Blog & News

‘History has a Scary way of Repeating Itself’ – Users of all Three Limerick Direct Provision Centres Attend Jimmy’s Hall

An old army barracks. A disused hotel. A former convent school for girls.

This motley collection of buildings, each constructed with very different purposes and each with stories from their various pasts, have now diverged into a connected present. They have been repurposed from their former lives, transformed into a new function. They are now Limerick’s Direct Provision centres, scattered across the county from Foynes to the city centre to Knockalisheen.

I visited all three centres on one very hot day last week. My sunburnt arm from hanging it out the car window is testament to my Limerick odyssey-of-sorts. The mission was to put notices up in each of the three centres, inviting residents in Direct Provision to an open dress rehearsal of the Abbey Theatre’s production of Jimmy’s Hall, which opened in the Lime Tree Theatre earlier this week. It is the story of Jimmy Gralton, the socialist who built a little dancehall in a field in Leitrim and refused to hand control of it over to the Church. For this he was subsequently deported by DeValera’s government as an “undesirable alien”, despite being born in Effrinagh, County Leitrim in 1886. It is a story with the struggle for justice, freedom and equality at its core, and a community’s fight against an unjust deportation. Not a million miles away from the stories and experiences of many currently living under threat of deportation in Direct Provision right now.

Knockalisheen DP Centre is situated on a hill with a view of Limerick City when the sun shines. A labyrinth of portakabins and low-rise buildings, it houses around 230 people who have come to Ireland seeking asylum, including about 70 children. It is the only centre in Limerick with family accommodation, as two small play areas in the grounds indicate, yet when I arrive these lie empty. I go to the reception to stick up the notice about the play on the board, beside signs for English classes and how to seek legal advice on your application.

This centre used to be an army barracks, but its new reincarnation is not unfamiliar to it. In 1956, more than 500 Hungarian refugees were housed here. They were given a great welcome by the citizens of Limerick, but this welcome did not last on an administrative level. Despite the UN Convention conferring on all refugees the right to work, considerable efforts were made to prevent the Hungarians from seeking employment. One article from the Limerick Leader dated November 26th 1956 quoted some of the Hungarian men as saying that “they did not want to be idle”. This is scarily still the case in Direct Provision now, with the new regulations around the Right to Work still inaccessible to the majority of asylum seekers.

The Hungarians were confined to the Knockalisheen camp, and a Department of Defence report at the time likened it to an internment camp. In April 1957, most of the adults went on hunger strike as a stand against the conditions they were forced to live in.

Fast forward to 2007, when 200 asylum seekers in the same Knockalisheen camp went on hunger strike in protest against the diet and the poor quality of accommodation in the centre. History has a scary way of repeating itself. As I left the reception area having been relieved of most of the flyers by some enthusiastic young girls, I noticed the sign they have up on the wall – “Enjoy each day, and don’t forget to smile”. It takes on an eerie aggression in a place where people are sent to wait for months, often years, while their asylum application is processed.

Heading back in to town I make for Glentworth Street DP Centre, in the middle of the city. The plaster on the walls outside is crumbling, and the hinges where a sign once swung in the breeze can still be seen. This was the historic Hanratty’s Hotel, a busy spot in the epi-centre of Limerick life. DeValera used to stay there when he was canvassing in Limerick and Clare. In the 1980s, touring theatre companies to Belltable used to opt for the surroundings of Hanratty’s after performing. I’d say many a seisiún was had there after shows. But it has changed a lot since those days. The little door to get in to the centre is around the side and there is no natural light. I’m dazzled for a bit after coming in from the sun outside, but stick the notice up on the board. There are mostly single men in this centre, and some of them ask me about the play. The manager watches me from through the reception desk Perspex glass as I leave.

