Peter Meets, Declan Buckley

 #AtsushiKaga He paints cartoon-like characters based on his childhood toys to whom he gives dark personalities. 

 #AtsushiKaga He paints cartoon-like characters based on his childhood toys to whom he gives dark personalities. 

Peter Meets, Declan Buckley.

Declan Buckley is a writer, broadcaster, entertainer and a drag artist from Dublin. He has a regular column in the magazine ‘GCN’ (the Gay Community News) were he has interviewed countless influential people from across all walks of life, along with writing a weekly column for a national newspaper, ‘The Star on Sunday’. Many of us know the familiar sound of Declan’s voice from giving advice to hundreds of strangers, far and wide, on The Sean Moncrieff show, ‘Moncrieff’ on ‘Newstalk’. In 2004 Declan became the host of ‘The National Lottery, Telly Bingo’, which has led him to become the ambassador for bingo in Ireland. Legs Eleven! He hosts three shows a week on RTE1, (Irelands most popular television channel). Declan went back to college in 2004 (-06) to do a master in digital media technologies including audio and video production, graphic design and web application development. With this new knowledge under his belt, he went on to design the app that is used for the game and to call out the balls for ‘Bingo with Shirley Temple Bar’ in The George, Dublin’s iconic gay bar on Georges St. Declan’s talent goes beyond the persona of ‘Shirley Temple Bar’ leading him to also producing the show. He designs and creates all promotional material, videos and posters.

Shirley Temple Bar became a permanent fixture of the gay scene in 1997 when she won ‘The Alternative Miss Ireland’ competition. A character that Declan birthed by accident, not by design. After winning her crown, Shirley went onto establishing ‘Bingo with Shirley Temple Bar’ in the George. In 2001 she caused a, very welcome and much-needed change across the face of Irish television, when she became the face and host of ‘The National Lottery, Telly Bingo’ on RTE1, bringing her into people’s homes throughout Ireland. In 2004 Shirley retired from hosting ‘Telly Bingo’ and Declan took over.

I asked Declan in 2007 if Shirley would pose for me as ‘The Virgin Mary’ in my ‘Saints and Sinners’ exhibition, he agreed, she would happily accept. Declan has been a constant in the lives of so many gay men and women since Shirley was born. His humour and wit are one of a kind when you hear him on the radio or as Shirley on stage you are left with a smile on across your face. I am such a fan of you!

When I was first introduced to Shirley Temple Bar in 2001, it was a night full of ‘firsts’; I had never seen a Drag Queen in real life, or been to a drag show, or even kissed another man. I wasn’t out a year at the time, I was completely terrified of who and what I was, I was only beginning to discover the man I was yet to become and a world where I finally belonged and knew nothing about! My manager from work at the time (also a gay) insisted I go with him to the ‘Bingo’ that Sunday night. I had heard so much about it and wanted to go so badly. We had front row seats, me with my ‘Meg Ryan’ hair at the time, sat waiting in anticipation for the show to start the minute we sat down. A couple of Martini and limes later, the lights went down and the iconic music introducing Shirley and the other Queens came on. The crowd erupted with applause and whoops, a spotlight guided Shirley onto the stage, and the show began. I hadn’t a clue how to play bingo at the time so I ended up sitting back and just watched it instead. That night I was to become one of Shirley’s biggest fans. Every time I go to the ‘Bingo’, which isn’t too often these days, unfortunately, the biggest smile appears on my face, I get transported to feelings of happy nostalgia, and my troubles melt away for a couple of hours, who doesn’t love escapism?


1. Do you have a favourite artist and what’s your favourite piece by them?

 I don’t know if I have a favourite artist but I am definitely more drawn to Modern art. If I had to pick an artist, I’d say Picasso. He experimented a lot with form over his career and some of his ideas are mind-blowing. I’ve seen a lot of his work up close but his painting ‘Guernica’, in the Sofia Reina Museum in Madrid, is so original and yet there’s something very primal and human about it. 


2. What was the last exhibition you went to? 

 n New York in November, I visited lots of the smaller modern and commercial galleries in Chelsea. Some of that stuff is nuts! I saw an exhibition on LGBT protest art at the New Museum, and there was a great show in the Guggenheim on 'Chinese Modern Art'. I also the went around Whitney Museum of American Art for the first time with their guide Jan Marlow, who did a really great job of making the tour fun and interesting.  


3. What’s your favourite book?

 I read a lot of novels, changing genres as the mood takes me. I’m currently on a James Baldwin binge. In non-fiction, I love Clive James’s ‘Cultural Amnesia’. I have re-read it loads of times because it’s so thought-provoking and full of information on all these incredible lives.


4. Who’s your icon?

 I don’t believe in heroes or icons. I think individual acts are worthy of praise and respect, but we all have feet of clay. 


5. I know you are an accomplished writer, entertainer, broadcaster and drag act, but do you like to dabble in a bit of painting every now and then?

Only on my face with make-up, where I’d say my style tends less to Vermeer than it does to Picasso: experimental, exaggerated and often with two eyes on one side of the face!


6. What influences you on a daily basis?

 I’m influenced by the people around me. Normally to open a bottle of wine.


7. What’s your favourite sound?

 My husband snoring in the bed beside me.


8. What has been the single most important event in your career so far?

It’s a bit dark but it was undoubtedly when my younger brother died. It was a massive shock to the system and changed my outlook (and possibly my personality) permanently. Death inspires people because it’s so final and once your life is touched by the death of a loved one, you see the world and its possibilities differently. 


9. What do you hope your contribution will bring to your community?

 Love. Money. Happiness. World Peace.


10. What is the hope for your audience when they encounter your work?

 That it won’t last too long! I tend to overstay my welcome…


11. Who has been the most influential person to you and your work?

 My parents. They always encourage and support me - and, over the years, thinking about their reaction has prevented some pretty bad choices.


12. If you could have dinner or a drink with someone, alive or dead who would it be?

 My brother Ciaran.


13. Do you think an artist needs to be tortured to create?  

No. I think an artist needs to have something to say. As well as the skills to be able to say it.


14. What was the first piece of art you bought?

I bought a small oil portrait from a second-hand shop when I was a teenager. It was cheap, probably terrible and now lost to the world – but I thought I was living the dream having an actual oil painting!


15. Where’s your favourite space to get creative in?

 I think where you work is not necessarily where you get inspired. I love libraries, museums and galleries for inspiration. Other people’s work, words and ideas get's me thinking and from there I have my own ideas. Turning an idea into reality is another thing!


16. What’s next for you?

  I’m celebrating 21 years as Shirley Temple Bar in 2018. With wine.


Thanks Declan, xx.


#ShirleyTempleBar 2009 'Saints and Sinners' exhibition #homanart

#ShirleyTempleBar 2009 'Saints and Sinners' exhibition #homanart

Peter Homan