Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Ghost's Legs

The Ghost's Legs are a metal/rock band and hail from the village of Muff in Donegal. These four local lads have brought their talents together in 2013 to form this group. This is a band clearly influenced by groups such as Nirvana, Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age, Johnny Cash and many more. They do a variety of covers but with an original twist. They also have a selection of their own music which will only grow in 2014.
The Ghost’s Legs played The Rock Bar in Muff last night and no one could possibly argue the potential these four lads surely have. It’s a musical session with a difference. 
They manage to put their own individual take on each song. Even a Johnny Cash number takes on a whole new twist. As for their rendition of George Michaels Faith, one couldn’t help but smile and enjoy! George Michael will never sound the same again!
And as for ‘Wagonwheel’, that dreaded number, it fortunately doesn't make an appearance in the set. However a biscuit wagonwheel managed to fly from the drummer last night across to my table! That was more than enough wagonwheel for one night! My favourite of the night would have to be ‘Tainted Love’. A real trip down the ’80′s memory lane!
Four very talented musicians form this band. Someone said to me last night, ‘that’s not my kind of music, but they are really good’! That’s a pretty good compliment I’d say!
The Ghost’s Legs will no doubt be gigging a lot more in 2014. Keep your eyes peeled for their next date. Keep it going lads. We need more musical gigs like this!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Under The Christmas Tree

The beautiful little church of St Augustine’s, set on the Derry walls, was the setting for what must definitely be one of the highlights of the Christmas season. Last night as the wind howled, and the rain lashed, the 'little church on the walls' was alive with the spoken word and divine music.

UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE is an evening of readings and music to celebrate Christmas. It is titled such based on one of the earliest novels by Jennifer Johnston, The Christmas Tree.

JENNIFER JOHNSTON was joined last night by ANITA ROBINSON, MARILYN MCLAUGHLIN and MARY MURPHY who all read from their own work relating to Christmas. They were joined by poet JENNI DOHERTY and actor MAIREAD MULLAN. 

Musician TREVOR BURNSIDE chose some hauntingly beautiful Christmas airs for the occasion. His interludes between readings were very special.

The Little Church on the Walls and UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE captured a perfect  moment in time in a perfect little venue in the most perfect of settings on the walls. The wonderful performers moved the audience from laughter to tears and back again to laughter. It was an evening of sheer delight and showcased the true spirit of Christmas.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Neo-Natal Unit in Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Inch Days

Inch Days is a collection of poems and paintings by Catherine Canning, and published by Guildhall Press. Catherine is a self-taught artist and winner of the Best Collection of Poetry at the Charles Macklin Autumn School of 2006. Inch Days is her debut collection of verse, complemented by evocative paintings illustrating the calm, rural beauty of Inishowen in Co. Donegal.

Inch Days celebrates the time that the poet lived in a cottage on Inch Island, Co. Donegal. She lived here for a number of years and continues to visit to the present day. The seasons, nature and the experiences of those who lived in the house all feature in her work. She is compelled to write by her own admission and freely enjoys writing down in verse her everyday experiences. In many ways the collection is an autobiography of hers days spent in Inch.

I heard Catherine read and speak recently at an event in the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry and she told a lot of stories about the house featured on the cover of the book. It holds many precious memories for her and these have been captured for eternity in her verse. We the reader are fortunate to also recapture these memories through her poetry and paintings.

'In this collection of my poetry and paintings I attempt to capture my love of nature, of Inch Island and the sense of belonging I felt while living there. Through the pages of this book I hope you, too, will be transported to another time, another place, a walk through my Inch Days, and linger a while to cherish where it takes you.'

We, the reader do indeed cherish where this book takes us. It is tranquil and beautiful in so many ways. Inch Days is available at all good book stores, including Little Acorns and Easons in Derry, priced at £11.95.

Feast or Famine

The book Feast or Famine, by Emmett McCourt was launched earlier this week at The City Hotel Derry. This collection is a publication about food and culinary heritage in the North West of Ireland. Feast or Famine takes a fascinating look at the importance of the North West's cuisine worldwide and has been published as part of the UK City of Culture celebrations, by Guildhall Press.

The book takes its readers on an historical journey of McCourt's North West home-place and explores what makes this part of Ireland such an abundant source of food and drink. He recalls the days when Lough Swilly was the herring capital of the world, when Magilligan was world leader in rabbits and Derry city was producing millions of gallons of whiskey for the United States. As well as this he also records the devastation wrought by the Great Famine in the 1840's.

At the launch on Monday night Emmett McCourt carried out a selection of food demonstrations and had his audience captivated with his attention to detail and his evident love and passion for his work. He left many mouths watering as there was not enough for the large crowds to sample!

This book is filled with history, demonstrations, recipes and a very obvious passion for food and its heritage in the North West. It is awash with beautiful photographs.  It is neither a cookery book nor a history book. It is a combination of both and it takes the reader on a journey. A journey well worth exploring!

Feast or Famine is available in all good book shops priced at £19.95. The perfect gift this Christmas!