Back on the road heading to Foynes for the final stop, my arm considerably pinker than when I left this morning. Mount Trenchard houses 55 single men, an old grand house that was later bought by the Sisters of Mercy and turned in to a private boarding school for girls. The original house was built by the Anglo-Irish Rice family, and it has a dramatic past. It was used as a safehouse by IRA fighters during the War of Independence. The family boat was used to ferry men and arms across the Shannon Estuary. Mary Spring Rice who was reared on the Mount Trenchard estate was actively involved in gunrunning in the fight for Irish freedom in 1913 and 1914, held many nationalist meetings in the house and set up a branch of Cumann na mBan in Foynes. The Sisters of Mercy later built on to the original house, and what was the old chapel is now the recreation room for the residents in Direct Provision, a few pool tables lit up by the sunlight coming through the stained glass windows.

I had no idea how many people would turn up for the open dress rehearsal of Jimmy’s Hall. Western Limerick Resources and Doras Luimní very kindly sorted transport from the two isolated centres, as otherwise it would be impossible for people to get to the Lime Tree Theatre. But at 2pm on Saturday, people started arriving. About 40 in all, from all around the world and of all ages.

Direct Provision attendees at Jimmy’s Hall (photo by Matthew Thompson)

I sat beside one eight-year-old fella as the director Graham McLaren introduced the play and said it was an honour to have so many people currently living in DP as the first audience for the new version of Jimmy’s Hall. The band struck up and got a rapturous applause after each of the preshow tunes, especially the rendition of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody. The little fella beside me sat on the edge of his seat the entire show, glued to the stage. It was an electric, exhilarating performance, and though I had seen the show a few times before it took on new meaning seeing it in that audience. The lines about deportation and injustice especially took on a weighted significance. The resistance dance at the end was explosive, and got a great applause from everyone. It was one of those rare times where you see anew what theatre can do. One guy afterwards told me he had never seen theatre before, and was blown away by it. The power of theatre is that it can challenge, demand attention and bring us to places we didn’t think possible. It is entertaining yes, but that intangible something that comes from watching exciting, enlightening theatre is what really gets me. The resistance dance played on loop in my head as I waved at the buses heading back to Mount Trenchard in Foynes and Knockalisheen. And it stayed with me all the way in the car back to Dublin. What happened to Jimmy Gralton must not happen to anyone else seeking refuge in our country. We must all dance the resistance dance and demand an end to Direct Provision. It is time.


The next performance in the development of Displace by Belltable Artist in Residence Katie O’Kelly will take place in Belltable in December 2018.  We will continue to keep you updated on the piece’s progress through Belltable:Connect blogs.

Displace Rehearsed Reading Vox-Pops

The first work in progress rehearsed reading of Displace by Belltable Artist in Residence Katie O’Kelly took place on June 20th, 2018. Following the performance we spoke to some audience members to get their thoughts on the piece’s progress so far:

Displace is being developed as part of Katie O’Kelly’s residency at Belltable, supported by the Arts Council and Limerick Culture and Arts Office. This work-in-development rehearsed reading marked World Refugee Day. You can read Katie O’Kelly’s thoughts on the rehearsed reading here.

The next performance in the development of Displace will take place in Belltable in December 2018.  We will continue to keep you updated on the piece’s progress through Belltable:Connect blogs.

‘A surreal moment’ – Belltable Artist in Residence on the First Rehearsed Reading of Displace

Following the first work-in-progress rehearsed reading of Displace at Belltable a week ago, Artist in Residence Katie O’Kelly shares her thoughts on seeing the play come to life on stage for the first time.

Sitting in the front row of the Belltable last Wednesday watching actors read my work in progress script of Displace was a surreal moment. I usually perform in my plays, but for the purpose of the reading I had my writer hat on so was watching it with the audience. I’ve never actually heard any of my plays performed before, so it was a terrifying and thrilling experience. The actors were amazing and breathed life into the characters which have, until that night, existed only in my head.

We started off the reading with a brief talk with Limerick-based actor Frances Healy, who performed in The Magdalene Sisters, and Donnah Vuma, a founding member of MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) and Every Child is Your Child, and campaigner to end direct provision. It gave a context to the work, and an insight into the systems of marginalization, isolation and oppression which the play depicts. It was an honour to share the stage with such brilliant, strong and courageous women, and I’d like to thank them both for taking part and sharing their experiences with us.

