Category: Performance & Poetry

Finding Bridget

Maz O’Connor came to the Festival’s attention in 2018 when she discovered and shared the history she had unearthed about her family’s Irish connections.

Those findings inspired her next album, Chosen Daughter and a feature we ran (article on page 24). Maz played as part of our Visible Women in 2019 and last year, told us how she had uncovered the story of Bridget Cleary and was writing a piece of work that would bear witness to her story (link, page 26). We pick up with Maz, as she and her team work through Covid-19; testing songs, text and stage directions to help master storytelling, production values and character complexities, to find Bridget and pay tribute to her life. >>>


Image: Musicians working on Maz O’Connor’s musical theatre piece (c) Matt Jolly.

Background

Since 2017, I’ve been working on a piece of music theatre based on the remarkable true story of Bridget Cleary, a woman from Co. Tipperary who, in 1895, was burned to death by her husband and family because they believed her to be a fairy changeling. The fairy ritual they performed was intended to bring ‘the real Bridget’ home, but, instead, she was killed.

As I wrote in my piece of October 2020, the Liverpool Irish Festival has been supporting me through the development of this project. Festival Director Emma Smith offered me mentorship when we first went into lockdown, and helped me move the piece to the next stage: collaborating on the script with London-based Irish writer Alan Flanagan, and giving the project a week’s research and development (R&D) at Britain Pears Arts (Snape Maltings, Suffolk).

Supportive spaces

Britten Pears Arts have been supporting me as a composer for a few years, and when I wrote to them about the project and explained that what I needed most was space and a week to explore with other creatives, they invited me to R&D the piece at their concert hall. The residency was would feature as part of their annual Festival of New (27 Feb 2021, programme here), for which they invite artists across different disciplines to develop something that takes them out of their comfort zone. The emphasis is on taking creative risks. In 2020, though, we were faced with risk of a different kind.

The offer was made in the Summer, and the residency was booked for September. I was so excited, but for those few weeks in between—with the constant changes to the rules around COVID-19—I wouldn’t let myself believe it was actually going to happen until we were in the concert hall at Snape Maltings. I invited director Tinuke Craig, movement director Martin Bassindale, the aforementioned dramaturg Alan Flanagan, seven actor/singers, and two musicians, hoping all the time that we’d actually be able to meet and explore the piece together. Thankfully, we were; albeit with two metres between us at all times.

Image: Our home for the week.

Collaboration

Once we’d all settled into Snape, the two-metre rule didn’t get in the way of how thrilled we all were to be making something. After such a stressful year, it felt very special to be collaborating with such talented creative people, and to have such a rich story to explore. The moment I heard the musicians start up, I was giddy with excitement. Besides the fact that it had been months since I’d heard live music of any kind, hearing what I’d written manifested by these fantastic players made me realise what magical potential the piece might have.

 

Image: Violinist Nicola Lyons and guitarist David Delarre, at their socially-distanced musicians’ station.

Open processes

The aims of the week were a little uncertain even as it began. Although we were aware that a film maker was coming in on the Friday to record us for the Festival of New, we decided early that we were not going to try and produce some version of part of the show. We only had a week, after all; but more than that, we wanted to use the time to play and explore, not fix things down.

The time at Snape was very special in that they didn’t expect anything from us at the end: no production, not even a particular outcome. And that’s very unusual in the arts, which is a shame, because sometimes I find that the pressure of an outcome actually makes the work worse.

You rush into decisions that don’t serve the piece because the deadline causes panic and it’s a relief to find any solutions at all. It’s important in creative work to allow time to let things grow and change. Because once things are fixed down, you become attached to them, and it’s very difficult to jettison them later, even if you can see that they’re all wrong. It would be like learning to cook a meal before exploring the basics of flavours: you can cook one meal, sure, but whether you like it or not, you’ve no idea how to change it. And besides, I still only had a first draft of the songs, and a very rough idea of scenes and dialogue. I needed to stay open to major changes in the plot, characterisation, and style (a challenge to my ego, but the best thing for the piece!) so that I could come out of the R&D able to write a decent second draft.

I also had lots of things I wanted to try out musically with the actor-singers, having never heard the songs I’d written except in my own demos, where I’d layered up my own voice on my recording software to represent a group of characters.

Outside expertise

Tinuke was keen to explore the theatrical language of the piece; how it might look and—with Martin’s input—how it might move. She was particularly interested in how to dramatically express the fairies, especially to an audience who might not be familiar with the specificities of Irish folklore. How naturalistic was the piece going to be? Did we need named characters and an ensemble, or could we work with a core group of actor-singers who moved between roles?

Alan wanted to me to make sure that the themes of the piece were as realised as possible; namely the fairies, Irish nationalism, and the role of the Catholic Church in this community. He gave us a series of fascinating presentations on these themes, and led discussions afterwards that really helped me to anticipate what an audience’s reaction to them might be.

A series of exercises led by Tinuke helped very much with my questions on character. She created Bridget’s village, Ballyvadlea, in the concert hall, and had the actor-singers move through 24 hours of their typical day. So much content was generated for me out of that single exercise. Bridget’s aunt Mary, for example, had a bad hip, and her cousin, Johanna, was stuck inside all day looking after her children and older brothers. I saw how each meal had to be made from scratch, how every drop of water had to be fetched from the well. This was a hard life. These details told me a lot about these people and their world, and were woven into my second draft.

The first song we got onto its feet was the opening number: Trouble Always Comes to a Woman Like That. This introduces Bridget to the audience. It is three days since she went missing, and the villagers gossip about her marriage, her fondness for the fairies, and her ‘wild ways’.

Martin laid a grid out on the stage and there were certain rules about how the actor-singers could move within it. The effect was reminiscent of ritualistic movement, and very effective. A theatrical language was glimpsed.

Image: Nicola teaching the basics of Irish step dancing to the group.

Fruitful developments

At the end of the week, our draft of the first twenty minutes of the show was filmed and recorded live. It’s immensely helpful for the development of the piece to have this record. The footage, edited to include an interview with me, will be featured as part of Britten Pears’ Arts’ digital Festival of New on 27 Feb. Although COVID-19 continues to disrupt the piece’s development, I hope it won’t be too long before we’ll have a full production on the way. Perhaps by next St Brigid’s Day.

