Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Wolfpack - fear, seclusion, films and escape - a unique coming of age documentary (QFT, 21-27 August)

Fear breeds fear. Fear binds people up. Fear closes people down. To conquer it, fear must be stood up to.

In the case of the Angulo family in Lower East Side Manhattan, a Peruvian father’s fear about the outside world and what might happen to his children if they step over the threshold of their shabby four bedroom apartment means that he has insisted that his six sons and one daughter grow up in an indoor seclusion. Describing drug dealing in the apartment block’s lift and killings in the neighbourhood, the father comments (without any sense of irony):
“It was a piece of jail outside.”

Most years the children left their flat just a handful of times – if at all – and were taught not to look at or engage with people they saw. Their mother’s allowance for home schooling has been the sole household income since their father’s other act of rebellion against society has been to not go out to work.

While cut off from real people, Dad has been feeding his kids a diet of VHS and DVD films. Like a family locked into Play Resource Warehouse, the children build brilliant cardboard props, replica costumes, type out scripts, learn off parts and film each other re-enacting elaborate scenes from their huge and varied library of cinema.
“Is this the end of the beginning?
Or the beginning of the end?
Losing control or are you winning?
Is your life real or just pretend?”

Their father can’t see any alternative to staying indoors. But one son “can’t live with” or “get over” his father’s treatment and – taking inspiration from The Dark Knight – Mukunda goes for a walk.

A year after first tasting freedom, by chance filmmaker Crystal Moselle meets the six dark haired young men dressed in their striking black suits and dark shades – a cross between Reservoir Dogs and Blues Brothers – and her gentle film The Wolfpack captures what happens next.

Grainy home movie footage of their film re-enactments is cut in with scenes of day to day life captured over a couple of years inside the apartment. The story is at first told by the children, with their mother Susanne later letting down her guard, and finally a few underwhelming contributions from the father Oscar.

There’s little to admire about Oscar: a paranoid man who sometimes slaps his wife when their argue.

The boys are all strong characters, but Susanne is the figure in The Wolfpack that I’m most drawn to. She’s trapped in an abusive marriage – “probably more rules for me than for them” – but seems to have stayed to look after the children. The eldest child – Visnu – has a developmental disorder and “lives in her own world”.

While many formative years of proper socialisation have been stolen from the children, the six sons seem well equipped to engage with the real world … once they figure out how it differs from the movies. They’re thinkers, actors and film makers: bursting with creativity and musical talent. But there is less time remaining for Susanne – a former Mid West hippy – to catch up with her aging mother who until recently didn’t even know she had seven grandchildren. Susanne has been robbed the most.

The Wolfpack mixes imagination with disbelief, fiction with real life, and despair with hope. It is neither voyeuristic nor exploitative. A unique coming of age film that is well worth catching at the Queen’s Film Theatre between Friday 21 and Thursday 27 August.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Strong women in a modern financial morality tale with laughs: Fly me To the Moon in the Lyric Theatre (until 22 August)

Marie Jones' two-handed farcical morality play Fly Me To The Moon is back in Belfast, this time on the stage of the Lyric Theatre. Davy Magee is an older gentleman who is recovering from a stroke and lives on his own in a bungalow. His speech has been reduced to moans, and his mobility is poor. Loretta and Francis are two of his regular care workers.

Francis (played by Katie Tumelty) is quick to see money-making opportunities. She's harshly suspicious of her boyfriend, but proudly lauds her entrepreneurial son who swans round in a shiny suit selling dodgy DVDs. Loretta (Tara Lynne O'Neill) has a heart of gold. She goes the extra mile for her house-bound clients. And under her own roof, she displays a surprising amount of empathy for her husband, an unemployed bricklayer who has swapped his trowel for the TV remote and a phone to call into daytime gameshows.

After two years of changing Davy's sheets, taking him to the toilet, collecting his pension and putting his bets on at the bookies they've really left it too late to find out about his background, his loves and his life. But do they deserve the high regard with which Davy secretly holds these two angels of mercy?

