The sail rail experience

Other work

After reading my thoughts about surface travel, a few people have asked about the sail-rail trip to London from Dublin. Here’s some very practical notes from my experience for people who are thinking of giving it a go. I tend to travel on my own, so the notes reflect that.



  • There are two companies that run ferries Dublin to Holyhead that give the sail rail option: Irish Ferries and Stena Line. For entirely personal grudge reasons I prefer to sail with Irish Ferries. My friends in London sail with Stena because they say the boats are nicer. They’re wrong.
  • Stena calls it Rail & Sail. Irish Ferries calls it Sail & Rail. Essentially you get a very cut price rail ticket to anywhere in the UK alongside your foot passenger ferry ticket to use on the same day as your sailing. Dublin-London on Irish Ferries is about €53 one way. Obviously you can go somewhere other than London – this just the route I know well.
  • Neither of the websites make it very easy to book. Stena only takes Rail & Sail bookings over the phone. Irish Ferries website sometimes defaults to just a ferry ticket while you’re booking online. I’ve been caught out a couple of times.
  • Having accidentally turned up to the port with just a ferry ticket a couple of times (see above), I’ve converted it to a Sail & Rail ticket at the desk there before checking in. It didn’t cost any more than booking it online.
  • Taking the Irish Ferries ferry that leaves around 8am from Dublin Port gets you into London Euston at about 4pm. Coming back you can take a train at about 9am from Euston and (all going well) get in to Dublin Port at around 5.30pm. You can check connecting train times on Trainline.
  • There are buses that do the same journey for a bit cheaper. They only do overnights, and only on certain nights of the week. It’s definitely not worth the saving you make.
  • I will never take a night sailing if I can help it. It’s beyond grim.


Getting to Dublin Port

  • I try to remember to check the sailing updates before I travel. If the weather is really bad they might cancel the ferry.
  • I usually take a taxi to Dublin Port. There is a bus from the city centre but at that time in the morning I prefer the luxury of paying for more sleep. Just make sure you tell the driver which ferry company you’re sailing with – they leave from different terminals.
  • They’ve recently reconfigured the route to the ferry terminals and it now seems like it would be a safer cycle.
  • They say to check in at the ferry terminal an hour before. 45 mins and even half an hour seems to be fine.
  • As an Irish citizen I think I just need photo ID like a driving licence, though I always take my passport just in case.


On the ferry

  • There’s two Irish Ferries ferries – the Swift and the Ulysses. There’s an outside deck on the Ulysses for some fresh air. It’s always nice to see the Poolbeg chimneys as you pass.
  • I aim to get a comfy bench seat on the ferry where I can settle myself in for the journey. Then I can lie down for a nap if I like. I never sit near the children’s playcentre.
  • In the winter the ferry can be cold, so I bring something warm to wear. It can also be noisy, especially if there’s a lot of families travelling with kids, so I pack earplugs.
  • I only ever travel with hand luggage that I can carry easily, but you can also check bags in. There’s no liquid restrictions etc. Yay!
  • Brexit means duty free on the ferry is back. Also yay!
  • The ferry is generally very stable. In bad weather it might roll a little. It never bothers me, but then I don’t ever get travel sick.


On the train

  • You don’t get a booked seat on the train. So if the train is busy I guess you risk having to stand. That said, I’ve never had to. But I don’t often get a seat at a table. All seats have a little flip down table that fits my laptop.
  • You can bring a bike on the sail rail. I’ve never done it but I’ve been told it’s essential to book a train space for the bike. There’s no extra cost but spaces are limited. Also the bike spaces themselves are very confined; a regular bike just fits, though probably not an e-bike. (Thanks Joe Noonan for the info.)
  • The train either goes direct or (more likely) there’s a change at Crewe and/or Chester.
  • The north coast of Wales is lovely. Sit on the left hand side leaving Holyhead for the best sea views. And the train goes by (and under) the very impressive 750 year old Conwy Castle.
  • Also it’ll pass over the Bridego bridge, south of Milton Keynes, which is where the Great Train Robbery happened in the 1960s.


