Sunday, 27 July 2014

North West Words 'Lunchtime Reading'!

Today I felt very privileged to be present at the lunchtime reading organised by North West Words at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny. This event was part of the North West Words Writing Weekend  taking place at the Radisson Blu.
Sundays are normally spent lazing by the fireside, or walking a local beach, so this was definitely going to be a Sunday with a difference! And what a Sunday it turned out to be.
At approximately 1pm Jenni Doherty embarked on her reading. Originally from Greencastle, Co. Donegal, Jenni was reading from her debut collection of poetry and prose Rain Spill, published by 'Guildhall Press Derry'. The said title was very appropriate today as the rain was indeed spilling from the heavens!
Jenni read a selection of her work today but perhaps the most poignant  was her poem 'Brutal B&B'. This poem written a few years ago has many echos of the present day Palestinian crisis. Words such as 'It's happenin' in the streets/broken shells beaten weep/racking wounds crackle blast/fisted flesh carcass cast/amputation, condemnation/ disfiguration of love and limbs.' These words rang true to the modern day crisis and everyone related to them in a very real way. She followed this with a poem dedicated to her twin brother. 'Twin Peeks' tells of her growing up alongside her brother and the differences that were present between male and female. She tells how the closeness of being a twin is a special attribute and how life and distance can change so much. Her love for her twin is evident throughout. Jenni finished with her piece on 'Village Buttons' where she recalls coming home to Greencastle and the ghosts that are ever present, and a place where her heart will always be.
Denise Blake has two poetry collections published by 'Summer Palace Press'; Take a Deep Breath and How to Spin Without getting Dizzy. Denise read a selection of her work today also and a number of her poems touched me very deeply. Mother Goddess' told of the many facets of motherhood, the expectations and the realisations. Her words 'help me to be the mother my own son needs' is something I ask for every day. We all want to be the perfect parent, but if we can do right by our own son, then we are doing good. It's almost the words of a silent prayer I say every day. When Denise read 'Breathings' I had a tear (or maybe two) in my eye. This recalled her experiences and feelings when her son left home. This is a milestone in any mothers life and I too have experienced such. Hearing someone else read how I felt made me very emotional. Genuine emotion is within her words. When she read 'Sycamore' and explained that this is about her grandchildren, the line 'web of veins sprung from the stem' sums up the familial line. True love and emotion are intertwined with her beautiful expressions throughout her work. Finishing on a poem based on childhood stories, 'Mother Goose' expressed clearly a mothers advice to her children.
Following the readings by Doherty and Blake, Patricia Morris entertained us with her impressive vocals and assisted by Neil Burns on keyboard. Patricia sang a range of her own music and songs such as 'My Baby Don't Care'. Her own compilation, 'Between New Year and Valentine' is one we certainly want to hear again and again. Patricia's stunning voice from her Scottish Irish roots only serves to enhance any piece of music. She was the perfect ending for what was a beautiful chilled Sunday lunchtime.
This proved to be an absolutely delightful way to spend a Sunday lunchtime and early afternoon. Jenni Doherty, Denise Blake and Patricia Morris complimented each other perfectly and we the audience had to simply sit back and enjoy! Divine on a Sunday!
North West Words is the writers venue in Donegal. Poetry nights take place on the last Thursday of each month at Cafe Blend in Letterkenny.

Maurice McMenamin Memorial Fun run/walk 2014!

The annual 'Maurice McMenamin Memorial Fun Run/Walk' is due to take place on Sunday August 24th 2014. The run/walk will this year be raising funds for Meningitis Research Foundation and for Aoibheanns Pink Tie. Aoibheanns Pink Tie is an organisation that provides support to young children and their families through cancer.
At the present time there are two young children in our parish with cancer, Caraiosa and Katie. There are also a number of children in Moville, Fahan, Tooban and Buncrana who are attending hospital for treatment at this time. There are currently 24 children attending Letterkenny Paediatrics for treatment of childhood cancer. Unfortunately we all know someone who is in need of this support at present. Aoibheanns Pink Tie will help and offer practical support to the families of children diagnosed with cancer and who are attending St. John's Oncology Ward in Our Lady's Children's Hospital.'Focused on children attending the only treatment centre for childhood cancer in Ireland, we will support the complete family unit, of parents and siblings, who may not understand what is happening to their brother or sister'. This is a wonderful organisation and is clearly doing some great work with families today. It is such a worthy cause and a great one to be helping alongside the much deserving Meningitis Research Foundation.
This event enables the local community and those beyond to come together and remember the much loved young man, Maurice McMenamin. It is not only an opportunity to remember Maurice but to raise much needed funds for these very worthy charities. It always proves to be a fun day. And amongst all the sadness there is always joy and hope. So do spread the word of this great day.
Run, walk, skip, hop, it's all in the name of charity. And it's all a bit of fun. So get ready to enjoy a fun filled day of frolics on August 24th. The route will be from Redcastle (McGowans) to the Carmans Inn at Ture. Sure it's only 10k!!!!!
Registration for the event is just €10 or Sponsor cards can be collected from the Carmans or Harkins shop at present.

