15th Oct 2014 11:51am - 16th Oct 2014 11:51am
See Susan O’Halloran report.’The Brighton Bomb: History, Memory and Political Theatre’, in An Phoblacht, November/Samhain 2014, p. 26. here
On 12th October 1984 a bomb planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) exploded in Brighton's Grand Hotel, where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, members of her Government, delegates attending the Conservative Party's annual conference, and their families were staying. Five people were killed and over thirty were injured, some seriously. The Brighton bombing was one of the most significant among nearly 500 incidents in the PIRA's campaign of political violence in England over twenty-five years from 1973-97. It generated impassioned as well as critical reflection and debate, nationally across Britain and locally in Brighton and Hove, about how and why the armed conflict in and over Northern Ireland had come to this town in England, the political and ethical meanings of the attack and its human consequences for those harmed by it.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Grand Hotel bombing, the University of Brighton's Understanding Conflict research cluster hosted a Commemoration that revisited these questions and re-evaluated the significance of the events today, in the light of the Irish peace process that has brought the PIRA's armed struggle to a close. The centrepiece was a semi-staged performance of a new play by local dramatists Julie Everton and Josie Melia, entitled 'The Bombing of the Grand Hotel'. The performance was framed by a two-part symposium to discuss, firstly, the history, memory and legacy of the Irish Troubles in Britain; and secondly, Everton and Melia's play and the role of political theatre in exploring living histories of war and conflict in Britain and Ireland today. Speakers included theatre practitioners, peace campaigners, political activists and leading academic scholars. The Commemoration was jointly organised by Wildspark Theatre Company and the Understanding Conflict: Forms and Legacies of Violence research cluster at the University of Brighton.
Keynote lecture Gary McGladdery: ‘The Brighton Bombing: Reflections on the historical significance, impact and consequences of the Provisional IRA’s attack on the British Government’
The 30th Anniversary provides the opportunity for us to reflect on the historical significance and impact of the Bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton by the Provisional IRA (PIRA). The contrast between the political environment in Northern Ireland in 1984 and today could not be starker. The Bombing was part of a campaign of sporadic but spectacular attacks by the PIRA in England in the early 1980s whilst at the same time, its political wing, Sinn Fein was gaining electoral success in Northern Ireland, often referred to as the ‘Armalite and ballot box strategy’. The aim of the lecture will be to assess how the Brighton bombing could be viewed in terms of its political impact in the context of the Irish Republican Movements wider political and military strategy in the early 1980s and the response it provoked from the British Government at the time. The bombing will be assessed in the wider context of the PIRA’s twentyfiveyear campaign of violence in England during the troubles and its historical significance given the Anglo Irish Agreement in 1985 and the subsequent peace process which ultimately led to Sinn Fein sharing power with Unionists in Northern Ireland.
Since 2000, Gary McGladdery has maintained a research interest in assessing the impact of Irish Terrorism in England from its earliest manifestation in the 1860s to the present day. This included the of the only book to focus on this aspect of Irish History and it’s political consequences in its entirety, The Provisional IRA in England 19731997 (Irish Academic Press, 2006). Gary has also published several articles and reviewed a number of subsequent publications assessing aspects of republican violence in England since the 1860s. As Gary’s research interests have diversified since 2007, he has held a number of public appointments as an adviser to the UK Government, along with other ad hoc advisory roles for other statutory bodies relating to the development of disability policy and legislation in the UK. Gary is currently employed by Queen’s University, Belfast and lives in Banbridge, Co Down with his wife, Alison and daughter, Emma.
