Tuesday, August 21, 2012

East Belfast Arts Festival, Wed 5 to Sun 9 September

In two weeks’ time the brand new East Belfast Arts Festival will be taking place. The full programme and links to ticket outlets are available on the festival website. Some highlights:

Wednesday 5 September

Ruth Gonsalves Moore // Belmont Tower, 9am-9pm // Photographic exhibition – This time, this place – representing everyday life in East Belfast. Also runs Thursday 6 from 9am-10pm. Free.

Basra Boy // The Welders at 8pm // Brassneck theatre Company’s production following best friends Speedy and Stig as one abandons the streets of East Belfast and the marches of the East Sons of Ulster Flute Band for the streets of Afghanistan. £8. Also playing on Thursday 6.

Thursday 6 September

Art in the Eastside: Art Flag Bunting // Unit B5 Portview Trade Centre 6-9pm // Fed up with flegs? Create your own bunting to celebrate your area of East Belfast in this workshop.

Creative Exchange – Art in the Eastside III // Portview Trade Centre, 6-9pm // A total of 26 billboards will form a visual arts trail across the east of the city, starting from Central Station and journeying along Albertbridge, Newtownards, Cregagh and Castlereagh Roads. The billboards are up from 3-17 September; the opening exhibition is on the Thursday evening.

Healing of a Wounded City // Ballyhackamore Library at 7pm // A “stylis and hard-hitting Irish language documentary about Belfast’s journey over the past century … Through the eyes of its citizens, it explores the city’s often dark past as it gives way to a brighter and peaceful future. Free – reserve a place by emailing william AT eastbelfastartsfestival DOT org.

Friday 7 September

Songwriters at the Dock // The Dock Café at 6pm // Local songwriters Dave Stevenson, Scott Willis and Dee McQueen will perform. Free.

Dan Gordon: We didn’t just build the Titanic you know … // The Shipyard Church (Westbourne Presbyterian) at 7.30pm // Fresh from a month of five star performances of The Boat Factory at the Edinburgh Fringe, and sponsored by the letter ‘B’, local actor and playwright Dan Gordon is back with his one man show to talk about East Belfast, bonfires, bicycles, boys brigade, bad breath, biscuits, buns and boats. £8 (£5 concession). Also plays on Saturday 8.

Saturday 8 September

Art in the Eastside: Art Flag Bunting // Connswater Shopping Centre noon-4pm // Fed up with flegs? Create your own bunting to celebrate your area of East Belfast in this workshop.

Mini Magic Club // Belmont Tower at 2pm // Four magicians with close up tricks as well as on-stage wonders. Billed as “an intimate, interactive and fun-filled afternoon”. £6.

Big Top Festival // Aircraft Park (opposite Ashfield Girls School), Holywood Road from 3pm // Brian Houston, Wonder Villians, Gareth Dunlop, Katie & the Carnival, Belfast Community Gospel Choir, Anthony Toner, Mama Kaz Band and Van Morrison along with his daughter Shana will be performing. £45.

Sunday 9 September

Lament: Walking Meditation // departs City East business centre at 2pm // Local artist Bronagh Lawson has been visiting a different church in Belfast every Sunday for the last three years. Along with Chicago artist Suellen Semekoski, she will lead a walking meditation between some East Belfast churches. Free - reserve a place by emailing william AT eastbelfastartsfestival DOT org.

Livingstone Presents: A Night of Belfast Songs & Belfast Stories // Strand Cinema at 7.30pm // Launching his book and album, storyteller and songwriter Ian Livingstone will tell tales of growing up in East Belfast, accompanied by the Farriers. £9.

And the Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival is back on the weekend of Friday 7 to Sunday 9 September in the Stormont Hotel with screenings of local and international indie films, the annual charity Zombie Walk through the Stormont Estate (Saturday at noon), and the Sunday night awards ceremony. Weekend passes from £15 (while half price offer remains) from the YFIFF website.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Two bidders for Belfast Local Television Licence announced

Two bidders have submitted applications to Ofcom to run a local television channel in Belfast: Northern Visions and Made in Belfast. If one of the candidates is successful, a local channel 8 would go live during 2013 on Freeview (as well as being carried on cable and satellite) and would cover Greater Belfast and Lisburn.