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Cut Cast Quartet

On Saturday last I had just left the Playhouse in Derry after seeing one of the year's highlights in theatre. Sam Shepherd's 'A Particle of Dread' had my mind blown away. I was walking along William Street still mulling over what I'd just witnessed when I came upon a 'Gallery'. I hadn't noticed this before. Then it came to me that a friend of mine had told me about this exhibition and I'd forgotten it with all that had just happened.

So theatre was put to the back of my mind and in I went to this 'pop up' Gallery. Immediately I was drawn by the colours and creativity that enveloped the space. There was photography, wood carvings, bronze exhibits and various sculptures.

I was pressed for time so I had to make a rather quick viewing of each. It may have been rushed but I was amazed by what I saw. This was art with a difference. When we enter an art gallery we expect to see paintings on a wall. This was so much more.

I then had to ask myself who or what is The Cut Cast Quartet? So I took to their information leaflet to find my answer. These artists are Philip McFadden and George Doherty from Derry, and Jess McSparron and Kevin McLaughlin from Donegal. George Doherty shows a sequence from the Replacement series, sculptures which paraphrase the new. Philip McFadden taxes and overthrows the grace and favour of the iconic bronze bust. Kevin McLaughlin makes sculpture and takes photographs, his subject are rendered with insight yet discreetly revealed. Jess McSparron twists designs to sculpt forms that emphasise the strengths of natural materials and signal the redundancy of showroom chic.

This is a crossing of borders amalgamated in art and creativity. It is a coming together and a unity in craft. It opens ones eyes and ones heart to the world of art. This exhibition runs in William Street until Friday 20th December 2013. The Gallery will be open from 11am till 5pm Tuesday through to Saturday. Pop along and see for yourself just what they have in store.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Occupy Coleraine - Save the SCR!

Having returned to full time education as a mature student in the noughties, I found myself studying as an undergraduate and then as a post graduate student at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. I have many fond memories of my time there since graduating with my MA in 2010. It was a time of learning, achieving and friendship. I made many friends among my fellow students and the teaching staff alike. I value the folk I continue to keep contact with.

Some of my fondest memories of this time are the evenings and nights spent in the Senior Common Room at Coleraine. It was a place to meet, greet, eat and mingle. It felt very much a part of my studying life.

So I was rather disturbed when I discovered earlier this year that the SCR may be 'no more' very soon. I immediately started reading all the updates current students were posting online and it saddened me that future students and staff may not be able to avail of this facility. I made contact earlier today with some of the students currently involved in the attempt to save the SCR. The following is their feedback to me!

'The Senior Common Room has been in existence since 1968 and is a thriving shared venue where students and staff come together for social and academic events in addition to being an important venue for community clubs and societies. It is one of the last cooperatively run staff/student facilities in the UK higher education system and one of the only remaining community outreach centres on a campus which has been increasingly privatised and off limits to the public.

The Senior Common Room (SCR) is run as a self-financing 
not for profit club open to university staff, students, alumni and associates for a nominal fee.  The university receives rent for the space, there is no financial justification for the closure. The commitment of many of the students and staff who volunteered their time and creative energies over the years has ensured this is a thriving business providing employment for five staff members.
During the years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland the SCR has provided a safe haven for open discussion and mutual understanding free from sectarian divisions that existed elsewhere. Currently the following clubs and societies are based at the SCR Coleraine: 

UUC Rugby Football Club

UUC Fencing Club

Coleraine Bridge Club

UUC Chess Club

Triangle Wine Club 

UUC Canoe Club

Environmental Society

UUC Wine Club

Glitch Gaming Club

The Listening Post - New Live Music (promoting original NI music)

UUC Film Society

UUC Photography Society

UUC Poetry Society 

The SCR represents all that a university ought to stand for, collegiality, scholarship, community outreach and, in light of this, the SCR Coleraine 
has recently acquired Learned Society status. 
University senior management propose to evict us on the 16th December and convert this widely used common space into a corporate dining room. Since the sit-in on Monday university senior management now claims they wish to convert the space to teaching suites. This £3.2M DEL funded project has had no consultation with staff or students or any end user apart from the senior management and the external catering provider. UUSU facilities have been tightly constricted to ensure the profit margin of this external caterer.

For many, the closure and eviction of students and staff from the SCR is the 
final straw in a relentless managerial assault on academic and student life – cuts to staff , outsourcing of jobs, loss of support services, an insulting pay offer of 1% (approx. 3% below cost of living) etc. 

To date, we have had considerable and growing support for the protest, at local and national level. Students, staff and members of the wider community have been actively supportive of our protest. On Wednesday esteemed writer and literary critic Professor Terry Eagleton paid a visit and spoke in support of the sit-in. The Vice Chancellor was invited to this however he did not respond, instead ten minutes into Professor Eagleton’s talk three senior officials from the university Physical resources departments interrupted the proceedings stating that they could have the protesters removed by the PSNI.

To date we've had official statements of support from a number of bodies, including QUB Students Union and the National Union of Students, as well as the University College Union and a variety of trade unions.'




I give my unqualified support to the efforts students and staff involved in Occupy at the Senior Common Room in the University of Ulster, which is threatened with replacement by an 'executive dining-room' - with no plans for or reinstatement in any plausible form. I invite you all to do the same using the amazing social media. 

