Irish Heritage Trust film featuring Festival friend Cherry Smyth connecting her poem, Famished, with the Strokestown story.
New play – production call
Liverpool playwriting duo seek group to deliver new play, Wake of an Empire, which is a sequel to Liverpool Lambs. Click here for details.
Behind the scenes at ‘Rebels and Friends’
During #LIF2018 Liverpool Hope University Associate Professor Sonja Tiernan presented a brilliantly received talk at the International Slavery Museum about the life and activism of Countess Markievicz, one of the better-understood Irish suffragists, though still widely unrecognised in Great Britain today. This year, Lynx Theatre and Poetry widens the story about her and her life with Rebels and Friends, a play examining the relationship between her and her sister Eva, the play celebrates these two women, their activism, loyalty and passion. Artistic Director, William Anderson, tells us more…
In 1918, the first woman elected to the British parliament was in prison on a trumped-up charge. Following a year of centenary celebrations of (some) women ‘getting the vote’, too few people know about her election. Her name was Constance Markievicz, and Lynx Theatre and Poetry is bringing her unique story to this year’s Liverpool Irish Festival in a new production of the ‘stunning and evocative’ play Rebels and Friends.
The play tells how Constance and her sister Eva, born into the wealthy Gore-Booth family in Sligo, and described by W.B Yeats as ‘Two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful’, rejected the conventions of their class, and dedicated themselves to working people and Irish independence. The play’s author, Jacqueline Mulhallen said: ‘These were active women, not Lady Bountifuls.
‘Constance was an artist who married a Polish count, but she also ran a soup kitchen in the Dublin lockout and carried sacks of coal up flights of stairs for the needy. In 1916 she was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising and she became Labour Minister in the (illegal) Irish Dail.
‘Eva was a poet and pacifist, defending conscientious objectors in WW1. With her lifelong partner Esther Roper, she campaigned in northwest England for trade union rights, education and the vote for working women. These are women who should never be forgotten.’
A reviewer in Cork (where Lynx had to put in extra seating for the original production) said ‘Rebels and Friends has a documentary sweep … which lifts it above mere theatre and unfolds history in quite the most absorbing fashion’, and audiences agreed. Peter Burman, a former director of National Trust Scotland said ‘I was so totally gripped by it that I’d totally forgotten where I was’.
For me, these extraordinary lives, need an extraordinary production to realise them. In addition to the two performers there is a continuous backdrop of some 600 images: archive photographs, Eva and Constance’s rarely seen paintings and drawings and specially commissioned photographs of Ireland, England and Italy. There is poetry, rebel songs, traditional Irish harp and fiddle music and dance. Our new production is choreographed by Siân Williams, who founded The Kosh dance company. Siân is currently Master of Dance at the Globe Theatre (London), and was choreographer for the BBC’s acclaimed Wolf Hall.
Mulhallen also wrote a highly successful one-woman play about Sylvia Pankhurst, Sylvia, which was revived a couple of years ago, and has been touring the northwest. ‘It was while I was writing Sylvia that I found out that Eva had inspired Christabel Pankhurst to found the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Despite having an Irish father, I did not know about these sisters, and so the play was an exploration of my own history as well as theirs. In addition, because of the complexity of British-Irish relations, I did not want to interpret the past and their roles, but to bring them to life using their own words and documentary evidence alone’.
Her effectiveness navigating the challenge is shown by the packed houses the play drew in England and Ireland. Between 1989 and 1992 it toured from Honiton to Hexham in England (including The Flying Picket Theatre in Liverpool), and three times around Ireland, including Northern Ireland in 1990. That year it was also the first play on an Irish theme performed in Birmingham since the bombings of 1974. When it played in Dublin in 1991, Lynx’s staff were drawn from all quarters of the dispute over Ireland.
Thirty years after it was first staged, this new production of Rebels and Friends has attracted cross-border support with funding from both Arts Council England and the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme, as well as from Unite the Union. After all, with Brexit, it may be a good time to remind people of the problems which underlay the Troubles and the Good Friday peace agreement.