This morning, Ofcom announced the list of 51 applicants pitching for the 21 local digital television programme services (L-DTPS). While some licences appear to be quite competitively contested (Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle), others only have a single bidder (Bristol and Grimbsy). Two areas – Plymouth and Swansea – received no applications. Made TV (formerly Element TV) have submitted applications for “Made in …” channels in 11 areas.

A further local channel covering Derry/Londonderry/Limavady may be advertised by Ofcom at a later date in a second round of licencing.

Back in 2002 Northern Visions won the local community licence for Greater Belfast and have been broadcasting NvTv since then on UHF channel 62 (799.276MHz) as well as online. After a major funding wobble earlier this year, that service will come off air as part of Digital Switchover in October.

David Hyndman from Northern Visions said:
With the public able to receive local television easily, we will be able to extend our programming and services for the community including offering a low-budget solution for small local businesses to advertise their services. In developing the bid it is our intention to strengthen the partnerships with the many cultural, community and educational organisations who work with Northern Visions and also seek partnerships with the commercial sector.

Made in Belfast promises a local news editor, affordable advertising for local businesses as well as “a raft of new programmes dedicated to Belfast, concentrating on the city itself and not the region” and will create jobs for “journalists, producers, sales staff and technicians”.

Station manager Barbara McCann said:
Belfast has long been neglected by having hyper local coverage and we’re looking forward to creating content by the people of Belfast for the people of Belfast. We will provide news, sport, current affairs, cultural and entertainment programmes that go to the heart of this great city. This is the capital of Northern Ireland – let’s be proud of it.
Made in Belfast announced partners including: Downtown Radio (Bauer Media), Army NI, Belfast Metropolitan College, Bryson Charitable group, Maureen Coleman, Millar Grattan Media, Archer Advertising, Women’s Aid Federation NI, Waldovision, Public Achievement (WIMPS), MEMS, CM Film and Media Associates.

Unexpectedly, neither Ten Alps (Below the Radar and The Detail) nor Belfast Telegraph appear to be directly involved in either bid for the Belfast licence. Ten Alps were keen proponents of the previous government's Independently Financed News Consortia.

Ofcom will shortly publish more details about the individual applications. A decision on licence awards is not expected until the autumn.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We by Vevgeny Zamyatin (translation)

In the totalitarian OneState, D-503 is a mathematician and designer, building the INTEGRAL space ship. It’s a world where people wear identical yunies (uniform) and are only known by their numbers. The Benefactor rules by tough love – using the Great Operation to lobotomise anyone who thinks out of line – aided by the watchful Guardians (secret police).

Religion has been removed and discredited. Society has a common purpose and there’s no recourse to autonomous action as individuals very matter-of-factly play their part in the overall masterplan.

We is a translation from the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1920s novel, that is reckoned to have influenced George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

D-503 writes in the opening chapter:

“I shall attempt nothing more than to note down what I see, what I think – or, to be more exact, what we thing (that’s right: we; and let this WE be the title of these records).

Nick Reynolds – whose blog post tipped me off about the book – points out that the novel’s “short sections, diary format, chronological order” mean that in modern terms, “it’s a blog”!

The narrator understands the regime’s desires but can sense that absolute perfection has yet to be achieved.

“I’ll be completely honest with you: Even we haven’t yet solved the problem of happiness with 100 percent accuracy. Twice a day – from 16:00 to 17:00 and again from 21:00 to 22:00 – the single mighty organism breaks down into its individual cells. These are the Personal Hours, as established by the Table. [The daily timetable of activity up in everyone’s wall.]

During these hours you’ll see that some are in their rooms with the blinds modestly lowered; others are walking along the avenue in step with the brass beat of the March; still others, like me at this moment, will be at their desks.

But I firmly believe- let them call me idealist and dreamer – but I firmly believe that, sooner or later, one day, we’ll find a place for even these hours in the general formula. One day all 86,400 seconds will be on the Table of Hours.”

The activities going on behind the lowered blinds – the only time the Guardians can’t peek into apartments – are arranged by the official issue of a Sex Day pink ticket. While people may have regular partners, assignations seem impersonal non-exclusive. Permission to conceive is a gift from the Benefactor and not a right; children may be given up at birth to be reared by the state.

D-503’s stable lifestyle changes one afternoon when he is out for a walk during Personal Hour with his friend and regular partner O-90. (If OneState still had a word to describe it, she would be dangerously close to being in “love” with D-503, though she’s too short to be allowed to bear children.)