 

Image: The end of a fruitful week.

<<< The Liverpool Irish Festival supports artists at various stages in their career, sharing their journey with you to help inspire others and to demonstrate what a substantial commitment it is to be an artist. Maz’s tenacity, work ethic and clarity of vision -to tell a hard-to-hear story- has brought her to this point and helped forge creative connections that may last a lifetime. To have achieved this, under the imposed restrictions of 2020, is to be applauded!

Finding Bridget, via character interpretation, song and improvisation is time consuming. It also requires an ability to process sources, interpret stimuli and a team commitment to bring the world to life. Despite being over 125 years old, Bridget’s story is, sadly, one that continues to chime today. Misuses of education and folklore continue to influence murderous and abusive practices, specifically to harm women. Thus, it is an important story, told by a brave voice, that needs to be heard and understood by those with a power to make change. We continue to work with Maz in the hope of bringing this musical theatre piece to Liverpool, when it is possible, and to paying homage to Bridget’s experience. We hope you’ll join us.

This article’s production was funded by the Irish Government‘s Emigrant Support Programme‘s creative community fund.

#CreativeCommunity

Since the onset of Covid-19, cultural organisations and artists have suffered a lack of creative opportunities because of restrictions on arts venues and engagements. #CreativeCommunity is a once-off initiative by the Embassy of Ireland to Great Britain, the Consulate General of Ireland (Cardiff), and the Consulate General of Ireland (Edinburgh) that provided creative opportunities for Irish artists living in Britain to produce cultural content, shared online. Through Creative Community, the Embassy of Ireland in London and the Consulates General in Edinburgh and Cardiff have supported arts and culture-focused projects with eight organisations, directly engaging with at least 40 Irish creatives across Britain to produce and show their work.

The artists Liverpool Irish Festival has commissioned using this programme, include: Cathy Carter / Andrew ConnallyEdy Fung (via Art Arcadia)Alison Little / Maz O’ConnorCiara Ní ÉThe Sound Agents. The links will take you to the individual commissions.

Lockdown Lights: The Simmy

In solitude I came at last on this exhausted ground,
Of tarmac, stone and railing
Where sandstone pillars bear quiet testament
To this abandoned field.
Sweet soil, that once gave birth to daffodils and snowdrops
To mark each year the hope of spring.
Now you lie trampled underfoot and barren
To hold on our behalf the burdens of the past,
As if it is that easy to forget.
Is there prospect of redemption here?
Should I stretch out upon this ground, as is the tradition,
To weep my tears into the soil?
Claw the senseless earth
Conjure it to life and claim it back?

Is there a city underneath this hardened skin?
Where souls more bone than flesh
Once came to rest here in the heart of Vauxhall,
America for them a dream too far?
No stones, no stunted grass or tarmac grit can now remember.
Nor children, nor passers-by.
Who now recalls that here a church once stood
To proclaim this derelict burial ground
Where old dead bones still tremble to the rhythm of the lorries’ thunder?

Here, your dignity in death was the kindness of strangers.
The grandeur of the church not granted,
The sky became your vaulted canopy
The salty mist your unction.
The merciful dark your coffin.
In threadbare winding sheet, by single candle-light,
They passed you down from hand to hand
Their solemn prayers each whispered to the wind.

Do lingering bones still cower here
Like the jagged ribs of some old shipwreck?
Are there skulls? Each an empty tabernacle
That once cradled memories of a life?
Here in this no-man’s -land
Light as a feather you were left.
And as they lowered you,
Might one last breath
Have been released,
To wing into the western sky
And escape this ground forever?

Written and provided by Greg Quiery, poet, historian and author.


Lockdown Lights is an open source project, collecting community stories about people’s experience of the lockdown during the 2020 Coronavirus restrictions. The project was funded by the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme Covid-19 relief fund. We would like to thank all the participants and the Irish Government for their support.

Lockdown Lights: Eavan Boland tribute

Celebrated poet Eavan Boland passed away during 2020. To mark her passing and to the reflect the Coronavirus lockdown reegulations, we selected her poem, Quarantine, as one of two poems we asked people to record themselves reading and send back to us. The followin film was presented and debuted at the Festival’s digital #LIF2020 launch on 15 Oct 2020.

Quarantine

Eavan Boland, born Dublin, Ireland 1944-died Dublin, Ireland 2020.

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland.
Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland.
Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton.
All rights reserved.


Lockdown Lights is an open source project, collecting community stories about people’s experience of the lockdown during the 2020 Coronavirus restrictions. The project was funded by the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme Covid-19 relief fund. We would like to thank all the participants and the Irish Government for their support.

Lockdown Lights: We Must Create

As part of our Lockdown Lights project, we selected two poems and invited people to record themselves reading them, so we could geneate a film, to share as part of this year’s digtal launch.

Active, positive and full of creative hope, Stephen James Smith’s poem We Must Create was selected in counterpoint to Eavann Bolanf’s Quarantine. We thank Stephen for allowing us to use the poem and share his version below. Loo jout for our film from 15 Oct 2020.


We must create to know who we can be
I say this for you, I say this for me
We must create to know who we can be

Early beginnings, heart beat warmth and you
First breath, eyes open a new point of view
Hands touch, ears hear, clocks ticking I am who?
We must create to know who we can be

Screaming out from within with a voice here
Notes flowing on air lulling the fear
Melody all around this atmosphere
We must create to know who we can be

Hearing truth in onomatopoeia
Boom, boom, belch, zoom, zap, playing with grandpa
While cookie cutting, baking for grandma
We must create to know who we can be

From scrawling with crayons to Lego bricks
From knitting needles, soft textile fabrics
To air-guitaring auld Jimi Hendrix
We must create to know who we can be

There are creative accountants, CVs
Tinder profiles where you look the bees knees
But best not to force it, it comes with ease
We must create to know who we can be

We heard a song sung, it helped ease the pain
We didn’t feel so lonesome as we sang the refrain
We forgot that feeling until we heard it again
We must create to know who we can be