A trio of very talented actors then took to the stage to read the work in progress script. Georgina Miller, Sahar Ali and Niamh McGrath were exceptional at weaving the story together and presenting us with the many characters depicted in both the worlds of the Magdalene Laundry and the Direct Provision centre. At the end of the reading the audience was given the opportunity to give feedback on the script, and I had the chance to ask questions about what worked within the story and what needed further developing. It was so great to get feedback from people in the audience who are directly affected by the direct provision system in Ireland at the moment, and to see what else I can bring to the worlds to make them clearer and richer for those watching it.

The reading was sensitively staged by director Sarah Baxter and the feedback session was articulately presented by dramaturg Pamela McQueen. The brilliant Mags O’Donoghue steered us through the technical side of things, with producer Clara Purcell working miracles throughout the day to ensure the smooth running of the whole event. For a play which is so much centred on the female experience in these systems, it was crucial to have such a competent, committed and talented team supporting the work. A huge thanks to all who came along and to those involved in bringing it to the stage. I am feeling fired up and excited about getting started on the next draft, and can’t wait to get a full production up on its feet!

Post-reading feedback session with the creative team of Displace and the audience.

The next performance in the development of Displace will take place in Belltable in December 2018.  We will continue to keep you updated on the piece’s progress through Belltable:Connect blogs.

‘This Play is a Gift’ – Georgina Miller, Displace Rehearsed Reading Actor

Ahead of the work-in-progress rehearsed reading of Displace at Belltable on Wednesday, June 23rd, at 8pm one of the actors who will help bring the piece to life Georgina Miller wrote about the piece. 

Hi, I’m Georgina Miller, and I am one of the actors taking part in the public reading of Displace in Belltable on 20th June.  I was thrilled to be asked, as it’s a powerful piece with a story that is so relevant and touching.  Good writing is not easy to come by and, as an actor, this play is a gift.

The two story-lines, each with their own inherent drama, compliment each other really well.  Set in two different times in the same building in Limerick – a Magdalene Laundry in the 1950s, which has been converted in the present day to a Direct Provision Centre.  The struggles within masked by its walls are as heartbreaking today as they were in the laundry days.

To my shame, I knew very little about the process and conditions for asylum seekers here in Ireland.  I think Katie O’Kelly has done a wonderful job of presenting the reality of their day-to-day existence.  She’s also breathed real life into the whispered stories and headlines of existence for women in the Laundries.

I know sometimes it can turn people off when you say that a piece of theatre is important, but this one truly is.  We can’t shy away from the horror of our past, nor be ignorant to the failings of our system in the present.  That said, the play is also warm and light-hearted in places, and the authentic female relationships and companionships are brilliantly represented.

I’m a mum of two small kids and, for me,  it’ll be interesting to see how that experience informs my connection with this work.  Both women in the play are dealing with their difficult circumstances whilst having the responsibility of another small human to consider.  The role of a mother is a complex and challenging one at the best of times, and these women are forced to carry that out under extraordinary conditions.

Katie has written a remarkably accomplished and engaging piece—it had me in tears on my first reading, and I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing the audience’s reaction to it on the night.


Georgina has been working as an actress for fifteen years across theatre, TV, film and radio. She is also an experienced and busy voice-over artist.

Displace is being developed as part of Katie O’Kelly’s artist in residency at Belltable, supported by Limerick Arts Office. This reading marks World Refugee Day. To book tickets for the work in progress reading of Displace at Belltable on Wednesday, June 20th, at 8pm phone box office on 061 953400, ext 1 or visit our website.

“I Remember 1996” – a Response to the Magdalene Laundries

“We weren’t allowed to cry or laugh”.

An account from one of the last Magdalene Laundries in Dublin that closed in 1996. I remember 1996. Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland. ‘Ballykissangel’ was on the telly, and the film ‘Michael Collins’ was premiered. I saw the set of the burned out Four Courts when I was a kid. Mick McCarthy was manager of the Irish football team and the Spice Girls released their girl-power smash hit Wannabe.

Katie O’Kelly and Clara Purcell from 1996 doing their Spice Girls act.

