Friday, 31 January 2014

No Frontiers. 'The hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared' - book review!

The most recent review by No Frontiers is Jonas Jonasson's 'The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared'. Published originally in 2009 in Sweden, it was translated into English by Rod Bradbury. This novel is an adventure in every possible way! The chapters alternate between Allan's past and present adventures. It is both a comedic tale and yet a preposterous, farcical survey of twentieth-century history.

Sitting quietly in his room in an old people's home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn't want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not....

Escaping (in his pee slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan's earlier life is revealed. A life in which - remarkable - he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century!

A variety of opinions ensued regarding the book from the No Frontiers gang. Some felt it was so funny you just had to continue with every new page. Others felt it was so monotonous in places and had to give up - although they vowed to go back to it and complete, however arduous the task! Others enjoyed the beginning of the book and believed the historical parts to be boring and uninteresting. But all agreed that the character of Allan was ruthless, moralless and yet lovable. One couldn't help but support and encourage him on his crazy, erratic adventures. As for Sonya, the elephant, one reserves judgement! And an elephant on a bus...

A centenarian  Forest Gump was suggested by one member of No Frontiers.  A very accurate description was confirmed by the others; Allan sees no harm in anyone and yet remains an immoral character throughout.

Jonasson himself  calls the book 'a feel good novel'. That it certainly is. No Frontiers all agreed that it definitely is 'a feel good novel' and we all hope that we are fit and able to go on an adventure when we reach 100 years old. And perhaps enjoy a glass of wine or two then also!

No Frontiers Book Club!

No Frontiers is a book club based in Inishowen, Donegal. As a book club, the group have been together for a number of years now. However, due to familial and work circumstances, they had to take a break over the past year. But tonight saw them up and running once more. The monthly gathering will continue hereon.

At present the group consists of nine ladies from various backgrounds and professions and includes people from Derry, Muff, Quigleys Point and Redcastle. Although all living and based locally, some of the ladies are  from Dublin, London and France. So a great range of cultural backgrounds has come together to discuss literary works.

No Frontiers will have their reviews of the most recent read work, published on a monthly basis here on North West Culture! So if you're looking for your next good read, keep an eye out for what this group of ladies think of the various books they'll be reading and discussing at their monthly meetings.

As Ernest Hemingway once said, 'There is no friend as loyal as a book'! How very true!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Mary Deeney's Got Talent!

A new and exciting talent competition is coming to the village of Muff! Recently reopened Mary Deeney's bar on the Ture Road is hosting 'Mary Deeney's Got Talent'. The fun will start this coming Friday night and run until the final night, February 28th. With the exception of Valentines weekend, the competition will be held weekly on Friday nights during February.
String Fellas will be hosting the event. They will play and entertain on all nights. They are asking people to contact them for more information regarding entry into the competition. Prizes will be, a €50 bar tab for the winner of the weekly heats and a whooping €250 for the overall winner on February 28th. String Fellas can be contacted by their facebook page, or pop into Mary Deeney's and enquire at the bar!
For anyone who's NOT talented, you may also enter this talent competition! There will be an award titled 'God loves a trier', so it could be you! So if you wish to attempt a song, a dance, or other, there's no reason not to!! But perhaps leave the worst to last and help the owners clear the bar at closing time!
'Mary Deeney's Got Talent' gets underway this coming Friday night. Time for everyone to get rehearsing!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Square John and the 'One in Six' Theory - review!

Square John and the 'One in Six' Theory is a  play  written by Vin McCullagh and directed by Carl Campbell. This story is set in a psychiatric hospital in N.Ireland. The eponymous Square John has been a patient there for over 40 years. John grew up with thirteen sisters and was the victim of merciless bullying from them as he was the only son and heir to the farm. John’s ‘theory’ explains this treatment of him as the result of his sisters’ ‘weemin’s troubles’ and how it led to him being placed in the hospital following a breakdown.