From nursery rhymes to white collar crimes
What have you to say in uncertain times?
Have you a chance to change the paradigms?
We must create to know who we can be

Do you remember the time you heard an opening allegro
Or when that beat dropped and how it made your head go?
Some things make no sense unless you’re in flow
We must create to know who we can be

You may rise then fall, or fall then rise
An arc of a story contains no surprise
But how you tell it, therein the art lies
We must create to know who we can be

Artistry gives rise to community
We’re all part of a changing tapestry
There’s art history in identity
We must create to know who we can be

If you do it for the money you’ll be called a fraud
If you think you’re great company and you might be God
Delusions of grandeur aren’t that odd
We must create to know who we can be

There’s all sorts of forms, disciplines, levels
To challenge yourself in the intervals
Where you’ll find rivals and reasons for approvals
We must create to know who we can be

If it’s saved you from yourself
And now there’s no other way
It doesn’t matter how it moved you, welcome to the ballet
You’ve just found the peak of Parnassus, fair play!

We must create to know who we can be
I say this for you, I say this for me
We must create to know who we can be
We must create to know who we can be.

From Here Now by Stephen James Smith.
Copyright © 2019 by Stephen James Smith.
Reprinted by permission of Pace Print and the poet.
All rights reserved.


Lockdown Lights is an open source project, collecting community stories about people’s experience of the lockdown during the 2020 Coronavirus restrictions. The project was funded by the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme Covid-19 relief fund. We would like to thank all the participants and the Irish Government for their support.

Lockdown Lights: On Exchange Flags

Back in old glory days, long since forgotten,
The flags here were smothered in snowy white cotton.
Soft as a carpet beneath merchant feet
King Cotton was plenty, King Cotton was cheap
It came by the Mersey, it came by the seas
By white canvass aloft in the westering breeze.
By Liverpool sailors, nimble and yar
Tough as mahogany, weathered as tar.

It came from the rivers, it came from the mud
It came from the kick and the stick and the blood
It came from the work line, the whip, the plantations
It came from the fracture and breaking of nations.
For cotton is gentle, fragile and light
Cotton is pure and pristine and white.
But the commerce of cotton, darker than death
Would barter your soul and crush your last breath.

It went by the engine, the steam and the rail
It went by the hundredweight, bail over bail
It went by Manchester, Bury and Preston
Blackburn and Bolton, and Darwen and Nelson
Where there’s brass for the boss, and poor spinning Jenny
Works hour by long hour for less than one penny.
Where the air is so thick it smothers the lung
And thundering loom drowns the Lancashire tongue.

Cotton by boll, by bag and by bale
For smocks and for shirts, for duck cloth and sail.
Cotton for mills, for ships and plantations
Enriching mill owners, impoverishing nations
Cotton for tyranny, hardship and slavery
Cotton for unions, resistance and bravery
Back in its glory days, long since forgotten
It came by the Mersey, that snowy white cotton.

Written an provided by Greg Quiery (20 Aug 2018), poet, historian and author.


Lockdown Lights is an open source project, collecting community stories about people’s experience of the lockdown during the 2020 Coronavirus restrictions. The project was funded by the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme Covid-19 relief fund. We would like to thank all the participants and the Irish Government for their support.

This poem was offered specifically in relation to the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020 following the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA on 25 May 2020. Black Lives Matter. Full stop.

The Strangest of Irish love stories

In:Visible Women have long been a focus of the Festival. We’ve seen many unveiled over the years; often the equally strong partner of a famous man (such as Constance Markievicz or Maude Gonne). Alternatively, they have had their light diminished because they did not fit the social-stereotype (Eva Gore-Boothe) or threatened the patriarchal order (Kitty Wilkinson) or their time. Gradually they are coming in to the light. Here, Helix Productions offer some additional background to their play Mrs Shaw Herself, a production we are moving in to the digital arena for #LIF2020 and hope you will attend.


“I found that my own objection to marriage had ceased with my objection to my own death”
George Bernard Shaw on his marriage to Charlotte Payne-Townshend in 1898

Let’s face it, this does not sound the most romantic start to a marriage; especially if you throw in that the groom and bride were both over 40 with a disdain for -if not downright aversion to- sexual activity. Add further that the groom was one of the most famous men in the world, at that time, and an avowed philanderer (albeit more on the page than in the sheets) and we can but wonder at how this marriage lasted over 40 years, ending with Charlotte’s death. Shaw once said “I could never have married anyone else”. So how is it that we know so little about her?

Creators and performers of Mrs Shaw Herself –Alexis Leighton and Helen Tierney- have found that after performances of the show, audience members frequently come up to tell them they were in fact unaware Shaw was married. Yet Charlotte’s is a fascinating story. It was a mammoth achievement to stay married to the Nobel Prize and Oscar-winning Shaw, in itself, but Charlotte needs to be remembered and indeed celebrated for so much more.

Like Shaw, she played an active part in the early Fabian movement, but it was her money -and it is her name- which gave the London School of Economics their beautiful Shaw Library. She gave financial assistance to many women who were studying medicine and supported the suffrage movement. She not only assisted Shaw with secretarial work, but in his research for plays; notably St Joan. Shaw thanked her with a commission of a St Joan statue to grace their garden at Ayot Saint Lawrence. She read voraciously and enjoyed an intimate and frank relationship with T.E. Lawrence, taking on a quasi-maternal confidence with him in letters.

Shaw and Payne-Townshend’s story is the most maverick of Irish love stories. Charlotte was born in Cork to an incredibly rich family; by coincidence George had worked briefly as a clerk in a land-registry office, owned by her family firm. She had given up on marriage, after failed love affairs, when she met Shaw and our show tells of the twists and turns of their courtship, noted by eagle-eyed Fabian Beatrice Webb. The marriage had its challenges. Shaw could not resist a pretty face and whilst it hardly ever led to physical contact, Charlotte sometimes felt the need to take him on long holidays abroad just to get him away, especially from actresses. Shaw’s infamous affair with Mrs Patrick Campbell was a particular low point, but the marriage weathered it and if nothing else, Mrs Shaw Herself is a lilting (and sometimes keening) Irish song of praise to the long-haul of marital love.

