Send me your tunes!

Today is the National Campaign for the Arts Action day, and artists are doing things all Ireland to show  the importance of the arts in Irish life. This post is about an action I want you to take for me…

People have been offering me their stuff to sell in the shop, but I have too much clutter of my own. So I am not accepting donations of stock from people, except my mother. She gets to be an exception because she had a role in my last show, and she is finding it hard to sit this one out.

So no donations of your unwanted things, but here is another exception: I would love people to donate their unwanted LPs, cds and cassette tapes to play in the shop.

I ran The Robinsons’ Sunday Roadshow Café in the Clonmel Junction Festival last year. I was trying to recreate our family Sundays, and this included playing old family records, a lot of which were hymns and spiritual tunes, with titles like Country Western Hymnal and Gospel Songs and Spirituals for Little Children. (Thanks to my older siblings’ musical taste, Neil Young’s Harvest was also in the café and was easily the most selected record.)

Some lovely, local teenagers adopted my café and visited often. Matthew and Thomas took pity on my record collection and loaned me a few of their own. I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was ACDC and Black Sabbath, which didn’t fit in with the Robinsons’ Sunday theme but made a great change from the hymns!  

So here is your chance to put Help Me! Help Me! on a track – pun intended – it might not otherwise go on. Records, cassettes and cds accepted in the shop from 12pm Thursday 23rd September. Or post to Priscilla Robinson, c/o 45 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.

p.s. Big thanks to Ali White who came up with this idea of only playing music people donate, during one of the talk shops I organised, where people drank tea and talked about  charity shops!

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My landlord visited my flat recently, and saw all the bags of stuff I am storing up for the shop, as well as the clutter I am not giving up. “You have a lot of stock”, he said “That is fine. But you should not bring in anything more.”

I was glad to hear that I have a lot of stock, but I did not want to lose my tenancy so I started to move stuff to my mother’s house. She will not evict me because I do not live there. My old bedroom is now full and I have started taking over the guest room for sorting purposes.

It’s time to sort because I’m finally working out how to display the goods in my shop. There are lots of possible ways to categorise the things I loved, things I still love, things I made,  things I regret buying, things I picked up off the street, things people gave me but I don’t know why etc. etc.. It is going in the direction of putting objects into groups with a name, such as: “You say Tat, I say Treasure” and “Presents: welcome and unwelcome”.

I’m starting to struggle with the realisation that my things will be going for good, and I was showing my friend Deirdre all the stuff I am hoping to reclaim. She was laughing at me and advising I label these “high risk” and keep them near me in the shop, at all times!  Perhaps I should tie them to me, or carry them around in a bag, or hide them in the shop and see if they get found by someone who wants them as much as me…

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Things not happening

The great American photographer Stephen Shore said he liked to take pictures of “things not happening”. I was thinking that charity shops are often places you can see “things not selling”.

The objects sit crowded on shelves waiting. It feels like you could go back a week, a month or maybe a year later and they would still there. I felt this about many of the charity shops in Holyhead, Wales. 

I was there waiting for a boat a few years ago, and I wandered up the main shopping street after being tipped off it was a haven for charity shops. I found an amazing shop which I later remembered was something to do with feral animals. The old ladies working there were exceptionally friendly and happy to discuss the animals, the quality of the linens on sale in their shop, and Ireland or whatever topic we tumbled into.

This year, I returned to Holyhead in May, but the much loved Cat Action Trust shop was now closed. The signage was still there: “Help with the problem of feral cats – without killing”.

A local told me that the town is full of banks and charity shops, and I found plenty of the latter, including one which didn’t seem to have an actual name, just a sign in its window saying “We are raising funds for the local Holyhead Community mixed bilingual choir”. It felt like a shrine to anti-marketing techniques, with no attempt to display things aesthetically, nothing priced or labelled, and things laid out in such a way that it was hard to tell whether they were for sale or permanent fixtures. 

Two very similar televisions sat on a table, a crumpled Dr. Who poster and a curtain were displayed on the back of a door, a lone squash (?) racket was placed next to a mirror, two plastic folders and a whisk in a curious still-life arrangement, and there was a bag of unopened Readers Digests, still in their plastic wrapping, with the name and address of the intended owner.

