Landing Places @CrescentArts (29 July, 8pm) – #saveheaneycountry #A6winwinsolution


Come join #SaveHeaneyCountry for a beautiful Heaney-themed evening celebrating our natural & cultural heritage

Poet, playwright and photographer Maria McManus is spearheading the gathering of poets, spoken word artists and musicians for this fundraiser at the Crescent Arts Centre. (BOOK HERE).

Lough Beg

The strand at Lough Beg, one of the most epic, serene landscapes in Ireland, and practically hidden from view, is one of the last great undisturbed wetlands in Ireland. Alive with some of the rarest species of plants and birds in Europe, archaeologists tell us that the now endangered whooper swan has come to Lough Beg from Iceland for 80,000 years…to overwinter and to breed.

This is the landscape that nourished, obsessed and inspired perhaps the greatest literary figure of the twentieth century, Seamus Heaney.  However, landscape in which the thematic triumphs of Nobel Prize winning literature are located: Mossbawn, Anahorish, Lagan’s Road, The Broagh, Creagh, places immortalized by Heaney, now face the prospect of 22,000 vehicles per day, motorway bridges & further development.

Now more than ever we need to protect our last few wild places and our cultural heritage.

The protection of Lough Beg & a creative solution to the rerouting of the A6

Judges will make a final decision on the fate of Lough Beg on 11th August 2017.  One couple have fought this in a David & Goliath battle and they need your financial and moral support. This is your chance to help them save Lough Beg and protect it for future generations. #SaveHeaneyCountry are fully in support of better road infrastructure for ‘west of the Bann’ but feel that with thought and creativity a win-win solution can be found to reroute this small 4mile section away from this precious habitat and with the recently built Homeplace Centre the value of this special landscape can truly be realised.

We hope you can make it on the night but, if not, do consider donating to the campaign clicking here.


Time to Change – #NIMHAFF2017

‘Hold them cheap. May ne’er hung there’ wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins in one of his terrible sonnets. If April is poetry awareness month, mental health belongs to May.

On now (16-29 May), the Northern Ireland Mental Health, Arts and Film Festival – is specifically there to celebrate mental health but also to foster sustaining creative connections between the arts and the world of mental/health.

On the talking about it front, I want to flag up that there are spoken word/poetry and word-based events on the programme.

I am hoping to be able to be part of a ‘A Phoenix Longing’ – a showcase of poetry from an anthology in the process of becoming that is taking place at the Arts and Disability Forum on Saturday 27 May, 11am-1pm. (I have a little difficulty with the timing so have my fingers crossed). I’ll be there in spirit in any case because the compilers have very kindly used the title of my poem as the event title, and indeed the title of the anthology. My phoenix longed for company and it would be great if you were available to attend.

Saturday, 27 May, is a day for poetry on the festival programme and there is a workshop with Poetry NI, and then a reading, in the afternoon at Eastside Visitor Art Centre.

There’s a Red Pill Showcase on this Saturday (20 May) that’s  on the theme- and some great films on the programme also! And, of course, it’s wider than words..

   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
(Windhover (final stanza) – Gerald Manley Hopkins)


Poetry Connects ‘Coast to Coast’ – #PoetryDayIreland event @LyricBelfast


Taking place at 1pm on 27th April, The Lyric Theatre, Belfast, in conjunction with Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive, is set to celebrate Poetry Day Ireland with a lunchtime reading by Ross Thompson and myself. The reading will combine archive material from the Digital Film Archive with spoken word contributions from both of us. It’s a free event taking place in the Cafe Bar – and will also include classic archive material featuring Seamus Heaney and John Betjeman. More information HERE.

About the Digital Film Archive

Launched in November 2000 as part of the British Film Institute (BFI) Millennium Project, Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive (DFA) is a free public access resource for teachers, students, historians and anyone who has an interest in moving images. It contains over 90 hours of moving images about life in pre- Partition Ireland and Northern Ireland from 1897 to 2014. There are items covering drama, animation, documentaries, news, newsreels, amateur and actuality film. Unlike other regional film archives across the United Kingdom, the Digital Film Archive is entirely digital and does not maintain a physical archive of film. Browse the DFA HERE.

About the ‘Coast to Coast’ project

Ross and I were involved in just one element of the wider ‘Coast to Coast’ project, currently in progress, which showcases Northern Ireland’s profound relationship with the coast and sea and its impact on our society and culture.

We were both (independently) commissioned to create spoken word pieces in response to moving image content drawn from the archive. These pieces are incorporated into short films which combine both elements. It is one of a series of initiatives to highlight this wonderful resource.

On the back of a February wind

On the 2nd – also a Thursday – with a gale blowing and weather warnings all along the North Coast stretching down to the Portaferry Road, candles lighting here, I settled to watch a happy number of hours of coastal footage from the archive.  It was an incredible privilege to have access to this and it was easy to lose myself in it . Like so many, I have a real draw to water and I have always lived close to bodies of water which lead out into sea. I also find documentary film-making – whether silent or with narration – a sort of poetry in its own right.  By the next morning, I had the first draft written and ready to be edited with the help of Downpatrick’s resident seagull choir whose memories stretch back to before the tidal barrier, and are insistent that this town is still coastal. I am really looking forward to seeing both finished pieces and the wider ‘Coast to Coast’ project as it emerges.

My thanks to all who have been involved.

Image: The above image is Steamboat Quay, Quoile Pondage, Downpatrick. Quick note to say that it’s not part of the archive.