They find themselves walking alongside I-330 who quickly displays her independent thinking and desire to bend and break the rules. D-503’s scribbled notes show I-330’s influence over him growing. Meanwhile, outside OneState’s boundary – the Green Wall – another civilisation is planning the next revolution.

OneState is a land of surveillance, uniformity, a common purpose, and a detachment from emotion. I found Zamyatin’s novel warmer and less grey than Nineteen Eighty-Four. Less sinister, though perhaps portraying a society with even less room for independent opinion. Somehow the rooms described in We didn’t feel as claustrophobic as Orwell’s, though the open outdoor spaces in OneState still lack freedom and remain under tight control.

Two hundred pages well worth reading. And a reminder of the dangers of group-think. As I write, the London 2012 Olympics has another 24 hours to run and there's an almost universal enjoyment and buy-in to the games ... with only a few rebels breaking away from what We think and daring to question the sporting wonder!

Note that various English translations of We exist – the introduction to my copy (1993, Clarence Brown) explains the history of the book’s publication (an English translation came out well before the book was able to be released in Russia) and the differences in approach by some of the previous translators. There’s an even more recent translation (2006, Natasha Randall also available for Kindle) with an introduction by Will Self.

Catching up with Féile an Phobail - human rights, journalism, a tabloid public debate, and Leveson

Féile an Phobail - West Belfast Festival - logoOver on Slugger O'Toole you can catch up on some details about events this week at the Féile an Phobail festival.

Monday lunchtime's panel on Human Rights and Journalism - an annual event sponsored by Amnesty NI - that looked at public inquiries, the importance of whistleblowing and the increasingly reluctance of people to talk to the press, financial pressures restricting investigative journalism, and the risk of journalists lapsing into campaigning.

Wednesday evening's West Belfast Talks Back turned tabloid with a fractious panel of George Galloway (Respect MP), Gregory Campbell (DUP MP and MLA), Ruth Dudley Edwards (commentator) and Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein MLA) in a packed St Louise's College assembly hall.

You can listen back to the night's debate as well as read my summary of the subjects including Israel/Palestine, offensive media comments made by unionist politicians about homosexuality, George Galloway's definition of perversion, proscribing the Orange Order and differing opinions on the actions of a loyalist band outside a chapel in July, the continued detention/internment of Marian Price, and whether Sean Quinn deserved public support.

Finally, media commentator, academic and journalist Roy Greenslade spoke about the build up to and consequences of the Leveson Inquiry on Friday lunchtime in the Falls Road library. You can listen to his lecture along with the Q&A session afterwards, as well as my interview with him afterwards.

Given the English press' historic "reliance on official sources", their "failure to investigate collusion", "the acceptance of secret service dirty tricks" and "the influence of the police on journalists" writing about Irish stories, he was not surprised "that these newspapers that were willing to do that when dealing with this particular part of the world should have got themselves into trouble".

Afterwards he gave a quick opinion on the state of the local NI press industry as well as his view (as a resident of Donnegal and Brighton) on the recent dissident rebranding and regrouping.

The last word should go to one of his MA students and the wise words she penned in a recent essay:
“most ethical dilemmas in the media are a struggle between conscience and revenue”

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Belfast Pride: interviews with Christian groups supporting and opposing the parade

While I’ve been to a few events run as part of Belfast Pride over the years, I’ve never been in the centre of town while the main parade has been snaking its way through from Custom House Square past the City Hall and back.

This afternoon I witnessed a large, happy and colourful parade, with thousands of marchers, hundreds of placards, and lots of floats. A lot of rainbows, some tight shorts, but nothing lewd. A lot of council staff with wheelie bins to collect litter and bottles - but compared with the Twelfth they looked underwhelmed. Didn't spot any alcohol being consumed in or around the actual parade.

At least one church group marched in the parade, while another stood at the side on High Street to cheer on those marching.

Local bars, Nandos (complete with a chicken), help lines and trade unions were well represented.

Most local political parties were represented in the parade, with the exception of DUP and TUV. Somehow Sinn Fein muscled right up to surprised everyone by appearing right at the front of the parade, though they have so far failed to back Steven Agnew’s attempt to introduce a motion to the Assembly in support of same sex marriage legislation.

I could only spot one placard aimed at a politician: “Give Poots the Boot” said a lonely Socialist Worker poster (referring to the controversial ban on blood donations from gay members of the public) with “Bigot” written across a picture of Health Minister Edwin Poots.