Nadine Finch: ‘The impact of the Brighton bombing on the politically active Irish community and Labour Movement in Britain’
Prior to 1984, there was considerable concern in Britain about the use of plastic bullets, exclusion orders, Diplock Courts and the apparent existence of a shoot to kill policy in the North of Ireland. At the same time, there was ongoing opposition to the widespread discrimination against the Nationalist community in terms of access to employment and public housing. The excessive use of strip searching in women’s prisons in the North of ￼Ireland and its use where Irish women were imprisoned in England, also attracted widespread criticism in feminist and Labour Movement circles. The calls for a United Ireland were also being located in the context of anticolonial and antiimperialist struggles in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean with Ireland being seen as Britain’s oldest colony. At the same time, since the election of Bobby Sands to the UK parliament in 1981, Sinn Fein had increasingly engaged in local and national democratic processes. As a consequence, members of the Labour Party and a range of trade unions started a dialogue with Sinn Fein councillors who were being elected in the North of Ireland and also the UK Parliament. The Brighton Bombing attracted a range of responses from the Labour Movement and the Irish community in Britain, as it struggled to understand the nature of struggles for selfdetermination. This presentation will examine these responses and reflect on the impact of the bombing in the political context of the time.
Nadine Finch has been a human rights barrister since 1991 and presently practices at Garden Court Chambers in London. Prior to this she worked at a policy worker at the Greater London Council 1984–86 and the London Strategic Policy Unit 1986–87. Whilst there she researched into Policing the Irish Community, published a Briefing Paper on this subject (1988), contributed to Policing London, a collection of the reports produced by the Police Monitoring and Research Group at LSPU (1987), and helped to organise a conference on strip searching in 1987. In the 1980s she was a member of the London Labour Party Executive and the National Labour Women’s Committee and active in both Islington North and Hackney North constituency Labour Parties. She was also the Chair of the Labour Committee on Ireland and played an active role in raising issues connected to Irish Unity and the campaign for the adoption of the MacBride Principles, which sought to end employment discrimination in the North of Ireland. Her particular area of expertise is now the right of child migrants and she has published widely on this issue. She worked as the UK Consultant for the European Commission funded CONNECT project in 2013–14 and is author of Always Migrants: Sometimes Children (2014) and Standards to Ensure that Unaccompanied Migrant Children are Able to Fully Participate: A tool to assist actors in legal and judicial proceedings (2014), produced for this project. Nadine is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bristol in a team undertaking research for the European Agency for Fundamental Rights.
Stephen Hopkins: ‘Remembering and forgetting the Northern Ireland Troubles in Great Britain: History, memories and legacies’
This paper seeks to examine the process by which a range of diverse groups and individuals have remembered, and forgotten or silenced, the impact of the Northern Irish Troubles in Britain. For some of those immediately affected by the violence (such as victims and their families, or service personnel) the traumatic effects of living with these intimate memories and legacies are often inescapable. On the other hand, for many in the wider political and media establishment, but also (partly as a result of this ‘official’ neglect) in the general population, what was at stake in the conflict in Northern Ireland was poorly understood, and many appeared to wish that Northern Ireland would not impinge on British politics or society in any meaningful fashion. If this deeply rooted ￼sense of unease, which combined elements of both embarrassment and indifference, was prevalent during the 1970s and 1980s, then a related collective sense of relief has also characterised public opinion in the postpeace process era. There has been little apparent willingness to engage with efforts to ‘come to terms with the past’ in Northern Ireland, either on the part of the state and its agencies, or in the broader arena of popular cultural responses. This paper will argue that such a process of critical selfreflection, examining the roles and attitudes of the British state and wider population to the ‘problem’ of Northern Ireland, is necessary and could enhance the prospects of an authentic reconciliation agenda. The 30th anniversary of the Brighton bombing is an opportune moment to both broaden and deepen this process of engagement.
Stephen Hopkins is Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester. His book, The Politics of Memoir and the Northern Ireland Conflict, was published in 2013 by Liverpool University Press. He is also the author of a number of recent articles and book chapters, including ‘The Chronicles of Long Kesh: Irish Republican Memoirs and the Contested Memory of the Hunger Strikes’, in Memory Studies (Vol. 7, No. 4; 2014); ‘Victims and MemoirWriting in Northern Ireland: Leaving the Troubles Behind?’ in Lesley Lelourec and Grainne O’KeeffeVigneron (eds.), Ireland and Victims: Confronting the Past, Forging the Future (Peter Lang, 2012); and ‘A Weapon in the Struggle? Loyalist Paramilitarism and the Politics of Auto/Biography in Contemporary Northern Ireland’ in Mervyn Busteed, Frank Neal and Jon Tonge (eds.), Irish Protestant Identities (Manchester University Press, 2012). He is editor (along with Graham Dawson and Jo Dover) of The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain: Impacts, Engagements, Legacies and Memories (to be published by Manchester University Press in 2015).
