Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hanz Araki - North West Cuture People

This months 'North West Culture People' is musician Hanz Araki. I interviewed Hanz during 2014 for Irish Music Magazine. In January of this year I was very fortunate to meet himself when he travelled all the way to Muff, in Co. Donegal to say 'hello' during his stay in Ireland. I look forward to catching up with himself later this year or earlier next year when he resides for a short while in Dingle.


Name: Hanz (Hanzaburo) Araki

Occupation: Musician

Describe yourself? short of stature, of indeterminable heritage, wildly charming,

What is your best childhood memory? Visits to my grandparents house on Mercer Island, Washington.

What was your first job? Deckhand, Seattle Harbor Tours.

What is your favourite film? The cinema is my favourite pastime, so it would be a challenge to choose just one for all time. I love Miller's Crossing and it usually is the first one to come to mind, but it's a fairly random selection.

What is your top three favourite books? Again, pretty hard to pick favourites, but Fast Food Nation, Kafka on the Shore, Lord of the Rings come to mind. As soon as I send this, I'll think of three completely different ones I should've suggested.

What is your favourite method of relaxation? Massage, acupuncture.

What is your favourite possession? Probably my Windward flute (truly! It's not just a shameless plug).

What is your favourite holiday destination? Maui, Hawaii

What makes you happy? Spending time with friends.

What makes you sad? The political climate in the US: rampant discrimination, climate denial, disastrous foreign policy.

What annoys you? Bad driving. I mean really, with the state of things we shouldn't drive as much as we do, and to do it badly is insult to injury.

Who inspires you? Dr. Cornel West for his acceptance of people and willingness and dedication to work towards the betterment of others; recently,  Bree Newsome for her courageous act of civil disobedience; Martin Carthy, who said, "I regard tradition as progressive, and a traditional song as a progressive force, because it is concerned with the continuity of things," Susan McKeown, Gerry O'Beirne, Peter Maguire, and on and on...

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? I'm not one much for risking life and limb -- jumping out of planes or cliff-diving, that sort of thing. I'd say deciding to be a full-time musician. 

Aside: I realise how flippant that sounds; to call something as harmless as a career in music a risk. I understand it's not like fire fighting or elephant handling (which I believe is statistically one of the more dangerous jobs you can have). But it's not completely without risk of physical harm. I've made some pretty horrific drives, going 12 to 24 hours without sleep. Again, statistically speaking, that alone is pretty risky. I've had people want to beat the life out of me simply for refusing a request, or for not being what they considered "Irish" enough. 

More so, the stress of not knowing if you're going to make enough to eat or pay your rent. The constant scrutiny and rejection. The highs of a good show and the lows of a bad one; or the demoralizing experience of driving 8 hours to a venue only to have them cancel your performance, or in some cases, not even remember they booked you at all. As a musician, even with a contract you have very little leverage in those circumstances.

It's also not lost on me that I chose to make a career out of a tradition of music that, while a part of my heritage, most certainly did not originate in the country of my birth; I run the risk of cultural appropriation. 

You also risk of learning to hate the thing you love. I have hated music from time to time.

Again, I accept that as far as risk goes, it's pretty nominal. 

Who would you most like to invite to a dinner party? My grandfathers. My old drummer/friend/brother, Paul Lawton. Finn Mac Ginty. 

What are you most passionate about? Awareness.

How would you like to be remembered? Someone who was good to his friends.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Red Carpet event in Muff this weekend!

It may not happen very often but this coming weekend will see a rather special event taking place during the Muff Festival 2015. The premiere of a locally produced film, 'The Mufia' will be screened in the marquee at the festival field in Muff this Saturday evening at 6pm. Everyone is welcome to attend this unique event in Muff. 
'The Mufia' features a number of local characters and we have to wait until the premiere to discover just who they are. And in just what context they feature. Time will tell. One will have to be there to see it.
Muff Festival field is the place. 6pm is the time. Festival marquee is the venue. Come along and watch this screening for yourself. It's guaranteed to be a great one.

