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Potter fan fails to cast a spell on grumpy D'Arcy

THE trouble with people is that left to their own devices, they end up independently nurturing their own passions and enthusiasms. They end up deciding what matters to them and what doesn't. What's important to them and what isn't. This is, obviously enough, an unendurably chaotic situation.

Reassuringly, we're blessed with an abundance of supercilious arbiters of public taste who police culture and bring order to this chaos. We're "blessed" with people like Ray D'Arcy.

On Tuesday, D'Arcy spoke to (or rather, at) Luigina Ciolfi, co-organiser of the University of Limerick's Magic Is Might conference. "Magic is Might" was, Ciolfi explained, a two-day, international get-together of academics unified by their interest in (and passion for) Harry Potter.



Dark

A harmless and unremarkable event, I thought, of the type that happens in cities worldwide on a daily basis. D'Arcy's dark introductory mutterings about potential misuse of "tax-payers' money", however, suggested that he took a very dim view of this type of carry on.

While Ciolfi battled, gamely and good-humouredly, to elaborate on issues of inequality and discrimination in JK Rowling's work, D'Arcy didn't bother even attempting to disguise his antipathy and irritation. The title of one conference paper, Wand Privilege: Superiority and Inferiority In Wizarding Society, proved a red rag to the sarcastic D'Arcy bull.

"Very important there. Very important," sneered Ray. "That's going to enhance human-kind and make us all better people."

And on it went, with D'Arcy grumpily refusing to engage with his guest in any meaningful or mature way. Opting, instead, to unsubtly communicate that he considered the whole business to be pretentious and worthless nonsense.

He sighed wearily throughout and suggested that the themes the attendees were finding in Rowling's work had not been intentionally placed there. Not true, replied Ciolfi, persuasively arguing that "inferiority and prejudice" were central to the story, and that Rowling had consciously engineered it to be so. "How do you know that?", D'Arcy barked. "Have you spoken to her about it?" Ciolfi, showing admirable restraint, calmly described how Rowling had admitted as much in interviews, before pointing out that the Potter books and films were "creative works", and that people should be allowed "a bit of freedom to see things that resonate with them" and to "find what is important to them".



Classy

With a final disagreeable flourish, D'Arcy said goodbye to Ciolfi, muttered an exasperated "I don't know...", and went straight into an ad break, thereby allowing himself the last (dismissive) word, after his guest had already departed. Classy stuff...

There were, happily, examples of more enlightened attitudes to 'niche' enthusiasms to be found elsewhere on the airwaves. Most notably, in Ciaran Ryan's excellent Independents' Days -- an absorbing documentary celebrating Ireland's independent record scene that aired on 2FM, late on Sunday night.

While recent years have, as Ryan suggested, seen an inundation of "news reports.... lamenting the death of the record store", the situation is not quite as grim or terminal as it might appear.

The concept of "shop-sharing" -- where independent record-sellers team up with existing retail or cultural spaces -- has emerged as a workable and sustainable alternative.

The clear passion and commitment of the numerous independent retailers Ryan spoke to was refreshing and infectious.

Equally enjoyable was Liam Geraghty's short piece on the Dublin Comic Jam for Monday's Culture File. As local cartoonist Paddy Lynch explained, the Jam is a monthly meet-up, held in the Lord Edward Pub in Christchurch, where artists gather to spontaneously create improvised comic strips... while knocking back a few social pints.

The atmosphere Geraghty captured was communal, laid-back and collaborative.

It all sounded inspiringly lively and lovely. Of course, it doesn't, as yet, have the official seal of approval from the eternally disapproving Mr D'Arcy, but I doubt anyone involved in this, or Magic Is Might, really gives a damn.