Sunday, April 29, 2012

trying to let go ... trying to hold on ...

Last Sunday morning's sermon in church looked at 'doubting' Thomas. Mervyn finished by reading A Doubter's Prayer by Kathy Escobar.
God, sometimes I’m not sure.

I don’t understand. I can’t understand. I don’t know what I’m supposed to understand.

I am trying to let go. Trying to hold on.

Learning. Growing. Stretching. Leaving. Coming. Going.

What do I leave behind?

What do I move toward?

God, grow my faith, whatever that means.

Not in man, not in systems, not in what-someone-else-tells-me-i-am-supposed-to-believe.

But in you. The living God. The one who heals. The one who reveals. The one who restores. The one who turns the ways of this world upside down. The one who calls me to mercy and justice and love. The one who stirs us to move.

Yeah, that’s all I really want. More of you in me. More of you in us.


To be honest, once I heard the line "I am trying to let go. Trying to hold on" my brain skipped a lot of the rest of the poem as it cogitated around the tension to grip and release.

Amidst the maelstrom of rapidly switching projects and teams in work, never mind dealing with the challenges of faith in a messy world, the words contain a great set of questions as well as an ideal approach to move on.

Kathy's poem/prayer is included in her book Down We Go (also available on Kindle).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Festival of Fools - Thursday 3 to Monday 7 May 2012

The Festival of Fools is back for the ninth year. Comedy, circus and – new this year – food!

The opening ceremony takes place at 6pm on Thursday 3 May in St Anne’s Square (and repeated the following evening). Sixty five performers, live music, acrobatics, aerial circus and carnival. Listen to the story of the Giants Causeway and the Titanic (with the Library Monkeys, Finn McCool and Samson and Goliath thrown in for good measure).

Over the long weekend, you can sample the delights of Earnest the Magnifico’s stunt show, Jonathan Burns contortions, pole-climbing Derek McAlister, deluded Italian knights El Cataldo, a hula hooping stunt cycling granny, two mysterious caretakers from the depths of the world, the Stickleback Plasticus Cats Choir, and more … with the Big Finish Cabaret Encore rounding off each evening in St Anne’s Square.

There will be live shows on the hour in Fountain Street, Cornmarket, Rosemary Street, Cotton Court and St Anne’s Square. Check out the website, or call into the pop-up festival ‘shop’ on Castle Lane, just off Cornmarket.

Everything is free – though the organisers are keen to collect donations to help meet the costs of the festival.

If comedy is not enough to entice you into Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, the Festival of Fools is appealing to your tummy too.

Local eateries have got together to offer the Festival of Foods. No joke. The 4th Wall, No 27 Talbot Street, The Potted Hen, The John Hewitt, Nick’s Warehouse, 2Taps, The Cloth Ear, Deli Lites, Little Wing Pizzeria (in Ann Street), La Boca and The Garrick are all offering discounts. Details and vouchers in copies of the festival programme and on the festival website.

Salt Bistro, St Anne's Square, Belfast

There’s finally a buzz in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, and new restaurants are opening, joining the more intrepid businesses who set up in the area before it developed a reason for people to walk through.

Salt Bistro recently opened in St Anne’s Square, tucked in beside The MAC and behind St Anne’s Cathedral.

Donal and Teresa Cooper are veterans of the trade, in their new venture have shifted from “fine dining” to “offer something of equal quality but with a more casual atmosphere and mid-range pricing”.

Calling in before a show at The MAC on Thursday evening, the service was friendly and fast. The menu was issued on a clipboard showing the main evening dishes and pre-show offerings tucked in underneath.

The bread, hummus and tapenade starter was generous with its portions of bread. The burger was home made and well cooked and served with mushrooms and cheese. The single slice of tomato and lettuce wasn’t really enough to moisten up the mouthfuls of meat and bap.

Overall, two main courses, two desserts, beer and a shared starter will set a couple back about £40. It's not cheap ... but the food and the atmosphere was good.