Doing things and paying for things

  • I try to have a plan for LOTS of engaging things to do while I travel. I can’t stress this enough. Work, books, films, podcasts, craft projects, playing cards, etc. The longest journeys are the ones where I’ve ended up scrolling on my phone. They’re painful.
  • Beware relying on wifi. On Irish Ferries you get 20 mins free, and you can pay after that. On the trains wifi is free but not very good. I’m with Vodafone and there’s no extra roaming charges for using my phone in the UK (though in the middle of the sea there’s no service so I can’t hotspot anyway). Update: thanks to Sheila de Courcy for noting that there’s an area on the Irish Sea that turned out wasn’t covered by her roaming contract although she got signal. Cue terrifying bill. Be warned.
  • There’s sockets for chargers everywhere. Sometimes there’s even wireless charging points built into the tables on the trains.
  • I find that having Revolut is by far the easiest way to deal with sterling. You don’t ever have to have any actual currency, and they don’t charge an exchange fee. And you can use you card to tap on and off public transport in London. Win. (The only time you might need cash is in Bargains Galore in Holyhead – see below.)
  • Generally I find this way of travelling pretty tiring. I take naps when I can. I try to remember, and usually forget, to pack an eye mask. I don’t bother carrying a neck pillow. Roll up a jacket or something.


Eating and drinking

  • As much as possible, I bring food, snacks and drinks with me. It’s much nicer and I save a fortune. Even if I can’t pack my own lunch, I buy food somewhere far from the stations/ferry terminal as the quality will pretty much always be better.
  • I bring a refillable water bottle. Sometimes I bring a hot drink in a flask. I try to always bring a reusable coffee cup for when I buy takeaway coffee. And I smugly unwrap my toast and jam breakfast on the ferry from a beeswax wrap.
  • There’s no food in Dublin Port at 7am.
  • There’s a coffee dock and a canteen on board the ferry. Food is overpriced and very not good.
  • In Holyhead port there’s a small shop with package sandwiches, hot drinks, crisps and chocolate. If I have time, I cross the ugly chrome footbridge into Holyhead proper and go to the Coop supermarket – left on the high street.
  • The trains usually have hot drinks and snacks on board, and there’s station shops and cafés in Crewe and Chester.
  • In Euston there’s a M&S just outside the front that’s handy for stocking up on food for the return journey. But I try to get a fresh sandwich from some deli en route to the station.
  • There’s decent coffee from a stall outside the front of Euston by the big departures boards.


When things go wrong (and they do)

  • If I’m ever stuck for a long period at Crewe, Chester, or Holyhead, I go out and explore. So much better than waiting on a platform. Packing light helps for this.
  • It’s very hard to find things to love in Holyhead. But I do wistfully scout for pub grub, bleak takeaways and cafes when I’m stuck there for any length of time. Also, since I like my shops weird, dusty, and full of dated plastic treasures, I try to buy something from Bargains Galore. I think it only takes cash.
  • If your train is significantly delayed you can apply for a refund to Avanti West Coast who run the train from Holyhead.
  • If something goes wrong and you miss a sailing, you can sometimes get on the next sailing even if it’s run by the other ferry company. Not sure how reliable or official this is, but it has happened to me.
  • Worst case scenario: you miss the ferry back to Dublin from Holyhead and they put you on a night ferry. In that situation, I’d try to book a cabin asap. I’ve ended up trying to sleep on a sofa in an over-lit and under-heated ferry while drunk people shout around me. All night. It’s the pits. Alternatively you could see if they’ll put you on a morning ferry and try to book a B&B in Holyhead. I’ve never done this. It also sounds grim, but at least you might get some sleep.
  • Generally I’ve found that people who take the ferry are quite up for having a chat, if that’s your kind of thing.


Getting away from Dublin Port

  • I’m usually tired arriving back in to Dublin Port and it’s the worst part of the journey because the transport options from there are so poor.
  • If you have someone who can pick you up from the ferry terminal, that’s the absolute best (though make sure they know which company you’re sailing with so they go to the right terminal).
  • If you want a taxi you’ll need to book one on a taxi app to come out to the terminal because they don’t come without being booked. I book it as soon as I’m coming off the ferry so I don’t have to wait too long.
  • There is a Nolans bus that goes to the city centre for €3 that is old and decrepit, and sometimes it waits around if another ferry is coming in just after yours. So it’s hard to tell how long it might take. The driver takes cards and cash.
  • There’s also a Dublin Bus but I’ve never taken it since it goes all over East Wall before getting into the city centre.
  • As a very, very, very last ditch option (and if you don’t have too many bags) it is possible to walk from the terminal to the Luas at the Point in about 45 minutes. I’ve had to do it once after dark – not hugely recommended. Though walking in the Port is kind of fascinating if you’re into urban landscapes and aren’t too easily spooked.
  • Once I get home I fix myself a drink from my duty free spoils. At that point I usually need it.