On our street in Dublin, we spent the summer making up dance routines to it in our cycling shorts and Boyzone Tshirts. It’s hard to believe that while we were arguing about who got to be Sporty Spice there were women incarcerated in Laundries all over the country, never told when they would get out and forced to work in excruciating conditions for no money. Free slave labour. I found out recently that one of the last Laundries to close was in Donnybrook, five minutes from where I grew up.

Last week we Repealed the 8th Amendment, a huge win for women’s rights that have been oppressed and silenced for too long. But we still have a long way to go in unearthing and comprehending the systematic abuse inflicted on so many women for so long in this country. Justice must be sought. The church still hasn’t paid out the vast majority of what it owes to Magdalene Survivors. They seem to essentially be sitting on their hands until it is too late and there are no survivors left.

On Tuesday evening, I was outside the Mansion House as eight bus loads of Magdalene Survivors were driven to the Mansion House for a reception with the Lord Mayor and the President of Ireland. I bawled my eyes out at the sight of all these amazing women, ranging from their 40s to 90s, who had suffered so much at the hands of the Irish State and the Catholic Church. One woman shouted to me that the women of Ireland have ended this with the referendum, the stranglehold that our country has been in since the foundation of the Republic. But we still have a long way to go to fight for justice for Magdalene Survivors. We cannot afford to be complacent ever again. And we cannot forget our collective past.

This piece was written by Belltable Artist in Residence 2018 Katie O’Kelly. Read the Irish Times article which inspired this post here.


To book tickets for the work in progress reading of Displace at Belltable on Wednesday, June 20th, at 8pm phone box office on 061 953400, ext 1 or visit our website.

Meet the Producer of Displace – Clara Purcell

Clara Purcell has worked in theatre, film and TV production since 2012. She was production assistant on the feature-length documentary Nuala – A Life (2012, Accidental Pictures) and worked in production support in RTÉ for four years. Producing credits include Dubliner’s Women (2016, The New Theatre), which toured to Belltable in November 2017, and Norah (2018, The New Theatre). She has been Front of House & Marketing Manager of The New Theatre, Temple Bar since 2015.

Clara has been working with Belltable Artist in Residence Katie O’Kelly, dramaturg Pamela McQueen and director Sarah Baxter ahead of the June 20th work in progress reading of Displace at Belltable. Find out more about Clara’s work and the progress on the rehearsed reading so far in our question and answer session below.

Q. What has your role as producer of Displace entailed to date?

One of my main jobs as producer is to make sure that we are keeping in budget for the project and keeping track of our expenses. I have also been lucky enough to get the job that EVERYBODY wants when making theatre – applying for funding!

On a project that is based on real events and experiences, some of which are ongoing, it’s crucial that all members of the creative team get a sense of the worlds of the play. For this reason I organised a research trip to Limerick city where we visited the College of Art and Design which was formerly a Magdalene Laundry and Knockalisheen Direct Provision centre just outside the city where we met some of the residents. This field trip was crucial to fully understanding the gravity of the material we are tackling in the play.

I’ve also been working with Katie and director Sarah Baxter on organising the development workshop in May and the rehearsed reading in June – selecting and booking cast members, arranging the logistics of getting everybody in the rehearsal room and organising schedules to ensure we can get the most out of the time. The fun part is getting to sit in on the workshop and seeing the piece develop more and more each day. Having finished the workshop, our focus now is on the first public reading of the work in development on June 20th in Belltable.

Q. How much progress has been made in the project so far?

Katie has been working closely with dramaturg Pamela McQueen and director Sarah Baxter on the script since the project began late last year. Since then she has been busy meeting with people in the Direct Provision centres in Limerick and researching accounts of the Magdalene Laundries too. Katie is now working on her third draft of the script, having made amazing progress in our workshop two weeks ago with a fantastic cast of actors – Roseanna Purcell, Niamh McGrath and Sahar Ali. Sarah and Movement Director Bryan Burroughs helped to create a physical interpretation of the two worlds in the play which gave another dimension to the piece and Pamela helped Katie to restructure the script and develop the characters. We’re really excited to get feedback on this current draft from the audience following the reading on June 20th. The support from Belltable so far has been brilliant in providing rehearsal space, marketing support and really helpful suggestions and advice on the project. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to!

