Thursday, 21 January 2016

Mary McEvoy on 'Songs from the Swans At Coole'.

An avid Yeats fan I am always drawn to any event that celebrates his life and works. Even just a picture or quote on a wall will be sufficient to invite me inside. With last year, 2015, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Yeats' birth, I visited many events throughout Derry, Donegal and Dublin celebrating 'the terrible beauty' that is Yeats' work. I've lost count of the amount of times I've visited the Yeats Exhibition at Dublin's National Library. I've even brought the kiddo along at times and watched as he enjoyed readings and listening to extracts of Yeats' work.
So when I heard just last week that Michael Scotts new production of 'Songs from the Swans of Coole' was coming to Derry's Millennium Forum I was a tad excited. Listening to Yeats' poetry put to music sounds like an idylic way to spend an evening to me. 
On reading the cast list I then discovered that Mary McEvoy was there at the fore. Of course that meant only one thing! I had to have a chat and see how she felt about being part of this stage production commemorating one of our greatest poets. Earlier today I did just that and she didn't disappoint in her passion and enthusiasm for the poetry of Yeats.
Just how does McEvoy feel about being part of this cast? "It's an absolute honour to perform Yeats' poetry to an audience" she told me. "We all have a Yeats poem we like, and I' m geniunely honoured to be able to read some of mine on stage".
What exactly is 'Songs from the Swans of Coole'? Mary explains that it is a collection of poems from Yeats which will be performed in chronoglogical order but there will be "no beginning, middle or end. It's like one long poem put to music. This is a real homage to Yeats" she says.
Mary will be joined on stage for the forthcoming Derry performance by renowned Abbey actor Des Cave. Alongside them will be Irish tenors Sandra Oman and Anthony Norton. They will sing a selection of Yeats poems in an operatic and classical style alongside a traditional Irish orchestra.
Mary McEvoy is no stranger to Derry and was here just last year on the Millenium Forum stage in John B. Keane's 'Matchmaker'. I asked her if she's looking forward to her upcoing visit to the city and she laughs saying: "I'm excited because of the honour but I'm looking forward because I love Derry, It's always great craic."
I for one won't be missing this great opportunity to not only see Mary on stage reading the poetry of Yeats but to experience an evening celebrating the work of one of our greatest and indeed the worlds greatest ever poets.
Songs from the Swans At Coole will run at Millennium Forum Derry next Thrusday night, January 28th at 8pm. Tickets can be booked online here at Millennium Forum Derry.


Monday, 18 January 2016

Brenda Shankey inspires St. Mary's and friends

I was delighted to get an invite to today's book launch of 'Be Fabulous: Have it ALL' by Brenda Shankey at St. Mary's college in Derry. Shankey is well known for her infamous hairdressing but more recently making a name for herself as a 'Mindfulness' advocate. This new audio book is
promoted with the words 'The ultimate survival guide for today's modern woman'. With such words I just had to go along and see if I might learn something. As a small business woman and trying to inspire young people myself I had hoped I might just pick up a few tips. I had never envisaged myself leaving the launch feeling positive, great about myself and having learned rather a lot in a very short space of time. But that's exactly how I felt on departing St. Mary's this afternoon.
Brenda Shankey began her talk today with a very honest account of her own experiences. A former head girl of St. Mary's she emphasised how important our mental health really is. And then she dropped the bombshell I wasn't expecting: "I've suffered depression, anxiety, panic attacks. I've had a burnout". She admits to dealing with her anxiety by over working. She used her work to escape the real problems.
Brenda spoke about having the "million pound house and the Porsche and the parties in London with all the celebs" and yet she wasn't happy. She realised she wasn't content within herself. And so she turned to meditation and mindfulness. She went on a quest and she didn't give up. Reaching 40 she says: "I didn't know myself. Looking at me one would think I have it all."
Brenda then embarked upon a journey of mindfulness. "What I learned from this is that you are 100% in control of your life. Just you. No  one else is responsible. But you've got a choice. The choices which you make are exactly where you're going in life. You just have to sit still for a few moments each day and you learn to make the right choices. Good things will happen. But this is all up to you."
Brenda went on to say that no-one teaches us mindfulness. It isn't taught in schools. But she says, "Mindfulness is simply living in the present moment; accepting life as it is right here right now and being the best that you can be." Brenda explained that we all experience bad times and for her those bad times were the best thing. "When I hit the wall and I couldn't take the mental torture any more, I had to look at me. I was the only person who could fix me. So I had to learn who I was."
Brenda spoke clearly and eloquently about her own life and the benefits of mindfulness. I came away believing that being positive about oneself and ones life can go a very long way. Taking time every day for 'me' will help in many ways. And clearing my mind of all the negativity will also clear other 'stuff' alongside.
Having heard Brenda Shankey speaking earlier today I think I can certainly recommend a listen of her new audio book, 'Be Fabulous: Have it all'. Life really is down to us ourselves and we all have one thing in common.....we only get one shot at this life. As Shankey said this afternoon, "You only have one life - make it amazing". So the new amazing me starts right here, right now!

Brenda's book can be bought here at Brenda Shankey or via iTunes, Facebook, Google Play, Spotify, Rdio and many more online outlets.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

IRISH SHORT STORIES, by Charlie Herror - book launch.

Last night saw the Donegal book launch of Derry writer, Charlie Herron's recent collection of short stories. The launch was held at Buncrana library in the heart of Buncrana town.
Charlie Herron was born in Derry in 1935 and has strong Donegal connections. With three novels to his credit (The McCauley Triology), this further literary achievement comes as no surprise to those who know him.
Last night his son Michael spoke very highly of the family loving, writing enthusiast father, Charlie. He told the Donegal audience how his father was always telling stories as they grew up. He told how his father is forever writing stories on bits of paper lying about the house, envelopes, scraps of note paper, you name it, you'll find Charlie writing on it!
Another son Paul then spoke of the current collection of stories. He told us that 'with each story, you will either laugh or cry.' Each one has an attachement which will awaken our senses.
And so it was time for the man himself, Charlie Herron to give us a few readings from the book. This Charlie did with great pride and he also spoke about his Donegal connections. His mother is from the Parish and Charlie clearly feels a strong sense of attachement to the area. He thanked his family for all their support and their contributions to the book.
Throughout the evening Charlies son Michael provided a selection of music and was accompained by a variety of Charlies grand-children, both playing, singing and reciting.
Charlie Herron is a an exceptionally talented and gifted man. Having recently celebrated his 80th birthday, he has many a tale to tell. This collection is just a snippet of the stories this man doth know! A true gentleman in every way and a true collecion of good old fashioned Irish stories is within the covers of IRISH SHORT STORIES. Have a read.
IRISH SHORT STORIES is available at all good bookstores now.
A selection of photos from the launch can be viewed at North West Culture Gal FB page.