The play unfolds as John, now institutionalised and suffering from an extreme form of OCD based on numbers and patterns, formulates his ‘One in Six’ Theory. His Nurse and friend, Gerry McGann, has championed this theory despite the scepticism he encounters from his colleagues who wonder if perhaps McGann should be amongst the patients rather than staff – or is Nurse McGann’s campaign a clever smokescreen for some other crafty plot? One must decide oneself on seeing the play. I'm still considering McGann's role!! 

Karl McCarron is outstanding in his role as Square John. He is consistent in his acting and his excellent accent throughout. Square John shows how some people can be institutionalised for the wrong reason and live a life that could have been so very different. Square John became a victim of the system and is aware of this. His situation is by no means unique. Our surroundings really do play a huge part in who we are and who we become.

The acting and dialogue is farcical and humourous throughout. We really are left wondering who is craziest, the patients or the staff! The student nurse was spot on when he told his lecturer, 'I'm not sure who's madder, the patients or the staff'! But either way, it gives a clear insight into the daily life of both patients and staff in such an institution of the time.

McCarron's portrayal of Square John shows how habits and routine become a necessity in existing, when institutionalised. He's not mad, he's simply a victim of his society.

The writer of this play, McCullagh, has a unique insight into mental illness. Having experience as both a patient and a nurse, he has the understandings of both sides. McCullagh puts all of his experience into this production.

The audience I felt laughed more than was necessary during the performance, and at times there was definite humour but a real edge of seriousness preceded the humour! It gave a distinct glimpse into the corridors and rooms inhabited by staff, who maintained these regimes that dealt with many of society's forgotten people.

These forgotten people are as real as you and me. Society has failed so many of them. The hidden world of the mental hospital is exposed with this production. And the failure to support these people also!

I spoke with a number of people during the interval of the play and each said that they all know someone who is just like one of these characters on stage. Such is the reality of this situation.

But everyone agreed that the pinnacle of the show was Vin McCullagh's monologue at the end. Vin tells his own personal story and he does so with such passion and feeling that one can't help but be moved. His words are from the heart.

We all know someone who has suffered or is suffering with a mental illness. Vins words quite simply blew me away. Surely I'm not the only one who left the theatre in tears. But hopefully everyone left with the message that the play and Vin were sending out. That 'the stigma comes from the fear'. And it's up to us to relay to the world that mental illness should not have such stigma attached. It's not something to fear. It's an illness like every other. And with the right help, it can be cured. 

As for the 'one in six' theory, women can be offended or amused by it! Square John believes that one in every six women that you meet is going through pmt! The 'TOM' remedy might be worth a try every now and again!!! Who knows? I've heard our 'monthly cycle' called many a name, but now it's got a new one!

Statistics show that 1 in 3 people will suffer a mental illness during their lifetime. It could be anyone of us next. So it's certainly time that society changed its attitude to such and the so called 'stigma' is erased once and for all!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Friday Night is Music Night: Derry!

A host of venues throughout the city of Derry are opening their doors to music lovers throughout this year 2014. As Music City 2014 the city has launched a new exciting cultural initiative geared towards transforming Friday nights in town.

Friday nights will see Derry's cafes and hotels go live as they throw open their doors for live session performances from a host of local singers and musicians from 5-9pm each week.

This new initiative has been supported by a number of local businesses as well as Derry City Council's Business Opportunities Programme, funded by Invest NI and European Regional Development Fund. The initiative will showcase the wealth of local talent in a variety of venues throughout the city. The aim is to highlight both the city's musical talent and give businesses the chance to let their customers sample some of the fantastic live talent that put Derry on the world map during City of Culture year 2013. Businesses and performers are set to reap the benefits from this initiative as Friday evenings become synonymous with the live music experience. A host of hotels, cafes and restaurants have all signed up to support Derry's latest cultural celebration.

2013 has been universally hailed a success. It has been the foundation stone which can now be built upon and show just how cultural the city of Derry really is. City of Culture status served to show the world what Derry has to offer. 2014 is set to continue this showcase and Friday nights are just a snippet of what's in store!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

North West Words, 'Arts Night'!

