Poet and playwright Johnny Moorhead, a native of Fermanagh who currently lives in Hull has recently been granted funding support from Hull-based theatre company Middle Child to develop an original play which will be based on stories from his Border home.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Johnny commented that receiving the First Show Fund from Middle Child was a “massive deal” for him personally and that he was very appreciative of the opportunity to work with the theatre company so closely.

“The money is lovely but what’s really worth it is the time and dedication they’ve put into building me as an artist which is quite ground-breaking for me that they want to work with me because I’ve held their work up to such high esteem,” he said.

Currently in the research and development phase, with the support of Middle Child Johnny will develop his original 10 minute monologue about the legacy of the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen into a performance styled like a rural Irish ceilidh, a social gathering that blends folk music, story telling and poetry.

Johnny explained that the monologue was developed from a theatre piece he created during his time at university in Hull.

“One of the ideas for this show came from the fact that I did a verbatim piece of theatre based off the Enniskillen Bomb and I did this in my final year of university and I got to interview some survivors of the actual tragedy itself and I felt that I wanted to do a Remembrance Service for the survivors in England and that’s what we did,” said Johnny.

He continued: “There were five performers constantly on the stage, playing people who had made statements in the public domain about the bomb. So despite the fact I’d interviewed people, I felt a real sense of care to give back to the people that had spoken to me and helped me with my research so I would only take the stuff that was found through the old interviews. There were quotes from Bono, the Queen and Stephen Gault, who was a massive help to me, and we made this show. It was very powerful and very moving and I think it educated a lot of students in Hull on what the Enniskillen Bomb was. I have a kind of personal connection to the Enniskillen Bomb so that’s where all this emphasis of trying to tell this story comes from.”

For his new production, instead of making it a Remembrance piece based on the stories from other people or survivors, Johnny, who is also known by his stage name Border Boy, plans to make it more like a “mind-map of Fermanagh and the Border”.

“In Hull a lot of people were really curious and they would always ask me really interesting questions about my home and I thought, why don’t I write a show based on the Border, because the spirit of the people in Fermanagh is so laid back and quite funny but also sentimental and nostalgic, there’s something really nice in that. When I’d explain to people my background growing up in Enniskillen and going to rock gigs and my grandparents having ceilidhs in their house with their Catholic friends down the road, they really responded to that quite well,” he said.

“By making this new play a bit lighter and less heavy, I think I can engage with people that otherwise might put this type of theatre into a box politically and maybe feel I’m trying to cram a message down their throats. That’s where Border Boy my stage name has now came from because it’s this emphasis of wanting to make historical, educational and also entertaining shows based on this theme. Basically showing that the Border is very relaxed and how to convey that and I thought no better way than to have a ceilidh,” Johnny added.

The finished play will initially be performed in Hull but Johnny, who is originally from Tempo but ‘grew up’ in Enniskillen having spent his formative years hanging out with his musical friends and attending local gigs around the town, hopes to one day bring the play to Fermanagh, the place of its inception.

“I want to make sure I have a good entertaining product that’s been tinkered in Hull that could potentially even go back to Fermanagh. The response from back home has been overwhelming and very humbling. I’d love to come back and put it on,” he concluded.