Not many people outside of Ireland will know that 2016 is a special year for Ireland. It marks 100 years since British rule was ended and the Republic of Ireland was established. The events unfolded on Easter week in 1916, and has become known as The Easter Rising.  The Risen Word is a collection of poems, stories and performances by the Manchester Irish Writers to commemorate the centenary.

However, what was different about this production is that we got to hear the stories that never made it to the history books. Barbara Aherne, whose mother was alive in 1916, gives an account of what happened in Manchester during the Easter Rising. ‘Being There’ written by Kevin McMahon and performed by Orla Cottingham tells us what it was like to be a young female in 1916.

The highlight of the night was definitely Elaine Powell’s poem; Beauty Born. Powell states before reciting her poem that of the 590 people that were killed during the Rising, 38 of them were children. Her poem is about 2 year old John Francis Foster, who according to his death certificate was “shot through the head at the level of ears” while in a pram. As the poem ends the names of all 38 children who perished during the Rising are read out. It is absolutely heart breaking to hear that so many minors lost their lives in this battle for freedom - some of whom have never been identified.

During the night we hear stories from the British side, fictional accounts from people after the Rising and various other pieces. The night provides a real sense of storytelling, which was very prevalent in Irish households before the television was invented.

While this is a good event and it’s nice to hear the untold stories of the Easter Rising, there seems to be a recurring theme of depression amongst the pieces. While I highly doubt that the events of 1916 were a barrel of laughs for anyone, it would have been nice to hear something a bit more light hearted during the evening. Some of the pieces (particularly in the first half) were a bit lengthy, it may be a good idea to rejig the running order of the night for any future performances - so there aren’t so many long pieces in succession. Also, one of things that annoyed me the most about this event, is that if you are going to use the Irish language in a piece, at least get the pronunciation right - especially when the vast majority of your audience are Irish! But all these are very minor issues that can easily be resolved before future performances.

It would be nice to see more events like this at the World Heritage Centre as it is a lovely building with stunning views of Manchester.

Reviewer: Brian Madden

Reviewed: 10th March 2016