Friday, 29 May 2015

O-BON Japanese Festival, 6th June, Playtrail, Derry

The annual O-BON Japanese Festival will take place on Saturday June 6th.

'Obon is a very important Japanese festival to honor the departed spirits of one’s ancestors. This festival in Japan has evolved into a family reunion during which people from the big cities return to their home towns to visit and pay respects to their ancestors’ graves. Traditionally including a Bon Odori
dance and taiko drumming festival, it has existed in Japan for more than 500 years. It usually takes place during the warmer summer months with different dates across different regions of Japan and has become popular in other parts of the world e.g. Hawaii and Australia.

A central part of the Obon festival is Toro Nagashi, where family and friends place a candle inside a paper lantern and float these lights down a river. This symbolizes the spirits’ journeys back to the world of the dead. As the light is extinguished, the soul is said to return to the spirit-world.

The Obon on the Foyle Festival Group is a constituted group set up in 2014 by a group of Japanophiles, taiko enthusiasts and local Japanese people. The central aim of this new group is to organise and create Obon on the Foyle ~ an annual outreach programme and festival to celebrate and promote Japanese culture and arts. The artistic vision of Obon on the Foyle is to create a unique and world class festival celebrating all things Japanese. It is both a proud celebration of culture and an ambitious attempt to create something totally new by combining the traditional with the modern.'

For more details, check out the O-BON Japanese Festival FB page here: O-BON

Thursday, 28 May 2015

FREE Irish tutoring - Leaving and Junior Cert

This coming Sunday, May 31st, the pupils of Coláiste Chineál Eoghain are hosting a peer tutoring session at Buncrana Youth Club drop-in centre (beside Plaza on Buncrana main street). This is an excellent opportunity for both Leaving and Junior Cert students to avail of.
Go along between 2.30 and 5.30 to avail of this great opportunity. It might prove worthwhile as you open that paper next week!
Adult supervision and refreshments on the day!
For more information contact: 0862325402

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

North West Culture People

The first North West Culture people person is Therese Robinson. Based in LA, I first met Therese in Derry at the launch of her debut novel, 'India's Summer'. I'm looking forward to a glass of vino with the said lady one day soon!

                                     North West Culture People

Name: Therese Robinson

Occupation: Writer

Describe yourself: An optimist

What is your best childhood memory? Ice cream lemonade floats at the beach
 in Omeath

What was your first job? Putting bottles on a conveyor belt in a bottling factory in
 Liverpool

What is your favourite film? ‘Riding in Cars With Boys.’

What is your top 3 favourite books? Howard’s End, Cheri, The Picture of Dorian Gray

What is your favourite method of relaxation? Swimming

What is your favourite possession? Baby grand piano

What is your favourite holiday destination? Juin les Pins

What makes you happy? Being with the people I love

What makes you sad? Saying ‘goodbye’

What annoys you? The gutter press

Who inspires you? The Dalaii Lama

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Emigrating to America

Who would you most like to invite to a dinner party? Elvis, Leonard Cohen, Elton
 John, WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Zelda Fitzgerald, Colette, 
Edith Piaf, Ines de la Fressange, Tina Turner, Sinead O’ Connor

What are you most passionate about? The people I love

How would you like to be remembered? Always and often in the hearts of many

If you'd like to know more about Therese, just follow her blog on Therese blogs. You won't be disappointed.