After the Rebellion, Chapters 5 and 6

Another installment of the incredible fan fiction of Kayleigh Sweeney. This young lady's work just gets better and better. Enjoy the next instalment.

After the Rebellion, Chapter 5

After the Rebellion, Chapter 6

After the Rebellion, Chapter 6 (part 2)

And so the story continues. As does my interest in this young lady's work. Keep writing Kayleigh, We're all loving it.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

After the Rebellion, Chapter 3 and 4

And so the fan fiction of the young Kayleigh Sweeney continues. Check out the links below to the next two chapters of 'After the Rebellion'. Remember this young lady is just 11.

Chapter 3, After The Rebellion

Chapter 4, After The Rebellion

This wonderful piece of fan fiction continues. Do enjoy the read.


Monday, 27 July 2015

Muff Festival 2015

Muff Festival is just around the corner once more. This coming weekend July 31st - Aug. 3rd will see a host of events happening all over the village. There is again a packed programme of events to suit all ages, sizes and abilities and it is expected that these will keep everyone engaged over the weekend.
Of course as always one can never depend on the Irish weather. But, that never keeps the festival at bay. Whatever the weather the committee strive to run every event, so have the wellies and raincoats at the ready. And on an optimistic note, have the suncream lurking too!
This annual event sees the community both home and away return and gather in this friendly hub of Muff. It's an occasion for all the family to spend time together and have fun. It's a time for friends to gather and have fun. It's a time for all and sundry to celebrate all that it means to live in this wonderful village/town.
Added to the events this year over the weekend are workshops in Circus Skills and Yoga. A car shine will be available. A large climbing wall will be there for those fit legs to climb. And so very much more.
Also this year, on the opening night, there is a new event: Mr and Mrs Competition. This will take place in the Squealin' Pig on Friday night. The event is sponsored by the Strand Hotel, Ballyliffin, and the prize will allow the winners a two night break in the Strand Hotel with €100 spending money.
So a great weekend is definitely on the horizon for the 2015 Muff Festival. For further information, see the full programme here. You really won't be disappointed.
Here's to yet another great festival in Muff.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

North West Culture gal!

Someone asked me recently who I am? They were a reader of North West Culture gal and said that instead of writing a review of someone/book/food etc, that I should write a piece about the gal behind the reviews. And so here it is.
I'm a gal from the North West of Ireland, Inishowen, Co. Donegal. Or to be more precise, a gal from the village of Muff in the heart of Inishowen. As the village borders Derry, I have the great advantage of being on the doorstep of one of our country's best cultural cities. However, there is a lot that is culture and more here in this wee village. Muff hosts an array of musical, literary, culinary, and much more talent. So there's always something to see/hear/read/enjoy here in the North West of Ireland.
Hence I started blogging about the books I read, the gigs I attend, the escapes I take, and the theatre I visit. And then I blog about anything along the way that takes my fancy.
I'm a mummy blogger with  , and I freelance with Irish Music Magazine. I run my own writing business, The WRITE STUFF, where I pen a wide variety of words. I also tutor Leaving Cert and Junior Cert English. More recently I have embarked upon hosting Creative Writing workshops for children. And so my work continually develops. And of course I'm a blogger!
On top of all this I'm wife to my husband of almost 23 years, mother to a 24 year old, a 21 year old, and a 17 year old (all boys). And I love it all.
I'm an avid reader of various blogs and what I realised recently is that all the bloggers I follow are mainly young folk, trendy fashionable folk, and folk that live very different lives to me. I on the other hand am 40+, non-trendy, biker husband, and love the community spirit that is in my wee village. I love meeting new folk and learning from them. There's no one I dislike (though some may dislike me) and I believe life is for living.
So, as I type my reviews, my experiences, my trials and tribulations with the world of Culture/Travel/Food/Entertainment and more, do enjoy the journey with me, and do comment if you can.
As another week is about to invade our lives, it's goodnight on this wet, miserable Sunday, from me here in Muff. And here's wishing everyone well as the forthcoming week arrives.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Roundabout, Ladies clothing Buncrana