The Liverpool Irish Festival’s theme of “exchange” is embedded in the story of Mrs Shaw Herself. Both Payne-Townshend and Shaw exchanged Ireland for England, but never lost a sense of their roots. They were prominent in support of a united Ireland and of Roger Casement. As Irish Protestants in a sea of Englishness their outsider status brought with it an independent, if not downright maverick stance to life and matters; it is this element that many love in Shaw’s plays. Charlotte exchanged -as did George- a life-long suspicion of marriage for a compromise in what seems to be a celibate, but ultimately loving and supportive relationship. He did not exchange, however, her feminist stance and her determination to use her fortune -in part- to better the lives of women and, most importantly, to create systems for that. The care she took in supervising her scholarships at the LSE and the London School of Medicine is quite astounding. Whilst researching the play, Leighton and Tierney were given access to the wonderful collection at the LSE of photos taken by Shaw. You get a real sense of partnership and affection through the pictures; this between two very independent people.

Mrs Shaw Herself has been performed in many locations; cathedrals, theatres, libraries, centres and even at the wedding of Charlotte’s great-great niece Elisabeth Townshend. It was good to hear Charlotte’s words ring out in the Shaw Library for a conference on women at our LSE performance and at the church in Shaw’s home village of Ayot at which the organ, which Shaw occasionally played, sounded at Charlotte’s funeral scene as described in Shaw’s letters. We have taken the show to various festivals including Bloomsbury, Edinburgh, Crouch End, Watford and Bury St Edmunds, but it is wonderful now to bring an online version of the show to the Liverpool Irish Festival. Do come and hear the voice of the woman who was not only Mrs Shaw Herself, but so much more.


Mrs Shaw Herself is performed at the Liverpool Irish Festival at 8pm, Wed 21 Oct, online. Click here to book tickets, whilst available.

 

The show notes are also available, here.

In:Visible Women come to the fore…

We met Maz O’Connor in 2018 when we began discussions with her about being part of our In:Visible Women programme in 2019.

Featuring as one of the guest performers at our Visible Women night at the Liverpool Philharmonic, Maz’s gentle demeanour belies her determination, drive and tenacity. Maz is proof that femininity can be strong, skilled and intelligent; urgent, driven and cutting. It seems these are also aspects of the world she relishes in…


In 1895, in a township called Ballyvadlea, near Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Bridget Cleary was burned to death by her husband, while her family watched. They believed her to be a fairy changeling: a creature that looked and spoke just like Bridget, but was in fact a sinister substitute bringing decay to the community. The family thought that if they could chase the changeling out with fairy potions and, eventually, fire, then the real Bridget would return to them. They buried her charred remains in a shallow, unmarked grave and awaited her return. Of course, it never arrived. She was twenty-six years old.

I came across Bridget’s story in 2017 when I was approached by The Finborough Theatre to write a piece of music theatre. I’ve worked in theatre as a musician, with the Royal Shakespeare Company and with Liverpool playwright Lizzie Nunnery, and it had long been an ambition of mine to write something for theatre myself. As a singer-songwriter, I sometimes find the form I work in to be limiting. I was itching to tell a story in a longer form, as well as write for voices other than my own. After encouragement from The Finborough, I began looking around for a story to adapt. My two requirements were firstly, to find a story that suited my style of music and, secondly, to find a world in which singing was a part of everyday life. Of course, I thought of Ireland. My own experience is that an Irish family event isn’t over until somebody sings and I was excited to tell a story through traditional Irish music; not the Disneyfied version, but the dark, strange beauty of the real thing.

Bridget’s story hit me like a train. Not only was I moved by the contemporary resonances with so-called honour killings and FGM, I was intrigued by the connection between superstition, Catholicism and patriarchy and how all of these forces work together to oppress, and even kill, women. Very quickly I could hear music. I had ideas for how I wanted to musically express the idea of the fairies, her husband’s mania, violence and mass hysteria. Music is abstract; it takes us out of our everyday life, our everyday language and into a more intense, metaphorical space. It’s in this space that I felt, instinctively, that the story of Bridget Cleary would have the most impact.

About a year after I started writing the piece, I realised that I needed to take a research trip to Tipperary. I was surprised to discover that Bridget’s home was only an hour’s drive from my cousin’s farm in Co. Waterford. I spent a week exploring the area, talking to locals and searching for clues about who Bridget was, wondering how the landscape might have influenced both her and the culture that killed her. My cousin kindly drove me to all the fairy rings that he knew of. He waited in the car while I bravely marched across the threshold and into the centre of each perfect circle of trees. I wasn’t sure whether or not he was joking when he said that there was no way he’d step foot inside one himself. I closed my eyes and tried to hear what Bridget might have heard in 1895 when she took one of her frequent trips to the fairy ring near Ballyvadlea. I was struck by how alone I felt, and how easy it might be to believe that there was some supernatural force inside those forts. More than once that week I spooked myself into believing that the fairies, or the spirits of Bridget and her husband, were haunting me. Luckily, I made it back to London unscathed, more committed to the project than I had been when I’d left.

Three drafts of the piece later, I felt that I could go no further alone. I needed to collaborate. I applied to Britten Pears Arts for a week’s residency with them in Snape, Suffolk, working with a small group of musicians and actor/singers. It was an incredibly inspiring week, and the reaction from the group, and from Britten Pears Arts, told me that we definitely had something. I came away with a recording of five songs from the piece, giving a sense of the style of the music. I sent the recordings to theatres and the feedback I received was that I should get a book writer involved. Musical theatre has three elements: the music, the lyrics and the book (or script). Sometimes all three are written by the same person, as in Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) or Hadestown (Anais Mitchell), but commonly several artists collaborate across the elements. The piece, as it was, was around ninety percent sung through, but there were a few connecting scenes of dialogue needed. And that’s where the Liverpool Irish Festival came in.