North West Words in Letterkenny is hosting an Arts Night on Thursday night, January 30th, at Cafe Blend, Letterkenny. Donegal Creameries/North West Words 2013 Poetry Presentations will take place on the night. This event is sponsored by Easons, Main Street, Letterkenny and Click PC.

Competition Judge is Kate Newman from Summer Palace Press, and Shortlisted poets will read from their work. Music will be provided on the night by guitarist Simon McCafferty. This is reportedly 'guitar music at its best'! So go along and judge for yourself!

Food is served from 7pm, and admission is free. Prize presentations will begin at 8pm. Everyone is welcome so why not bring a little culture into your life and pop along on the night. A great one is definitely guaranteed!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Hear the City Sing: Music City 2014 gets underway in Derry!

Tonight saw the Music City 2014 get underway in Derry. The 'Hear the City Sing' event went down a storm with the huge crowds that gathered in the city centre from early evening. Hosted by Edith Bowman from BBC Radio 1, this event showcased some amazing local talent and the infamous Shane Filan from Westlife!

This was the city's first Music Legacy event and was held at the Peace Garden/Foyle Street Car Park in the centre of Derry. Music was provided from The Clameens and Little Bear. Both groups excelled on
the Derry stage tonight. An outstanding performance from Erica Curran on the Guildhall balcony had the crowds full attention. The youth choir sung eloquently. The evening showed just what musical talent there really is in Derry. And there's so much more to come! Shane Filan from Westlife saw adults, teens and children alike, screaming for 'more'. A real ladies man, he entertained to the full.

Shane Filan complimented the Derry crowd but also the city's hospitality. He thanked 'The Custom House' restaurant for an amazing steak earlier in the evening, and said the Northern Ireland audiences are among the best in the world. Need he say more!!

Mayor Cllr Martin Reilly said that this event is the city's way of thanking all who participated in the monumental success of last year. This success is set to continue in Derry for many years to come. 'Hear the city Sing' provided Derry with the opportunity to showcase local talent alongside that of an internationally recognised performer in Shane Filan. The event combined music and visual art reaching out to a wide ranging audience within the city and its surrounds.

Yvette Mattern's Global Rainbow illuminated the city from 9pm, beaming a spectrum of laser coloured lights across the banks of the Foyle. This will continue for five nights, creating a natural perspective arc of a
rainbow symbolically connecting people, areas and time.

The evening ended with the showcasing of Mairead Carlin and Damian McGinty's song 'Let the River Flow' accompanied with the video of highlights from last year. It was special in so many ways.

Tonight as with all the events from 2013 was organised to perfection. Derry City Council excelled throughout last year with the City of Culture status and this is continuing forward. Crowds are behaved to the highest standard and facilities are second to none. Credit is certainly due to these people.

Edith Bowman summed the occasion up perfectly when she said 'the atmosphere is surging for the past year and it is continuing'. How true her words are. To the Derry people she said 'You are one special bunch of people'. Who can argue with that.

Here's to yet another amazing year in Derry and many more following!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The 'Wee Gathering' at Mary Deeney's, Muff!

Mary Deeney’s bar on the Ture road, Muff, is up an running once more. Under new management the premises promises to deliver much more than just food and drink!
Chris Armstrong and Jenna Murray are the new management behind the establishment and promise to reinvent some traditional culture into the local area! This reinventment got underway on Saturday night last, January 11th, with ‘The Wee Gathering’ at the official opening! Playing on the night was local girl Niamh Cregan and The Blarneymen. A great nights entertainment was had by all.
This ‘Wee Gathering’ is going to become a regular on a Saturday night with music, song and much more over the coming weeks and months. This coming Saturday night, 18th January, will see local man Mark McKinney and his band Stringfellas playing from 9.30pm. A great night is definitely once more on the cards.
The bar is currently open Monday to Friday from 5pm till close and Saturday/Sunday from 12pm till close. A food menu will be coming soon and we will hopefully be sampling it by March!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Square John and the ‘One in Six’ Theory

Square John and the 'One in Six' Theory is a new play  written by Derry Writers' Group member Vin McCullagh and directed by Carl Campbell. The script itself was edited and adapted by Carl Campbell and Jim McClengahan, both founder members of 'HereWeGo' Theatre Company.

