The year the arts stopped? Not likely

Posted on: 31st December 2020

Merry Christmas_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 Merry Christmas



WE WERE ABLE TO CREATE A Thriving international broadcasting programme keeps the show on the road at local theatre

THOUSANDS accessed our new Digital Playhouse- our plan for survival in a decimated industry

WE COMPLETED our largest Creative Engagement project to date, The Playhouse Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy

And DELIVERED A PROGRAMME that included new theatre commissions, radio plays, online mural art workshops, international peacebuilding workshops and residencies, a digital arts festival.

Merry Christmas

Quality theatre. From Derry finest playmakers. For free. From the comfort of your couch. Class.” Audience Member Twitter

"I recently discovered your channel and all i can say is that this is just excellent" Audience member YouTube

“The workshop allowed me to reflect more on our history and to understand what people went through during the conflict which has made me value the world I live in today” – Theatre of Witness Workshop Participant  


Proud to be The year the arts stopped? Not likely 

Live performance, digital art, and local and global change through story sharing 

The doors of The Playhouse Derry. Londonderry closed to the public on March 16. And they haven’t opened since.

But behind those red doors the determination to effect local and global change through story sharing remained- to educate and inspire, and to deliver art which shines a light on issues impacting our local community.

A plan for survival in a decimated industry was beginning, a programme of live performances, workshops, festivals and conferences inside the theatre began, all to be streamed across the world via a newly installed live broadcasting infrastructure.

A new Digital Playhouse was created, as the theatre’s website and social media channels became a thriving online resource for a new digital audience, incorporating resources to educate and inspire.

The theatre continued to work in collaboration with children, young people and adults to share their lived experiences to co-create art; to deliver projects with brilliant partners who have nurtured their ideas and extended their knowledge; and to deliver art which shines a light on what matters to our society.

The theatre broadcast four new theatre commissions, a digital arts festival for 4-7 year olds, an international peacebuilding conference, a music concert, a book launch, and broadcast eight new radio plays by emerging writers aged 14-18.

 Sixty courageous and honest people shared their most complex and difficult memories to help others to deal with the past in the Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy, completing The Playhouse’s largest Creative Engagement project to date. 

90 young people took part in online mural art workshops and created eight murals in their local communities. 37 received OCN Certificates in Crime Justice and Citizenship, Young people from Springhill Park Area Residents Youth Association in Strabane and Lincoln Court Youth Club in Derry.Londonderry  gained inspiration from visiting international artists who lead workshops from California, Philadelphia and Colombia.

The theatre delivered a module to 10 international students from Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Holland undertaking an International Masters Artist Educator degree at ArtEZ University of the Arts Netherlands. 

Ten national workshops and seven international Theatre of Witness workshops were delivered, including to students from Harvard University and senior vice directors from Google.

Visiting musicians and artists also returned, as the theatre announced its 2021 programme for theatre shows and concerts- streamed live, and available to customers to watch back on demand for 7 days through the theatre’s new Digital Playhouse began with Anthony Toner’s Evening of John Prine Music this month.

“When lockdown began, everything stopped, immediately. The doors closed and our whole industry was placed on pause” Playhouse director Kieran Griffiths said.

“We, like so many in our industry, began to urgently adapt and respond to Covid, exploring new ways to bring live performance and art back to our building, with the hope that we will not just weather the storm, but thrive in a new artistic world.”

Despite that storm, in 2020 The Playhouse successfully completed its largest Creative Engagement project to date- the Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy (2018-2020) funded by Peace IV with a grant of €859K. Over the past 12-months five acclaimed artists were commissioned, including American Japanese director Ailin Conant, Irish playwright and poet Damian Gorman and local artist Pamela Brown. In collaboration with community members the artists explored the Troubles by interrogating themes such as trauma, loss, exclusion, hurt and pain.  Through the creation of five new artworks The Playhouse collaborated with and involved 60 members of our local community.

“These people are our peacebuilders, they are our community heroes who lead us towards greater community cohesion” Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy project co-ordinator Elaine Forde said.

The Playhouse’s digital theatre season began in August with Proud to Be by Mel Bradley and directed by Kieran Smyth, an innovative new play exploring the diverse experiences of the LGBTQ+ community.

Six extraordinary stories of life in Northern Ireland in 1972 were presented in September. As part of the premiere of Anything Can Happen 1972: Voices from the Heart of the Troubles by Damian Gorman, those who have lost people, were invited to contribute- sending objects of importance to them, to be placed on the theatre’s empty chairs.

The Art in the place of Conflict Peacebuilding Conference followed, showcasing and discussing art produced through the Academy with acclaimed artists such as Jo Egan, Conan McIvor, Joe Campbell, Declan Keeney and Ailin Conant. The keynote address was given by the internationally acclaimed John Paul LederachTeya Sepinuck of Theatre of Witness, Hector Aristizabalfounder of Imaginaction, and war photographer and activits Giles Duley discussed and presented their work. 

Set in the lead up to the Battle of the Bogside in that pivotal year of The Troubles, Beyond The Barricades, the latest work from award winning local writer, Michael Kerrigan and directed by Anne Crilly was broadcast at the end of September.

The year ended with two free online broadcasts, THE RIGHT TWIG: RADIO 2020, with eight young emerging writers partnering with The Playhouse, Fighting Words NI and Riverside theatre to produce their very own new plays for radio, and the online launch of AS IF I CARED - Poems and other Parts of a Life, a new book of poetry by Damian Gorman.

All of these events and productions are still available to watch back for free in the Playhouse digital Playhouse here and on The Playhouse’s YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter. 

Online audiences spent 12,500 hours watching the theatre’s work online in 2020, with 19,300 engagements, as people liked, shared, commented and took part in the conversation.  

Plays and events were watched in US, India, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Oslo, France, Spain, Greece, Armenia, Australia and Germany.

“Feedback from our new Digital Playhouse has been just extraordinary, completely overwhelming” Kieran Griffiths said.

“We’re so proud that all our theatre and peacebuilding work will be there forever for people to watch back online, and the reach that gives us for the stories being shared is humbling. 

“We’re so excited to look to the future, as this approach will continue long after the restrictions of the pandemic are lifted and our building is filled once again; it is the future for The Playhouse.”

anything can happen

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