A small group of men stood in Waring Street with their backs turned to the parade. The ‘official’ parade protest group were penned inside two rings of steel barriers outside Belfast City Hall, insulated from the parade by crowds standing along the footpath. I counted twenty five people standing in the protest area.

Lots of other folk will have tweeted about the parade, the atmosphere and the music in Custom House Square. But on the fringe of the parade I was intrigued by the contrasting Christian presence – one in support, the other in opposition.

The organiser from Templepatrick Reformed Church (who registered the protest with the Parades Commission) wasn’t in the area, so instead I spoke to two ministers: Mark Fitzpatrick (right) from Arann Reformed Baptist church in Dublin, and Paul Downling (left) from Whiteabbey Congregational church.

[Mark] We’re here primarily today because we believe that as ministers of the Gospel and as Christians we believe that we are responsible to proclaim the truth of God’s Word, especially when we see what’s happening today which is an affront not only to God’s law but God’s character … It’s not that we’re against homosexuals, it’s that we’re against the law of God being denied and openly rejected in this way.

[Alan] Is the law of God being denied today by a parade?

[Mark] It is in the sense that God hate’s sin. And God hates men rejoicing in sin even more. In fact the Bible says that God hates pride, interestingly enough. So if God hates pride, wrong pride – there’s obviously good pride to have, but this is a wrong type of pride – where men boast and glory in wrong. Well then ministers of the Gospel especially, but all Christians, must take a stand against such thing.

There was a time when people done this thing in private and the reason they done it was partly they knew it was wrong. Well know what’s happening in society, even the knowledge of wrong has gone, and even the knowledge of sin has fallen down.

[Alan] How do you think those that are either in the crowds or are parading behind us, how are they picking up your message, how are you talking to them today?

[Mark] Very hard to say. I think many people will see us purely as bigots. Many people will see us as people who have issues ourselves.

[Alan] Many of them won’t even see you, you’re quite far back from the crowd and the parade.

[Mark] It’s important to say that it’s not our main priority to try and speak to one issue. Our main goal is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, to preach the word of God. If I thought that by doing this we stopped just a few people from committing homosexual acts or whatever that would not be enough for us. We want to see people saved. We want to see people come into a relationship with God, come to know the peace that only Christ can bring.

[Alan] You [Mark] have come from Dublin up to this. You [Paul] have come from Whiteabbey, slightly closer. Would you not have had more success standing on the streets – in terms of reaching people with the Gospel – standing on the street where you weren’t fenced off from the public as they went past.

[Paul] That was never really our idea as far as I know. I think the police put the barriers up because the truth of the matter is really that any kind of Christian witness that the people that attend this type of parade are very aggressive towards the Christians and there’s been people attacked in the past.

[Alan] There is a Christian witness in the parade. A church group walked past about twenty minutes ago and there’s another group outside a church, just at the start. You’re not the only Christian witness. They weren’t getting attacked.

[Paul] The definition of the word Christian. That’s like the liberal Islam people that don’t believe their holy book when you’ve got liberal Christians that don’t believe the Bible. Your definition of your word Christian. Christian means a follower of Jesus, which means you actually believe what he said and do what he says.

[Alan] To be fair to the people not here, you’re coming from Whiteabbey Congregational Church, those guys are St George’s Anglican, Church of Ireland, most people would call Christian.

[Mark] We would say that the Anglican Church in general has a history, a recent history, of not following the Word of God in many places. So this is only one example of the Anglican Church rejecting God’s Word. So it’s one thing as our brother Paul said to call yourself a Christian, but if you’re going to be – if I can use a modern language – if you’re going to be in the club you have to obey the rules of the club, and we believe that the Bible is the rulebook of being a Christian. And to call yourself a Christian and follow God’s Word [as a gay] is an oxymoron and it makes no sense to us.

[Alan] Are there other things you protest at, other than Gay Pride. Other events?

[Paul] Obviously this one is very big at the moment. For example, if any breaking of God’s law was promoted we would take a stand.

[Alan] Do you stand outside restaurants saying that people are greedy if they come out and they’re overweight?

[Paul] That’s a good questions (laughs) …

[Alan] I’m not looking at anybody’s waistline because mine would be not quite as big as yours …

[Paul] I’m glad it’s radio and not TV at the moment … All sin, one of the things we said today, all sin is equally heinous in the sight of God. But you don’t see a big parade of fat people boasting in their fatness. I’m a bit overweight myself. I don’t want to have a fat parade next week. Neither would I want to see a group of adulterous walking down the road in Adultery Pride or Stealers Pride.

