Frances Byrnes is a freelance writer and producer who writes radio plays and makes documentary features for BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the World Service.
Dance is a common theme in her work, from A Cold War Dance (BBC Radio 4 / World Service), about Martha Graham’s Company performing in Vietnam just months before the fall of Saigon, to After a Dancemaker Dies (Radio 3), about the impact of the deaths of modern choreographers on their works. She also writes ballets for radio, which play with imagery and music to conjure pictures up in listeners’ imaginations.
“One of the things I love about dance is that the people who do it are subversive, minorities, people without voices,” says Frances. “The dance world is international and open hearted.”
Frances will be using the Julia Darling Travel Fellowship to visit Boston, USA, where the university archives hold the diaries, journals and records of Adele Astaire, the sister of Fred Astaire and his long-term dance partner until her marriage in 1932. Marriage to Lord Charles Cavendish took Adele to Lismore in County Waterford, Ireland, where the Devonshire family had loaned them a castle. It was a transatlantic moment of US celebrity marrying UK aristocracy; it also took her away from dancing.
Now Frances Byrnes will research Adele’s untold story, which she intends to write as a stage play.