Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Boat Factory at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Boat Factory by Dan Gordon


2-26 AUGUST 2012 (NOT 14) AT 6.30PM - 1HR 20MINS


TEL: 0131 226 0000 / TICKETS £9-£13 (PREVIEWS 2+3 AUG £5)
A play about the life and times of the men at the famous Harland & Wollf Shipyard in Belfast
As sent to me and now endorsed by the Leithshipyards website
As someone who keenly preserves our shipbuilding heritage, I thought you might be interested in hearing about a play that we are bringing from Belfast to Hill Street Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August which celebrates the people, history and achievements of Belfast's Harland & Wolff shipyard - our tribute to a proud maritime heritage which I know is shared by Scotland. The play was written by Dan Gordon whose grandfather was a labourer who came from the shipyards on the Clyde to the shipyards of Belfast. Dan spent years researching the subject matter, talking to many shipyard workers and their families. He gathered material from interviews, anecdotal evidence, and historical research to recreate the background against which 1700 ships were built by Harland and Wolff Shipyards. He also drew extensively on his own close personal knowledge of the subject matter through his own family history. His father served his time as an apprentice Joiner in the Belfast Shipyard in the early 1950s, alongside his five brothers and the husbands of his two sisters, and worked on the last great liner they ever built - The Canberra. Set in 1947, the play follows the life of a young apprentice and is a poignant and humorous tale of friendship, pride, skill, nobility and, above all, heart.

As Dan says on writing the play: “I’ve lived in the shadow of those big yellow cranes all my life and I wanted to tell their story because they are so much a part of me and our collective heritage. Harland & Wolff  built Titanic, the greatest ship in history, but there is a great deal more to the achievements of the thousands of Yardmen. They built over 1700 ships with pride and skill unmatched anywhere else in the world, and we need to celebrate that. Every house in the East had a poker for the fire or a fire screen made in the Shipyard – every house had someone or a relative who worked there – by the age of four, I’d seen 5 ships launched – all across the East we could hear the morning Siren when it was time to change shift. My Father’s tales of the men he worked with and the ships they built were legendary – from craftsmen to wee crafty men he knew and worked alongside them – their nicknames – their personalities – their disagreements and their triumphs – I want to tell their stories as he told them to me.”

Dan performs in the play with fellow actor Michael Condron. Together they chart the history of the men who worked in the yard, conjuring up a host of colourful characters from the glory days of the shipbuilding era when, at the height of production, nearly 35,000 men worked on the 300 acre site complete with power station, docks, machine shops, engine works and saw mills. The Boat Factory has steadily grown in stature from its humble beginnings in the Westbourne Community Presbyterian Church (the shipyard church in east Belfast), travelling right across Northern Ireland to the very heart of our community, playing in prisons, orange halls, parish halls, schools, and Belfast City Hall. It went on to play to packed houses in the Barnett Room of the Belfast Harbour Office during the 2011 Belfast Festival at Queen’s and it was the headline production in the opening of Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland’s newest visitor attraction.

We have been particulary delighted and moved by the response of former shipyard workers - these are just some of the many comments we have received:

"Saw `The Boat Factory` at Titanic Belfast last night. Just wonderful! Two men and a bit of scaffolding - had me completely entranced for two hours. What a fabulous bit of writing and performing. They made an inventory of the contents of a toolbox sound like a Shakespearean sonnet. I think you can take it that I really enjoyed it! Congratulations to Dan Gordon and Michael Condron"

“A skilfully crafted production, wholly befitting of the Belfast Men it celebrates. I marvelled, laughed out loud and cried sore - it quare took it out of me! The show left with me a new sense of pride about being born in Belfast and having grown up in the shadow of The Yard. Well done to all. Good on ye!”

“I was privileged to be at Westbourne Presbyterian to see the opening performance of The Boat Factory. It drew me in like a child listening to an incredible bed time story. Thank you Dan for opening up your heart and your talent to other people’s memories and for allowing me, for a brief moment in time, to work along side the east Belfast men and boys in the boat factory.”

“For an evening's entertainment "The Boat Factory" would be hard to beat. It was beautifully executed, fast, clever, funny and thought provoking- what more could you ask for? Brilliant!”

“A very moving and fitting tribute to all who have worked or been associated with H & W shipyard. We need to preserve this rich heritage and folk memory and I feel that last night's performance will go a long way to achieving that aim.”

“I don’t normally write appreciation letters when I attend a play I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it. It was very moving and a fitting tribute to all who have worked or been associated with H & W shipyard. My grandfather was a labourer and my father an Electric Welder until he became a foreman. My grandmother scraped the money together to pay for his apprenticeship. Last night's play has given me some insight into the sacrifice he made for me.”

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