Theatre is lifeblood of the community says new chairperson of Drama League of Ireland

Edward with Margaret Rossiter as Thomasheen Sean Rua & Mena Glavin in ‘Sive’ by John B. Keane, presented by New Ross Drama Workshop

The Drama League of Ireland has a membership around Ireland, second only to the GAA

A Kilkenny man has been elected as chairperson of The Amateur Drama League of Ireland.

Edward Hayden, a proud Graignamanagh man was a very popular choice when the drama council met last week and voted for Mr Hayden to lead the council for 2023/24.

Speaking to the Kilkenny Observer following Mr Hayden’s election, Joanne Keane, Drama League of Ireland (DLI) said the Council was delighted to have Edward Hayden as the new Chairperson.


Mayor of Kilkenny Cllr David Fitzgerald was another to offer congratulations. “He is an exceptional talent who continues to bring positivity and leadership to everything that he is involved in. We look forward to his advocacy on behalf of drama in Ireland”


Mind you, amateur drama is only one of the many strings that makes up the life of Edward Hayden.

If it was revealed that Edward Hayden was in fact a twin you would accept the fact, and finally understand how the aforementioned Hayden gets through such an amount of work on a weekly basis.

When you look at his weekly schedule it appears gruelling and makes it difficult to fathom how one person can keep up this incredible pace.

He falls into the Margaret Thatcher mode of people who seem to need a mere four hours sleep per night’

From his online postings, one would be forgiven for thinking that every hour of his life is dedicated to the performing arts. Think again.

The Kilkenny Observer Newspaper met up with the newly elected chairman during the week and took a closer look at his schedule

He is a chef and food writer and very well-known to audiences from his weekly TV cookery appearances on Virgin Media’s Ireland AM. He also presents a weekly radio show, ‘The Saturday Show with Edward Hayden’, every Saturday morning on KCLR96fm.

His full time occupation is as a culinary lecturer South East Technological University, where he is course leader of the Higher Certificate in Culinary Arts Programme. He is also the chef and proprietor of The Edward Hayden School of Cookery’ in his native Graignamanagh, which boasts a large selection of recreational cookery classes for both the novice and experience home cook.

And, oh yes, has time for rehearsal and endless theatre productions all year round.


Edward was born in 1983 in Graignamanagh, and is the youngest son of Eddie & Sally Hayden and has one bother and three sisters; Anne, Jim, Esther & Lorraine

He attended primary school in Graignamanagh in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal and The Boy’s National School and then attended secondary school in New Ross in Good Counsel College.

Edward started an arts degree in English, Spanish & Geography but decided after one year that this was not the route and instead attended Waterford Institute of Technology (Now SETU) to complete a Higher Certificate in Arts in Culinary Arts.

This was before obtaining a culinary arts degree at Cork Institute of Technology (Now MTU) and then finally graduated with a Masters degree in Learning & Teaching in Higher & Third Level Education.

Speaking with The Kilkenny Observer newspaper, Mr Hayden said he was delighted to be taking on the role as chair of the Council and was very much looking forward to the year ahead.

I have a great love of drama and I have richly enjoyed appearing with many drama groups in the area including the Kilcumney Players, Kats Theatre Group, Gowran Little Theatre Company & New Ross Drama Workshop. My early joining of the Duiske Players Drama Group in Graignamanagh set me up and educated me for a long and happy career in amateur drama. Edward recently performed with New Ross Drama group in ‘Same Old Moon’ and Peggy Hussey from that society had this to say: “Edward possesses all the ingredients to make an exceptional chairman and will add a lot of spice to the role”


Edwards love for the world of amateur theatre was enhanced by his many visits to the Watergate theatre, when as a young man he watched numerous local productions.

Edward takes up the story: “I remember watching many productions over the years in the Watergate theatre, always with a very talented cast but to be honest I was always in awe of Mary Cradock. Her ability on stage to inhabit a character, to evoke such a range of emotions and to hold an audience and the narrative in the palm of her hand was always a treat to behold, and in all honesty I was her biggest fan. One day I met her in Superquinn, (when I was a young lad), and just door stepped her with delight in meeting her, and she was so kind to me chatting all things drama. Even still, each Christmas, when she comes on my radio show on KCLR to do a Christmas recitation I am still her biggest fan! There are many more wonderful actors, actresses and directors that I have worked with, watched and learned from but Mary was there right at the very start, so I must remain true to her”! And indeed on the evening of his election to the role of chair of the DLI one of the first messages on social media was from the aforementioned Mary Cradock: “Congrats to Edward on your great achievement. I have no doubt you will make a superb Chairperson” Mary Cradock, Lake Productions.

Another message of congratulations came from CEO of KCLR radio station John Purcell: “We’re delighted for Edward and wish him all the best in his new role. He’s always a great performer whether on stage or on air and I’m sure he’ll be equally great in this new gig as Chair of the Drama League of Ireland.”

Edward joined the Duiske Players Drama Group in Graignamanagh in 1995 when Martina Connolly & Edel Bolger took him to the AGM, and he never looked back. He was just twelve and he says: “I’m sure many would have preferred I wasn’t there but they found jobs for me and I relished my time with the group, and still do. The group has put on many wonderful plays over the years and always entertain the audiences “


Having performed in so many productions and with various groups The Kilkenny Observer enquired as to his favourite ones. He lists off productions such as All My Sons by Arthur Miller, Sive by JB Keane, Spectre Don Nigro, and The Cripple of Inishmaan’ by Martin McDonagh.

Edward is keen to mention that although not a full length play the one man show that he performed in 2019, celebrating the works of John B. Keane where he took nine of his plays and thirteen of his characters and put them together in an evening of theatre, was perhaps one of the most euphoric theatrical moments of his life. This resulted in him being invited to perform the piece in Listowel, the stomping ground of John B.

And what of the Drama League of Ireland and its role in Irish society.?

The new chair was full of praise for the organisation on which he has already served two years at board level as both board member and as the editor of the bi-annual DLI magazine.

Edward went on to explain that “DLI is very important and it aims to support, nurture and enhance the aspirations and activities of practitioners in the amateur theatre sector through education, training, advocacy and advisory services.

Mr Hayden went onto explain that the Drama League of Ireland has a membership around Ireland, second only to the GAA and amateur drama is the lifeblood of so many communities.

Before we wrapped up the interview we asked Edward of his plans as chair.

“I plan to work together with the board to ensure the development of drama in as many ways as I can. Many groups lie dormant since the pandemic so I hope that we can encourage them to re-ignite. I also hope that we can help established groups protect themselves in terms of advice around having a constitution, protocols and all that goes with the success of a group”

Edward was adamant that the DLI can continue to provide training with qualified professionals to continue to improve the standards of drama belong performed.

While aware that the ‘Competition circuit’ is a popular option for many groups. Mr Hayden believes that others feel precluded by the challenges it presents. “I would hope to either alleviate their concerns or work on the challenges to ensure that as many people as possible get to compete on the drama circuit, as great learning takes place in public adjudication.”


We will leave the final word to Duiske Players from Edwards hometown of Graignamanagh.

Lily Breannan said that the group was absolutely delighted for Edward to get such an honour. “It is no more than he deserves” said Lily “ and I have no doubt he will execute his duties with his usual panache and charisma. This is a great honour for Duiske Players, Graignamanagh and Kilkenny, concluded the Duiske spokesperson. And so say all of us Lily. So say all of us.


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