Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is 10 – @Down_arts #Downpatrick 30 September

6tag-3088414843-1483269340422047431_3088414843For men may come, and men may go / But I go on forever. – Tennyson

The fact is the assocation between writer’s collective ‘Write! Down’ and Down Arts Centre is actually longer than a decade. The first of the ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ forerunners was a Burn’s Night in 2005 (in or around).

Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Another fact is, I am a little hazy on the day and date that Rachel Kennedy, then Arts Officer with Down Arts Centre, rang me at my Voluntary Arts Ireland desk based then at English Street, Downpatrick, to ask whether Write! Down would be interested in a proposition she had for DAC and Write! Down to partner.

On the plane home from an AMA conference she told me, there had been a discussion about Sunday afternoons and what might work well in programming terms in that time slot and she’d had an idea.  I agreed, on behalf of everybody, with this idea – immediately and wholeheartedly.

The format – a platform for writing in this area, a showcase of new writers, and new writing by established authors and a connection point for those interested in writing in all its forms locally;  a featured reading and a shared space where all were welcome to share a their own work (poem, story, song) or a favourite – drawn from the Write! Down way of being in the world, has not changed to any great degree through the ten years of its existence.

Plus ça change

While Sunday Poems or PoSA as it is better know to its regulars has retained its motives and make-up, almost everything else has changed. Write! Down – a dynamic combination of Maria McManus and myself, joined by Matt Kirkham, Vi and Emma Whitehead and Donal O’Hagan – dispersed after five burgeoning years of operation. Rachel Kennedy took up a new post as Director of Eastside Arts, I can’t think of any of the current ‘regulars’ who were with us at the very start – even Down Arts Centre itself was remodelled and reconstructed in the time period (leading to some very interesting other venues while the work was in progress).

Austerity Times

Some of those were difficult years. A number of years in, the first ‘austerity’ cuts came in, and like the canaries in the coalmine, the voluntary and arts sector were the first to get a foretaste of what has become the new ‘normal’. These cuts had a lot of reprecussions, the loss of key funding for Write! Down being one. However, with Down Arts Centre’s continuing support – and the sense that this was a small but valued initiative – we have rode out the bad and enjoyed the good by turns. I had my own difficult times – though I haven’t, to date, missed any PoSA event (with thanks to Vi Whitehead who on a number of occassions came with the express purpose of taking up the reins in the event of me keeling over) – and the upshot of that is that I didn’t record anything. My memory is a blur of featured readings, first time at the podium for new readers (many of whom have gone from strength to strength), acts of the most incredible bravery by ‘ordinary’ people for whom PoSA has been a vehicle to share heartfelt and/or difficult life experiences creatively, beautifully, and an almost divine generosity between attendees, and a very strange almost expected, synchronicity of theme that arrives without any invitation on almost every occassion.

Reading isn’t Compulsory

Despite what you may have heard. But the thing is, when everybody is responding to the noble call, it’s hard to sit it out. From my silent teenage years, I know what it was like to burn to be part of things and to have my own self-consciousness cut me off at the pass. It’s like the First Nation’s talking stick – there seems to be something not quite right until all voices have shared, even one’s own. So I do love it when people share their work or favourites that have moved them.  And PoSA continues to be a very supportive space for that all important ‘first time’.

From Featured to Fabulous

Again it isn’t compulsory to go from strength to strength, having been featured in the ‘featured space’ – however, that has been about the size of it. I’m again cursing myself now for not having kept a record because every time I think about a poet or author in the area or connected to the development of writing locally, I think – ‘oh yes’ they read (or sung) here at one time. Both Brigid O’Neill and Damian Smyth, who are with us for the celebration, are both returners. Meeting the new work of established writers criteria, renowned Downpatrick poet (among other things) Damian Smyth, read from ‘English Street’ in it’s earlier stages at an earlier PoSA. It feels very good to be launching the full collection here.