This story is set in a psychiatric hospital in N.Ireland. The eponymous ‘Square John’ has been a patient for over 40 years. John grew up with thirteen sisters and was the victim of merciless bullying from them as he was the only son and heir to the farm. John’s ‘theory’ explains this treatment of him as the result of his sisters’ ‘weemin’s troubles’ and how it led to him being placed in the hospital following a breakdown.

The play unfolds as John, now institutionalised and suffering from an extreme form of OCD based on numbers and patterns, formulates his ‘One in Six’ Theory. His Nurse and friend, Gerry McGann has championed this theory despite the scepticism he encounters from his colleagues who wonder if perhaps McGann should be amongst the patients rather than staff – or is Nurse McGann’s campaign a clever smokescreen for some other crafty plot?

The writer of this play, McCullagh has a unique insight into mental illness. Having experience as both a patient and a nurse, he has the understandings of both sides. McCullagh puts all of his experience into this production.

Square John is a dark comedy that examines the hidden world of the mental Hospital. At times farcical and others poignant; we are given a glimpse into the corridors and day rooms inhabited by staff, who maintained these regimes that dealt with many of society's forgotten people.

This is a 'Here WeGo Theatre' production and runs at the Waterside Theatre in Derry on Tursday 23rd January and Friday 24th January. Tickets are priced at £10/8 and an opening night offer of two tickets for £16. 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Waterside Greenway walk, Derry!

Having heard about the new walkway which is now open along the River Foyle in Derry's Waterside, I decided it was time to check it out earlier this evening. So off myself and husband went for our stroll; which turned into a rather brisk walk. Calories were definitely burned!

The walk stretches from Ebrington right down to the Foyle Bridge. It's absolutely stunning. The sign specifies that it's a 25 minute walk each way. I'm confident that I can do it in 20, but even if you stroll along at perhaps 40 minutes each way, you are guaranteed a beautiful, scenic walk. On returning back to Ebrington this evening the sun was setting and it provided an amazing view whilst walking.

This is a family friendly, spacious, stunning walk. It's a fabulous addition to the many other walkways in the city area. For me, it now remains to do the full circle. Foyle Street car park, across the Peace Bridge, down Greenway, across the Foyle Bridge and up the cityside to Foyle Street car park once more. Before the month is out, it shall be accomplished.

But in the meantime, do go along and enjoy this beautiful walk. And if like me, you feel peckish afterwards, pop into the 'Snug' bar at The Waterfoot hotel and enjoy some exceptional food. It is January afterall. Time to treat oneself!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Save Ebrington!

Later today, the Turner Prize Building at Ebrington Barracks in Derry-Londonderry will be closed. £2.5m of 
public money has been spent on turning buildings 80-81 into state of the art galleries to host the Turner Prize 
for 2013. But when the lights are switched today after the last visitors leave, the Ebrington gallery will shut its doors for good. The flagship gallery will revert to offices.

This cannot be allowed to happen. 

A recent article in the Derry Journal signposted the growing 
controversy over the future of the Ebrington Gallery as the litmus test in terms of Stormont’s commitment to culture in Derry post 2013. 
It features a quote from Charlotte Higgins, Chief arts writer with 
the Guardian back in October: “Fears are growing that these [City of Culture] gains risk being frittered away through lack of vision and ambition. 
“Symbolic of this for many is the fact that the £2.5m galleries created for the Turner prize – high-spec, museum-quality spaces converted from barracks that will see 8,000 pre-booked schoolchildren and some 100,000 adults come through the doors over the next four months – will revert to the offices of a digital hub after the show has closed.”The Guardian article also quoted Caoimhin Corrigan of Ilex as saying the spaces in question have long been earmarked for offices and had been “borrowed from their intended use for the Turner prize. We can’t turn round and tell people who are expecting them to be one thing that sorry, they are going to be something else.”
In the article Higgins quoted Willie Doherty, himself twice shortlisted for the Turner prize, as saying that it 
was “ludicrous that a town spending that amount of money would let it last just four months and not take the 
opportunity to build upon it”. According to Doherty, the risk was that after the Turner prize show has rolled out of town, 'it will feel like the lights have been switched off again in Derry'.

