#Covid19 and obeying the rules

Home thoughts

This weekend I’ve been catching up on episodes of ‘Jack Taylor’. It’s my kind of thing anyway but I must admit that I’m really watching it for Galway City, and people moving freely through each others’ homes, shopping centres, restaurants, pubs, club and – funerals. I’m watching it thinking will I ever get to visit Galway again and I’m sad and confused to be thinking that way. But the truth is that I haven’t been in Galway in years – so the upset isn’t about that at all. It’s a displacement activity. At Christmas, I travelled via packed-to-bursting public transport from County Down to my parents in County Cork without a second thought. I’m really worried about the road I took so easily five months ago and I’m afraid to even take that line of thinking so I allow myself to be lonely for the once-lively, bustling atmosphere of Eyre Square instead. I am very grateful to those who have been looking out for the ‘cocooners’ in my home town. I am very grateful to all who have stayed at home, to all who have endured losing a loved one whom they bewilderingly couldn’t visit, nor properly take leave of – and still thinking beyond their immediate circumstances, made the most unthinkable sacrifices to halt the spread of this highly contagious disease. I’m taking the guide from governmment and ‘obeying the rules’ but, to be fair, mostly because the rules I follow align with my wish for those most vulnerable to be protected, and for all to be safe and well. There are no right answers, or failproof strategies, but I am grateful for any kind of good direction that takes into account all citizens. I hope very much that the Oxford Vaccine will work, or for a better solution to be found and quickly.

Rule and Misrule

This post is prompted by the Cummings debacle. Not so much what he did, but reading tweet after tweet, on the back of this news story breaking, written by those who had stayed away from the final hours of their loved ones, who have, in these past weeks, endured the awfulness of no proper rite of parting, as they followed the rules set out. Thousands upon thousands, in this same position. I can’t even find a way to take in the sheer extent of it. The only right response from DC is to apologize and resign. That is all. However, I want to propose a theory that Cummings was obeying his preferred rules – herd immunity, people die anyway, the NHS are grand sure (despite years of underfunding), if there’s a problem, it’s people’s own fault. It can’t be a surprise that he displayed an integrous (I use the word ironically) lack of human care for his own parents – no matter what the reason was for the visiting. I think many of the senior members of our communities would be all too glad to don the heroic cape to muck in and mind their sick or overwhelmed children and grandchildren – or welcome an unsanctioned hug – but until a vaccine or something is found, it’s risky to be close – and adult children have had to hold the line of distance, against all normal family instinct. As one who comes from a culture known for its gregariousness, community/family orientation and well-attended funerals – the whole set of rules behind trying to keep people Covid19-safe fly in the face in any kind of natural human instinct. So why obey them?

I’ve always been interested in the medieval concept of misrule – rather than the dictionary definition. The link with the quotation below is an article summarising various theories regarding the reason for the existence of misrule festivies as part of the prevailing circumstance of government – with their masques and music, and subversion of the normal order of things. Covid19 is very clearly neither laughing matter nor any kind of occasion for festival – so to be clear the parallel I am drawing is simply that the will of the British people created the protective regulations around lockdown, not the current administration – and the field of vision of the people looks further, in this instance, than individual or consituency interest. A compassionate and generous unwillingness to participate in the original strategy, moved the situation from the terror of ‘herd immunity’ to a properly organised strategy that offered at least some measure of response to the crisis. This is above and beyond political agenda and divisions. This is the stuff of the hell realms no matter what the response. What I wanted to point out rather is the power of the quiet insistence on ‘Ar scath a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ ( ‘There’s more foreby yourself.’). It has saved lives. But that has to be cold comfort for so many. My heart is with those who have lost loved ones in these awful times. I do not know how or what comfort could be offered.

Victor Turner proposes another theory. The order we are mocking is important but not ultimate; what is ultimate is the community it serves; and this community is fundamentally egalitarian; it includes everyone. Yet we cannot do away with the order. So we periodically renew it, rededicate it, return it to its original meaning, by suspending it in the name of the community, which is fundamentally, ultimately of equals, and which underlies it.

from: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2017/08/22/the-world-was-turned-upside-down-feasts-of-fools-lords-of-misrule/

Like dolmens round my childhood

The poem below is dedicated to the senior members of our communities – particularly those most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, and those who care for them – whether at home or in healthcare settings.

