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May 2015

Academic study turned into new play

(27 April 2015)

A newly commissioned play, based on a book by Dr Liam Harte, from the School of Arts Languages and Cultures, is about to embark on a month-long tour of community arts venues in Ireland and the UK, jointly sponsored by The University of Manchester and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Entitled My English Tongue, My Irish Heart, the play is based on The Literature of Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001 (2009), a critically acclaimed study by Dr Harte, Senior Lecturer in Irish and Modern Literature.

The production has been made possible by an AHRC Follow-on Funding Award of just under £100,000. The central aim of the project is to transform the findings of Dr Harte’s book into a lively drama that will promote debate about, and enhance the visibility of, humanities research to those outside the sector. The play opens in Belfast on 1 May, after which it will embark on a ten-venue tour, which includes a two-night run at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester on 26 and 27 May.

Dr Harte said: “This is the first time a play of this kind has ever been staged anywhere in these islands. My English Tongue, My Irish Heart weaves together gripping historical accounts of what it felt like to be Irish in Britain with a very contemporary story of how emigration changes the lives of a modern-day couple. Given the high numbers of Irish economic migrants that have been arriving in England since 2008, this play could hardly be more topical. This is an example of research-based theatre at its most provocative and socially relevant.”

Part of the proceeds of the tour will be donated to two emigrant welfare charities, the Aisling Return to Ireland Project in London and the Safe Home Programme in County Mayo.