Louis MacNeice on the BBC
To coincide with the 50th anniversary of Louis MacNeice’s death in September 1963, BBC Northern Ireland will celebrate his life and varied career as a poet, playwright and BBC programme maker. The week-long series of screenings, talks and events will also explore the continued relevance of his work and will be accompanied by a special series of programmes and features on BBC Radio Ulster. Tickets are now available on the bbc.co.uk/tickets website.
BBC Radio Ulster
As part of the week long celebrations across BBC NI, BBC Radio Ulster will be reflecting the poet’s life and work through archive broadcasts. On Sunday 15 Sept at 8.03pm we will broadcast IN THE DARK TOWER – in which Paul Muldoon assesses the work of poet Louis MacNeice with contributions from Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Peter McDonald, Edna Longley, Jon Stallworthy, Paul Farley and Seamus Heaney, who discuss his Celtic inheritance, his independence and the circumstances of his death.
During the week Arts Extra with Marie Louise Muir will feature MacNeice’s own recollections from a programme broadcast in 1963 called Memories in which the poet reminisces about his childhood in Belfast and Carrickfergus before his move to school in England. Also at 19.30 our Irish Language programme Blas will look at MacNeice’s life in work through a live studio discussion with some archive illustrations.
And to round off the week on BBC Radio Ulster on Sunday 22nd September at 1.05pm an Arts In Ulster programme from 1963 in which fellow poet WR Rodgers pays tribute to MacNeice.
The Conquest of Everest
In late May 1953, Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest. Their achievement made international news. Much of the background to this expedition was captured on film. Its depiction of what happened and some of the drama and courage involved attracted big cinema audiences in 1953. It also enjoyed critical acclaim, receiving an Academy Award nomination. Louis MacNeice wrote the commentary to this film and his words have been described as capturing “the tension and physical struggle of the climb” whilst also adding “romance and emotion to the spectacular photography”. Words, pictures and stirring music all combine in a film which is beautifully evocative of its time and place. Our screening will be introduced by Dawson Stelfox, who will reflect on his own Everest experience and Fran Brearton from Queen’s University who has a specialist interest in MacNeice as a poet and writer. We are grateful to StudioCanal for permission to screen this film. Tuesday, September 17: Studio A, BBC Northern Ireland, Blackstaff Studios, Belfast: Doors open 6.30pm
Louis MacNeice and the BBC
The Wireless Mystery Theatre Company will present a short, radio drama-style account of Louis MacNeice’s BBC career, making use of archive recordings and material. This performance will be followed by an opportunity to listen again to an award-winning BBC adaptation of Autumn Journal. It was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2002 and includes some specially commissioned music. The lyricism, emotion and sheer craftsmanship of MacNeice’s writing are beautifully conveyed by this programme. The contemporary resonances of MacNeice’s descriptions of people, politics and international affairs are also very evident. And there’s something timeless in his analysis of relationships, their triumphs and travails. An evening of radio magic and variety. Wednesday, September 18: Studio A, BBC Northern Ireland, Blackstaff Studios, Belfast: Doors open 6.30pm
MacNeice Out Loud
A stellar cast of well-known writers, poets and broadcasters will share their favourite MacNeice poems in an evening of readings and reminiscence. They’ll be chatting about their selection of poems and why MacNeice matters to them. Contributors will include Sinead Morrisey, Frank Ormsby, Carlo Gebler, Patricia Craig and Terence Brown. It will be a relaxed and informal evening, celebrating the range and richness of MacNeice’s work. There’ll be familiar and forgotten MacNeice poems and many new insights to share. Our evening of readings and conversation will be introduced by the BBC’s Marie-Louise Muir. Thursday, September 19: Studio A, BBC Northern Ireland, Blackstaff Studios: Doors open at 6.30pm
A Poet’s Guide to Britain – Louis MacNeice
Owen Sheers’ acclaimed BBC Four series profiled the work of different writers, focussing on individual poems. His programme on MacNeice is fast-paced, engaging and emotionally charged. It’s a beautifully filmed programme with much that will appeal to MacNeice enthusiasts and those are new to his work. Doing poetry on television isn’t easy. Owen Sheers succeeds where many others have failed. And his film will make you want to make an immediate MacNeice visit to your nearest library or bookshop. Our screening will be introduced by a guest speaker. Tuesday, September 24: Lecture Theatre: Ulster Museum: Doors open at 6.30pm
Writing Home – Louis MacNeice
Glenn Patterson’s documentary profile of Louis MacNeice is packed full of delights. It describes MacNeice’s childhood and career and the impact of his work. Glenn’s film includes interviews with some familiar MacNeice enthusiasts, including Michael Longley and Jon Stallworthy. It makes effective use of archive pictures and recordings and helps to explain MacNeice’s significance as a writer. This programme’s autobiographical emphasis brings us a little closer to MacNeice and the influences which shaped some of his most memorable poems. Our screening will be introduced by writer and broadcaster, Glenn Patterson. Wednesday September 25: Lecture Theatre, Ulster Museum: Doors open at 6.30pm
Why MacNeice Matters – An Illustrated Talk
Professor Edna Longley has written extensively about Louis MacNeice’s work. She has an international reputation as a critic and commentator and is a regular contributor to BBC programmes. Her illustrated talk on MacNeice will include a mix of archive recordings, some of them including MacNeice himself. The emphasis will be celebratory, focussing on the range and vitality of MacNeice’s writing and its many special insights. Professor Longley will also be reflecting on her academic and personal interest in MacNeice’s work. It should be a memorable evening and a fitting conclusion to the BBC’s MacNeice Week events. Thursday September 26: Studio A: BBC Northern Ireland, Blackstaff Studios: Doors open at 6.30pm