With its proximity to The MAC, the Black Box and the University of Ulster, there should be plenty of passing trade for Salt Bistro, and lots of return visitors to its calm oasis in St Anne’s Square.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912 (Owen McCafferty) at The MAC

A new play in a new building: Owen McCafferty’s Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912 is playing in the MAC in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

It’s a verbatim play with nearly all of the cast’s dialogue taken from the transcripts of the London inquiry that quickly followed the Titanic’s sinking.

[Another playwright Denis MacNeice used a similar technique in his play Blackness After Midnight (adapted for television “SOS – The Titanic Inquiry” by the Hole in the Wall Gang) to focus on the testimony of the crew of the SS Californian, a nearby ship that somehow did not come to the assistance of the Titanic.]

Directed by Charlotte Westenra, there is a very large cast: five legal counsel, including the delightfully and increasingly ratty Inquiry Commissioner Lord Mersey (played by Paul Moriarty); nine witnesses who are called to the stand to give their evidence and then remain seated at the side of the stage for the remainder of the performance; and one fictional character, the clerk of the court (Ian McElhinney) who acts as narrator, introducing the witnesses and commenting on the scale of the tragedy.

The set is built at a slight angle, and has beautiful lighting that subtly changes between witnesses to suggest time of day and the sun’s movement. A beautiful on-stage model of the Titanic provides a continuous focus for the play as well as helping actors relate where on the vessel their action took place. At times, loudspeakers underneath the audience seating join with the stage amplification to surround the audience with the sound of the Titanic. The black wire wastepaper bins under the heavy desks were a little anachronistic, more 2012 Ikea than 1912 Royal Scottish Drill Hall!
“I used by discretion and was the master of my situation …”
Amongst the witnesses, the audience hear a series of perspectives from one particular lifeboat and unravel a little of the mystery of how Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon along with just three other passengers made their escape in a lifeboat, promising £5 to each crew member rowing them away from the sinking Titanic. Where the seamen not surprised when nobody suggested that they row back to rescue other passengers and crew from the water after the Titanic sank beneath the surface?
“The possibility of being able to help anybody didn’t occur to me at all.”
Another set of linked witnesses dissect possible reasons for the proximity of the berg to the Titanic, and even includes statements from polar explorer Earnest  Shackleton who enjoyed celebrity status in the courtroom.
Attorney General: You have had a large experience of ice?
The first couple of witnesses drew laughs and giggles from the audience as they answered questions from the inquiry counsel. Later witnesses recollected their experiences in a more sober manner.
Attorney General: Can you tell us how far off the iceberg was?

Lookout: We hit it!

Attorney General: No, I meant …
Lady Duff Gordon’s smiley and whimsical responses jarred with the tragedy of the situation. At times it was difficult to believe that the inquiry had been organised and the witnessed called a mere month after the Titanic sank. In general there was a lack of trauma in the delivery of the lines: perhaps due to the Hansard-like cleaned-up minutes from the inquiry on which the play relies.

As a verbatim play it was well constructed, well acted and used the space on the stage to good effect. Yet sitting in the audience I felt like I was at a history lesson and didn’t really connect emotionally with the cast. The play lacked intrigue. Many of the theatrical devices normally used to transport an audience through a plot could not be employed due to the source of the majority of the script.

Much like 1912, questions remain about the actions and motives of crew and passengers. The failure to slow down and take time to look for bergs is significant. The disparity in survival rates between first, second and third class passengers – and amongst different crew functions – is stark.

In the aftermath of the centenary commemorations of the Titanic, Owen McCafferty’s play is a fine reminder that the story did not end with the sinking. But it’s a million miles away from McCafferty’s pacier Shoot the Crow: much less drama and more history.

Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry 1912 runs for a month in The MAC, finishing on 20 May. With the MAC’s pricing scheme, the earlier you book your ticket, the cheaper the price. And if you’re not fussy, the £9.50 ‘Take a Chance’ option is a real bargain.