Lesley Lelourec: ‘Coming to terms with a tragedy: The community response to the Warrington bombing’
On 20th March, 1993, two IRA bombs exploded in the centre of Warrington on a busy Saturday, claiming two young lives, those of threeyearold Johnathan Ball and twelveyearold Tim Parry, and wounding more than fifty others. The attack left the local community shocked and appalled, and provoked a wave of indignation and sympathy nationally, across the water in Ireland, and worldwide. The victims’ families and members of the local community strove to come to terms with the tragedy by engaging with the conflict, seeking a better understanding of the issues and ways to foster closer links between Britain and Ireland, in the hope of preventing further acts of violence and hatred. Several community groups undertook initiatives, forming an umbrella group, W.I.R.E, (Warrington Ireland Reconciliation Enterprise). Among the prominent participants were Colin and Wendy Parry, the parents of Tim, who have spearheaded a lasting response to the bombing. Based on interviews with the main protagonists in Warrington and on local and national newspaper archives, this paper will also explore how a civic response centered on reconciliation impacted on AngloIrish relations, adding new impetus to the 1990s peace process.
￼Dr. Lesley Lelourec is Senior Lecturer and a member of the Centre for Irish Studies at the University of Rennes 2, Brittany, France. Her research focuses on British attitudes to Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Troubles, and her PHD thesis, entitled ‘La perception anglaise de la question d’Irlande: enquête auprès de 39 habitants de Nottingham’ (‘The English perception of the Irish Question: a study of 39 Nottingham residents’) was completed in 2006. Her publications include: ‘ “The Bad and the Ugly: good guys after all?” On British media representations of Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley’, Estudios Irlandeses, vol. 4 (2009); and an exploration of how Ireland is taught in English schools, ‘Promoting mutual understanding and/or enriching the curriculum? The contribution of the Ireland in Schools forum to bringing Ireland into the English classroom’ in Werner Huber, Sandra Mayer, Julia Noak (eds), Ireland in/and Europe, CrossCurrents and Exchanges (WissenschaftlicherVerlagTrier, 2012). In 2010 she organised an international conference on Ireland and victims, and coedited the proceedings: Lesley Lelourec and Grainne O'KeeffeVigneron (eds), Ireland and Victims: Confronting the Past, Forging the Future, Reimagining Ireland Series volume 45 (Peter Lang: Oxford, 2012).
Sarah Jane Dickenson: Critical and theatrical reflections on the play, The Bombing of the Grand Hotel
Abstract and biography:
Sarah Jane Dickenson is a playwright–researcher, Senior Lecturer and National Teaching Fellow in the Drama department at the University of Hull, UK. She is also Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences. She explores the use of autobiography as a way of living in a fragmented, technological and global world. She experiments with form as a way of realizing our complex relationships with memory and personal narratives. Her work is produced in a variety of settings from community centres to theatres and she works extensively in participatory and community settings. Questions of engagement and empowerment are at the centre of her research practice. Her latest plays to go in to print are CBA, a play for secondary school people to perform,￼￼￼ and That Berlin Moment, both published by Barbican Press. SarahJane will be responding to the play, The Bombing of the Grand Hotel, in the light of her own research interests and experience as a playwright.
Julie Everton and Josie Melia: ‘Wildspark Theatre: The Bombing of the Grand Hotel’
This is a play which is still in development. We have recently been awarded funding from Arts Council England for production in April and May 2015. The play is based on our interviews with key people including Jo Berry and Patrick Magee, emergency services, politicians, historians, members of the Irish community in Brighton. We also conducted archive research.
We will address the following issues and offer our perspectives on a number of key questions:
● Dramatic challenges: finding the right dramatic question; the process of co writing; selection of dramatic material from a story that spans decades and many locations. Creative parameters with a cast of six actors. Collaboration with other artists.