Rebels and Friends is still ground-breaking for the richness of its style and for its balance in capturing the political and the personal in the lives of Constance and Eva. Its revival offers a new generation a chance to experience the power of their unique story creatively, as told by Lynx Theatre and Poetry, and to learn more about two women of historical importance who seem to be becoming invisible. After the two performances in Liverpool, the play will continue touring the northwest and then up to Newcastle and down to London. Details are available at lynxtheatreandpoetry.org/performances
- Patrick Quigley, Sisters Against the Empire: Countess Constance Markievicz and Eva Gore-Booth, 1916-17 (Liffey Press, €19.95)
- Sonja Tiernan, Eva Gore-Booth: An Image of Such Politics (Manchester University Press, £17.99)
- Anne Haverty, Constance Markievicz, Irish Revolutionary (Lilliput Press, 2016)
- Jacqueline van Voris, Constance Markievicz in the Cause of Ireland (University of Massachusetts Press, 1967)
Buy your tickets for Rebels and Friends here. It’s on 25/26 October.
Gradam Ceoil TG4 at LIF
Last year TG4 joined us as a sponsor. We had so much fun with them that this year we decided to amp up the work and collaborate on two specific music events: Visible Women and Gradam Ceoil (Music Awards), both taking place at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room. Showcasing some of the most outstanding talent Ireland has to offer, TG4 are becoming known for their visionary approach to Irish language broadcasting, inclusion and accessibility. This assists not only with storytelling and talent development, but also keeping communities linked and connected with home. Below, TG4 tell us more about Gradam Ceoil and what it means to them …
TG4 are excited to work with #LIF2019 and specifically to present a very special concert (full details below) with some of the world’s most accomplished Irish traditional musicians, Conor Connolly, Clare Friel and Liam O’Brien, who have each been awarded the Young Musician of the Year award at Gradam Ceoil TG4 in 2019, 2018 & 2017 respectively.
Gradam Ceoil TG4 is the premier annual traditional Irish music awards scheme and academy. An independent panel of adjudicators selects recipients each year. Known as the ‘Oscars of Traditional Music’, national Irish language broadcaster TG4’s Gradam Ceoil awards are broadcast annually, with a live concert and ceremony, shining a spotlight on the crème-de-la-crème of traditional music and song, featuring musicians being recognised by their peers, with awards for their talent and contribution to traditional Irish music.
This special concert in conjunction with the Liverpool Irish Festival will bring a taste of Gradam Ceoil TG4 to Liverpool, showcasing three of the most exciting musical talents to come out of Ireland in recent years.
Conor Connolly hails from South Co. Galway. One of the most traditional and solid accordion players of his generation, he is an inspiration to many. An accordion player and singer, his music and song is rooted in his home county, with some of his main influences being Joe Cooley, Charlie Harris, P.J. Conlon and Tony Mac Mahon. His playing is full of heart and soul, with a great understanding and respect for the tradition and the players he learned from. Having played with some of the most renowned traditional musicians we have today, he is well respected by them and highly regarded amongst his peers. H ewon Young Traditional Musician of the Year, 2019.
Doireann Ní Ghlacáin hails from Dublin and is currently undergoing a PHD in Irish at NUIG. Her thesis is based on the sean nós songs of the Muskerry Gaeltacht, many of which were reintroduced into the modern tradition by her maternal grandfather, Seán Ó’Riada. Although an accomplished sean nós singer, having won many prestigious awards such as that of Oireachtas na Gaeilge, Glackin is better known for her fiddle playing. She learnt the fiddle from her father Kevin Glackin and has gone on to bring her music to the world stage in recent years. She has also performed on major traditional music broadcasts such as HUP, Béaloideas Beo and -of note- Tradfest TG4 a series, which she also presents.
Liam O’Brien is from Miltown Malbay. He was brought up in a very musical family. After starting on the tin whistle he went on to take up the concertina and attended classes with Noel Hill for many years. Liam then went on to study Irish Music & Dance in the University of Limerick. He has now travelled the world playing and teaching. He has been all across Europe, Africa and spent the summer of 2012 touring Japan. Liam also teaches concertina and banjo as part of the Brid O’Donohue School of Music where his popularity grows and grows. He won TG4 Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2016.
