The first production by a new truth recovery arts initiative will open in Derry next month.
Since May 2018, six families, who’ve experienced the killing of a child within their family, have shared their stories and experiences with The Playhouse Theatre Peace Building Academy.
These narratives, spanning the years 1971 – 1981 relate a complex and remarkable interweaving of events.
These stories will be performed by friends and family connected to the children, supported by local community actors for first production by the project, called ‘The Crack in Everything’ by Jo Egan.
Over twenty people have taken part in one-to-one interviews with family members, friends of the children, school teachers, neighbours, peace activists and specialists in trauma for the major EU PEACE IV funded project cross-border project.
The stories being shared are those of Damien Harkin, 8 years old, was killed by a British Army lorry in the Bogside, Derry-Londonderry on July 24, 1971; Annette McGavigan, 14 years old, fatally wounded when the British Army fired into a crowd of bystanders at a riot in the Bogside on September 6, 1971; Julie Livingstone, 14 years old, died on May 13, 1981 from injuries sustained after she was shot by a plastic bullet fired by the British Army; Kathryn Eakin, 8 years old, died in the Claudy bombings, carried out by the IRA, on July 31, 1972; Kathleen Feeney, 14 years old, shot and killed on November 14, 1973 when a young IRA sniper fired at a British Army checkpoint and killed Kathleen by mistake; and Henry Cunningham, 16 years old, a passenger in a van fired on by three UVF gunmen on August 9, 1973.
The initiative aims to use theatre as a tool to explore community relations issues in a safe and accessible environment, promoting healing and reconciliation in a liberating, healing and transformative way. The aim of the project is to deliver something completely unique, including pieces of theatre that will radically change the way we think as a society.
Playwright, Director and Community Arts Activist Jo Egan is the first of four Socially Engaged Theatre Practitioners to deliver this new theatre piece for the project.
Jo Egan said: “This is one of the most challenging but exciting projects I’ve ever been involved with. These stories are terrible in their impact on people’s lives, frightening in that they reveal the corruption of our political structures, but they also reveal a hard won wisdom, deep humanity and fearless honesty.”
Welcoming the production Gina McIntyre, CEO with the Special EU Programmes Body, said: “This first production from the Theatre and Peace Building Academy gives expression and presence to the tragedy and suffering as well as the bravery and inspirational strength of families who have experienced the loss of a child during The Troubles. These are stories of great sorrow, but they are also stories of resilience, fortitude and grace.
“Art is a powerful tool, a prism, through which we may face great tragedy and therein seek to find remembrance, truth, and perhaps even healing. Central to the EU’s PEACE IV Programme is the desire to support projects that offer people the chance to give expression to their stories of hurt and tragedy, so that somewhere along a path of understanding and empathy all can acknowledge and begin to come to terms with the past –but also look towards a more stable, hopeful and prosperous future.”
The Playhouse is working in partnership with Holywell Trust, Thomas D’Arcy McGee Foundation and Queens University Belfast to deliver the two and a half year Theatre Peace Building Academy project.
The PEACE IV Programme is an EU funded Programme designed to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region. It is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Executive Office and the Department for Rural and Community Development.
‘The Crack in Everything’ by Jo Egan will open on Tuesday 27 November to Saturday 1 December, before touring to The Brian Friel Theatre, Belfast, from Wednesday 5 to Saturday 8 December.
Tickets for ‘The Crack in Everything’ by Jo Egan are free and are available from The Playhouse Box Office on (028)71268027 or online at www.derryplayhouse.co.uk. More information about the project is available from www.theatreandpeacebuilding.co.uk.