Paddy Hill play unremittingly bleak with an uncomfortable message...
ON the eve of the memorial service, Paddy Joe Hill - one of the Birmingham Six wrongly convicted of the bombings - returned to the city.
He was here to watch Paddy Hill I Confess, a partially written play about his life, with relatives of those who were killed on November 21, 1974 by the IRA.
The production was not easy to listen to. It was unremittingly bleak; the language was strong; there was a blunt, uncomfortable message.
He and the rest of the Six are not the only victims of the lies, deceit, corruption and collusion he claims is rife in the police, judiciary and government.
There are many, many more, he says.
Forty-two years ago to the Sunday night, it was pointed out, Hill enjoyed his last night of normality with his wife and young family. The following day his life became a living hell - and still is.
"You can take the man out of prison, but you can't take prison out of the man," his character declares at one point, adding that although he is free now, he will never be free.
You have only to look at the tired, haggard features of the real Paddy Joe to realise this is no cheap soundbite.
Apart from an airing in Scotland, this was the first time Paddy Hill I Confess had been taken 'on the road'. The timing - and the choice of Birmingham - was a chance to test the water. The plan is to develop the production and take it on the bigger theatre circuit.
An invited audience, including some relatives of the pub bombing victims, watched the production at The Studio at the Blue Orange Theatre in the Jewellery Quarter on Sunday night.
In the play Paddy Joe is invited on to a US TV show, and recounts his life. His message remains the same - that the Birmingham Six were deliberately selected as the fall guys for mass murder.
There is no suggestion that this angry, frail old man is seeking sympathy but some of the issues he raises are deeply moving. He is so traumatised, for example, that he has never been able to rebuild his relationship with his family. "I feel nothing for my kids, I can never have a relationship with them," we hear.
And there is the revelation that he could never convince his own father, who served in the British Army, of his innocence. The hourlong show concluded with the Liverpool FC anthem You'll Never Walk Alone alongside names of those Paddy Joe claims are victims of miscarriages of justice.
Following the performance, which was dedicated to the 21 who died in the pub bombings, he also revealed that he also has little contact with the rest of the Birmingham Six.
"Richard MCIIKENNY is dead and I hardly ever speak to the rest, but I know they are all having their own problems," he said. "Besides, we never really knew each other well before all this."
And he said that, had fate taken a different turn, he and others could have been victims on the night. "Hugh Callaghan, who saw us off on the train, had suggested we go to The Mulberry Bush for a pint, but we decided not to," he revealed. "Had we have done..."
Julie Hambleton, who runs the Justice4the21 campaign group, watched the show along with other family relatives. "Paddy Joe has become one of our staunchest supporters and we are very grateful for what he has done," she said. "He is fully supporting the families of the victims in their bid for funding for legal representation at the renewed inquest."
Hugh Callaghan, who saw us off on the train, had suggested we go to The Mulberry Bush for a pint, but we decided not to. Had we have done...
Paddy Joe Hill
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|Publication:||Birmingham Mail (England)|
|Date:||Nov 22, 2016|
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