Therese's books India's Summer and Letter From Paris are the perfect holiday read

Friday, 22 May 2015

Infectious Monogamy, Boy Detox and other EXAM MELTDOWNS - Book review

I first met Aimée McCourt Logan a few years ago when she was introduced as the protagonist in Felicity McCall's first teenage novel, Large Mammals, Stick Insects and Other Social Misfits. National Lottery Award winning author Felicity McCall launched her debut teenage novel back in 2012. I recall recommending the said book to mothers of teenage daughters as well as those teenage daughters themselves. For the daughter this proved a fun, engaging read; for the mothers it provided a real insight into the workings of the teenage mind, tantrums and daily ordeals of teenage life.
Now in Infectious Monogamy, Boy Detox and other EXAM MELTDOWNS, Aimee McCourt Logan embarks on another stage in her life. She is gearing towards her exams, preparing for Derry's equivalent of X-Factor, and having the usual teenage angst that is rife in these troubled years!
'A new year has dawned at 1A Riverview, and for Aimée McCourt Logan (AKA your narrator) reality is encroaching in the form of GCSEs, job applications, and, it seems, an unprecedented outbreak of committed monogamy - usually involving unsuitable and possibly illegal males. A boy detox may be the only alternative. Austerity measures are threatening the life-enhancing link between her school, Castle Grove, and the Knockgore with Foxrock, home of her Twin Caoimhe (and her love god brother Darren.) Add to this a feminist mammy considering cosmetic surgery, a lonesome da
threatening to ruin the family's reputation, a gran hell-bent on getting a criminal record, a disappearing cat, and it's clear that her 17th year is going to be a challenge. Then Aimée and her friends suddenly find themselves poised for international stardom - or are they?'
So what does the most recent teenage fiction by McCall give us? It gives us a fun, entertaining read. As a mother of sons, it allowed me to laugh when I recall some of the teenage girls the boys brought home in recent years. I wondered if many of their minds worked alongside Aimée's. I don't doubt that they most definitely did! It gives a modern insight into the workings of the teenage mind. The social networking world is at the core of the interaction. The teenage angst is rife and the insecurities felt by us all at one stage is there to be understood.
As a reader, one really is transported back to the teenage years and the mixed emotions that were prevalent. As a mature adult (in age only I might add!) I can smile at it all now, but when you're going through this stage in life, it's no laughing matter. McCall allows her readers a story about modern teenage life, but she is again providing an understanding of that life and what it entails.
This is a universal theme and although the novel is very much rooted in place, it will appeal to mothers and daughters everywhere. Adolescence is a period of disorientation and discovery.  This transitional period brings up issues of independence and self-identity. Peer groups, romantic interests and external appearance increases in importances during the tween journey towards adulthood. McCall covers them all
Once again, I would highly recommend this read to not just the teenage girls themselves but the mothers who will learn even more from it.
Infectious Monogamy, Boy Detox and other EXAM MELTDOWNS can be purchased at www.amazon.com

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Advertise with North West Culture

Do you or your business wish to avail of the new advertising service from North West Culture? If so just send a wee private message to the North West Culture facebook page or North West Culture twitter page. Alternatively email: grainnemccool@gmail.com
For a small fee, North West Culture can help promote your business on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. All you need to do is 'yell'! A banner can be placed on the blog and a feature can be written to sell your business to North West Culture audience, This audience is growing by the day and stretches from Ireland, the UK, to Europe and the US. Oh yes, this wee blog is getting a very wide and varied audience. In fact it was that very audience which suggested this form of advertising for YOU!
There are already a number of businesses on board as you can see from the blog so here is your chance now to get involved. Check out Currency Fair and Make Me Up By Nicola who are already here! Forget the extortionate advertising fees from other media outlets and let North West Culture offer you affordable rates with not just one ad for one week, but an ad alongside a regular feature over weeks/months and it really won't break that bank.
If you're a pub, a restaurant, a band, any business in fact, this is the place to get your advert NOW. North West Culture will deliver cost effective advertising and reach a world wide audience. Why not try for yourself and see!
Special offer running for one week only - first business to get in touch will get one month FREE advertising! Come aboard!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Teac Jack, Gaoth Dobhair

