Belfast Telegraph

Monday 4 May 2015

What would a Northern Irelandsoap opera be like?

Last week a new report on the future of broadcasting here said the province needs its own drama, soap or comedy that portrays everyday life here — with no focus on the Troubles.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report claimed the UK’s major television companies have tuned out of Northern Ireland and failed to capitalise on its history, culture and humour.

BBC NI recently announced it is to step up its output of indigenous content and that, over time, there will be a “substantial increase in network provision in the areas of comedy, drama, entertainment, factual and current affairs.”

The Belfast Telegraph asked some of Northern Ireland’s best known writers to come up with their own ideas for a new pilot show, depicting the ordinary people of the Province.

Daragh Carville: writer of films Cherrybomb and Middletown

For too long Northern Ireland has been under-represented on British television and also somewhat misrepresented as most of the productions have related to the Troubles. I’d like to see something with a lightness of touch, something funny.

I’m working on a few ideas at the moment and one is a comedy drama set here, focusing on tribute bands and based in the world of pop culture. It’s very Northern Irish in its content, voice and humour. The key is to come up with something that could be set anywhere, it needs to speak to an audience outside Northern Ireland.

I wrote a play called The Holy Land, about a community of students in Belfast, that could lend itself as a soap.

We have a great history of dark and gritty dramas but we need to celebrate the place and people in a lighter way. I could see a cop show set here as well, the nature of this place would lend itself to that.

Martin Lynch: writer of plays Dockers, Chronicles of Long Kesh and The History of the Troubles (accordin’ to my da)

I have a great idea for a comedy drama about the McPeake family meeting the legendary soul singer Jackie Wilson. Wilson took a heart attack on stage in 1975 and was in a coma for years before his death.

In my story, he’s semi-comatose and a guy from Belfast, who plays the pipes, gets a job in the hospital where he is a patient. He introduces him to the music of the McPeakes and then spirits him out of the hospital and over to Belfast, where he ends up in the Empire being serenaded to with his own music performed by the McPeakes.

It depicts how well Celtic music can travel across the globe and is a bit fantastical, but I think it could work well as a comedy drama.

Glenn Patterson: writer of novels The International, Number 5 and Burning Your Own

It’s my opinion that when it comes to fiction you can’t be prescriptive, you can’t legislate for the imagination. While I totally agree that more funding is needed for drama in Northern Ireland, I’m wary of anything that attempts to dictate. There are so many stories to be told from here and I hope that new works aren’t excluded just because they are set in the past.

I have written a script with Colin Carberry about the legendary Terri Hooley, who set up his own record shop and label in Belfast in the 1970s. Good Vibrations starts shooting in spring this year and it’s an important story to tell. And the film industry here has so much to offer.

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