Which part of "Common Room" do they not understand? How can they be so arrogant as to remove the word 'common' from the living tradition of the university and what do they think will be left when they do so? UU is a special case: a university in a field remote from the nearest town of any size. For decades teachers and postgraduates, as well as campus staffers, have met convivially in this spacious chamber with its gobsmacking view of the Bann estuary. 

A membership association exists and self-standing bar licence has been part of the package since the foundation of the University in its original form as the New University of Ulster. Clubs and associations, as well as visiting lecturers and examiners, are all familiar with its hospitable atmosphere. In a part of the world where commonalty is at a premium (to put it mildly), extracting it from the University is a crime against civility. 

What consultation has gone on when 'executive dining' was preferred to university heart-blood in the machinations of the administration. It is apposite to ask, who do they think they are, if they are not part of the commonwealth of learning?

If the Common Room is to be extirpated in favour of executive dining - be it a university banquet hall or a snack bar for suits - it is incumbent on the Administration to articulate the reasons, just as they should have canvassed the alternatives in the first place. 

As matters stand, the Vice-Chancellor of UU occupies a handsome Victorian pile in leafy Mountsandel, unencumbered by the nuisance of a family or the annoying lowing of cattle. Surely that could be used to advantage to entertain all the executives he wants. I doubt that either Prince Salman Bin Sultan nor Li Keqiang would cock a snoot at his marbled hall or his rolling lawns or his view of the heron-friendly Bann. Think Aras an Uachtarain. Private dwelling for the President of Ireland?

Maybe it's time to figure out what a Chief Executive actually IS, and where it differs from a potentate - Asiatic or otherwise. (No talk of salaries and bonuses, please.)

But hark! Under pressure from Occupy and its vigorous publicity campaign, the UU Admin now tells us that the dining-room plan was a misunderstanding - instead it's gonna be a raft of teaching suites. Oh. Do explain: how does that fit in with the Teaching and Learning strategy for the new millennium? And hasn't it occurred to our planners that the Common Room IS the Teaching Suite par excellence? 

I hope the powers that be have the decency to respect the intentions of the students who have rallied round to defend the best traditions of a very special University which, though not pipped very high on the competitive scale with others in the UK, has always garnered top-rank satisfaction rates from students. Not to mention its long-term contribution to peace in Northern Ireland simply by being the kind of place it is. No technocratic institution with profit motives as its sole criteria could possibly make the same impact. 


Even the appearance of Terry Eagleton in support of Occupy failed to summon an envoy from the Administration in answer to a friendly invitation. Instead, Security arrived with mumblings about Health and Security issues relating to guess what? the inaudibility of fire alarms to sleeping persons. Health and security? Hype and subterfuge, more like it. 

There is a wind-break structure on the Coleraine campus known as "Peter's Erection" by the Common Room wits. If the executive-dining plans goes through, I predict the resultant chamber will be known as "Dickie's Diner" for all future time.

Come to the rescue, lovers of academic freedom in the face of the mindless chutzpah of a self-willed bureaucratic clique.'


Since Monday, December 2nd, a number of students are staging a 'sit in' at the SCR. Follow 'Occupy Coleraine' on facebook and show your support for this very worthy cause. Here's to saving the invaluable space that is the Senior Common Room at Coleraine!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Writes of Spring - Celebrating Age Through Art

Last night saw the launch of a beautiful collection of writing titled 'Writes of Spring'. This is a book of words created from the Arts and Older People's programme 'Celebrating Age Through Art' facilitated by Creggan Enterprises.

Creggan Enterprises, a Social Economy organisation based at Ráth Mór in Derry's Creggan neighbourhood, received funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland under the Arts and Older People's Programme to run a programme of artistic courses for local residents in the Spring of 2013. The 'Celebrating of Age Through Art' project was open to everyone aged fifty or over and the Creative Writing sessions were facilitated, and inspired, by Eamonn Baker.

'Writes of Spring presents a collection of original creative output reflecting in verse and prose the array of life experiences, emotions, and observations teased from these highly enjoyable sessions,' said Eamonn Baker.

Last night we got to hear a number of contributors read their work and enjoy their publishing moment. It was a very emotional night for many as it is their first time in print. This is a lovely collection of words and truly inspirational.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Damien McFadden. Damien's mother Anne was a participant on the project and has three pieces in the collection. Damien died shortly before this publication. One of Anne's pieces is her poem, Just One Flower, which recreates a loving moment from Damien's childhood, and was written during these writing sessions with Eamonn. Eamonn bravely, and proudly, read the poem last night. It touched everyone.

Writes of Spring is published by Guildhall Press and is available to buy at just £4.95.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Laure Prouvost wins Turner Prize 2013

Do you want a cup of tea?
AB: Oh, yes please that would be lovely.
I'm gonna make a tea, so we can all have tea here. We can sit on all the chairs there. You could sit there, someone else could sit there.

This is the introduction to Laure Prouvost's Wantee installation which has just won the Turner Prize 2013. Prouvost herself narrates the entire piece, inviting her audience into her grandparents kitchen. It is an account of how her grandparents would feel about having us visit their home. This film allows us to visit this home.

Wantee is a playful narrative and takes the audience on a documentary style exploration of the life of an eccentric artist. The character of Prouvost's grandfather shares a chaotic and quaint home with his wife, cluttered with works that resulted from creative energy.

