Arts

Foyle Maritime Festival play tells story of Inishowen McDonalds, building boats since 1750

Boat-builder Philip McDonald who is the star of new alternative theatre production, The Foyle Punt

AN ALTERNATIVE new theatre experience, which takes place on a pier rather than traditional stage, comes to Derry next week as part of this year’s Foyle Maritime Festival.

The Foyle Punt, will be launched on July 18 at Derry Boat Club – the only venue in the north to host the immersive production from new theatre company The Local Group, led by Roise Goan.

Described as a "unique piece of theatre" – with un unknown ending, thus far – the production tells the story of boat-builder Philip McDonald, whose ancestors fled from war in their native Scotland in 1750 in a boat they built themselves.

They landed in Inishowen in Co Donegal and began successfully building wooden boats for other seafarers in what quickly developed into an acclaimed family business which has since been passed down to six generations of the McDonald clan.

Today, Philip and his brother Brian are the last in the line, specialising in a craftsmanship which is facing an uncertain future.

"McDonald boats were well known locally and internationally, but today people don't want to buy wooden boats for fishing or rowing," says Roise, who commissioned the building of a boat specifically for the project.

"We wanted Philip to share his unique part of history and local craft and, in The Foyle Punt – also showing at piers in Donegal and Sligo – he tells his story in his own words.

"Essentially The Foyle Punt is a story about legacy and family and keeping alive a skill passed down from generation to generation."

There is also, she says, humour and song included, while those holding tickets – which must be purchased in advance from the boat club – just might see the boat become a floating stage at the end of the show.

"I'm not giving away any secrets about the ending," Roise adds. "Those attending will just have to wait and see..."

The Foyle Maritime Festival runs in Derry from July 14-22, with one of the highlights being the stopover of the Clipper Race 2017-18 as competitors near the end of their round-the-world journey.

:: For more information on the festival, visit foylemaritime.com

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