It’s true what they say…’You can take the man out of Derry but you’ll never take Derry out of the man’. Even though this year’s City of Derry Drama Festival adjudicator, Michael O’Hara, a son of Derry, hasn’t lived in the city for almost 50 years, when you talk to him it becomes clear very quickly that his roots are still firmly planted in the town he loves so well.
Michael, who nowadays spends his time commuting between his homes in Spain and Coleraine, is a son of Johnny and Molly O’Hara from Patrick Street.
He is a former pupil of ‘The Christians’ and St Columb’s College and he carries fond memories of those times, as vivid as those described by other well known past pupils like Seamus Deane, Seamus Heaney, John Hume and Phil Coulter.
In the early years of his career he lived in Limerick and Heaney came to give a talk in what is now the University of Limerick, staying with Michael and his wife Lynda. Michael and Lynda could only offer Heaney a camp bed to sleep on, which promptly collapsed as soon as he sat on it!
Michael recalls memories of Radio Foyle’s Gerry Anderson, both of whom would have walked the Lecky Road to school, and he has especially fond memories of the former Anita Armstrong, now Anita Robinson, with whom he trod the boards in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in Belfast in 1964.
Michael also remembers showbands, The Corinthian, The Embassy and an old Ford belonging to his father that almost got him arrested on the way home from Borderland one night!
Michael will have his work cut out for him in this year’s City of Derry Drama Festival, which opens in the Waterside Theatre this Friday, March 4, and runs for nine nights.
With six former festival winners and five All-Ireland or Ulster finalists in the line-up there’ll be tough decisions to be made. But as we say in this part of the world, “No better man”!
Michael has been adjudicating in the drama circuit for at least 25 years all over Ireland and Scotland. Among the major festivals he has adjudicated have been the Ulster One Act Finals, the All-Ireland Confined Finals, the RTE All Ireland Drama Festival Finals, the All Ireland One Act Finals and the Scottish One Act Finals.
Michael’s interest in drama was sparked at College in Belfast where he was heavily involved in plays, revues and acting with drama groups in and around Belfast.
He went on to teach drama and theatre at the highest levels in schools, colleges and universities in Coleraine, Belfast, Limerick and in Northern Nigeria for more than 40 years until his retirement in 2004. During his extensive career, he was also involved in the training of teachers of English, drama and theatre. He is a Licentiate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London and a Licentiate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, London.
So there’s certainly no doubting Michael’s credentials and if you factor in a mother who was a steward at Feis Doire Colmcille for many years, and a father whom Michael describes as always having a smile and a story, then it’s a definite ‘no brainer’! Groups competing in this year’s festival can certainly expect incisive and inspiring adjudications.
For further information on the festival programme, check out the festival website www.cityofderrydramafestival.org.
Tickets are £8 (£6 concessionary) per night but there are bargains to be had with season tickets at £40 for all nine nights (£30 concessionary) - a huge saving - and you can also book for two nights at the same time and get a third night free!
For bookings, contact the Waterside Theatre on: 71. 314000 or visit : www.watersidetheatre.com.