

A previous interviewee of mine, Sienna Moodie, said similar. That it helps her to get in the zone, to stretch and to do meditation. She incorporates it into her daily lessons with clients. I feel that lifestyles like hers and yours help to disprove the stereotype of the lazy stoner or the waster. I really don’t get that. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We all have a couple of friends that probably smoke too much for their motivation. She giggles If that makes any sense? Where it doesn’t balance. But most people I know would be very high-functioning stoners. People that smoke quite regularly, when they want to, when they need to. But still have a very high-functioning lifestyle. That train a lot, that work out a lot, that use it to balance, because it’s so… We run at such a high level all of the time that it’s good to have something that helps you to – clicks fingers – switch off really quickly and just disengage. If only people had easier access to it! I know! It would be very helpful. I also would use cannabis for chronic pain. I have a lot of gynae issues, I had a lot of cysts on my ovaries that burst and I ended up having a couple of operations. 

And I had a part of my womb removed – one of my fallopian tubes and one of my ovaries on one side. I’m really sorry to hear that. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. That’s okay. Well, it was a few years ago. And there was a lot of rehabilitation on my pelvis and stuff that needed to be done. A lot of scar tissue, which led in itself to its own problems. But I can pain manage just fine without any medication whatsoever, if I have weed. I don’t need to take any painkillers, which I’d prefer not to. When I was in hospital, I was on morphine and it didn’t agree with me. I don’t do very well with very strong painkillers. I vomit a lot. I’ve a very easily upset stomach, so even though I was on a morphine drip, it meant that I vomited quite a bit and I was hallucinating. And I really didn’t like it and kept begging to be taken off it. So once I got home even though I had very heavy painkillers, the first thing I did was start swapping them and lessening the dosage of the painkillers and then changing over to a more natural approach. Okay. And still now, if my hip in particular gets very caught up, or if I have a lot of bloating… because I do have a tumour on the one remaining ovary that I have, still. 

But if they take out the one remaining ovary I have I’ll go into early menopause, and I’m only nearly forty. So obviously we’d like to avoid that, if possible. So some days it would be more painful than others and it also helps me to manage that, you know? So for me, it’s very much an all-rounder. You don’t wanna see me when I’m sober. I talk so fast that it’s really hard to keep up with me. Laughter So it’s very valuable to you in your daily life. It can do for any number of issues and for me it’s a part of my life in a very fundamental way. I genuinely don’t believe that I’m addicted to it in any way, shape or form. Because if I don’t have it I’m not upset, I’m not angry, I’m not annoyed, I’m not pacing. Right. I might get that way if I don’t have a cigarette for twenty-four hours. It’s the only thing I can genuinely say I’m possibly addicted to, cigarettes. And coffee! Richard laughs You and me both! Although, I changed to decaff and that can happen too. I just have to get the flavour of it. Okay. I don’t see it as an addiction by any means, but I definitely see it as something that enhances my life, makes me more comfortable to live in all aspects.

Whether it’s down to pain, down to anxiety. Just helping my creativity, my focus, my stretching. It enhances my life in a lot of ways. So it’s very, very, very upsetting to me, the laws here. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s not legal, because I genuinely forget. I have been approached in a very busy bar before… where I had forgotten myself and started rolling on the table. While having a conversation with a couple of other people, one of the bar staff came over and went: “Sweetie, will you do me a favour? Will you put that away? Because it’s really smelly.” And I looked really surprised and went “Sorry?”, and then looked down at what I was doing and went: “Oh my God, I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” Richard laughs Like, “One second, I’ll just fly it off the table!” and he just started laughing and said: “I wasn’t really sure what was happening for a second. Smells beautiful by the way!” And I was like, “Sorry!” Laughter These things happen. So many people smoke. I’ve never, ever… I’ve never had anybody turn around and be like, “Oh…” Even if they’re not smokers, I find people very accepting, very open. 

