Northern Ireland

Belfast poet laureate Sinéad Morrissey's Russian mission

Sinead Morrissey's grandparents Image copyright Sinead Morrissey
Image caption Sinead Morrissey's grandparents Sean and Catherine Morrissey visited the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s

Belfast's poet laureate is embarking on a mission to Russia to unravel the story of her family's Communist past.

T S Eliot Prize for Poetry winner Sinéad Morrissey will also examine her love of Russian literature and the country's influence on her own writing.

The poet's parents and her grandfather were committed Communists.

Her grandfather, Sean Morrissey, was an executive member of the Communist Party of Northern Ireland and was invited to the Soviet Union on a four-week holiday by the Soviet Communist Party in August 1974 and again in the 1980s.

Her father also made two trips, in 1969 and 1989,

During her three-week trip, Ms Morrissey will retrace their footsteps and find out more about the history of the country that did much to shape her childhood, which included regularly being taken to Communist Party meetings and social events.

She will be based in Moscow, where she will host a series of talks and meet contemporary Russian poets.

Speaking ahead of the trip, she said: "It feels in some ways like a brand new experience for me, because I've never been there and also a kind of family closure because I'm following closely in the footsteps of, particularly, my grandfather.

"That photograph [above] is taken in August 1964, so I'll be going in August 2014 and my grandfather was 42 in that photograph and I'm 42 now.

"It's a very interesting time to visit Russia. I don't predict what I'll see, but it will be a very interesting experience."

She added: "I have written so much about Russia, poems about the Revolution, the artists, Soviet ideology, the atrocities.

"Even though I've never been there before, I have found it a fascinating poetic subject and am sure the trip will inspire future work.

"Because of my family's deep connections to the country, this also feels like a momentous visit to me, and I am honoured to follow in my father's and grandfather's footsteps, though of course under very different circumstances."

The trip is part of the Arts Council's International Arts Programme and the British Council's UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014.

Damian Smyth, head of literature and drama at the Arts Council said: "Anyone familiar with Morrissey's work will already be aware of the Russian imagery and references which run through her poetry.

"Her story, growing up in the often secret world of Communist Belfast, is a fascinating one and it was with great interest that we listened to her plans at long last to visit the place which has influenced her so much."

David Alderdice, British Council director, Northern Ireland, said it was "a pleasure to be involved in supporting Sinéad's Russian adventure".

"Now more than ever we need to give our artists the space to explore and share the power of art beyond frontiers.

"We know Sinead will inspire those she meets in Russia and our hope is that they too will inspire her in return. That creative connection and the long-term benefit in building trust and engagement is what we exist to nurture".

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