I attended the preview with a complimentary ticket.

Update - adding links to enthusiastic reviews in the Irish Times and the Guardian ... and Hugh Odling-Smee's thoughts at Literary Belfast/Culture NI.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The ups and downs of conference exhibitors and their giveaways

Exhibiting at political party conferences is an occupational hazard for many charities, non-governmental organisations and even unions.

Like a miniature Ideal Home Exhibition, party members, delegates and hangers on prowl around the stands searching out pet causes, free pens and cloth bags (for the day that the plastic bag tax is finally made law).

Opportunity Youth played a blinder today with their yellow yoyos. Coloured yellow - convenient for an Alliance conference! - they appealed to the Coca Cola spinner generation.

Like school children, big kids wandered around the conference with an extra spring in their step ...

You can read more about the Alliance conference and listen to the speeches over on a post on Slugger O'Toole.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

World Book Night is upon us

A box full of World Book Night books - Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games

Twenty four copies of Iain M. Banks' The Player of Games, with their unique tracking numbers now scribbled onto the first page, and ready to be donated to people.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Family Fang (Kevin Wilson)

The Family Fang (Kevin Wilson) book cover

“Art, if you loved it, was worth any amount of unhappiness and pain. If you had to hurt someone to achieve those ends, so be it. If the outcome was beautiful enough, strange enough, memorable enough, it did not matter. It was worth it.”

Performance artists don’t make great parents. That’s the inevitable conclusion of reading The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.

It’s the brilliantly told tale of Caleb and Camille Fang who involve (perhaps, subject) their children in artistic experiences carried out in public places in front of unsuspecting people.

The Fangs’ junior accomplices – daughter Annie and son Buster – are often just referred to as Child A and Child B. Sometimes the children are lead participants in the disruptive art; other times they are merely instructed to go with the flow.

“You just have to be ready. You’ll know it when it happens. And when it happens, you do whatever comes naturally.”

Annie might find herself in a toy shop, snitching to the owner that a female customer (actually her mother) is clearly stealing jelly beans from a nearly dispenser. Her father will intervene when the mother is confronted, the jelly beans will be dropped and scattered all over the floor, her brother will rush in shouting “free candy” and other nearby kids will be drawn to the sugary opportunity. This is a performance art experience.

Or Buster might be entered in a female beauty contest (as a girl) and expected to bluff his way through as much of the competition as possible before losing his wig and delivering a particularly pertinent line.

In some ways this is all small beer when compared to Caleb and Camille’s days before children when Caleb shot a colleague in the name of art, and the pair ran out of a burning building having learnt the difference between fire retardant and fire resistant.

Perhaps with this kind of experience while growing up, it should be no surprise that Buster ended up in Nebraska for a men’s magazine writing about four ex-soldiers who had built a high-tech potato cannon ... and got a little too close to a spud. And while Annie disappointed her parents by forsaking performance art for a career in the movies – where she no longer controls her art but merely obeys the director’s instructions – a lapse in privacy upset her chances, though pleased her father.

So when Caleb and Camille disappear in what looks like a copycat roadside murder, Annie and Buster are torn between grieving and believing that it is only another grand conspiracy cooked up by their parents.

The story follows the children’s twin-track attempts to track down their presumed dead parents and permanently depart from their family ways, interspersed with yet more examples of the Family Fang’s back catalogue of mayhem and misery.

It’s a story that asks whether abused children can ever escape from the shadow of their upbringing and their parents? Whether parents can be so driven to neglect to provide a balanced childhood for their offspring? Can art ever be more important than nurture? And any performance artists picking up Kevin Wilson’s novel may start to question where the boundaries between performance art and stupidity lie?

