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

@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.

72 Seasons: Poetry, Precision and Three Lines that are True for #NaPoWriMo 2019 – #lettersfromladyn

“At first their names too were borrowed from the Chinese, meaning that they did not always conform to the vagaries of our local climate. Eventually, in 1685, the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai revised them and in their present form they now serve to illustrate a natural, poetic pilgrimage through the ever-changing landscape of the Japanese year!”

Read more:
Narcissi & Mini Proseco Bottle

Happy Poetry Month and hoping this finds you well! For the last couple of years I have set myself a daily poetry practice for what has become Global Poetry Month based around the tristich or three-line stanza. I’m working with in the three-line format again this year. From 1-30 April, my plan-of-action is to create a three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. Unlike other years, I am using the older proponents of haiku as my mentors with their focus on close observation and their trust in the moment-as-it-is and with an emphasis (though not strictly observed in my case) on the natural world. A nod here too, as always, to the go-between that is Imagism. I’ll post them here on the blog every 10 days. What follows is a kind of meandering meditation on the motivaion behind this year’s approach.

Clear Sight: The Comfort of Close Observation

‘May you live in interesting times’

– Chinese curse

Poetry, precision and small acts of truth telling are on my agenda through the month. I’m trialling this as a kind of medicine. I have worked in the digital world through information/ communications/ marketing roles for almost a quarter of a century – mostly in the voluntary, community and arts sectors. Starting with web content management and listserv administration and graduating to social media and mobile platforms in line with changes in technology. The last few years in particular has seen an unimaginable rise in information sharing, and the task of Sisyphus that is discerning whether what is being shared has the marks of truth or not.

À la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien..’ This early part of the 21st Century is, in every sense of the word, ‘interesting’. In the noughties I carried out an act of translation of Apollinaire’s ‘Zone’ – By which I mean I tried to really understand his movement through Europe early in the 20th Century, and what it’s translation-defying first and last lines were really saying, through reading everything I could get my hands on about it and all translations.

One of the commentators suggested that the start of new centuries tend to be turbulent. I’m adding my two cents worth having lived through and celebrated the change to the New Millenium, that the human spirit in those moments of momumental, but not naturally occurring, changes of calendar tends to register possibility in the new and try to ‘future proof’ so that the mistakes of the catastrophic past might not be carried into this ‘clean slate’ type new epoch.

There is no clean slate. There is now, I think, a sense of vacuum. A sense of having looked hard at the past with the wish to not recreate it, but like a horse refusing at a fence, there is a shying away from the normal task and pattern of ‘creating’ that future. I don’t know about you but I’ve often observed that while the demons from the past dance in the present, the first stirrings of the future also haunt this same premises. There they caday about together, as it were, in a fairly uncomfortable manner and are hard to organise into go or stay. And while a ten year plan may seem daunting to the average cricket, a whole millennium’s worth of forward planning, including the hope for Utopia, is beyond the human imagination. Quo Vadis. Cue the fake news artists, the snake oil sellers, and Chicken-Licken wired to the moon.

It is the end of the world as we know it. That is, of course, the true and ongoing part. In my humble opinion, however, what needs enquiry is the place where the desire ward off an impending cataclysm (I have quite a list from global to personal, as I expect you do) meets the desire to create a some sense of workable future. For me, this is aided by a clear-sighted look at the what’s here now. More simply put, information about seasonal fluctuation, no matter how reliable it may be in the location those seasons occur, aren’t at all as useful if a body is actually living somewhere else.

Foresight: Truth and the Future

“We are so far from knowing all the agents of nature and their diverse modes of action that it would not be philosophical to deny phenomena solely because they are inexplicable in the actual state of our knowledge. But we ought to examine them with an attention all the more scrupulous as it appears more difficult to admit them.” (also translated as ‘The weight of evidence should be proportioned to the strangeness of the facts’).