The Roundabout is a ladies boutique situated at the West End roundabout in Buncrana town. It specialises in Spanish, French, Italian and of course, Irish, stock. There is new, and 'nearly new' clothing in store.
I had intended visiting this shop over recent months but never seemed to have the time. Or I'd be in Buncrana and home again when I'd remember I forgot to pop by. I'd been following the owner on facebook and took a keen interest in her stock updates. However, I had an incling that it looked maybe out of my price range. Perhaps this is what prevented my going in before now. However, earlier today, as I was driving past, I decided to park up, and go have a nosey!
What awaited me, I could never have anticipated. There were pieces everywhere
which I wanted. There were pieces to suit all price ranges, and there were pices that were simply 'me'!
This really is a little hidden treasure of a boutique. If you like to wear something a little different, something that will stand out, or just something simple, then have a look in The Roundabout. And then when you find that something to wear, you will also find a little accessorie to go alongside it.
What I really liked about this shopping experience is that the propietor Patricia, was extremely friendly and at no time made me feel under pressure to make a purchase. But purchase I plan to do on a few of those items! And then maybe some more......
I left here earlier today already looking forward to my next visit. And next time, I certainly won't leave it as long to park up and go inside for that nosey!

The Walled City Brewery

On Wednesday last I was dining out with a friend and we decided to finally check out one of Derry's newest contemporary restaurants, The Walled City Brewery on Ebrington Square. This new eaterie has a fully operating brewery alongside the restaurant in the same building. It's the first of its kind in the country. The ethos behind this business (says their website) is to provide both locals and tourists with a 'taste of the North West' through crafting local, authentic, premium quality, flavoursome beer and food.
On arrival I was immediately struck by the simpleness, yet the elegance of the building from the outside. Quaint in appearance and yet simply stylish with decorative flower boxes on the windows. As we entered the restaurant, again my first impressions were immediately very positive as I took in the blue tone of the surroundings. Laughter and chatter filled the air, and immediately I realised I could be in New York, or Paris. The door was closed and it didn't feel like I was being seated in a local restaurant. And that is how the night panned out.
I decided to order the 'Garden' from the simple, yet very descriptive menu, alongside a glass of house white. Although not a beer drinker myself, my friend and companion did indeed sample a selection of 3 crafted beers. And all were given the thumbs up! She ordered 'Cow' from the menu and we both enjoyed the main immensely.
When the dessert menu arrived, we just had to make room. So a platter of dessert and a cheese board were ordered. Both equally divine.
This was a true, original dining experience. The staff were casually professional, and never over imposing. They catered for our every need and yet remained ever present but in the background.
The seating is seated quite near each other and yet their is an air of privacy. The brewery is brewing and yet there is no overpowering smell of beer.
The blue tone of the interior sold it to me. I really felt like I could be dining anywhere in the world. On a beautiful summers evening (one of the few we've seen), this setting was allowing me to switch to 'holiday mode'.
As we left the restaurant around 9pm, it was to a sun filled Ebrington Square. Again this bright, warm night allowed us to imagine being further afield, and yet we were right here on home shores.
As I walked away I took a glance behind me and smiled. This quaint, simply decorated exterior has a way of encapsulating you and drawing you to it. I continued walking but a return visit will certainly be had. This North West Culture gal wants to sample more of this menu and enjoy more of this authentic surrounding!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

After The Rebellion: chapter 1 and 2

Whilst hosting a Creative Writing summer camp for children last week, here in Inishowen, Donegal, I was very fortunate to welcome a young lady from Redcastle in Co. Donegal. As the week went by, I discovered that this young girl is a very talented writer. Her fan fiction has a growing following on Instagram and her work needs to be read.

The following links are the first two chapters in this fan fiction of this 11 year old Donegal girl. She has been posting the story on Instagram for a number of months now. This young lady has three series written in this fan fiction based on her favourite books, The Hunger Games. I hope to post a selection of chapters here on a regualr basis and please read. This is a piece of work which deserves to get noticed, and this young lady is exceptionally talented.