The Family Fang is also a fun read. (Only £2.99 on the Kindle!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Imperfectionists (Tom Rachman)

The Imperfectionists (Tom Rachman) book cover

‘news’ is often a polite way of saying ‘editor’s whim’

It took nearly twelve months for me to get round to finish reading a whole book on the Kindle. Hundreds of editions of the Irish Times or the Evening Standard have been scanned, but never the complete contents of a novel.

Maybe, given the shift from print to online and e-ink, Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists was a suitable first tale to finish on the Kindle.

Considering the economic pressures on the newspaper industry, his novel perhaps captures the spirit and soul of a trade that is spinning down the plug hole, soon never to be seen again: a Lake Wobegon of the newspaper trade, complete with its neuroses and foibles.

Each chapter sketches in aspects of the life of a particular member of staff (and one reader) in the unnamed English-language newspaper based in Rome. At times the vignettes overlap, providing contradicting perspectives or extending a particular storyline.

There’s the obituary writer Arthur Gopal whose “overarching goal at the paper is indolence, to publish as infrequently as possible”. He sneaks out of the office during afternoons to pick up his young daughter Pickle from school and takes her to explore antiques shops. But a trip to Switzerland to gen up on a dying feminist engenders in him an unexpected enthusiasm.

Ruby Zaga, a copy editor, is 46 and has only ever worked at the paper. She’s given the boring pages to check and describes the rest of the copydesk team as a “coven of losers”. Her insecurity extends to never staying at home on New year’s Eve, but instead dressing up as an American business women and checking into a hotel pretending to be “stuck overseas during the holiday”.

The working life of news editor Craig Menzies overshadows the talents and ambitions of his biddable girlfriend Annika. A gifted photographer, her life shifts into a different gear when Craig givers her yoga lessons and a subscription to a photography magazine for her birthday. In fact, her life accelerates away from Craig’s cosy existence, and leaves him humiliated.

Throughout the book, the Chief Financial Officer, Abbey Pinnola – nicknamed ‘Accounts Payable’ – is built up as a harsh, prickly bean counter, hiring and firing newspaper staff, before showing her human side and being dealt her comeuppance.

But perhaps the best vignette is reserved for a reader – Ornella de Monterecchi – who got a little behind with her newspaper reading due to her OCD need to read every paragraph on every page before being able to start the next edition.

“One year into her newspaper reading, she was six months behind … When it was the 1990s outside, she was just getting to know President Reagan. When planes struck the Twin Towers, she was watching the Soviet Union collapse.”

Finally the future of the paper lies in the hands of the American publisher Oliver Ott who prefers the company of his basset hound Schopenhauer to answering phone calls from the struggling paper.

The quality and intricacy of the writing at times prevented the book becoming a rapid page turner. There was a real balance between wanting to soak in the detail and race through the plot to see if and how the threads would be tied up.

Malachi O'Doherty in conversation with Tom Rachman, author of The Imperfectionists

Born in London and educated in Vancouver, Toronto and New York, Tom Rachman was an editor on the foreign desk at The Associated Press before reporting from Asia and taking up a posting in Rome. Later he worked part time as an editor for the International Herald Tribune in Paris which may have influenced this first novel, though apparently didn’t influence the characters!

Tom Rachman was in Belfast two months ago, “in conversation” with Malachi O’Doherty. As the BBC’s Writer in Residence at Queen’s University, Malachi has been filling rooms at Queen’s and the BBC with members of the public interested in hearing what a long line of local, national and international media personnel have to say about their profession.

Brad Pitt’s production company bought the film rights for The Imperfectionists and Scott Silver has been hired as screenwriter. In the meantime, a second novel – with an international flavour but not set in the world of journalism – is due to be completed this year.

Tom Rachman is certainly an author I’ll return to, and if the film version can pull off the quirky characters in the Rome newspaper office it’ll be compulsive viewing in the QFT!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thomas Andrews turned up in church this morning

Thomas Andrews Junior Memorial LOL 1321 banner featuring images of the shipbuilder and the sinking Titanic

LOL 1321 turned up at church this morning for our Titanic memorial service. (More correctly, they were invited!