The exhibit is at Gallery 2 at Ebrington and it welcomes you in with its dim lighting and the sound of Prouvost's voice narrating. You are at once transformed into a visitor to this chaotic life of Prouvost's grandparents and we witness a collection of various artistic works. You are immediately encaptured into this world and it's exposes emotions of sadness, happiness, energy and fun.

Prouvost was clearly quite shocked on her win tonight. She repeatedly said 'I'm not ready yet'! Prouvost told Channel 4 that this work was 'an incredible project'. It certainly was and is a deserved winner of Turner 2013.

Laure Prouvost is the third non British artist to win this prestigious award. The Turner Prize continues its exhibition at Ebrington until early January 2014.

Lumiere Derry 2013

Four magical winter evenings have just finished in Derry. Nearing the end of it's UK City of Culture year, the city has hosted a wide variety of events which have surpassed all expectation. This past weekend has gone a step further.

Artists and lighting designers turned Derry into a huge outdoor gallery. Familiar buildings and spaces were transformed with light! A magical fire garden proved to be the highlight for most of the 150,000+ visitors.

Artists from France, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Australia, Poland, America and The Netherlands showcased art through various light forms and the city was awash with colour and light.

It was a most amazing spectacle and what made it so outstanding was seeing families walking the city walls by night. Smiles on every face. No one was rushing and everyone strolled along with the crowds. Everyone got time to see every display. The security and assistance was spectacular.

The Derry streets were alive once more with people. Everyone with a shared interest; to celebrate the Lumiere Derry. It was an occasion to walk the streets and just look around you.

This is one festival people will want to see back in Derry. A dazzling city and people bedazzled!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Turner Prize 2013

The Turner Prize 2013 Awards Ceremony will be held tomorrow night at Ebrington. The show will be broadcast live on Channel 4 at 7.30pm and hosted by the delightful Lauren Laverne.

The four contenders for this years award are Laure Prouvost, David Shrigley, Tino Sehgal and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Their exhibits continue to be on display until early January 2014.
The Turner Prize is named after the painter JMW Turner and is an annual award presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50. It is organised by the Tate gallery and is normally staged there. This year has been the first occasion that it has moved out of London. Derry has made this years award historic. Since its origins in 1984 the Turner Prize has become the United Kingdom's most publicised art award.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Christmas is coming to Quigleys Point!

Quigleys Point Community Center is holding its annual Christmas showcase/concert on Sunday 15th of December. The event will take place in the Community Center and commences at 3pm.  

This will be followed with the arrival of the man in red, Santa Claus! Santa will switch on the Christmas Tree lights and meet the little folk also. Donations will be welcomed on the day although no fee will be charged.

There will also be a mini Christmas market with stalls selling crafts and home baking. A Christmas present might be lurking on one of those stalls!

If anyone would like to book a stall, contact 0749383653, email: qpcoe@eircom.net or send a private message via the Quigleys Point Community Center facebook page.

A great evenings fun is guaranteed so bring the family along and get the Christmas cheer underway! What better way to celebrate with the local community and all it's local talent.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Edna O'Brien - at home on the Derry stage!

As part of UK City of Culture 2013, Edna O'Brien was in Derry earlier tonight. She was on stage at the Great Hall in Magee and interviewed by Liam Browne. As O'Brien walked onto the Derry stage it was clear for her audience to see that she was not only delighted to be there, but she appeared right at home.

Having only flown in this evening she told us that as her car travelled to Derry she immediately noticed the greenery around her. She said 'it's just not the same in England'. O'Brien clearly sees Ireland as home and although an exile, like most Irish writers, she never forgets where she came from.

'Ireland is the soul of my writing' she told Liam Browne and it inspires all that I write. Her heart has never left her homeland. O'Brien's most recent collection of short stories, The Love Object, looks back on her life, loves and experiences. She read from this work during the evening but she seemed most comfortable talking about her life and works.

Browne asked a series of questions to which she answered very eloquently and divulged immense information about her life and works. It was so interesting to hear her own thoughts on the backlash and opposition to her first novel The Country Girls. The book was banned in Ireland and there was widespread public confrontation in Limerick. She made a personal appearance there at the time and was fortunate to have a priest from Maynooth take her side. But it wasn't enough, and she was accused of writing a pornographic novel! She laughs at the incident and says 'you have to be able to take all criticism'. She certainly took it on board but continued to write about what she believes in. O'Brien comes across a lot of criticism to her work and yet she writes about what she feels compelled to tell.

During the question time, O'Brien told the audience that she reads a poem every day. 'I also read Shakespeare every day. It's like exercise. You must read the Greats, even though you know you'll never be one of them'. She has a strict routine which she sticks to vigorously.

Edna O'Brien came across tonight as a very intelligent, creative, strong and funny lady. At 82 years of age, she certainly has aged gracefully. She did make the Derry stage her home tonight and she enjoyed the Derry audience every bit as much as they enjoyed her.

A country girl on paper and very much a country girl at heart. As for reading the Greats daily, she is surely one of Ireland's very own Greats!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Black Friday

Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is often regarded as the onset of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers across America and indeed the world offer promotional sales to kick off the holiday season. The day's name originated in Philadelphia, America. It was originally used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which occured on the day following Thanksgiving.