Pierre-Simon Laplace

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

Carl Sagan

Foresight, as no one ever said, is 20/20 vision, like poet and prophet is the same word in some language which I forget now. This is in the category of a lovely lie I was once told (here as convenient lie is to the inconvenient truth, the lovely lie is to the plain truth) by someone who knew how to conjure and wield words you’d be forgiven for wanting to be true.

In the midst of all this début de siècle hubbub it’s hard to get an idea of what is actually going on. If truth is that which is in accordance with a sense of fact or acuality (broad brush strokes…), how is the truth related to the future?

I have a fascination with all things divination. Longer than I can remember. My first beloved toy was a small blue lion with a sunlike mane that I called ‘Leo’. Tea leaves, tarot, divining rods, crystals, horoscopes, dead sea scrolls, ‘gifts’ of extra sensory perception, bibliomancy, Novenas, apple cores, the yarrow, Nostradamus, Cathbad, John Dee, scrying… I once did a poetic listing for my own entertainment and to show that pretty much every stick and stone was inspiring some ‘fortune-teller’ somewhere to have a revelation or insight. I think this fascination is true for almost all those who write poetry, even those who ‘doth protest too much’.

It’s also the province of crack-pots, conspiracy theorists, the business of government and corporate strategists. (In the interest of full disclosure, my academic training is in the area of business strategy – creating sustainable prosperity going forward – whether at the level of individual firm, sector, and national state).

For me it’s a triangular, or maybe a circular interest. If you look at the places where alchemy, religion and science cross lines you find that the emphasis on ‘that which is not yet known or is potentially unknowable’ – whether actual or future – sticks an exceptionally creative stick in the wheel. The drive to see around corners, to know the unknowable, to explain the inexplicable, makes the task to get the wheel in forward motion very compelling.

Whether increasing the probability of beneficial outcomes, a get-rich scheme, or a hope for immortality, this drive has configured all we know about our known world. In the mainstream, the forecasters – from frameworks to assess probablity of future outcomes to news programme pundits, are the voices crying out in the desert for better understanding of what is going on now in order to create a more favourable negotiation of circumstances at some time that is not here yet, given that what is not here yet may have some of its own elegant tricks up its epoch sleeves.

Nevertheless when I am inspired to write poetry, it has never yet been in the spirit of ‘prepare ye’ with a Michaelangelo-like sketch of a helicopter in the margins. I have rarely seen this type of poem and I’d probably, with no harm to the writer, not choose to read much further if I did. For me, there are clear lines between poetry and prophecy. The reason that I’m talking about it now is, however, that by the matter of clear transcribing of what is the poem-coming-into-being, there is a hard to account for, after the fact, enlightening sense of prescience which I am far from alone in experiencing as a writer, which is why the digging ground of the two being the same is an argument for which I can make a case.

So that’s a long winded walk back to where the car is parked.

The Three-line Trick

This year’s NaPoWriMo practice is a small good thing. That’s all it is. Day-by-day observation of what is there – poetry and precision. On the one hand, a good discipline in the kind of precision that is connective tissue in poetry and makes it long-lived. On the other, a kind of grounding, anchoring, that may be at least a tracking of the truth in reference to a present actual rather than the past or projected fears – which have their place, but here in the sense of being able to discern what is likely to yield good information going forward. A practice that while remaining true to itself also transforms simply by being recorded and where no transformation has actually happened in real terms.

Touch, don’t observe – #worldbrailleday @LabelLib @acniwriting #tbt

Today (4 Jan 2019) is World Braille Day and I have just taken up the RNIB’s offer to have a visual representation of my name in braille to raise awareness of braille (RNIB Connect Podcast) and happily remembering getting a better sense of braille last year.

2018-04-25 13.26.26

Label lit/Poetry Day 2018 ‘Poetry Surprises’

I loved being part of this initiative for National Poetry Day ’18 – taking to Downpatrick with a handful of labels to be found in places where poetry would not be normally found.

The individual micro-poems/labels were drawn from a deconstructed poem (reconstructed below) that I had written for a curating poetry course.