Nestled along the rugged coastline of West Donegal, Teac Jack is the ideal spot to stop off and put down roots for a few days. And that's exactly what I've done this very weekend. Having stopped off here a few years ago for a quick bite to eat, I said I'd return one day and spend some time enjoying this very beautiful area. And so it is underway.
Having arrived here yesterday afternoon I took a short drive around the local area and quite simply soaked up the scenery, people and place. This is a part of our native Donegal which is seeped in Irish culture, music and folklore. Not only is it the home of our musicians Altan and Clannad, but it is home to real Ireland.
Here the folk are a community. You can feel it on entering the local shops, the pubs, restaurants and just walking along the beaches. We all crave to be part of our local community but just being here, you are automatically welcomed aboard.
Early in the evening I popped along to one of my favourite pubs in Ireland, Teac Hudí Beag. It was divine in it's welcome as always and community oozes out of its very walls.
And Teac Jack is also very much community orientated. Last night as we (hubby and I) ate in the bar, it wasn't just your average bar food, it was wholesome grub at its very best. Served with a smile, neither of us could fault a bite. As we ate, locals and tourists alike came and went. There was a
'hello' or 'fáilte' from everyone, and one was never allowed to feel like an intruder. As the night went on and the music played, the community spirit continued.
As I start my Sunday now typing in the bar, it is with ease and sheer comfort. Coffee is flowing and the banter is glowing and the weather might be a tad miserable outside, but in here, there really is a little piece of Ireland at its very best.
So it's time to put the keyboard away, and seep up this atmosphere before I have to leave it tomorrow. Just looking out the window at these waves, one can't help but fall in love.

Horrible Histories is coming to Derry

We all want to meet people from History. However the trouble is.....everyone is DEAD! But now there really is a way to meet some of these very people from the past. And they're coming to Derry!
It's time to prepare yourselves for HORRIBLE HISTORIES live on stage. Using actors and stunning special effects, these two World Premiers - GROOVY GREEKS and INCREDIBLE INVADERS -  are guaranteed to thrill you and your children. Historical figures and events will come alive on stage and hover at your fingertips!

GROOVY GREEKS - From savage Sparta to angry Athens, discover the truth about growing up in Greece. Take on the Trojans and pummel the Persians! Compete in the first ever Olympic Games and appear in the very first play! Meet your match with the Minotaur and be zapped by Zeus! Hold on tight as you gatecrash the gruesome and Groovy Greeks!

INCREDIBLE INVADERS - The Celts are crunched when the Ruthless Romans invade Britain! Can crazy Caratacus save the nation? Hide behind Hadrian's Wall. See the Savage Saxons smash their way in. Find out who's at Sutton Hoo! Will you survive the Vicious Vikings as they sail into the audience? Stop King Alfred burning his buns! It's a thousand year journey with Incredible Invaders!

This is a show which will enthral adults and children alike. It will showcase history in a way you've never seen before. It's a show which you really do want to see. 
My children are long grown up, but I won't be missing this!!

HORRIBLE HISTORIES will run at Millennium Theatre Derry, from Tuesday 9th June until Saturday 13th June. Contact Millennium Forum  for ticket prices and showtimes. You really won't regret it!







Thursday, 14 May 2015

John Lynch Perpetual Shield, Sponsored Cycle

The John Lynch Perpetual Shield sponsored cycle is now in its 22nd year. This annual event from The Squealing Pig Muff to Rawdons Bar, Moville always proves a fun evening and night and raises much needed funds for the Donegal and Foyle Hospices. This year it  will take place on Friday 29th May. All are asked to meet in Muff at 7pm with cycle leaving at 7.15pm. At the same time cyclists will also leave Moville en route to Muff.
Following the return to Muff a BBQ and refreshments will be provided at The Pig and music will play into the night. Always a great night guaranteed.
Sponsor Cards for the cycle are available at McColgans butchers in the village and other outlets throughout Muff. Get yours NOW.
So, get those bicycle wheels oiled and ready for off on Friday 29th. As always there will be a prize for the person with the most sponsor money! Time to get those wheels a turning!