It’s only recently that I felt shame about it. And really disliked that, a lot. Is that down to what happened [some months ago]? Yeah. They went out of their way to make me feel shame and that bothered me a lot. Do you want to talk about that? Yeah that’s no problem. I can give you some information on it of course, but as nothing has come of any proceedings as of yet, I don’t know what I can say. I have a solicitor who advised me to be very careful about what I say in general. But I’m pretty sure five years ago, if I had had an abortion, I would’ve been told to do the same thing! Right. I fought for 1Repeal the Eighth [a campaign for women to have the right to a legal abortion in the Republic of Ireland] and I never had an abortion, and obviously now knowing my gynea history I’m never going to have one. I couldn’t even get pregnant if I wanted to. But I fought for it because I thought it should be a fundamental right for anybody to make that choice for themselves. And that’s how I feel about this as well. 

Most friends that I’ve spoken to agree with me on that, in that they may or may not be smokers, but they believe that as a fundamental human right, that I should not be made to feel ashamed for something as simple as a plant. Yeah. And as an adult who knows how to use it responsibly and who in your case actually requires it. I have my own house, I keep to myself, I run my own business. I don’t bother anybody. I barely go out, so it should be of no consequence. And if they could make me feel like that, and if they could treat me the way that they did. I would consider myself pretty well-spoken, I’m quite calm, I’m quite coherent. I’m usually pretty okay at diffusing a situation, and that was very hard to diffuse. And I felt very threatened in my own home by a member of Gardaí. And that felt extremely uncomfortable. And it just made me think, “If that’s the way they’re behaving to a thirty-nine year old woman, what way are they behaving to sixteen year old young fellas?” I had to remind them that I wasn’t some teenager that they found 2gattin’ in a field. She giggles And I also had to remind them it wasn’t 3Narcos. 

Richard laughs You know what I mean? This is [Ireland]. She laughs In broad, general terms, can you give me an outline of what happened? I would be surprised if any charge could be made from it, being honest. I’d be surprised. I wasn’t fully within the law, but how far I was outside it is kind of questionable. Because yes, there was plants. None had flowers. None had buds. None had anything but leaves. They were about four weeks old, and quite bushy. They were not auto-feminized, and very likely male. But technically that’s not quite legal either. It seems to be a grey area of stuff. Yeah, with seeds. It doesn’t really make much sense, in my opinion.  Yeah. So apparently, once you have planted that seed in soil and put water on it, then that technically counts. And I just think the whole thing is quite ridiculous. The more you look into it, the more ridiculous it gets. And it is all at their discretion. She laughs Human nature kicks in there as well, you know? With discretion. Yeah. And I’d like to say they’re all exemplary human beings, but unfortunately out of my experiences with them, [it was] not great…

And it was [redacted] of them who arrived – Well there was… [redacted] male Guards and one female, who actually came into my house first. By the time they were leaving, they had brought [redacted]. Oh my God. She giggles As if you were the cartel… I was like, “Lads, I swear! 4Pablo Escobar is not hiding in the closet here anywhere! I came out of the closet years ago.” She laughs “There’s no-one else hiding in there, promise!” Oh my goodness. So I still don’t know where it came from. I have no idea what the background to it was. I don’t know exactly what they were looking for. I don’t know exactly what they expected to find. I don’t know exactly why they felt it was necessary to have such a show of force at [redacted] that night. Yeah. And without identifying any of them, how did they deal with you throughout the raid? I have to say, there were two male Guards that I found particularly respectful. The female Guard was very respectful. There were [redacted] male Guards that behaved like schoolboys. A lot of giggling, snickering, this kind of stupid behaviour. And there was one actual aggressive Guard, who slammed me against the wall at one point. 