[Alan] One of the reasons Pride would say they march is not about just being out and proud but actually about the fact that society discriminates and this is a chance to remind society that gays exist. If that discrimination and inequality wasn’t there they might not need a parade. There are two sides to it.

[Paul] I’m making a clear judgement here. I don’t believe that – and I don’t know all these people here so I can’t make a general judgement - but there are some people here today in this parade who don’t just want equality, they want to suppress the norms that have been around for generations. They want to suppress normal heterosexual families, they don’t just want equality. They’re allowed to do what they want to do. Why do they have to have a parade? They’ve already got legislation to do what they want to do. I believe it’s more than that. Now that’s a personal judgement, I admit that, but I believe it’s more than just equality.

Can I just say lastly, man’s greatest need is not to change his actions but to be accepted in the sight of a Holy God. That’s man greatest need.

[Alan] A final thing. Dublin, Whiteabbey, you’ve got a lot of different areas. Are there many people from Belfast here today?

[Paul] Oh yes, a good few.

[Mark] There’s quite a lot of different churches represented here. Obviously not everyone wants to come as you don’t want to bring your children to see people going on floats in their underwear …

[Alan] Not much worse than the beach … in fact I’ve seen a lot worse on a beach.

[Mark] It’s not the beach, and it’s not a swimming pool. You dress for an occasion. You don’t walk around … If I was to do that on a normal day I’d be arrested by the police in a city centre. There’s obviously something wrong when people want to walk around the city centre in their underwear. They’re not on a beach, not on a swimming pool.

[Alan] Thank you very much for your …

At this point another protester who had been hovering listening to the interview decided to join in.

[Another man] Can I say there that when that parade went past there were people giving the fingers and different signs to the Christians standing here. If that parade was any other parade, and done that, the media would have a field day on them for being offensive to people. The Parades Commission would look into it, and something would be done about it.

Personally, standing at the corner for around ten minutes as the parade came up Donegall Place and turned past the City Hall, I witnessed no offensive gestures from the parade or supporting crowd. A policeman commented that it was a bit like a football match that out of thousands of people attending there were always a few idiots but they didn’t represent the majority.

[The other man] My personal gripe is here today this is called Gay Pride. What is a gay person’s rights? It’s all about a sexual act. So if it’s all about a sexual act and their sexual preference, if someone wants to have sex with an animal are they going to get government funding to come here to parade with animals or be like Holland and be married to an animal and come through the middle of the town. Is this going to be next?

Leaflets were being handed out for SPUC (the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) suggesting that “defending marriage defends unborn children”.

Real marriage recognises the difference between men and woman. Legalised same-sex marriage will increase confusion about what it means to be a man or a woman and removes natural conception from the idea of marriage. Acceptance of same-sex marriage will impact countless aspects of our lives, eg schools will have to teach children about same-sex marriage.

We must protect real marriage because it protects children in the womb. Statistics show that unborn babies are four or five times more likely to be aborted outside of real marriage.

Children do better conceived and brought up in real marriage. Research shows overwhelmingly that overall, children do better in terms of health, happiness and education when brought up by their married, biological opposite-sex patents.

A very mixed set of messages.

In contrast, one of the other Christian witnesses at this year’s Belfast Pride parade was a group from Changing Attitudes Ireland and Faith & Pride who stood outside St George’s Church on High Street to show positive support to those in the march.

I spoke to Gerry Lynch.

[Gerry] Every year there are one or who anti-gay demonstrations by fundamentalist Christians and that’s all that most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people see of Christianity is people judging them and wanting to send them to hell for being gay. Now Christians have been marching – identified as Christians on the parade – for at least five years. The parade’s now so big that most people on the parade don’t see that. You don’t see other people on the parade when you’re actually marching on it. So we waited here outside St George’s church – which is a gay affirming church, I’m one of the church wardens as an openly gay man – and show people that there are Christians who support gay people. The response we had here was really exceptional.

[Alan] What type of message do you think the paraders got as they walked past your group of banners?

