Obituary: Mike Moloney (1953 - 2013)

The Australian-born director of the Prison Arts Foundation passes away suddenly aged 60

Culture Northern Ireland would like to extend our condolences to the family of Mike Moloney, director of the Prison Arts Foundation, who passed away aged 60 at his home in north Belfast on Saturday, April 20.

Upon completion of the Theatre & Media course at Mitchell College of Advanced Education in Bathurst, New South Wales, Moloney moved to Belfast in 1981.

As a theatre/street performer and teacher, he quickly established himself within Belfast’s community arts sector, volunteering with Voluntary Service Belfast, teaching at the Rupert Stanley College and, in 1985, founding the Belfast Community Circus School with Donal McKendry.

BCCS would go on to achieve international recognition as a ‘frontier circus’. Described by the current director of BCCS, Will Chamberlain, as a 'visionary', Moloney was one of the first in Belfast to realise the full potential of participating in circus performance on the personal development of young people.

Moloney was appointed drama specialist for Northern Irish Prisons in 1992, and became development officer of the Prisons Arts Foundation in 1997.

Rising in 2005 to Director of the Prison Arts Foundation, he led a team of dedicated and experienced professional artists working across the prison network in Northern Ireland. Together they offered prisoners and ex-prisoners a lifeline, helping them to reshape their lives through the arts.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute to Moloney following his untimely death.

'Mike was an inspirational figure in the arts and in the prison environment. Thanks to the pioneering work he and his colleagues carried out at the Prison Arts Foundation, lives have been transformed and patterns of behaviour changed for good.

'They established the model for constructive creative intervention in our prisons, and we are extremely proud of our long association with Mike and the Foundation. His achievements in the arts are considerable and will have lasting impact.

'As a director and as a performer he was always larger-than-life and brimming with positivity. He will be sorely missed by his family, and his great many friends in Northern Ireland’s arts community.'

Web editor of Culture Northern Ireland, Lee Henry, added: 'Mike was a warm, generous and empathetic person, someone who went to work with a smile on his face.

'In his role as director of the Prison Arts Foundation, he gave inmates in Maghaberry prison and elsewhere a sense of identity and purpose by encouraging them to express themselves and explore their own creativity. Watching him work was inspiring. He leaves a legacy that will last for generations.'

Mr Moloney's funeral will take place at Roselawn Crematorium, Belfast on Wednesday, May 1. A Requiem Mass will take place at 10am at Good Shepherd Chapel, 511 Ormeau Road, Belfast, followed by the service at Roselawn Crematorium at 12.30am. People are welcome to attend both or either services.