Presented with the chance to make a small profit at the expense of a dead man, the pair begin to slip down a criminal slide with no way to arrest their descent. Every time Francis says "Just hear me out ..." Loretta's ethical instincts are piqued before being quickly overridden by real world problems that a few more quid in her purse would solve.

One ruse leads to another and the women's crisis multiplies: by four o'clock in the afternoon the two care workers should be wondering how soon they will be swapping their green work clothes for prison uniforms. While the colleagues normally get on like a house on fire, the stressed circumstances begin to stretch their relationship.

As well as setting up a situation of escalating deceit and an examination of legacy, Marie Jones' play sets the audience up to assess the financial and social pressures facing working class families with examples of claim culture, questioning the cost and value of a child going through grammar school and spotlighting an expectation culture that is so hard to fund.

Some of the Lyric audience giggled their way through every funny retort that ping ponged between the two talented actors that were so at ease with the script. Others failed to choke back their laughter at the most inappropriate moments. (And one punter emptied their packet of Skittles over the floor.)

The content is both humorous and disturbing. There's an extended moment of John Cleese Ministry of Silly Walks performed in a wheelchair that is simultaneously hilarious physical humour and uncomfortable to watch.

With Frank Sinatra covers playing in the auditorium before the show starts, and "There may be trouble ahead" bursting in so appropriately as the interval lights fade up, Davy's love of Ol' Blue Eyes will be passed on to you by the time you leave the theatre. The see-through set works well and the actors never cheat by looking at each other through the invisible walls.

If you're ever trapped in a lift with Tara Lynne O'Neill and Katie Tumelty, ask them to tell you the story of the two care workers and Davy. You're sure to wet yourself laughing (or drop your Skittles). In the meantime, head down to the Lyric Theatre before 22 August to catch Fly Me To The Moon to see two great performers on the Danske Bank Stage before it transfers to Gaiety Theatre in Dublin from 2 to 19 September.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Celebrating Brian Friel: Dancing at Lughnasa, words, music, food ... and kites (August 2015)

Boutique festivals, Belfast festivals, and now bio-festivals … not events based around yoghurt culture but a festival that has a biographical connection to the artist being celebrated.

The inaugural Lughnasa International Friel Festival takes that one step further by basing the programme around the themes from a single play from the Irish playwright: Dancing at Lughnasa.

I spoke to festival founder Sean Doran at the launch this morning and he began by explaining how to pronounce Lughnasa (loon-asa, think lunacy!) before going on to describe how the various festival events in Donegal and Belfast link back to Friel’s play.

As well as the signature production of Dancing at Lughnasa that’s running in the Lyric Theatre from 26 August to 27 September, the Philadelphia Belfast Here I Come half of the programme includes rehearsed readings; dancing on the new Lagan Weir footbridge, Lanark Way Peace Wall, Titanic Slipways, Giant’s Ring, and the City Hall; concerts; fine food and kite flying.

Throughout the festival a strand of all-female talks will offer up the thoughts and views of Shami Chakrabarti, Sandi Toksvig and Sinead Gleeson among many others.

More details on the Donegal and Belfast weekends of the festival on their website.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

13 Minutes (Elser) - the story of a German whose bomb failed to kill Hitler (QFT 14-20 August)

A bomb is set to detonate while a world leader addresses a hall full of activists. This could be the storyline that drives a series of 24 or the next Spooks film. Except it is a true life story from November 1939 that forms the basis of the new film 13 Minutes (Elser).

Georg Elser (played by Christian Friedel) was a clock maker/furniture maker who had taken a job in an armament factory. He planted sticks of explosive and an intricate mechanical timer in a hollowed-out pillar to bring the roof down in the Munich hall in which Adolf Hitler was due to speak.

Due to a weather-induced change of travel plans, the Führer left 13 minutes before the blast. Miles away, Elser was caught acting suspiciously and linked to the explosion whenever a copy of the hall’s plans were found in his jacket pocket.