The shop staff put no pressure on me to buy or even to look at things. There was a curious air of calm. You can see more pictures here

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At last, an address!

The great news is we have found a venue for the shop! It will be in the former Smock Alley Café, on Smock Alley Court which is off Parliament Street and really in Dublin 8 although most people think of this area as Dublin 2… Hmm, I think I will add a map.

It’s a lovely space, and used to be a fantastic café. I’m very grateful to Lynsey Ní Rainaill and all in Temple Bar Cultural Trust for letting me use it.

Thanks too to Irene O’Mara from the Performance Corporation (who are producing Help Me! Help Me!) for trying to get hold of various landlords, and to everyone who suggested possible homes: Delwen, Ann- Marie and Tom to name but a few. I can only name a few because my short term memory is getting worse, and will be in shreds by the end of September, so please remind me who you are if you come into the shop and I look dazed and confused.

The Help Me! Help Me! shop will be next to another shop, which sells very attractive merchandise, some of which has been “upcycled”! I think my stuff is more in the “downcycled” category.

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Solomon’s Glory

I am just back from Greenbelt Arts Festival in Cheltenham. I counted up and this was my 17th time going. There’s a charity stall there called Solomon’s Glory*, and I’ve being buying something from it nearly every year. There’ll be a blue bag in the Help Me! Help Me! shop which I got there at my first one.

I asked Frances – who runs the stall – if I could take some photos and then she asked me if I would let her put them on her website. We had ourselves a transaction, and I started to take a few tranquil shots of the empty stall. But she thought this was a bit silly and told me to ask a group of young people who were nearby to pose for me. It turned out they were on their way there anyhow. Marketing meets real life…

Everything is half price on the last day of the festival so if you find something good you can wait til then, and try to get a bargain. I found a black jacket with suede epaulettes one year, and showed it to my friends, but they told me I had enough coats and not to be buying anymore. I regretted it and when I went back the following year the coat was there again so I bought it and my friends admired it and asked where I got it.

At the festival Oliver James, the author of Affluenza gave a talk called “It’s a mad world” and discussed the link between a rise in mental illness and our placing higher value on possessions, fame, appearance and money. He suggested, that to challenge consumerism we could use the question, “do I really need this or want this?” I wonder how this would work in my shop? Maybe we can discuss it at one of the daily 3 o’clock tea, cake and chat sessions. I am still working out what that will involve, I will probably get a grip on it at around 2 o’clock on the opening day. Maybe you could send me your ideas!

* I know it says Tatenda Charity Stall on the green sign at the top, but there is a sign at the back of the shop which says Solomon’s Glory, and that is what we always called it…

posted by Priscilla in Charity Shops and have Comments (3)

Declutter, my arse!

Declutter, my arse    

Here’s a task you can try, to help you declutter your clothes:

1.  From memory, write down a list of all the clothes you own.

2.  Compare this with your wardrobe.

3.  Now throw out everything you forgot to write down.

This is the kind of madness you can read in some of the “How to Declutter” articles and websites. The idea is that if you have things which you can’t recall then you must not need them. But I can barely remember my height, weight, or who owns what in the flat where I live, let alone all the clothes I own.

Because of my need to gather stock for the Help Me! Help Me! shop, I have been trying to change my attitude towards decluttering, and do it more often. It is becoming a bit of a game: what can I let go of this week that I wouldn’t last week?

I was decluttering in my flat recently and picked out a few of my wineglasses to give away. I thought I would offer them to my flatmate first in case she wanted them. She is Estonian and her English is excellent but sometimes she gets muddled and uses English in strange ways. She talks about the good police person, bad police person, and when I laugh she warns me not to “sell her for comedy”.

This time she was definite and coherent. “Priscilla” she said, “I know you do not like this glass, but it belongs to me and I would like it if you would not declutter my things.”

posted by Priscilla in Decluttering,shop stock,The Shop and have Comments (4)

Busy, busy

As well as finding a venue – which people keep telling me is important – there are a hundred small shop tasks I could happily drown in, like making handmade tags. I’ve been collecting (hoarding) these ribbons for years and they are coming in handy now that I am assembling the tags.
I’m not sure exactly what I will do with them, and so the Theme of Uncertainty continues to run headlong through this project…

I discovered that small loaves of sliced pan bread in Ireland often come with a piece of card at one end, I guess to keep the bread in shape? The card is a perfect, size for labels so I emailed some friends asking if they’d collect them for me. Strangely it seems that few of my friends eat this kind of bread… most of them eat artisan loaves or they make their own bread, and one family only eats pitta bread, with everything including jam!