Words for Castle Ward: Session: ‘For the Foreseeable’ @NTCastleWard #iamwriting

As you can imagine the Words for Castle Ward sessions have been postponed for the forsessable… My wish is for health, safety and peace of mind for all in these disturbing days.

I am aware our coming meeting is a feedback meeting and so I’m sending a portable workshop, if you like, that you can do at anytime or as many times as is useful in a world of imposed and necessary physical distance.

Continued Acts of Creativity

I notice that many are doing writing at the moment. The whole of life, and a good many online writing facilitators, are offering prompts if you are stuck for inspiration. Indeed, if you happen to be blocked in that aspect this workshop might well work for you. Everyone is welcome.

Experimentation

It may not be your experience, but I find that I can do a first write pretty easily and anywhere if the humour is on me. The next phase, however, does thrive on an abundance of ‘set-aside’ time and solitude. Hence my thinking that this might work well in the prevailing circumstances.

You will have worked out now that I am talking about one of my favourite parts of the writing process (poetry for me, of course) – editing. But here in an experimental, and hopefully fun, fashion.

Suggested Process

  1. Select a piece – poem, or, for prose writers, a not too long piece, whether extract or short form. Preferably a piece you have written a while ago to which you are not overly attached.
  2. Read the piece out loud as many times as is feasible. Lose yourself in the reading of it. ‘Hear’ every word if you can. If you happen to have anybody about, ask them to read it back too (but not at all necessary).
  3. Read it a little bit more.
  4. Then make a list of all the things you like about it (don’t spare the horses, there is nobody here to contradict you, and we both know you rock); the things you have a little bit of a doubt about (like you understand a line or a plot device but you have a horrible feeling somebody else mightn’t.. and it wouldn’t be a want of intelligence on their part, if you know what I mean, that they don’t); and, finally, the things you know wouldn’t pass muster with the group…
  5. Then ask yourself, what are you really writing about? You are completely in control here. You decide.
  6. Now set all but no. 5 aside. (Note: if you love the piece as it is you can come back and work through your lists of poem/prose potential improvements generated in no. 4 as per normal editing protocol).
  7. So you have the core of the piece at the front of your imagination…
  8. Now transpose it into a completely different setting. For example, if your piece is about regeneration and is currently speaking through a strong Spring situation, then choose something radically different, for example, outer space or, as my eye falls as I’m typing, an angle-poise lamp. For another example, if your story is about family dynamics and is currently set in Japan, take the dynamic and set it (casting my eyes around the room) in a factory that makes Venetian glass vases (okay the vase is reminiscent of Venetian). These are just random examples but I hope you get the general idea.
  9. This may feel a bit artificial but stick with it. This workshop exists in the world of experimention. It would be really difficult to do at an actual workshop unless you had a good bit of time. The gift of it is a bit of imagination exercising – and a radical consideration of what is essential to a piece. There are, of course, no right answers. While my attitude here is one of playfulness. I mean light touch here – the piece itself can be dark, heavy or otherwise etc as is authentic to the piece (however you judge it).
  10. For those, who are thinking of joining in but haven’t attended a workshop with me, you are very welcome. Please do be aware that you, through absolutely no fault of your own, may be feeling that you only have a vague idea of what’s involved.. and then inspiration on an excellent,creative way forward will arise through the vagueness. I would like to reassure you this is normal and that will be the perfect direction. I also admire renegade creative behaviour. So if the angle-poise lamp has taken you off the path of the original but you are moving forward do continue. Finally, this is a situation where you can take more than one constitutional in any given day. (Please do move around a bit when doing any kind of editing so that body is in the same place of tiredness as the mind afterwards – without leaving your patch of social distance, it goes without saying).
  11. When finished, and at a time that suits you, do take both pieces and do the normal spit-n-polish editing for both (spelling, grammar, making sure that you have the most elegant choice of words, the best title, lines that scan, names and dates that tally, rhythm that is regular as fits both pieces and your genre).
  12. For WfCW face-to-face members, at the next IRL (in real time!) meeting bring both pieces for sharing.

Editing in a time of Illness

All of this comes with an important caveat. Do this only if you feel you would like to or that it would benefit your writing. A weird thing I discovered over an extended period of illness was that editing is actually quite exhausting. Who knew? While hopefully you are in spendid isolation or solitary confinement, however you experience lockdown, and very well – as the weeks go on, there is the possibility that there may be a fair amount of disease and unease around you (hopefully not at all, or mild) of one type or another. Covid19 may be the novel kid in town – and it’s rode in with an ugly gang of anxieties and stresses – but it’s not the only one. If you find yourself in this position, give yourself permission to take time out from writing – and focus on healing and recuperation.