Open Mic, PLAZA, Buncrana

An Open Mic will take place in the Plaza, Buncrana on Sunday 24th May to raise funds for Ned's Point. Donations on the day at the door will be gratefully accepted towards the fund. Do come along for a night of fun and guaranteed talent.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Currency Fair (transfer your money for less)

Currency Fair was created because the people here believe that ordinary people, and businesses, should have access to the same great exchange rates for international currency transfers normally reserved only for banks and market professionals dealing in millions.
Three of the team are expats, so they have experienced first-hand what a blatant rip-off international money transfers could be; both in poor exchange rates and high international wire fees. As three of them are also ex-bankers they felt that they had the knowledge, the experience, and the network to come up with a better system. So that's exactly what they did with Currency Fair.
Why not try for yourself and see what you could be saving today!



Monday, 4 May 2015

Dinner at McGrory's Culdaff

So it was Bank Holiday Monday early May 2015 and the sun was shining. To sit home and cook would almost be sinful....wouldn't it? Well in my book it certainly would be. So it was a drive around the peninsula and taking in the breathtaking scenery for a couple of hours.
As we drove into Culdaff it seemed fitting to stop off at one of my favourite haunts and treat my husband to a birthday dinner (so it might be almost a week overdue but it was worth the wait!). McGrory's it was. As always a friendly welcome greeted us.
The bar was reasonably busy but fortunately there was indeed a comfy window seat with our name on it. As I ordered some wine the menu was delivered and as always I'm hesitant on my choice. My husband didn't take quite so long as he spied his rib eye steak there on the menu...mind you he was unsure of the blue butter, but it went down nicely in the end!
And finally I settled on the traditional fish and chips. As we sipped on our wine and water, our dishes were served and as expected, looked rather appetising.
The medium steak I'm told melted like butter in his mouth. Well the fish melted equally in mine. The food was simply delightful and rounded off my Bank Holiday Monday just nicely.
McGrory's you delivered yet again, and no doubt we'll be seeing you one fine day again soon. But for
now, it's preparing for Tuesday and the week ahead.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The 4 Of Us, Nerve Centre, Derry review - timeless!

It was 1989 and the venue was Derry's Guildhall. The 4 Of Us was one of my early student day gigs. With my little brother in tow, I witnessed a  developing Irish musical talent that was to span over the coming decades. Now in 2015, this talent is still growing.
The 4 Of Us came to the Nerve Centre in Derry last night and I was very fortunate to catch up with the boys prior to the gig. Declan and Brendan Murphy have remained constant in the music industry and although it might be 9 years since their last album, the boys have been busy. Their new album, Sugar Island, is due for release this coming September. If the music we heard played from it last night is anything to go by, this album will certainly be worth the 9 year wait!

I asked Brendan why The 4 Of Us have remained steadfast over the years.  Brendan explained that he and Declan are the core of the band. He says that 'there's bands like Led Zeppelin, and you take the drummer away, there's no band. We're not like that. There's me and Declan, and everything else changes a lot. The band really was just a vehicle for us to get our songs out there. We're songwriters and that's what we do best. So we're still about!'
This tour he says is 'to let people hear some songs from the new album and give people a taster of it. We thought the best way to advertise it would be to tour prior to the album release.' One song from the forthcoming Album, Birds Eye View, has gone to radio now, so no doubt the nation will be hearing the boys over the airwaves with this new material over the coming days and weeks.
Brendan assures me that the new album is 'energetic' and although there is just the two of them on stage tonight, having stripped the band down to themselves and their acoustic guitars, the show will still have retained that energy from the bigger band.
A lot has changed in the music industry since the bands first album in 1989. 'The internet has definitely changed everything in the past ten years but many people focus on the down side of this. I think the internet is great. You can make an album for next to nothing now. In the old days it cost you a fortune. Now we can get our music out there. If you're truly creative you can make your own videos. The internet is certainly very crowded and people complain that it's hard to get noticed. I find all the changes in the music industry very exciting. If you're brilliant you'll get noticed', says Brendan.