I sent the recordings to Emma Smith (Festival Director), to ask if the festival might be interested in developing the piece in some way, given our existing relationship, the style of the music, and the cultural relevance of the story. Emma was enthused by the idea, and offered to help me put together a brief to recruit a book writer, as well as sharing expertise in how to manage an arts project. Up until that point, early 2020, I had been working entirely alone as composer, lyricist and producer, so it was a great relief to receive some help, even just in the form of regular conversations about the project.

And so, thanks to the help of the Liverpool Irish Festival and a £2,000 Alan James Bursary from the English Folk Dance and Song Society, I have used this lockdown period to collaborate with Irish writer Alan Flanagan. He encouraged me to write the scenes myself, supporting me as a dramaturg. In September—COVID-willing—I will be returning to Britten Pears Arts in Snape for another residency as part of their Festival of New, along with Alan, director Tinuke Craig, movement director Martin Bassindale, six actor/singers and two musicians, to workshop what we have and get the first half hour on its feet. The plan is to have a full production to be performed at the Liverpool Irish Festival in October 2021. That’s if the fairies don’t get in the way.


The Festival sincerely hopes to bring Maz’s full production to Liverpool for #LIF2021 as part of our ongoing commitment to In:Visible Women. Bridget’s story, sadly, is one that continues to chime the world over, with murderous practices and the misuse of education versus folklore commonly centred used to the subjugate and diminish women. In supporting this piece, we not only hear a potent story for our times, but support conversations for equity and a brilliant artist progress her creative vision. Look out for this: it will be remarkable.

Theatre to provoke exchange: Kabosh

Kabosh were introduced to the Festival by the Commission for Victims and Survivors.

Our original intention was to bring a production to Liverpool, but “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft a-gley”, as Robert Burns famously stated. Instead, we take  a look at how arts exchanges can inspire, provoke and confront reconciliation principles, rated to conflict resolution.

Theatre to provoke exchange

Founded in 1994, Kabosh is a Belfast-based theatre company that creates original work -for performance- in a range of spaces. Each project is inspired by the people, spaces and places in the north of Ireland and most of the work addresses the legacy of our violent conflict. We aim to humanise those we perceive to be ‘other’, thereby challenging preconceptions. We aim to create work of high quality that provokes informed discussions around sensitive themes of reconciliation. It is theatre for positive social change.

The Kabosh canon is commissioned from professional Irish playwrights, but the method of gathering source material varies. On each project the company works with a community organisation to provide introductions. They assist with identifying source material, developing grassroots partners, co-facilitate post-show discussions, liaise with community gatekeepers to maximise engagement and provide long-term support to audiences.

Often a project is the result of a playwright creatively responding to an oral archive undertaken by a community agency. The archive then becomes the catalyst for a fictional drama. The gathered stories are not presented verbatim. This ensures both the original keeper of the story -and those who have never heard the narrative before- are challenged and encouraged to engage with it.

Individuals exchange their memories with artists, who reimagine these narratives and exchange them with audiences. This motivates informed reassessment. Attitudinal change is measured.

Arts in the aftermath of conflict is essential in opening dialogue between communities. It bears witness to those we perceive to be ‘other’, challenging perceptions and building bridges through education and shared histories. Staging an alien narrative in a community setting allows for safe conversations that examine volatile issues around lack of integration.

Difficult subject matter can be explored by professional actors, as they are perceived to be neutral, outside of the community. They can embody controversial characters, give voice to polarised thoughts and aggressively challenge what is considered acceptable, because the public don’t consider them to be from a specific community, with an inbuilt loyalty or even carry personal baggage.

Many of the projects also serve to become catalysts for new stories. Audiences recognise that their voice is under-represented and feel motivated to share. Kabosh is constantly adding to its canon of post-conflict work motivated by community interest.

In recent years Kabosh has toured work about the conflict in the north of Ireland to Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda, Belgium, Germany and France. As with local performances, the performances led to informed, emotive conversations about the legacy of conflict, personal impact and hope for the future. Experiencing human narratives involving international conflict resolution provokes a reassessment of personal context. We remind audiences that memories are fluid, malleable; making positive change possible. In addition, methodology is transferrable across borders. It is empowering to exchange the role artists can play in challenging myths; confronting prejudice, representing trauma and ultimately assisting individuals process the legacy of conflict.

Important questions

The language of conflict and post-conflict is universal. We are dealing with the same issues: how can we move on without betraying the memory of a loved one or our community? How do we avoid passing bitterness on to the next generation and repeating a cycle of violence? Is it possible to draw a line under the past or must we forgive? Does that mean forgetting? How can we reconcile oneself with the terminology of ‘post-conflict’ e.g.,  as victim, survivor, perpetrator, etc.? Can we reimagine new possibilities for policing, justice or social structures?  Conflict can seem parochial, but is easier to consider your own history by engaging with another’s? Theatre is an ideal live, humanised, communal medium for this exchange.

Kabosh projects seek to assist communities deal with the legacy of conflict through provoking new conversations.

Paula McFetridge, Artistic Director, Kabosh
www.kabosh.net

Image credit: Vincent Higgins in Green & Blue

Liverpool Irish Festival sincerely hope to bring Kabosh to Liverpool in future years to experience, first hand, the fruits of their work, understanding and commitment to truthful storytelling, reconciliation and care.

Case Study: Green & Blue, Laurence McKeown (2016 -)

Based on an oral archive of serving Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and An Garda Síochána police officers, Green & Blue explores the realities faced by the individuals who patrolled the Irish border during the height of the conflict.

The title of the play reflects the colour of the two police uniforms: green was worn by the RUC in the north and blue was worn by the Garda in the south. It also reflects how we see the uniform and not the person, and how the policemen see themselves as uniforms, as this extract from the play indicates:

GARDA O’HALLORAN:              At one point we took on a role that became an identity and that identity now defines us. I’m no longer Eddie nor you David. I’m a Guard; you’re a Peeler. We’re a uniform, not real people. And rightly or wrongly we now view the world from that perspective.

