Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Starring Role for First Galway Film Fleadh in 1989

With the Galway Film Fleadh barely over and the Galway Arts Festival now is full swing around the city, we hardly have a spare moment to look back through our collections here in NUIG. While working on the Galway Arts Festival Archive I have come across and catalogued a small but really interesting amount of material from the Galway Film Fleadh. Of particular interest are these items: a press release and invitation to the very first screening in the very first Galway Film Fleah. The film was Venus Peter and starred Ray McNally. This was incidentally McNally’s last film before he died. Venus Peter, set in the Orkney Islands was directed by Ian Seller and produced by Christopher Young. Other cast members include Sinead Cusack and Peter Caffrey.
The invitation pictured was to attend the opening night screening of Venus Peter at the Claddagh Place cinema, Galway on July 19, 1989. 
Press release from First Galway Film Fleadh

Invitation to the opening screening of Venus Peter
For more information on these items or on the archive of the Galway Arts Festival and its material relating to the Galway Film Fleadh please contact archivist barry.houlihan[at]nuigalway.ie

Monday, July 18, 2011

Improving Belfast - Mary O'Malley in the 1950s

As well as her contribution to Belfast's cultural life, Mary O'Malley also made efforts to improve the social and political landscape of the city. She was elected as an Irish Labour Party councillor to Belfast Corporation in 1952, and as a consequence she began to receive a huge amount of correspondence from her constituents. Many of these impoverished individuals wrote requesting her help in the area of social housing, which at the time was in a woeful state.

These letters are hard reading, being as they are often desperate pleas for assistance. The example here is from a handwritten letter from a Mr James Gorman of Durham Street, Belfast:

Dear Mrs O'Malley,

Hope you are keeping well.... the last time I was speaking to you... you told me you would try and help me get fixed up and I was hoping you could do something for me as it is getting me down... we are all in one room and I have a girl at 14yrs and the others are 12 & 8 & 2 and it is not very nice.

Mrs O'Malley I am fed up and thinking of going across the water maybe I get a house there but I don't know what to do. Maybe you could do something for me, we never had a home of our own...'

There was little O'Malley could do for these people, but her political correspondence is full of responses to requests she made on behalf of constituents like this to the housing authorities. A points system determined who received houses, and Catholics often felt they were discriminated against. However, there was a happy ending for Mr Gorman. The letter above from the Estates Department to Mary O'Malley confirms that he has been noted for a three bedroomed house in the new estate of Ballymurphy.

Sarah Poutch

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mary O'Malley and Belfast Politics

Mary O'Malley is best known as the founder of the Lyric Theatre and as a director, but she also maintained a deep interest in politics throughout her life. A lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, she stood for election to Belfast Corporation in 1952 as a councillor.

Belfast in the 1950s was of course rife with sectarian tensions. In her autobiography Never Shake Hands with the Devil, O'Malley writes of the perils of canvassing these areas, where one could ascertain a house's loyalty by looking for either a china John Bull in the window, or a picture of Robert Emmet! O'Malley was successul in her campaign, being elected with the highest vote out of the six contesting candidates despite being the only woman.

She was to find political life difficult and frustrating, being ostracised in certain quarters for her southern Irish origins and her republican views. However she was able to help in some areas, as we shall see in a forthcoming blog post.

Sarah Poutch

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Cripple of Inismaan

The rich and dark comedy of Martin McDonagh’s the Cripple of Inismaan has been touring coast to coast across America as part of the ‘Imagine Ireland’ programme throughout the first half of 2011. An award winning co-production between Druid Theatre Company and Atlantic Theatre Company, the show has performed to nearly 100,000 people throughout this trans-Atlantic tour. Launching in Roscommon and tracing its way across the United States with stops in Boston, Michigan, Chicago, California and South Carolina, to name a few, before a trip to its spiritual home in Inis Maan for an emotional homecoming.
McDonagh has enjoyed a long association with Druid. The rise of McDonagh is well documented in then Druid Theatre Company Archive, also held here in NUI Galway. McDonagh’s writing has created some of the best loved plays and performances by Druid of recent years. The visceral, beautiful and poetic language that McDonagh creates and is spoken between his islanders has throwbacks to the best of Synge but also is uniquely his own. The archive of Druid Theatre Company holds records such as invitations to teh opening night of the 1998 production of The Cripple at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway, and also many photographs taken during rehearsal and full performance of this production.
Dearbhla Molloy as Eileen (1997)
Now that the tour of the co-production by Druid and Atlantic Theatre Company has just finished its massively successful run, it is interesting to look at other productions of The Cripple. The archive of the Galway Arts Festival contains wonderful photographs (above and below) from the Royal National Theatre’s (U.K.) production of The Cripple of Inismaan which was a highlight event during the 1997 Galway Arts Festival. Directed by Nicholas Hytner and designed by Bob Crowley, the production files contain black and white photographs of the production, while the press files contain numerous local and national press reviews and features on The Cripple. The play was staged at the Town Hall Theatre Galway from 22 Jul to 2 August 1997.
Ray McBride as Johnnypateen (1997)

For more on the production history of The Cripple of Inismaan please see the archives of Druid Theatre Company and the Galway Arts Festival held at NUI Galway James Hardiman Library: http://www.library.nuigalway.ie/collections/archives/ or contact archivist barry.houlihan[at]nuigalway.ie