Racist slogans, burning vehicles, and residents forced out of their homes this January. Last year’s annual Human Rights and Racial Equality Benchmarking Report from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities highlighted 982 racist incidents in 2013-2014 compared with 750 the previous year, an increase of 31%, and in the same period a staggering 47% increase in racist crimes.

One pioneering theatre company, based in East Belfast, is tackling the subject head on with a dramatic production touring Northern Ireland from 11 March. Building on the success of last year’s Arrivals about new immigrants to Northern Ireland, Terra Nova Productions now turns the spotlight on the next generation in Arrivals2, offering audiences five new plays, with four professional intercultural actors, and music by Anthony Toner, all in one evening. This time, the focus is on Northern Irish people who just happen to have a parent who was born somewhere else in the world.

Terra Nova Productions is Northern Ireland’s only professional intercultural theatre company, set up by Indian-born Canadian Director, Andrea Montgomery.

“The Terra Nova intercultural mission is fundamental to tackling the issue of racism,” says Andrea. “Our ethos of working from the ground up, and involving everyone who doesn’t normally get onto the mainstream stage, ensures that. But make no mistake, we don’t create ‘issues theatre’. When you come to see Arrivals2 you’re coming to see great, intriguing, funny and moving stories that just happen to be intercultural.”

Inspired by Real People

Montgomery and Company Manager, Tom Finlay, and four trained intercultural facilitators have spent months working with people all across Northern Ireland. This fed into opportunities to join a three-day intercultural masterclass with the playwrights and professional actors that gave the Arrivals2 writers their creative stimulus.

“They wrote whatever inspired them,” says Montgomery. “It’s a wild mix.”

In Arrivals2, you will have the opportunity to experience a haunted house; a budding romance; the challenging first meeting between a long lost half-brother and sister; a funny and terrifying monologue set on the hills outside Belfast; and a drunken Halloween party where God might just be one of the party guests.

Poets James Meredith (Newtownabbey) and Deirdre Cartmill (Tyrone) who made such successful contributions to Arrivals last year have both written new pieces for Arrivals2. They are joined by award-winning actress Maggie Cronin who has appeared across our stages and screen, including 2011 Oscar-winning short film The Shore by Terry George and is now turning her hand to playwriting; emerging Belfast writer Fionnuala Kennedy, whose first play Hostel was successfully toured by Kabosh Theatre Company; and award-winning Armagh writer for stage and screen Daragh Carville (Language Roulette, This Other City, Middleton and Cherry Bomb).

The Four Actors

Director Andrea Montgomery has cast Northern Irish actress Louise Parker; mixed-race London actress Melissa Dean whose mother is from Ardoyne, emigrated from Belfast in the 1970s, and whose father is from the Caribbean; and second generation black British actors Robert Bertrand whose family is from St Lucia, and Nathanael Campbell whose family is from Jamaica.  Dean, Bertrand and Campbell fly in to start rehearsal on 22 February.

Gilly Campbell, Drama specialist at the Arts Council, said:

“With racism described as the ‘new sectarianism’ in Northern Ireland, it’s hugely important that there are productions like Arrivals2 that are taking on the big social issues and confronting the challenges raised by prejudice. This is art responding directly to the broader social context we find ourselves in today, exposing our preconceptions and bringing people and communities closer together in the most engaging and compelling of ways, through drama and storytelling.”

Northern Ireland tour

Arrivals2 can be enjoyed by audiences across Northern Ireland in March 2015, at the Crescent Arts Centre (11th-14th), Strand Arts Centre (15th), Riverside Theatre, Coleraine (18th), Strule Arts Centre, Omagh (19th), Playhouse, Derry/Londonderry (20th), Market Place Theatre, Armagh (21st), Down Arts Centre (22nd), Courtyard Theatre, Newtownabbey (25th), Old Courthouse, Antrim (26th), Ards Arts Centre (27th) and Island Arts Centre, Lisburn (28th).

For more information and booking details, visit www.terranovaproductions.net/arrivals2

Arrivals 2 is produced by Terra Nova Productions supported by Accidental Theatre and funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, OFMDFM, Community Relations Council, Community Arts Partnership’s PICAS programme, and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.