Friday, 18 July 2014

2013: A LegenDerry Year! A year in pictures, by Guildhall Press.

2013: A LegenDerry Year, is a publication by Guildhall Press, Derry, and captures the UK City Of Culture Year 2013 in the city of Derry! The year was an historic one and it saw thousands of people flock from all over the world to Derry. It saw culture at its best and it showcased Derry as a city which can now compete with any world city with culture at its core!
This publication tells only part of the story from last year. Each individual has their own memories and this book explores a selection of those memories. This will help retain many memories and help recall others. It will remind those who were part of it, and it will be a souvenir for those who were not.
2013: A LegenDerry Year is a book filled with colour and vibrant photographs. From it's front cover to its back cover, and every page in between. 
'2013: A LegenDerry Year’ is the definitive record of the City of Culture celebrations, which encompassed 500-plus events across the Northwest. 
Images for the book – covering January to December 2013, and the 2010-to-2012 run-in – were contributed by the city’s own cameramen and women. So if you were at any of the major events there is a good chance you will be in the book! 
The collection provides the perfect visual archive to a year, which saw visits from the likes of: Danny Boyle, Sam Shepard, Carol Ann Duffy, Lee Child, Robbie Williams, Paul Greengrass, the Radio One Big Weekend, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the Turner Prize 2013, Lumiere, Other Voices, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Chic and many more.
There is extensive coverage of the city’s very own cultural community, amateur and professional, who participated in the non-stop cavalcade of festivals and fun. Pictured playing their part are: the late, great Seamus Heaney, Field Day, Brian Friel, Snow Patrol, Dana, The Undertones, Bronagh Gallagher, Neil Hannon, Willie Doherty and SOAK, to name but a select few.
And there is also, of course, a full pictorial review of the year’s most spectacular ‘in-house’ festival, The Return of Colmcille Pageant, which featured thousands of performers and tens of thousands of spectators. 

TV producer Phil Redmond – who is chair of the City of Culture judging panel – provided the introduction to ‘2013: A LegenDerry Year’, and the book was edited by Garbhan Downey. Support for the publication was received from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Culture Company.'

This is a book which I haven't read from cover to cover. But over the coming weeks and months I will have read each and every word. It's a book to delve into when a memory returns; when a thought recurs, or when I just want to smile. It's a book to treasure and it's a memory I will certainly treasure forever.
Phil Redmond says, '2013 was a great year, as this book illustrates. It should be remembered not as the end of anything but the beginning of something else. A stepping stone from a shared, if divided, past - toward a common future'.
Garbhan Downey, editor, says that 'in 2013, Derry enjoyed its highest number of tourists ever. By a country mile. During one event, Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in August, the city's population expanded to four times its normal size. And by the time the year was over, everyone, from the New York Times to the BBC, agreed that this was truly a cultural haven on earth'. 
I have many fond memories of 2013 in Derry. But my most precious must surely be, my presence on the night that Seamus Heaney read his work at Derry's Millenium Theatre. One of Ireland's greatest poets. One of the world's greatest literary folk. I was fortunate to experience a magical,emotional and truly awe inspiring night in his company.
2013: A LegenDerry Year is available from www.ghpress.comLittle Acorns Bookstore (Derry), and all good bookshops!

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Henry Girls, Frances Black, Mary Coughlan and Sharon Shannon play Earagail Arts Festival 2014!

As I was driving to Letterkenny from Muff yesterday evening I knew that I was about to witness a very special night of music. The elite of Irish female musicians were about to play Donegal and to say it would be a 'treat' would be such an understatement. On arrival at The Clanree Hotel I was delighted to see such a great mix of people. Young and old alike were in the audience awaiting the onset of this music event.
Sharon Shannon, Mary Coughlan and Frances Black are the core of Ireland's leading female performers. All 3 have been part of the historical 'A Woman's Heart' project and each an outstanding artist in their own right. Alongside Donegal's The Henry Girls, Earagail Arts Festival was about to present a magical evening of music tradition!
At approximately 8.20pm, The Henry Girls came on stage. Lorna, Joeleen and Karen are firmly established as one of Ireland's best folk exports, with regular tours in the USA and Europe promoting their own brand of roots and traditional tinged Donegal music. They didn't disappoint last night. They started their set with 'Silver Moon'. And from here it was just a string of rapturous folk music songs. The girls said they felt like the 'ball boys coming onto the pitch with the players in the World Cup', in relation to them being first on stage prior to Frances Black, Mary Coughlan and Sharon Shannon. The Letterkenny audience ensured the girls with the applause that they were equally deserving to be sharing this stage with the three up coming ladies.
Mary Coughlan came on stage around 9.10pm. This was the lady I most wanted to hear. Coughlan is one of Ireland's best jazz/blues singers ever to come from these shores. She is unique in her husky voice and can
produce a singing masterpiece with little effort. She showed this last night. Mary Coughlan stole the show for me. She belted some of her greatest works including 'Look out World I'm about to be Bad', and 'Wayward Man' to the Letterkenny audience. And she didn't forget the current music crisis in Ireland; 'Are you all going to Garth Brooks? What the fuck is that about?' she asked. Letterkenny didn't need Garth Brooks. This town was currently experiencing music heaven. And it was far from over.
10pm saw Frances Black come onto the Letterkenny stage. Donegal 'is a special place for me' she said. 'My Dad grew up on Rathlin Island, which you can see from Malin Head'. Black told the story of her father and her memories of returning to Rathlin as a child. Her love of Rathlin and her father were very clear in her choice of songs. Black had the audience singing and swaying to her music. This audience could
have been at Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall or even Sydney Opera House. But we were seated in The Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny!
Sharon Shannon, former member of The Waterboys, platinum-selling, multi-instrumentalist blew the Donegal audience away with her magical musical set. From start to finish, it was non-stop music extravaganza. If you weren't tapping your feet, clapping your hands, then you certainly weren't in The Clanree Hotel! It really was a taste of musical heaven.
The night finished off in spectacular style. The Henry Girls, Mary Coughlan, Frances Black and Sharon Shannon sang 'A Woman's Heart' and quite literally blew everyone away. This was not just a special night, this was something unique in Donegal's musical memories. This night will be remembered for many years to come. Earagail Arts Festival thank you for making a night of music into a memory of a lifetime.
There's so very much more happening over the coming two weeks at Earagail Arts Festival. Just check out and you'll find something for everyone.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Westport Festival of Music and Food 2014!

