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I can’t recall ever going on a march or protest. I’ve never really been passionate enough about anything to remonstrate with authority so publicly. I’ve maybe signed the odd petition in my time, but that’s the limit. I even refuse to comment on social media if I think what I’m saying may in some way be held as a ‘political view’, and I’m wary of taking a stance on anything (ok, perhaps less wary these days – why the hell am I writing a blog in that case? Ah, but no-one reads it…so that’s not a problem then.)

Yesterday, however, I was part of an Irish anti-abortion protest. As the sun set over a north-west London school playground, I was yelling a slogan in my loudest cod-Irish accent at some poor young girl trying to access ‘the clinic’.

Yes, this was one of my occasional appearances in the world of film (or fillum in this case): a powerful short film, aiming to explore the continuing difficulties faced in Ireland by those seeking to terminate a pregnancy even though the national law was changed a couple of years ago following a public vote. As is usual when performing a Supporting Artist role, I only got to see a very small portion of the production in the making, but we were given the context beforehand. I believe the filmmakers to be in favour of abortion rights, and certainly against the fake clinics* which have apparently appeared in Ireland since the legalisation of abortion. The premise for my scene was that I was part of a group of protesters outside one of these clinics and we were chanting and shouting at a poor young actress who was trying to get into the clinic. 

Some of us had been given in advance a line to shout randomly during the protest. Others chanted together. At the last minute, we were asked to ensure we used our best Irish accents. Aaargh! Just three angry words – in an Irish accent – how hard could that be? Well, if the film ever sees the light of day, then we may be able to judge that.

As usual, we were kept waiting for hours before our main scene was shot, but then it got exciting. In fact, it left me exhilarated and hoarse after all the shouting – through several takes and different camera angles. Also rather unnerved by how close the camera had come at times – swooping right in our faces – as I angrily gurned and screamed Oirishly into the middle distance whilst waving my Pro-life placard.

Oh god, will this somehow be my legacy? A shameful clip on the socials? – as if anyone would notice or care, but still… Or is this how I am discovered as a super-extra? The beginning of an acting career (lol)? As if! 

A bewildering experience in fact. Screaming something I don’t believe, to further the cause of something I more probably do. And I suppose it’s just strange anyway: hours of waiting around in a smart school in a previously unknown part of London, followed by such an outburst.

The worst and weirdest part was having to make small talk for a sound pick-up at the very end of the day. ‘Just pretend you protesters are chatting among yourselves about how the day is going – oh, and don’t forget those Irish accents!’ Now, it’s one thing to hone three words in an approximation of a Dublin voice, but altogether another to witter on for 2 whole minutes to a complete stranger (from Hertfordshire, as it happens) as though we were well-acquainted Dubliners. Hysterical!

Better than sitting at home doing nothing though.

This was the last scene to be shot and, when complete, the director was very pleased and everyone burst into happy applause. It’s a wrap! Several of us trundled off to the tube station as darkness fell, and the moon shone over Wembley arch as we travelled companionably south continuing our chat, no longer constrained by accents but challenged for comprehension by our obedient use of face-masks.  

*such clinics are said to have been set up in Ireland to lure unsuspecting women along under false pretences of being a place where abortion is available, and then pressure them unpleasantly to change their minds and keep their babies.

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