And this year is no exception in the North West of Ireland! Shops across Inishowen and Derry have many offers in store today. One prime example is the Jack and Jones store in the Richmond Centre Derry. They are offering a staggering 25% off all stock today! Many other retailers throughout the area are doing similar. Amazon has huge Black Friday offers online.

So it may just be a good time to kick off the Christmas shopping and start ticking some items off the Santa list! There's some real bargains to be had out there!

North West Words

Cafe Blend in Letterkenny was the place to be earlier tonight for the 'spoken word' and 'music'. North West Words had their monthly meeting and a very successful one it was. The group meet on the last Thursday of every month.

Reading tonight were Guy Le June (Letterkenny) and Jenni Doherty (Greencastle/Derry). Guy read from his work which was initially intended as a short story and is now headed towards novel status. An interesting and intriguing story began to unfold and it left the audience wanting to hear more.

Jenni read a selection of poems from her award winning collection Rain Spill. Her performance proved very entertaining for the audience. She read each piece with passion and a very dedicated love for her work.

They were followed by a musical performance from Sean Feeney and his musicians. They performed from their CD 'Northern Soul'. 'Northern Soul' is a charity album that merges the sound of Soul with Irish traditional music and brings a unique take on the classics! The CD is raising funds for GROW Mental Health Movement and the North West Simon Community.

The night continued with an open mic session.

This was a few hours of culture at its best. The North West of Ireland is very much at the culture fore. North West Words proved that tonight.

Cafe Blend is a delightful cafe in Letterkenny town and the coffee is rather good too! The cakes looked quite appetizing also!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Free 'Wee Library'!

Whilst out walking with my camera in hand this morning I came upon the most unusual sight. A 'Free Wee Library' in Swan Park, Buncrana. As I walked along amidst the amazing colourful path I spotted what looked like an oversized bird house. As I approached it I realised that there were books inside. Then I saw the sign 'Free Wee Library' on the front.

This is an excellent service. As one strolls along Swan Park, one can open the latch of the library door and take a book. All they ask is that you return when finished. A great selection of bookmarks are also inside.

There are many beautiful spots along this way to sit and read. On such a beautiful autumnal day it would be idyllic to sit on one of the park benches and lose oneself inside the pages of a good novel. How wonderful to have this choice.

So if you're out walking in Buncrana do go along to Swan Park and see this amazing service for yourself. You won't be disappointed. Happy reading everyone!

Friday, 15 November 2013


Today I went along to see the film Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears. This is a movie worth watching. Having read the book earlier this year, 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' by Martin Sixsmith, I already knew the storyline and was prepared for a real tearjerker. Instead I came away angry and disillusioned. The film was good. It told the story clearly and well. Frears also included some fantastic funny bits. Ryan Air even got a mention. One couldn't help but laugh out loud many times.

But one also couldn't help but shed a tear on more occasions. And angry rose inside so many times. It's impossible not be angry when you see and hear what really happened at Roscrea, Tipperary. Based on real events, Philomena  tells the story of Philomeana Lee, an Irish woman living in England who set about in 2004 tracing her son Anthony, who was taken from her 50 years previous at a convent in Tipperary. Judi Dench plays Philomena and co-stars Steve Coogan as journalist Martin Sixsmith. The duo are very engaging and embark on a journey of reconciliation of a personal sense of injustice and seeking some kind of redemption.

The young Philomena visited a fairground one night and met a handsome young man. She fell pregnant after the encounter and she later described the sex as amazing and it remained a lasting memory throughout her life! At the convent where she gives birth, the agonising labour she entailed was deemed God's way of punishing sinners. A wealthy American couple arrive to adopt her son when he is 3 years old and Philomena isn't even in the room when the deal is done. She watches as he is driven away from her forever.

Her search takes her to America where she learns of his death 8 years previous. It transpires her search was parallel with his. He never forgot his mother or where he came from.

Philomena exposes the arrogance, the cover ups, and the lies of the Roscrea convent. It is an emotional account of one womans search for her son. And made more harrowing knowing that so many are in the same situation. It poses a lot of questions and leaves a lasting memory.

This is certainly not a Catholic bashing film, but the church does not walk away unscathed. Morals are questioned but redemption is achieved to a certain extent. Philomena can now visit her dead son. But so many questions remain unanswered. Can redemption be fully achieved with such a story? I believe not. But it's up to each individual. It tears at my heart. As a mother I can't even begin to imagine what Philomena and many others like her have lived through. Watch for yourself and decide!

Judi Dench is outstanding in her role as Philomena and Coogan is brilliant.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

WOW in Derry 2013

Southbank's Centre Women of the World Festival (WOW) 2013 took place in Derry last weekend at The Playhouse. The festival celebrated the factory girls, community workers, health practitioners, entrepreneurs, educators, performers and those who were extremely brave to stand up and share their stories. Many such stories were motivating, funny, shocking and some enraging but all were relevant to women's lives and women's experiences.

I was both fortunate and unfortunate with the WOW festival. Fortunate as I got to experience a snippet on the Saturday afternoon and Saturday night and unfortunate that I could only attend such a small part of the event. Although it was only a small and partial appearance that I could make, I was big time impressed and came away feeling much taller and proud for having been able to attend!