Q. What should audiences expect from the work in progress reading on June 20th?

Audiences should expect to be drawn into two worlds by a brilliant cast of Sahar Ali, Niamh McGrath and Limerick-based Georgina Miller. They will have the chance to engage with the piece directly, giving notes and feedback to the playwright on how the play could develop. They will also get the chance to hear amazing speakers, Donnah Vuma and Francis Healy share their thoughts and personal experiences with the themes of the play.

Q: What 5 words best describe this piece so far?

Powerful. Unapologetic. Crucial. Contemporary. Fast-paced.


To book tickets for the work in progress reading of Displace at Belltable on Wednesday, June 20th, at 8pm phone box office on 061 953400, ext 1 or visit our website.

In preparation for a public reading – Displace workshop

Hearing your own work read for the first time by actors is both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. It somehow makes it real, takes it out of your head and brings it to life. It’s a strange experience, after carrying the world of the play around in your head for so long. To hear it spoken by other voices throws up so many new ideas that it can be difficult to jot them all down. They tumble out.

Last week we got to do a development week on ‘Displace’ as part of the Belltable residency. It was an amazing experience, to get to develop a work-in-progress with such a great team of supportive people. Our actors were Sahar Ali, Roseanna Purcell and Niamh McGrath, with Sarah Baxter directing, Bryan Burroughs as movement director and Pamela McQueen as dramaturg. As Bryan put it, it was great getting the opportunity to work ‘just us girls’ :-).

We started by reading through the script a couple of times to get familiar with the story and characters. I don’t think I breathed for the first read. But everyone was so positive and supportive that it made it much easier than I thought it would be, and I relaxed. They gave some great feedback on the script, what parts really worked and suggestions for parts that weren’t quite there yet. I went home after the first day feeling energised and excited to start rewriting.

The movement days were Bryan were invaluable. Very often when I’m writing, I become overly reliant on words at first; they are a safe area. No playwright wants to have blank paper staring at them. But through the movement exercises you begin to see what can be spoken and created through the actors’ bodies on stage, and sometimes it can be far more affecting and powerful in the absence of words. Particularly in the two worlds of the play, where language is so different. In the Laundries for example, the women were forbidden from talking to each other. They only spoke in prayer. Yet friendships were formed secretively, a whispered, hushed form of friendship. In the direct provision centres, language can be a barrier between people from different countries and cultures, often when they are sharing rooms. It creates a whole new level of integration that has to be dealt with. The body can sometimes tell us what words cannot, and this can be particularly interesting on stage.

One of the days was spent with myself, Pamela and Sarah dissecting the second draft of the script, pulling it apart and then putting it together again, to see what structure works best to tell the story we want to tell. This was a really helpful experience as a writer, because so often we can get stuck in one way of thinking; it can become difficult to see different paths the story could take. But opening up to get new perspectives on it can lead to interesting discoveries about the characters and their individual journeys in the story.

After so many great chats, exercises and ideas, I’m scribbling away like mad to get a new draft ready for the rehearsed reading on June 20th in the Belltable. This will be a new step for me as a writer, I’ve never done a reading of a work in progress in front of an audience before so it’ll be brilliant to see what new ideas it sparks!

Limerick research trip for Displace – Katie O’Kelly

 

There’s nothing quite like the bright lights of Obamaplaza on the road to Limerick from Dublin. It’s shiny, warm glow and astonishingly wide range of Obama souvenirs and trinkets always heralds that the journey is nearly over. On the way home from gigs in the Belltable in the past it has frequently been the provider of supermacs and road trip snacks for hungry actors. Last Thursday was no different, as we pulled in to its majestic car park on our research trip to Limerick City.

The trip was to show the team that I am working on my new play ‘Displace’ with some of the places that inspired the story. So at 9am I picked up dramaturg Pamela McQueen, director Sarah Baxter, movement director Bryan Burroughs and producer Clara Purcell in Dublin and we set off.