They're the Thomas Andrews Junior Memorial lodge and their banner depicts the shipbuilder along with the sinking ship.

Around ten years ago, on the 100th anniversary of a Belfast Insurance broker, a book of material from Lloyds Insurance of London related to the Titanic was handed over to the oldest Titanic society in the world ... which turned out to be LOL 1321 which was formed in 1920.

After the service, a floral tribute to those who died on the Titanic (as well as during its construction) was carried across the road from the church to be laid under the recently unveiled Yardmen sculpture on the Lower Newtownards Road.

Floral tribute to lives lost on the Titanic (and during its construction) left under the Yardmen sculpture on the Lower Newtownards Road

Friday, April 13, 2012

At Day's Close: Night in Times Past (A. Roger Ekirch)

At Day's Close: Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch

Things that go bump in the night would be a good alternative title for A. Roger Ekirch’s fascinating inch-thick tome that investigates nocturnal beliefs and behaviours across the ages.

At Day's Close: Night in Times Past describes a world that as the sun set and darkness descended, outdoor work ended and families locked their doors until morning. Anyone spotted moving on the street would have been viewed with suspicion: a thief, a prostitute or a miscreant.

Amongst the accessible history and engrossing lore outlined in – which jumps about in time and geography – the most intriguing chapter describes evidence for alternative sleep patterns.

Until the close of the early modern era, Western Europeans on most evenings experiences two major intervals of sleep bridged by up to an hour of quiet wakefulness … The initial interval of slumber was usually referred to as “first sleep,” or, less often, “first nap” or “dead sleep” … The succeeding interval of sleep was called “second” or “morning” sleep, whereas the intervening period of wakefulness bore no name, other than the generic term “watch” or “watching”.

The “period of wakefulness” was put to all kinds of uses: emptying your bladder (on top of the fireplace ashes if no chamber pot was to hand), smoking, studying, doing household chores, pilfering, praying, and yes, making love. (A BBC Magazine article also looks at the myth of the eight hour sleep in more detail.)

The evolution of street lighting and availability of artificial indoor lighting along with the development of a more time-conscious society seemed to eradicate segmented sleep.

Ekirch finishes his book by looking at the future of the night.

Increasingly, rather than render nighttime more accessible, we are instead risking its gradual elimination. Already, the heavens, our age-old source of awe and wonder, have been obscured by the glare of outdoor lighting. Only in remote spots can one still glimpse the grandeur of the Milky Way. Entire constellations have disappeared from sight, replaced by a blank sky. Conversely, the fanciful world of our dreams has grown more distant with the loss of segmented sleep and, with it, a better understanding of our inner selves.

Certainly, it is not difficult to imagine a time when night, for all practical purposes, will have become day – truly a twenty-four/seven society in which traditional phases of time, from morning to midnight, have lost their original identities …

Ecological systems, with their own patterns of nocturnal life, will suffer immeasurably. With darkness diminished, opportunities for privacy, intimacy, and self-reflection will grow more scarce. Should that luminous day arrive, we stand to lose a vital element of our humanity – one as precious as it is timeless. That, in the depths of a dark night, should be a bracing prospect for any spent soul to contemplate.

At Day's Close is a book I’d recommend you read in bed! The author – and, no doubt, the book’s editor – uses nearly as many commas in his sentences as I do, and this, along with its easy telling of history, makes it a great read.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Faith, Community and Creativity - In Conversation with Tony Macaulay on 17 April

Contemporary Christianity vertical banner

With Easter over, Contemporary Christianity are back with a couple more In Conversation events to stimulate thinking in the public square.

Faith, Community and Creativity - Tuesday 17 April at 7.30pm. Author and consultant Tony Macaulay published his first book Paperboy last year, describing growing up in the Upper Shankill in the 1970s. He is currently working on a range of creative writing, community and peacebuilding projects.

