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.