I managed to catch a combination of two events on the Saturday lunchtime/early afternoon! Firstly I attended the Lunchtime With Literature Recital in the Playhouse Green Room and was blown away with the poetry and readings I heard there. There were recitals from Hilary McCollum, Kathryn Daily, the Pink Ladies, Jenni Doherty, Mary Murphy and Anita Robinson. It would be impossible to choose a favourite from this bunch as each was so very different and yet so inspiring in every way. These ladies read about real life experiences and told stories that most women hide away from. From illness to rape, from teenage frustration to homosexuality, this was women at the fore. The talent was endless but the reality was real. These women are real heroines and it was a very lovely feeling of pride to be a part of their shared experience.

I had hoped to catch Ursula and Co. singing in the auditorium on Saturday lunchtime also but the performance coincided with the Literature Recital. But I was extremely fortunate to hear the full performance in the background! The Green Room is fortunately next door to the auditorium and the literary audience could hear the beautiful music and singing coming through. It was almost like inspirational music in the background. Truly perfect and couldn't have been better if it had been planned that way.

On Saturday night the Nerve Centre in Derry hosted an outstanding gig by Rokia Traoré. Rokia Traoré embodies a new outlook for African music. Rooted in the Malian musical tradition yet defying the confines of a single culture, her unique sound and liberating style has established her as Africa's most inventive singer-songwriter. Her performance at the Nerve Centre had the Derry audience spellbound with her authentic voice and energetic musicians. It was an amazing end to a fabulous day in the city.

It was so lovely to meet and encounter so many of the women on Saturday night whom I met during the day at The Playhouse. From teenagers to the more mature, everyone was bopping to Rokia Traoré! And strangers in the morning were now friends by nightfall.

Women of the World festival celebrated in style in Derry. It showcased a lot of experiences and introduced many women to each other. It was a weekend to stand up and be proud. And Derry/Donegal women did just that!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Turning.

Muff’s Luke McLaughlin is part of an up and coming Brit Pop/Mod band based in London. Luke hails from Wheatfield Muff and is currently based with the group in London. The Turning consist of Luke McLaughlin (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar), David Bardon (Lead Guitar), Louis Gilbert (Bass), Ruben Kenton-Harris (Drums) and are heavily influenced by bands from all decades such as The Beatles, The Kinks, The Doors, The Jam, The Who, Oasis and many more.

This young group have only been together since earlier this year. Shortly after meeting they wrote 'Magazine Street' which features in their self-titled debut EP. This debut EP consists of four songs and each one very individual. 'Stand Clear of My Mind', 'What You think is Right', 'Magazine Street' and 'The Painful Art of Dreaming' are four authentic and very energetic, melodic and ending with acoustic, tunes. Each one is different from the next but all equally amazing. 
The boys played in Derry at the end of the summer and will hopefully be returning again soon. At present they are gigging all over the UK with many bookings in the capital, London. 
There are many young bands trying to make it in the music world today. Some will succeed but most won't get there. The Turning is one dedicated group of young men who will be a household name in the next few years. They're passionate and obviously exceptionally talented. As Gigslutz Uk said of them, 'They can only get bigger from here. Taking it in their stride, this is The Turning'. And bigger they will get. 
You can download 'The Turning - EP' from itunes. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Teenage Kicks, by Colin Bateman.

Written by Colin Bateman and directed by Des Kennedy, Teenage Kicks was specially commissioned for 2013 and is a co-production by the Millennium Forum and the Nerve Centre.

This musical isn't specifically about punk rock. It's a story about teenage angst, frustration, lust, love and much more. Derry teenager Jimmy McMurphy, escapes Northern Ireland in 1981 by way of a student exchange programme (allegedly) to St. Francis Xavier High School in  Iowa, America. The principal, Mr. Truman, is expecting to host a war damaged refugee, but finds himself and his students confronted by an exuberant, spiky-haired punk rocker who seems intent on bringing rock 'n' roll anarchy to his school - and breaking a few hearts en route. The burning question is: Is Jimmy who he claims to be?

Throughout this two hour show we are privy to an outstanding calibre of singing. The voices are simply stunning. The musicians are equally as entertaining. Through the music, these kids on stage tell the story of Jimmy and his cousin Kevin. Through their story we get to see just how much frustration there really is to teenage life. Friendship and individuality are qualities we sometimes forget to admire in teenagers. Comradeship is vital to this age group and  they must be respected for it.

We get to see that parents have lived before children came along and did experience the same problems that these teenagers are going through now. Adults were not always sensible and strict individuals!! Even Mr Truman has a past!

This is one musical which parents and teenagers alike can go and see. There's lessons, morals, and experiences for everyone. And there's music. And it's good. And it's reminiscent of one of the best musical eras. You will hear Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers, The Undertones, The Buzzcocks and many more. It really does bring you back in time.

And if you sit through this and fail to tap the feet, clap the hands,  you must surely be experiencing some other frustration deep within!

Caisleáin Óir at An Grianán, Letterkenny!

