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Friel Reimagined

Friel Reimagined


A new digitised collection of Brian Friel's working drafts from five key plays

Drawing from the vast collection held at the National Library of Ireland, the Brian Friel Digital Archive features the working drafts of a selection of Friel's best-known plays, a cross-section of his output from 1964-1990.

Friel Papers
About the Project

Friel Reimagined is a unique drama research and engagement project based on the work of acclaimed playwright Brian Friel (1929-2015). The project is based at the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s University, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The Steel Charitable Trust.

Our project team, led by Dr Paul Murphy, is working to digitise a selection of Friel’s papers held at the National Library of Ireland, and open them up to connect diverse audiences with the legacy and writings of Friel.

Everybody wants something. Tries to state it. Can't.

Part of a handwritten note by Brian Friel about the characters in 'Philadelphia, Here I Come!' (1964), found in an envelope in the Friel Papers at the National Library of Ireland marked 'First notes on "Philadelphia"' (MS 37,047.1). Underneath, Friel lists each character's motivations and desires - part of the initial development of a play that would become his first international success.

An envelope of papers relating to the play 'Philadelphia, Here I Come!' (1964) from the Friel Archive at the National Library of Ireland
A digital archive of Friel’s draft plays

The project has now started to catalogue over 3,000 manuscript pages and prepare them for online access, in a new partnership between Queen’s University, the National Library of Ireland and JSTOR Forum.

The main papers we are working with are manuscript drafts of five plays: Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1964), The Freedom of the City (1973), Faith Healer (1979), Translations (1980), and Dancing at Lughnasa (1990). The manuscripts reveal how Friel drafted and revised these plays over time. His notes show his reflections on plots, characters, themes and staging. On completion of the digital archiving, audiences around the world will be able to pore over the papers digitally, exploring the creative genesis of these renowned and well-loved works of our shared cultural heritage for themselves.

Friel Reimagined
Community Outreach Workshops

Starting in Autumn 2021, we are excited to partner with Bruiser Theatre Company to bring Friel’s work to new audiences.

Bruiser’s highly skilled physical theatre practitioners will work with people from diverse backgrounds, exploring the many ways that Friel’s work relates to contemporary life. Our partnerships with Hazelwood Integrated College, the Stronger Together network, Hydebank Wood Secure College and the Belfast Interface Project will allow us to engage with a wide range of people, many of whom will experience Friel’s work for the first time.

Exhibition and Events

Public programme starting in 2022 - talks, workshops, performances and more.

Following the digital archiving process, the project will stage an engaging online and physical exhibition to illuminate the creation of Friel’s plays and provide unique insights into the life and work of this most accomplished dramatist. Plus, a series of special events and masterclasses in-person and online will explore Friel’s work from many perspectives and introduce the archival resource to industry professionals, young people and general audiences.

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  • Friel Reimagined Project Team
    Team Member Role
    Dr Paul Murphy Project Lead
    Dr Conor McCafferty Project & Outreach Manager
    Conor Kerr Project Archivist
    Bruiser Theatre Company Creative Facilitator
    Jess Bogle Student Volunteer, 2020-21 
    Grace Cunningham Student Volunteer, 2020-21 
    Niamh Lagan Student Volunteer, 2020-21
    Ellie Pearson Student Volunteer, 2020-21 
    Sam Savage  Student Volunteer, 2020-21 
  • Friel Reimagined Project Steering Group
    Steering Group Member Representing
    Michaela Clarke QUB Alumni Engagement And Philanthropy 
    Patricia Hampson QUB Widening Participation Unit
    Deirdre Lynskey QUB Careers, Employability and Skills
    Gary McKeone Friel Literary Estate
    Deirdre Wildy QUB Special Collections and Archives