And so the Criminal Police and Gestapo began a gruesome game of searching for facts that never existed. If the Führer wanted to know who inspired the plot, he need only have looked in the mirror. Yet those who detained the clock-maker struggled to believe he had the means or the motive to carry off the attack alone.
Police chief: “We can’t get any more out of him than the truth.”

Gestapo chief
: “We make the truth.”

The film’s sense of pace is plagued with flashbacks to fill out Elser’s social and workplace backstory (though it does slightly limit the amount of torture the audience has to endure). His friends see him as a coward, but he’s a quiet activist with a sense of justice, a sympathiser rather than a member of the Communist Party.
“If humanity dies, everything dies with it.”

An interesting side plot explores the Nazification of Elser’s home town and his growing intimacy with Elsa (Katharina Schüttler), a young mother who is beaten by her husband. They bond over dancing, but their permanent partnership is delayed by the zither-playing mechanical genius’ plans for destruction in Munich.

War was macho, and like the secretary who sits reading a book outside the interrogation room during the worst of Elser’s torture, the experiences of the German women featured in the film were shaped by men.

Elser believed he would prevent even greater bloodshed through his lethal deed. Asked by an interrogator what right he had to take the lives of the seven innocent people caught in the Munich blast, by a tragic coincidence Elser ended his days incarcerated in Dachau concentration camp.

Despite the precision of Elser’s bomb-detonating timepiece and the seriousness of the historical plot, 13 Minutes is tediously slow film. Long running at a shade under two hours, neither the action nor Oliver Hirschbiegel’s direction elevates 13 Minutes from being a worthy film to a great one.

13 Minutes will be screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast between Friday 14 and Thursday 20 August. Let me know what you think of 13 Minutes if you see it.

Theeb and The Diary of a Teenage Girl are also running in the QFT from this weekend.

Warning: 13 Minutes contains scenes of torture as well as accordion playing that could scare away the bogeyman and a buzzing fly that really shows off a cinema’s surround sound.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

You’re Ugly Too - a sombre film, tinged with hope (QFT 7-13 August)

Life has thrown a lot at Stacey during her first 11 years. With her father already dead, she is fostered when her mother suddenly dies.

Her only close relative Uncle Will (played by Aidan Gillen - Love/Hate, Queer As Folk) is given temporary compassionate leave from prison to look after his niece.
“I don’t understand why we’re staying in a shitty caravan in the middle of nowhere?”

Rescuing a Belgian neighbour in a tight spot introduces Emilie (Erika Sainte) to the pair’s solitary confinement in the caravan park.

Will’s ambiguous answers about his past and present don’t cut the mustard with Stacey and threaten to damage their embryonic guardian/daughter relationship.
“You hurt my eyes with that outfit … you look like a freakin’ optical illusion!”

Lauren Kinsella plays the inquisitive, cheeky, spitting, burping and at times sweary Stacey. She’s still at the age where you wear t-shirts with upside down zebra patterns, but has a spirited soul and a blunt honesty that cuts through the deception she finds in the people around her.

The colour palette is green and beige, reflecting the mood of every character as well as the Irish midlands scenery. While some of the early cuts between camera angles are overly abrupt, the film soon settles into a temperate rhythm.

After seventy minutes or so the screen went blank and I wondered whether writer and director Mark Noonan was going to leave the audience to make up the rest of the story as we walked out of the dark cinema screen.

Instead another five minutes of script was acted out, moving time and the characters’ lives forward.

Coping, adapting, grieving but never crying out for pity: Stacey needs a second chance at being part of a family. Will’s parole isn’t permanent. Does he deserve another shot?

With a soundtrack that’s as gentle as the film’s humour, You’re Ugly Too is sombre but tinged with hope. It opens in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Friday 7 and runs until Thursday 13 August.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Finding community in the strangest of places - an ecovillage, a yoga studio, a brewing cooperative & a campervan

Four people related their different experiences of intentionally creating communities across Ireland at an afternoon seminar in Corrymeela’s 50th anniversary APERTURE festival.

