Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Funding the First Galway Arts Festival - 1978

A real find this week is the Galway Arts Festival archive is the earliest press cutting in the archive. Taken from the Connacht Sentinel, 21 March 1978, the article is titled “Arts Group appeals to city councillors”. The article outlines the case for assistance and funding to the Galway Arts Group which is organising the first-ever Galway Arts Festival. Founding member of the Galway Arts Group, Ollie Jennings, who later went on to hold the post of Festival Director until 1991, made the appeal to Galway City Councillors to support this venture as the Arts Council had allocated a grant of £1,000 to establish an Arts Festival in Galway.
The requirements such as a venue to act as Festival headquarters, to establish a dedicated Arts Centre for Galway City and establish an annual Arts Festival are stated as being the key goals of Jennings and his group. The deliberations regarding funding from the various Galway city councillors is detailed and makes for an intriguing insight into the planning by a few of an event for Galway that would turn into one of the biggest annual Arts Festivals in Europe!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Update on the Lyric Archive

As summer arrives, it's a good time to take stock of the Lyric archive cataloguing project and to see how much work is still to be done. The Lyric archive consisted of around one hundred boxes when I began the project last September. When it is all complete, this number will be somewhat lower as there were many duplicates of material which I've separated from the main body of the collection. There are also around ten boxes of audiovisual material, mainly audio reels, which will not be catalogued with the archive, but in a separate project afterwards.

The archive is divided into sections such as the Lyric Theatre, Threshold, and the O'Malley family papers. These sections are then further subdivided. The Lyric section for example is subdivided into sections on productions, administration and correspondence. The aim of the arrangement is to organise the archive in such a way that researchers can easily locate material of interest to them, whether they have prior knowledge of the workings of the theatre or not. The catalogue will be accompanied by biographical information detailing the background of the archive. Each section then has a brief introduction which explains what material is included, and also gives some contextual information.

The project has progressed very well over the past eight months, and I'm delighted to report that it will soon be completed. The Lyric Theatre archive will then be fully catalogued and available to researchers, who I'm sure will find it an invaluable resource for the study of theatre in Ireland. We will also make the catalogue available online so that researchers can see it in advance of their visit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Freud: A Huston and Sartre Collaboration

by Aoife O'Flynn

Bent on making a film about the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud, Huston decided to have Jean-Paul Sartre (a French philosopher) write the script for this screenplay. Huston had previously worked on a film with Sartre and was convinced Sartre was the perfect man for the job.
In 1959, after first writing an initial 700 page script (which was far too long), Sartre came to Huston’s home in Co. Galway to work on its dialogue. There was no love lost between them. One of the stories that came from this visit is that Huston was unable to talk to Sartre as every time he tried to speak he was always beaten to the chance by the philosopher. Reportedly Huston said about Sartre on the occasion that ‘he talked incessantly and there was no interrupting’ him; while on the other hand Sartre wrote that Huston was ‘perfectly vacant and literally incapable of speaking to those whom he invited’. Huston thought the script was far too long and needed to be shortened. Sartre was infuriated and in response wrote a longer one still.
The first original Sartre script for Freud, with many manuscript corrections by John Huston, is now available to be seen in the Huston archive in the James Hardiman Library. Needless to say there was never a collaborative effort between Sartre and Huston again. This script is testament to their fraught relationship.

Huston’s The Dead

by Aoife O'Flynn

In his lifetime as a Hollywood film-maker Huston received fifteen Oscar nominations and was triumphant on two of these occasions. He directed both his father and his daughter to Oscar winning performances. The love he had for both his family and the famous Dublin writer James Joyce gelled well together in 1987 when Huston fulfilled a lifelong dream when he directed Joyce’s The Dead, along side his son Tony (who wrote the screenplay) and daughter Anjelica (who starred in it). In the Huston archive there is a copy of Tony’s diary while recording The Dead and there are humorous remarks in it that show the intimate relationship he had with his father.
The adaptation is based on the final of James Joyce’s short stories in ‘Dubliners’. This film was a must for Huston as he was a great fan of Joyce and his writings. An article in the Huston archive from An Gael magazine informs us that ‘Ulysses’ impacted his life so much that he became a founding member of the Dublin James Joyce Society in the mid fifties.
Again showing his devotion to Ireland, Huston took on the heavy burden of making this, his final film. He persevered and in the Huston archive it unfolds that he even had the set of the Dublin based story constructed in a Californian warehouse where he had moved to improve his health. An extensive amount of material such as photographs, scripts and publicity articles all in relation to Huston’s The Dead lies in Huston’s archive in the James Hardiman Library. It was his swan song and his last homage to Ireland, the country he loved so much.

