Thursday, October 23, 2008

Festival fun and ILBF music

It’s that arts and culture time of the year when the Belfast Festival programme oozes with tempting delights. Sticking mostly to wordy events, Sunday night was spent in the company of Sir Jeremy Isaacs.

And last night, it was back up to the same room at the top of the Linenhall Library to hear a little from authors David Park and Glenn Patterson. (Knowing that both authors sometimes call in at this blog, it was tempting to ignore the event! Apologies in advance.)

William Crawley interviewing authors Glenn Patterson and David Park at the 2008 Belfast Festival

Long time readers will know that I raved about Park’s book The Truth Commissioner when I reviewed it back in February, and then missed the launch due to airline/weather woes! Last night’s compère and interviewer William Crawley reaffirmed his view that it should have been on the Booker short-list this year.

“Reality can surpass even what your imagination can project.”

Alongside Park and sliding forward on his shiny seat - behind rather than chair - Patterson opened his section by reading a fantastic short piece Hives. Sometimes I wonder if Patterson’s best work can be found in these brief passages written standalone or contained over a couple of pages within his books. Well observed, often with comical asides. The audience laughed along with the excerpt from his most recent publication, Once Upon a Hill: Love in Troubled Times. Spending the first 29 years of my life in Lisburn, it never sounded so interesting as when Patterson described the 1920s riot that features heavily in his memoir, along with mention of Bachelor’s Walk and The Robin’s Nest.

Commenting on Park’s book, Patterson proposed that

“All books are about the time at which they are written.”

Even the ones set in the future reflect the conditions at the time of putting pen to paper (or characters on the screen). True too that NI authors are mainly

“writing into the gap between the image and the reality of Northern Ireland.”

They’re not the easiest pair to interview, so the evening rarely reached the point of conversation. But the insights into their writing, thinking and lives was exactly what the audience wanted to hear. And there was great mirth at the definition:

“Oxymoron - a DUP minister for culture!”

Speaking of culture, an hour before the Festival Talk, I’d been up in the Ormeau Baths Gallery at the Irish Language Broadcast Fund’s launch of their 2008/9 productions. The fund, administered by NI Screen, and reinvigorated by Gerry Adams’ intervention earlier this year, helps fund Irish language film and TV productions as well as nurturing a sustainable production industry.

Faoi Lan Cheoil celebrities performing at ILBF launch

As well as a show reel of upcoming productions on BBC NI and TG4 we were given a taste for Faoi Lán Cheoil, a nine-part series that follows eight celebrities on their journey to learn to play a Irish traditional instruments. Actor Jeremy Irons, playwright Marie Jones and leading dancer from Riverdance Dearbhla Lennon took up the challenge to show that you’re never to old to learn new tricks. After the tutors showed off their talents it was the turn of the celebrities. And after a false start, they got into the rhythm and played merrily.

For now, you can catch the series on TG4 on Wednesday evenings at 10.30pm, and possibly on BBC NI at a later date.

Tonight, I’m about to leave the house to head across to the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) on the Malone Road to the concert of John Cage music. Tech Camp visited SARC during the summer, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go back to hear something in their performance space. True surround sound. Above. Below. Front. Back. To the sides. Should be fun, even if 10pm is a late start. Let’s just hope that 4’32” isn't the only piece played. Four and a half minutes of surround sound silence could be too much!

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