Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland, 1960-1990

By Eamonn Hughes | Go to book overview

9
Field Day's fifth province:
avenue or impasse?

Shaun Richards

Seamus Heaney's famous 'Open Letter' of 1983 rebuked the editors of The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry for including his poetry in a collection with that title on the grounds that

My passport's green.
No glass of ours was ever raised
To toast The Queen.
…. [whose] reign
Of crown and rose
Defied, displaced, would not combine
What I'd espouse.

He rejected the appellation 'British' because 'the name's not right'.1 The 'Open Letter' was published as one of the first of the pamphlet series initiated by the Field Day Theatre Company — of which Heaney is a director — which from its founding in 1980 has developed an ever-more ambitious programme of cultural intervention in the politics of, particularly, Northern Ireland, whose situation it reads as unambiguously colonial. The siting of the Company's base in 'Derry' rather than 'Londonderry' is but one of the indications as to its reading of the Irish situation. The premiers of its plays are in Derry's Guildhall and this, in the words of company director Stephen Rae, 'is a huge symbol of Empire, of the Union, of some kind of adherence to English principles'. There is an irony, as he observed, 'in us doing plays there which maybe undermine that position and certainly come from a different point of view'.2 Its most recent series (1988) featured work by Fredric Jameson, Terry Eagleton and Edward

-139-

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Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland, 1960-1990
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ideas and Production ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Northern Ireland: A Place Apart? 13
  • 3: 'Why Can't You Get Along with Each Other?' 27
  • 4: Cuchullain and an Rpg-7 45
  • 5: The Labour Party and Northern Ireland in the 1960s 69
  • 6: Women in Northern Ireland 81
  • 7: Economic Change and the Position of Women in Northern Ireland 101
  • 8: Notes on the Novel in Irish 119
  • 9: Field Day's Fifth Province 139
  • 10: Intellectuals and Political Culture 151
  • Index 174
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