Slammed me against the door frame. I had to keep reminding him I wasn’t going anywhere. He told me not to run. I asked him where he thought I was running to, in my slippers and pyjamas. Yeah. I don’t even have a car! I have no idea what he thought I was trying to do. I just reminded him that I was trying to go and get the thing that he asked me to get. So, it was very unnecessary behaviour. He very definitely tried to intimidate me and didn’t like it when it didn’t work. I’m not intimidated easily. It sounds like he was trying to get an aggressive reaction out of you, to escalate it. Yes, a hundred percent. That is my belief. To the point where I told both of them, there was no point in trying to continue to goad me. So, at one point, the female Garda had taken me into my bedroom as they were going through my stuff. And there were [redacted] male Guards in the hallway that were snickering and whispering and laughing. And I overheard one of them say: “Yeah, she’s a stripper.” And I got annoyed, and I said: “Can I ask why there are [redacted] men in my house, and why [redacted] of them are behaving like schoolboys out in the hallway?”

“Can the [redacted] men, or at least [redacted] of you, leave my house now that you’re finished searching? There’s absolutely no good reason for you to be in here. Yeah. “You wanna ask me questions? You only need to have one guy and one female present.” I said: “The female Guard is not to leave under any circumstances. The guys can do what they want. Ask me whatever questions you want and get out of my house.” I won’t lie, I was very annoyed about it at that point. I was quite indignant also, at that point. Understandably. Mostly because I don’t like being pushed around in my own house, and slammed around the place, and spoken to like I’m a ten year old. When I kept reminding them that when they stepped into my porch immediately and asked me what I had, I gave it to them. Yeah. You were cooperative with them from start to finish. From the get-go. And they kept telling me to be compliant. And I reminded them that I had been compliant at every possible point. They had found nothing that I hadn’t given them.

And they had been searching for a good hour at that point, and it was all completely unnecessary and they knew it. Yeah. Well I’m very sorry to hear that you had to go through all of that. I won’t lie, I’ve never quite had that experience, and I was very shook afterwards. And you wouldn’t expect to have an experience like that really, over something like [redacted] plants. You shouldn’t have that experience from a member of the Gardaí, because you know what? Yes, they are held to a higher standard and they should be held to a higher standard than a normal human being. Because that’s exactly what their job is. And they shouldn’t be trying to goad somebody into reacting in a particular way. I’m lucky that I have the presence of a person to keep my calm. Not to say that I wasn’t upset, I was absolutely shaking. And I was annoyed, I was angry, I was upset and a whole range of emotions. And afterwards, it got to me a lot. To the point where I decided that I really… I wasn’t going to be made to feel ashamed anymore. And I wasn’t going to hide the fact that I was a smoker anymore.

And I was gonna stand up and I was gonna step out. And I don’t care if that makes me a target, which I realise that it is actually doing. But I don’t care. I’ve actually caught two of the Guards that were in my house following me, at least three different times. Yeah. And I obviously know their faces by now. They’ve been in my home and they’re not making much of an attempt to hide it either. And they brought me to the station that time, from my house, for the [redacted] plants. Now, I’ll be honest. One of the Guards had slammed me around so much that I said: “Look, you’re gonna have to ask me your questions.” And he said to me: “I’m gonna slap cuffs on you and take you to the station”, and I said: “You know what? If you’re gonna keep threatening me, just do it. Take me to the station, because your behaviour is getting out of hand. I no longer feel safe or comfortable in my own house, even with the female Guard here. So I’d rather you took me into a station so that there was other people and cameras when you’re questioning me. Because whatever it is that you want to know, I don’t know. 

I can promise you that much, because you’re behaving in a really ridiculous manner and I know nothing about anything… so, you’re shit outta luck.” So, they took me to the station. They fingerprinted me, they DNA-swabbed me, to run me past 5INTERPOL [the International Criminal Police Organisation (ICPO), based in France]. INTERPOL. INTERPOL! I started laughing, and said to him: “What is it you think you’re going to find on INTERPOL?” So, I should tell you. I was in court in [redacted] this year. I was raided last year. So all of this escalated pretty quickly. I was raided and they found about [redacted quantity]. Which I handed to them. And I went to court. And they brought me up in front of the Judge. And now, in fairness to my solicitor, I do have a range of jobs, as you’ve seen. I’m not just a performer, so I’m not just an artist. I’m also a producer, I could be a booker for circus entertainers, for Christmas parties, for festivals or whatever. 

