This blog was featured in Miro Magazine in the run up to View From Here: Northern Ireland, February 2018.
View From Here: Northern Ireland is set to bring a carefully curated selection of new Northern Irish writing to London. Hear about the idea from producers Philippa Mannion, Katherine Nesbitt & Isabel Sharman – and why it’s important to tell stories from all over the UK.
Over the past few years Isy, Katherine and I have been building our new writing connections across the UK, presenting work at London’s Theatre503 that showcases a selection of the new writing scene from Scotland and Yorkshire. We have brought together fantastic emerging and established writers with a team of skilled directors and actors. After two successful festivals under our belt, we set our sights on a project close to our hearts: new writing from Northern Ireland.
Under the guidance of our Northern Irish producer Katherine, we contacted a few Northern Irish theatre companies to discover the best of Northern Irish playwriting. We teamed up with Hanna Slattne, a freelance dramaturg who has been working in writers in Northern Ireland for over 11 years, including Tinderbox Theatre Company. She advised us on potential writers to contact and has collaborated with us to build the foundations for our event. For each of our festivals, it’s become more and more vital to have a local partner who knows the lay of the land and how best to represent an area of the UK in London:
“With each festival we have gone from strength to strength. We’re learning more which format works for audiences, as well as learning how best to support our artists”, reflects our producer Katherine. “It’s important that we do as much as we can, within our modest means, to respond to each region and not impose a one-size-fits-all approach. And in return, we’ve found artists responsive and supportive of what we’re trying to achieve.”
We aim to engage with writers from different backgrounds, who bring stories from all across the country. Our work so far has engaged writers from Leeds, Glasgow and Belfast, but also from Moray, York and Newry. We are strengthening our own learning of what different pockets of the UK are like, facilitating exchange between artists and audiences and, at the same time, supporting our company’s artistic development. Each festival that we curate gives us an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone and learn as we go, while still being dedicated to our audience in putting on high quality new work. Emerging playwright Patrick Dunlea considers sharing his work with a new audience at our latest festival:
“View from Here presents an amazing opportunity for artists from outside of the UK’s major theatre bubble. To engage with a different kind of audience, build new connections and celebrate underrepresented regions in London’s often overwhelming theatre world is huge for anyone involved. For a playwright not only does it give you a voice in a crowded marketplace but also further experience, recognition and drive when returning to your local scene. Not only do you feel more connected to the wider UK theatre world but also a stronger voice for your area.”
For our Northern Ireland event, we have received brilliant work in the form of a short play from David Ireland and an excerpt from Lally The Scut from award-winning playwright Abbie Spallen. Both have been incredibly generous in sharing their work to sit on shared billing with two emerging writers – Alice Malseed and Patrick Dunlea. This mixed programme is what makes View From Here a bit different, giving audience a flavour of what new writing looks like in an area of the UK.
We’ve also been working with playwright Alice, who has written with the festival in mind:
“My play North Street is brand new. With it, I have tried to illustrate an atmosphere that I feel is currently ominous in Belfast. We are simultaneously approaching the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and experiencing over 13 months without a government. A real juxtaposition between hope and the unknown.”
Our aims have always been political with a small ‘p’. We explore and acknowledge shared and diverse cultural values and our proximity across the UK, arguing that every area have something to offer not only London audiences but audiences across the UK. Our ambition is to keep using the exposure of the capital to have these conversations, as well as aiming to start bringing our work out to a wider audience. As Alice adds:
“It’s very important to me as a Belfast based theatre maker to have my work seen and presented outside of Belfast and Ireland – otherwise, it can feel like there is a real glass ceiling on what can be achieved. Having a wide and varied network of partners, collaborators and audiences, is important too, so being introduced to the View From Here team has been a great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to the festival.”
We’re thrilled with the wealth of talent coming out of Northern Ireland right now and we can’t wait to share it with you.
View From Here Festival: Northern Ireland plays at Theatre503 on 25 – 26 February 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.