No More Them and Us? - Thursday 15 May 2012 at 7.30pm. Ian Bothwell has worked for 30 years in south Armagh with the Crossfire Trust. He will share his Christian conviction that God’s love can heal present fears and ancient wounds. (Organised as part of Community Relations Week.)

Both events are free, open to the public and will be followed by a cup of tea and a biccie. They'll both be hosted up on the third floor of 21 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.

Starship Titanic (Terry Jones, based on a game by Douglas Adams)

book cover of Starship Titanic by Terry Jones

Having moved house in November, I finally got around to opening up the second set of book boxes and filling the shelves of the Billy bookcases. Starship Titanic was one of the paperbacks I lifted out and set aside. It seemed an apt time to reacquaint myself with Douglas Adams’ 1997 vision of “the ship that cannot possibly go wrong”.

While Douglas Adams scripted the Starship Titanic computer game – significantly more advanced than the Infocom text adventure version of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – it fell to Terry Jones to write up the story as a novel.

The reader’s first sign that disaster may be looming comes with the realisation that Leovinus (the ship’s architect and designer) had “got into the habit of supervising the construction of his Starship by virtual reality and telepresence”.

It was a ship powered as much by data as by an engine.

Neuroconnectors … bifurcated into the memory bank and the sensation retrieval system … separators and trans-joiners linking and distinguishing those two vital processes: thought and feeling. His obsession was the heart of this Starship. He called her Titania.

While Belfast readers may think of Titania as the new sculpture outside the entrance of the Titanic Belfast centre, Adams’ Titania was the “massive cyber-intelligence system … imbued with emotions, with personality” that was to run the ship.

Dodgy builders, an unfinished vessel, Titania’s bits scattered across the ship, an insurance scam, a botched launch and a crash landing on the Earth all either led to or were caused by a SMEF: Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure.

Lucy, Dan and Nettie find themselves on board – along with ‘The Journalist’ and a parrot – with a bomb to defuse and a Titania to rebuild. They should head for the life-boats, but they’re in first class (which they’re not allowed into). But even if they got into first class …

… both [The Journalist] and Lucy discovered that while the Star-Struct Construction No. Inc. hadn’t skimped on the signs to the life-boats, they had economised on the life-boats themselves. In fact they had economised completely and utterly on them.

But in the world of Adams, maybe a counting down bomb can be negotiated with?

Frankly it’s a terrible read. The parallels with the real Titanic are there, but the plot evolves around a forced love triangle and a story arc nearly as thin as the walls fashioned by the shoddy starship builders. The only redeeming features of the book are that it’s a quick read and it highlights the brilliance of Adams’ more mainstream creations.

Starship Titanic – a book that no one will be celebrating on the hundredth anniversary of its publication.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Player of Games (Iain M. Banks)

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

I finished reading The Player of Games late last night. It ended in a surprisingly satisfactory manner. I’d picked up the book to read it again, only to discover it wasn’t the story that I thought I’d read before. Which means that my decision to give away this title on World Book Night later this month was quite random and based on a completely different gaming plot!

In his 1988 novel, Iain M. Banks tells the story of a journey taken by one of the Culture’s greatest game players. Skilled at figuring out and deploying fiendishly successful strategies for complex board games, Jernau Morat Gurgeh is blackmailed into accepting a two year journey to another world to participate as a guest in the Azad tournament.

Can Gurgeh hope to master the game that the Empire of Azad use to select their emperor as well as defining the social hierarchy and players’ career advancement? Can he build up strength and credibility I the minor games before moving onto the three main boards? As he progresses through the tournament, can he defend himself on and off the board from his politically elite competitors?

Compared to a lot of science fiction, it’s a complicated read. My satisfaction at its ending came from a resolution of some of the frustrations that had built up during the book. The pacing and page-turnability varies throughout the three hundred pages. For a long time, it felt like a book about a successful game player. But the layers of games within games, political machinations, emotional manoeuvring and cheating to change the rules and avoid losing became clear, much like Gurgeh’s enlightenment about the game he was playing and the way in which he too was being played.