May we all be well through this strange journey.

Much love

Olive x

Speedwell

0202-2020 #Herstory ‘World of Equals’ Poems on a Sunday Afternoon @down_arts, feat: @WomenAloudNI & Creative Writing Workshops #IamWriting #Womenwriting

0202-2020 Herstory Light Festival ‘World of Equals Day theme: A celebration of egalitarian personal and professional partnerships throughout history and today. Join us for a special extended Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, with a warm invitation to join us for the usual shared space, and featuring a celebration of women writers and those who inspired them to make their voices equally heard from members of the Women Aloud NI collective.

And an invitation to make your own voice heard, with two dedicated creative writing workshops (11am-1pm) with experienced creative writing facilitators – playwright Dr Catherine Kelly, and poet Gráinne Tobin. All is free – register your attendance at your preferred workshop with Down Arts Centre on 028 4461 0747.

More info:

From 2.30-3.45pm – shared space. The usual warm Invitation to those in the workshops* and the general public to share a piece as normal for Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

From 4-5pm ‘Herstory: Luminescence & Legacy – celebrating those women who inspired courage’. Showcase by Women Aloud NI members – a collective of writers who work to raise the profile of and represent women’s writing in Northern Ireland, and who create an exciting programme of events drawing from the membership of women writers – emerging and established – which celebrate our burgeoning local female writing talent.

From 11am-1pm: * ‘World of Equals’ Workshops. Choice of two. FREE, registration required, contact 028 4461 0747.

Either:
(1) ‘Voices of the Future’ Creative Writing Workshop
Facilitator: Gráinne Tobin

About the workshop
You are welcome to come just as you are to this one-off workshop, whether you are a very experienced writer or a total beginner.
Your writing belongs to you. You will be encouraged to share it, but you have the choice to keep it to yourself if you prefer.
Nobody is going to know or care whether you can spell perfectly.
The future and the past seem to be part of the present – what do you think? Could your past self and your present self learn from each other? Could your future self tell you a thing or two? Are all these selves each other’s equals? And what about the people who come after us?

About the facilitator
Gráinne Tobin grew up in Armagh, and lives in Newcastle, where she taught English in Shimna Integrated College after working for many years in further and adult education in Lurgan. Her books are Banjaxed and The Nervous Flyer’s Companion from Summer Palace Press and The Uses of Silk from Arlen House. She has won some poetry prizes and has contributed to magazines and anthologies, including Word of Mouth (Blackstaff) When the Neva Rushes Backwards (Lagan Press) On the Grass When I Arrive (Liberties Press) Washing Windows (Arlen House) Metamorphic( Recent Work Press) and Something About Home (Geographies Publications). Her work is online in Poethead, Poetry Ireland’s archive and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s online Troubles Archive, and one of her poems is on a sculpture in the stairwell of Down Arts Centre.
_____________________________________________________________________________
OR
(2) ‘World of Equals’ Creative Writing Workshop
Facilitator: Dr Catherine Kelly

About the workshop
All are welcome to attend this workshop – whether beginner or more experienced writer – all genres. Inspired by her own experience as a writer, and by the idea of equality in regard to the lives of Hannah and Francis Sheehy Skeffington, you can expect lively discussion on the theme, and the situation of women writers, and to create new writing of your own.

About the facilitator
Catherine graduated from Exeter University with a doctorate in Drama. She works as a teacher and a writer. Plays produced include two for radio and a student performance for Creative Learning at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. She completed a script for Greenshoot Productions as part of a project dealing with the experiences refugees. Most recently Kabosh Theatre performed her monologues about the Sheehy Skeffingtons. She enjoys working as a tutor in a range of places that includes schools, Down Arts and Open Learning at Queen’s University Belfast.

More info about Herstory Light Festival here: https://www.herstory.ie/light

More info about Down Arts Centre here: http://www.downartscentre.com

2020: first WfCW dates, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, @Down_Arts Courses and more local writing activities! #downpatrick #lecale #ballynahinch #countydown

A new year and a new decade – much inspiration for the writing activities and some forthcoming diary dates.