Most of us who studied Irish at school in the 80's will surely recall the novel Caisleáin Óir! I firmly remember reading a passage for my Irish oral examination and answering questions on the novel after reading the requested section. Thankfully I managed OK  - I think! So I'm really looking forward to seeing this musical on stage next week.

Thirteen years after its first performance at An Grianán, Caisleáin Óir returns. It opens on 12th November. This famous tale of Irish emigration is An Grianán's main contribution for The Gathering 2013 .

Based on Donegal author Seamus O’Grianna’s well known novel, this large scale musical adaptation features a cast of 60 performers. At the centre of Caisleáin Óir (‘golden castles’) is the love story of childhood sweethearts Séimí Gallagher and Babaí Mháirtín Friel and what happens to them when poverty forces Séimi to emigrate to America. Through music, dance and song, we see the life of Donegal people at the end of the 19th and early 20th century.

Hardship, eviction and emigration contrast with joyous moments of playing on the beach, fair days, dances, cards and céilís. This is a story of childhood romance and the pursuit of destiny during times of such hardship!

An Grianán Theatre Productions in association with Making Waves Publishing present Caisleáin Óir-The Musical, at An Grianán Theatre on November 12th - 16th 2013.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

from Farquhar to Field Day, book review!

from Farquhar to Field Day is a book which explores the artistic and cultural history of Derry City. Written by Nuala McAllister Hart and published by The History Press Ireland, it explores drama and music played out in the city’s theatres and concert halls, from the birth of playwright George Farquhar in 1677 to performances by the Field Day Theatre Company, and the cultural revival of the 1990’s and beyond.

The book is divided into nine chapters. Each chapter focuses on a particular venue where drama and music have been performed and portrays key musicians, playwrights, actors and theatre owners.

No one can dispute that the city of Derry has a very distinctive cultural history and even more so with this year 2013 being European City of Culture. This work reflects Derry’s unique position in the cultural history of Ireland.  Three centuries of theatre and music are examined in this work and it highlights key figures and turning points in the cultural life of Derry. Documented is the extensively rich diversity of concerts and dramas played out there.

McAllister Hart said that this book has been 18 years in the writing. She embarked on it originally as a PhD project and then discovered that there was so much more to explore. She has had the title in place for 15 years. Music and Theatre she says ‘dovetail together’. And she has dovetailed them very precisely with this end product.

From its earliest beginnings in 1677 where George Farquhar and his life and works are discussed to The Foyle Renaissance, 1980-1995, McAllister Hart leaves no area unturned. She says that she ‘loved doing this book. I could see something happening every year’. And this is evident as you read through this work.

It is written in such a way that one can pop in and out of the book as one so wishes. Each section has so much information but written in a way that it’s almost in point form. You can put it down and go back to it and you never forget where you left off. Each chapter is firmly divided into sections and each section clearly encapsulates the significance of the era and works. The Introduction to the book is its essence and it leaves you wanting to turn to the first chapter immediately.

It’s perhaps advantageous that the author is not from the city. Therefore she could freely choose exactly what she wanted to discuss within the perimeters of from Farquhar to Field Day!

This book is definitely an essential guide to the cultural history of Derry City!

Friday, 1 November 2013

NO JURY NO PRIZE at London Street Gallery, Derry.

As part of the ongoing visual arts programme for City of Culture 2013 and the continued profile of emerging and established Artists ,The London Street Gallery in Derry is currently hosting an unprecedented exhibition NO JURY NO PRIZE. The exhibition runs until November 6th. The NO JURY NO PRIZE is celebrating the creativity of visual artists across the city, region and indeed the island of Ireland. Running in the City and in part collaboration with key cultural partnerships during the Turner Prize, the entirely, un-juried exhibition consists of almost 300 artworks. The Exhibition is the brainchild of Rory Harron, PhD Glasgow School of Art, building upon the success of curating emerge+see earlier this year. Harron is working alongside Noelle McAlinden and The London Street Gallery. There is an accompanying Symposium being held at The Playhouse tomorrow afternoon from 1.30 to 3.30pm.

I was fortunate to get up to this exhibition earlier today with my 15 year old son. We had just come back from Ebrington and the Turner Prize, so this was offering us another insight into the world of Art. What we found was an amazing spectacle of local talent. There were four galleries and each one was filled to capacity with exhibits. Such ranged from test tube bottles, paintings, poetry, conkers and too many to mention. But each one was original and each was interesting. Every sense was awakened and there was something new at each turn of the eye. One didn’t have to move to experience something different.

This was very different from the Turner Prize yet equally if not more exciting. Turner is a prominent event and it’s an honour to be able to visit. But this was an honour and more. To see what local artists and many names that I recognised and even know, were capable of in this NO JURY NO PRIZE was such an eye opener. My son was calling to me to come look at this, look at that. It was creativity at its very best.

The NO JURY NO PRIZE exhibition runs until next Wednesday, 6th November. Do get along and have a look. You really won’t be disappointed. We weren’t!

Roy Arbuckle plays to a Home audience in Derry!