Davie Philip spoke about the Cloughjourdan Ecovillage in Co. Tipperary.

Elizabeth Welty introduced the audience to the community-uplifting values that underpin Flow Studio Yoga Studios in Belfast.

Matthew Dick talked about his passion for community home brewing that led to setting up the Boundary brewing cooperative (after a spell with working for Brewbot).
“If you do something interesting and beautiful and different – and you’re not an asshole – people are really drawn to that.”

Finally, Ruth Gray sped through the development of the Campervan of Dreams. (The VW relic broke down on the way up to Ballycastle, but has been busy ever since.)

Well worth a listen.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Féile an Phobail 2015 (30 July to 9 August) - theatre, talk, photography & currachs

West Belfast’s Féile an Phobail seems to be thriving in this age of austerity. The printed programme is physically larger than previous years, and there are hundreds of events – many free to attend – between Thursday 30 July and Sunday 9 August.

The money-spinning big top in Falls Park has grown again (capacity now up to 5,000) and acts such as The Human League, UB40, Hugo Duncan, The Wolfe Tones and (controversially) Frankie Boyle should subsidise much of the rest of the festival. Here are some picks from the programme.


Brenda Murphy’s one-woman show Two Sore Legs plays for two nights in Culturlann starring Maria Connolly. Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 August at 8pm. Tickets £10/£8.

The Holy, Holy Bus which has only recently departed the Lyric Theatre stops off at Roddy Mc Corley Social Club on Monday 3 – Friday 7 August at 7.30pm. Tickets £10.

Theatre critic Jane Coyle is increasingly turning her hand to writing plays, and a rehearsed reading of her new work The Lantern Man is being performed in Culturlann on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 August at 1pm. It’s Christmas 1915 and Johnny McGrath returns from action on the Western Front to Dublin, a city he barely recognises. Having inherited hundreds of glass lantern slides, he puts them on show to tell the public the real story of the war. Tickets £8 including a light lunch. (Free performance in the Lyric on Saturday 8 at 6pm.)

Pintsized Productions are offering audiences a surprise show that they’ll know nothing about before it begins. The mystery even extends to the location with punters asked to gather at the doorsteps of Conway Mill at 7.30pm on Monday 10 or Thursday 11 August. Tickets £10.


Malachi O’Doherty’s Back to Landscape exhibition of Donegal photographs opens in Ballaí Bána Gallery in Culturlann on Thursday 30 July at 7pm. Malachi’s giving a talk on What Is Photography For? the following day on Saturday 1 August at 2pm.


Vets – Hardtalk sees veteran republicans Bobby Storey and Danny Morrison in conversation about growing up in west of the city and the early days of the Troubles. Danny will also read from his book West Belfast. Andersontown Social Club on Thursday 30 July at 6.30pm. Free.

On the 12th I Proudly Wear – republican Sean (Spike) Murray will debate parading with Orangeman Mervyn Gibson. Why parade? Who parades? Why is it so hard to find tolerance and respect? St Mary’s University College on Friday 31 July at 7pm. [Not the first time they’ve shared a platform on this issue.]

Mairia Cahill will deliver the Gerry Conlon Summer Memorial Lecture in St Mary’s University College on Saturday 1 August at 5pm. Chaired by SDLP MLA Alex Attwood.

A collection of An Phoblacht articles were released under the title of Uncomfortable Conversations during the recent election campaign. Facilitated by Corrymeela’s Susan McEwen, Uncomfortable Conversations – Steps to Healing and Reconciliation will bring together deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, North Belfast minister and deputy chief Equality Commissioner Lesley Carroll, CRC chair Peter Osborne, and researcher Sophie Long. St Mary’s University College on Monday 3 August at 5pm.

Marriage Equality – Getting from Here to Yes: Amnesty International brings together a panel who are campaigning for marriage equality in the north. St Mary’s University College on Monday 3 August at 7pm.

