Acclaimed Londonderry singer-songwriter Roy Arbuckle landed up at the ‘Mem’ this afternoon (Friday, September 11) to launch a recruitment drive for his forthcoming musical production, ‘The Fountain,’ which, a year after its official unveiling, is to make its debut in the hallowed venue later this Autumn.
Roy’s been working on the musical - an across-the-divide love story set against the dance halls of the 1960s and the devastation of the Troubles that followed - for over a year and is now at the stage where he needs a cast.
He’s just received a welcome boost from the Arts Council, which is contributing £15,000 to help enable the production.
The first auditions take place in the Memorial Hall on September 24, with rehearsals and a full production to follow by the end of November.
Roy maintains a strong affection for the people and places of his youth.
He was born in Upper Bennet Street, on the edge of The Fountain area, towards the end of the Second World War, one of a family of ten. He knows the area and its people like the back of his hand.
He explained: “Whilst I was born in The Fountain area, we moved house in the 1950s to a different area but my life was still very much in The Fountain.
“My first music lessons were in the People’s Hall in Barrack Street and I went back there for my social life in places like the Presbyterian Working Men’s Institute and St Augustine Youth Club.
“I’m really delighted to bring my experiences and those of the communities I’ve worked with, to the stage of this great city. I’m delighted too with the support we have had from the Apprentice Boys who have offered us their space for rehearsals and performance.”
He added: “The Fountain has been reduced from a thriving community of 2000 in the 1950s to a community of 300 now, partly by re-development, partly by fear and intimidation and violence during the Troubles.
“The Fountain musical highlights this and brings the area back to life through the eyes of the community. I look forward to sharing it with local audiences.”
Gilly Campbell, Arts Development Officer for Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented; “The Arts Council is delighted to support this new musical production from Towards Understanding and Healing and Roy Arbuckle.
“The arts have a unique social value, a gift, for bringing our people and communities together and this wonderful production tells the tale of a much-loved and iconic part of Derry-Londonderry, the places and its people and I wish Roy and the cast every success - a must-see this autumn.”
Audiences can expect to hear songs from Roy’s 2008 album, ‘Songs of the Fountain.’
This recording comprises eleven songs, each telling an individual story, with the songs subtly interweaving to create a loving, intimate picture of that distinctive working class community of The Fountain.
There are songs of the streets, of the 11th night, of the neighbourhood shops, pubs, schools, the city’s famous shirt factories, songs of crack, innocence and rock and roll before the menace of the Troubles, songs of loss, songs of belonging, songs from a community bulldozed into a corner, yet here, through Arbuckle’s words and music, springing again to life.
The Fountain opens on Wednesday, November 25.
Full details to follow in Wednesday’s print edition.