All the thanks

To be honest, it’s been a cast of thousands. My thanks to Write! Down – more loose affiliation than collective now but still the connections are all there – and to all involved in Words for Castle Ward, which is the operating partner currently, and the most generous heart of the Sunday Poems afternoons.

An almighty thanks to all who have come and shared your work. Everyone. Entertaining, heartfelt, heartbreaking, brave, engaged, campaigning, gifted. You never know who will come through the door or who has been touched by the words that have been shared. To those who have come once, those who came for years and then let it slip away, those who have been coming these last few years, those whose first time will be the next one, those who always mean to get there and will one of these days – you are what makes this what it is.

To the featured readers, thanks for bringing your best work and selves to this space. It has been heard and appreciated, with a particular word of thanks to the writing group features. There has always been a lovely sense of natural networking (oh how I hate that term) about PoSA and a sense of the whole writing project as being valid and ongoing by your being there.

To the staff of Down Arts Centre, the biggest thanks of all for all the support over the years – Rachel, Denise, Donna, now Janine,  keeping the show on the road with their seasonal calls for the next PoSA events, marketing them, supporting the endeavour in every way. Sunday Afternoon isn’t exactly the most delightful time to be coming into work and, I need to express big appreciation to those who work the slot – Rita at the beginning, now Greg and many more – with a great deal of enthusiasm, and excellent refreshments, and patience with the amount of chatting that could happen at the end of the afternoon.

Celebrate with Us

All that is a rambling preamble (which may function as some kind of future record) to invite everybody to join the 10th anniversary celebrations on 30 September at Down Arts Centre.

Shared Space, 2.30pm – 4.30pm: At this, as all previous events, you are invited to share your own work or a favourite as usual. We are delighted to be joined by local songwriter Brigid O’Neill whose own song writing career we have watched go from strength to strength over the past ten years.

Featured Reading, 5-6pm: We are delighted to welcome internationally recognised poet Damian Smyth for a local launch of his most recent collection English Street (Templar Poetry: 2018). This is his sixth collection follows Mesopotamia (2014), Market Street (2010), Lamentations (2010), The Down Recorder (2004) and Downpatrick Races 2000.

All is FREE, doesn’t need to be booked in advance, and while we’d love you for the whole event, this PoSA is constructed so that you can come to all or either parts. More info from wordsfromcastleward@gmail.com if you need.

Final Words

In the event that this sounds like I am going away on a long trip, I am delighted to announce that PoSA goes on tour for the first time in November. The show goes to Kilbroney Park (indoors I need to say) on the 18 November as part of the CS Lewis Festival. We are delighted to have Colin Dardis in the featured spot reading from his recently launched collection ‘the xofy’ and the shared space has a loose theme of ‘things you find when hiding’ – inspired by a tendency for people to find incredible things when hiding out from something else that you find in CS Lewis writing. And.. January’s PoSA is also going to be very interesting…but one season at a time… Slow and steady had definitely got us through this decade.

PoSA10

Image at head of piece: ‘Time Bug’ by Emma Whitehead.

 

 

 

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‘Experimental Procceses’ Launch Invite – @theduncairn #Belfast 13 Sept 6-8pm

Very inspiring to have had the opportunity to work with artist Lucy Turner on what is shaping up to be a stunning exhibition which brings together Irish Linen, shibori practice, indigo dye, and things found/gathered from the natural world and the artist’s evolving practice: with poetry from Words for Castle Ward associated writers as we worked in and through the weave of Lucy’s experimental processes.

My thanks to the writers who assembled for what was our ‘normal’ June new writing workshop and have stayed the course through the process.

Words for Castle Ward writers include Shirley Bork, Olive Broderick,  Colin Dardis, Helen Hastings, Wilma Kenny, Malcolm Kidd, Robert Kirk, Geraldine O’Kane, Alison Ross, and  Henry Shaw.

The full sequence REBORN created from this workshop is by turns affecting, beautiful and thoughtprovoking. Lucy has drawn words from this and incorporated them into artwork.

