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Ballyfermot & Cherry Orchard – full of passion

Co Author:
Laura Larkin

The Passion Project took place on the 8th and 9th April 2017. It has been one of the most spirited projects I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on.

The Passion Project was a partnership with Dublin’s Culture Connects, Dublin City Arts Office and the Area Office in Ballyfermot supporting the community vision which was for a contemporary reimagining of the Passion of the Christ. The project started for me in December 2016 when I was introduced to Joyce and Tom from Ballyfermot Civic Centre and to the artists Brokentalkers. Brokentalkers were brought on board to write a script in which the community were given a louder voice and platform upon which to address issues in their community through the arts, while at the same time demonstrating the positive activities taking place in the localities of Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard every day.

Roxanna Nic Liam played The Messenger in The Passion Project. Image by Marc O'Sullivan
Roxanna Nic Liam played The Messenger in The Passion Project. Image by Marc O’Sullivan

In the beginning I heard stories of local suicides, drug gangs, a mother losing her son to an overdose in the middle of the village, and families being evicted from their homes. My initial concern was that the story be displayed in a sensitive way to families of the area, with their advice. This concern I soon realised was not needed, as Brokentalkers are particularly conscious of this throughout their work. They take the communities and audiences very much into consideration when plotting a script.

As time went on, I met community groups, managers of local facilities and the locals themselves, who all showed the rich diversity and positive side of what goes on in the area and how much goodness there was to tap into. However it did seem there were many facilities, and not enough accessible content.

A balance between the issues and the strengths of Cherry Orchard and Ballyfermot had to be achieved, the piece of work needed to make a difference while thinking about forward planning and investment in the arts within the area with a developmental strategy, steered by the community.

My role here was basically to keep everyone together and on track. There was a steering group made up of 11 people mostly working in the local area, the artists Gary and Feidlim, an additional production team of 5, a PR and Marketing team of 6 and an event production team nearer the time of, in full, 23 people. In addition to staff and volunteers, there was a local cast of 8 people and 18 community groups involved (about 200 people in total). There are many challenges working on one project with many voices. The project also had set resources in terms of budget and a short timeline, so the challenge was to achieve the vision of a large creative project of its kind while not ripping up the blue sky dream too much.

Kian Bingham of Cherry Orchard Equine Centre at Rehearsals for The Passion Project. Image by Marc O'Sullivan
Kian Bingham of Cherry Orchard Equine Centre at Rehearsals for The Passion Project. Image by Marc O’Sullivan

As we went on, a couple of ideas had to be changed to make the project a feasible one, however in the end we managed to find a reasonable balance together with what we had, versus what we wanted to do.  The fusion of street theatre, festival style, event structure and the theatre world was a brave concept, but it is one that fell into place eventually, with a lot of dedicated team work.

The result of everyone’s hard, diligent and creative, resourceful work, was an extremely poignant, epic, special event preceded by a huge amount of rehearsals and workshops. The community took the reins and every age attended, embracing the truthful darkness in some of the scenes while at the same time brightening the entire production with hopeful song, statements and smiles.

Locals line the parade route on day one of The Passion Project. Image by Sonia Zhao
Locals line the parade route on day one of The Passion Project. Image by Sonia Redmond Zhao

The people in Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard really care about the power of positive change. There is an urgency for it and this was displayed so honestly within each scene. The rich way in which it was displayed gave everybody goosebumps, the parade was a local protest with heart.

Their chant “Tell Them What We Want” will always ring in my ears.

I truly hope that the project is the beginning of everybody in the area getting more of what they want, and less of what they don’t. It is a brave place, with a huge amount of brave hearts living there, amongst a real sense of solidarity. They will fight for what they want and what they are entitled to. I know BCCC is planning on keeping this seed growing through arts and cultural programming being developed and planned from the ground up over the next few years.

I see a huge amount of potential and future change taking place and I am proud and grateful for being brought in to be one of the wheels in helping something so stirring and ultimately positive to happen. I have only just begun my evaluation process for the event and anything that I have listened to from the community so far is truly optimistic.

Project Manager, Laura Larkin, oversees the performance on day 2, as Roxanna Nic Liam, plays The Messenger at Ballyfermot Church. Image by Sonia Zhao
Project Manager, Laura Larkin, oversees the performance on day 2, as Roxanna Nic Liam, plays The Messenger at Ballyfermot Church. Image by Sonia Redmond Zhao

Individually, as well as collectively, a lot of good has come out of this project, including children finding their true interests and talents and adults making a stand for what they need. I look forward to hearing more and more stories as I continue and I look forward to see what is to come from such a strong, valiant locality.

Reflection by Laura Larkin, Project Manager, Dublin’s Culture Connects

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