New dates for Words for Castle Ward

For your diary, our next dates are:

All saturdays, 11am to 12.30pm (with a tendency to run on a bit..)

– 11 January (feedback)
– 8 February (New writing)
– 14 March (feedback)
– 18 April (feedback – please note 3rd Saturday as the previous falls on Easter weekend).

Venue: The Education Suite, National Trust Castle Ward.

Further information about the group HERE. If you are on social media like our FB page HERE.


Date for your diary: Next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon (Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick) is on 02/02/2020 – World of Equals Theme (more info to follow). Followed by 26 April 2020 featuring Linda McKenna on the occasion of the publication of her first collection (Doire Press, 2020). Further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


Winter/Spring Writing Courses at Down Arts Centre

Wednesday is writing day at Down Arts Centre. The first 2020 instalment of two great creative writing classes begin in late January (22 January) for ten weeks. Creative Writing, 7-9pm, facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly, is a workshop-based class for all with an interest or a practice of writing, whether poetry, prose or playwriting. ‘I have a story in me…’ (1.30-3.30pm) is for those with an interest in writing for children. Author/artist/illustrator Kieron Black will help you get your story from daydream to workable plot! Info/booking on 028 4461 0747 or in person at the during Centre opening hours. Find further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


Ballynahinch Library Group

A monthly group has started up in Ballynahinch Library. Facilitated by author Kerry Buchanan, the group is open to all levels and abilities and meets the second Monday of each month from 12noon-13.30pm. Enquire at the library for further details.



The River Mill Writers’ Retreat

Need some time out to progress your writing or background research but can’t go too far? The ultimate Couty Down writers’ staycation, The River Mill is on the Ballyclander Road (between DPK and Killough) and offers both retreat opportunities and one-day or longer workshops. Check out the website for details of what’s available and what’s coming up in terms of courses. Details HERE.



Lions in the Landscape – Poems on a Sunday Afternoon in #Kilbroney Park, #NarniaFestival – 17 Nov

And in a letter to his brother, CS Lewis confided: ‘That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia.’

Come to Kilbroney this Sunday!

Celebrating CS Lewis love of NI’s beautiful natural environment, Down Arts Centre and Words for Castle Ward bring ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ back to the Narnia Festival on Sunday, 17 November, 2.30-4.30pm at the Cloughmore Centre based in Kilbroney Park.. All welcome! Admission – FREE, no booking required but if you require further information do email wordsforcastleward@gmail.com

Offering a warm and welcoming space to share your written work – poems, stories, songs – or a favourite, whether in keeping with the theme or not.

In our Featured spot: a wonderful programme from music group ‘Songbuddies’ and a rehearsed reading of new work created for this event.

About Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Ten years in existence, this ongoing event normally based at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick offers a chance to share new work – poetry, prose or song – or a favourite piece, whether new or established writer. Each event also features an author or a group with an emphasis on emerging local talent.

About ‘Lions in the Landscape’ PoSA feature

About Songbuddies:
Songbuddies are an informal group of singers drawn from two classes run by Laura Plummer at Down Arts Centre. Laura Plummer lives in Downpatrick and is a musician, singer and choir leader who writes, composes and arranges songs and music. Since 2004 she has run group singing classes at Down Arts Centre and founded the community choir Voices of Lecale in 2007 with whom she has produced 4 recorded albums of songs. She is a member of the Natural Voice Network. The programme of songs selected for this event celebrate the Autumn/Winter seasons and the forest, and include songs composed by Laura inspired by Narnia ‘In the Forest (always Winter, never Christmas)’ and the area (‘Bronagh’s Bell’).

About the rehearsed reading
‘Lions in the Landscape – the Perihelion Monologues’ is written as a series of three short monologues inspired by elements of CS Lewis’ life, and his love of NI’s wild places – particularly this part of the world.

Written by Olive Broderick, (poet and PoSA co-founder/host), this short piece will be performed in the form of rehearsed reading by Janine Walker. Janine is an actor, dramatist and drama facilitator. She is passionate about an arts approach to personal and social change. She is currently writing her one-woman play on baby loss that will tour throughout Northern Ireland and the UK in 2020. She is co-founder of Spanner in the Works Theatre Company and has just completed Tinderbox Theatre’s ambitious Play Machine Acting Training Programme 2018/19.

