Monday 11 December 2017

A fitting tribute to one of Belfast's literary greats

Stewart Parker, author of the internationally acclaimed Spokesong, and many other wonderful plays, died in 1988 at the shockingly young age of 47. He was born in Belfast, raised in a working-class Protestant family and educated on a scholarship to Queen's.

After college he spent five years teaching in the US but returned to Belfast in 1969 as the Troubles began.

After coming back he supported himself by freelance writing for the BBC and newspapers as well as various teaching jobs (including in Long Kesh, where one of his creative writing students was the interred Gerry Adams).

Parker loved popular music and it is that love of music which populates his work and made much of the terrifying subject matter – the barbarism of the Troubles – palatable for theatre and television audiences.

His humour, irony and wit shone through his work, as a poet, novelist and particularly as a playwright which brought him his greatest success. He was a very sophisticated writer.

There is much background detail in this book into the skulduggery and jockeying of theatre companies for plays and there is the true story behind his rejected script for the film Eat the Peach.

A repeat showing for his seminal television work is long overdue. It would be great to see again the fantastic I'm a Dreamer, Montreal.

This biography by the leading authority on his life and work is exhaustively researched but very readable.

Everything you needed to know about Stewart is here. It makes one want to read and see his work all over again.

Neil Donnelly

Irish Independent

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