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BEYOND THESE ROOMS | Visitor Histories

January 22nd, 2019 Posted by Archive 0 comments on “BEYOND THESE ROOMS | Visitor Histories”

Bringing Complex Conflicted History Back to Life: One Story, Two Perspectives

My husband, Peter Connolly, was a carrier and a general dealer.  He was 39 years of age.  On Easter Friday evening at dusk he had gone over to Hickey’s to move two mirror glasses.  When the firing began apparently he could not return home, and I never saw him alive again.”

– Statement of Mrs Connolly, taken from A FRAGMENT OF 1916 HISTORY held at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks. (REFERENCE NUMBER 35J 6/13)

Mrs Hughes told us that she had seen Connolly on the roofs of houses at the rear of her house, leading the rebels across the roofs.  I know Connolly to have been a sergeant in the National Volunteers, and Mrs Connolly told me that he gave the Irish volunteers 2 rifles during the Rebellion.”
– Statement of Police Sergeant O’Gorman, taken from COURTS OF ENQUIRY INTO THE ALLEGED SHOOTING OF CIVILIANS BY SOLDIERS held at The National Archive, Kew. (REFERENCE NUMBER WO. 35/67/3)


Narrating Conflicted Histories

A core objective of BEYOND THESE ROOMS was to actively engage visitors into creating their own versions of this conflicted history.    The installation at Tate Exchange, Tate Liverpool, housed a large light table with multiple sentences taken from the following two governments’ enquiries conducted following the North King Street massacre:

  • A FRAGMENT OF 1916 HISTORY held at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin.

Visitors were given the following instructions

  • ASSEMBLE the sentences and create your own narrative of the incident.
  • ARCHIVE your statement by pressing the keypad located in the middle of the lightbox table – it will be uploaded to

We have been amazed by the response – thank you so much to all those who participated!

NOTE: these images are raw files uploaded from the light table at Tate Exchange and have not been altered in any way – to see the text clearly click to magnify.


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The Hickey Family

November 15th, 2016 Posted by Research 0 comments on “The Hickey Family”

Emma O’Kane

My research for These Rooms focused on the Hickey family, in particular Teresa Hickey, wife of Thomas and mother of Christopher. Both were killed in the North King Street massacre. Call it a coincidence, a sign or the power and might of live performance, but unbeknown to me I came face to face with the Grandniece of Thomas Hickey in performance.

I shared a one-on-one moment with this woman, showing her a memorial card in memory of Thomas and Christopher Hickey. Not knowing at the time that I was actually showing her a photograph of her relatives. This was a defining moment for me where the space of 100 years and the lives of the inhabitants of North King Street did not seem so distant or unfamiliar. The story of These Rooms is universal and the reality of working on a show that deals with actual events means that its effects are still felt presently and reverberate globally. Sadly atrocities happen to human beings every day. People get caught in the crossfire. Not every citizen has the same agenda as those handling the arms.

Working on These Rooms has made me understand the importance of remaining impartial when creating work around real life testimonies. The testimonies are very harrowing and it is hard not to have an opinion about the perpetrators. But whom does that serve? Does an audience really need to see my blame played out in front of them? Blame keeps us stuck in the past.

This way of seeing has taken me a while to fully implement in my process and the work that I have created from directly relating to the testimonies in These Rooms. But I believe it is richer for it. Essentially I believe the role of the artist is to raise questions but not necessarily to answer them. Doing so robs the audience of their experience and the opportunity for them to formulate their own opinions.

As an artist responding to the testimonies one hundred years since the North King Street massacre, the single most important element of this creation for me is that the voices of the testimonies are heard and their stories are told. It is my job to do this with an impartiality that allows the audience to see these people as people and not just victims of a crime, without that human connection they just fade back into the past and we never get to hear their voices.

In hearing their voices one hopes that history does not repeat itself.

The Cast respond to the testimonies

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Notes 0 comments on “The Cast respond to the testimonies”


Hands up









These are just a few words taken from the testimony of Sally Hughes ( wife of Micheal Hughes). Micheal was murdered in North King street by the South Staffordshire regiment. In looking into the testimonies off all these men who were brutally killed it asks the question of why don’t we know about this?

Why now one hundred years on have we still not got the full truth and statements that were recorded. Will we ever know what really happened to those men and why it was done to them when they had nothing to do with the Volunteers.

Why Christopher Hickey a 16 year old boy was butchered to death. 31 pages, thats all we have. Maybe its all will ever have.


Development Workshop

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Research 0 comments on “Development Workshop”

David Bolger, Louise Lowe and Owen Boss held a series of creative development workshops during the autumn of 2015, culminating in a three day session in December with a number of performers.  Here are a series of images to give an idea of this work in embryonic form.