A word of thanks is due to Debbie Young at Duncairn Arts and Cultural Centre who originally invited meand Lucy in for a conversation/consultation about the possibilities around visual / literary art collaboration, and to the staff at Castle Ward who so generously make their Education facility available for the Words for Castle Ward’s monthly workshops –  and who have been very supportive of this initiative which has seen not only the writers, but Lucy herself, drawing inspiration from this beautiful National Trust property on the shores of Strangford Lough.

Really looking forward to seeing the full exhibition on the 13th September, 6=8pm. Launch reception invite below and all are very warmly invited.Lucy's invite FINAL

The Power of Words – marking #HolocaustMemorialDay 2018

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“I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me. When I write I can shake off all my cares; my sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!

Anne Frank, written in her diary, 5 April 1944.

I read Anne Frank’s diary at about the same age as she would have been writing it. I knew about the Holocaust at that stage and when my father gave this book to me to read  I suppose it was that dimension of it that he was thinking. I, however, became totally immersed in this girl’s story, her family, and her wish to become a writer that I forgot the bigger picture of this kindred spirit’s one, incredibly significant, publication.

I remember arriving at the back page, the epilogue of sorts, and reading about what happened to her with such disbelief and heartbreak. I thought that such writing would make my friend-across-time immune to such an end. But it didn’t. The vibrant girl in the Amsterdam annex has stayed with me.

Just one voice. How it’s been a witness for not just her or her family but to an atrocity – an abuse of human rights – the scale of which I cannot imagine.

I worked in my twenties to build up a small specialist library on the subject of equality (and discrimination) in third level institutions. I read a lot, between the cataloguing of them and setting them on the shelf, of books dedicated to defining and removing the processes of discrimination between classes and types of people. I learned how words can be dropped in to drive a wedge between ‘them’ and ‘us’ and where that leads.

My professional path through life, also brought me a series of lectures, as a student of marketing, on propaganda, this precursor to our ‘post-truth’ era. – the reality of it – the attempt to establish some kind of ‘good’ line between what it is and what actions it produces and words generated to tempt people to buy goods and services.

Words. Words before action. The power of words to influence action. Words that can be used for good or for evil – as this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day literature reminds us.

I set the intention always now – no matter what I am writing – from poems to advertisting copy – that good, safe and life-affirming outcomes may follow on from my words.

The Power of Words – Holocaust Memorial Day 2018

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place annually on the 27 January – the aniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. It marks not only the Holocaust but is a day to remember the millions of people murdered in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. It is a chance to honour the survivors, and to work to challenge hatred and create a safer, better future.

It is a privilege to be involved on this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day Programme with its ‘Power of Words’ theme.

AFTERWORD: Thanks to all who took part in both events. I very much appreciate you being there, and the energy that you brought to the events.

Creative Writing Workshop (Down County Museum, 27 January 2018, 10am-1pm, FREE).

This poetry writing workshop will give participants the chance to create pieces exploring the theme. I’m looking forward to meeting the participants tomorrow. If your eye falls across this before the end of today and you’d like to be involved. There are some places – contact: 028 4461 5218

‘Power of Words’ Poems on a Sunday Afternoon (Down Arts Centre, 28 January, 2.30-4.30pm, FREE)

Participants from the workshop are inited to share the work from this event at a special Holocaust Memorial Day ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ happening at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, on Sunday 27 January, 2.30-430pm. This will form the normal ‘feature’ segment of the afternoon.

As always, all who attend are invited to share work – their own or, a favourite (or a mix) – that celebrates the words in all it’s forms and in this case the power of words.

Booking isn’t required. Looking forward to meeting at either or both events all being well.

Do check out the full Holocaust Memorial Trust programme in Northern Ireland, there are some very thought-provoking events, that engage beautifully with the theme, happening this couple of weeks: http://www.hmd.org.uk/events/find/Northern%20Ireland?page=1

I want to thank particulary Shirley from the Trust in Northern Ireland for her support of this event’s programme.

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