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Interview with Dr. Victor Merriman 2007

Image: Dr. Vic MerrimanBy Chris High

With the fifth Cains Liverpool Irish Festival already underway, what better person to ask than one of its senior organisers, Dr. Vic Merriman, about why it is so important to the city of Liverpool.

Vic, who is Head of Dance, Drama and Performing Arts at Liverpool Hope University based at the Goodison Campus, is delighted that the festival is going from strength to strength. ‘This is really a platform for the Liverpool-Irish, as opposed to the Irish in Liverpool, to get their voices heard as it seeks to include work that originated in Ireland, which particularly marked in the theatre and music programmes. Being a festival, there are a whole host of art forms being included. You’ll also find walking tours of Liverpool looking at Irish historical sites, the local Irish centre at St. Michaels holding events and this year we welcome the involvement of the Irish Studies centre at Liverpool University. Really and truly, the festival punches above its weight because it gets so much support from the city’s cultural bases. The Everyman, Playhouse and Unity theatres and the Philharmonic Hall have been wonderful in their support and so raise awareness of an Irish culture in a city very much founded upon a strong Irish presence,’ Vic said. ‘The cultural base of Ireland in Liverpool can clearly be seen in some of the new writing that has come to the stages of The Everyman recently, with plays such as Stephen Sharkey’s The May Queen and Lizzie Nunnery’s Intemperance, both of which were astonishing as they spoke with so many varied voices, telling what is a difficult story, brilliantly.’

Image:  Exit WoundThere are three plays in the festival programme, with each one sure to be a memorable audience experience. ‘The Lost Field is taking place in the Back Room of The Everyman Theatre Bistro; a very intimate setting where the audience can get close to what’s happening. The production features two plays, Raccoon by Tom Hall and Exit Wound by Johnny Hanrahan, both of whom are very much authors of plays with a highly refined literary quality about them. Tom writes beutifully and is a brilliant story teller and Raccoon has toured extensively to great acclaim. Exit Wound follows a meal served in the auditorium, where you eavesdrop on the characters Hugh and Julia in the homecoming meal from hell and promises to be something quite special, as the action takes place at a long dinner table for thirty people. The whole show takes around three hours and the meal is included in the ticket price of £20, so it’s a great night out. At the Liverpool Arts Centre on Myrtle Street, we have  another show produced by Gambolling Arena Theatre Company, which is Portia Coughlin, written by Marina Carr; a very dark play that has a a true gothic feel to it.  Walking The Road written by Dermot Bolger, who describes this project as a poet writing about a poet, so the audience when they come in will be treated to a brief sttatement from Dermot Bolger, who is a very fine writer and novellist, and then to a poetry recital followed by a short, two handed play set in Flanders. Walking The Road takes place at The Liverpool Community College.’

Vic is also very optimistic about the upcoming 2008 celebrations. ‘Potentially it should be very good, but the great thing about the Made In Liverpool series of plays is that they are now embedded in the Liverpool theatre going conscience. They weren’t written with 2008 in mind and the project as a whole is now beginning to bear fruit. When people look at what’s happening here, it can only be of benefit to the writers involved, especially when the people involved in theatre looking in on Liverpool realise the risks involved in writing and staging these plays. The Royal Court, The Unity, The Playhouse and The Everyman can only be applauded as to being a seedbed of this talent we have in Liverpool. At Liverpool Hope we are already seeing the benefits, as we have a significant increase in potential students wanting to come to Liverpool to study the arts here which in itself can only bode well for the future.’

The Festival also encourages Liverpool’s school children to understand the Irish cultural base of the city through its ongoing Outreach programme. ‘We aim at primary schools and try to instil an appreciation and an understanding of the Irish culture on the very young at a grass roots level. We concentrate on Irish myths and legends and Irish dance through assemblies and workshop environments and have had some fabulous feedback from the pupils and teachers alike.’

The growth of the festival now looks assured. ‘We’ve just had a very positive indication of the future growth of the festival as we’ve just recruited a new festival director, Ali Gilbert, who has already put together a programme for next year. What I think we need to be thinking of is aligning ourselves with a specific venue for each of the events we stage, because if we have a theatre already functioning we don’t want to be parking our shows for three weeks of the year and not developing them and others in the city. I think that’s the way forward – not only for drama, but for poetry and dance and music as well – in order that the Liverpool Irish Festival continues to grow.’

For More Information: and

Festival Programme:

Parts of this interview have, or will, appear in other publications and in other formats.

If you would like to comment on this interview with Dr. Vic Merriman, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
© 2007 all rights reserved