Green & Blue looks at the person behind the uniform and the different experiences of the individuals on either side of a man-made line in the ground; ‘…a simple but effective way of exploring two sides of one conflict’ – Belfast Telegraph

As Laurence McKeown is a Republican ex-prisoner and former hunger striker there were members of the ‘police family’ who found it difficult to come to terms with Laurence being appointed as playwright for the project. Through engagement in the two year process and/or experiencing the production over four years, many preconceptions were effectively challenged. Other communities were encouraged to engage with the narrative because of Laurence’s past. The ultimate consideration was how to nurture a trust based on integrity and an acceptance of different histories.

To date this production has toured extensively across Ireland playing prisons, theatres, community halls, historical ruins and schools, as well as being presented in London, Brussels, Edinburgh, Dresden and Paris.

Using a project feedback form we measured attitudinal change against by asking audiences to complete a before and after questionnaire, ranking their level of agreement with a series of statements:

  • I have a level of sympathy with individuals who were in the police force
  • I have a positive association with the police force 
  • I see people serving in uniform as individuals 
  • I feel comfortable communicating with police officers 
  • I find police officers approachable 
  • I can relate to people serving in uniform 

Based on the trends emerging from the freeform feedback, and the attitudinal changes measured, the major impact of the project is on affecting levels of sympathy and empathy with those in uniform.

A high number of comments describe the unusual position of hearing a police officer’s story, or -when that story is familiar-hearing it from ‘the other side’ and recognising that those in uniform occupy a third or ‘other’ community space/role. For example:

As the son of a garda who served on the border during this period a lot of the garda perspective resonated with me. I did get a new view of the RUC which was refreshing

I found the play extremely interesting, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the words before, of an RUC officer and his Irish counterparts. The play is vital in the small footsteps we are taking towards dealing with the past, as well as the future. We will only embrace the future when we have given space and a voice [to those] who lived through the conflict. Until then, we are surely sweeping the past under the carpet

Audiences have also referred to how their experience has/will impact on contemporary issues such as changing their attitudes towards police officers today, seeing beyond ‘the Uniform’, and the importance of work like this in positively contributing to peace building.

Green & Blue is one of many Kabosh projects that seeks to assist communities deal with the legacy of conflict through provoking new conversations.

Paula McFetridge
Artistic Director of Kabosh since August 2006
Annually funded by Arts Council of NI and Belfast City Council
www.kabosh.net

Oscar Wilde: Art, Culture, Democracy, and Exchange

Across the Festival, we have asked our partners, collaborators and artists to consider “exchange”. It is a means of connecting the programme to provide a cohesive message, whilst also demonstrating the benefits of coming together, even during times when this cannot be physically so. In the following article, Dr Ó Donghaile illustrates why Oscar Wilde was so ahead of his time, when it came to views on exchange and the benefit of art and culture to society. As Deaglán’s work on Wilde expands, we aim to continue sharing his research, looking more deeply in to Wilde’s enduring legacy, the lessons he left us with and how such a man might be received today.

Oscar Wilde: Art, Culture, Democracy, and Exchange
Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile; British Academy Research Fellow, Liverpool John Moores University


Throughout his life, Oscar Wilde believed passionately in the importance of cultural and artistic exchange. He argued that art and literature were part of the common human heritage and that they should be shared among everyone. At a very early stage in his career, and long before his most famous literary works were published, Wilde set out his ideas on literature’s centrality to culture when he gave his first lecture in the United States. In this talk, entitled Our English Renaissance (first delivered in New York City, January 1882, and then at different venues across the US), Wilde told audiences that Aestheticism –the literary and artistic movement of which he was a leading figure- was not an exclusive club. It was a movement dedicated to the sharing of artistic, cultural and literary ideas. He believed that the enjoyment of beauty should be experienced and enjoyed by all and widely exchanged.

In his lecture, Wilde pointed out that similar ideas and theories had already been proposed by poets, philosophers and painters from antiquity to the nineteenth century. His long list of international figures included Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Geoffrey Chaucer, Dante Alighieri, Michelangelo, Albrecht Dürer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Giuseppe Mazzini, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lord Byron, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walter Scott, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and John Keats. He also included more recent writers, artists and critics, such as John Ruskin, Algernon Swinburne, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman and William Morris.

Wilde described Aestheticism’s renewal of culture as ‘our English Renaissance’. As an Irish writer he was clearly stating that art and culture could be shared outside limiting national boundaries. This, he insisted, could democratise art because it represented ‘a new birth of the spirit of man’ resembling the Italian Renaissance in its promise of ‘a more gracious and comely way of life’. With its modernisation of ideas of beauty and form, it promised ‘new subjects for poetry, new forms of art, new intellectual and imaginative enjoyments’.

Wilde believed that Aestheticism provided ‘a nobler form of life’ and ‘a freer method and opportunity of expression’.  Cultural exchange was critical to this, as it imbued art with its essential ‘vitality’ in ‘this crowded modern world’. For Wilde, the world was a global community in which everyone should participate in art and culture. This made his views on culture explicitly political, as he felt that the best art was both historically engaged and socially conscious. Through the exchange of artistic and cultural ideas, every rank in society could experience the best that was offered by a broad, constructive and collective culture, without sacrificing the individuality of anyone.

This idea of the importance of mutual exchange within art and culture was a radical, democratic and republican notion. Wilde explained that Aestheticism, with its ‘passionate cult of pure beauty, its flawless devotion to form, its exclusive and sensitive nature,’ drew its inspiration from the French Revolution because democracy was ‘the most primary factor of its production’ and ‘the first condition of its birth’. Because it was democratic and transnational, art could transmit ideas about the possibility of a better life through ‘noble messages of love blown across the seas’.

Social and cultural exchange was the ‘definite conception’ of art because democracy was its ‘root and flower’. The artist could present ‘a vision at once more fervent and more vivid, an individuality more intimate and more intense’, fully charged with culture’s ‘social idea’ and its ‘social factor’. Wilde argued that culture’s potential lay in this shared reality. In it was found ‘that breadth of human sympathy which is the condition of all noble work,’ allowing it to express shared ideas, ‘as opposed to… merely personal’ ones. Art’s capacity to change people and society lay in its potential to convey ‘the love and loyalty of the men and women of the world’.

