Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Children's Creative Writing at Wexford Libraries

Last weekend, Saturday October 15th, I had the honour of facilitating three workshops at three libraries in Co. Wexford in my capacity as 'Children's Creative Writing Facilitator' with The WRITE STUFF Kids Club. I travelled to Wexford on Friday 14th October from my home here in Donegal. Having visited Wexford and delivered two such workshops in August of this year, I really was
delighted to return to this absolutely beautiful county in Ireland. Not only is it beautiful but it is a county filled with creativity and culture. The scenery, hospitality, and even the weather is also not half bad!! It was the perfect host in August and so I was very looking forward to this return visit.
On Saturday morning my first port of call was to New Ross Library. On arrival here I immediately took a stroll around their beautiful new park and amphitheatre. Stunning in every way. However, the script on the gound really struck me: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword. I immediately decided that this was going to be our theme for the day. And it proved very successful. Some amazing discussion was had around this theme, and after covering a lesson is story building, all the teens were invited to write a story around this theme and send to me - when they arrive, I shall be posting here on North West Culture Gal!
I did a number of little writing exercises with the teens throughout the day at New Ross LibraryWexford Library and finishing the day at Enniscorthy Library. One such exercise was creating Halloween 'Six Word Stories'. None of these teens had ever done such before which made the exercise so much more enjoyable. I of course introduced them to the most famous Six Word story by Hemingway: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn. This immediately prompted all 3 groups to discuss the content of the story and how interesting that such a story could be told in just six words. And so they set about creating their own six word stories. Below is a selection of such stories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did, and am still doing such!

Conor, Age 12, New Ross Library: English Moors. Wolf out. Be safe.
Castle of dracula. Bats fly high.
Patrick, age 12, New Ross Library: Darkness falls. Spirits awaken. Moon rises.
Sinead, age 13, New Ross Library: Darkness arrives. Laughter comes. Clowns appear.
Orla, age 14, New Ross Library: Seeing skeletons in autumn frost air.
Hannah age 15, Wexford Library: Watch out: ghouls roam around here.
Cian, age 13, Wexford Library: Night is awoken, children roaming, searching.
Shane, age 12, Wexford Library: Empty wood. Creepy sounds, Strange figures.
Conor, age 13, Wexford Library: Werewolf came; got candy. Went away.
Aoibhín, age 13, Wexford Library: Halloween Costumes. Trick or treat. Sweets.
Eva, age 14, Wexford Library: Black cats. Carved Pumpkins. Shadows following.
Niamh, age 14, Wexford Library: Cold water. Cold ice-cream. Cold summer.
Meadhbh, age 13, Wexford Library: Prisoners out. Roaming free. Death commences.
Ciara, age 13, Wexford Library: Dressing up, collecting sweets, halloween fun.
Diana, age 13, Wexford Library: Wild costumes. Crazy parties. Awesome pumpkins.
Chloe, age 14, Wexford Library: Trick or treat. Children eating sweets.
Alicia, age 13, Wexford Library: Child alone. Growling sound. Child gone.
Jessica, age 15, Wexford Library: Haunted house. Scared children. Halloween night.
Julia, age 14, Wexford Library: October's ending. Dressing up. Collecting candy.
Jack, age 14, Wexford Library: Insane asylum. New position. Impending doom.
Amy, age 15, Wexford Library: Halloween night. Monsters roaming. Watch out!
Alex, age 13 ,Enniscorthy Library: Strange man. Lonely child. Man follows.
Erin, age 13, Enniscorthy Library: Haunted house. No-one haunts. Except HIM.
Gintare, age 15, Enniscorthy Library: Attics cleared. Costumes found. Halloween begins.
Lucy, age 14, Enniscorthy Library: Trees walk. People trampled. Horrible sight.
Harry, age 12. Enniscorthy Library: Halloween night. Sweets everywhere. Costumed children.

Maybe I'm slightly biased but I belive this is some amazing work from some amazing teenagers. This was a beautiful autumnal Saturday with the sun in the sky and yet these young folk came along and showed immense creativity throughout the day. Huge well done one and all.
I look forward to the stories coming along over the coming days/weeks and getting a read of them then.
All of this not only showcases what amazing creativity we have among our young folk, but it highlights the importance of our libraries.
Wexford, it was a pleasure for this North West Culture gal to visit and I am already looking forward to my return visit.


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Packie's Wake at Derry's Millennium Forum

