Farewell Dr Derek, the Thespian and Grammarian

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Dr Derek Irwin, Head of School of English, was commemorated with an evening of performances at the Drama Studio last Thursday as he bids UNMC goodbye to further his research in the Ningbo campus.

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A group photo with Dr Derek

UNMC’s Performing Arts Platform held an open stage farewell performance (themed Departure) featuring choral numbers, orchestral pieces, poetry recitals, video screenings and an improv play, among others, on its roster. This was homage to Dr Derek as one of the pioneers in establishing UNMC’s performing arts scene, especially in theatre.

As a theatre major in his undergrad years, he is no stranger to the stage. Having performed in Mikado and Arabian Nights in addition to directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream (MND), he has provided a platform and inspired budding actors to take on the stage. Actor Michelle Beth revered,

He is very fun and inspiring; he always reminds us that a play is called a play for a reason. We can see that he brought this element of fun into theatre. He makes you look forward to more than just memorising and practicing your lines, and coming for drama practices.

Michelle and other cast members of MND parodied Dr Derek’s adaptation in an improv performance titled A Midsummer’s Nightmare. It involved Derek comically playing the role of Thisbe, which earned roars of laughter and enraptured applause from the audience. He then delivered a hilarious stand-up comedy monologue on his childhood memories in Canada and its distinct culture.

Other highlights of the evening include a choral performance of ‘Let the River Run’, a Chinese orchestral performance of classical Chinese compositions and a spoken word presentation by Sheena Baharudin.


In addition to his theatre work, Dr Derek established the School of English (SoE) in UNMC over three years ago, consequently making English with Creative Writing degrees at Bachelor’s and Master’s level available in Malaysia.

I’m very, very pleased with what I’ve done on this campus. I think that particularly the School of English and our main activities are amazing, especially this year. We have an amazing school, we have a really great group of people working here, so I’m really sad to leave. I really like UNMC.

Assistant Professor in the SoE, Dr Shivani Sivagurunathan, shared her experience working with him.

I think he’s not only talented but incredibly kind, compassionate and very available to his colleagues and to the students, so there’s just a lot of admiration from me to him.
Also, on a personal level, when I first started here, it was my second job and I very much liked him as a boss because he was very fair, very egalitarian, and very understanding.

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Dr Shivani dedicating a Walt Whitman poem to Dr Derek.

Going to Ningbo, Dr Derek hopes to develop the artistic movement there, continue studying Chinese and have time to complete and publish the research that he has done in Malaysia.

While Dr Derek will now be based in Ningbo, he will maintain links with UNMC as he supervises the PhD students and returns next semester to conduct modules.

IGNITE wishes Dr Derek all the best on his paper and happy teaching in Ningbo!

Click here to view more photos  from the event.

Photography by Malik Hisyam and Shazlyn Izura, write-up by Suanne Tan and Jonathan Sim.

Writer, feminist, theatre enthusiast, but most importantly a purveyor of the importance of performing arts, from dance to spoken word and all in between.

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