Play tackles exile of Derry Protestants

Published Wednesday, 06 February 2013
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A church in Londonderry has commissioned a new theatre production as part of a project to address the impact of the Protestant exodus from the city more than 30 years ago.

Play tackles exile of Derry Protestants
The play has been commissioned as part of a peace-building exercise in Derry. (© Pacemaker)

'The Exile' project was an idea developed by Christ Church, a Church of Ireland Parish in the city.

It commissioned playwright Jonathan Burgess to write a series of short dramas to bring the events of that time to life.

Over 90% of the Protestant people living on the west bank of the River Foyle moved away from the city side between 1969 and 1979.

During the height of the Troubles, many families felt they had to leave the area due to fear of republican violence and intimidation.

Jim Brownlee and his family left their home near the Foyle Road in 1975 after sectarian graffiti was daubed on their wall.

"We're victims of the Troubles as much as anyone else," he said.

"But I think because of the vast number of Protestants having to move from the Waterside, to have left their social fabric behind, that was a wrench, that still remains a wrench.

"It's difficult to explain to younger generations exactly what it was like to live here."

"I think the memories are still raw."

The purpose is not about point scoring - it's about building peace.

Jonathan Burgess, The Exile playwright

'Exile' tells the story of some of those affected and each production is followed by an informal discussion which allows people to share their experiences and perceptions of that time.

Organisers hope that people from all across the community will attend.

Archdeacon Robert Miller, from Christ Church, said he wanted to create a 'sharing forum' as part of the project.

He said that recent trouble across Northern Ireland related to loyalist flag protests demonstrated a frustration. He said people feel they are not being listened to.

"To be able to hear and also to speak and know that people are listening is a way of moving forward as a society," he explained.

Playwright Jonathan Burgess sees his drama as his attempt to address and resolve remaining hurts to build a shared future.

"Because (Protestants) were moved from the city, they fell as if they are removed from city life, and removed from society within the city," he said.

"It doesn't feel like a shared city for the Protestant community, and that's an issue."

"This is my attempt to address this one, because it's pertinent to me, but at the same time it's a big one for this part of the world."

Colm McFeely, from the nationalist Creggan area, said it is important that all sides of the community engage with the project.

"I think it's extremely important for people in this particular community to understand how Protestant people in this city see that history and how that history from that perspective is told," he said.

"This particular community, like all communities, over the last 40 years has suffered greatly and it is important that we actually hear these stories, they're human stories, important stories and the only way we'll ever create a shared city and understanding city is if we listen to each other."

The theatre workshops are taking place at venues across the city this week. Admission is free and no booking is necessary.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
lorna in limavady wrote (716 days ago):
Ryan Belfast There is no doubt UTV give plenty to comment time to you. see how generious they are to me. First my life is too short to read comments of the nature you describe.ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE. Shall I look with you into the reasons why the Catholics had a hard time in the new formation of Northern Ireland 1 reason Catholics always looked accross the border wanting a United Ireland could they be trusted to work towards a good seperate NI 2 Unionist could have been frightened of all things British being excluded from their country (the way it is today ) Catholics have a puristic view of the South but have they not been better treated in Northern Ireland with dole money family allowance ect. When we look at the poor girls working in Magdalene loundries. strpped of name. slave loosing babies bought by couples. The church made rich.Fathers got off scott free while the poor girls were treated like slaves with no dignity are we not better off . The starry plough has a line "I have always hated slavery since the day I was born " was the south not as guilty when it came to looking after the Protestant religion.Two wrongs never made a right.
william in coleraine wrote (716 days ago):
ryan you are a joke! nothing but a bigot.. what about my family then? our only crime was that we were protestants. and we certainly didnt gerrymander anything,you and sb are a couple idiotic silly wee bad as a couple of FLEG protesters
Ryan in Belfast wrote (717 days ago):
lorna in limavady: Lorna, you said i had "to go back into the past to dig up any credience to what happened in derry in the 60's". Not at all lorna, i could talk about the gerrymandering done by protestants in derry during the 60's, i mean how could a city with 2/3 of the city being nationalist have a majority unionist representives? That was clear obstruction of democracy. And we could also talk about stormont policy of discrimination against catholics in jobs and housing, lorna or have you "forgotten" about that? Then dont get me started on the state sponsored sectarianism against catholics. I could go on and on lorna but i dont think the UTV moderators have the time to read it all. Lorna, the plantation of ulster was genocide and ethic cleansing on the scale that wouldve made the Nazis proud and thats the truth and the legacy of it and other atrocities against catholics (such as the penal laws, etc) has shaped tthe politics of today, so you cant sweep it under the carpet just because it paints your commmunity in a very bad (but accurate) light. Go back and read up history lorna and you'll see why i said "Catholics are the REAL victims". As i said before protestants did suffer but certainly not on the same scale as catholics. I dont have the time to reply to all the people who replyed to my comment but ill just say this: The Truth hurts doesnt it?. And before anyone goes on about "welling in the past", go and say that to protestants and the orange order who celebrate a battle that happened in 1690. Yes, 1690. So if they can remember that battle, then catholics will actively speak and tell of the genocide of the plantation of ulster.
Iain in Belfast wrote (718 days ago):
Once again utv's resident clown comes out with his usual comedy gold. I can't make out if its from arrogance or stupidity but now there is a hierarchy of victims. Ryan, a victim is a victim regardless of religion, colour etc etc. On the other hand you consider yourself to be a "fair-minded" republican but from a guy who sheds so many crocodile tears, you are in no position to bemoan anyone. Your very own bigotry shines through yet again.
lorna in limavady wrote (718 days ago):
Ryan.Belfast You have to go back to the plantation of Ulster to give credience to what happened in Derry in the sixtys. Those people were not rich land owners or were they responsible for a few of our forefathers coming over to rob the Catholics of their land. Maybe if we studied history but left the long past history were it was. If we continue to give that as reason for hate we spoil our own future. Those people for no other reason than being Protestant cannot feel secure with all what takes place today. NB terrorists voted into government..think about it.
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