So, my job is a bit of a broad range. So, my solicitor told the Judge that my job was a “recruiter for entertainment services, worldwide.” Okay. All I heard was sex trafficker. She giggles And I nearly shrivelled. I took a very sharp intake of breath and went – gasps – “What did you just say? What even is that, that sounds like a sex trafficker to me.” The Judge snapped his head up pretty quickly and looked at me and I was asked to stand. I stood up and the Judge went through me for a shortcut. Told me I should be ashamed of myself and all the rest of it. I had to stand and put my head down and take it, until the Judge mentioned that I was found with [redacted] worth and I was being fined [redacted]. Yeah. And I said: “Sorry, it was [redacted].” And my solicitor was like – makes a shushing sound – “You can’t say that.” And I said to him “Why can’t I say that?” And he said: “Because, then you show that you know what the weight is. And you know the value.” And I said to him: “That’s ridiculous!” Like, you don’t need to be some kind of scientist. 

But it’s a very strange setup, the whole court system. You sit in there, like I had to do for [redacted] days, for three hours each time. And you just watch the conveyor belt.  Young fella, after young fella, after young fella, after young fella. Weed, weed, weed, weed. [Redacted] cash fine, into the office. Cash to the solicitor. Cash in the office. 6Simon [Simon Community, a homelessness charity] must get at least five or ten grand a day, in €300 fines, that go through that court. That is a huge amount of money. But, it’s like watching a wheel. So that was in [redacted] this year, and then boom! Suddenly raided there again, months later. My goodness. One of the reasons why I felt it was in my best interest to go into the station and have it processed is so that they can’t keep just randomly raiding me. They need to have a reason. Because if that wasn’t processed and it was at their discretion, that technically would not be down as a raid. They would’ve gotten a warrant for a raid, but it’s not the same with a conviction. It’s not a finalised case, so it’s an ongoing investigation. So, before they raid me again, they need to have another good reason. An actual reason.

So that last raid then spurred you on to speak out more about it – And to want to campaign. And are you now collecting stories from others who have had similar treatment by the Gardaí in the past? Yes, so that is the plan for it eventually. It basically started because of me telling my story. I had a lot of people message me to talk to me about it, and then recount their own stories of either being raided or having their car stopped and searched. Or being stopped on the street and searched. And quite often being found with a little bag of weed or whatever. And nine times out of ten, the Guard just saying: “I’m just going to take that and it’s going to go away.” That’s happened to me at least [redacted] times. At least [redacted] times. She laughs I’ve even had a Guard compliment me on how well my joint was rolled, once, before putting it in his pocket and telling me: “Don’t worry, it won’t go anywhere.” And I said: “Except down your neck, is it?” So the last time when they found a joint here, when they raided the house this time, I made them process it. I made them process the joint that they found.

Because if I’m not going to have it, they’re not having it either! Right, absolutely yeah. Laughter So right now, loads of people have been telling me their stories. And what I’ve been doing is I’ve been asking them if it’s okay if I come back to them to collect them. Some people are totally fine with it and some people are very nervous about it. Some people are really fine about being completely public about it, some people are not so okay about being public about it and maybe say they’re okay with their stories being there, but not their names or their faces being used. So right now, it’s just talking to people and finding out their comfort levels. And also hearing the different stories. And not just people that have been stopped and searched. Because it’s interesting to find out how many times people… and I know people that are in their fifties, and they’re like: “Oh God yeah, Jesus, I’ve been stopped now at least thirteen different times. Because I’ve been smoking and they’ve smelled it and they just come over and they take it off me.” So what are we doing? Why are we not decriminalising? Why has that not been done already?