Donal McCann, Anjelica Huston and John Huston on the set of 'The Dead'

Huston and Ireland

by Aoife O'Flynn

‘Ireland is a jewel of a country and the bedrock of the world’
John Huston lived in an estate in Craughwell Co. Galway called St.Clerans. He was searching for a place where he could find himself and at the same time be surrounded by beauty and peace. For him this was St.Clerans. He lived in this house for over twenty years even managing to gain Irish citizenship in 1964. When in St.Clerans Huston played host to many famous celebrity visitors such as Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Peter O’Toole and Ava Gardner.
Living in Ireland Huston was a great addition to the arts, especially in relation to the film industry. His presence in Ireland created a great stir in the film industry and was of great financial benefit to the people as his films would often be a source of jobs in the local community. Huston, while here, made a huge effort to produce and film many of his movies in the Irish countryside; most notably Moby Dick (1956) and The Mackintosh Man (1973). Huston was thought so much of here that he was asked to chair a committee that would provide a report in relation to the Irish Film Industry. This report, with its many recommendations, is only one of the many pieces of material available in the Huston archive housed in the James Hardiman Library.
When Huston first stepped on Irish soil he immediately felt at home and when he had to leave his ‘haven’ of St.Clerans (for both health and financial reasons) he felt a part of his soul had been left behind too.

Huston outside St Clerans

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Galway Film Fleadh takes to the Screens

The first Galway Film Fleadh was staged in Jul 1989 as part of the Galway Arts Festival. It was a huge addition to film and film production in Ireland. It has since become one of the largest and leading film festivals in Ireland. The archive of the Galway Arts Festival contains many records from  and references relating specifically to the Galway Film Fleadh.
Press Release, First Galway Film Festival
The first Film Fleadh opened on Jul 19th and ran for five days, culminating on 24 Jul 1989. Its opening screening featured “Venus Peter”, the last film to feature the late Ray McAnally and directed by Ian Seller. The management team of the Galway Film Fleadh included Miriam Allen, Leila Doolan, Joe McMahon, Bob Quinn and Steve Woods.
Official Press Release: First Galway Film Fleadh
The Film Fleadh had dedicated events and screening for Irish language film, Irish made film in English and European and other foreign cinema. It was noted in the press release for the Galway Film Fleadh how Charles Haughey had recently announced his intention of supporting the foundation of an Irish language. The press release further describes the Galway Film Fleadh as being “about the films, film people and film politics; a veritable feast and one not to be missed”.
As well as film from established, new and emerging film makers, the Fleadh featured a series of screenings of archival films from the collection of the Irish Film Institute. The trip down memory lane included footage of rural electrification, T.B. eradication and an Tostal. Films in this series dated from 1911 to the early 1970s and range from advertisements to feature length films.
The Galway Arts Festival archive also contains programme records from the 1996 and 1997 Galway Film Fleadh. The records of the first and trend-setting Galway Film Fleadh, a brave an exciting departure in Irish and European film is a terrific addition to this already intriguing collection. 
Invitation to the premiere of "Venus Peter"

Monday, May 16, 2011

Abandoned Mansions - Exhibition at the James Hardiman Library

Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Mansions of Ireland, a photographic project spanning three years of research and documentation, will be on display in the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway from 16 May to 24 June. The exhibition contains more than 40 images of the lost estate houses of Ireland.