[Gerry] The number of people on the parade who shouted over “thank you for doing this”. A lot of gay people have very strong Christian faith, Northern Ireland is a very Christian country, and gay people are no exception to that. A lot of gay people feel excluded and rejected by their churches, and excluded and rejected by Christians in general. So I think it was very important that we were here today and people really appreciated it. We got incredibly positive feedback. At the end of the parade where it always dies out a wee bit at the end, it was all quiet as the parade went down High Street, and then going past here then people started cheering and waving at us.

[Alan] There’s another Christian group outside the City Hall. I talked to them earlier. They were very worried that pride was something that was sinful, they were very worried that homosexuality in their eyes was something that was sinful and they were very worried that this was going to lead to people wanting to have marriage to animals and all kinds of stuff. Does this concern you?

[Gerry] It does in a sense as we’ll probably have to wait ten years longer to have equal marriage in Northern Ireland than any other part of the UK or Ireland. We’ll be ten years behind because of people like that, and their bigotry and their hatemongering and that’s all it is. To compare my relationship of 15 years which we have now got married, we’ve had a religious marriage, we’re both devout practicing church members, for people to compare my relationship with the man I love and have given my life to to someone marrying a horse or a dog is so gratuitously offensive I can’t even think of words for it.

They also talk a lot of nonsense about the Bible. They don’t seem to know their Bible very well. I went would for a [look at] that protest in the break in our parade. They’re carrying a sign saying “Biblical marriage = 1 man + 1 woman” with a quote from Genesis. Well I’m sorry, most of the great patriarchs from Genesis – Abraham and the rest of them – were married to multiple women. So this is the great irony of these people. They say they’re standing up for Biblical values, and if we get married the next thing there’ll be polygamy. Well, I’m sorry, the Bible approves of polygamy in many places.

[Alan] There were two Belfast churches, one marching, one was standing here in support of the parade, whereas it was folk from Templepatrick who organised [the protest where] I talked to people from Whiteabbey and Dublin who were in it. It wasn’t Belfast Christians who were out in large numbers – there may have been some – but there weren’t that many protesting.

[Gerry] Belfast has become in many ways a very liberal city over the past ten or fifteen years, and has changed tremendously. I’m born and bred and live in the inner city here in Belfast. I live in a very poor, very single identity republican community, and some of my middle class friends imagine that there’s a lot of homophobia there. Really there isn’t. People have moved on. I live in the New Lodge. The New Lodge Arts Project were down here marching in the parade with a load of kids and obviously parents in the New Lodge don’t mind their kids going on a Pride parade. In fact they think it’s probably a very good thing for them. So I think Belfast has moved on tremendously and it’s become a very tolerant and open place. One of the reasons I like living here.

Thanks to both groups of Christians for being willing to be interviewed this afternoon.

Update - UTV's coverage:

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Féile an Phobail (2 to 12 August)

Féile an Phobail - West Belfast Festival - logoNow in its 24th year, Féile an Phobail starts today and runs until 12 August. Sometimes referred to as the “West Belfast Festival” the festival offers a crammed programme of events: theatre, concerts, parties, exhibitions, sport, discussions and debates.

Some highlights I noticed in the programme. Unless stated otherwise the events are free.

Thursday 2 August

Let this be our secret in Falls Library at 5pm // Journalist and author Deric Henderson will be in conversation with Eamonn Mallie discussing his account of the “double murder by lovers Sunday School teacher Hazel Stewart and dentist Colin Howell”.

The ‘Workers Republic’ – An idea whose time has come? in St Mary’s University College at 6.30pm // James Connolly believed that a society free from divisions, borders and inequality could be created. Speakers Kieran Allen and Tommy McKearney will discuss whether it’s time to resurrect the idea.

Friday 3 August

Mary Black in Concert in Clonard Monastery at 8pm // Just say the words “Mary Black” and my brain replays her distinctive pure voice delivering the lyrics from songs from an old CD in my head. Older hits along with her new single ‘The Night Is On Our Side’ expected along with special guest Gerry Creen. Tickets £20.

Saturday 4 August

Walking Tour of East Belfast Murals starting at The Base (Albertbridge Road), 11am–1pm // Former Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor of Drogheda and historian Sean Collins will lead a walking tour around the murals in loyalist East Belfast.

The Ullans Academy – A personal journey in search of Cuchulaunn and the birth of the Irish tradition in Falls Library at noon // Chaired by media mogul and councillor Mairtin O’Muilleoir, former Lord Mayor Ian Adamson will talk about Ulster Scots culture and language, challenging the myths of separated communities and looking at the shared cultural and historical heritage.

