A history of Lurig Drama Group

by Nuala Connolly
Audio version recorded by Nuala Connolly

It was a cold dark evening around Halloween time in 1972 when Nancy McLaughlin called at our door. She told me that her husband Tom, who was a member of the Armagh players was keen to produce a play in Cushendall if I could round up some enthusiasts. Now, I had often heard Frank and Pat McCambridge reminisce about plays which were produced in the 1950’s by Fr. McKavanagh of Garron Tower, and so armed with a list of possibilities I went out into the highways and byways to recruit.

I had little or no difficulty getting women to join but the men proved difficult and indeed I think many of them joined in the mistaken belief that they were helping build a set! We called ourselves Lurigedan Drama Group with Pat McCambridge as chairman and rehearsals began for ‘Many Young Men of Twenty’ by J.B Keane.           ·

In February 1973 we played for two nights to packed audience in St. Aloysius School with a cast of 21.

I should explain perhaps that plays were no novelty to Cushendall audiences. ‘The Colleen Bawn’ had been performed by Cushendall Dramatic Club in the Reading Room above McAlister’s Hardware Shop in Dec 1909.

The  Rosario Players (from Belfast) had presented ‘The Auction in Killybuck’ in the Cinema in 1947. Then in 1948 the recently formed Cushendall Drama Group presented ‘The Down Express’ produced by the curate Fr. O’Neill and Mr John McAuley of High Street. Fr. McKavanagh and Mr. Cosgrove, the headmaster of the Primary School produced several plays in the ’50s but then nothing in the ’60s. So the arrival of Tom McLaughlin & his family in the ’70s brought a burst of creativity.

In the spring of 74 we decided to enter the Ballymoney and Larne Festivals with ‘The Living Room’ by Graham Greene. This was the start of our Festival journeys which, over the years and under various producers took us  to festivals all over Ireland, picking up many awards for production, acting and staging along the way.

In 1994 Joe O’Neill produced our first pantomime ‘Cinderella ‘ with a cast of 45! Seven pantos were to follow and young and old enjoyed the singing, dancing and crazy escapades on the Golf Club stage at Xmas time.

In 2009 we entered for the first time the One Act Festivals and to our absolute delight won, the British Finals in Glasgow in 2010 with ‘Melody’ by Deirdre Kinahan.

In 2012 we won the N.I Finals in Derry with ‘The Duck Variations’ by David Mamet.

In 2014 we had the privilege of producing a radio play by local man Joe Burns which recalled the tragic sinking of the Gem in 1914 whose captain and ten crewmen were all from the Glens of Antrim. Our last 3 act play ‘Bookworm’ by Bernard Farrell was produced in 2018 by Rosaleen Agnew and we were looking forward to seeing two one-act plays being staged in 2020 but unfortunately Covid struck.

It was decided instead to hold a short story competition online for people in the Causeway Area. The actor Ciaran Hinds read the winning stories.

Lurig Drama Group has had an amazingly long and productive history keeping alive the tradition of Drama in the Glens.

Nuala Connolly