Blake documents the end of the landed aristocracy in Ireland and the demise of their country mansion houses. His beautiful, haunting images of crumbling ruins convey an indefinable beauty in the decay – in the abandonment. The images are accompanied by history and folklore, telling of troubled times and private hardship. The exhibition also features two audio visual presentations.

Also on display will be items from the James Hardiman Library’s landed estates collections.

In 2010, Collins Press published a book of Tarquin Blake’s photographs, Abandoned Mansions of Ireland.

More photographs can be viewed on his website:

Sarah Poutch

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"The Door"- Kilroy's First Radio Play

Last weekend, TCD held a celebratory series of lectures and discussions on Thomas Kilroy's work (Across the Boundaries: Talking about Thomas Kilroy ). In anticipation of it, and by way of follow-up, the media have published and broadcast a couple of items: noteworthy among them are Declan Hughes's article in the Irish Times (he is a co-founder of theatre company Rough Magic) of 27 April, and Vincent Woods's interview of some of the guests at the conference, in Arts Tonight, of 2 May. The two days were bookended by a reading of Kilroy's unproduced play, Blake, at the Abbey Theatre which is yet awaiting a full-scale production. (If you are interested in Blake, please also listen to this interesting interview with Kilroy.)
Talking of the media: one of the most interesting discoveries for me in the papers of Thomas Kilroy is how often he practices a cross-over between the stage, the airwaves, and of course, the paper it takes to get there:  over the course of his writing career, he has fashioned radio and television versions of four of his original plays, and of his adaptation of Chekhov's Seagull. He has also written four original pieces for the radio, and nine for television, not all of which made it to the airwaves.

Radio preview, 13 January 1968 (unknown paper)
The one of these that most interests me – and I'm waiting for the audiovisual archives to arrive yet, to listen to it – is the radio play The Door, which was broadcast by the BBC in early 1968 as Say hello to Johnny, after winning the 1967 BBC radio play competition. It was a very hard call for the judges, so Gus Martin in a contemporary radio newspaper column (see left). Cyril Cusack (who seems to feature in this blog a lot!) filled the speaking role of the protagonist, "James", and when Kilroy asked him to read a new stage play and give his opinion of it, he complimented him on this one: "may I now thank you for the Johnny play I was privileged to take part in. Anyone I met - Englishers - who heard it, gave an enthusiastic reaction. They were moved and edified." (21 January 1968).
Vera Orschel

The New Lyric Theatre

As I mentioned in the last post, the rebuilt Lyric Theatre opened this weekend with a production of Arthur MIller's The Crucible. Brian Friel spoke on Sunday night at the opening of the Northern Bank stage, saying that “I pray that Belfast, which must be rightly proud of what has been accomplished here, may reap the rewards of sustaining this theatre and that its excellence and excitement find echoes in the daily lives of Belfast people.”

Lyric alumni such as Ciaran Hinds, Adrian Dunbar and Conleth Hill attended the inaugural performance, which was directed by Conall Morrison. The new Lyric has two auditoria, rehearsal space, dressing rooms and social areas - a marked improvement on the old building which was showing its age and was inhibiting the theatre's expansion and ambitions.

Well done to all involved on this momentous occasion!

Sarah Poutch

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Original Lyric Theatre

I recently came upon two photographs of the original stage used by the nascent Lyric Theatre in the O'Malley family home on Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast. While the Lyric archive contains hundreds of photographs, these are unique in that they show the studio outside of productions, and is a great chance to see exactly the scale on which the early productions were staged. Great use was made of set design to disguise the limited space within which the actors worked, but in these images we see how tiny the stage and seating area were. During the early to mid-1960s the Lyric experimented with staging productions externally at other venues in Belfast in order to overcome these limitations, but these efforts proved fruitless, and it became clear that a purpose built theatre was the only solution.

An interesting project has recently been underway, initiated by King’s College London historian, Dr Hugh Denard, in association with Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Hub and Dublin-based, digital graphics company, NOHO. They are using similar archival images to create a digital model of the old Abbey Theatre as it appeared on its opening night in December 1904.

Sarah Poutch

Abbey Theatre Reconstruction - Day 01 from Noho on Vimeo.