Monday 6 August

Human Rights and Journalism in St Mary’s University College at noon // A panel of BBC Spotlight’s Mandy McAuley, The Detail’s Chris Moore and PA’s Steven McCaffery (about to move to work at The Detail) http://thedetail.tv for Amnesty International’s annual Féile discussion. [Updated - my post about the event]

The Frank Cahill Memorial Lecture - The Legacy of the Ulster Covenant in The Mill theatre at 7.30pm // In the centenary year of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, Eamon McCann(socialist and activist), Tom Hartley (SF councillor) and Myrtle Hill (QUB) will look at the turbulent events of 1912 and their consequences.

Tuesday 7 August

The PJ McGrory Human Rights Lecture – Doreen Lawrence in St Mary’s University College at 7.30pm // Stephen Lawrence was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack in 1993. His mother – who was recently chosen by Danny Boyle to help carry in the Olympic flag at the London 2012 opening ceremony – will tell the story of her long fight for justice, exposing institutional racism, and finally seeing two men convicted for her son’s murder in January 2012.

Wednesday 8 August

Can We Afford Religion? in Roddy MacCorley Social Club at 1pm // An informal discussion organised by Father Des Wilson and Jack Duffin to investigate the implocations and consequences of religion upon our lives.

West Belfast Youth Talks Back in Whiterock Leisure Centre, 2pm–3.30pm // Stephen Nolan William Crawley will chair the debate around the theme of “Unemployed, jobless and skint: hope or despair for today’s youth”. Panellists will include junior minister Jennifer McCann (SF MLA) and Jonathan Bell (DUP MLA) as well as Gerry McKernan (businessman), Patricia Lewsley-Mooney (Children and Young People’s Commissioner).

West Belfast Talks Back in St Louise's Comprehensive College, 7.30pm–9pm // An annual lively debate with a panel of politicians answering questions from the floor. Chaired by Yvette Shapiro, panellists include George Galloway (RESPECT MP), Gerry Kelly (SF MLA). A ‘leading’ DUP politician Gregory Campbell (DUP MP/MLA) and commentator/historian Ruth Dudley Edwards are also now confirmed on the panel. [Updated - my post about the event]

Thursday 9 August

The Leveson Inquiry – Roy Greenslade in Falls Library at 1pm // Guardian media commentator, academic and republican supporter Roy Greenslade will unravel the comings and goings at the inquiry into the standards and practices of the British press and look at its implications for press freedom. [Updated - my post about the event]

‘New’ Belfast – What’s in it for us? in St Mary’s University College at 5pm // QUB’s Brian Kelly looks at the disenfranchised Belfast working class majority living in “a city where the free market allegedly ‘trumps’ sectarianism and five-star hotels ‘rescue’ us from poverty and unemployment”. Kelly rejects the neo-liberals’ new Belfast and “advocates a democratic city run for and by its working class majority.

The Ulster Covenant Revisited in St Oliver Plunkett Parish Hall at 7pm // In his book “Heal Not Lightly”, Harry Smith appealed “to the leaders of the Protestant Churches to identify the wrong actions of their forefathers in putting the Ulster Covenant in place and to dismantle it through repentance”. This talk by the former leader of the Christian Renewal Centre in Rostrevor highlights diverse opinions within the Protestant community.

Heroes with their Hands in the Air in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich at 7.30pm // A “powerful interpretation of loss alongside the pursuit of justice” adapted into a play from Eamon McCann’s book “The Bloody Sunday Inquiry: The Families Speak Out”. Tickets £10 from Cultúrlann.

Friday 10 August

Speak Peace by Bronagh Lawson in St Mary’s University College at 1pm // Using art as a healing tool. Bronagh Lawson will discuss her learning from Chicago as well as 13 years spent working on development projects on Belfast peace lines.

And finally ...

Two hours tours of two cemeteries will happen daily at 1pm from Sunday 5 to Saturday 11 August.

Tom Hartley will lead tours around Belfast City Cemetery. It’s headstones tell the story of the city’s “industrial barons, its urban poor, its intellectual core and its soldiers of empire”.

And Pod Devenney will lead tours across at Milltown Cemetery. “The story of the dispossessed and of Irish revellion.”

Assemble at the front gates of either cemetery. Recommended to bring walking boots, warm clothing and light refreshments. £5 payable at front gate.