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An account of the collaboration between playwright Declan
Gorman and members of Macra Na Feírme, Termonfeckin,
County Louth, 2001
Zoo Station
Macra Na Feírme is a long established national organisation which provides social
and recreational opportunities for young adults all over rural Ireland. The
Termonfeckin branch caters for people from a wide catchment area in South
County Louth. The local club had already built considerable experience and profile
through four decades of involvement in public speaking, debating and one-act
drama competitions.
In other words, the community group in this particular collaboration was highly
motivated and well-organised. This allowed for a level of mutual artistic
experimentation and delegation far beyond what might have been possible with
an inexperienced or socially disadvantaged group. This is not to say that there were
not hidden challenges to overcome. Nor am I suggesting that other groups can not
reach the level achieved by Termonfeckin given time and training. I am simply
acknowledging that the Termonfeckin Macra 2001 collaboration and the resulting
play, Zoo Station, represent one of the pinnacles of my own achievements as a
community artist – not because of some freak of luck or gift of mine, but because
the group was ready for the challenge.
By 2001, Termonfeckin Macra were already two years into a collaborative partnership
with Upstate Theatre Project, a specialist performing arts organisation in nearby
Drogheda. I had also worked with some of the participants on an earlier project.
So, this essay chronicles an advanced level model. No matter what overt advantages
they bring, no artist and no group of individuals, arrives into or begins a
participative project ready-to-cook. Therefore it is best to consider Zoo Station in
the context of the full five year relationship between Termonfeckin and Upstate
Theatre Project.
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