Last weekend saw the third annual festival of Music and Food take place in Westport, Co. Mayo. This is a two day boutique family friendly entertainment extravaganza, set amidst the picturesque 400-acre grounds of Westport House. The historic house and estate is located in the heart of one of Ireland's most charming seaside towns, which is renowned for its music, excellent food, great pubs and a very warm welcome. Now in it's third year, the event proved to be a fantastic fun filled, hassle free, weekend of entertainment, music, comedy, kids activities, delicious food, camping, beer tents and wine bars, in a truly relaxed, friendly and chilled out atmosphere.
Having never been to Westport, I was really looking forward to my visit and most especially to the festival. I wasn't disappointed in either. I found the town to be filled with extremely friendly people and lovely sights. I popped out to Croak Patrick and enjoyed the view. I didn't mange to make the climb, but it shall be done!!
I was very fortunate to have a media pass for the weekend. This enabled me to enjoy the festival in every way. I was able to meet the stars, take some very special photos, mix with with crowd, enjoy the hospitality area, and sample the food in the 'food village' and at all the stalls. I wasn't disappointed with any area.
On Saturday I chatted to Shane Filan. I didn't realise that this was his first solo performance at a festival. He gave a memorable show. I managed to catch the Neil Hannon interview in the Radio 1 tent, which was 'divine'! I was blown away with the performance by 2CELLOS, and thoroughly enjoyed David Gray. The comedy stage was outstanding and the DJ stage was heaving! The sun was shining and all was picture perfect.
Sunday saw the amazing performance by Sophie Ellis-Bexter. Sinead O'Connor wooed the crowd with her 'Nothing Compares to U'. A
classic that will never date! The Clew Bay Pipe Band blew everyone away. Kool and the Gang brought the best of the '80's to life. On other stages, Little Green Cars, BellX1, Bjorn Again, Mundy and many many more brought music alive in Westport.
At approximately 9.40pm Bryan Adams took to the Westport main stage. An avid fan for 25 years, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. Adams rocked Westport to the core. A solid two hours of hits followed. Whether you were a fan or not, you couldn't but enjoy his set. The town was alive with such hits as 'Run to You', 'Summer of '69', '18 till I die' and so much more. Bryan Adams clearly enjoyed the show and thanked Westport for having him. A memorable night was certainly had.
Over the two days I managed to visit every corner of the festival. I met people from all over the country and further afield. At no time did I experience any trouble or even an indication of such. It was a delight to watch young and old alike enjoy a variety of entertainment. Young children were playing football. Older people were sitting in chairs and on the ground soaking up the music and atmosphere. Others like myself danced the weekend away.
Food, drink and toilet facilities were second to none. Queues were certainly formed at the different facilities but these were short lived and reduced in very little time. Volunteers were walking around in all areas and ready and willing to help everyone. Staff were friendly and helpful. Security was tight and yet very friendly. Everything about the organisation and running of this weekend was spectacular.
I was very disappointed to read yesterday (Friday) in the Mayo News that there is NO guarantee of the festival being held next year. I hope the coming days and weeks brings better news. This is a festival worth developing and securing for future years. It is a festival which accommodates everyone. On-site camping is available, hotels and guest houses are plentiful. And if these are all booked, there is Sligo to Galway to consider as 'stop overs' for the weekend. Westport is just a short drive (couple of hours) from both. As for value for money, this is exceptional. I've paid €100+ a few years ago to see AC/DC at Punchestown. They were amazing. BUT, getting there and getting back was horrific. And the show lasted just two hours. Westport Festival lasted two DAYS. At just €150 for the weekend, it was extremely good value for money. Whatever your plans are for next summer, if Westport Festival of Music and Food is happening, it is well worth checking out. I certainly will be. As Bryan Adams said, 'Thank you Westport. You've been great.' I'll second that!