The Rubberbandits’ guide to 1916 – and other stories

RTÉ’s 1916 commemorations include a large-scale public event on Easter Monday, and historical perspectives from Michael Portillo, Joe Duffy and the Rubberbandits

‘Rebellion’ is a flagship five-part drama set over three weeks of Easter 1916 which started on January 3rd. It will also air on Robert Redford’s Sundance TV, which has invested in the production.

‘Rebellion’ is a flagship five-part drama set over three weeks of Easter 1916 which started on January 3rd. It will also air on Robert Redford’s Sundance TV, which has invested in the production.

 

RTÉ has announced an unprecedented schedule to mark the centenary of 1916, featuring dramas, cultural coverage, a landmark history programme, and a series of public events, all involving hundreds of hours of programming.

“I’ve been involved in RTÉ for about 20 years, and this is the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” explains Glen Killane, managing director of RTÉ Television.

“It’s a huge team and it’s an absolute privilege to be involved in something like this, we feel like we’re representing our country. Planning started in early 2012, when I asked Jane Gogan, head of drama, to search for a drama to mark our centenary.”

The result is Rebellion, a flagship five-part drama set over three weeks of Easter 1916 which started on January 3rd. It will also air on Robert Redford’s Sundance TV, which has invested in the production.

“It’s a big statement for us, in terms of our status as the national media organisation, and our public purpose,” Killane adds.

“The challenge is how you bring younger audience members to the whole notion of 1916, and drama does that very effectively. Jane has been clever in deliberately casting young Irish actors in Rebellion, some of whom had appeared in Love/Hate.

“The idea is to bring us back to that space, and see it through the eyes of young people and the choices people had to make – most of the people involved in the Rising were relatively young.”

“This aims to get people young and old interested in it, and talking about it, and then follow up with strong seminal factual pieces, like 1916; and The Enemy Files, presented by Michael Portillo, which looks at the British perspective on 1916.”

Geldof on Yeats

1916

Other highlights include He’s So Modern: Geldof On Yeats, a co-production with BBC co-written by Yeats scholar Roy Foster.

Presented by broadcaster Joe Duffy, Children of the Revolution will cover the 40 children killed in the 1916 Rising.

One offbeat item is The Rubberbandits’ Guide to 1916, in which the duo give an idiosyncratic (and frequently wrong) retelling and re-enactment of moments and stories from the Irish revolution. “There’s quite a lot of factual stuff, but we also have cultural and comedy programming,” Killane adds.

“You kind of have to send ourselves up as well. We can’t take ourselves too seriously. There’s a lot of comedy in there. We hope we reflect as many views on 1916 as possible.

“We have not taken a particular position, but we believe there is a lot to be celebrated also, in the journey the country has been on for the last 100 years.

“No area of the organisation will be untouched. We have a full digital space. The orchestras have commissioned a new piece for Easter Sunday, which will involve 900 choristers from around the country. There’s a huge focus on the diaspora, in making sure programmes will be available internationally.”

In addition to covering major centenary commemorations in late March and April, RTÉ will also curate large-scale multi-locational public events on March 28th (Easter Monday) called Reflecting the Rising.

“Easter Monday will be kind of Road to the Rising [a public event at Easter 2015] on steroids,” Killane says. “There will be three main centres of activity. There will be lectures and talks in Stephen’s Green and the buildings around, including the Shelbourne Hotel and Gaiety Theatre. There’ll be a family zone in Stephen’s Green.

“Across the river, around Smithfield, there’ll be a family-centred area, with artefacts and food from the era.”

Third, there will be a Céilí Mór in Collins Barracks, a family trail throughout the city, with music, dance, street theatre and hundreds of talks for all ages.

Musical spectacular

“It’s kind of under wraps at the moment,” Killane says. “It’s a showcase of Irish culture over the last hundred years, through music, dance and spoken word.

“We’ve had huge collaboration with State agencies. We’ve worked closely with John Concannon in Ireland2016. Everyone gets the importance of 1916.

“This is one where you kind of put the green jersey on. It’s an important legacy for the country, and for us in RTÉ. Ireland has never had an anniversary of this scale, in my lifetime at least. It’s a really positive and energising experience.

“We’re aiming very high with it. We feel like we’re representing our country, and everyone wants to do their best in terms of doing something people can be proud of.” 1916.rte.ie

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