‘A tremendous success’

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It’s been twenty one years this week since the Playhouse in Derry first opened its doors on Artillery Street.

Over two decades later, the founder of this theatre Pauline Ross, is as passionate as ever about her work.

Today in a the second of a two part feature Pauline explains how the future of the Playhouse has been strengthened by Derry’s year as City of Culture.

Pauline Ross was one of a number of people involved in securing Derry’s status as City of Culture for 2013.

And it was this foresight, among her other attributes, which ensured Pauline was recently awarded a second successive Londonderry Chamber of Commerce Arts and Culture Individual of the Year Award earlier this year.

“The success of our centre,” she explains, “is not down to me.

“We have a building which changes and develops to our needs and I have a staff every bit as dedicated to what we are doing here as I am. I have to tell them to go home!”

This is the busiest ever year at the Artillery Street arts centre with an unprecedented number of new works commissioned.

Pauline said: “If the City of Culture celebrations ended today I would think they would have been a tremendous success.

“I think 2013 has brought the Playhouse to another level. We have already established a legacy in the improvement of the productions on offer.

“For the first time in our life we’ve had proper production money secured from City of Culture. That has allowed us to prove we can stage productions comparable to anywhere.

“Gary Mitchell and the Undertones wrote Re-Energise, a story which resonates with all of the communities in Northern Ireland. We also have had local writers Seamus Keenan, Ken McCormack and Jennifer Johnston perform.”

Pauline continued: “Thanks to the Culture year, we’ve had a pot of money to work with and the first thing we did was appoint a producer, Kieran Griffiths. Kieran will be staying with us after 2013, that is another legacy for the arts locally.”

The year has marked a rapid expansion of the arts centre, which last year was used by more than 100,000 people and fostered international partnerships in Italy, Austria, Germany, France and Iceland.

“In six months of 2013 we’ve created 94 jobs in the creative industries,” said Pauline.

“In terms of learning the craft it has provided a fantastic opportunity both for students and the development of the arts locally. At the Playhouse we’ve unpicked the pieces of our complex history in the belief that perspective and history give us a new set of eyes with which to watch and create.

“At the Playhouse we’ve always been about ‘Purposeful Inquiry’ and hopefully that will continue for another 21 years, at least.”