Staring directly at the sun

The tag line for our film read; ’1 Boy, 1 Mum, 11 seconds of film footage every day for one year’. What could be so hard about that?

In many ways understanding what we had made with this film would depend on what it would feel like once audience was invited to view it and at this point it would too late to turn back. My initial fear was that it may feel too glaringly personal and revealing, like staring directly at the Sun.

This was all seriously uncharted territory for me and two weeks ago, as we were about to open ELEVEN at Tramway I found myself balancing precariously close to the edge of it all with trepidation. Yet within 24 hours of the first screening I found that I felt a kind of relief that I had not experienced before. Looking around the space that Isaac had designed (comfy sofas set up like our living room) I saw an audience I had wanted to see. There were people of all ages, young people like Isaac with ASN, parents, carers, loved ones and complete strangers, people from the arts community and health and education professionals –  all watching together. I could hear shared laughter at Isaac’s amazing sense of humour and a hush of quiet in the more confronting parts of the film.

What was most clear to me was how uplifting it all felt. I saw Isaac represented as a young person with a number of diagnoses but who is so much more than the sum of these ‘labels’. As with all young people- he defies classification. I also experienced the bringing together of two major parts of my life. It has been a huge struggle to maintain my work as an artist through the ups and down of being a mother the last 10 years and in many ways this will not change soon. But bringing them together by making Eleven made them feel part of the same process. This brought me to a clearer understanding of what I already knew; life is challenging but beautiful.

The response we have received from ELEVEN has been amazing and I am very grateful for the time people have taken to feedback their experience of watching our film. I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing how touched people have felt by Isaac’s resilience and the love that surrounds him.  I know that there is still an uphill journey ahead of us but I am excited about sharing our story. I am looking forward to where else we might go on to share the film and how it might bring awareness and understanding to the journey of being/parenting a child with complex needs. Right now I am feeling a force of pride and confidence in what we achieved – we have made this work together as mother and son, something that at many points of our lives together would have felt truly impossible.

So, onwards, ever onwards…. It turns out that this experience has not been unlike staring directly at the sun but the sun has felt to me to more of a soft, late autumn one and I am burning with love.

I would like to end with a sincere and heartfelt thank you my amazing family and the team of people who made this all possible. Here’s to Isaac Clark O’Malley in all his glorious 11 years.