Sport and drama are to unite in Derry next week

The stage is set for 'Lish and Gerry at The Shrine'.
The stage is set for 'Lish and Gerry at The Shrine'.

Sport and the arts will unite on the stage of The Playhouse Theatre in Derry on Wednesday in an exciting new initiatiave.

Sport and the arts will unite on the stage of the Playhouse Theatre on Wednesday when the Irish Football Association, with support from EU PEACE III and Spring Lane Productions, host an evening of drama and conversation, entitled ‘A Game of Two Halves’. 

Left to right:  Vincent Higgins as Gerry Morgan and James Doran as Elisha Scott in Lish and Gerry at The Shrine

Left to right: Vincent Higgins as Gerry Morgan and James Doran as Elisha Scott in Lish and Gerry at The Shrine

The event has been organised under the umbrella of the IFA’s Football for All project, which uses football as a channel for promoting peace and reconciliation, developing partnerships and building capacity within clubs, fans and communities.

The event combines two plays by writer and sports journalist Padraig Coyle with a post-show discussion, led by well-known local facilitator Eamonn Baker. The leading roles will be played by three top notch Northern Irish actors, James Doran, Vincent Higgins and Stephen Kelly.

The evening kicks off with ‘Lish and Gerry at The Shrine’, premiered in the Members’ Lounge at Windsor Park in November 2010 and subsequently performed in the Stormont Assembly Chamber and at the 2011 Feile An Phobail. All performances were supported by the IFA.

The action revolves around two legendary figures in Irish football, who meet up again on the other side of the grave. Elisha Scott - known universally as Lish - was the highly respected manager of Belfast Celtic throughout the club’s most successful years. In 1949, he led the team on its farewell tour to America and presided over its controversial disappearance from the Irish League. Gerry Morgan was a Linfield man through and through. At the time, he was a rare creature - a Catholic from Belfast’s Carrick Hill, who played for the club for many years before becoming Linfield and Northern Ireland’s trainer and sponge man.

They come together to mull over old times, gossip about famous characters, rake up old squabbles and generally put the world to rights.  

James Doran and Vincent Higgins will reprise their highly praised portrayals of, respectively, Lish and Gerry.

‘Lexi’ is a new piece and it will be premiered in Derry. Its central character needs no introduction to Derry audiences. Alex Moore is a footballing legend in his home town. He played for Derry City, Glenavon and was invited to replace star striker Jimmy Jones on Belfast Celtic’s American tour, when he scored a goal in the famous defeat of Scotland.

On stage, actor Stephen Kelly will step into Lexi’s shoes, inviting audiences to take a trip down memory lane into his fascinating personal life and sporting career.

When the curtain comes down, audience members will be invited to stay on and take part in a discussion on the issues raised by the plays and the times in which we are living. It will be led by Eamonn Baker, of Towards Understanding and Healing, an organisation which encourages ‘deep listening’ to the diverse stories arising from the conflict.

The event venue is particularly appropriate as it was here, at the start of 2013, that the IFA’s Football For All project relaunched its EU PEACE III funded programme Looking Back to Move Forward, with support from Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland international manager Michael O’Neill and drama students from St. Cecilia’s College.

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson has long been a supporter of the way in which drama can be used to explore social and political issues in a sporting context

“Having experienced this drama and discussion before, I am excited by the positive impact it has on the audience,” he said.

“Football is a great leveler, and through this drama, we are able to facilitate dealing with issues of the past through sport. I am delighted what we are able to bring this dynamic event to the North West and look forward to sharing the Football for All message with new audiences.”

Sarah Keys, Football for All development officer, based in Derry, was instrumental in bringing ‘A Game of Two Halves’ to the Maiden City.

“Lish & Gerry at the Shrine was first shown at Windsor Park in 2010 and was so successful that we felt that with the addition of local man, Lexi Moore’s story to the drama, the City of Culture year would be the perfect opportunity to take the drama to the North West. I am really looking forward to the facilitated discussion on the issues of dealing with the past which the play brings to the surface.”

The event is free and will take place on Thursday December 12 from 6pm to 7.30pm in the Playhouse.

There are limited places, so please RSVP to Sarah Keys by 12 noon Tuesday the December 10 to confirm your place.

You can get in touch with Football For All through Twitter @footballforall using #footballforallNI or through our Facebook page ‘Football for All NI’.