Voice of her generation

George J. Mitchell Peace Scholar and ‘artivist’, Alana Daly Mulligan, says UCC has armed her not only with an academic education but with skills for life, which she hopes to use in making this planet, our society and our lives better. In conversation with Jane Haynes.

10 Dec 2019
Photography: Mike Hannon

I’m an artivist: someone who uses art to promote a particular social cause. My art is spoken-word poetry, film-making, and performing, and the causes I’m trying to promote are LGBTQ rights and gender equality through the creative and performing arts.

When I was younger, I joined The Little Red Kettle Theatre Company, and it gave me this grá for acting and writing. I read Shakespeare like nobody’s business, and the whole world, to me, was about being able to create and express yourself.

Coming from a school environment where you’re told that you must be A, B or C, I felt claustrophobic. I wanted to be able to be myself – and be many versions of myself, which is the great thing about acting and about literature: you can enter into the skin of any character.

I don’t think I ever wanted to be a leader – I wanted to be the role model that I didn’t have when I was 14 years old. I wanted to be the voice that didn’t exist for me as a kid. I have some of the most incredible mentors in my life, and I’ve worked with some fantastic leaders and met some wonderful young people who inspire me every day, and I’ve learned a lot from them. I see how other young people do it, and I want to do it like them so that we can all work together and make this planet, our society and our lives better.

I started writing because I was feeling really sad and I didn’t want to feel sadder. There is a real sisterhood in poetry, where you can be akin to someone else’s feelings. You make something beautiful out of something dark. If you’re creating, and you’re able to do something that makes someone else understand themselves a little better, then you’ll understand why you are yourself, a bit more, too.

"I wanted to be the role model that I didn’t have when I was 14 years old," says Alana.

Being part of Herstory was a huge deal. My image was projected onto the GPO in the capital, along with Countess Markievicz and so many other incredible Irish women. It was amazing to be considered a part of the change. It was a really big honour, a very surreal moment.

I’m in the University of Maine, US on my Erasmus year, on the George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship. I’ll be studying English and History but doing a lot of really interesting and different subjects that I’m passionate about, which I hope will fuel my activism and my academics as well.

UCC has been such a gift to me, the greatest adventure of my life; it really does provide a world-class education. There’s a huge academic part to that, but I have learned so much from the societies, my fellow Quercus Scholars, clubs. You learn all of these different skills, not just for an academic career – you learn for life, whether that’s how to boil an egg or how to start a campaign. All of it’s worthwhile, and you can learn it all here.

You don’t just come out of college with a piece of paper – it’s also about all the relationships you make and what you learn through clubs and societies. You could literally do anything, which is what a degree should be equipping you for.

I’m working on a lot of spoken-word short films at the moment, and I’ve also been very lucky to get a publishing deal. I’m really excited to make some more change with more amazing people, and I’m just very happy to be here. Cork has such a fire in its stomach for change, and it’s really exciting to watch this city grow as I grow.


The Quercus Talented Students Programme is supported by Ford. Follow this link for more information.

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