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Steafán HANVEY

World-renowned Northern Irish photographer Bobbie HANVEY captured some of The Troubles’ most defining and devastating moments. Hanvey is as lauded for these images as he is for his iconic portraits of figures like Seamus Heaney, Gerry Adams, Brian Friel and Ian Paisley. In RECONSTRUCTIONS, HANVEY’s photographs take on an even greater resonance when set in context by Bobbie’s eldest son, singer-songwriter and poet, Steafán HANVEY. Inspired by the photographs—images that he often witnessed coming to life in the darkroom—Steafán’s memories of a childhood less ordinary are presented in a lyric poetry filled with startling imagery and insights that capture the wit, cadences, anguish and dreams of the people of Northern Ireland. RECONSTRUCTIONS daringly conflates the public and the private, and acts as a timely reminder of just how futile and unnecessary internecine conflict really is. But most of all, Bobbie and Steafán—father and son—have produced a book that is a testament to the strength and resilience of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Follow the links below for five excerpted photo-poems from this series. 

2. PROXY (Ghost in the Machine)
3. EASTER 1974                                   
   (Between You, Be It!)


Steafán HANVEY was born in Downpatrick, Co. Down in 1972, five months after Bloody Sunday and one month before Bloody Friday. His exposure to all things musical began in utero as he is the son of musicians. In the 1970s, his household was renowned for its traditional ‘sessions.’ Still in short trousers, Steafán was often called upon to regale guests with a rendition of ‘Will You Go, Lassie Go,’ ‘The Cobbler,’ and ‘Carrickfergus.’ On his mother’s side of the family, he has recently discovered a lineage back to the Brontë sisters. His teenage years were spent fronting rock bands, one of which was an earlier incarnation of Relish which showcased for CBS Records no fewer than three times. Steafán graduated from the University of Ulster in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature and Politics, majoring in American Studies. He spent the third year of his degree studying sound-engineering and American literature as an exchange-student at Western Washington University. Upon his return, he covered the IRA ceasefire in 1994 as a sound engineer for Macmillan Media in Belfast before pursuing a Masters in International Politics at the University of Helsinki where his thesis dealt with a comparative analysis of Ireland and Finland’s neutrality policies. While in Finland, he gave courses in Irish film and conflict-resolution at his alma mater, contributed to a government-sponsored Immigrant Musician Workshop at Sibelius Academy, hosted an Irish music radio show, and sang in two Irish/Finnish folk groups. This led in 2000 to a solo EP recording of his original compositions. In short, he was back to his first love. By special invitation, Steafán performed to a private audience at Dublin’s Focus Theatre, the closing of which was formally presided over by the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins. Steafán has shared the stage with Liam Ó Maonlaí & The Hothouse Flowers in the US, Ireland and Spain, and many other acclaimed Irish artists including Relish, Jack L, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Mary Coughlan, Don Baker, The Walls, and John Spillane. His critically-acclaimed debut Steafán Hanvey and The Honeymoon Junkies was released in Finland in 2005, Ireland in 2006, and the US in 2011. National television and radio appearances followed, as did several in-studio sessions with BBC Radio Ulster, NPR and others. Hot Press magazine called his debut ‘a rare delight!’ and opined that it was of an ‘impressive quality.’ Gerry Anderson of the BBC remarked that ‘Steafán has earned his place at the table.’ In 2013, he released his second studio album, Nuclear Family, in North America through eOne Distribution, a record that had been mixed by Franz Ferdinand and The Cardigans’ producer, Tore Johansson. Nuclear Family features several guest appearances including Relish and Liam Ó Maonlaí [Hothouse Flowers], and was mastered in London by Mandy Parnell, who has also worked on albums for Feist, John Martyn and Björk. In addition to producing two albums and a mini-album, Steafán has co-produced, curated, directed, and toured a multimedia-performance in over twenty states of America. This was the platform from which he started introducing his poetry to new ears. Partly funded by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and his most ambitious production to date, Look Behind You! A Father and Son’s Impressions of The Troubles Through Photograph and Song was hailed by the New York Irish Voice as ‘truly groundbreaking.’ They also said Nuclear Family was ‘brilliant!’ NPR took note and produced a short documentary about Look Behind You! and had this to say: ‘Steafán Hanvey is thoughtful, intelligent and reflective about the culture and family that shaped him, as well as how it has influenced and defined his recent album, Nuclear Family. When I first learned about Steafán and Bobbie Hanvey, I knew their story was something special. One that deserved to be told through the very art that it had inspired.’ Steafán has produced/directed three music videos, one of which, “Secrets and Lies”, was selected for the kinolounge special program of the 22nd Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival. In 2016, Steafán was invited to tour the university circuit in Scandinavia by The Irish Itinerary and The European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies (EFACIS). In November 2018, Merrion Press (Irish Academic Press) published Steafán’s debut collection of poems Reconstructions: the Troubles in Photographs and Words, largely inspired by a selection of Steafán’s father, Bobbie Hanvey’s photographs taken during the times now known as ‘the Troubles.’

Bobbie HANVEY’s photographs appear courtesy of the Bobbie Hanvey Photographic Archives, John J. Burns Library, Boston College (Cambridge, MA), and the trustees of Boston College. Reconstructions, the Troubles in Photographs and Words is published by Merrion Press—see here. Steafán Hanvey’s reading of the text in full is available via iTunes (see here); Spotify (see here); & Amazon (see here).

See here for image credits.

© Steafán Hanvey & Bobbie Hanvey, 2019


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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