Twelve years ago, Eddie Kerr's sensational and hilarious play went from a three week sell out in Derry, a tour of Ireland, to receiving worldwide acclaim after a sell out stint at the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York. 
Last night the funeral cortege arrived once more at the Millennium Forum in Derry. This time I just had to pay my respects. So along myself and Martine went last night, and thank heavens we brought tissues!!
Packie's Wake tells the side-splitting story of how local hero, Packie Devlin, through an ironic quirk of fate, is allowed to attend his own wake. The poor misfortunate has the opportunity to find out what his family and friends really think of him as he participates in the hysterical play that has become a theatrical masterpiece in black comedy.
This two act play is set in the Bogside area of Derry in 1994. It coincides with the annuncement of the IRA cease-fire in the North.
I went along last night knowing absolutely nothing about this production. Having only heard of it in recent weeks, I didn't research as wanted to see with the naked eye and mind. My friend had seen it on its first production in Derry 12 years ago. 
As it opened I really wasn't sure what to make of it. Packie Devlin was clearly meeting people from his past on the Derry docks. When it became clear he was dead, the setting of the now living room, took on a whole new meaning. 
I honestly think it's hard to write about this production without giving it all away. This is one you really want to see for yourself on the stage. 
The idiom is very much based in the locale of Derry. The entire production is extrememly rooted in the city. And the one liners are just brillliant. There is oxymoron, anecdotes, black humour and then there's simply, "ye ould bastard"! Never has swearing on the stage been so hillarious. 
From it's onset to the final scene, you will break your side laughing. But underneath all the laughter and humour is a number of very serious issues. Packie's Wake makes one stop and think about everyday life - the needless worries, the needless feuds, the needless envy - the grass isn't always greener, and the enemy isn't always the enemy. 
At the heart of this play is 'family'. Family in a very real sense of the word. Family that have dispersed, and family that have fallen out. Death puts life in persepctive. Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Packie. Don't leave it too late to appreciate what we really have. Life really is for living.
My favourite line from last night must surely be: "sometimes the poorest of people have the most money." How very true. Material wealth doesn't make for all in life. Family does. Treasure yours.
Packie's Wake runs at the Millennium Forum until this Saturday night, 15th October. One last piece of advice, if you decide to leave early, DON'T....just wait till the very end! This is over 3 hours long, but worth every minute. If it's cheering up you need, or a really good reality check, go along to this. 


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Blood Brothers explodes on the Derry stage!

To say that Blood Brothers the musical exploded on the Derry stage last night would be such an understatement. But I have never seen a Derry audience explode to their feet so quickly as they did last night as that last song was sung: as the last curtain went down. This really was an explosion of an applause. One I've never seen before in the city.

This story is both elmentary and creative. It tells the story of Mrs Johnstone who has five children, husbandless and expecting twins. She works in the home of the fancy Mrs Lyons. Mrs Lyons is unable to have children of her own and so offers to illegally adopt (buy) one of the unborn twins. The mothers both do their best to keep the twins apart, but life doesn't quite abide by their wishes. Despite their very different upbringings, the boys become childhood friends and eventually 'blood brothers'.
This was a first for me. I knew the basic plot, but hadn't read the book or watched the movie. I was a 'Blood Brothers' virgin and I eagerly awaited this show for some time. Boy, but I wasn't disappointed.
I really didn't expect the show to be so deep. This is social politics at its best. It's examining nurture versus nature. It showcases how a child's surroundings and familial circumstances can pave the way for greatness or indeed sheer oblivion. There is much bleakness involved in both situations but reality really is at the core of this production.
Initially I was unsure about the adults playing kids. I was wrong. Mickey and Eddie, Lynda and the rest were all excellent in their portrayal. Mickey and Eddie were so competent throughout and in particual Mickey. One can't but make him 'star of this show'. Sean Jones who played Mickey was so convincing from the 7 year old boy (nearly 8) right through to the last scene. His portrayal into the downward spiral of depression excelled.
The question of council estate living versus the big house living is one I feel very strongly about. Having raised a family on a housing estate and written widely about my experiences, I immediately fell in love with Mrs Johnstone and her very protective nature towards her wayward children. She had nothing but love for her children and never stopped loving Eddie. Mrs Lyons on the other hand was more focused on where Eddie played, who he played with and what school he went to. The cracks were there to be picked at. They always are in life. This show expressed so much social political realities. And they hit home last night. Social Class is still very much rife in the modern world. The saddest line last night for me was Mickey saying, "I could have been him." Tears still well up in me this morning at the thought.
Friendship was everything for these boys as children, and as they grew up. They respected each other and 'loved' each other. Adulthood changed all that. It brought about the stigmas that permeate our world. Social class at the fore!
The narrator, Dean Chisnall, was also a very powerful figure on the Derry stage last night. In many ways the conscience of the mothers, he remained consistent throughout. A force to be reckoned with - as is our conscience at all times.
I wasn't familiar with the motif of Marilyn Monroe used in this show. But surely she's there to show the passage of time. Monroe was an icon, a child fostered out, had a depressive mother, became addicted to drugs. She was a parallel for the entire story of Blood Brothers. Mrs Johnstone was initially flattered to be compared to Monore, and by the end Mrs Johnstone pleaded that Mickey would not be like Marilyn Monroe. Two tragic tales, one ending.  A real echo of Shakespearian technique at work here.
The sheer volume of tears I witnessed last night shows what an emotional roller coaster ride this show really is. There was so much laughter throughout, but one always knew it couldn't end well.
I spoke with Lyn Paul (Mrs Johnstone) a couple of weeks ago. She told me that this show 'changed her life'. I can now see why. I can also see why she admits to crying at the end of each one as she sings, 'Tell me it's not so'. Any mother would do likewise. Lyn was simply outstanding.
So just what is this show teaching us alongside the social awareness of class difference? For me there are a number of lessons to be learned: Mental Health is paramount: The truth always comes out in the end: We can never escape our past, and the utter importance of friendship. I'm glad I had a lovely friend alongside me watching the show last night.

Blood Brothers runs at Millennium Forum, Derry until Saturday 8th October. This is one show you really don't want to miss. A real must see.
Call the Box Office now to book: +44 (0) 2871264455 or book online at Millennium Forum.