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BRIAN CAMPBELL, DRAMATIST

Tuesday 11th October 2005 at 1pm 0 Comments

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The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with regret of the death of the Northern Irish dramatist Brian Campbell at his home in Newry on Saturday 8 th October 2005.

Born in 1960 in Coleraine, Brian Campbell moved with his family to Newry in 1968. Having graduated with a degree in engineering from Liverpool University in 1981, he returned to his home town of Newry. He took up writing following his arrest and a 15-year prison sentence in 1986. In Long Kesh he studied for a second degree in Social Sciences and was the founding editor of An Glór Gafa, a magazine of prisoners’ writings.

It was in prison that Brian Campbell met Laurence McKeown, his collaborator on two plays, The Laughter of Our Children, and A Cold House. Together they also wrote H3, a film about the 1981 hunger strike, which was finally screened in 2001. After his release in 1992, he worked as editor of the Republican newspaper, An Phoblacht.

Campbell ’s entry into mainstream theatre came when Pam Brighton, Director of DubbelJoint Theatre Company, offered him the chance to write a play for the company about the radical west Belfast priest, Des Wilson. DubbelJoint premiered Des to critical acclaim at Amharclann na Carraige/Theatre on the Rock in March 2000. Productions of The Laughter of Our Children, about the 1981 hunger strike, and A Cold House, about the difficulties involved in the Northern Ireland peace process, followed in May 2001 and June 2003, respectively.

In March 2005, DubbelJoint premiered Voyage of No Return, a play focusing on Irish and African cultures and set against a background of racism and slave rebellion. As a piece of powerful political theatre, Voyage continued Campbell’s practice of using theatre to explore the bonds and divides experienced by communities in modern day Northern Ireland.

Brian Campbell was working on a new commission for DubbelJoint Theatre Company, which was scheduled for production in 2006.

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