Yiannis Bournous from the political secretariat of SYRIZA will deliver a talk on A Fight for Democracy, Peace and Social Justice that addresses the wider Greek political situation and the challenges faced by the left wing party. St Mary’s University College on Tuesday 4 August at 5pm.

Conflict or Peace: What difference does it make for women? Monica McWilliams delivers the PJ Mc Grory Memorial Lecture, highlighting women’s experience in conflict and post-conflict on this island and further afield. St Mary’s University College on Tuesday 4 August at 7pm.

Five speakers will explain what the 1916 Proclamation means to them in St Mary’s University College on Wednesday 5 August at 2pm. Actor Tony Devlin will read the Proclamation followed by the thoughts of Phil Scraton, Jacqui Upton, Pádraig Ó Tuama, Marie Quierry and Des Donnelly.

Later that afternoon in The Proclamation for Prods: What the 1916 Centenary Might Say to Non-Republicans, teacher, songwriter and Presbyterian elder Dave Thompson looks at how someone from a protestant unionist background can share in the 1916 centenary. Duncairn Cultural Arts Centre on Wednesday 5 August at 4pm.

Youth Talks Back returns to Whiterock Leisure Centre. William Crawley will chair a discussion about the issues raised from the floor with PSNI community police officer Paul McGovern, journalist Lyra McKee, Sinn Féin councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile and an as yet unnamed PUL representative. Wednesday 5 August at 2pm.

West Belfast Talks Back is the annual political debate in St Louise’s Comprehensive College. This year, Noel Thompson will chair the panel which will include left-wing Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn along with Sinn Féin South Dublin councillor Eoin Ó Broin, PUP councillor Julie-Anne Corr Johnston and DUP MP Gavin Robinson. Wednesday 5 August at 7pm.

Will the Questions of the Past Ever be Answered? Brian Rowan chairs a discussion with deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (who’s calling for uncomfortable conversations) and the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (who’d like people to step outside their comfort zones). St Mary’s University College on Thursday 6 August at 7.30pm.

Britain’s Involvement in Torture in Prisons Part and Present brings together two of the ‘hooded men’ Joe Clarke and Jim Auld with Gerry Brannigan and ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg. Conway Mill on Saturday 8 August at 7pm. Cancelled by organisers Cogús to maximise attendance at Anti-Racism World Cup

And finally ...

If all that talk is too much you could head along to the Belfast Waterworks to watch traditional Irish boating and currach racing! Basic training from 11am-2pm and racing from 2pm-3pm on Saturday 1 August.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cooking up the beginnings of a mouth-watering Belfast International Arts Festival programme (9 Oct-1 Nov) #belfest

“You can’t keep a good thing down” as my Mum would say.

Putting the withdrawal of Queen’s University’s funding and support behind them, the Belfast Festival has gone through the administrative pain of forming a new company and shaken off its south Belfast shackles. The redesigned 2015 festival will bring internationally acclaimed arts and ideas to people and locations right across the city as well as appeal to those beyond Belfast and beyond these shores.

The ever-enthusiastic Festival Director Richard Wakely promises “a world class programme of theatre, performance art, moving image, visual art, dance and music from folk, to contemporary and classical with opportunities for audiences to directly engage and participate in the creative arts”.
The newly redesigned Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival will appeal to the much more diverse and multi-cultural community which makes up modern day Northern Ireland, whilst promoting all that is good about our country to the wider world.

The Ulster Bank remains the title sponsor, and the festival has kept the support of the Arts Council, Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland, the British Council and DSD.

While the full launch won’t be until early September, the organisers are teasing audiences with the a handful of the acts that will perform from 9 October to 1 November.

The Kitchen is a mouth-watering show about the healing power of cooking from South India that’s coming to the Grand Opera House. Tickets £12-£24.
On stage a couple enact a drama without words, stirring huge steamy vats of payasam, a traditional Indian dessert. Behind them, under coppery light, 12 drummers beat out a surging rhythm on their sacred mizhavu drums while the fragrance of aromatic rice wafts through the theatre. This mesmerising mix delights all the senses – especially taste – as the payasam is passed around for sharing afterwards.

