Catford Street

Institute History


Inspired by Rumer Godden's novel An Episode of Sparrows, CATFORD STREET is the story of tow children of Northern Ireland who in their short lives have never known peace, only violence, prejudice and poverty. Yet through an extraordinary relationship they come to develop a new set of values and experiences: honesty, trust ,devotion and an abiding appreciation of beauty.

LOVEJOY MASON, 10, lives in a boarding house on Catford Street in a poor , Catholic section of Belfast. She is fatherless and her mother takes up with one man after another, often leaving Lovejoy to manage on her own for long periods of time. Lovejoy has grown up without religion, which, in the eyes of many of her neighbors , makes her as bad as the enemy Prostestants.

On Easter morning, the IRA strikes with a neighborhood bombing and, in the commotion that follows, a shopper drops a packet of flower seeds. A quick-eyed scavenger, Lovejoy, snatches it up without regard for its value. In fact, she promptly forgets about her "treasure" as she heads for the bus station to meet mother who is due home after several months away. It is not until Crimson Mason fails to return as promised that a lonely, disappointed Lovejoy turns her attention to the flower seeds and, in her iron-willed fashion, decides to build a garden.

But Catford Street is all grimly brick and concrete and, without money or a private patch of ground, Lovejoy finds that a garden is no easy feat. her Attempts fail until she forms an unlikely alliance with a Catholic boy, TIP MALONE, 12, the leader of a tough, local gang. Tip's father lost his life to the Troubles, leaving Tip the male head of his impoverished household. The local IRA cell has become a kind of father figure to Tip and he and his gang fashion their activities and dreams after the adult organization. So it is remarkable for Tip, who prides himself in harassing the police and building petrol bombs, to arrange clandestine meetings with Lovejoy in the forgotten ruins of a bombed-out churchyard in order to help her plant her flowers.

Lovejoy is different that anyone Tip has ever known, different in ways that are subtly compelling. She has no religious prejudice and no interest in either side of the bloody conflict that divides their own country. For years Tip has followed his culture's lessons on how to destroy. Now this fiercely independent and determined girl is discovering something entirely new—how to create and nurture.

The churchyard becomes an oasis of peace where the children's friendship grows along with the garden. however, their innocent aspirations have headed them toward an unwitting collision with the powerful political forces of the adult world and, on a dramatic summer night everything comes to blows over the children's just-completed garden. Soon, after, Lovejoy and Tip are confronted with a second, serious misfortune. Yet, ultimately, they are not defeated by events, but rather are strengthened by them because of their time together.

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