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Yes, shortly before the show, a power failure plunged part of Southsea into darkness along with half of the hall at Portsmouth Irish Club!  Only half, mind you, so we were only half worried and decided to use the half hour of half light to have a snack. Charlie, the Club’s Steward, went into action on our behalf and thankfully all was back up and fully lit by scheduled start time.

A fantastic response from the Club members and officers who attended – the show was breaking new ground for them and, not surprisingly, the prospect had given them a few anxious moments. So rewarding then, to hear reports that people had really enjoyed it. Conversation lasted long after the show, with members of the audience offering help to dismantle the set, pack away lamps, and entering into deep discussion of our production design.

We picked up clear messages about a town in recession, about high unemployment and limited incomes. Seems the power of ‘Journey to the Fifth Province’ had reached the right place!

‘Beautiful, thought provoking. I want to study those poets now. It really awoke something deep inside me.’   R Callan

Just drawn breath from Wednesday and here we are, back on the rails, this time heading for our performance in Portsmouth. We undertook early on to make this tour as environmentally sustainable as we could – public transport wherever possible, pulling set, costume and props behind us in wheeled cases. Two thirds of the set travel in a pair of large tubes as something we fondly call The Gun Carriage, with the remainder slung from whoever’s shoulder is free at the time. London Underground staff tend to think we’re on a fishing trip…                                   Harps are a different matter though, and it’s understood that Steph and Harriet will need to drive to venues. We try to minimise their driving by juggling geography and bookings as best we can.

A fine example of creative collaboration in the Digbeth area of Birmingham delivered a top quality Fifth Province event last night.  Our performance at Birmingham Irish Centre was the product of extensive work, over several months, developing contacts with local organisations: Birmingham Irish Heritage Group, Irish in Birmingham (welfare), Birmingham St Patrick's Association, The rnr Organisation (arts and culture consultancy), South Birmingham College and last, though by no means least, The Old Crown Inn.

We were especially pleased to welcome in the audience Mike Kalowski-Naylor from Arts Council England (West Midlands Region), whose remit includes getting to see theatrical work in the region that has ACE funding support.  It was extremely valuable to speak with Mike and gratifying to hear him so enthused by our own work and complimentary about the production.

Audience numbers can always do with being higher, but our Birmingham performance was particularly warmly received and the feedback most encouraging.  The event, as a whole, was a powerful reminder of the strength that lies in collaborative ways of working.

Paying a very special visit tomorrow, 13 April, to the Club where we'll play 'Journey to the Fifth Province' in a week's time.  Looking forward to meeting staff and members, talking with them about the show and giving people a taster to whet their appetite!

With Harriet unable to join us we'll do the next best thing and take a recording of her wonderful harp music to let people hear just how fine a performance they can expect.

'Fifth Province' is in the air - as well as on air - in the West Midlands!

Listen in to Donal's phone interview with Bob Brolly using the link below and scroll to 54 minutes into the programme:

Building up to the show at Bimingham Irish Centre, 8pm on Weds 18 April (£10 / £8 concessions)


A rendezvous with the members of Birmingham Irish Heritage Group at their April meeting to preview the performance of 'Journey to the Fifth Province' that'll take place in two weeks at Birmingham Irish Centre in Digbeth.  Great for presenting the ideas behind the show and giving a taster of what the audience can expect to see, hear and take away with them.  Oh, and some very satisfactory advance ticket sales as well!

Lovely to meet and chat to so many group members, and their committed officers.  Special thanks to Terri, Anne and John for looking after us so well.

A lovely event, hosted by the Old Crown, Digbeth.  Donal joined those who'd gathered to share their affinity for Ireland's culture and literary heritage in the context of the Birmingham St Patrick's Festival.  Time to enjoy the contributions of local performers and to give everyone a sneak preview of 'Journey to the Fifth Province', ahead of our booking at Birmingham's Irish Centre on 18 April.  Lots of fun, and a wonderful opportunity to sense the appetite that's there for the kind of 'poetry theatre' that's our speciality!  Thanks to Pat Wright of Irish in Birmingham for keeping us informed about the evening.  A pleasure to have met so many who enjoy the words of Irish writers and poets - from through the ages and into our own.

‘It’s a real privilege to see a production of this quality.’ Chris O’Malley, Irish Arts Foundation

Equally a privilege for us to be part of Irish History Month, programmed by Irish Arts Foundation and now an annual feature of the busy Leeds cultural scene.  We were in fine company on an IHM schedule that features music, language and literature as well as history events - Christy Moore, the Dubliners, the Waterboys included.

The lively Seven Arts centre has a welcoming and flexible performance space, and our special thanks go to Marcus Rapley for first class technical support.  As the most 'theatrical' of our venues to date, Seven was a treat in sound and lighting terms.  It provided valuable opportunities for us to assess dimensions of the performance beyond those that are exercised when we play in less specialised halls and function rooms.

With some of our audience drawn from local writers' group 'An Lucht Focail' (Words People), and well versed in much of the literature, Donal's performance needed to be on top form.  So a wonderful compliment to be told:

‘I knew a great many of the poems already but hearing them performed aloud in the way that you did made such a difference.’   Bill Fitzsimons, Lucht Focail

Great to see the number of views hitting 1000 this week, as the second phase of the tour gets under way and the video does its work among potential audiences.

Apt moment to reflect on the skill, enthusiasm and patience of director Andy Lewis, cameraman Nick Kane and the wonderful crew who worked on the shoot in 2011 - all of whom contributed their time just for the love of it.  Immensely grateful to them all.

An evening of great atmosphere, and tremendous audience response to Thursday's showcase performance at London Irish Centre Camden.  Our warmest thanks for the partnership and support of First Minister for Cultural Affairs, Ciaran Byrne, who facilitated Irish Embassy sponsorship of a wine reception for guests.  

Donal and Steph played to a full house and, once again, a very diverse crowd - great to see family groups of parents and children present; the media, the London Irish business community, users of the centre, Irish county associations, literary interest groups and arts professionals were all represented. 

Gratifying to hear expressed the Embassy's wish to be associated with the production, along with the view that it merits being made available to Irish communities in Scotland in addition to those in England and Wales that we're able to reach on the current tour.

'So enjoyable, and very reflective too'  Ciaran Byrne, Embassy of Ireland

Great piece on the event in Graham Clifford's London Diary, Irish Independent (16 Feb).

  1. ‘Whether you know Irish literature or whether you don't, this evocative performance will take you into another world’ Jackie Sims, Poole

  2. 'A splendid performance - well worth a visit'  Ethna Kennedy, Artistic Director, Irish Heritage

Tickets £10 / £8 concessions

We're delighted to be performing the show at the Lonon Irish Centre, as its refurbishment nears completion.  Hope to see you there.