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Minister congratulates local artists on innovative, new, lockdown dramas

Tuesday 30th June 2020 at 12pm 0 Comments

Communities Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín Image: Communities Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín

Communities Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, today congratulated the local artists who created six innovative, new lockdown dramas for television called Splendid Isolation.

The brand-new five minute dramas, created during lockdown by leading writers, directors and actors from Northern Ireland, entitled Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama, explore the positive and negative aspects of social isolation and the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Commissioned by the Lyric Theatre Belfast and the BBC and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the success of the dramas following their premier on BBC Two NI, will now be shared with audiences across the BBC Four network, reaching even more viewers across Northern Ireland and Britain..

Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said:

“I want to congratulate the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the actors, writers and directors involved.

“I do not underestimate the importance of giving recognition to, and encouraging the development of culture and creativity in our communities. The benefits of the arts on our social wellbeing and cohesion, our physical and mental health, our education system, our status in the world and our economy are not just valuable, they are essential. My Department and the Arts Council have been working together to ensure that emergency funding for our artists and organisations has reached those most in need.

“The arts sector is providing an amazing amount of really great online content for people here throughout this pandemic. From the Virtual Cabaret in the Duncairn Arts Centre in North Belfast, to the live outdoor socially distanced performances at hospitals and care homes across the North, artists and arts organisations are making a really positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing.”

The Splendid Isolation project, offered a lifeline to some writers, actors and directors, whose work has vanished since the pandemic, and is part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine, a UK-wide initiative which aims to continue bringing culture into the homes of audiences during quarantine.  The project is funded by BBC Arts, involving a creative collaboration between the Lyric Theatre Belfast and BBC Northern Ireland, and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The project’s curation and administration is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Noirin McKinney, Director says:

“The public funding provided by the Arts Council supported the Lyric’s significant work in helping create Splendid Isolation, in my view, a brilliant curation of brand new digital arts content from these shores. A particular feat indeed as it was achieved under the challenges of social distancing.
With movement of people limited during the Covid-19 quarantine, all theatres, festivals, arts venues are closed to the public, indeed this pandemic has struck the entire arts and cultural sectors very hard.

Not only does innovative new work of this kind offer other artists hope, Splendid Isolation is a great example of how the arts can respond and reflect our everyday experiences, through marvellous storytelling, and through the collaboration of talented artists who are, after all, the life blood of our creative industries.”

Stephen James-Yeoman, Commissioning Executive, BBC Arts says:

“For the time being the theatre curtains remain down but the talent, whether on stage or behind the scenes, are no less creative. Unsurprisingly one of the things that has figuratively brought us together while being apart is the world-class theatre brought to our living rooms.  That is why BBC Arts is working with a host of theatre companies in all four nations of the UK, commissioning new and thought-provoking work to keep audiences thinking.”

Jimmy Fay, Executive Producer at the Lyric Theatre says in a recent interview:

“It’s been a fantastic opportunity to work with 18 exceptional artists and with BBC Arts and BBC NI on ‘Splendid Isolation’. Some of our very best theatre directors like Emma Jordan and Des Kennedy got the chance to develop their skills making their TV directorial debut through this partnership. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on theatres across the country, but as a production company, we are kept going with our Lyric Theatre Online programme, which is something we hope to continue to build and face the ongoing challenges of reopening our theatres safely.”

The films have been written by top writers including Lisa McGee (Derry Girls), Owen McCafferty, (Ordinary Love, The Absence of Women), David Ireland (Cyprus Avenue), Abbie Spallen (Pumpgirl ), Sarah Gordon (Sinkhole in Guatemala) and Stacey Gregg (Scorch).

They were directed by Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones), Des Kennedy (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child/Good Vibrations),  Emma Jordan (Artistic Director, Prime Cut Productions),  Jimmy Fay, (Exec Producer, Lyric Theatre) and Cathy Brady, (Wildfire/ Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope) and Damian McCann.

Actors featuring in the dramas, which were filmed in accordance with social distancing guidelines, include Anthony Boyle, who won an Olivier Award for his performance as ‘Scorpius’ in Harry Potter & The Cursed Child in the West End and later on Broadway, Stella McCusker (Game of Thrones, Ordinary Love) and Kerri Quinn (Coronation Street, Come Home). Also featuring are actors, Richard Clements, Jack Flynn, Damian McCann, Sarah Gordon, Julie Lamberton, Eoin McCaffrey, Abigail McGibbon and David Pearse (Vikings, Fifty Dead Men Walking).

Paul McClean, Executive Editor, Arts, Music & Learning, BBC NI says;

“We are delighted with the local reception to the first airing of Splendid Isolation on BBC Two NI and the whole experience has been a joy. To be able to harness the fantastic creative talent we have on our doorstep and reflect the lockdown stories of Northern Ireland is truly exciting. ”

Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama will be networked on BBC Four on Tuesday 30 June at 10.30pm, on BBC One on Wednesday 1st July at 11:20pm and afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.


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