Wilde believed art should connect and transform people; he regarded it as a social practice that countered the alienating and privatised logic of competition and separation being imposed by modern capitalism. Exchange was culture’s ‘method of its expression’ because art conveyed the reality of the world. This had political implications for Aestheticism. As an internationalist and an Irish republican, Wilde was very conscious of the need to share and exchange cultural and artistic ideas across borders: ‘All noble work is not national merely, but universal’ he declared; ‘the political independence of a nation must not be confused with any intellectual isolation’.

For Wilde, art, literature and culture were forces for human unity and expressions of ‘perfect freedom’. He felt that ‘devotion to beauty and to the creation of beautiful things’ was ‘the test of all great civilised nations’. Through its constant exchange of artistic and social ideas, and sharing of literary and political thought, Aestheticism could contribute to the cause of international peace because ‘national hatreds are always strongest where culture is lowest’.  His lecture also emphasised that art and culture could unite artists with the working class: ‘between the singers of our day and the workers to whom they would sing there seems to be an ever-widening and dividing chasm, a chasm which slander and mockery cannot traverse, but which is spanned by the luminous wings of love’. Wilde would return to these ideas about global peace and the urgent need to remedy class conflict nine years later in his famous essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism’.

Today, at a time when questions of cultural inclusion and national belonging are being raised in Ireland, and elsewhere, we can still learn much from Oscar Wilde’s thoughts on the importance of sharing and exchange. Describing this practice as ‘the correlation of art’, he spent the rest of his life writing about the connections that drew people together in the hope that unity and understanding would ‘sweep away’ the barriers of class and empire that separated people from one another.


Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile is a British Academy Research Fellow at the Department of English, Liverpool John Moores University. His latest book, Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siècle, will be published by Edinburgh University Press in November. He is currently writing a critical biography of Oscar Wilde entitled Revolutionary Wilde.

Image Credit: Publicity photograph of Oscar Wilde, taken in New York by Napoleon Sarony in 1882, used under creative commons licencing from the website Oscar Wilde in America: A Selected Resource of Oscar Wilde’s Visits to America. https://www.oscarwildeinamerica.org/sarony/sarony-photographs-of-oscar-wilde-1882.html, accessed 8/9/2020.

 

 

Poetry project – ‘Lines from Lockdown’

Working with Writing on the Wall, Liverpool Irish Festival have selected two poems, which we believe hold incredible relevance to the lockdown situation we find ourselves within during 2020. We’ve worked with the Sefton Park Palm House ‘Palm Readers’ group to develop the project you see below.

Quarantine, by Eavan Boland, considers an aspect of Irish history that we will be leading several projects on over the coming years, An Gorta Mór also known as The Great Hunger or The Irish Famine. It reminds us of the politics involved in quarantine and the hardships people suffered, then and now. It makes us think about our gifts, our privilege and our heritage, reaching across the generations with love and a sadness that don’t always make the right decisions. Sadly, Eavan passed away in April 2020 and so the video resulting from the use of this poem will be the Festival’s tribute to her.

Stephen James Smith’s We Must Create reminds us that we must create to stay well, to find connection and to feel. It commits us to thinking of others by considering our connection and heritage, in addition to what we can bring to the world. Stepehn has approved the project and will be involved as we progress towards the Festival.

Both are written by Dubliners in the first quarter of the twenty-first century; both provide many layers of meaning, which we encourage you to explore as deeply as you are able.

The task

We would like to see your ‘covers’ of these poems, in whole or individual stanzas (numbered for easy identification). In the case of Stephen’s poem, We Must Create, we encourage you to write your own stanza to add to the end, so we can share these with Stephen and our Festival audiences. We’ve given you a rough example below. See ***

  • First and foremost, pick your poem -or poems- and decide if you are going to add a stanza to it for We Must Create. When sending your entry, let us know the stanza numbers you have covered for which poem. You are welcome to do all and both, but understand some would prefer to run shorter submissions
  • Run a quick test on your camera, DSLR or phone, to make sure your speech can be heard and the image is as clear as it can be. Try not to sit directly in front of a light, which will either put you in silhouette or bleach you completely!
  • Check you are filming in landscape and recording at the highest resolution your equipment allows
  • Start by addressing the camera with your full name and current location. Be creative – if the whole family are involved, that’s great – just let us know so we can credit you all!
  • Focus on the feelings the poem(s) generates in you
  • Once recorded, please send* your MP4 film to [email protected] via WeTransfer, with your name, age (in the case of minors), location and email, so we can credit you appropriately.

That’s it! We will splice the entries together to create a full performance of the poems and may put individual entries up on our site for you to access later, if they stand out.

Deadline for entries: Extended from Sun 9 Aug 2020 to Sun 13 Sept 2020.
First streaming of complete poem:  Thurs 15 Oct 2020, at the opening of the Liverpool Irish Festival. Anyone submitting their email address will be sent the link.
Download this information as a three page PDF.
General terms and conditions apply. You can see those on this page.

The Poems

Quarantine

Eavan Boland, born Dublin, Ireland 1944-died Dublin, Ireland 2020.

Stanza number Stanza
1 In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.


2 She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.


3 In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.


4 Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:


5 Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.


From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland.
Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland.
Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton.
All rights reserved.

We Must Create

Stephen James Smith, born Dublin, Ireland 1982.

Stanza number Stanza
1 We must create to know who we can be
I say this for you, I say this for me
We must create to know who we can be


2 Early beginnings, heart beat warmth and you
First breath, eyes open a new point of view
Hands touch, ears hear, clocks ticking I am who?
We must create to know who we can be


3 Screaming out from within with a voice here
Notes flowing on air lulling the fear
Melody all around this atmosphere
We must create to know who we can be


4 Hearing truth in onomatopoeia
Boom, boom, belch, zoom, zap, playing with grandpa
While cookie cutting, baking for grandma
We must create to know who we can be


5 From scrawling with crayons to Lego bricks
From knitting needles, soft textile fabrics
To air-guitaring auld Jimi Hendrix
We must create to know who we can be


6 There are creative accountants, CVs
Tinder profiles where you look the bees knees
But best not to force it, it comes with ease
We must create to know who we can be


7 We heard a song sung, it helped ease the pain
We didn’t feel so lonesome as we sang the refrain
We forgot that feeling until we heard it again
We must create to know who we can be