Saturday night, 27th October 2013, saw the JammHouse at Derry’s playhouse jamm like never before! Roy Arbuckle was centre stage and his music from the past 30 years was delivered to a very appreciative Derry audience.
People will remember Roy from his early days with showbands and in the 70′s with folk band Chaff. He moved to North America in 1978 and toured extensively with Fiddlers Elbow and later The Rambling Boys of Pleasure.
But on this occasion Roy was on his home turf and never faltered! He was joined on stage by a number of outstanding musicians and singers including Philip Wallace, Johnny Nutt, Pete O’Hanlon, Anne Tracey, Ursula McHugh, Different Drums of Ireland, The Henry Girls, Tom Newman, Paul French, Paddy Nash, Diane Greer and anyone else I've left out! His son also joined him to sing a song about his great grandmother. Very touching at all times.
The night was a celebration of Roy’s songwriting and music. In many ways it was a trip along the road of Roy’s life. He told stories about his travels, his family and his love for his wife and children. Roy excelled in every way on the stage last night.
It was very fitting that on leaving the Play House a selection of drums, fire fun and dancers were on the Derry walls. A memorable night both inside and out!
Roy Arbuckle will no doubt be entertaining audiences for many years to come. But this night was not only intimate and emotional, it was a home celebration and it was an honour to have been part of it. And I'm sure that all in attendance would agree. Keep jamming Roy!

'People Like You', by Lost Parade: Music Review

People Like You is the new album out today, November 1st, by Dublin based group Lost Parade. You may not have heard of them here in Donegal and the North West, but once you do, you will listen again and again. Check them out on Soundcloud for a snippet.
The album is available now on iTunes, Google Play, Rhapsody, Rdio and many more online sites. You can also buy the CD from the bands website, www.lostparademusiccom
Lost Parade have been together since 2006. They have performed live on Today FM’s “Ray D’arcy Show” , RTE Radio 1′s “John Murray Show” and “Pat Kenny Show”, Shannonside FM and East Coast FM. The band have supported artists such as Damien Dempsey and Sharon Shannon and have played on stages including The Olympia Theatre, Vicar Street and Dolans.
This new collection consists of 10 tracks and each one is so different that it’s impossible to choose a favourite. All the lyrics are written by lead vocalist Martin Staunton. It has a real bluegrass/folk and at times traditional feel to it from start to finish. On first listening to the new single ‘Canada’, I couldn't help but imagine I was listening to a young Bruce Springsteen. Martins voice is deep but wonderfully evocative. The backing band are exquisite musicians which you will hear on listening. This is a sound which will appeal to all ages and musical tastes. Go check this music out and see for yourself. You really won’t be disappointed.
Lost Parade consists of brother and sister, Martin and Emma Staunton. The band is led by Martin on vocals and guitar and accompanied by Emma, (backing vocals, saxophone), James Kemp (bass), Sebastian Jezzi (drums, backing vocals), Roberto J.J Leto (slide guitar) and Grainne Foster (violin and piano).

Friday, 25 October 2013

Turner Prize. A 'piece' of art or a 'piss' of art!!

Is the Turner Prize taking the piss?’ This seems to be the burning question among many journalists this week with regard to the current Turner exhibition taking place at Ebrington, Derry, until early January 2014. And the ‘piss’ metaphor is being used as a result of the large nude male statue pissing into a bucket in Gallery One of the exhibition!
It’s certainly drawing a lot of attention and the said artist, David Shrigley is favourite to win the prestigious prize on December 2nd. Shrigley’s nude figure is coming under a lot of scrutiny at present and some even go so far as to call it pornographic. Well, one must go and judge for oneself. You even get the opportunity to draw your own perception of the figure. And some pictures on the wall of Gallery One are well worth a viewing!! As Shrigley says himself, “‘The drawings are part of the artwork. The idea is that people can take a bit of the artwork away. I hope they enjoy trying to figure out what it’s about.” I spoke to one little boy who was drawing the figure alongside his mother and he said “I’m imagining he’s a naked superhero!” How apt for a child to perceive such.
The other exhibit which is drawing much controversy is the ‘Blank Gallery’. Here artist Tino Sehgal has a plain white Gallery at Gallery 4 and he is engaging his audience in the art of conversation. Sehgal is offering £2 to people if they converse with him about the Marketing Economy. Many are earning their money and others move along.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye exhibits a selection of her work in Gallery 3 and it certainly draws you in. She is challenging the accepted norm of western figuration by depicting black subjects.
The final exhibitor in the Turner final 2013 is Laure Prouvost. Prouvost in her unique approach to filmmaking, often situated within atmospheric installations, is offering fragmented fictions and uses quick cuts, montage, sound and text to create surprising and unpredictable work. Her work can be viewed at Gallery 2.
Whether you’re an art fan or not, it’s certainly worth a visit whilst running at Ebrington. The Turner Prize, now in it’s 29th year has never before come outside of England, so on this historic occasion, it certainly is turning a few heads.
I had always planned to pay the exhibition a visit but when I was asked to do a ‘news feature’ on it for a London paper I had to quickly educate myself on modern art and the artists. I’ve learned a little but will never make an art critic!
But sure where else would you get to see, what someone said to me yesterday, “a dummy pissing in a bucket!” And then spend a few hours writing about it!!!
The Turner Prize 2013 winner will be announced live from Derry on December 2nd. The exhibition continues at Ebrington daily until 5th January 2014.