‘This unique compendium of interviews is a tour de force.’
—Eamonn Mallie, author and journalist
‘Excellent. Thought-provoking. A must-read.’
—Brian Kennedy, Irish News
‘A beautiful publication’
‘Mark Carruthers has done something remarkably clever and refreshing. . . . A very important book’
—Belfast News Letter
‘The best political book of the year’
—Alex Kane, columnist and commentator
—The Irish Times
Ulster is an ambiguous and complex place. With six of its nine counties in Northern Ireland and three in the Republic of Ireland, it is perhaps most readily associated with the Troubles of the past four decades. It is also, however, a place with a rich literary and musical heritage. Its people represent a surprising mix of cultural identities, religious ideologies and political allegiances.
There is no single, settled Ulster identity but, as this collection of conversations bears out, there are many areas where experiences and beliefs overlap – even though people come from very different backgrounds and traditions.
In Alternative Ulsters, broadcaster Mark Carruthers interviews a wide range of high-profile writers, actors, journalists and politicians, each of them with an enduring Ulster connection. He uses his finely tuned skills as an interviewer to draw each contributor into a personal reflection on identity. The stories and experiences that helped shape and influence each of the thirty-six interviewees are presented here in a series of colourful, lively and, at times, deeply moving exchanges.
Together, these conversations with those who know the place best explore Ulster in the twenty first century, revealing a freshness of thought and a richness of culture that rarely make the headlines.
Mark Carruthers is one of Northern Ireland's best-known broadcasters. He joined the BBC in 1989 and currently presents a string of political programmes on television, including the weekly flagship programme The View, as well as Sunday Politics and Stormont Today. Originally from Derry, Mark studied political science at Queen's University Belfast, graduating in 1987. In 1989, he was awarded a master's degree in Irish politics.
Beyond politics, Mark is a passionate advocate of the arts. He served for over a decade as the chairman of Tinderbox Theatre Company and is currently the chairman of Belfast's Lyric Theatre. He was a leading figure in the successful campaign to rebuild the theatre at a cost of £18 million. In 2011, Mark was awarded an OBE for services to drama in Northern Ireland. He is co-editor, with Stephen Douds, of Stepping Stones: The Arts in Ulster 1971-2001. Married with three children, he lives in South Belfast.