Colin Hassard, Poet/Librettist

Colin Hassard is a poet from Belfast. He is a two-time Ulster Poetry Slam Champion, was Runner Up in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2018 and was selected as one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets. Colin is also resident poet on BBC Radio Ulster’s 'Science & Stuff', and has toured his own show, regularly performing at major Irish festivals.
We caught up with Colin amidst his busy schedule of writing and performing to chat about the Opening Doors Project. 

Tell us what inspired you when writing Opening Doors?

The biggest and best inspiration came from the participants in the workshops. I was captivated by their stories and by their enthusiasm with which they took to the project. I was aware of, and had read about, some of the history and folklore of the Mid and East Ulster area, but it was the stories from the local people that really made the area come to life.

What is the piece all about?

The piece is written in four parts. The first is 'The View from Slemish' which is a glimpse of the area as it was, as it is now and where it’s going. The second part, 'Spinning the Yarn', delves into the memories and stories (or yarns) of people from the area. The third part, 'St. Patrick', is centred on some of the major sights and landmarks but tied back to the tale of the Irish patron saint and his connection to the area. And the final part, 'From Trial to Triumph', which takes its title from the translation of the latin motto on the Co. Antrim coat of arms, is looking forward with the focus on a sense of community and home. I hope that within the piece there is a nice blend of history and nostalgia, as well as hope and positivity for the future.

What should people listen out for on the night of the performance?

In terms of the music, I’m not quite sure. I purposely haven’t asked to hear any of the music or rehearsals as I’m extremely excited to hear the work as a new and complete performance. However, I’m particularly intrigued to hear the arrangements for the third and fourth parts as they were the longest and most intricate to write.

What has been the best part about working on Opening Doors?

The entire project has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me. I loved hearing the stories and memories of the groups we worked with, and learning about the history of the mid and east Antrim area.

On another personal note, it was also a fantastic challenge. This was my first time attempting to write a libretto and of being part of a huge project like this. And then to write the libretto based on other people’s stories and ideas, and with no idea how the finished piece would sound, was both exhilarating and frightening. The composer, Sarah Murphy, who also co-hosted the workshops with me, was a wonderful voice of encouragement and reassurance. And I’m very eager to hear the finished result of the her composition, and how Sarah and the choir have interpreted my words.

The Opening Doors Performance takes place on Saturday 9th March at 7.30pm in the MacNeill Theatre Larne.

Join us for a celebration of new music and song written by composer Sarah Murphy, poet Colin Hassard and others, inspired by material gathered over the past year from people across Ballymena, Carrick and Larne. The evening will be full of local flavour with references to Slemish, the Rhinka and the Black Arch and feature The Whitehead Community Orchestra, Island Voices Community Choir (with members of Larne Concert Choir), Music Yard Larne, soloists Sarah Richmond and Steven Irwin and members of the Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum.  

Admission is Free. Tickets are available from Larne Visitor Information Centre on 028 2826 2495 or online at Donations accepted in support of local performing groups