Northern Ireland news

Miami Showband story to be turned into musical

Writers Martin Lynch and Marie Jones

THE tragic story of the Miami Showband massacre is to be the focus of a new musical.

Award-winning and prolific playwright Marie Jones told the Irish News that the play will open next summer.

The Miami Showband was one of Ireland's most popular cabaret acts in the 1960s and 1970s. By 1975 the band had gained a large following, playing to crowded dance halls and ballrooms across Ireland.

The Miami Showband before the murderous attack by loyalists on July 31 1975

In July 1975, three of its members, including lead singer Fran O'Toole, were killed after the band's minibus was stopped at a bogus UDR checkpoint near Banbridge.

The attack was carried out by members of the Glenanne Gang, which included members of the RUC, UDR and UVF. Two of the loyalist gang also were killed when the bomb they were planting exploded prematurely.

Read More: Marie Jones's play Fly Me To The Moon back where it started at Grand Opera House

One of the cars, used by the loyalist gunmen, is left abandoned at the massacre scene. Picture by Alan Lewis

In an interview with the Irish News today, Ms Jones revealed she and her writing partner Martin Lynch were working on a musical play based on the life of the Miami Showband, which is due to open at Belfast's Grand Opera House in 2019.

Although ostensibly an inappropriate topic for a musical, she said it was requested by one of the survivors - saxophonist Des McAlea, also known as Des Lee.

Stephen Travers and Des Lee - Miami Showband - At the Wave Trauma Centre in Belfast in 2017. Picture by Declan Roughan.

"Survivor Des Lee approached Martin and asked for their story to be told - from beginning to end," Ms Jones said.

"Martin said he would do it with me, so we did a lot of reading and spoke to a lot of people.

"It is done sensitively, but they were five guys in a band, on the road together, so there is humour too."

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