As well as this outstanding concert, the three artists will share their talent with a pool of budding musicians in a set of free masterclasses, hosted as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival. Each will provide a bespoke workshop in fiddle, accordion and concertina, giving a select number of participants an opportunity to hone their skills under the guidance of these top class performers. Numbers are limited. To apply please email [email protected] quoting ‘TG4Masterclass’, providing your name, chosen session, skill level and key objective for the session.
If you are interested in attending the annual Gradam Ceoil TG4 awards, they will be presented at a live-televised gala concert at The Waterfront (Belfast) in Feb 2020, 9.00pm. You can make a full weekend of it, too, as a dedicated Gradam Fringe Festival brings Belfast alive in song, with a host of free music events and workshops taking place in various locations across the city. This event is not to be missed if Irish traditional music is your thing!
For more information, or to watch previous Gradam Ceoil TG4 awards ceremonies, go to www.gradam.ie and or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @GradamCeoil #GRADAM.
Tickets for the Gradam Ceoil TG4 at Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room on Tues 22 Oct are available from the venue direct liverpoolphil.com
We have a full programme of Gradam Ceoil TG4 events …
TG4’s Gradam Ceoil: An Irish Trad Night 22 Oct, 8pm-10pm, Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room. Doors 7.30pm
Gradam Ceoil masterclass: accordion 23 Oct, 12-1.30pm, Liverpool Philharmonic Dining Rooms
Gradam Ceoil masterclass: fiddle, 23 Oct, 1.30-3.00, Liverpool Philharmonic Dining Rooms
Gradam Ceoil masterclass: concertina, 23 Oct, 3-4.30pm, Liverpool Philharmonic Dining Rooms
4* play arrives at Liverpool Irish Festival
After receiving four-star reviews for its London premiere at the King’s Head Theatre, a new play about Irish arranged marriages transfers to the LIVERPOOL IRISH FESTIVAL 2017 for its out-of-London premiere at The Capstone Theatre.
A new act set in Ireland has been written especially for the Liverpool Irish Festival and the production company has teamed up with Merseyside folk duo Jo Pue and John Walsh, who will be playing live Irish folk as the audience enter and during the interval.
This witty and moving new play, set in London in 1956, will be performed at The Capstone Theatre for two nights only at 7.30pm on Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 October. An open Q&A with the writer and cast will follow each performance.
Inspired by the writer’s grandmother who had an arranged marriage, Body & Blood, by Lorraine Mullaney, tells the story of an Irish girl who arrives in London in 1956 looking for her sister, who has run away from Ireland to escape an arranged marriage to a man “with a face like the Turin shroud”.
But, instead of finding her sister, Aileen meets Jimmy, Uncle Colm’s young drinking and betting partner. Jimmy shows her a new side of life, full of freedom and possibilities. Will Aileen choose this new life or return to Ireland and make the sacrifices required to stay true to her roots?
The cast includes Pamela Flanagan as Aileen, Sorcha Brooks as Pegeen, Shane Noone as Jimmy and Ivan Murphy as Colm.
Here are some extracts from the reviews
“Mullaney’s play is a great framework for a detailed and unique exploration of Irish immigration the UK and the particularly unsavoury choices foisted on young women in this era.” The Reviews Hub
“It was a wonderfully refreshing evening of theatre, where one is moved and also comes away feeling like you’ve genuinely learnt something new and important.” London Pub Theatres
Performance dates and times
Body & Blood presented by Unclouded Moon Productions at the Liverpool Irish Festival
Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 October at 7.30pm, followed by Q&A with the cast and writer
The Capstone Theatre, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool L6 1HP
Tickets at £12/£10 + booking fee at www.ticketquarter.co.uk/Online/body-and-blood
Top family fun for half term in Liverpool
Liverpool Irish Festival coincides with half term in Liverpool this year, and there’s plenty to do with families this year. It’s the 60th birthday of Liverpool Comhaltas, celebrating Irish culture and heritage, there’s films, the annual family day at the museum, children’s author Carmel Kelly, a special family weekend and, of course, the rip-roaring Liverpool Irish Festival family ceilidh.