Please don't let the lights go out! 

Show your support and Like the 'Save Ebrington' Facebook page. Post up pictures 
of your happy times at Ebrington. Please sign the ipetition 
Check out the links to the website

Time is running out! 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Bouncer at local Butchers! Could this be Culture?

You’re never quite surprised to find a bouncer on the door of the local pub at the weekend. They’re needed every now and then and do tend to keep the clientele that bit more respectable. But one never expects to find a bouncer on the door at the local butcher’s!
That’s just what I found on New Year’s Eve afternoon! Whilst shopping for a nice piece of meat for the first family dinner of 2014, I found myself in yet another queue at the butcher shop (I keep telling him that he really does need a wee coffee pot and table for two!). So whilst being mannerly and making polite conversation with the locals, also awaiting some nice meat, the last man in the queue insisted that he was doing bouncer on the door. And thankfully I was in front of him, and not behind! Otherwise I might have been relegated to a very leftover turkey and ham, blue moulded dinner the next day!!
A certain B B took control of the butchers and decided he was in charge. He was even insulting the butcher for not paying the staff and so the queue had formed. I did stand up for the butcher but Brian (!) was having none of it. When my turn came along I advised the butcher not to serve yer man as he was insulting him. So I’m not sure if good quality meat was served in the Barron household on New Years Day, but mine was just divine!
What’ll it be next at the butcher’s? A Huskie checking out the customers!!! Or maybe it'll be the next Turner exhibition. One local customer (a certain Mr Lindsay was spotted sketching at Ebrington just recently) One just never knows!
One might not consider the local butcher's shop to be a part of our cultural life, but it's amazing the conversations that get started just there! Between the social life of the village, to fine wine and beers, to the review of the latest music gig, this shop is a hub of activity in the local community of Muff! And in recent months a certain few are trying to get a coffee pot and seating area erected within the confines of the local Butcher's! So this might be the next thing in Culture! Just watch this space!

Foyle Haven Arts Collective!

The Creative writing project that gave the homeless and those struggling with addiction a voice in print and on stage.
The Haven is a centre for former and active street drinkers, people with drug and alcohol abuse issues, the homeless, travellers, ex-prisoners and people with mental health issues for whom ‘community care’ is not working.
Started in Derry in September 2011, Haven Arts Collective was born out of a six week pilot project to see if service users would engage with creative writing as a means of self-expression and for enjoyment. Two years later the Collective is a self-regulating, vibrant entity dedicated to providing a voice for the voiceless and making the Haven ‘part of the community – not apart from it.’
For Haven’s 2013 project, ‘Every Bottle Has a story to Tell’, personal stories and writing from the service users were developed into a short piece of theatre, which was performed at the Playhouse Theatre by professional actors working alongside the Collective.
The play was sold out, received critical acclaim, and an anthology of the group’s writing has also sold out
“Group members were involved at every stage of the process, from designing and printing programmes, designing and building props, making costumes, doing make up, media interviews and hosting Q & A and feedback sessions  after each performance,” says Felicity McCall.
“We achieved a miracle, engaging people who are by their own definition among society’s most marginalised, in art forms they would never have considered. The innovative drama and anthology told service users’ stories in their own words, which enlightened and informed the general public to empathise not sympathise.”
I was fortunate to see this production last year in Derry. It's an amazing insight into the lives of Street drinkers. Please vote for this project as it's a very worthy recipient of the Epic Awards. Go to the link below and register to vote. Thanks!