Eye Witness Accounts

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Archive 0 comments on “Eye Witness Accounts”



“On Saturday 29th April about six soldiers with a sergeant knocked at the door and without waiting to have it opened broke the door in. They made us hold up our hands and made us go before them to the top back room. There we were all searched. When the soldiers broke in one of [the] men said ’friends’ & they said ‘no foes!’ At 7pm, over 12 hours later, I eventually I got to the top back room and I found there the dead bodies of my son and four others.”

“I came down crying and we all went to the priest’s house where we got tea. We had to stay there all night as no one was allowed out. Next morning at my request one of the priests went to pray over the bodies but he was not allowed into No. 27. A message came later that one of us would be allowed in to arrange about the bodies but when I got to the house there were neither soldiers nor bodies there. We were told that soldiers were digging in the back yard during the night. We found the four bodies burned in the back garden. Mrs. McCartney’s brother-in-law got here to disinter them and they were buried in Glasnevin in the following Tuesday, the 2nd May.”

The Imperial War Museum and 14-18 NOW

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Research 0 comments on “The Imperial War Museum and 14-18 NOW”

In early to mid January myself, Louise Lowe and Owen Boss from ANU and David Bolger and Bridget Webster from CoisCeim traversed the Irish sea in simpler pre-Brexit times to take a visit to the beautiful Imperial War Museum where 14-18NOW have their headquarters to continue conversations in relation to THESE ROOMS.

14-18NOW is an arts commissioning body commemorating the centenary of the Great War. Looking up their programme in advance I felt that I could not remember seeing a more innovative, ambitious or appropriate centenary programme which seemed to span all sides, points of view and sensibilities when dealing with such an incredibly complex and confounding event such as the First World War. Some of 14-18NOW had come to see Pals: The Irish at Gallipoli by ANU in 2015 and had had a great response to the work when we met for coffee in the Collins Barracks cafe after. After that, the Arts Council of Ireland had already started some clever talks with them on how they could link in with some of the ART:2016 commissions as part of Ireland 2016. This trip to the Imperial War Museum seemed inevitable!

We arrived at the museum a bit in advance to check it out. There are five Imperial War Museums in the UK and considering they’re purely showing you a glimpse into the past and things and people that no longer exist, the minute you walk into the field there is a very surprising buzz and life to the building and its environs. From the way the two giant cannons (from the HMS Ramillies and the HMS Roberts) seem to leap out at you from in front of the building to the sheer amount of people bustling in and out of the main foyer.

The museum’s remit is to record the civil and military war effort and conflicts that Britain or the commonwealth have been involved in since 1914 so there is plenty to see. The museum’s collections include archives of personal and official documents, photographs, film and video material, and oral history recordings; an extensive library, a large art collection, and examples of military vehicles and aircraft, equipment and other artefacts. the five of us sprinted around the museum, splitting up to cover more ground and devour as much of the experience as we could. A highlight for me was when I ended up in a artificial trench from WW1 and realised I had a new found claustrophobia. I don’t know how well I’d have done in the war.

After recovery from my trench trauma and sprinting around the museum trying to see as much as possible before sitting down with 14-18NOW to discuss THESE ROOMS, how we envisage it at the Dublin Theatre Festival this September and how it could be reimagined for a British context in 2018. We left the meeting feeling energised having encountered a commissioning body totally open to new perspectives and they clearly felt the same about the ANU / CoisCéim collaboration as they since came on board as co-commissioners. We’re looking forward to the next step when they come and see the work in October and see how the discussion continues from there.

The Victims

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Archive 0 comments on “The Victims”

Those killed in North King Street were:

  1. Thomas Hickey (age 38) 170 North King Street
  2. Christopher Hickey (age 16) 170 North King Street (Father and son)
  3. Peter Connolly (age 39) 170 North King Street
    (These three bodies had bayonet marks indicating they were killed with the bayonet)
  4. Patrick Bealen (age 30) 177 North King Street
  5. James Healy (age 44) 177 North King Street
    (Were seen being taken away to be shot by the military by Mary O’Rourke).
  6. Michael Nunan (age 34), 174 North King Street
  7. George Ennis (age 51), 174 North King Street.
    (Anne Fennel of 174 testified that soldiers broke in took away Ennis and that he crawled back mortally wounded)
  8. Dunne, Edward (age 39), 91 North King Street
  9. Walsh, John (age 34). 172 North King Street
  10. Michael Hughes (age 50) 172 North King St
    (Killings seen by Eileen Walsh, wife of John.)
  11. Lawless, Peter J. (age 21), 27 North King Street.
  12. James McCarthy (age 36), 27 North King Street
  13. James Finnegan (age 40), 27 North King St
  14. Patrick Hoey (age 25) 27 North King Street
    (All worked at Louth Dairy in that house, found dead in basement with wounds to the head and throat areas)
  15. In addition Jon Biernes (age 50) was shot dead by Crown forces on nearby Coleraine Street.

