My Country, A Journey

My Country, A Journey is a multi-strand research project that explores the complex relationship between migration, creativity, and cultural identity in British and Irish society, both historically and in the present.

Led by Liam Harte, Professor of Irish Literature, and funded by awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and The University of Manchester, the project aims to engage those whose lives have been affected by migration, particularly those whose understanding of identity and belonging has been changed or reconfigured as a result of moving from one country to another, for whatever reason.

The project probes the entwined meanings of home and migration and analyses how these have been expressed in different narrative forms, including autobiography, fiction, drama, and oral testimony.

While the project’s primary focus is on the Irish experience in Britain, it has a cross-cultural interest in exploring how representations of this experience intersect and resonate with those of people from other immigrant backgrounds.

Project outputs

The Literature of the Irish in Britain

Professor Harte’s AHRC-funded study, The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), is the first critical survey of the autobiographies of writers of Irish birth or background who lived and worked in Britain since the early 1700s.

Drawing on the work of over sixty writers, the book illustrates the diverse modes in which the 'story' of Irish migration to Britain has been narrated and shows how these testimonies deepen our understanding of what it means to be an immigrant at different times and places.

Among the authors discussed are Laetitia Pilkington, W.B. Yeats, Patrick MacGill, Elizabeth Bowen, Louis MacNeice, Alice Foley, Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, William Trevor, and John Walsh. 

The Literature of the Irish in Britain was a Book of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement and the Irish Independent, and was welcomed by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, as 'a really major work’'


"The Literature of the Irish in Britain is an invaluable work of reclamation. Liam Harte brings to this work a sympathy, acute intelligence, and considerable knowledge. It is a work of ingenious discovery and rediscovery." Colm Toíbín 

"A wide range of very different kinds of writing was superbly analysed by Liam Harte in his The Literature of the Irish in Britain, […] to create a marvellous palimpsest of the immigrant experience." Roy Foster, ‘Books of the Year’, Times Literary Supplement 

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart is a research-based play that tells the story of Irish emigration to Britain through the generations.

Funded by an AHRC Follow-on Funding Award, the play was written in collaboration with the playwright Martin Lynch, who drew on the first-person testimonies in Prof Harte’s The Literature of Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) to create a drama that explores the challenges and perplexities of living with, and between, two worlds. 

The play toured arts and community centres in Ireland and the UK in May 2015 to popular acclaim.

The tour opened in Belfast and ended with three sold-out performances at the London Irish Centre in Camden Town, London. 

As part of the project’s commitment to social responsibility, the tour proceeds were donated to two emigrant welfare charities, the London-based Aisling Return to Ireland Project and the Safe Home Programme in Mayo.

By connecting Prof Harte’s research with audiences beyond academia, including the communities his work is about, this project demonstrated the capacity of research-based drama to deepen public understanding of the lived experiences of uprooting and re-grounding.

This play showed that recasting the outcomes of humanities research in dramatic form offers a vivid means of presenting audiences with socially relevant knowledge and enhancing migrants’ sense of belonging and cultural identity. 

The touring production of My English Tongue, My Irish Heart was accompanied by a series of creative writing workshops in Belfast, Manchester, and Castlebar, County Mayo. 

The workshops were facilitated by three accomplished writers – novelist Mike McCormack (Castlebar) and poets Moyra Donaldson (Belfast) and John McAuliffe (Manchester) – each of whom enabled the participants to put narrative form on their perceptions, memories, and experiences of emigration.

An anthology of the workshop outputs, entitled Something About Home: New Writing on Migration and Belonging, was published in 2017.


"An achingly good script, a fine cast, and a thoughtful tale of Irish emigrants confronted with losing their identity […] will bring smiles to thousands on both sides of the water." Conor O’Neill, Culture Hub Magazine

"If Martin Lynch’s intention here is to educate – the play is co-produced by The University of Manchester – then this potted history of emigration across the Irish Sea to Britain serves as a comprehensive, if unwieldy, lesson on something which is largely misunderstood, a subject laced with centuries of political strife, religious friction and the glowering sense of antagonism best summed up by that infamous stipulation: 'No blacks. No dogs. No Irish'." Matthew Coyle,

Cross-cultural Connections

This strand of the project extended the use of research-based drama and performance as sites for cross-cultural encounters, dialogue, and experiment.

It was funded by an award from the AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2015, which enabled the project team of Professor Liam Harte, Dr Andrew Hardman (researcher-filmmaker, Belle Vue Productions), and Dr Sheila McCormick (University of Salford) to use drama, storytelling, and film to explore and share migration narratives centred on Manchester.

Co-sponsorship was provided by the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures (SALC) at The University of Manchester. 

Activities consisted of participatory workshops, a film screening, and readings by young and adult creative writers, including members of Manchester Irish Writers.

The workshops were hosted by Z-Arts in Hulme and Rathbone Training in Piccadilly Gardens. 

In them, the young participants made creative use of written and visual archival material from the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre, a specialist library focusing on the study of race, migration, and ethnic diversity in Britain. 

Using these archival sources, the project team helped the participants to develop characters based on the life stories of earlier immigrants in Manchester, from whose perspective they wrote letters and postcards to friends and family 'back home'.

These letters and postcards were then read, performed, and co-filmed by the participants.

The resultant film was shown at the final community event at Z-Arts in July 2015, alongside a screening of a filmed performance of My English Tongue, My Irish Heart.

The project team thanks Charlotte, Gus, Kyle, Nadia, Philippa, Ruddy, Rudi, and Salih from Z-Arts; Aaron, Brian, Carriss, Grace, Kayleigh, Laura, Liam, Mark, Muktar, Nathan, and Zoe from Rathbone Training; and Bridie Breen, Annette Sills and Patrick Slevin from Manchester Irish Writers.


Project videos