● The morals of representing real historical violence and writing about living people in a complex political context: creating a dramatic story blending real characters with fictional and semi fictional characters and events.
● The relationship between the personal and political and whether gender is an issue: facing the challenges of grounding the personal story of Jo Berry and Pat Magee in a real political context; the precedent for women writing big history plays.
● How might we view the politics of the play written from a particular time and place? What difference does it make that we are writing this play as Brighton writers in 2014 for audiences in England.
Julie Everton’s first play Pig in a Poke was produced by The Royal Court Theatre. She developed her second play Bluebirds with support from a National Theatre Studio bursary, and she has completed commissions for Chelsea Centre and for a regional touring company. She wrote and directed a short play at Soho Theatre. She has written for BBC TV and ITV, and performed her own monologue on Radio 4. She has worked as a feature film script editor in the UK and Europe, and currently works as a lecturer at Brighton University.
Josie Melia’s play What Would Helen Mirren Do? toured for three years throughout the UK. Her short film Feis was produced and shown with an award from the UK Film Council. Her play Six Inches of Travel was commissioned by Theatre and Beyond and produced in the main programme of Brighton Festival. Josie has written commissioned plays for youth theatres and young audiences. Other short plays have been performed at Theatre 503 and Steyning Theatre Trails. She has been tutor of Chichester Festival Theatre’s Young Playwrights’ programme for three years and has run other writing ￼courses and workshops. Josie has also worked as a teacher, youth counsellor and trainer.
Neil Fleming and Jem Wall: ‘Hydrocracker: Making political theatre in England today’
From Hydrocracker’s perspective, all theatre is political, or has the potential at least to deliver a political message, if by ‘political’ we mean engaged with the operation of society and the state. Political theatre is thus evidently not the same as ‘theatre about politics,’ although that confusion clearly exists. For us, theatre becomes political primarily when it challenges its audience to think. Indeed, that has been the aspiration of Hydrocracker since we began performing in 2007 with the stated goal: ‘we want our audiences to do more than sit in the dark and watch.’ But how is that goal to be achieved? If we want our audiences to think, or indeed to act, it is not enough, we believe, simply to present theatre that tackles political problems. In sharp contrast to theatrical practise in much of Europe, England’s mainstream theatres – beyond our large urban centres – have grown timid about presenting socalled challenging work.
At Hydrocracker, we have two interlocking answers to this issue, and to finding ways to reignite thought. The first is to try to present theatre in a different way, using sitespecific theatre as a means to an end (too much such theatre seems to be an end in its own right). We look for work which has perhaps been overlooked because it is familiar, and try to make it into something new. We have done this with shows like The New World Order – Pinter reimagined in the Victorian setting of Brighton Town Hall; or with The Erpingham Camp – Joe Orton’s reworking of The Bacchae, set in a holiday camp, which we performed on Brighton Pier, using the audience as holidaymakers. For the past year, we have also been looking for ways to reinterpret and represent Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The second answer is to look for ways to create and write new work that forces audiences to think and to react. Thus for example our development process on Neil Fleming’s new work, Wild Justice, has included the staging of a public debate (in which Jo Berry took part). WJ is a play about revenge – it will fail to achieve its goal unless we as a company, and Neil as a writer, find a way to talk about revenge that moves the ‘theatre’ out of the conventional and directly engages the audience in the process. Our presentation will introduce Hydrocracker and reflect on some of the wider questions for discussion in this session, drawing on the case studies outlined above.
Neil Fleming writes and translates stage plays, movies and poetry. He is a company director of Hydrocracker Theatre Company. His stage play, The Consultant, ran at London's Theatre503 in 2011. In 2005, Neil's Musik, an adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1905 play of the same name, appeared for three months at the Arcola Theatre London, after a first run at Plymouth Theatre Royal in 2000. The play was published by Oberon Books in 2005. He is currently developing a new play, Wild Justice, a revenge tragedy for the 21st Century. A first outing of some of the text, as part of a moderated public debate, won an Argus Angel award at the Brighton Festival 2014. Neil has also made a number of ￼translations of contemporary German plays, with performances at theatre festivals in Tampere, Finland, and New York. A journalist for seventeen years, Neil worked in East Africa, South Africa, the Middle East and Britain, reporting on wars, famines, wildlife, politics, business news, and the international energy industry. He won the 2005 Kent & Sussex International Poetry prize and was shortlisted for the 2008 Bridport Prize. His poetry has been published in UK poetry magazine The Rialto.
