New Derry Arts Festival highlights the power of theater in social change

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An exciting new festival in Derry will highlight the power of theater as a positive force to create social change.

Organized by Sole Purpose to celebrate its 25th anniversary in February, the Theater Festival for Social Change will address issues such as the impact of Bloody Sunday, LGBTQ+ rights, breaking down barriers for people who are deaf and disabled, and theater for various Arab countries.

The festival runs from February 14-20 to coincide with the United Nations World Day of Social Justice on February 20 at a number of venues across the city.

Patricia Byrne, Director of Sole Purpose Productions, explained that the festival brings together national and international companies to stage professional productions that inspire people to think about contemporary and relevant issues.

She said: “For the Festival, we bring together some of the most interesting performances that draw on the twin characteristics of Derry’s identity, both as a place of culture and as a site of historical significance. in struggles for social change.

Sole Purpose will stage Dave Duggan’s ‘Scenes from an Inquiry’ to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Scenes from an Inquest, which premiered in 2002 to mark the 30th anniversary, offers audiences a glimpse into the experiences of families and witnesses who attended the Saville Inquest.

Other companies taking part in the Festival include Belfast-based Kabosh Theater Company with its play Callings based on the lives of five LGBTQ+ people who sought support and refuge through the Cara Friend helpline in the 1970s.

Calls delves deep into the struggle for survival that gay people face on a daily basis and traces the progress of LGBTQ+ rights at a pivotal moment in Northern Ireland’s history when the Save Ulster from Sodomy Campaign attempted to prevent the decriminalization of homosexuality.



Nicky Harley scenes from an investigation

The Palestine-based Freedom Theater will present a repeat reading of The Revolution’s Promise, a collection of personal textual stories from Palestinian artists who have worked on the front lines of cultural resistance and the consequences they have faced for their art.

The London-based Graeae Theater puts deaf and disabled performers center stage. Graeae will be doing a three day residency with Derry’s Lilliput Theater Company and on the final day there will be a sharing of what has been learned for an invited audience.

Derry’s Blue Eagle Productions will stage the play Worlds Apart by Jonathan Burgess which examines the actions of ordinary people to facilitate the voice of the Protestant community within the city and the impact this has had over the years.

Dublin-based Smashing Times Theater will present The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of WW11. This will include: At Summer’s End by Filmi James, a dramatic monologue told from the perspective of an Irish Jewish citizen murdered during the Holocaust.



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This incredibly diverse and exciting festival is funded by Derry City and Strabane Council Headline Events and Good Relations Funds, Community Foundation NI, Community Relations Council, Ulster Garden Villages and the Bloody Sunday Trust.

Sole Purpose is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The Festival of Theater for Social Change presents us with a remarkable range of lived experiences and challenges faced by people around the world, told by those who have found their voice, their empowerment and their agency, through the arts.”

More information about the Festival and how to book tickets can be found here.

For more information on Derry, visit our new MyDerry website.

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