Some people thought I wanted them to post the actual last slice of bread in the pan. So much for clarity.  My family always called that piece the “heel”, someone wrote and told me that hers calls them “Knoskis”.

Quite a few wanted to give me advice or send other types of cardboard which I found comforting but confusing:

“is the bread element part of it?? can’t you go the council and get loads of recycled stuff for free. or is this part of the art…. do you know the artist who ate his body shape through a huge massive mound of bread… rather beautiful and also an interesting way of pushing the notion of an elegant sufficiency to the edge of its boundaries…”

“I ONLY eat spelt bread from the farmer’s market: you’ll have to find less ‘high end’ friends for your project”…

“I do…have a spare room that is almost (except for an unpacked tent and a bike) all dedicated to unused (but hopefully useful in the future) cardboard. most of it is too cardboard-ie for your use i imagine…. does it have to be plain coloured on both sides? cos i have some pizza boxes and porridge boxes but only plain on one side…..”

I started to feel like I was swimming in the details of other people’s minds and got a bit worried about the future of the sliced pan.

I still haven’t received any cardboard in the post!

posted by Priscilla in design,The Shop and have Comments (7)

Shop seeking home

I am looking for a home for my shop in the Dublin Fringe Festival. It would be great to get somewhere in Dublin city centre, around Georges Street, Parliament Street or Capel Street. There seem to be quite a lot of empty shops in Dublin at the moment but letting agencies don’t want to say yes yet, in case they get a better offer… If you have any Dublin landlords in your family, with a suitable space, please get in touch! You can mail me at

There was a possible venue, opposite this wall sign (over a pub off Bolton Street) which I love! The space was great but it was a bit too far out of town, and there were no tea making facilities. We did think of doing a deal with the pub, and letting them provide the tea, coffee & wine.

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There are places

doll's headI got inspired by my visit to a flea market in Brussels, where the sellers put out hundreds of boxes full of random objects mixed up together and let people rummage through them – usually without asking you to hurry up or coaxing you to buy!

I started to hear about other places that I could visit – like the Dog Charity Shop in Machynlleth in Wales where everything is 50p, Raeburn Place in Edinburgh – a street where charity shops outnumber “normal” shops, a 630 mile long yard sale in Alabama, one of the biggest flea markets in the world in Bonn, and my favourite (from Lian Bell, ABSOLUT Fringe Programme Manager) an Animals in Distress charity shop in Minehead, England that was crammed full of things, and very chaotic. An old lady was sitting at the counter crocheting tea-cosies to sell, and the shop was organised as if it were a giant tombola. Everything there had a coloured raffle ticket cellotaped to it and when you paid 50p you could “win” one of the items, but then you had to find it.

I read about the thrifters in New York City who wear body suits under their clothes in case they have to try things on in the aisles. I found out about a woman with over 500 pairs of shoes – many of them found in thrift shops – and an assistant who catalogues them for her. I read about a shop that raises money to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. On Wednesdays Type 1 diabetics get a 15% discount: “Just show us your medical chart, pump, or other diabetes paraphernalia.”

You can see some of the places I got to, in Journey and I hope to put up a Diary there soon.

posted by Priscilla in Flea Markets and have Comments (4)

Help Me! Help Me!

 I’ve always wanted to work in a charity shop. I decided to take this wish a bit further, and open my own one. It’s going to be called Help Me! Help Me!

In the Help Me! Help Me! shop I will be getting rid of lots of my things, some of which I have tried to give away before but changed my mind. I don’t like asking for help and I hate letting stuff go. You can get sick of the facts about yourself, so I’m taking action by making these problems the heart of this project.

In Treasure you can see some photos I have been taking of the things: apparently one of the reasons why we hoard stuff is that we are afraid we won’t remember what it looks like when it is gone.

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