Field Day—A Brief History

Field Day began in 1980 in Derry as a cultural and intellectual response to the political crisis in Northern Ireland. Playwright Brian Friel and actor/director Stephen Rea set out to identify and develop a new audience for theatre. Friel’s critically acclaimed Translations was the first of many Field Day plays to show at Derry’s Guildhall before travelling throughout Ireland and the world; these included world premieres of Friel’s The Communication Cord (1982) and Making History (1988), Derek Mahon’s High Time (1984), Tom Paulin’s The Riot Act (1984), Thomas Kilroy’s Double Cross (1986), Stewart Parker’s Pentecost (1987), Terry Eagleton’s Saint Oscar (1989) and Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy (1990).

In 2012, Field Day returned to theatre production in Derry after a 16-year hiatus with world premieres of new plays by up-and-coming Northern Irish playwrights Clare Dwyer Hogg and David Ireland, starring and directed by Stephen Rea. In December 2013, as part of the Londonderry/Derry City of Culture celebrations, Field Day staged a world premiere of A Particle of Dread: Oedipus Variations, a new play by Sam Shepard, which then travelled to Signature Theater, New York, from October 2014 to January 2015.

From its beginnings as a theatre company, Field Day also developed into a publishing company. Its founding members, Brian Friel and Stephen Rea, were quickly joined by Seamus Heaney, Seamus Deane, Tom Paulin, Tom Kilroy and Davy Hammond. Since the mid 1990s, Field Day has become synonymous with the development of Irish Studies. It has acted as a focus for scholars seeking to question the paradigm of Irish history and literature and in so doing, it has contributed to the international debates in postcolonial theory and various strands of cultural history.

Field Day publishes works of literary criticism, history, politics, and cultural studies. Its backlist includes Seamus Heaney’s Sweeney Astray (1983) and the Field Day Pamphlets (1983–88), a series of fifteen essays on culture and politics by, amongst others, Seamus Deane (the series editor), Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, Tom Paulin and Edward Said. It also published The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 5 vols. (1991, 2002) and Critical Conditions (1996–2005), fifteen essay collections on issues in Irish cultural studies. These books have appeared under Field Day’s own imprint and in association with several respected presses, notably Faber and Faber, Gallery Press, W. W. Norton, Cork University Press, University of Minnesota Press and University of Notre Dame Press.

During a decade-long (2004–14) collaboration with the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Field Day co-published the Field Day Review, an annual journal of Irish political and literary culture. This venture also led to  several book series, the contributors to which include key figures in history, literary criticism, art, art music and cultural studies.

Field Day currently exists as an intellectual copyright under the joint directorship of Seamus Deane and Stephen Rea. It is an independent limited company with a registered addresses in Dublin.



Field Day, 22 Dufferin Ave., Dublin 8, Ireland.

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