The Abbey Theatre becomes Jimmy’s Hall
Jimmy's Hall tells the story of James Gralton, the only Irish citizen ever to be deported from his own country. Based on Ken Loach's evocative film, the first performances of the play took place in Carrick-on-Shannon Community School (close to where Gralton was born) ahead of its opening at the Abbey Theatre on 29 July 2017.
Gralton had grown up in Leitrim and lived in the UK and United States before returning to a deeply conservative Ireland. Living in rural County Leitrim in the early 1920s and again in the 1930s, Gralton built a dance hall for the community, which also ran educational classes. Gralton was a politically active socialist at a time when communism was seen as the enemy of the church.
The Catholic Church and politicians encouraged people to protest against dance halls and the supposedly wicked music and dancing taking place within them. This campaign by the hierarchy in Ireland against "foreign dances" was due to the perceived moral, social and political threat. Jazz was described as "abominable" music and an "engine of hell" by religious figures of the time.
Gralton was deemed a subversive communist threat by the powers that be, went on the run and was later deported without trial in August 1933. His mother’s request to see her son a final time was denied.
In 2016, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins unveiled a monument to Jimmy Gralton in Effrinagh, County Leitrim. The President described Gralton as being "motivated at all times by a profound concern for social justice", and that his treatment was "an affront to basic civil rights and freedoms".
The Leitrim of today however encourages the arts in all its forms. Its Culture and Creativity Plan will see artists working with local communities, a series of library lectures and a variety of other creative projects.
See Jimmy’s Hall at the Abbey Theatre from 29 July – 19 August 2017.