Listen to a testimony

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Research 0 comments on “Listen to a testimony”

Listen to an extract of one of the testimonies from one of the 38 female witnesses as recorded by cast member Emma O’Kane.



July 18th, 2016 Posted by Notes 0 comments on “The OPEN CALL!”

blog-02In March 2015, The Arts Council of Ireland issued an OPEN CALL to the Irish imagination for ambitious projects to commemorate the Centenary of the Easter Rising. Selected by an independent, international jury, a total of €1 million was made available for this initiative.

In the press coverage that followed – ANU’s Pals, was cited as an example of how the arts could capture the public imagination in dealing with painful memories from the past ( – who would have thought then…

David Bolger and Louise Lowe had been talking for a while about coming together to create a work that blurred traditional artform boundaries and news of this open call led David, Louise. Owen, Lynnette, Matt and myself to come together in Collins Barracks and discuss the details of making an application within the one month window.

The resulting submission focussed on collaboration, bringing together three artists to create a truly interdisciplinary performance work, which took as its starting point the 38 female testimonies of the North King Street massacre. Our application summary read: This exciting collaboration positions CoisCéim and ANU at the forefront of interdisciplinary practice. THESE ROOMS will reaffirm the role of art in negotiating history and produce a vital, real-time work that looks at the 1916 rebellion not through the typical eyes of the heroes but through the civilians who became involved when the uninvited rising invaded their homes with devastating consequences

We pressed send on the 15th April 2015 and thought little more about it. The OPEN CALL was intensely competitive – 258 applications were received.

The selection process was two phase. A shortlisted was drawn up in June and we were invited to elaborate on our submission in terms of creative and production detail. Special thanks for their support at this stage goes to our partners at Collins Barracks, National Museum of Ireland and National Archives of Ireland. Phase 2 was submitted in July. We had no idea how many people were on the shortlist, and thought – wow – brilliant to get this far.

The surprise, delight and incredulity following Liz Meaney’s phone call to David Bolger when told that the application had been successful was matched with more than a little apprehension. What an opportunity!

…and now we have to do it!

Soon after the Dublin Theatre Festival came on board as the premiere presentation partner for the live performance element, cementing the dates.

Now at the time of writing, it’s one year on – creative development workshops have taken place, casting is complete, 14-18 NOW is a co-commissioner of the work, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) are generously allowing us to use their building as the site for all aspects of the project, and we are ready for the start of rehearsals on 15 August to make THESE ROOMS.

Historical Context & Background

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Archive 0 comments on “Historical Context & Background”

It was in a small row of houses in North King Street that the British army executed 15 civilian men during the 1916 Rising. A military court of inquiry was held and found that no specific soldier could be held responsible for the killings and as such no action was taken against the South Staffordshire regiment that conducted the atrocity. In fact, the results of the inquiry were buried and only came to light in 2001.

British troops had suffered over 40 casualties in this inner city area of Dublin during the previous days of the rising. General Lowe had ordered that, “no hesitation was to be shown in dealing with these rebels; that by their actions they had placed themselves outside the law and that they were not be made prisoners”. Infuriated with the losses they had suffered, on late Friday evening and early Saturday morning, the troops of the South Staffordshire regiment under orders from Col. Taylor, broke into the homes of the locals and shot or bayoneted 15 civilian men whom they accused of being rebels.

None of the victims had any connection whatsoever with the insurrection and indeed some were entirely opposed to it. The houses were never at any time occupied by the volunteers and no traces of arms or ammunition were found on the premises. None of the murders were committed during a sudden attack or assault or in the heat of passion. In fact, in some cases several hours elapsed allowing for ample consultation. General Maxwell afterwards made the luminous statement: “Possibly some unfortunate incidents which we regret now, may have occurred… it is even possible that under the horrors of this attack some of them saw red, that is the inevitable consequences of a rebellion of this kind”. The top Home Office official, Sir Edward Troup, told the prime minister, Herbert Asquith: “The root of the mischief was the military order to take no prisoners”.

At the military court of inquiry, the presiding officer thought the South Staffords were, ‘a quiet and very respectable set of men’ and ruled that no specific soldier could be held responsible for the killings’. The full findings of this enquiry are due to be released in 2016.