After the Rebellion, Chapter 1

After the Rebellion, Chapter 2

I really hope you enjoyed the above. This is just the beginning.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Creative Writing week comes to an end in Muff

Today saw the end of one amazing week of chldren's writing and reading in Muff. I held this week in response to a number of people who suggested it would be great to have a week for children who enjoy reading and who would like to develop their writing skills. As an English Tutor and Freelance Writer (The WRITE STUFF) I took it on board as a learning curve for myself as well as for the children.
Due to the content and workload of such a week I limited the numbers to 10 children. On Monday morning two 7 year olds came along with their siblings who had enrolled on the camp. They asked to stay and I couldn't say no. Another little girl, aged just 8, from Carndonagh also enrolled for three days, as she's an avid reader and wanted to know how to write alongside her reading. The other children were all aged, 9, 10 and 11.
What followed after Monday at noon was 5 days of sheer enthusiasm and passion for the written and spoken word. I could never have envisaged how this week would pan out. As the days went by, I watched as these 12 kids developed their ability to critically evaluate a piece of literature. I watched as they learned to write in ways they had never experienced before. And most importantly I watched as these young people formed friendships, and spent their time talking about, debating about, and comparing different reading material and writing strategies.
At the beginning of the week I made it clear that at no time would anyone be expected to read aloud anything they were not comfortable with, but I also encouraged them to believe in their own individual abilities and be proud of what they can each do. By Wednesday, I had 7 and 8 year olds proudly stand and read what they had written. I was so inspired as they each took to writing out their vision boards.
By Thursday I sat back and smiled as the kids engaged in a thoroughly enjoyable debate on how a story might have a different ending or how the characters might place themselves in a different setting. Each child encouraged one another and made suggestions for each character they had been given. Much discussion and laughter continued. 
Today we were left with just 6 children. Holidays to Portugal and trips to Galway left just half the camp for the final day. We took advantage of the little dry spell and had a walk to the community park in Muff where everyone played together as friends. On our return, the kids wrote haiku's and six word stories about the trip to the park. And then they read Romeo and Juliet (junior version). The critical analysis that followed was priceless. These kids have done some serious literature analysis unknown to themselves.
As I said goodbye to the kids earlier I felt very proud of what each of them have achieved. They have exceeded all my expectations. They have taught me so very much. I only hope I have taught them a little of what they have taught me.
A huge thank you must surely go to Kathryn Anderson and all at Warrenview Manor in Muff for providing an amazing space to host this Creative Writing week. Thank you to Gill & Macmillan books and Little Acorns Bookstore, Derry for their very kind donation of books for the children.
And most importantly, thank you to all the children who came along over the past week. It has been the most enjoyable week I've had in a long time.  Here's to the future and this wee group is definitley just beginning.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Little Red Riding Hood rules day 4 of Creative Writing Week!

So we reached the penultimate day of Creative Writing week for children in Muff. For the first hour the kids were introduced to speed writing and condensed writing. Initially everyone was a tad wary but as always, the dedication from each child saw the challenge met firmly and confidently by all.
After taking a walk around the community garden and a quick snack I announced that we were going to be reading Little Red Riding Hood. I explained that although they were all a little big for this childhood favourite, it would all make sense as time went on. Each child trusted me and even looked forward to the read and challenge after. So it was all bums to the reading area. Three of the girls
offered to read the story to us all. And so we sat back and listened. We then had a chat about the story and how they all feel now having read it as older children. They each had comments to make and a great discussion followed. Then it was the Challenge! I gave each of them a character from the story (there were doubles of course!) and asked them all to go and write a story with the character in another setting from the familiar one in the book. There was laughter and chatter and eventually the heads were ready to take this on board. Just half an hour later and the bums returned to the reading area. I honestly never expected to hear the amazing stories and settings which came from these pages. When all had read their stories, a group debate got up about how the story could have ended and how characters could have been different.
I couldn't help but smile. My motto with older students is always to 'think outside the box'. Now after just 4 days I have a group of children doing just that.
They are exceeding all my expectations as each day goes by. Tomorrow is our last day, but I don't doubt that this is one wee group which will continue. The seed has been planted and I hope I can continue to water it and watch it grow with time.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Kids Haiku writing at Creative Writing week in Muff