Janine currently sits on the Board of Tinderbox Theatre Company and was a previous board member of The Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She has worked in the arts for over 20 years with organisations such as Arts & Business and Arts Care. She holds a Masters with Commendation in Drama & Performances Studies from Queen’s University Belfast. Janine is currently the arts officer based at Down Arts Centre.

The Narnia Festival runs from the 15-17 November in Kilbroney Park – fun and magical events for all – further info HERE.

Love CS Lewis? Continue the celebration in East Belfast (22-26 Nove) – find out what’s on HERE.

@lagannavigator – 2019/20 #WaterwaysStorymakingFestival #Free #CreativeWritingWorkshops #Waterstones #Belfast #Lisburn #EastsideVisitorCentre #IamWriting

Following two incredibly successful editions, the Waterways Storymaking Festival No. 3 is in full flow and receiving submissions. If you’d like a little prompt for your inspiration why not avail of three FREE public workshops.

  1. Waterways Storymaking Festival Free Creative Workshop, 10 October, 2-3.30pm, Waterstone’s Belfast, 44-46 Fountain Street, Belfast with fab facilitator Lynda Tavakoli. Register to attend register to attend by contacting heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org or calling 028 9266 3232.
  2. Waterways Storymaking Festival Free Creative Workshop, 17 October, 2-3.30pm, Waterstone’s, 30 Bow Street, Lisburn  with fab facilitator Lynda Tavakoli. Register to attend register to attend by contacting heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org or calling 028 9266 3232.
  3. Waterways Storymaking Festival Free Creative Workshop, 23 October, 6.30-8.30pm, Eastside Visitor Centre, 402 Newtownards Road, Belfast with me, facilitator Olive Broderick . Register to attend register to attend by contacting heather@thewaterwayscommunity.org or calling 028 9266 3232.

Hope to see you!

WATERWAYS STORYMAKING FESTIVAL 2019/2020 Submission Guidance

Fabulous and growing response to this now annual homage to people’s connection with waterways. Here are the details of this year’s call.

Do you have a story, memory or link with the River Lagan?

The Waterways Community is inviting people who are interested in the rich heritage of rivers, canals and waterways and we aim to encourage people to record their memories and to create new stories and visual memories of their waterway.

With a theme this year of ‘Altogether Now’ we hope to inspire people to reminisce and record their memories of a waterway that is special to them. We aim to connect people through sharing their stories and memories of the waterways.

Calling out to individuals, community groups and schools to take part in the Festival. Categories are entered on a competitive basis and are designed to be accessible to everyone irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity or ability. Specialist facilitators encourage and develop skills and capture memories, this makes our Festival exciting, it allows everyone to express their creativity celebrating waterways past and present.

Workshops will run from August 2019 to end October 2019. Open session workshops will be held at Waterstones in Lisburn and Belfast (see above)

All stories and poems submitted will be collected and published in an anthology of works following the festival. Prizes will be awarded at our awards event in Craigavon Civic Centre on Saturday 1st October 2020.

The categories for the competition are:

  • Age 11 and Under

  • Age 12-17

  • Age 18 and Over

Stories should be no more than 500 words and poems should be no more than 30 lines.

Deadline for submission is Thursday 31st October 2019 at 5pm.

Submissions should be emailed to storymaking@thewaterwayscommunity.org

Submissions By Post
If you are unable to submit a piece of creative writing as part of the Waterways Storymaking Festival online via email, we are happy to accept hand delivered or postal entries to 148 Hillsborough Road, Lisburn, BT27 5QY.
Entries must have contact details and age category.

SOME ONLINE INSPIRATION?

A small number of readings and resources to spark your imagination.

Jo Bell ‘Lighter’ – commissioned for the 250th Anniversary of the Lagan Navigation.

‘The Lagan Canal’ by Harry O’Rawe – we follow in the footsteps of May Blair and her work of gathering stories collected in her publication ‘Once Upon a Lagan’. How important it is to record the communities connections – Lagan and Linen – before they slip away out of current memory.

Find out more about the Lagan Navigation on the Lagan Navigation Trust’s website.

Words for Castle Ward New Writing – #LionsintheLandscape #APlacewithaDoor #CSLewis #Kilbroney

“You see, but do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

All are warmly invited to the next new writing workshop of Words for Castle Ward this Saturday, 12 Oct, 11am-12.30pm at the Education Suite, Stableyard, Castle Ward. It’s a new writing session. Bring writing implements, inspiration provided.