8 From nursery rhymes to white collar crimes
What have you to say in uncertain times?
Have you a chance to change the paradigms?
We must create to know who we can be


9 Do you remember the time you heard an opening allegro
Or when that beat dropped and how it made your head go?
Some things make no sense unless you’re in flow
We must create to know who we can be


10 You may rise then fall, or fall then rise
An arc of a story contains no surprise
But how you tell it, therein the art lies
We must create to know who we can be


11 Artistry gives rise to community
We’re all part of a changing tapestry
There’s art history in identity
We must create to know who we can be


12 If you do it for the money you’ll be called a fraud
If you think you’re great company and you might be God
Delusions of grandeur aren’t that odd
We must create to know who we can be


13 There’s all sorts of forms, disciplines, levels
To challenge yourself in the intervals
Where you’ll find rivals and reasons for approvals
We must create to know who we can be


14 If it’s saved you from yourself
And now there’s no other way
It doesn’t matter how it moved you, welcome to the ballet
You’ve just found the peak of Parnassus, fair play!


15 We must create to know who we can be
I say this for you, I say this for me
We must create to know who we can be
We must create to know who we can be.


From Here Now by Stephen James Smith.
Copyright © 2019 by Stephen James Smith.
Reprinted by permission of Pace Print and the poet.
All rights reserved.*** To get you going, we’ve given you a little
starter for 10…

Commit to the process; trust in your speech
Engage in the idea, tweak gingerly
Film it and send it; await now to see
We must create to know who we can be.

General terms and conditions

  1. This is a community art project intended to provide a positive and creative activity during Covid-19 social restrictions. We have approached Stephen James Smith for use of his poem, which he has given freely. We have approached Eavan Boland’s publishers for use of the poem, but have not had official confirmation that we are free to use this work. having double checked permissions for the use of poetry we believe that the motivation and respect for the work suggests we are able to use it, respectfully and with safety. In the event that it is not permitted, we will remove the poem from this page and cease the project work around this poem.
  2. Criminality will be reported. Indecent submissions will be reported and rejected.
  3. All submissions must come with a named credit to be selected. This is for safeguarding and due credit if work is selected for press purposes
  4. The Liverpool Irish Festival will assume you have the right to use any imagery, likeness or art work sent to us in support of the poetry project. Please ensure you have these rights
  5. We will only accept and display respectful work and the Liverpool Irish Festival has final say in determining what this means. Our intention is to limit work to that which can be reasonably shared with all ages, without causing upset or alarm or triggering safeguarding or decency concerns. Content which flouts decency regulations will be reported
  6. The Liverpool Irish Festival reserves the right to use these entires online (web and social media); in our printed publications and our promotional materials. We will not sell your work or share your contact details without direct liaison (e.g., if a national publisher wanted an interview with you, we would contact you to permit contact).
Sefton Park Palm House logo
Sefton Park Palm House logo

Wanted: theatre writer for musical theatre commission

Part of our role at the Liverpool Irish Festival is to support artists. Having been in touch since 2018, Maz O’Connor has performed as one of our ‘Visible Women’ (2019) and we are now supporting her venture into musical theatre composition.

Maz has found funding to work with a writer on an incredible project, close to our hearts, so we are helping push the call. This is a paid commission, which could lead to book publications and stage shows; so, if you have an interest in working collaboratively, with a brilliant talent, we recommend reading on.

For reference, you can read Maz’s essay Chosen Daughter on page 24 of last year’s Festival newspaper, here.


Wanted: Theatre writer (ideally Irish/Irish heritage and female) for musical theatre commission

Fee: £1800 all-inclusive fee, funded by the EFDSS Creative Bursary Scheme

Project: Musical theatre piece based on the true life and death of Bridget Cleary; killed by her husband, and family, in Tipperary (1895) on suspicion of being a faery changeling (read more…).

Musician and composer Maz O’Connor has written songs and music for the piece, combining Irish traditional music and modern musical theatre styles. See more below.

Commission requirement: This commission –a composer collaboration- will bring together the piece’s performance narrative and develop the first hour of performance (including songs).

The heart of the piece centres on the music: Bridget’s world is a musical one. Maz will work with a writer who will respond to and build on what is created through the music. It requires someone who is excited about collaborating closely with a composer to create a holistic piece of theatre. However, the individual should possess their own artistic voice and use it to help shape the story, sensitively, to be the best it can be.

Maz is flexible about the logistics, but expects a Zoom/Skype start-point and –depending on time-spans- some face-to-face meetings. The successful applicant will be

  • enthusiastic about a close collaboration and peer appraisal (giving/receiving)
  • interested in the source material and Irish connectivity, possibly having Irish heritage of their own
  • keen to explore female roles, with an understanding of inclusive feminism
  • comfortable taking the initiative and suggesting new ideas
  • confident in script-developing alone
  • experienced enough to present their ideas in an industry specific and professional manner.

Progress: Maz has written the first draft of the music. A group of musicians and actor/singers workshopped this (Snape Maltings Music residency, Dec 2019). A 30min video and audio recording of the informal showing of this residency is available to those interested in applying.

Plans and opportunities:

  • A one-week R&D residency at Cecil Sharp House end of Aug 2020, Coronavirus permitting
  • Work-in-progress showing at Snape Malting Music’s Festival of the New (Sept 2020, format TBC)
  • Liverpool Irish Festival support (ongoing) and display (Oct 2020), as appropriate given piece development, timelines and Covid-19 public health guidance
  • Potential for The Finborough Theatre (London) production
  • Arts Council England funding application (2021) to
    • complete written piece (preferably to continue from this commission)
    • work on full stage-production (late 2021/early 2022).

Further Information: A private link to the recording of the music and a video introduction from Maz can be emailed to interested applicants. Email [email protected].

Application: Please send a cover letter and a CV, complete with an example of your writing to: [email protected]  by midnight (BST) Sun 31 May 2020. Shortlisted applicants will be offered a (chemistry test) Zoom/Skype interview in June, with a view to the collaboration starting Mon 6 Jul 2020.