Weekend Q&A: Playwright Gilly Campbell on spiritual walking and marching to oust Thatcher

Gilly Campbell is head of comunity arts and education at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is also a playwright

Gilly Campbell, left, writer of Father the Father, and actor Abigail McGibbon, who plays Gilly in the play at The MAC from April 8
Jane Hardy

How do you unwind at the weekend?

Pre-lockdown, it was all about family and friends, like the people we'd stay with who live near the beach at Portaferry. Or we'd head up to Donegal, outside Buncrana. Now it's long walks up the Black Mountain or heading out to the Lagan Meadows with my husband Daniel and our nine-year-old daughter, Sally. My mum Marie also comes with us and we do a good two hours, longer if it's just Daniel and me. I think it is spiritual; it's about being in the big outdoors and it does something to your head, whatever the weather.

What do you recall most about weekends growing up?

This was in the 70s in Oxford and my experience was slightly unusual in that, as revealed in my play Father The Father which is appearing online next week, my mother was a single parent. I never knew my father. Weekends were a mix of busy Saturdays and silent Sundays. Do you remember how quiet Sundays were then? My mum used to take me to London most Saturdays for demos and CND marches. We'd march for nurses, try to get Thatcher out. I remember one chant: 'We protest/Thatcher is a pest/Flush her down the lavatory/And hope for the best.' My mother is political, a socialist, and that was part of our lives then, looking through rose-tinted glasses. You felt it mattered, even if you couldn't get Thatcher out.

Friday night or Saturday night?

Friday night when work finishes and you relax, usually with the help of a nice bottle of Rioja while in the kitchen cooking food. Pasta dishes, fish, although I never get that MasterChef response, 'You're through to the next round'.

Do you have a must-listen weekend radio show?

BBC Radio Six Music – it's on from Friday onwards. I'm into 90s dance and house music and have it on loud, much to the annoyance of my husband and daughter.

Must-watch weekend TV show/box set?

We often miss things, though but I do listen to the Obsessed with Line of Duty podcast co-hosted my best friend Craig Parkinson, who played the cabbie.

Favourite eatery – or is it a takeaway?

Takeaway now and I think I have the Lisburn Road Bengal Brasserie on speed dial. Indian is my go-to food and I like seafood, prawn puri, also vegetable dishes like sag aloo.

Is Sunday still special?

I think it is special, as you're with family, and it's my really lazy day. My husband brings me breakfast in bed and I might catch a film later.

How do you feel on Sunday evening about Monday morning?

We're all working from home so it's different. I'm sitting in the front room, sharing a table with my husband. It's a wonder we're not divorced – and there's no HR to investigate grievances against your husband. But the house has never been so tidy.

:: Father the Father by Gilly Campbell is premiered in a Prime Cut Production for The MAC from April 8 at 8pm, available until 11.59pm on April 17. Book tickets at

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