This morning, I walked over the Peace Bridge, a beautiful new cycle and footbridge bridge across the River Foyle. It opened on June 25, 2011, connecting Ebrington Square with the rest of the city centre. The bridge is intended to improve relations between the largely unionist ‘Waterside’ with the largely nationalist ‘Cityside’, by improving access between these areas, as part of wider regeneration plans.
I next went into the Playhouse Theatre to see an exhibit organized by Gaza Action Ireland and curated by Felim Egan – Windows into Gaza. It’s a wonderful Arts Council of Ireland funded exhibit that showcases eleven young Palestinian artists from Gaza.
The play is “Unspoken Love: Stories of Mixed Marriage in Northern Ireland – Exploring Issues of Sectarianism, Family Legacy, Trauma and Love” by Thomas Spiers and performed by two mixed marriage (Catholic/Protestant) couples. The artistic director, Teya Speinuck, and the director, Thomas Spiers, welcomed us.
Students were a little cranky at first – they thought they had this glorious day all to themselves, and they wondered how much it cost (it was free), how long it would last (I didn’t know), and whether they would have to stay for the second play (there were two plays billed together (I said no). Very quickly, however, it was clear that we were all in for a magical, poignant and transformative evening. We were all absolutely transfixed – quietly weeping at the sad bits (there were plenty) and laughing together at the funny, clever bits (lots of those, too). We were caught up in these stories and falling in love with the people on stage belonging to the stories.
Theatre of Witness is a form of performance in which true stories are told as a way to bear witness to issues of suffering, transformation and peace. The Playhouse Theatre of Witness program began in 2009 and has produced three major productions with former combatants, members of the security forces, and witnesses and victims of The Troubles. Thomas Spiers is a psychotherapist who began his career as a social worker. He experienced the exclusion of mixed faith couples in his own family and community and says that, in doing this work – writing directly from the words of the storytellers – he has learned about love and the art of loving.
It was powerful and lovely. We cried – all of us. Student were elated afterwards – all of us surprised at the depth of emotions we were all sharing. Afterwards, we had coffee and got to visit with the director and the storytellers/actors. Great connections were made – Sharon Gault gave me her husband Stephen’s card and asked me to stay in touch. I will – she is a force! They were all so wonderful – and these human stories, so authentic, so beautifully told – will stay with us for a long, long time. Stephen is Chair of JIVT, Ltd., Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism, and they do workshops and advocacy work. The play is sponsored by the EU’s Peace III Programme. This was an amazing evening – an exquisite play and beautiful new friends made.
From the program –
Stephen Gault – a Protestant, survived the Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen, ten years later married his wife Sharon, a Catholic.
Sharon Gault – grew up protecting a secret addiction in her family, but never forgot lost hope of finding healing love, she met Stephen after moving to Enniskillen.
Roley McIntyre – once the heaviest man in Ireland, was raised a Protestant in a loyalist family, he met and fell in love with his Catholic wife, Jo.
Jo McIntrye – is a mother, she and Roley have four children of their own and have fostered more than twenty-five others.