New residency explores lived experience of the tragedies of South Armagh and Border counties

Posted on: 7th January 2019

Robert rae

BAFTA winning film and theatre maker Robert Rae has undertaken a six month residency in Newry as part of an ambitious EU PEACE IV funded truth recovery arts initiative.

Rae has been collaborating with those worst affected by the conflict with the goal of developing a contemporary piece of theatre for The Playhouse Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy.  

Rae’s final piece, ‘Blood Red Lines’ will tour Newry, Dundalk and Belfast in February/ March this year.

In the play, survivors and former combatants wrestle with the complexity of how and what to tell the next generation, their individual rights set against the refusal of the state to share the truth, growing anxiety about the effect Brexit will have on peace… and the impact upon their own lives of the events they endured.

The play is part of a wider ‘Border Stories’ programme, delivered by the Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy in Spring 2019, to foreground stories related to The Troubles in the South Armagh and Border Counties region.

Local projects include award-winning documentary filmmaker Declan Keeney using ground-breaking VR technology to create an immersive documentary filmed in Virtual Reality in March 2019; composer, musician and vocalist Emer Kenny composing music inspired by interviews and experiences related to The Troubles, to be released as an album in April 2019; and playwright, scriptwriter and filmmaker Laurence McKeown creating a multi-media, live event with focus upon the land and the landscape, to be staged in April 2019. 

The Playhouse Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy creates theatre and art that allows reflection, active dialogue on consequences of conflict, and builds techniques to engage with painful memories. Artists will draw upon the skills of internationally-renowned artists with extensive experience in the use of drama and art to help heal divided communities emerging out of conflict.

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).

The Playhouse will work in partnership with Holywell Trust, Thomas D'Arcy McGee Foundation and Queens University Belfast to deliver the two and a half year project, which will work with representatives from interface and highly segregated areas, historical atrocities, victims and survivors and public sector. 

Rae said: “It’s a great privilege as well as a daunting responsibility to be invited to come and work with people here in Newry and Dundalk, surrounded by the beautiful countryside that holds the memory of so many terrible events. By listening and responding to what people choose to tell me, together we will make a contribution to the courageous efforts of those who already tell their stories in the hope that we will never again return to the tragedy of armed conflict. People have been generous and welcoming – I am struck by their quiet dignity and steely determination to find the truth. The legendary Tommy Sands said to me recently “I’ve never seen a green or an orange tear – only tears”. So whatever we create it will be as honest as we can make it – from the stories shared so far and the integrity of the people who have already agreed to take part, it will undoubtedly be a night to remember.” 

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

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