If that doesn’t whet your appetite then try the absurd humour of Swiss acrobat and clown Martin Zimmermann who is bringing the UK and Ireland première of his show Hallo to The MAC. Tickets £14/£12.
Somewhere between Beckett and Buster Keaton, Hallo pits shape-shifting human against treacherous animate architecture, teetering on the threshold between collapse and order. Changing between trench coat, helmet, bowler and shroud, (while periodically stopping to vacuum), Zimmermann breaks walls and breaches skylights as his surroundings ceaselessly remodel themselves in sculptural echoes of his own creative mind.

More details on the emerging Belfast International Arts Festival programme on their website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eden - a film in which the garage music speaks louder & longer than the characters (QFT 24-30 July)

Eden is a French tribute to the Paris garage music scene. Spread over a narrative arc of nearly 20 years, Mia Hansen-Løve’s film follows wannabe DJ Paul Vallée (played by Félix de Givry) as he trips his way through underground club nights with his French Touch.

Paul and the less-committed cartoonist Cyril (Roman Kolinka) form Cheers, “the garage duo that everyone’s talking about”, while friends Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Arnaud Azoulay) and Thomas Bangalter (Vincent Lacoste) establish Daft Punk.

Every fifteen minutes or so Eden jumps forward another two or three years. Duos don’t last forever, and not everyone in the tight-knit posse survives the pace. The music allows Paul to climb the steps up to DJ booths in New York before descending back to Paris as he snorts his way in and out of love with Louise (Pauline Etienne) and eventually lands back in his mother’s apartment with debts, drugs and the knowledge that his dream is dying, if not dead.

The minimal script and unhurried plot let the music speak louder and longer than any of the characters. At least half of Eden’s scenes are based in clubs, and for a film whose soundtrack turned into a rights licensing nightmare that delayed production for years, the sound level in the cinema is pleasant and not at all overpowering. While surround sound is used effectively during an airport scene, the music is kept front and centre, and your heart beat won’t rise along with the beats per minute on-screen.

For some, the sounds and story of Eden will bring back strong memories. I should confess that I’m firmly in the category where ‘garage’ is the home of step ladders and old paint pots, so the significance of the French music scene was lost on me. In fact, the film brought back awful memories of spending a night, some 20 years ago, leaning against the wall in the Hollywood nightclub in Ipswich.

Over two hours, the clipboards holding club guest lists turn into iPads, record decks become more modern and are eventually joined by Mac laptops and female DJs, Francs are replaced with Euros, and the crowds queuing up to hear Cheers dwindle while austerity ratchets up the banks’ discomfort with debt and the cost of a cocaine-fuelled lifestyle. There’s a very human story behind the electronic music.

Eden rolls from exhilaration to depression as Paul faces up to tough choices about his passions and creativity. If you know your techno from your electro and your modern disco, then head down to the Queens Film Theatre to catch a screening of Eden between Friday 24 and Thursday 30 July.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Aperture festival at Corrymeela (31 July-2 August) - music, debate, talk, film, food & fire

The Corrymeela Community is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and is throwing its Ballycastle centre’s doors open for a mid-summer festival – Aperture.

From Friday 31 July through to Sunday 2 August, the family-friendly festival of alternatives will combine poets, musicians, politicians, circus acts, theologians, debates, games, food and fire in order to explore how far we’ve come on the Northern Ireland’s peace and reconciliation journey and to celebrate common ground and difference.

Friday 31 July

The first panel of the weekend will respond to the question Are we all done with the Good Friday Agreement? Alan McBride, Steven Agnew and Alan Meban.

Later at 7pm another panel with Dr Helen Beckett, Peter Doran, Matthew Baxendale and Kevin Hanratty will ask Who needs a Human Rights Act Anyway?

