Inis Oírr tackles Abbey male bias with 90% female art line-up

Only one of 10 plays at Áras Éanna on Aran island this season will be performed by man

Women from all areas of theatre attend the ‘Waking The Feminists’ event at the Abbey Theatre. It follows criticism of the Abbey's 'Waking The Nation’ programme and the #WakingTheFeminists social media campaign. Video: Bryan O'Brien / Paula Geraghty


An Aran island arts centre has set out to counter the Abbey Theatre’s 1916 commemorative programme by ensuring that 90 per cent of its plays this year are written and performed by female artists.

Only one of 10 plays staged at Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr’s arts centre, this season will be performed by a man – “and that’s because it about the life of Pádraig Pearse”, the centre’s director Mairéad Ní Ghallchóir said.

Olwen Fouéré , Alison Spittle, Breda Larkin and Grace Dyas are among artists the centre hopes to host in 2016.

WakingThe Feminists

Waking the Nation

Her Facebook posting prompted reaction from other female artists, and led to presentation of a petition with 5,500 signatures to the Abbey last November. The theatre board set up a subcommittee on gender equality and its director, Senator Fiach MacConghail, expressed regret.

Gender-specific programme

“In a year when much stage space will be taken up with male-centred dramas about the Rising, and in light of recent developments at our national theatre, we felt that we could do our little bit to level the playing field,” Ms Ní Ghallchóir said.

She said dramas confirmed are comedian Alison Spittle’s Alison Spittle Discovers Hawaii, Breda Larkin’s Breda’s Way and Broth with Scottish artist Donna Rutherford. The centre was in conversation with Fouéré, Dyas, Stefanie Preissner, Emma O’Grady and Cora Fenton.