A month in Finland

Artwork, Other work

In September 2019 I was accepted on a month-long residency at Arteles Creative Centre in rural Finland. It was a magical time, that in retrospect has changed my life in a quiet way.

My stay at Arteles felt like it might be a stepping off point, but I don’t know yet where I’m stepping off to. I don’t usually make work on my own, so this was a challenge and an opportunity for me to see what kind of things emerged from myself alone. (The next challenge for me is to work out what to do with some of these thoughts and potential projects. What form they take, and where/how I can show them. That’s the hard part…)

I came with no specific project in mind and tried to listen hard and follow interesting thoughts as they appeared. I took photographs, I came across unexpected new friends, I made things with my hands and gave them away, I wrote things and kept them to myself, I drew things and burned the drawings, I cycled very slowly and waved at passing cars.

I thought a lot about hospitality, about obligation, about misremembered colours, about hugs, about being happily lost in translation, about rowan trees, about things in pairs. I tried to think about my brain from the inside. I tried to recalibrate how I think about the body that carries that brain around. I tried not to think about what to do with all these thoughts.

For the month we had no phones and limited internet, and being removed from the world was pure pleasure. It felt good to be among people who were always fully present. It felt good to be warmed through by the sauna. I was happily selfish and missed no one. I stopped reading the news, and haven’t started again. I ate too much smoked salmon. I saw the northern lights.

Being introduced to meditation and starting a daily practice gave me something new that I’ve taken into my Dublin life. The beautiful land, the changing clouds, and the little gravel roads around Haukijärvi are still in my thoughts every day. I’m very grateful for the lessons in how to be still and quiet and present.

After I came back I found it difficult to explain what I’d been up to for the four weeks. A friend said to me – you basically let yourself be an artist for a month. And he’s right, I did.

Two years of talking

Event coordination, Other work

My website has been quite neglected of late. But I have a good excuse in the form of #WakingTheFeminists.

Other than all the practical logistics of being involved in the core team that coordinated the whole campaign (that small thing), I also dove head-first into the world of public speaking – not something I took to easily, but managed to get through it thanks to a lot of peer support and endless preparation. I hadn’t spoken much in public before, at all. All I can say is that it gets easier (and even enjoyable) over time – and I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity for a lot of practice over the past two years.

Here’s (more or less) all the things I’ve spoken at to date in relation to #WakingTheFeminists – from small groups of students in seminar rooms, to 1500+ people in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. There are probably a few I’ve missed, but you get the idea.

And that doesn’t count radio, TV or print media interviews. But that’s a whole other story…

Photo by Kate Horgan

  • #WakingTheFeminists public meeting, Abbey Theatre 2015
  • Theatre Upstairs post show discussion 2015
  • Trinity Drama & Theatre studies Contemporary Irish Theatre in Context seminars 2015 & 16
  • NUI Galway seminars 2015 & 16
  • Theatre of Change Symposium presentation, Abbey Theatre 2016
  • UCD Arts Administration seminar 2016
  • Lir Academy seminar 2016
  • Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards acceptance speech, National Concert Hall 2016
  • IETM plenary meetings, Amsterdam, Valencia, Bucharest 2015-17
  • #WakingTheFeminists Spring Forward public event, Liberty Hall 2016
  • TCD Law Society panel discussion 2016
  • F Festival panel discussion, Back Loft 2016
  • Luoghi Comuni Festival panel discussion, Milan 2016
  • Dublin Junior Chamber International awards 2016
  • Offset panel discussion, Bord Gais Energy Theatre 2016
  • Drogheda Arts Festival ‘Dissenters’ event 2016
  • Gaiety School of Acting seminar 2016
  • Nottingham European Arts and Theatre Festival presentation 2016
  • All Ireland Performing Arts Conference panel discussion, Town Hall Theatre Galway 2016
  • Body and Soul Festival, panel discussion 2016
  • Visual Arts Workers Forum presentation, Gluksman Gallery, 2016
  • Cork Midsummer Festival presentation, Triskel 2016
  • Inspirefest presentation, Bord Gais Energy Theatre 2016
  • UC Berkeley seminar Dublin 2016
  • Culture Night panel discussion for RTE Arena, Dublin Castle 2016
  • University of Limerick seminar 2016
  • Creative Minds series panel discussion, US Ambassador’s residence 2016
  • #WakingTheFeminists One Thing More event, Abbey Theatre 2016
  • Sibeal Conference in conversation, NUI Galway 2016
  • TCD Philosophical Society presentation 2017
  • Creative Ireland Gender Policy workshop 2017
  • Women of the World festival presentation & panel discussion, Hull 2017
  • Rough Magic’s ‘The Train’ panel discussion, Abbey Theatre 2017
  • Circus & Gender conference presentation, Mercat de los Flores Barcelona 2017
  • Arts Council’s Future Retrospectives panel discussion, Science Gallery 2017
  • UCD theatre studies seminar 2017
  • Sandymount Study Group & Curious Dolls Study Group presentations 2017
  • Sugarglass Theatre post show discussion 2017
  • Pori Theatre Festival in conversation, Finland 2017




