The acclaimed production Under The Hawthorn Tree is returning to Belfast in a presentation by the award-winning children’s theatre company, Cahoots NI and the MAC, featuring a star-studded cast of exceptional performers including Frankie McCafferty and Julia Dearden.
Based on the internationally acclaimed book by award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna and published by The O’Brien Press, Under the Hawthorn Tree follows the journey of three brave siblings as they fight for survival during the Potato Famine in Ireland, 1845.
Running in Belfast from January 30th until February 9th before touring Ireland, there are already limited tickets for some shows.
The story is told alongside compelling music and song and is suitable for children from seven years and up.
It is the tale of three children, Eily, Michael and Peggy. When their father goes to find work and their mother leaves to find him, the trio, starving and faced with the workhouse, embark on a treacherous journey to find the great aunts they have heard of only in stories.
Directed by Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney of Cahoots NI this remarkable story of endurance, in a defining moment of Irish experience, is told like never before in the play by Charles Way, with a stirring live original score from Garth McConaghie.
Paul said that the response to Under the Hawthorn Tree has been phenomenal.
“We knew that this was a special show,” he said. “That we received such a great response the first time it was performed was overwhelming. That so many tickets have been sold ahead of this run is an outstanding tribute to Marita’s story, Charles’ adaptation and all involved in bringing it to the MAC.”
Frankie McCafferty, who plays Mr O’Driscoll, will be familiar to TV and film audiences with appearances including BBC One’s ‘Death and Nightingales’, ‘Ripper Street’ (S2), ‘Vikings’ and ‘Middletown’.
“Under The Hawthorn Tree is such a compelling piece,” he said. “The adaptation brings the story from the pages to the stage in a work that is sure to entertain and educate.”
With Frankie the cast includes Julia Dearden, Adam dDougal, Colette Lennon Dougal, Conor O’Donnell, Philippa O’Hara and Maeve Smith.
Julia has appeared extensively on stage, with TV credits including ‘After Life’, ‘The Fall’ and ‘Line of Duty’.
The three siblings are played by Adam Dougal (Michael), Maeve Smith (Eily), and Philippa O’Hara (Peggy).
Author Marita Conlon-McKenna said the production of her award-winning book delighted her.
“Cahoots NI and Director Paul Mc Eneaney have done a marvellous job with this truly innovative production which combines music, song and story to help tell the story of The Great Irish Famine,” she said.
“The play surpassed all my hopes and expectations and I was overwhelmed by the reaction of kids, families and lovers of the book, to the show. The hard work and effort of the cast and crew have resulted in a very memorable stage production which I promise is different from anything else most of us have seen.”
This dramatisation of Under The Hawthorn Tree is based on the book Under The Hawthorn Tree © text 1990 Marita Conlon-McKenna, published by The O’Brien Press, Dublin.
Under The Hawthorn Tree runs at The MAC from January 30 – February 9 before touring Ireland.
£10million Investment in Transformation of New Train Station for York Street
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced a £10m investment project that will see the construction of a new train station at York Street, Belfast.
Having recently secured planning permission, this exciting regeneration project will be the next station to be transformed into a high-quality sustainable transport hub, to attract more people to make public transport their first choice for greener and healthier travel.
Announcing the funding, Minister Mallon said: “I am committed to delivering sustainable infrastructure that will transform communities, improve lives and help tackle the climate crisis. Key to that commitment is ensuring we have a functioning and thriving public transport network and that is why I want to invest in our infrastructure and our rail infrastructure in particular, which will deliver for local people and visitors now and well into the future.
“Last year I launched a public consultation on proposals to redevelop this new train station at York Street. Following the completion of the consultation process, and the subsequent receipt of planning approval, I am delighted to confirm that this £10million project can move towards construction phase.
“Our public transport network is vital in our recovery from Covid-19 both economically and socially. Pre-covid the current facility was one of the busiest train stations in Northern Ireland. With the move of Ulster University to this part of Belfast, it is expected this will grow further with improved facilities, including better links to walking and cycling options in the area, making it even easier for people to choose sustainable travel as their smarter travel mode.”
The Minister added: “As well as improving connectivity and making public transport a more attractive offering the redevelopment of the station will also help to secure jobs in the local construction industry. I look forward to seeing work commence later this year and the completion of the new station in 2023.”
Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive said: “This is really good news for the city. It will provide better connectivity for everyone particularly with the opening of the new Ulster University campus this year and the planned City Quays development.
“Passengers will enjoy modern, more accessible amenities including a new Changing Places facility and better links to walking and cycling options with more access to cycle parking and local cycle networks. A new footbridge will link to wider platforms and new canopies.
“The external design will boast an enhanced station layout with high quality landscaping and provision of a public realm area at the front of the station.
“We would like to thank the Minister and her department for the essential funding to deliver this vital infrastructure scheme which will significantly shape the future of this area. It will provide the people of North Belfast with connections that can improve the area’s liveability and the community’s employability. We will continue to work with all our stakeholders as the development progresses”, Chris concluded.
Stormont Play Park ‘Quiet Hour’ Launched
Finance Minister, Conor Murphy has announced a special ‘Quiet Hour’ at the Mo Mowlam Playpark on the Stormont Estate, making the facilities more inclusive for all.
The playpark, which is designed for children of all abilities and includes a dedicated sensory area, will now be opened one hour earlier each Wednesday morning during July, creating a calmer environment for children with additional needs.
The Quiet Hour will run from 8.30am-9.30am for an initial four-week trial and if successful, will become a regular fixture.
Speaking during a visit to the playpark along with Health Minister this morning, Minister Murphy said: “Inclusive play is at the heart of this wonderful facility which is extremely popular with families and children.
“We recognise that due to its popularity, the playpark can get very busy and this can be overwhelming for some children. So we’re delighted to be able to open the gates an hour earlier one day a week to allow those with additional needs to be able to play in a quieter setting.”
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I am delighted to support this initiative and to meet the young people and their families for whom it will undoubtedly prove a popular addition to the facilities available with the Stormont Estate. Making all aspects of society as accessible and inclusive as possible to all our citizens and in particular the young is an ambition which we must all continue to work towards.”
Welcoming the initiative, Autism NI CEO Kerry Boyd said: “It is great to see that the playpark will be introducing a special Quiet Hour for children with additional needs. Many of our autistic families have enjoyed the facility since it has opened and will benefit greatly from the park opening an hour early. We hope others will follow this great example and help to build an inclusive society for everyone.”
The Quiet Hour was championed by a number of parents who have been engaging with Stormont Estate staff in recent weeks. After meeting with parents and children at the park, Minister Murphy said: “I was delighted to speak with parents who have been instrumental in making this a reality. It’s so important that children of all abilities can continue to enjoy this excellent playpark as much as possible. I’m very pleased to be able to facilitate this Quiet Hour and I hope it proves to be a great success.”