Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Could you live in a 182 sq ft room? Steve Sauer's amazing pico-dwelling in Seattle

Steve Sauer has created an amazing space in which to live and sleep, as well as to entertain and party.

A bespoke micro-living pico-living one-room apartment with multiple levels, storage for two bikes, a kitchen, bathroom and even a sunken bath!

182 square feet of design.

h/t IkeaHacker

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Return to "Summertime" at The MAC ... isn't this some ministers' reality?

I went back to see David Ireland’s Summertime at The MAC last night. The opening night £5 ticket deal was too much to resist! Amazingly my memory had suppressed some of the more gruesome aspects of the plot.

For anyone who has graced the often dingy rooms around the back of a church, the red-carpeted set with authentic old-style cushionless church hall chairs and books stacked higgledy-piggledy on cheap shelving was very real. All it needed was the smell of damp!

The vulnerability of the minister at the centre of play was authentic too.

Firmly in the school of why use three words when fifteen or thirty would more precisely surmise the situation at hand, Church of Ireland minister Jonathan (Richard Clements) faces challenges and questions from the friends and strangers he meets. Challenges and questions that few other occupations encounter.
“Is my [abusive relative] in hell?”

“I haven’t been able to sleep for weeks over this …”

“I worry if I don’t talk about it I’ll do something I’ll regret”

[head tilted to one side while motioning finger towards the minister and back to self] “We have a problem …”

“We know where your sympathies lie …”

“I’ll do everything I can to destroy whatever remains of your reputation in this community”

“People don’t like you; they never have”

Your GP in the local health centre will face some of these statements, but hopefully with less venom and threat.

A minister’s vulnerability only increases when they attempt to respond to or answer these utterances. Immediately launching into a description of your theological doubts about the existence of hell will be a tough sell to an abused parishioner, never mind explaining to another your belief that homophobia is unacceptable and admitting that you take the odd drink and have been known to swear.

Dealing with multiple ongoing crisis situations, people in stressful circumstances, conflicting time pressures and other people’s sense of priority and urgency; getting many sides of a story but still being in the dark as to the whole truth; being played (consciously and not); and yet being expected to park your own emotions and frailties in order to “fix” and pacify everyone else … even while you’re being verbally attached and threatened.

In the case of Jonathan, but like quite a few young ministers who are not long ordained, this pressure is only added to by the lack of release and going home to an empty house without the support of a partner and close family.

David Ireland hasn’t written Jonathan as a saint. He can be a right tube, na├»ve and gormless. But based on the limited information he has, and trying to remain true to his calling and beliefs, for the most part he acts in good faith.

Even with its minimal cast, it was as if Joe (Ivan Little), Isaac (Ryan McParland) and Judith (Victoria Armstrong) were circling around the minister, binding him ever tighter in gaffer tape, slowly suffocating him as he tried his best to serve them.

Do our local churches and theological colleges prepare ministers for a role in which no one might speak up for them, and in which they may be left to work alone under the mental and at times physical stress of what they encounter? Are accountability and support mechanisms tangible or simply good intentions? Is a denomination’s or congregation’s duty of care taken seriously? Or is it left solely in the hands of God? Belief in prayer and God’s sovereignty doesn’t excuse negligence.

I didn’t spot any clerics in the audience on Tuesday evening. From experience of the read through of the play earlier this year, they are easily identified. They’re the men and women who quickly stop laughing and are consumed in empathy as the pressure cooker of misery and pain builds up without an obvious escape route.

Perhaps one answer is for ministers to stop playing the super hero. Maybe even to stop playing God and to be human instead. To be slow to offer answers and quick – and confident – to admit that there aren’t easy answers to every pastoral situation or theological issue. To seek help from trusted colleagues and support from friends. And to seek out and find colleagues and friends before crisis hits.

Summertime also deals powerfully with the critical issue of how a family copes with abuse and the consequences of not properly dealing with a potential abuser in their midst, as well as giving a gentle nod to society’s illogical hierarchy of vices.

Amongst the threat and the haunting tragedy, Tuesday night’s audience giggled and laughed, enjoying the absurdity of conversations, and at times chuckling in discomfort at the silences and misunderstandings.

If you’ve got a strong constitution, I recommend a trip to The MAC before Summertime’s run finishes on 16 November. Bring a friend, just in case!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Belfast-based Sixteen South head to Driftwood Bay as they launch new animation series

Local independent television producer Sixteen South who specialise in children's programmes launched their new series Driftwood Bay this morning.

