Belltable:Connect Commission for PADDY MCGRATH’S DAUGHTER – Veronica Dyas

Receiving the Belltable:Connect Commission to begin to write my new play “Paddy McGrath’s Daughter” was extremely important to me as an independent artist and one of the highlights of my working year.

This commission created the space for me to be able to write, both physically and financially, enabling me to spend an extended amount of time in Limerick City for research and development towards completing the 1st and 2nd Drafts of this new playtext.

My relationship with Belltable as an Independent Artist working freelance was cultivated through the Gap Day Initiative created by Lian Bell & Mermaid Arts Centre. Having spent two days working in the Artist’s Hub Space at Belltable, Limerick early in 2019, I was able to develop a relationship with the Artistic Director, Marketa Dowling and spend time talking though my work, interests and plans and became more familiar with the team and the physical infrastructure of the theatre. It also served to refamiliarise myself with the city of my maternal Grandfather in the context of my arts practice.  This time spent on Gap Day contributed to my artistic impetus to write “Paddy McGrath’s Daughter”.

Spending an extended amount of time writing in Limerick was crucial to the development of this new play. The Belltable:Connect Commission enabled me to be here, tune into and walk the landscape in my Grandfather’s footsteps and talk to members of our family about him.

This time in the city facilitated the beginning of new relationships with key people and organisations in further developing this work, such as The Hunt Museum and Limerick City Council. Crucial to making work about and in Limerick, was the new connections I made with the amazingly amazing Artists from the city. I can’t imagine another mechanism that would have created those relationships with artists, actors, directors, technicians as cohesively as the presentation evening of these four new plays with and about the Limerick community in November. The evening served to test the work in front of a very warm and generous audience, and provided the lead in time and space to work with two amazing actors, Ann Blake & Pat McGrath who brought this new text to life. Their expertise, as well as that of the rest of the amazing team created a safety and rigour in staging this early draft of a new work.

As an independent artist, working freelance and without regular funding, being commissioned by Belltable:Connect has had a significant impact on my practice, broadening the scope of my relationships, work and enabling me to write a new play for theatre with the physical, financial and artistic resources required to do so. I feel both privileged and grateful to have been supported in this comprehensive way. I look forward to further cultivating all the new relationships generated through this process, and continuing to work to complete “Paddy McGrath’s Daughter”

LOVE & Gratitude

Veronica Dyas

Belltable:Connect Commission for SHAM – Paul Meade

Belltable:Connect has been a fantastic experience for me.  Firstly, the commission gave me permission to write the play that I wanted to write.  It was important to be trusted as a playwright in this way.  Secondly, the play was a departure from my previous work and I got the chance to experiment with a more poetic mode.  I feel my writing has really improved through this experiment and Belltable:Connect gave me the time and space to be able to do that.  Thirdly, Belltable:Connect gave me the resources to work with actors on the text for a couple of days.  This resource was invaluable and I learnt a lot about the play from that experience and from the audience that came to see the works in progress.  I would highly recommend this programme with its simple, trusting and well resourced schedule.

 

‘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.

Writer Louise Holian on being part of Belltable:Connect

Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

This mentorship in Belltable came along at a time last September when I really needed a lifeline,-applications for everything between day jobs & arts stuff were coming back ‘No’s’ time and time again and I was feeling very deflated so when I got the email to say I had got a place on the course, my whole self just lit up and there were, I’m not embarrassed to say, a few tears as I sat rereading it over and over again ready to burst with a joy that just invaded my everything.  I needed someone to recognise the potential in me that I know I have as a writer person thing and maybe to take a bit of a punt too and Gavin did that in choosing me to be part of the 12 so I’ll always be thankful to him for that.  Soon after starting this course I found out whilst being glued to my Gmail – a daily routine, I had also got a place on The Next Stage – another artist development initiative as part of The Dublin Theatre Festival and I know this would not have happened if I hadn’t got the place on the playwrighting course so one definitely happened as a result of the other. I was back in the land of happy and hope and ’I am part of this’ – in the room and on an equal footing with people a few months before I never thought I would be.

Living a bit out in the shticks of Co. Galway, I can sometimes feel a bit on the outside or the only ‘creative in the village’ as a writer/performer full of ideas and wanting  people to play / explore with ; staring out the window hugging my mug of  builders tae , sitting not content  at the table ‘trying to write’ – feeling  a bit lost betimes  with the ‘am I writer if I’m not writing, am I an actor if not acting, should I just go and work in a shop and stop codding meself debacle. So a journey to Limerick once a month, off the bus and in the doors of the Belltable at 9.30 on a Saturday morning, a coffee and let’s get stuck in, is to me a joyous relief and release and where I fit really – It’s there with my extremely talented group that I realise my gut feelings are right- I do have a contribution to make in the arts arena – I need to get out, make things happen, persist and make my mark cause no one else will do it for me. Life and ourselves can get in our own way sometimes and the thing we are meant for we can run away from or have to in some cases cause the rent needs paying etc but what I find this course is giving me as the months progress on aside from technical skills and meeting my peers which is a massive part of the good stuff is, it connects me and reconnects me, I feel rooted – an Anchor I think is the word. So regardless of any other goings on or noise in my life when I’m there, I’m present and I’m a writer (fuck it I said it ha ) and most importantly I’m me.

The few hours seem to tick by in a heartbeat and I’m walking away’ back into a busy Limerick Street/ soundscape with a sudden ‘oh it’s over ‘haze feeling.  I want more, more of those few hours all the time, more ‘challenge me’ , more time with those people in my group I’m getting  increasingly intrigued by with every meeting,  more let me into the theatre space to play and create , more who are these directors in the room next door …. I just want to live in it- this world and not outside it if that makes sense.  Bring on next time :-).