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Aoife O Ceallachain

Connor Jewell

It is early, near eight, and a group of students are holding posters against concrete walls and columns outside the James Joyce Library. The posters are lined with sellotape, ready to be stuck at the word ‘go’. People lean against the walls of the library facing the lake, hands in their pockets, 6ft of posters propped up with their bodies. We’re lucky it’s not the first week of a musical. The whole cast and crew come out for that, and they can run.

I remember thinking how on earth do you convince college students to stand outside in the freezing cold on a Thursday morning — for free? I couldn’t get my head around it when I first heard of it.

Postering is a quiet time, if you can overlook the squeaking of tape. We haven’t woken up yet, present but absent—minded. You can tell who crashed on campus, who slept in their office. We stand there shivering over a metal foot grate near the library doors. We talk to the person beside us about how cold it is, how hungover we are, how we won’t get our assignments in on time. Staff trickle through and take no notice. Students with headphones and gym bags pass us by on their way to the Student Centre.

The mood changes. Richard Butler appears over the horizon. Richard Butler, a name you have to say in full. He was the Societies Officer. The power he had over us was unparalleled. A god we were expected to worship. To fear. Perhaps envy. The man, the myth, the legend. He’s the one who announces when posters can be hung. Eager students squint their eyes to see him, listening through the wind for his command.

Again, I ask myself ‘Why are we all here?’ Why are we complicit in this strange power play, this absurd weekly ritual? We each had our reasons. Some are competing for places on next year’s committee. Some were promised free breakfast if they came. Some are looking to make friends outside their course. Ultimately, we all did it for the same reason — to be part of something, to belong.

So we come here, every Thursday morning. To tape posters in the dark and wait for a man to say go.