As Terra Nova’s Arrivals 2 goes on tour across the north, here’s a little bit about how I found the writing process for my play The Lost Souls Party and about the challenges of writing for intercultural theatre.
I’ve been lucky to write for both Arrivals 1 and 2. I came to this process thinking ‘multicultural’. But the real friction is in the intercultural clash. I love Terra Nova’s idea of the clash of tectonic plates when two cultures collide. This is all so acutely highlighted in the mash up when people from different cultures come together in personal relationships; they are forced to create something new together. It’s a rich seam to explore.
The process has pushed me to write outside my usual safe limits. Initially this was terrifying. But I think the real strength of the Arrivals writing process is the Masterclass weekend where people from many other cultures who are living in N. Ireland come together and share their stories and experiences, as we share ours. The details of a life lived, the nuances of the daily rituals, the deep emotions that surface allow the writers to write authentically, to add the details that make the final pieces sing true.
The weekends also give an incredible insight into how those not born here see us – and it’s not always flattering. Last year all I could see were the differences between cultures. This year what struck me most was the similarities, the common ground we all shared.
The workshopping and readings of the plays at various stages of development means there is always someone on hand to check a fact or a detail with and this is so important.
However the intercultural element is only the foundation stone, and what you build on it can be anything. This year the plays have taken a real departure in both style and tone from the realism of last year. It’s vitally important to show different faces, voices, stories on stage – but at the end of the day it’s all about what it means to be human.
I’m delighted with this lovely interview with me by Jim Meredith that features in the new issue of the Honest Ulsterman magazine.
My short play No Paths That Are Ending opens tonight. It’s set in the waiting room of a maternity ward. As Nikesh and his friends wait for news about his seriously ill son, they reach out in desperation for a God to help them. The play is one of a series of five plays being shown together as Arrivals, and together they portray the experiences of people who come to live in the north. I’ll be heading down to the opening tonight at 8pm in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast. The play runs until 15th February in Belfast and will then tour the north. I’m really excited as this is my first work for the stage.
It’s lovely to be able to look back on the year and go that was a great one. The publication of my second collection The Return of the Buffalo was a real highlight. I was lucky to do some great interviews about the book, including this one on Culture Northern Ireland. The relaunch and enhanced web presence of my publisher Lagan Press means you can view interviews and see me reading my poetry on You Tube.
Taking part in the Corners Expedition to the Basque Country with 25 international artists was an inspirational and life changing experience. My residency in the beautiful environs of An Creagan will stay with me for a long time. I was also lucky to be able to do many poetry readings, including in some unusual venues like the Arts Council’s MacNeice House and a funeral home!
My short film Two Little Boys was featured in the Belfast Film Festival. I was also commissioned for Terra Nova’s new theatre project Arrivals and I’m looking forward to the first reading of my play on 9th January.
My creative writing teaching has allowed me to meet many wonderful people. This year I’ve worked with the Belfast Book Festival, Artscare, the BBC, the WEA, Poetry in Motion, NI Libraries, Monaghan Libraries, Small Steps, Consensus and many schools.
Here’s to a great new year and everything it may bring.