Northern Ireland

Former Limavady workhouse setting for Kabosh play on poverty

limavady workhouse
Image caption The building was built to accommodate 500 paupers

A former workhouse in Limavady is the venue for a new play by local theatre company Kabosh.

The setting was chosen because it perfectly fits the theme of the performance - poverty.

Artistic director of Kabosh, Paula McFetridge explained how the concept came about.

"In 2008, the NSPCC released a series of postcards highlighting the current levels of child poverty," she said.

"The statistics read, 'one in six people live below the poverty line in Northern Ireland'. I was disturbed by this incredibly high statistic.

"I immediately thought that this was something that needed to be discussed and began thinking about how artists could respond to this."

A plan was hatched to bring together artists from a number of different genres - music, film, sound, playwriting, acting, directing and various others - to create a piece of theatre.


Kabosh commissioned four Irish playwrights - Marina Carr, Rosemary Jenkinson, Nicola McCartney and Morna Regan - to write short plays looking at various issues around poverty.

The next task for Ms McFedridge was to find the right venue to host the project.

"One of the writers, Nicola McCartney, contacted me and told me there was a former workhouse in Limavady that I simply had to see," she said.

"The Roe Valley Hospital, as it is now known, remains one of the best preserved buildings of its type in Ireland."

After visiting "we knew that this was the location for this project".

The Newtown Limavady Union workhouse was designed by the Poor Law Commissioners' architect George Wilkinson - the building was based on one of his standard plans to accommodate 500 inmates.

The workhouse was declared fit for the reception of paupers on 15 March 1842 and admitted its first inmates the same day.


Image caption The cast who are performing in Kabosh's new play 1 in 5

The building is now home to the Limavady Community Development Initiative (LDCI), a charity set up in 1987 by a group of local people concerned about the high levels of unemployment in the area.

Paula said the performance will take the audience on a journey through the Limavady workhouse.

"Meet ghosts of the past alongside invisible people of today," she said.

"An eclectic mix of provocative characters will shock, charm, entertain and inform from the nooks and crannies of this historical site."

After three years in the making the show is finally going ahead.

The performance will combine music, film and drama.

"The statistics now read 'one in five people live below the poverty line in Northern Ireland'," said Paula.

"There is no better time to present this vital piece of work.

"Whilst elements of this project will travel, this will be the only time to see it as one collective piece in this historic venue."

Damian Smyth, head of drama and literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said the play offered audiences a unique opportunity to experience cutting edge theatre in a building with a formidable back story of largely forgotten narratives of poverty and social neglect.

"It is the perfect location for what should be an inventive and challenging capture of contemporary distress," he said.

1 in 5 runs in the Roe Valley Hospital from 24 November - 1 December

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