NCAD evening class exhibition

Other work

For the past two years I’ve been taking evening classes in the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and this year I did a course called Drawing and Sculptural Processes.

I submitted some pieces for the end of year exhibition at NCAD this July, and won the “ESU Extra Prize” – one of ten prizes awarded for outstanding work. Here are two of the pieces that were exhibited.

Untitled I

Untitled I

A Place for Everything

A Place for Everything


Ireland mapping report for IETM

Other work

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 18.05.02Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the secretariat of the IETM international network to write a ‘mapping’ report that outlines the current situation of the contemporary performing arts in Ireland. Incredibly difficult to distill it all down, but I had a go.

Here it is in all its sweeping, unsubtle, gap-filled glory.

(Thanks to Cian O’Brien of Project Arts Centre for being the outside eye and reassuring me that you’d never guess from reading it that I was a left-leaning liberal.)

IETM Bergamo 2015

Other work

Thanks to a Travel and Training grant from the Arts Council, I was able to get to the Spring Plenary of the IETM network in the Italian hilltop city of Bergamo earlier this year. Surprisingly beautiful, seeing as it’s the Ryanair Beauvais of Milan.

A room with a view

A room with a view

This was a very active meeting for me, and not just on the cheese-eating front. Firstly – the small cobbled streets of the old town were great for networking. As well as catching up with lots of old faces, I met lots of new ones too. Great cheese-based meals were had lovely new contacts including Christian Barry of 2b theatre (Nova Scotia), Ravi Jain of Why Not Theatre (Toronto), Kate Denborough of Kage (Melbourne), Riccardo Fazi of MutoImago (Rome), Linda Di Pietro of Terni Festival, and Tim Stitz of Chamber Made Opera (Melbourne) among others.

I was asked to work with Grzegorz Reske, a Polish cultural manager and curator, to facilitate a discussion he’d proposed on retiring – why, when and how to step away from a project or organisation, particularly one that you have built up around yourself. This turned out to be a much more live topic than I’d appreciated, with lots of insightful and honest contributions from Judith Knight of ArtsAdmin, Gavin Quinn of Pan Pan, Fabio Feretti of Association Etre, Chrissie Poulter of TCD and many more.

Two things that still stick in my mind from this session: Massimo Mancini of Teatro Stabile in Cagliari, Sardinia saying that his working rule is to stay 4 years for something that already exists and 7 years for something he’s created himself. And Liz Pugh of Walk The Plank in Salford talking about the need for a funeral at the end of a project – thinking about whether the body is present or not, whether the mourner have a furious wake or whether everyone slips away home after the ceremony without making eye-contact.

I was also asked to be a participant in the Mentor Room session, where you’re paired with a second mentor and talk for a couple of hours with someone who has a question about their practice. In reality it’s more along the lines of coaching than mentoring, and was an exercise in listening and asking questions, rather than giving advice or opinion. It was great to talk to a young Italian woman about her struggles in deciding how to be both an artist herself (a dancer) and a producer for other people’s. Familiar territory.

Finally, I did a 3 minute presentation as part of the Newsround session to talk about the website I’ve been working on for Irish Theatre Institute highlighting Irish designers for stage and screen. You can see details of everyone who presented at that session here. Thankfully there’s a long-standing IETM tradition of giving newsround participants a shot of the local strong alcohol (grappa in this case) after their 3 minutes are up, because I was bricking it.

My favourite non-art thing that happened was being semi-kidnapped for 20 minutes by a local Bergamasco man who I could barely understand, and being force marched with Gavin Quinn & Aoife White to walk around and photograph the town’s cathedral from every possible angle.

Not true. My favourite non-art thing was the cheese.

2015-04-26 19.24.11

A nice wall. Not the cathedral.