‘What Am I Worth?’ Carlow Premiere: A reflection by John Kelly

Extraordinary Bodies’ groundbreaking new show ‘What Am I Worth?’ premiered at Carlow Arts Festival in Ireland on 9th June 2018. Musician, cast member and proud Irishman, John Kelly, reflects on their time there.

To be honest it’s going to be hard to sum up in a few paragraphs the whole experience of launching a ‘World Premiere’ (as it was billed) of our show ‘What Am I Worth?’ at the Carlow Arts Festival just a few weeks ago….but i’ll give it a go… I won’t mention my (and others of the company) excitement and joy over Guinness & Taytos in Ireland, or our brilliant drive and sing song getting there!

Eilis, Joh and Spicer sit at a table in an Irish pub holding pints of Guinness and grinning

Left to right: Eilís, John and Spicer enjoy a Guinness in an Irish pub

When a circus comes to town, or a festival happens there, or any type of excitement turns up from the regular happenings that go on, it creates a buzz and hopefully not too much unwelcome disruption. That good buzz had been inside of me for a whole year. I was fortunate to have been part of the Creative Explorations team working with the lovely people of Carlow during our visit there last year. It was an amazing and powerful time for me, I felt like we got to know each other in such a short time, the connection and mutual excitement was there. The people were so generous with their stories and friendship that I knew that opening our show here in Ireland would be a perfect beginning, and it was.

John Kelly sits on an outdoor stage in his wheelchair whilst Dave the production manager passes him an Ice Lolly covered in colourful sprinkles

John is handed an Ice Lolly on stage by production manager Dave

Carlow brought us together,  Extraordinary Bodies together as a team, the show together to a focal point, no more rehearsing, no more tweaking or practicing but the important element, the wider community together that makes us a whole. The show is an amazing thing to experience, but with the local community involved and an audience to enflame the buzz, takes an amazing show to a different level. We did two shows in Carlow in the sweltering glorious sun. Two large beautiful crowds joined us and certainly took ‘What Am I Worth?’ to another level. I was pretty nervous for the show, which is a good thing for me as it’s my barometer indicating the importance of performing, and being lucky enough to be amongst such a talented team on and off the stage.

How do you define a town? It’s probably as hard to define as ‘What Am I worth?’. For me its not the size or its geographical relation to a bigger city, it’s the people, it’s the stories, moments in time & memories it holds and shares with a pride or fondness, or with a lesson to be learnt for the future. It’s how those stories and memories intertwine and weave together to create a sense of narrative that further creates a sense of belonging, that anyone can be part of. Thats what Carlow did for us. It felt like we belonged and were valued, so we could all join in, have fun, enjoy, live! I think ‘What I am worth?’ is indeed about a sense of being valued, and Carlow, the people of the town, the people of the festival, the community cast, the team of Extraordinary Bodies, gave me that warm glow inside.

Every town in Ireland has its own song and of course Carlow is no exception. However whenever I hear the lyrics of a Phil Coulter song, The Town I loved So Well (I know its a Derry song not a Carlow song but leave me in my happy mind) it always takes a bit of my heart to the lovely memories that Carlow has given me. The photo below, I took on an early Sunday morning and I could hear the song as I thought of all my homes where I belong and love. Carlow is one of them, and i’m more than excited now as we head off to more amazing places on our tour: Sunderland, Glasgow and London to meet, perform and share our show with more amazing people, community casts & audience who will be just as amazing, and will join us on a journey for change!

“In my memory I will always see the town that I have loved so well’

A street of colourful houses in Carlow Ireland

A colourful street in Carlow, Ireland