As a relatively new driver, most of my attention went on making sure I didn’t go up any one-way streets the wrong way while in the city, but once we were out on the road it was great to get to chat about theatre, the Belltable residency and some of the people I have met as part of my research.

The play is about a fictional Magdalene laundry building in Limerick that has been turned in to a modern day Direct Provision centre for asylum seekers while they wait for their application to be processed. This process can take years, and asylum seekers are left in a system where they are not allowed to work, not allowed to cook their own food, and given €21.60 a week. The price of two supermac meals in Obamaplaza, or a couple of keyrings with I heart Ireland on them.

When we reached Limerick, our first port of call was the Limerick School of Art and Design, what used to be the old Good Shepherd Laundry. It was amazing to see the building that I had read so much about transformed into a completely different setting, but with so much of the old laundry aesthetic still evident.

You can tell what parts of the building were the nuns’ quarters and what were the parts for the women incarcerated

there by the difference in design – some corridors have parquet wood on the floors and walls, while other areas are covered in old 1950s lino.

 

The team couldn’t believe how much of it was still there. The windows high up in the walls in some of the old laundry rooms meant that if you were one of the women working there you weren’t even allowed to look out. Given no indication of how long you would be there, cut off from the world, much like the people left in the modern day direct provision system.

We went in to the exhibition gallery, which used to be the old chapel in the grounds of the laundry. Here, the women would be brought in for Mass and seated on one side of the building while the children from the orphanage would sit in another part. There are accounts of the women craning to catch a glimpse of their child that had been taken from them and put in the orphanage, while the mothers worked only a short distance away in the steaming heat of the laundry. It was very affecting to be in the silence of that room, with its ornate marble and gold mosaic on the walls, and think of the suffering that those women were put through. It’s haunting.

Next we visited Marketa in Belltable before a very delicious lunch in Hook and Ladder – Bryan said he became a regular there when he was in Angela’s Ashes the Musical, and we can see why! Lovely food and a very nice atmosphere, we’ll definitely be heading back there for sure :-).

After lunch we visited a friend of mine in one of the direct provision centres in Limerick. I won’t say which one as I want to be sure nothing happens because of it – this is all part of the system, of keeping people separated and afraid of what can happen if you cause ‘trouble’. It’s shocking to visit these centres though, many of them are old religious buildings that have repurposed to house asylum seekers, out in the middle of nowhere and with extremely limited transport in to the city. If you get the bus in to town, it leaves at 9:30am and you won’t be able to go back until the return bus at 5:30pm. That’s a fecking long wait.

Some of the centres have an air of Stepford about them, with everything looking nice but something not quite right at the same time. The ones with children have playrooms for example, but the toys aren’t used and frequently the door in to the room is locked. There are no children to be seen, a strange feeling in a centre that supposedly houses 70 little ones.

In another centre that I went to, I was the first person to sign the visitors book in 2018. Two people had signed in last year, and five in 2016. How are people supposed to integrate in to the community, one of the things they look for when assessing applications, if you are purposely cut off from that community – placed in a big vacant building miles away from the nearest town?

We saw the canteen in this DP centre, the noticeboards of signs saying the rules, and the laundry where half the machines don’t work; the depressed atmosphere of waiting is palpable. The car ride home was very different from the journey down. Everyone was very moved and affected by what we had seen. There was far less chat, it seemed trivial after it somehow. We are determined to try to bring some of what we saw to the stage, to share it with a wider community.

I’ve finished my second draft of the script of ‘Displace’, and am all fired up to start work on the next draft for the reading in the Belltable on 20th June, which marks World Refugee Day.  I’ve never done a reading of a work in progress before, so it will be interesting to see what new ideas are sparked by it, as well as being just a wee bit terrifying! But it’s good to push your comfort zone sometimes, and the warm glow of Obamaplaza will always be there for the supermacs afterwards :-).