On talking to both Declan and Brendan, the passion for their work shines through. They are clearly both very much married to the business, and their love of song writing is certainly at the fore. It isn't every day that one meets such down to earth musical folk. But that's exactly what these guys are. They're two of the nicest, most sincere and genuine lads. And they clearly love all that they do.

And so it was time for the show. The audience had arrived and the 'theatre show' of The 4 Of Us got underway in style. Brendan and Declan immediately set into 'She Hits Me' and brought us all down memory lane. The audience were hooked and this continued over the following two hours. The first half of the show showcased much of the new music which is every bit as energetic and engaging as Brendan had told me. The second half brought us all to our feet with hits like 'Drag My Bad Name Down' and of course the legendary 'Mary'. Brendan and Declan sang an amazing version of Carrickfergus' and dedicated it to Gerry (Anderson). A very fitting tribute.
Throughout the night Brendan told numerous stories which had everyone in laughter and at all times, Declan continued strumming. This isn't just a music show: there was banter, craic and at the heart of it, there was the music.
The audience last night could have gone to a number of free Jazz events in the city, but all choose to pay for this trip down memory lane and the beginning of new musical memories to come. The 4 Of Us gave us what we came for: a great night's music and entertainment.
The Murphy brothers are extremely comfortable on that stage and I for one, hope it remains such for the next 25 years.
Sugar Island is due for release in September 2015.
(A selection of photos from the gig can be viewed on the facebook page North West Culture)



Friday, 1 May 2015

River Drivers

As a contributor to Irish Music Magazine I am very fortunate to meet, greet and hear the very best of Irish traditional music and its musicians first hand. Nothing prepared me for how appreciative I would be of this over the past two years. Always a lover of the trad scene, I was however inclined to delve more into my rock devotion and somehow trad got lost in the background. I still enjoy my rock but in recent times, trad is definitely at the fore. Over the past 18 months I've had the great pleasure of interviewing the best traditional musicians worldwide. I've even had the honour of welcoming Hanz Araki and Colleen Raney to my home village of Muff, here in Donegal.
Last night I was privy to yet another breakthrough in traditional music. The Cup of Tae festival 2015 got underway today in Ardara, Co. Donegal. This festival is in honour of a renowned player John 'The Tae' Gallagher (generations of his family before him made 'teas' on Fair Days and other days of local importance), hence the name of the festival. The festival wishes to provide first class tuition on a number of instruments, starting with the fiddle and flute. Later it is hoped to incorporate more instruments, singing, dancing, recitation and storytelling. The folklore of each tune will be passed on as well as the tune.
Last night there was a session in The Céilí House Bar in preparation for the weekend ahead. I decided to make the 3 hour round trip for the said session. A reasonably new American trad group had just flown in from the US and were hosting the session last night.
River Drivers  were in the house and for the two hours I was present, they were very much part of the said house!!! Musicians from England, Japan, joined locals, alongside River Drivers  and a riveting session ensued.

Mindy, Marian, Kevin and Megan were right at home in this special little corner of Donegal, Ireland. Marian is fortunate to be the daughter of an Ardara native and has enticed her newly formed band to this haven. Mindy and her family were making their first visit to Ireland, and one would never have guessed. These folk were sensational in every way that Irish traditional musicians should be. They appeared right at home.
Their aptly named debut album 'River Driver's is out now and well worth a listen. More details of the said group and their music will feature in Irish Music Magazine very soon.
But for now this gang are hanging out in Ardara, Co. Donegal over the coming days for the Cup of Tae Festival, and if you have any spare time, you really should pop along and see for yourself what an amazing group of musicians they really are. And there's lots more to experience and enjoy this weekend in Ardara.
A huge thank must surely go out to Aoife and Sean for their delightful welcome to myself and friend last night and here's wishing them both every success with their new venture at The Céilí House Bar, Ardara, Co. Donegal.