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

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 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 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 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

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.


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: – I ask that people let me know if they will be attending on 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:

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.

A note from your half-virgo sponsor

Please take your bliss responsibly!

@lagannavigator – 2019/20 #Waterways Storymaking Festival: Invitation to Groups

Following two incredibly successful editions, the Waterways Storymaking Festival is a firm fixture on the annual calendar – and working towards season no. 3!

If you haven’t already gotten a copy ‘Reflections 2’ – a collection of all of the stories and poems from the Waterways Storymaking Festival 2018/19 – it is now available at £5.00 each from Lagan Navigation Trust. Some of the first ‘Where my River Flows’ anthology may also be available for purchase if you are interested. Contact for more information.


In anticipation of its third festival, Lagan Navigation Trust are now welcoming contact from groups – creative writing groups or community groups of any kind  – who would like the opportunity of having a facilitated workshop with the river as a theme. Easy-going and interesting, the two-hour sessions also provide inspiration and the chance to draft work to submit to next year’s anthology should participants choose. There are prizes in all categories of submission – poem, short story and age category. Primary and Secondary school teachers, does this sound like something that might interest your students?  Contact for more information and to request a workshop for your group or school.

Not in a group? Why not join an open workshop? Storymaking workshops will be running in late Summer through Autumn and will include a number of Open Workshops where everybody is invited to get together and talk, dream and write about waterways including Lagan Navigation. Further details will be available in late Summer.


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.