It’s science fiction, so expect space travel, genofixed glands manufacturing drugs inside characters’ own bodies, depression at uncovering futility, drones (in disguise), an unchallenged sense that the Culture is superior the Empire of Azad, a lot more than two genders, and a little cross-species sexual intrigue and castration thrown in for good measure.

Giving away twenty four copies of this on April 23 is going to be quite a challenge!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

A different trim for your car?

Easily the most fondled and photographed car in Dobbies' car park in Lisburn this afternoon.

EasiBug by EasiGrass grass-covered SMART car in Dobbies' car park in LisburnEasiBug by EasiGrass grass-covered SMART car in Dobbies' car park in Lisburn

It's an EasiBug car to promote the EasiGrass astroturf franchise in Northern Ireland ...

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Yardmen walk (and timelapse)

While attending the UUP AGM and leadership election was one way of avoiding the Titanic celebrations on Saturday*, it's difficult not to get caught up in some of the events and commemorations.

This morning, Westbourne Presbyterian Community Church hosted a Yardmen service, remembering the contribution of congregation members who used to work in the shipyards of Belfast. Open for more than 130 years, the same wooden pews that we sat on this morning would previously have been filled with riveters, welders, carpenters, electricians and so on.

After the service, a Yardmen walk (and cycle ride) had been organised to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK. Flat caps were issued, and hundreds of wannabe shipyard workers - yardmen - set off from Pitt Park, through the newly renamed Titanic Quarter railway halt, and over towards Titanic Belfast were we stopped to have our 'piece'. Then everyone headed behind the visitor centre and posed for a photograph.

At the end of the 60 second timelapse, you'll spot everyone throwing their dunchers into the air.

* There was never any chance that either of the UUP leadership candidates were going to mention the Titanic in their speeches!

Titanic films screened beside the boat's dry dock - Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 April

Amongst the many different Titanic Festival events over the next couple of weeks, Belfast Film Festival have organised the screening of two Titanic-related films which will be shown inside beside the dry dock itself. (Due to “unforeseen circumstances” the film screenings have been lifted 44 feet up out of the dry dock and back onto dry land.)

Take your seats at the location where the gargantuan Olympic class liners where launched. Belfast Film Festival, in association with Belfast City Council and Northern Ireland Science Park, are hosting a unique experience whereby film goers will be physically transported back in time to Belfast’s golden age of industry as they become part of the history of Titanic watching the film projected from the location of its final departure from Belfast.

A Night to Remember film poster

Monday 2 April at 8.30pm – A Night to Remember (1958), directed by Roy Ward Baker.

A Night to Remember recounts the final night of RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage before her tragic end as through the eye’s of Titanic’s Second Officer Lightholler. This 1958 docudrama film is an adaptation of Walter Lord’s book and won a Golden Globe in 1959 for Best English Language Film. Also screening will be a short film of the launch of the RMS Titanic via Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Archive.

Saving the Titanic film still

Tuesday 3 April at 8.30pm - Saving the Titanic (UK premiere), directed by Maurice Sweeney.

Based on eye-witness accounts, Saving the Titanic tells the story of the disaster from below deck, exploring the question of what happened in the engine and boiler rooms after the collision. It follows nine men from the engineering crew – among them 18-year-old electrical engineer Albert Ervine from Belfast and Chief Engineer Joseph Bell (David Wilmot) – as they work among the huge, coal-fired furnaces and massive dynamos to satisfy the ship’s demand for power. A fascinating hybrid of documentary and dramatic reconstruction that makes use of stunning CGI effects, Saving the Titanic brings to life the last hours of the “unsinkable” ship. Director and cast members will be present.

Tickets are £8 and there is free parking in the NI Science Park close to the dry dock.