Jem Wall is an actor and artistic director of Hydrocracker. As an actor Jem has worked at The National, Globe, RSC, Royal Court, Donmar Warehouse, Young Vic, Hampstead, Gate and The Bush. On TV he has appeared in Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, Dr Who, Judge John Deed, Eastenders and Foyle’s War. Hydrocracker are an associate company of Brighton Dome and Festival and Jem has appeared in three of their productions – The New World Order at Brighton Town Hall and The Barbican; The Erpingham Camp on Brighton Pier; and Wild Justice at The Unitarian Chapel in New Road, Brighton.
Paula McFetridge: ‘The positive role theatre can play in helping us deal with the past in the north of Ireland’
Strongly believing in the politics of theatre to transform people’s lives, Paula will discuss the methodology utilised by Kabosh in presenting the narratives of silent communities and contested space in a ‘postconflict’ north of Ireland. Kabosh presents reality on stage but it is not docutheatre, verbatim theatre or living history: it is a sitespecific theatre company that produces work based on reality of space and/or ‘real’ narratives. Where does the factual and fictional meet? What is the role of the professional theatremaker within installation for contested space? How can the storyteller or location user be effectively challenged? How can immersive theatre explore history, reassess the present and assist participants to imagine new possibilities for the future? Can this methodology be shared nationally and internationally? Examples will be given from recent Kabosh work including Those You Pass on the Street, This is What We Sang and The West Awakes as well as event-specific pop-up performances for Healing Through Remembering and Relatives for Justice. What worked and what didn’t?
Paula has been Artistic Director of Belfast based theatre company Kabosh since August 2006. Founded in 1994, the company is committed to challenging the notion of what theatre is, where it takes place and who it is for. Most recently she has directed 20, a music and visual art installation to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1994 IRA ceasefire (www.20belfast.com); premiere productions of Those You Pass on the Street by Laurence McKeown, commissioned by Healing Through Remembering to look at Dealing with the Past; Belfast by Moonlight by Carlo Gébler with original music by Neil Martin, an oratorio staged in St George’s Church to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Belfast; and Inventors by Carlo Gébler, Vincent Higgins, Seth Linder and Jimmy McAleavey, a celebration of Ulster invention in a popup barn at Ulster’s main agriculture fair. She is a fellow of Session 532: ‘PeaceBuilding Through the Arts’ at the Salzberg Global Seminar; and was awarded Belfast Ambassador 2014 for using theatre to tackle difficult social issues.
David Wybrow: ‘What do we mean by political theatre?’
I’ll be asking what we mean by 'political theatre', looking broadly at changes in the scope and nature of its conception over the last 40 years and comparing those kinds of engagement now most easily possible with those we might consider most valuable.
David Wybrow holds a BA (Hons) from University of Reading in Film and Theatre and an MA in Human Rights from University of Sussex where he took courses in Refugees and Rights and Rights and Development at the Institute of Development Studies. He joined the Conflict, Security and Development Group at King’s College London in 2007 to work on Youth Exclusion and Vulnerability in subSaharan West Africa. Following several years as a newspaper reporter in London, David worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Hong Kong during the Vietnamese 'boat people' crisis and then in London for the British Council for Refugees during the early years of the Pinochet regime in Chile. In following years he moved into campaign copywriting, directing theatre and national provision for youth arts and media where he specialised in work with and for young people at risk. As a freelancer he worked in Youth arts, professional theatre, film and TV across the UK as well as in the USA, Russia and Greece. He worked with the Arts Council of England to set up apprenticeships in the arts for young people in London. During the 1990s he gained support from the European Social Fund for a London based vocational media training project for people with disabilities, before becoming director of the Cockpit Theatre in London where he developed a tradition of work with refugee artists from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and Theatre of Ideas, a programme policy focusing on politics and society.