As the Creative Writing week for children reached mid week today I decided to introduce them to something a little different. We embarked upon writing a series of Haiku's and acrostic poems.
First on the menu was Haiku's. A haiku is a Japanese poem consisting of 17 syllables and in the format of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.
It took a bit of time counting the syllables and cutting or adding words, but soon the haikus were flowing. Some of the end results were as follows:
Fionnuala DeBrún (aged 11): I write with a pen/ Stories as long as giraffes/ My hand sometimes hurts.
Kayleigh Sweeney (aged 11): Writing is the heart/ If it doesn't come from there/ It's not meant to be.
Ciara Kelly (aged 11): Eyes glued to the page/ Curled up with a book for hours/ Mind sharp and alive.
Aoife Bradley (aged 10): Reading is awesome/ Reading can help you a lot/ Read and you achieve.
Anna O'Donnell (aged 8): My name is Anna/ I like to eat chocolate/ I like to read books.
Fionn Óg Bradley (aged 7): Winter is coming/ Snow will be arriving soon/ We should rake the leaves.
Declan Roe (aged 10): I just read King Lear/ I read Mid-Summer Nights Dream/ I liked both of them.
Colm Millar (aged11): I will read a book/ It will have a nice setting/ I will open it.
Evie Hilton (aged 9): I like poetry/ People who write poems are poets/ Poems are awesome work.
It was very touching as I walked around and watched as each child applied themselves to the creation of these haiku's. The contentment on their faces when they achived their end result. It was clapping and word sounding to ensure the syllable count was right and it all was word perfect in the end.
As some of the kids took a break to continue reading their junior Shakespeare a few continued with writing Acrostic poems, spelling out their first names. And then they dedicated their little brains to composing poetry of letters only. No words were formed. And they all saw how 'I C U' and 'Y C E' can be such fun and made into a dramatic piece of work.
Another fun day was had and this Creative Writing week is proving to be more popular with each new day. Here's to another fun one tomorrow where some speed writing, condensed writing and even more reading will take place. And whatever other word games and conversation develops.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Creative Writing for Children in Muff

Yesterday, July 13th I embarked on a new venture, in my capacity as The WRITE STUFF. I opened my first Creative Writing Week for Children at Warrenview Manor in Muff. 11 Children signed up for the week and only two days into it, I am feeling very priviliged with what these kids are achieving.
Yesterday we began creating and developing characters. We read some poetry and I introduced the children to the work of Shakespeare (in junior form). Each child embarked on every given task with enthusiasm and passion.
This morning I introduced the children to the concept of 'Six word stories'. Initially they looked at me strangely but within minutes each child was writing their own stories in just six words. We took a walk around the community garden and ate raspberries from my husbands plant. Delicious I'm told them were. On returning to our writing room, the children again embarked upon writing some stories in relation to the garden. Inspiring is the one word that comes to mind on the work these kids produced. Some of their work is the following:
Cara Fisher (aged 7) 'I like swimming, running and sharing', 'I saw rasberries, I ate four.'
Fionn Og Bradley (aged 7) 'My hair is long and straight'.
Anna O'Donnell (aged 8) 'My best friends name is Aoibhinn', 'We saw green and red tomatoes'.
Evie Hilton (aged 9) 'There were several people at gaelic', 'I saw some strawberries; not ripe'.
Aoife Bradley (aged 10) Trampolining is fun: so is cycling', 'There are raspberries in the garden'.
Declan Roe (aged 10) 'I am writing six word stories', 'I ate four raspberries: they're delicious'.
Colm Millar (aged 10) 'Large quantity of books: really cheap', 'We went to the community garden'.
Fionnuala DeBrúin (aged 11) 'The woman played the harp slowly', 'We walked through the community garden'.
Kayleigh Sweeny (aged 11) 'He dived at the summer olympics', 'Little white flowers topped the potatoes'.
Each child clearly enjoyed the planning and preparation that went into making these stories.
And following that the characters from yesterday were developed further, settings were created and a short story from each child is currently underway.
I'm learning from these kids and I hope they're learning a little from me. What better way to spend a week than in the company of amazing young folk and watching them express their creativity and their appreciation of the written word.
Huge thanks to Gill &Macmillan and Little Acorns Bookstore, Derry for their contribution of books for the week.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

