Meet a Dubliner: Shauna Caffrey, Musicologist and Werewolf.

My name is Shauna Caffrey and, in performance circles, I’m also known as Alice Apparently. I’m a PhD researcher on witchcraft, music and magic in the 17th century. I’ve been known to take to the stage in various forms, either as a werewolf or in very glittery burlesque performances as Alice Apparently. I am a Dub at heart.

I always wanted to be the Indiana Jones of musicology. I feel like I’m leaning a little bit more now towards being the Vincent Price of musicology, which I’m probably even better with.

It’s fun to dress up as a werewolf and get to roll around on the stage and pull bits of fluff off. I built a huge wolf head to wear during the act. On a surface level, it’s about werewolves, but when you look at werewolves on film, or werewolves in books, there’s that interpretation of lycanthropy as a metaphor for mental health issues, or trauma, and things like that. So for me, that one was very personal.

It’s fun to dress up as a werewolf, and get to roll around on the stage and pull bits of fluff off.

I think a lot of the resurgence in witchcraft has to do with everything that went on around laws regarding female reproduction and the policing of women’s bodies. We can now subvert that idea of the witch as bad, and instead use it as a more hopeful figure, a more powerful figure that’s more awe-inspiring than scary.
I was the first member of my family to go to college, and when I was at secondary school, it was like, “Oh my God, Shauna’s going to college.” There is still a certain amount of, I won’t say stigma, but a lack of representation in academia of people from working-class backgrounds. So I think that the more representation we get in any way is positive.

Penelope gets fed rats. They’re frozen when I buy them, they’re not when I feed her though, just defrosted.

I had a pet salamander for a while when I was at secondary school. She was called Gilly. I met her while I was doing work experience in Reptile Haven down on Fishamble Street and fell in love with her. I used to bring her with me when we were going on holiday because she couldn’t be left alone for too long.

Snakes are okay though because they only need to be fed once a week. Penelope gets fed rats. They’re frozen when I buy them; they’re not when I feed her though, just defrosted. And not in the microwave either, naturally defrosted. It doesn’t take very long; they’re not huge. It does lead to the occasional interesting conversation. I’ve got a very good friend who breeds rats as pets, so it makes me feel a little bit heartless sometimes.

There is a kind of archaism about a lot of the Dublin landscape, whether it’s cobblestones or Victorian greenhouses in the Botanic Garden or the Dead Zoo (a Dubliners’ name for the Natural History Museum), something that’s quite wonderfully Gothic – almost borderline magical. It’s something that I didn’t realise I’d miss when I moved away, and then coming back it’s something that I’ve appreciated much more.

We’ve got a great granny culture in Dublin.

It’s probably true of any city, but I think Dublin, in particular, is so much made up of its people and its characters. So whether that’s people on Moore Street shouting and selling, or whether that’s the various occasionally irritating sounds of Grafton Street. Or people’s grannies. We’ve got a great granny culture in Dublin.

So I think when it comes to creating characters in the theatrical sense, so much of that comes from just exaggerating and building on what we are and who we know. And it’s not necessarily parodying other people. It can be giving homages, and I think Dublin is a great place for that to thrive. It’s been a fascinating place to inhabit in all of the various characters that I’ve been on stage.

I think it’s becoming a more accepting and friendly city. I believe the more characters that we have, and the more variety and diversity they embody, the stronger and more pleasant place it’s going to be.

Laurence is a writer, cyclist and gardener. He’s always finding new things to like about Dublin, the city where’s he’s spent most of his life.


The Bots - The National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin.


The Bots: Dublin’s College of Horticulture

First things first: The Bots. What is it? “The Bots” is how teachers and students refer to The Teagasc College of Amenity Horticulture, located at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin. They’ve been teaching there since 1812 so there’s quite a bit of history. For our first instalment of Horticultural Dublin we want to find out about this unique institution hidden away in the suburbs. To investigate, we’ve enlisted some people on the inside. We’ve got John Mulhern, Principal of the College, and prized former pupil, Gary Mentanko. John has been with Teagasc, a wider authority on agriculture and food development, for 20-odd years. Gary studied Horticulture at the Bots and has also conducted Horticultural work in the Arctic. We’ll come back to that.


Museum Dublin: The Dead Zoo

You stroll in the door and you walk back in time... Back into a world of Victorian exotica. With the polished wood, the old brass fittings and the glass cases, you feel enveloped in the comfort you find in a good old pub. But this isn’t a pub. This is a place of learning. Or to be more precise, this is a place of fun. This is the “Dead Zoo” or as it is more formally called, The Museum of Natural History. Situated between Leinster House and the Attorney General’s Office, this is a real gem of a museum. It’s been going now for some 160 years and not only is it one of the oldest public museums in the country, it’s also one of the most popular. Each year some 320,000 people visit the museum and enjoy all its Victorian charms for free. “Yes it’s free in,” Education Officer of Archaeology and Natural History, Siobhán Pierce exclaims proudly. Siobhán is joined by the Education Assistant, Geraldine Breen.


The Flower Sellers of Grafton Street

Wrapped from head to toe against the hostile elements, surrounded by a riot of colour which cuts a sharp contrast with the grey February day, meet the flower ladies of Grafton Street. They say the ladies are “the heart and soul of Grafton Street” and what helps save the road from becoming just another English high street. You’ll find the ladies bringing both wit and colour to the corners of Chatham, Harry and Duke Streets. Tina Kelly tells us she’s been selling flowers all her life, starting off aged 12 helping her mother when Grafton St still had two-way traffic. She has seen a lot come and go from her perch on Duke Street. Tina tells that one time she even met The Duke himself. “Yeah I met John Wayne.” “Sure I met them all,” she adds. “Sean Connery… I was talking away to him, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Lisa Stanfield. I met an awful lot of them. And sure Eric Clapton, well I was talking to him on the street for nearly two hours and I hadn’t a clue who he was.” A natural born story teller, you can tell Tina enjoys the banter that comes with the trade. Many of the customers are obviously regulars as there’s lots of first name usage. Sister-in-law Susanne, who mans the Harry Street corner, says “you have to enjoy talking to people.” And in case we hadn’t noticed, she adds: “Now I would be a talker!” The Kelly name is synonymous with flowers on Grafton Street going way back, Susanne says. “Now I married into the Kelly family,” she says adding that she comes from a family of boxers. My grandfather was Spike McCormick.”