Amongst that there will be talks from Presbyterian minister Rev Mark Gray and a Zen Buddhist Daigan Gather, three films and music from Rory Nellis, Master & Dog, R51, No Oil Paintings and Jun Tzu.

Saturday 1 August

Writers Glenn Patterson and Sarah Perry speak during the early afternoon, and playwright Paul McVeigh takes to the stage at 7pm. Paul’s first novel The Good Son gives a glimpse of life in the turbulent Ardoyne during the early 1980s, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. The Forgiveness Project’s Marian Partington will tell her own story of brutality, traumatic loss and the restoration of the human spirit in the aftermath of her sister disappearing from a Gloucester bus stop and dying at the hands of serial killers Fred and Rosemary West.

An early morning discussion panel with Kevin Traynor, Nick Garbutt and Stephen McCaffery will look at Bad News – Are the media reflecting society or picking at our scars? At noon, Corrmeela community leader Pádraig Ó Tuama will be joined by Adam Turkington and Tracey Marshall-Elliot to discuss Why the Arts Matters?

Other afternoon panels will look at Finding Community in the Strangest Places and Stories from the Edge – Are some people not cut out for community?

Dave Magee will share his Perspectives on Loyalism in 2015. He’s currently a programme officer with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and has worked with socially disadvantaged and excluded groups including ex-prisoner groups and migrant workers and has a particular interest in non-violence, peacemaking, community relations and personal development.

If that’s not enough, there’s Dr Seuss-themed yoga, a creative writing workshop and instruction on and bodhran. And throughout the day there’ll be music from Ballymoney Rock School, Upstairs in the Attic, Sing for Life choir, Steve Macartney (Farriers), Voices Together, Goldie Fawn (aka Katie Richardson), Katharine Philippa, Luke Conannon and the Sands Family.

Sunday 2 August

While there’s time for a lie in on Sunday morning, the pace doesn’t slow down.

Speakers include writer and management consultant Tony McCauley, transformative story activist Mary Alice Arthur, and founding member of the Cloughjordan eco-village Davie Philip.

Writer solicitor, law lecturer and NI’s first Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan will address conference delegates at 3pm.

Afternoon panels will explore Faith and Aid in Action, look Beyond Cross Community, and a discussion about Playing at the Edges – Insights from the LGBT Community about contemporary Northern Ireland.

In-between there’s time for workshops on puppet-making, song-writing, dance, sketching, Mark Cousins’ A Story of Children and Film, and music from Jimmy Davis, William Dundon, Salt Flats, Hannah McPhillimy, Kiruu, Edelle McMahon and the Bad Hearts, Mo and the Tiger, and Duke Special.

Tickets for Aperture Festival are keenly priced at £25 per person, and £50 for a family. Under-5s go free and single day tickets are also available. The ticket price does not include camping or accommodation but there’s plenty available in the local area. There will be a shuttle bus running between Ballycastle town centre, the campsite at Watertop Farm and Corrymeela’s six acre site on Drumaroan Road.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Tall Ships Races 2015 - Parade of Sail

Tens of thousands of people took a chance on the weather - a good bet in the end - and flooded Titanic Quarter and the Belfast Harbour this morning to see the Red Arrows fly past and the Tall Ships depart to the north coast start line of their race.

Crowds lined the shoreline as the event seemed certain to hit its target of half a million visitors to Tall Ships events in and around the LIDL Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival.

Soon the ships were motoring out into the lough to get into position for the Sail Training International race start off Portrush at 10am on Monday and heading to Ålesund.

Ships like the Guayas started to unfurl and set their sails - wouldn't fancy being the sailor at the top of each mast!

Other vessels kept an eye on the ships ...

Heading back into Belfast Harbour just before 5pm, the crowds had gone, the blue t-shirted volunteers and liaison officers volunteers all but two tall ships had departed, stalls were being disassembled, the Belfast Telegraph souvenir programme sellers had given up flogging the good-but-overpriced brochure [£6 on Thursday, dropped to £5 on Friday and £3 after the Red Arrows had flown over this morning] and Belfast was returning to normal.