The poem’s curation element was born out of my frustration at the behind-glass at-a-distance visual presentation of art, particularly constructed or 3D artforms, where individual pieces seemed to silently scream from behind the glass, or whatever out-of-reach space, about how the best part of their innate artistic communiation was in the form of physical interaction which was prohibited.  I was also, in my own writing practice, experimenting with the sense of touch – that self-same physical interaction (skin-to-skin contact being the most profoundly inspirational but in my workshop experiments it was objects which were called upon to share their inspirational qualities through the medium of the fingers, the palms, the skin).

Working with the PageTurners – a creative writing group drawn from the RNIB NI membership – the idea of creating labels with a braille element presented itself to me. I am still so grateful to the RNIB braille team for responding to my strange request and so quickly. They said two things which I have filed away for future use. One is that braille isn’t as commonly known as it was by virtue of the advance in technology and the other is that I could, if I was a bit more organised, have organised actual brailled labels. This might have been a better awareness raising and access strategy – but my curation of braille ‘elements’ was also to invoke the language of touch, raising broader awareness of the predominance of the visual in our lives – and perhaps to create a bridge between the two.

The braille version of poem came back to me in one piece without line-breaks, so in order to create the elements I had to work out the system. I have always loved the feel of braille – words I can touch – but, up to this I hadn’t any idea how to transform the dots and indentations into communication. I am no expert now but I have a better understanding of it and even more respect for it than I had before.

Some more information about Label Lit 2018 by Arts Council NI here (video)

To Have & To Hold: A Curator’s Proposal

Let’s leave the world of the glass display case
Find a way back to our own space
Create a touch tank of the place we inhabit.

Touch       don’t observe

Impressions left on the spoon-bowl palm
Of the hand – a sustaining pleasure
Of weight and size and texture.

Touch       but with care

There are boundaries here to consider
How best to hold what’s fixed, passing through
All that contains you?

Touch      these four walls

Doors   windows   keep vigilant
For anywhere that feels like confinement
Ask yourself is this what home is?

Holds you

‘Things you find when Hiding’ – Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, Narnia Festival, 18 Nov, 2.30-4.30pm

“So you’ve been hiding, have you?” said Peter. “Poor old Lu, hiding
and nobody noticed! You’ll have to hide longer than that if you want
people to start looking for you.” – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


Poems on a Sunday Afternoon: Things you Find when Hiding.

Cloughmore Centre, Kilbroney Events Space, 60 Shore Road, Rostrevor, BT34 3DQ

Sun 18 November, 2.30-4.30pm

All are invited to a special CS Lewis themed, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon taking place in the Cloughmore Centre on Sunday, 18 November, 2.30-4.30pm.
‘Poems on Sunday Afternoon’ is a longstanding event which normally takes place at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick where we offer a warm welcoming space for everyone to come and share their own writing or a favourite, whether poem, story or song – and host a featured reading.

For this event, and in keeping with the Narnia Festival, we invite you to come and share written pieces – poems, stories, songs – relating to the general theme of hiding. The theme is inspired by the fact that the children in the Narnia Chronicles tended to find entry points to Narnia while hiding out – whether in play, or in fear – in their own world. Please note this theme is a guideline for the afternoon but work on this theme is by no means a necessity.

Featured Reading: Colin Dardis

Colin Dardis is a poet, editor and arts coordinator. His work has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and the US. the x of y, his debut full-length collection, was released in May ’18 from Eyewear Publishing.

Having had a childhood speech impediment, attending speech therapy classes throughout primary school, Colin’s initial interest in language and words grew out of this formative experience. His personal history of depression and mental illness is also an ongoing influence on his work. Known for his devotion to supporting and developing the Northern Irish poetry scene, he was one of Eyewear’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2016, an ACES ’15-16 recipient from Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and recently shortlisted in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2018. Colin co-runs Poetry NI, a multimedia platform for poets in Northern Ireland.

All welcome, no booking required. Further information from

This event is part of the Narnia Festival on this weekend, supported by Newry, Mourne Down District Council – find further events on the Cloughmore Centre’s Facebook page. Little promo for the centre HERE.