GOLDDIGGER, Hilary McCollum - book review

'Golddigger is a lesbian historical novel set against the landscapes of famine Ireland and gold rush California.
Frances Moriarty prepares for another day working in New York as shoeshine boy Frank. She has left her family and the great love of her life, Kitty Gorman, behind in Ireland. A letter from home brings word of more famine deaths. But Frank/Frances’s life is set to change as a newspaper article prompts her to pursue a chance of fortune in the California gold fields.
Golddigger is a love story and epic quest, intertwining two narratives about Frank/Frances: her attempts to claw out a new life as one of the California ‘forty-niners’, crossing America in pursuit of gold; and the life she has left behind in Ireland, falling in love with a woman for the first time until the famine wreaks devastation on her community.'
I went along to the book launch of Golddigger in May of this year at The Playhouse, Derry and left that evening looking forward to the read. I had Leaving Cert students at the time preparing for their exams so I put the novel alongside others that I had to read until I had some free days to do so. Those free days arrived just last week. With the Leaving Cert 2015 firmly behind me, it was time to set upon this intriguing novel, Golddigger.
I think I honestly expected it to be just another love story, only this time between two women. Boy was I shocked on entering these pages! What awaited me was a tale of hardship and famine: golddigging and death: friendship and comradeship: love and loss.
I, like every other reader of this novel embarked on the journey from West Ireland during famine times to New York, to California, alongside Frank/Frances. I felt like I was really there experiencing the hardship which she endured. Her time in Ireland and living in a strict rural Catholic family, falling in love with a girl, working her family's farm, and watching her friends and true love die: and then to see her transformation to a man (for the sake of survival) and follow her dream of finding Gold, and eventually finding love again. 
This novel brings the reader to the famine days. No history in school showcased the famine and it's harsh reality as clear as this read did. Nothing has ever shown me just how devastating these times really were. I witnessed not only the loss of people, but the loss of communities and I actually felt the starvation which these families went through.
At the heart of it all is the love story of Frances and Kitty. It survived through the sheer determination and love of the two girls and the secrecy which they had to endure, Ultimately the famine brought it to its cruel end. But it was also the beginning of another reality. The reality of survival on the coffin ship journey to America. The survival of a young woman alone in America. The survival of a young woman, taking on the persona of a man, travelling across America to find Gold and the ultimate acceptance of her true self.
The story of Frances and Kitty is told in a way that we don't know the extent of the journey until the very end. Each page tells us something new. Each chapter keeps us wanting to know more. Although it continually switches between Ireland and America, the reader is consistently engaged and at no time is allowed to diverge away from either continent. We are continually encapsulated in Frances' narrative.
There were times when I had goosebumps: there were times when I laughed: but unfortunately there were so many times when I cried. It is a story of love and loss, but more importantly it is a story of hope. Hope for the future and hope for Frances. Hope for every young woman who finds love with the same sex.
This is a novel which is destined for the big screen. I can already see the girls walking the road to Cobh: I can see the journey across the Atlantic on the coffin ship: and I can certainly see the journey through the Rocky mountains to California. I have my own picture of Ruby's in Hangtown! It is all there for the screen to showcase, and I don't doubt that if this novel gets into the right hands, this is one to watch out for.
Hilary McCollum has excelled in penning this novel. It is written in such a way that anyone can read it and get something different from it. It will appeal to all ages, male and female. And if you don't shed a tear on Kitty's departure, you're not possibly human!
Golddigger by Hilary McCollum is available to buy from Bella BooksAmazon USA and Amazon UK
If you want to read a snippet of the novel prior to purchase, check it out here