my irish heart

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart

An exciting new play based on Aisling supporter Liam Harte's book, The Literature of the Irish in Britain. It is playing dates in Ireland and at the London Irish Centre so get along and see it on the following dates:

Friday 1 May: Roddy McCorley’s, Belfast.
Saturday 2 May: The Spectrum Centre, Belfast.
Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 May: The Waterfront Studio, Belfast.
Tuesday 12 May: Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal.
Wednesday 13 May: The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim.
Thursday 14 May: Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
Friday 15 May: Nenagh Arts Centre, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.
Saturday 16 May: St John’s Theatre, Listowel, Co. Kerry.
Tuesday 26 May: Irish World Heritage Centre, Manchester.
Wednesday 27 May: Irish World Heritage Centre, Manchester.
Friday 29 May: London Irish Centre, Camden Town.
Saturday 30 May: London Irish Centre, Camden Town.
Sunday 31 May: London Irish Centre, Camden Town.

A newly commissioned play based on a book by a Manchester-based Irish academic is about to embark on a month-long tour of community arts venues in Ireland and the UK. Entitled My English Tongue, My Irish Heart, this unique play is based on The Literature of Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001 (2009), a critically acclaimed study by Dr Liam Harte, Senior Lecturer in Irish and Modern Literature at the University of Manchester.

In 2014 Dr Harte secured a Follow-on Funding Award of just under £100,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to collaborate with the Belfast playwright, Martin Lynch, to transform the research findings of his 2009 book into a lively theatrical show that dramatises what it has felt like to be Irish in Britain at different times and places. The resultant play opens in Belfast on Friday 1 May, after which it will embark on a ten-venue tour of arts centres and community venues, which includes a two-night run at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester on 26 and 27 May, and a three-night run at the London Irish Centre in Camden Town on 29, 30 and 31 May.

The play is produced by Green Shoot Productions, Martin Lynch’s not-for-profit theatre company, and the tour is jointly sponsored by the University of Manchester and the AHRC. Part of the box office 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.

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart is a powerful and moving drama that tells the story of Irish emigration to England through the generations, exploring the perplexities of living with, and between, two worlds. The play centres on a young, educated couple –

Gary, a Mayo Catholic, and Susan, a Tyrone Protestant – who take the momentous decision to emigrate to England. Their contemporary story of migration is criss-crossed by the stories of those who have gone before them, from lawyers and labourers to pickpockets, politicians and professional street preachers. This highly innovative production explodes in a fast-paced, in-the-round production featuring a terrific cast, great songs and Lynch’s trademark humour.

Dr Harte said: “Although much has been written about the Irish emigrant experience, 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.”

Playwright Lynch commented: “This collaborative project has been a fascinating journey for me right from the start. I’m directing the play in rehearsals at the moment and I can say without doubt that audiences are in for a great night’s entertainment. There’s drama, history, heartbreak, love – plus a fantastic soundtrack of the best of Irish music from Count John McCormick to Paul Brady and The Pogues, sung by five great actor/singers.”

Arts Director of the London Irish Centre, Gary Dunne said: “We are delighted to be hosting Green Shoot Productions from Belfast with this very exciting play. There is already great interest within our client base in London and we’re looking forward to three great nights in the Centre.”

Dr Harte added: “Given the high numbers of Irish economic migrants that have been arriving in England since 2008, this play could hardly be more topical. My English Tongue, My Irish Heart shines a powerful light on the dilemmas and challenges that confront the diasporic Irish and provides a focal point for comparing past experiences of emigration with more recent ones. This is an example of research-based theatre at its most provocative and socially relevant.”