It’s the same thing over and over and over, for years. Exactly, time for change. And obviously that’ll affect people’s work lives or their employability and they can get a criminal record. That’s the threat that they use. So, I suppose for now with the stories thing, you’re asking them to jot down their own notes on an individual basis, and then at some point you’ll follow up with them and collect it all? Yeah. I’ve spoken to everybody individually, not just by message but by video calls as well. I do have some recordings from people who are okay with speaking about it. Right now, I’m predominantly speaking to women. My main interest has been interactions that women have had where they have felt threatened. And who felt that there was a man using his physicality to be looming over you to get close into your personal space, which is what I’d experienced. And I’d never experienced that from a Guard before, where I had to ask him to step back a few times.

And I felt quite panic-y about it. Understandably. And I wouldn’t be a very nervous person. So, it was very apparent to me that he was very deliberately doing it. Yeah. And that was what I was getting from a lot of other women who would be a lot quieter than me. And I’m not quiet at all… She laughs Not by any means! I was shouting at the guy, I was telling him: “Back up! If you’re within arm’s length you are in my personal fucking space! Step back!” Laughter I’m not exactly a wallflower, by any means! So I was talking to women that would be quite shy, who had been caught with weed. Who felt very threatened, and who are very small! These are women that are fucking 5’2! That are being towered over by fucking men over six foot! What kind of a problem have you got, that you feel the need to do that!? And actually, you wouldn’t really hear the stories about overly-aggressive Gardaí. You hear all the time about the police in the United States being incredibly aggressive and violent. But you never really hear similar stories publicly in Ireland, about the Gardaí. So, maybe those stories are long overdue.

I think they are. I was surprised with the amount of women that got on to me. And that was actually what spurred it, you know? Talking to women that had found themselves in that position. Nobody had ever mentioned it before to me, and I had never experienced it before. I think it made me quite uncomfortable and it’s definitely something that a conversation needs to be opened about. Because if there’s people that I know in my circles that have had that experience, there’s got to be a lot more women in the country… We’re more than happy to promote your efforts with that in future. Thank you very much. I think the more that we create a cannabis community that supports each other, the better off we will be. 

[Gardaí] should be concentrating on heroin. Absolutely, all the truly dangerous drugs. The drugs that are actually sending people to the hospital. I’m sure there’s plenty of real crime out there. How many stoners do you know that have ever gotten stoned and went out and broke a window, or got in a fight? None whatsoever. But yet, every Saturday night, I bet you you’re gonna find a drunk person doing it. Oh absolutely, yeah. Throwing up and getting in fights and damaging property, the whole lot! Totally socially acceptable! Laughter Thanks so much for your time, it was an absolute pleasure! Likewise!

References:

1 Repeal the Eighth was a campaign to repeal the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution,

so that women could have a legal right to abortion in the Republic of Ireland. It led to a

successful majority voting Yes in a national referendum held on May 25th, 2018:

https://www.rte.ie/news/analysis-and-comment/2018/1222/1018670-eighth-amendment-referendum/

2 Gatting is Irish slang for drinking alcohol, usually in an illegal context (i.e. in public outdoor spaces,

or when underage). It’s not likely to be defined in a long-established English language dictionary!

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gatting 

3 Narcos is a television drama following the exploits of infamous South American drug cartels, such as the

Medellín cartel. More information at the Internet Movie Database: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2707408/ 

4 Pablo Escobar was a notorious Colombian drugs kingpin who founded the Medellín cartel:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Escobar 

5 INTERPOL [the International Criminal Police Organisation (ICPO)] was first established in France in 1914:

https://www.interpol.int/Who-we-are/Our-history

6 Simon Community is a volunteer-based homeless charity in Ireland and the UK, which also helps to treat

people with drug addictions and to assist them with finding employment.

More information at: https://simon.ie 

 

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