The Secret of Kells: Empty Spaces Cinema
25 Oct, 2pm-3.30pm, Handyman Supermarket, 461 Smithdown Road, £4/£3
The Secret of Kells (Cert PG, 78mins) is an animated fantasy film in which magic and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of colour and detail that dazzle the eyes.
It is a sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times. Directed by Tomm Moore (Newry, NI) and Nora Twomey (Cork, ROI). Join Empty Spaces Cinema at The Handyman Supermarket for a pop-up film festival celebrating Irish cinema with a mixture of movies that look at Irish life.
Family Day at the Museum
28 Oct, 10am-5pm, Museum of Liverpool, FREE
Celebrate the Liverpool Irish Festival with family and friends in a day incorporating music, talks and activities for everyone to enjoy, across the day. Delivered in partnership with National Museums Liverpool, with contributions from Liverpool Comhaltas (celebrating their 60th anniversary) Melody Makers and the Institute of Irish Studies at University of Liverpool this is a true highlight of the festival, where culture sharing, enjoyment and conviviality are at the centre of all we do.
Across the day, there will be various activities, including: Carmel Uí Cheallaigh/Kelly (Galway, ROI) reading from her Gaelic and English children’s books in the morning; Liverpool artist Alison Little will run mask making workshops throughout the day; Pop-up Gaeltacht is an informal affair, where an Irish language speaker will be present in order that anyone wishing to share a few words (cúpla focal) of Gaelic can and is welcomed to do so. @PopUpGael. It also forms part of a wider Family Weekend programme, which includes a Children’s Hour with Carmel Kelly and a Family Céilí.
Liverpool Comhaltas and Liverpool Céilí Band evening
28 Oct, 7.30pm, music from 8pm, Liverpool Irish Centre, FREE
Join Liverpool Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the Liverpool Céilí Band in celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of Comhaltas in Liverpool. Entertainment by Liverpool Comhaltas musicians – past and present – as well as some special guests.
Children’s Hour with Carmel Kelly
29 Oct, 10.30am-11.30am, Liverpool Central Library, FREE
Carmel Uí Cheallaigh/Kelly (Galway, ROI) is a children’s author and picture book creator, writing in Gaelic and English. Her motto is “Picture books are for everyone”.
A librarian herself, Carmel’s early works are an introduction to Gaelic for the young. Working with inspiring illustrators, they brings words to life on the page. This is an opportunity to hear her breathe life into the words of books such as Goldilocks and the Three Pigs to Hallowe’en favourite Spidey.
Family céilí and Comhaltas’s 60th celebrations
29 Oct, 2pm-5pm, Liverpool Irish Centre, £5/£2
The Family Céilí is one of the most popular family events at the Liverpool Irish Festival and this year returns, at a new location which welcomes families to join Liverpool Comhaltas in the spiritual home of the Irish community on Merseyside, the Liverpool Irish Centre (6 Boundary Lane, Liverpool L6 5JG). Bring family, friends and your dancing feet to join the fun and have a go a learning some Irish céilí dances, complete with live music from Liverpool Comhaltas. No previous experience is necessary as full instructions will be given, from a great dance caller.
Finns Hotel Ceilidh Band: Fundraising dance
3 Nov, 7.30pm-11.30pm, £5, Ullet Road Unitarian Church
Finns Hotel Ceilidh Band will play – for one night only – fundraising for Irish Community Care. Finns Hotel is a long established, but recently dormant, ceilidh band which started during the miner’s strike in the 1980s.
Irish Community Care works across the Liverpool City Region; in Cheshire and Wigan and Greater Manchester, too. Irish Community Care supports Irish and Irish Traveller people through times of uncertainty, trouble, hardship or isolation. We make sure people have a decent place to live and are safe and well. We ensure that they settle well in the community, whether as new arrivals in the country/area or from prison release, maximising their income through training, employment and welfare benefit entitlement and helping them to feel part of and connected to local communities.
