From bingo on the balconies of apartment blocks in Dublin to live yoga classes and rooftop concerts streamed online, Irish people are showing an amazing sense of community and humor in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
People are being told not to mix with others from outside their own households, but they are coming up with novel ideas for connecting with their friends, neighbors, and family members across the globe.
Dublin inner-city resident Michael Larkin had been in lockdown with his children for a week when he came up with the crazy idea of organizing a game of bingo for his neighbors.
Little did he realize that video images from Dublin 4 would be beamed all across the world.
He said that he came up with the idea after finding that it was “a bit head wrecking” to have to keep his three children entertained inside their local authority flat.
"We've done baking, we've done Jenga, we've done snakes and ladders, we've done everything we can think of - there's nothing left to do,” he said this week.
"It was a quick idea, let's play bingo and get everyone outside their doors, keep their distance and have a bit of craic."
Michael put on a white disposable boiler suit, mask, and gloves borrowed electricity from a neighbor and set up a bingo stall on the roof of communal sheds in the complex where he lives.
His young daughter, Hollie, used a PA system to keep everyone entertained as they distributed the bingo cards. Music by Tina Turner and Whitney Houston enticed most residents of the flats complex out onto their balconies.
The first game lasted about two and a half hours and everyone had great fun, as long as they observed the most important rule of all – to stay on their own balconies in order to observe “social distancing”.
Michael offered Easter eggs as prizes for the children, with toilet rolls as an even greater incentive for the adults – loo rolls, bizarrely, began to sell out in supermarkets across Ireland as soon as the country when into lockdown.
Dressed in a white suit and wearing a mask, his young niece Jodie ran around to collect the winning tickets which the residents threw down from the upper floors.
When the game was over, Michael returned, shivering with the cold, to his flat. Within minutes calls were coming in from as far away as the United States and Australia, as people had seen images of the bingo on social media.
"We got calls from Australia, the Washington Post in America, and people were saying that the Italians can sing opera from their balconies, but the Irish can play bingo!”
The game has since been rolled out to other local authority flats complexes across the capital, as people seek ways of connecting with each other at a time when they are being told to stay at home.
In Galway, talented young musicians Seamus (13) and Micheal (10) Barcelo were bitterly disappointed when they were unable to take part in their local St Patrick’s Day parade on March 17.
The two boys and their father, Miquel, known as the Barcelo Brothers, had also been forced to cancel a concert in Campbell’s Tavern, Headford, that evening.
Miquel, from Mallorca, and his Galway-born wife Judith are well-known members of the Galway arts community. He has found that the time in isolation has given him plenty of time to write new songs and practice with his talented sons.
At short notice, they organized a St Patrick’s Day concert from their kitchen, which Miquel streamed live on his personal Facebook page. It attracted 3,000 views and 300 comments from friends and people he never met who came across it online.
A few days later, when the weather picked up, they went out on the roof of their Headford cottage to stream a second gig live. This one attracted 5,000 views and was shared 113 times. Now they are thinking of doing regular live gigs from their family home as people deal with social isolation.
“The boys normally play with the school band and they missed being part of the small parade here in Headford,” Miquel told IrishCentral. “They were disappointed when we had to cancel the local gig. But we knew the situation. We knew everyone else was stuck at home. We thought some people would watch, but we never thought it would be so many!
“All the songs we played were our own. We played for about 40 minutes. The boys are writing new songs here at home in response to this crisis. People loved a new one by Micheal called ‘Be Who You Wanna Be’. After we played that gig, a lot of people got in contact and said we should write more new songs.
“So we are using this time at home as a chance to write new material. We have another song called ‘Give Me A Smile’. Being locked at home has given more meaning to our songs.”
Miquel and the boys are now planning on streaming more gigs from their little cottage by the banks of the Corrib, in response to demand.
Husband and wife team Colin and Caroline Stanley, based on the east side of Galway City, normally have big music sessions with friends in their kitchen. Colin and Caroline have been the key members of a group called Queen Elvis for 11 years.
They were aware that a lot of people were feeling lonely, isolated, or sad on Mother’s Day, so they streamed a live gig from the kitchen on Sunday evening. The response has also been fantastic.
“Our kitchen is very much the heart of our home and we often have friends around for sing-songs,” Caroline told IrishCentral. “This is a time when you really could do with having your friends and your family around and, for us, it was important to connect with people from the kitchen, where we usually are.
“We did it on our Queen Elvis page on Facebook because our band would also have followers in places like Germany and England, so it wasn’t just for friends and family. We played for about an hour and 40 minutes and the reaction was phenomenal.”
Even in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, the legendary Irish love of music and a bit of craic is allowing people to connect with each other – even if they are being told not to leave their own homes.
Musicians, artists, and even bingo players in housing estates are showing people all across Ireland that a sense of togetherness will get us through the coronavirus emergency.
* A digital journalist based in Galway, Ireland, Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and on his website here - CiaranTierney.com.
This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.