Please note that while this is a normal WfCW new writing workshop, the theme ties in with ‘Lions in the Landscape’ next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon taking place at the Cloughmore Centre, Kilbroney in the 17 November (2.30-4.30pm) as part of CS Lewis Festival on that weekend.

This year’s theme ‘Lions in the Landscape: Celebrating CS Lewis’ love of NI’s beautiful places’ draws inspiration from CS Lewis life and the wonder of the natural world – particularly NI’s wilder landscape. We will be joined at PoSA by ‘Songbuddies’ under the direction of Laura Plummer, with rehearsed readings of new work as part of the feature.

As always everyone is invited to bring and share a piece – poem, story, song etc – of their own or a favourite. Work that meets the theme is entirely optional, and while the workshop is inspired by the theme of this event there is no need to have attended the workshop to read at PoSA, or, indeed, to attend at Kilbroney if you attend the workshop.

More info about the group here: https://lettersfromladyn.wordpress.com/words-for-castle-ward/ – I ask that people let me know if they will be attending on wordsforcastleward@gmail.com so that I have a sense of numbers.

Next session – 16 Nov – feedback session

‘Where does it hurt?’ – #lettersfromladyn #Herodotus

One Eyewitness

Where does it hurt?

Not here in Eygpt

where, with an enthusiastic mind,

our son of Mnemosyne

is blown away by Nile boats.

“Their boats with which they carry cargoes” he reports “are made of the thorny acacia, of which the form is very like that of the Kyrenian lotos, and that which exudes from it is gum. From this tree they cut pieces of wood about two cubits in length and arrange them like bricks, fastening the boat together by running a great number of long bolts through the two-cubit pieces; and when they have thus fastened the boat together, they lay cross-pieces[81] over the top, using no ribs for the sides; and within they caulk the seams with papyrus. They make one steering-oar for it, which is passed through the bottom of the boat; and they have a mast of acacia and sails of papyrus. These boats cannot sail up the river unless there be a very fresh wind blowing, but are towed from the shore: down-stream however they travel as follows: they have a door-shaped crate made of tamarisk wood and reed mats sewn together, and also a stone of about two talents weight bored with a hole; and of these the boatman lets the crate float on in front of the boat, fastened with a rope, and the stone drag behind by another rope. The crate then, as the force of the stream presses upon it, goes on swiftly and draws on the “baris” (for so these boats are called), while the stone dragging after it behind and sunk deep in the water keeps its course straight. These boats they have in great numbers and some of them carry many thousands of talents’ burden”. (Herodotus: Histories Book 11: Euterpe)

But here where time has travelled far

beyond the reach of memory.

They haven’t seen so don’t believe.

‘No ribs’ what did that even mean?

And here – 2,469 years hence –

where a ‘shipwreck’ breaches

the Nile’s surface, and fits the description,

as set down, of the mythical ‘Baris’.

Not here, stranger

but no fiction, Herodotus

dead, his credibility long defeated,

sings with Arion, the renowned harpist –

and one recounts to the other that fabled journey

on the back of a dolphin to safety at Taenarum.

Note: I wrote this earlier in the year – inpsired by a tweet or an article ‘exonerating’ Herodotus following the refloating of the shipwreck of what is very likely a Baris in the Nile. I’m not sure why I had a fancy to share it here today.

WfCW dates, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, @Down_Arts Courses and more local writing activities! #downpatrick #lecale #ballynahinch #countydown

Autumn Season round up of development opportunities for writers in the area as has become my custom! Here are a selection of activities welcoming participation.

New dates for Words for Castle Ward

For your diary, our next dates are:

All saturdays, 11am to 12.30pm (with a tendency to run on a bit..)

14 Sept (Feedback) 14 Sept (Feedback), 12 October (new writing), 16 November (feedback – please note not 2nd Saturday), 14 December (feedback) 11 May (Feedback), 8 June (New Writing), 10 Aug (Feedback), 14 Sept (Feedback)

Venue: The Education Suite, National Trust Castle Ward.

Further information about the group HERE. If you are on social media like our FB page HERE.


Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Our next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is on 29 May, 2.30-4.30pm at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick with the usual warm invitation to share your own work. In our featured spot is Gerry McCullough whose first novel, Belfast Girls, (Night Publishing, 2010), was a #1 bestseller on paid UK Kindle. It was republished in 2012 by Precious Oil Publications, who went on to publish 14 other books by Gerry, including 4 collections of her popular stories of the lovable rogue Old Seamus (available in Amazon paperback and Kindle editions). In addition to her prose work, Gerry is an award-winning and widely published short story author and poet. She lives just outside Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, is married to singer-songwriter, writer, radio presenter and publisher Raymond McCullough, and has four children.. All welcome. The event is free to attend and no booking is required. More information: http://www.downartscentre.com

Date for your diary: Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is on the move for our November session. Put a hold on November 17 for a second celebration of all things CS Lewis at Kilbroney. Times and further details tbc.


Autumn Writing Courses at Down Arts Centre

Wednesday is writing day at Down Arts Centre. The autumn instalment of two great creative writing classes begin in late September (25 May) for ten weeks. Creative Writing, 7-9pm, facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly, is a workshop-based class for all with an interest or a practice of writing, whether poetry, prose or playwriting. ‘I have a story in me…’ (1.30-3.30pm) is particulary for those with an interest in writing for children. Author/artist/illustrator Kieron Black will help you get your story from daydream to workable plot! Info/booking on 028 4461 0747 or in person at the during Centre opening hours. Find further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


New Group in Ballynahinch Library

A new monthly group has started up in Ballynahinch Library. Facilitated by author Kerry Buchanan, the group is open to all levels and abilities and meets the second Monday of each month from 12noon-13.30pm. Enquire at the library for further details.



The River Mill Writers’ Retreat

Need some time out to progress your writing or background research but can’t go too far? The ultimate Couty Down writers’ staycation, The River Mill is on the Ballyclander Road (between DPK and Killough) and offers both retreat opportunities and one-day or longer workshops. Check out the website for details of what’s available and what’s coming up in terms of courses. Details HERE.


Not the queue for Words for Castle Ward 🙂 – Antiques Roadshow being filmed here in July.


#PeaceandProsperity – Remembering #Woodstock and the Summer of ’69

‘We are stardust, we are golden – and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden…’ – Woodstock, Joni Mitchell

Like Joni Mitchell I didn’t get to Woodstock. By the time I got here even, they were doing the last of the clear up operation at Yasgur’s Farm after the ‘Aquarian Exposition: 3 days of Peace and Music’. Even if I was a bit late to that party, I wonder – with a small nod to astrology – if there is anything in the signature of a time imprinting on those born in or close to it. Whether or not, I’ve always been a little bit on the high watch for the dawning of the age of Aquarius, and in my roots, a flower child. If the choice had been mine, I definitely would have chosen to be born in the ’60s and in that somewhat difficult fin de decade way – 1969 was an ‘interesting‘ time to be newborn.

Golden anniversary of a year

‘Then can I walk beside you? / I have come here to lose the smog / and I feel to be a cog in something turning’

The ‘Summer of ’69’ – with its June Stonewall Riots, then all eyes on the Moon in July and then the largesse of a huge gathering on a farm calling for an end to war, and happening in the name of peace, love and music in August. As 2019 rolls out it’s 50th anniversary hashtag parade, it appears the whole year was calling out for a better world. I love that Johnny Cash’s Fulsom Prison album was also recorded in that year.

And an aside for those who know me particularly well, the great companion of my childhood – the dog I never had and his beatnik companions – Scooby Doo’s first episode aired in September 69 – reminding us all, for a half century, that there’s more to be feared among the living. Some things do not get old.

Offering a Peace Sign to mark this year

‘I don’t know who I am / but, you know, life is for learning.’

Due to circumstances – seen and unforeseen – I’ve opted to dodge the door into the next decade until I am firmly installed. For various reasons presently, but also because my birth-time and birthdays beyond has managed to coincide with difficult personal and wider circumstances that have touched my life. Decade changes seem to amplify that. However, I’ve gotten by with a lot of help from my friends’ – and I’m looking forward to celebrating all things to be grateful for that big birthdays bring to the surface in due course.

“And I dreamed I saw the bombers /Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies / Above our nation”

However, I would be sad to leave Woodstock, and all it stands for, this month, this year, where I am now, go by without some kind of mention.

So if you are reading this and you fancy it, do something for yourself or for other/s, in the name of peace, love, joy, bliss, music and/or prosperity*.

*I was a teen in the ’80s with all of its corporations+cocktails vibe, so my boho chic comes complete with shoulder pads, faux plastic jewellery, and too much insight into the impact of recession.

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