All money raised will contribute to this much needed work.
A new history of the Liverpool Irish
A new book on the history of Liverpool Irish will launch at LIF2017.
‘In Hardship and Hope’ by Greg Quiery tells a narrative history of one of the largest European migrations in modern history and how Irish culture has shaped Liverpool.
Liverpool’s Irish heritage is well known. A large proportion of the city’s inhabitants boast Irish ancestry. A new book, written by social historian, musician and guide Greg Quiery presents a narrative history of the community. Launching at the Institute of Irish Studies during the Liverpool Irish Festival, the book describes the struggle for social and political acceptance in Liverpool by the Irish immigrants and the impact of the city’s Irish heritage on Liverpool’s modern culture.
From Newtownards in County Down, Greg Quiery moved to Liverpool from Belfast in 1974. He is a former fellow at the Institute of Irish Studies, a board member of the Liverpool Irish Festival and Chair of the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee. ‘In Hardship and Hope’ charts the rise of Liverpool’s Irish population, from the first merchants in the 16th century to ‘Lyerpole’ to the steady migration after the Act of Union in 1801. As the Irish economy declined, but its population rapidly expanded, Liverpool welcomed an increasing number of Irish migrants. As the Irish famine reached its height in the 1840s, it is estimated 2.3 million Irish emigrants arrived in Liverpool.
Delving into the socio-economic, political and cultural impact of this population shift, the story is occasionally bleak, exploring slum housing and poverty, ongoing sectarian conflict, anti-Catholic sentiment, social reform, the impact of faith, riots and disturbances. Anti-Irish sentiment continued into the 20th century, particularly in 1909 and into the 1930s. As xenophobia swept Europe, Liverpool was not immune. The Liverpool Review described the Irish as “a real alien menace” in 1934.
The book examines how the Irish influence contributed to the modern Scouse identity. Irish nationalism and its strong ties to the Labour movement and the Labour Party in Liverpool, the role of the Liverpool Irish in the War of Independence laid the foundation for shaping modern Liverpool’s revolutionary state of mind. “An anti-establishment attitude …has survived in Liverpool … ever since”.
With the arrival of Merseybeat and the flourishing of Liverpool’s Scouse identity, a strong affection for Ireland remained in its second and third generations. As sectarianism declined, Liverpool and Everton football clubs each commanded a greater allegiance from both Catholics and Protestants than former sectarian institutions. As is noted, both Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II visited the city’s cathedrals in 1978 and 1982 respectively.
In the words of Dr Kevin McNamara, former Labour MP and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, shortly before his death in August 2017: “(This book) is that unique combination of carefuI and popular scholarship. (Greg) pulls all the strands of the complicated history of the Irish in Liverpool and district together in a few hundred pages of easy reading”.
Mary Hickman, Emeritus Professor of Irish Studies and Sociology at London Metropolitan University writes: “From poverty to politics (the book) covers most aspects of Irish Catholic experiences in Liverpool and many of the most significant characters”.
Commenting on Greg’s book, Professor Frank Shovlin, Head of Department, The Institute of Irish Studies: “Covering 500 years of Irish interaction with Liverpool, nobody is better placed than Greg Quiery to unpick and elucidate the intricacies of that long relationship. Unparalleled in his expertise on the Liverpool Irish, a great friend of the Institute’s, and an historian with deep reverence for our forebears, Greg provides a wonderful addition to our knowledge of this city with this marvelous new volume”.
Greg Quiery: “Having arrived in Liverpool in the 1970s I was surrounded by people sharing their living history and stories of Irish heritage. There’s an importance in remembering our history, the way migrants were treated, often marginalised in poor housing and poverty. By the 1990s, Ireland’s popular culture meant that past discrimination was forgotten, but migration continues to be a significant force in our world today, which is why the documentation and understanding of the Liverpool Irish remains so important.”
The launch of ‘In Hardship and Hope’ takes place at 6pm on 23 Oct 2017 in the Eleanor Rathbone Building, in partnership between the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool Irish Festival.