‘Beyond Belief’ - Life of John Hume to run in Derry’s Guildhall in 2023

Key negotiators in the Good Friday Agreement talks have shown their support for a major new drama by The Playhouse honouring the life of John Hume.

By Brendan McDaid
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 12:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 12:01 pm

Marking the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in 2023, Beyond Belief will run from Friday 31 March- 7 April 2023.

Screening across the world as part of global commemorations of the agreement, the Playhouse production will be performed by the people of Derry in the city’s Guildhall.

The life of the esteemed peacemaker, who passed away in 2020, will be honoured in the new work by Damian Gorman (writer), Brian O’Doherty (composer) and directed by Kieran Griffiths.

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(L-R Back) Tim Attwood (The John & Pat Hume Foundation Secretary, former Councillor Belfast City Council), Kevin Murphy (Playhouse CEO), Sara Canning (The John & Pat Hume Foundation, Study Support Officer in Altnagelvin Area Hospital and campaigner for truth, justice and equality), Mark Durkan (The John & Pat Hume Foundation, Former deputy First Minister NI Executive, Member of Parliament and SDLP Leader), Professor Paul Arthur (Professor of Politics, Emeritus Director of the Graduate Program in Peace and Conflict Studies Ulster University), Professor Monica McWilliams (Emeritus Professor at Ulster University and Chairperson of Interpeace, an international NGO working on peace-building. Negotiator for NI Womens Coalition in Good Friday Agreement talks). (L-R Front) Brid Rodgers (Former Executive member of NICRA, Deputy Leader SDLP and Minister for Agriculture Northern Ireland Assembly. Brid was a leader of the SDLP team in the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement), Professor Se?n Farren (Foundation Ch

Telling John Hume and his wife Pat’s story through the medium of music theatre, Beyond Belief is the second part of a peacebuilding trilogy by The Playhouse, following the phenomenal success of The White Handkerchief, which premiered in the Guildhall on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 30 January 2022.

The production also marks the beginning of a partnership between The Playhouse and The John & Pat Hume Foundation, signifying their shared mission to promote leadership for positive change and social justice.

Beyond Belief has the support of John and Pat Hume’s family. John Hume’s daughter, Mo Hume, said, “Our family really admire the peacebuilding work that (Playhouse founder) Pauline Ross and The Playhouse team have created. Both my parents were hugely impressed by the creativity, openness and international reach of the Playhouse’s work over many decades.

“We are confident that The Playhouse will honour my father, and present his life and work with great integrity, but also joy. My father’s career had many triumphs, many hardships, but he was a warm, kind and funny family man, a man who loved to sing. He was a very proud Derry man and I know it will be emotional seeing his presence step on the stage of the Guildhall.”

Original signed copy of Good Friday Agreement and John Hume’s glasses.

Kieran Griffiths, said: “While John Hume has been described as a ‘Titan’, a ‘Giant’ and a ‘Hero of peace-making and reconciliation, Beyond Belief, in its words and music, will reach for the man: the man who achieved all he did not glibly, without struggle or alone, but as a human being. In re-presenting John Hume, his life and his mission – a mission never fettered by shibboleth, dogma or fossilised tenet – Beyond Belief will seek to inspire those generations through words, music and song,”

Tickets for ‘Beyond Belief - The Life and Mission of John Hume’ will be available via: www.derryplayhouse.co.ukThe anniversary performance on 7th April 2023 will be broadcast live via derryplayhouse.co.uk and available to stream for 7 days afterwards.

Professor Monica McWilliams, Emeritus Professor at Ulster University, Chairperson of Interpeace, and Negotiator for NI Women’s Coalition in Good Friday Agreement talks, is one of many who have shown their support for the production. “John Hume [used to say] ‘We need to decommission mindsets’. And that’s the same today as it was then. He was right. He could understand where we needed to be, and it’s great this musical is happening because a musical will go a lot further sometimes than documentaries… I would imagine my grandchildren hopefully someday if I have them would go around singing those songs” she told BBC Radio Foyle.

Playhouse CEO Kevin Murphy said, “The difference that The Playhouse and The John & Pat Hume Foundation both make is that we bring people together to make meaningful change creatively, peacefully and with hope. We each strive to support positive changemakers, nurturing their creativity and confidence. In addition, when we work together the possibilities only grow and through this partnership we can contribute to sustaining peace in societies worldwide as well as here in our home city.”

John Hume pictured on the day he received the Freedom of the City in Derry. Picture by Hugh Gallagher.

As with The White Handkerchief, members of The Playhouse Music Theatre Company will make up the ensemble for the production, (with some auditioning for major roles), having taken part in world class training with The Playhouse. Launched in May 2021, The Playhouse Music Theatre Company offers world class music theatre training training to those from the city who are strong theatre performers.

Writer Damian Gorman said, “When John Hume passed away, on the 3rd of August 2020, there was a palpable sense of loss, not only in Derry but throughout the world. And though many words were put to assessing the career and achievements of such a notable public figure, it was in the hearts of people whose lives he had touched that his loss was felt most keenly. And John Hume being the man he was, those people were very many, and very various. In the wake of his passing, in the time of Covid, many people felt “robbed of their grief”. Beyond Belief does not seek to be a wake, but an awakening: in re-presenting his life and his odyssey for peace, the production itself will seek to stand up for some of the things which John Hume did – among these the right to decent life, and the right to hope.”

Dr Sean Farren, Chair of The John & Pat Hume Foundation said: “The Hume Foundation believes the record of The Playhouse in promoting, healing, understanding, reconciliation demonstrates that it has the capability, care and understanding to develop an inspiring and creative work telling the story of John Hume’s life and achievements. The recent powerful production of The White Handkerchief was an important and emotional drama which celebrated of all those whose lives were lost on Bloody Sunday. John and Pat Hume were very close and supportive of The Playhouse during their lifetime and championed the organisation’s cultural and peacebuilding work. Of all the organisations that could tell this story through the medium of theatre The Hume Foundation can think of no better one.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support The Playhouse with this new drama marking the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and honouring the life of inspirational peacemaker, John Hume. We are committed to supporting work that offers career development opportunities and performance platforms for local artists and this production offers just that through The Playhouse Music Theatre Company. Congratulations to all involved and I look forward to seeing the production in 2023.”