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Radio play festival commended for boost to local drama circuit

A FESTIVAL of radio plays, hosted by Scariff Bay Community Radio (SBCR), has been lauded by one of the national amateur drama umbrella groups for finding keeping the flag flying for local theatre, in the teeth of the Level 5 lockdown.

Joanne Keane, Chairperson of The Drama League of Ireland (DLI), described The Clare Drama Radio Play Festival, which runs at weekends until Easter Sunday night, April 4, as “hugely successful and innovative”. Ms Keane opened the festival earlier this month and will make a virtual presentation to the overall winners of the Alan Sparling Perpetual Trophy.

While thousands of people across the country would normally be involved in the national festival circuit at this time of year, the pandemic put paid to that and caused deep disappointment across the amateur drama community. As a response to the restrictions, SBCR teamed up with the long-established Clare Drama Festival to provide an outlet for the drama groups and audiences who would normally flock to live performances at this time of year.

“We would usually have plays at 35 venue across Ireland,” noted Ms Keane, “with huge community involvement on stage and behind the scenes. When I heard that Tom Hanley of the Clare Drama Festival was teaming up with the radio station, I thought it was a super idea. The radio play festival is particularly welcome during lockdown and it has given a badly-needed drama fix to so many people. Our role in DLI is to advise and foster local drama and we’re hugely supportive of this initiative.”

Ms Keane also said that the response to the call for radio plays had been very encouraging. “There were nearly 20 groups who got involved and there’s also a wealth of new writing,” she said. “At this time, groups have been putting together video clips which can run into copyright issues. That’s also true when it comes to putting certain plays on radio. The new writing is a way around that. We run an award a national Playwrighting Award in association with the Association of Drama Council of Ireland. Our 2018 winner Liam Howard wrote Where is this Malabar, which was performed this year on radio by The Doonbeg Drama Group. Liam helped them to adapt the play for radio and they did an amazing job.”

The DLI chair also paid tribute to the late Alan Sparling, a former chairperson of the Clare Drama Festival and a lauded local actor and director.

“Alan Sparling was a mainstay of the Clare Drama Festival and a wonderful man,” Ms Keane said. “It is a fabulous honour to award the trophy in his name. When I was editor of the DLI magazine, one of my favourite photos was one of Alan in his suit and dickie bow with a sweeping brush in his hand. That captured the spirit of amateur drama where people just get stuck in.”

To-date, actors from Ennis, Corofin and West Clare have taken to the airwaves, alongside almost groups from Wexford, Tipperary, Dublin and Cork. Adjudication is provided by Paul Brennan of The Association of Drama Adjudicators (ADA). Because the dramas now rely on the medium of radio to reach their audiences, plays are also being scored for their sound production values.

Comperes Eoin O’Hagan, PRO of SBCR and Tom Hanley have also kept audiences up-to-date on the packed festival schedule and relived some of the highlights of a tradition dating back 75 years in East Clare.

“Scariff Bay have been so innovative in all of this,” Ms Keane added. “We are hugely supportive of the festival and every credit should go to Tom Hanley and Eoin O’Hagan. What they’ve done has helped us all to travel much further than our 5k. It’s taken us on flights of fancy and back in time and on other journeys of the imagination.”

SBCR is available in East Clare on 88.3 and 92.7FM, but the festival is also available worldwide on Scariffbayradio.com or via the TuneIn radio app. Many of the performances are also available as podcasts.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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