Katie O’Kelly, Belltable Artist in Residence 2018

 

International Theatre Exchange – Mags O’Donoghue checks in from Finland

After a long day, leaving Limerick before 4am and with a flight delay to get to know Helsinki Airport very well, I arrived in Oulu Friday night and was greeted by Brent Cassidy, director of the Irish Festival of Oulu. Brent hosted me in his home for two nights. I was able to spend the weekend exploring the area near his house by bike, heading through forest to the beach. On Saturday evening we headed to an Irish session which was amazing and bizarre. It’s odd to be so far north, to be the only Irish person, and to feel almost less Irish than everyone here. It’s definitely making me wish I could play more than ‘Twinkle twinkle’ on the tin whistle. Brent is fluent in Irish so it’s lovely to be able to speak a bit again, though I’ll admit I’m struggling with his Ulster Irish tongue. Flashbacks to that part of the Leaving Cert tape test!

On Sunday I met Anna Kaisa, who will come to Limerick as part of this exchange in November. I’m staying with her now until the festival starts next week. We went to an event at her workplace where we ate and watched some Finnish Improv Comedy. Luckily I got a running English commentary from her as so far in Finnish I can only say hello, goodbye, milk, gluten free and bag (and the odd expletive!).

Monday was the first day at the Irish Festival office in Culture Centre Valve. Brent took me on a tour and introduced me to some of the staff members there. It’s an amazing facility with a café, theatre, studios, and offices for various cultural organisations.

It’s been very grey since I arrived so I was really glad to see light today when the sun came out and I took a gorgeous walk around in the evening. The Autumn colours here are spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday was European Day of Languages and the Irish Festival was invited to perform and have a stand at an event at the nearby shopping centre. Anna Kaisa and I handed out festival programmes and spoke to people about the festival. With my handful of Finnish words and their mostly excellent English I didn’t do too badly. The festival definitely has a good reputation in the area. Almost everyone we spoke with already knew about it. But there are similar struggles here as at home with getting people to attend and especially to book tickets in advance.

The rest of this week was spent preparing the artist packs and itineraries for next week. I’ve been slowly getting to know all the members of the team and am being well looked after by everyone. Anna Kaisa and Asta, the festival producer, took me to sample my first reindeer stew on Thursday so just so everyone knows – I ate it…it’s delicious…sorry Santa!

On Thursday evening the 30 plus volunteers came to a meeting at Valve to go through the schedule and roles. It was a good chance for everyone to meet over pizza and get to know each other and the festival a bit more.

We ended the week by beginning to decorate Valve with an explosion of festival balloons and posters. Slowly taking over the place! I also had a really interesting meeting with the director of Valve, Arja Huotari, who shared loads of information about this great cultural centre they have here. It really is an amazing space for supporting artists with both office, rehearsal and performance space. There are some wonderful photography exhibitions hanging at the moment and the place is always buzzing with visitors to the café and the comic store and with people attending various dance and other classes. It was great to be able to chat to her about Limerick too and the projects we have going on and about the Belltable:Connect programme I’m on. All these international connections are so important to have and this is a really great opportunity to learn how things operate in other countries.

The countdown is on for the festival now. I’ll be taking over the @irishfestoulu Twitter account next week so do follow along there with all the madness of the most northern Irish festival in the world! Hei hei!

Director Sinead Hackett reflects on Fishamble Mentoring Programme

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

Limerick your a lady…….

And so are you Marketa. The boys from Fishamble ain’t so bad either 😉.

All jokes aside, I  just really want to say thank you  for  the  place on the Belltable:Connect mentorship programme.  It was a  valuable experience.

Driving down to Limerick city once a month over the past 10 months to meet and connect with other emerging directors in the Beltable theatre was exciting.  The directors group was hosted by Jim from Fishamble  theatre company, whose manner is so chilled he put us all at ease.

It was full of first times for me and first times can be nerve wrecking. This is my first time to ever blog!!!!!.

But it was also my first time  to ever pitch. My first time to sit in on a mentorship programme, my first time in THE Beltable theatre,  my first time having any connection with Limerick City and my first time meeting all the other young, hip, cool emerging directors and Jim.

Little by little we got to know each other,  our styles, our preference and our projects, through the monthly  meet ups and chats.

It was great. Hopefully we will meet again. Until then onwards and upwards.

Sinead.x