Hawk’s Well Theatre stage off-site theatre piece - The Deepwater Rambler

05 Nov 2018

Hawk’s Well Theatre recently staged a most memorable event, ‘The Deepwater Rambler’. Celebrating Sligo’s rich maritime heritage; audiences were treated to a new play written by actor, writer and director, Bob Kelly and historical talks in the unique setting of Sligo docklands. The project was made possible by the support of The Metal Mariners, MalinWaters and has been funded by The Heritage Council.

The Hawk’s Well Theatre began planning the multifaceted event last spring and collaborated with The Metal Mariners boatbuilding collective, County Sligo Heritage & Genealogy Centre, Sligo County Council & Port Of Sligo staff to create the event. On the project Playwright Bob Kelly explained “It’s a privilege to have been asked to write a piece of theatre in response to Sligo’s docklands by the Hawk’s Well Theatre. The quays were for many years the heart of Sligo, and they have borne witness to innumerable colourful characters, tearful farewells, and industrial disputes. It’s my aim in this piece to reflect on that sense of memory, that loss; our rich and varied past that we can do tribute to, but never justice to.”

Just before the event the production’s venue was vandalized and left unsafe after a break in by burglars. On learning about this set-back Sean McTernan of McTernan’s carpet and furniture shop at Ballast Quay generously offered his shop as a venue. The shop has an unobstructed view of Port Of Sligo and audiences delighted in the novelty of the welcoming setting for the informative talks. Over a warm cuppa audiences heard from M.C. Sligo Harbour Master John Carton, & speakers Brian Scanlon & Medbh Gillard about the port, past, present and future. The port of Sligo grew from a medieval quay into one of Ireland's principle emigration ports during the famine years. Today exports are on the rise again and future tourism offerings are planned for next year.

Audiences walked in glorious autumnal sunshine to Deepwater quay for the rehearsed reading of the new play. The location is normally closed to the public as it is used for commercial shipping of coal, fishmeal & timber was transformed into a stage. Actor and core member of Blue Theatre Raincoat Company, Ciaran McCauley; Martin Maguire (star of Red Rock, TV3 & RTE’s The Clinic) and talented violinist and Waterboys member, Steve Wickham cast a spell over all gathered.

Audience reaction was instantly favourable “Kudos to all associated with this production of 'The Deepwater Rambler' on a glorious Sunday at the Port of Sligo's Deepwater Quay, what a setting! Here's hoping this excellent creative staging initiative provides a positive catalyst for increased public re-focus on the resurgence of The Port of Sligoas a successful commercially viable port as referenced today by its dedicated, hardworking, committed and forward thinking present Harbour Master John Carton. Let us reignite its undoubted potential. Is Feidir Linn!” said Liam Gannon “It was a wonderful and moving production and we are indebted to the cast: Martin Maguire, Ciaran McCauley and Steve Wickham and particularly to the Hawk’s Well Theatre… Well done to all who made the event such a memorable occasion.” Cllr Declan Bree. “It was amazing and definitely something I'll remember for a long time. Such a stunning backdrop of Benbulben with various bits of pieces of Sligo's quay and shipping history. Thank you to everyone involved it was an unbelievable and unforgettable performance.” Adrian O’ Neill.

The staff of the Hawk’s Well were visibly delighted at the reaction to the event. “The theatre aims to present inspiring, imaginative and engaging performances that reflect the vibrant culture of our community. Underneath the busy modern exterior of Port Of Sligo is centuries of stories and experiences which shaped the world around us. It was wonderful to see audiences make a connection with the physical space and our shared heritage through the power of theatre. Thanks to Bob Kelly’s skilful writing we journeyed into the heart and soul of those whose lives were wholly interwoven and depended on the sea. Thank you to the Heritage Council’s generosity in enabling this event.” Said Deirdre Melvin on behalf of the Hawk’s Well.

In preparation for this event, the Hawk’s Well Theatre has coordinated an exhibition featuring stories about the industry and people behind the port taken from the Sligo Weekender newspaper archives. The exhibition opened during Heritage Week and also featured a log book where the public recorded their own experience and knowledge of the port. All of this collective experience informed The Deepwater Rambler and it undoubtedly made for a unique experience that concentrated focus on what has been a most important bedrock of Sligo life. Audiences received a souvenir programme that included a bespoke introduction to the Port Of Sligo by popular historian & author John McTernan. This production in Sligo Port will be sure to live on in the hearts of those who attended for years to come.