Previously known for their puppet shows - Sesame Tree (with special guest star Oscar the Grouch!), Big City Park, Big & Small, and Pajanimals - their new production is a beautiful mixed media animation based on original drawings by artist Joanne Carmichael who created characters based on what washed up on the beach near her home on Aaran Island.

Casting for the voice of the lead character Lily took place back in December 2011, and young Orlagh attended the launch this morning.
Lily is 5 years old and lives on the Island of Arranish with her Dad. They live in a little hut on the beach packed full of jars, knick-knacks, driftwood and some very special friends … all made by Lily from salvage washed up by the sea

Across the way is Driftwood Bay … another island that Lily can see from her window, and it is here that the characters that she has created in her imagination come to life.

Every day the sea washes up a new treasure which sparks Lily’s imagination about what might be happening on Driftwood Bay. And so, accompanied by her best friend Gull, the clever seagull, an adventure begins as they head off ‘across the way to Driftwood Bay’.
I've embedded a rare clip of Driftwood Bay that gives a taster of the style of the animation:

Creative Director and Executive Producer, Colin Williams explained this morning that the Driftwood Bay has "retained 75 people from across the local creative sector to work specifically on Driftwood Bay over an 18 month period", putting £2.5 million into the local economy.

First and deputy First Ministers attended this morning's launch - happy that there wouldn't be a repeat photo-opportunity with muppets! Peter Robinson was quick to point out that Sixteen South was an example of the local creative industries having success outside of the spotlight on Titanic Quarter.

With strong advance sales, the fifty two 7 minutes episodes of Driftwood Bay will start to appear on screen from Spring 2014 in Australia, Finland, Ireland, Israel, North America, Norway and the UK (Nick Jnr). Let's hope Orlagh's Finnish, Swedish, Hebrew and Norwegian is as strong as her Northern Irish accent that helped to sell the show!

It's amazing to realise that Belfast is hosting an animation factory that will produce over 350 hours of animation, and to be dubbed into multiple languages.

Driftwood Bay's in-house band who provided the original music for the animation played at the launch - adding to the celebration of local talent.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Summertime (David Ireland/Tinderbox) in The MAC (5-16 Nov)

I went along to a reading of David Ireland’s new play Summertime during the Pick’n’Mix festival earlier this year, and I’m delighted to see that it’s back in the MAC for a full run from 5-16 November.

Even with a minimal set and the actors carrying around their scripts the play was powerful, emotional and at times excruciating.

A young minister’s vulnerability was explored as he settled into an East Belfast working class congregation. It was distressing to watch as Jonathan (played by Richard Clements) found himself caught in the middle of other people’s lives and expectations.

How could young troubled Isaac (played by Ryan McParland) be best helped? And people talk. Yet gossip could cost a minister – particularly a young single man – his reputation … or more.

The reading was incredibly authentic, and anyone in ministry may find the tension and the bullying far too true to life to be a pleasant evening’s entertainment. I’ll be interested to see whether a fuller set and costumes changes the impact of the play.

Kim Lenaghan interviewed playwright David Ireland on tonight's Arts Extra

If you’re up for some real theatre, don’t miss Tinderbox’s production of Summertime in the MAC with its cast of Victoria Armstrong, Richard Clements, Ivan Little and Ryan McParland, directed by Michael Duke.

Tickets available from £12. Strong language throughout as well as discussion of child abuse.

A leafy adventure in Rowallane #NTautumn

We headed down for an Autumn Adventure at Rowallane Garden outside Saintfield this morning.

Obviously heading deep into middle age with family National Trust membership [the Stannah Stairlift catalogue must be due soon?] Rowallane's leafy walks and cafe has become a favourite spot.

An NT Facebook app allows young adventurers to (use their parent's account to) narrow down their options of what type of experience (muddy puddles or fairies, rabbits or conkers, etc) they'd like at either Mount Stewart, Rowallane or Castle Ward before presenting them with an A4 sheet to print out with their six challenges.

In other words, it's a way of cajoling and tricking youngsters into coming for a walk with you! The sheet also offers a free cup of tea in the cafe, and using the Facebook app gives the parent a chance to win a family break in Fermanagh.

What more could you ask for? ... except dry weather and sunshine to make a pleasant family outing!

Mount Stewart is being lit up during November weekends. Details of the Festival of Light and how to get tickets on the NT website.