Mark Gra­ham hooks up with a swing­ing scene in Water­ford – but de­cides not to hang around

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FUN & GAMES - ayearoffes­ti­valsinire­land.com

It’s im­pos­si­ble to knock around the fes­ti­vals of Ire­land with­out en­coun­ter­ing an od­dity or 12. Rac­ing pigs with lit­tle knitted jock­eys on their backs, streak­ing through the streets of Bal­li­nasloe is not some­thing you see ev­ery­day. A man with his tongue split and his whole body tat­too’d to re­sem­ble a lizard is not your aver­age Joe Fes­ti­val. The tra­di­tional art of bucket singing makes for an un­usual gig, and a spot of pe­nis pup­petry tends to stand out at a theatre fi­esta.

I’ve seen some weird shit on my ob­ses­sive fes­ti­val trav­els, but the crew float­ing about at Water­ford City Tat­too Con­ven­tion have raised the bar.

At a body-art gath­er­ing you can ex­pect some gri­mac­ing amidst the buzz of tat­too-iron nee­dles, some sharp in­takes of breath as nip­ples are gouged and the flap of ear-lobe holes stretched wide enough to al­low the in­ser­tion of Marty Mor­ris­sey’s head. It was the large sur­gi­cal steel fish­hooks I wasn’t pre­pared for.

The clas­sic western A Man Called Horse has a piv­otal scene where Richard Har­ris’s char­ac­ter is ac­cepted into a Sioux tribe through a ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mony that in­volves in­ci­sions be­ing made in his up­per chest. Wooden pegs are threaded through the in­ci­sions and he’s sus­pended from the rafters by rope at­tached to the pegs. The in­tense and grue­some scene is based on paint­ings Ge­orge Catlin made of the O-Kee-Pa cer­e­mony per­formed by the Man­dan tribe. Water­ford has it’s own swing­ing scene.

Joan McGuinness seemed like a nor­mal enough girl. I watched folk from Post Mod­ern Prim­i­tive Sus­pen­sion sur­vey her back care­fully, pinch­ing her skin, mark­ing out op­ti­mum spots with ink. In a syn­chro­nized ac­tion, the PMP crew pierced Joan, thread­ing four large sur­gi­cal hooks through the spots they’d marked on her back. There stood Joan, with four large steel hooks lodged just be­low her shoul­der blades, her sus­penders busily at­tach­ing rivets to the eyes of the hooks. I stood there think­ing – “Jay­sus. You wouldn’t do it to a mack­erel”.


The rivets were at­tached to a pul­ley rig that hung from the rafters of the hall, and grad­u­ally, Joan was hoisted above a be­mused, grossed-out and in­trigued crowd. It was riv­et­ing – lit­er­ally! One of the crew re­spon­si­ble for string­ing her up, grabbed her by the an­kles and swung her around the place. The young lady whose back was bleed­ing, with hooked skin now higher than her shoul­der blades, un­be­liev­ably smiled all the while. She told me that af­ter the pierc­ing and ini­tial hoist­ing, it doesn’t hurt at all.

“It’s amaz­ing, an un­be­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ence” gushed debu­tante Joan af­ter­wards. “Once you’re in the air you’re pain-free and can just float around like a fairy. The only feel­ing you have is like some­body hold­ing on to your shoul­der mus­cle but not in a painful way, like a mas­sage. And when you get down, you feel so light and just re­ally re­laxed be­cause it stretches out your mus­cles”.

Jane’s Ad­dic­tion gui­tarist Dave Navarro is a for­mer heroin ad­dict and self-con­fessed adrenalin junkie who reck­ons noth­ing he’s done has given him the buzz that body sus­pen­sion has. Allen Falkner, founder of the per­for­mance sus­pen­sion group TSD (Trau­matic Stress Dis­ci­pline) and the man re­ferred to as the ‘Fa­ther of Mod­ern Sus­pen­sion’ sug­gests – “If life had a dial to ad­just the vol­ume, sus­pen­sion has a way of ac­cess­ing this in­vis­i­ble knob and turn­ing it down.”

The re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia when I posted a pic­ture of Joan swing­ing from the rafters was as shock­ing as the act it­self. It’s not for the squea­mish, but call­ing people who prac­tice body sus­pen­sion “idiots” and be­lit­tling what they do for kicks, seemed out of pro­por­tion. Is it any more ab­surd than golf?

Rit­ual sus­pen­sion and os­cil­la­tion isn’t for ev­ery­body, but if you do want to hang out with the crew at Water­ford City Tat­too Con­ven­tion next year, give me a shout, I can hook you up.

Safe trav­els, don’t die.



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