Friday, 31 October 2014

Banks of the Foyle, Halloween Carnival.

It's that time of year again and there's never a choice. I just have to venture into Derry. For many years when the children were younger we went along to the firework display in the city every Halloween. Now that they're grown up, playing football, working and living abroad, they're unable to go. With husband working late, there's nothing else for it, but going solo to the streets of Derry. And solo I did go!
My first venture was along the walls to experience the Citadel of Dreams: Awakening of the Walls (by LUXe). Here I took a walk through this specially created theatrical dream-world of light, fire, sculpture and circus. There were beautifully illuminated sculptures, fiery mechanical sculpture, music, dance, fire performance and some amazing street and night circus performers. It really was a dream like experience. And fortunately the rain stayed off.
Then it was down town and time for a quick coffee before the City of Bones Street Carnival Parade. Paulines Patch coffee shop was the perfect stopping gap. 7 o'clock came around quite quickly and it was show time on the streets of Derry once more. Some of the most outstanding carnival acts, circus and street performers joined various community groups in an illuminated spectacle. It travelled up Strand Road towards Harbour Roundabout and down Queen's Quay to the Council offices. It was a spectacle in every way.
At approximately 8pm the fireworks display got underway and as always it excelled.The climax of the City of Bones Halloween celebrations lit up the city from the skyline.
The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival showcased Derry once more to be a leading city in the field of entertaining. Here's to doing it all over again next year.

(A selection of photos from the carnival and Citadel of Dreams are on North West Culture facebook page)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

WOW Festival 2014, Derry~Londonderry: Martina Devlin

Join Jenni Doherty in conversation with Omagh-born author and journalist Martina Devlin.  This is part of the WOW Festival 2014 in Derry. The festival runs from 7-9th November at Derry Playhouse .  Devlin's eight books range from best selling historical novels -The House Where it Happened and Ship of Dreams - to non fiction including Banksters, and The Hollow Heart. She writes a weekly current affairs column for the Irish Independent and has been named columnist of the year by the National Newspapers of Ireland. Short story awards include the Royal Society of Literature's VS Pritchett Prize and a Hennessy Literary Award, and she has been short-listed twice for the Irish Book Awards. This is a conversation not to be missed.
Martina Devlin's website is
Jenni Doherty is a Guildhall Press author and award winning poet, based in Derry and born in Greencastle, Donegal.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Jonathan Harker and Dracula

As a child I recall hiding behind the cushion on my parents sofa and screaming when the film Dracula was on. I never watched it again for many years. As a mature student just a few years ago I studied Bram Stoker's Dracula and fell in love with the story and Stoker's masterpiece.

Tonight Dracula was taken to another level entirely. Jonathan Harker and Dracula was performed on the Derry stage at The Millennium Forum in Derry. Gerard McCarthy played both Jonathan Harker, whose diaries chronicle the vampire tale, and the greatest supernatural character of all time, Dracula.
With the use of multiple cameras, backing screens, projections and surround sound, this solo tour had the Derry audience on the edge of their seats.
The book was very much portrayed tonight and the screens allowed us to see the vastness of Dracula's castle, the female vampires, and
the settings throughout the story.
Anyone not familiar with the story may have lost the plot at times but having studied this work in recent years I found it to be very true to the book and enthralling throughout.
McCarthy was brilliant with the accents and various character presentations, and never faltered. It was certainly very apt that this was in Derry so near Halloween. The Banks of the Foyle never fail to deliver at Halloween and this performance only added to the Halloween experience of 2014 in Derry.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Saturday night dining at Mandarin Karma!

Going into Derry on a Saturday night for dinner and no booking may seem like a crazy idea. And it certainly is. However that's exactly what I and my husband did last night. Shortly after 7pm we ventured into the city. The first restaurant we went into said we would have to wait for an hour and a half before getting a table. I didn't take offence as I knew to expect such. The staff were very nice and we decided to try elsewhere and see how it would go!
Next we entered the Mandarin Karma restaurant along the quay. The only reason we didn't go here first was that we had recently been here and were going to try something different this weekend. However on approaching the young man on reception, we soon realised that we were going to dine once more at the Mandarain Karma. Immediately he told us that it wouldn't be a problem accommodating us without a booking and brought us to a table.
From the moment of going in the door, the Mandarain Karma staff were pleasant, attentive and helpful. They had time for everyone amid the bustle of continual traffic through the restaurant. The customer service provided from each member of staff I encountered last night was first class.
And then there was the food. As always it was quite excellent and tasted divine. I'm not a particularly adventurous eater so I simply ordered 'chicken fried rice'. It might be boring for some people but it was just what I wanted and it was delicious. My husband tried the 'Chicken Maryland'. Now it's not often that this man needs to leave food on his plate but last night was one of those occasions. There was just so much of it. Again his meal was delicious also and he simply couldn't finish it. A perfect wine selection was made to accompany the food.
On finishing our meal, we still had some wine to drink. At no point did we feel that we need to hurry as others were waiting. The staff catered for every eventuality and we enjoyed some relaxing time after eating, just sipping our wine.
A delightful evening was had and we shall definitely be returning here one evening soon. Good staff allows for so much of the enjoyment of a night, and at the Mandarin Karma you will most definitely find this!

Saturday, 18 October 2014


Guth Gafa International Documentary Film Festival
Guth Gafa (meaning ‘captive voice’) is Ireland’s only independent documentary film festival.  It focuses on showcasing the latest award-winning International and Irish documentary films on thought-provoking subjects, and promoting the art of great story-telling, through film, to rural Irish communities.
The festival returns this year in not one, but two magical locations, in Counties Donegal and Meath. It  will get underway on Saturday, October 25th and Sunday October 26th in the unspoilt 17th century village of Malin, Co Donegal, its spiritual home. Over the following weekend, November 1st and 2nd, it will move to the magnificent and tranquil grounds of the 18th century Headfort House, a hidden gem close to the historic village of Kells in Co Meath. The objective of bringing a second location to the festival is about creating opportunities for as wide an audience as possible to see human rights and social issue documentary films.
Documentaries screened arouse great debate and discussion, and Guth Gafa’s trademark of inviting all filmmakers to present their films and discuss them with the audiences, makes the festival a unique experience for film lovers. There are few film festivals in Europe quite like Guth Gafa.
Every year, the festival brings an intimate but intense hotbed of documentary film to Ireland. With family screenings and workshops running in parallel, the 8th Guth Gafa promises to be another great festival. Guth Gafa is proudly presented with the support of the Arts Council of Ireland, Bórd Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board, The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Honeycomb – Creative Works, Fáilte Ireland, Donegal County Council, and Meath County Council.
I have never visited Guth Gafa festival before but I'm hoping I can't say that after next weekend!
For more information on the festival, visit

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sive at An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny!

The Abbey Theatre on Tour will be performing John B. Keane's Sive at An Grianan Theatre Letterkenny from 21 - 25 October. If you missed this show in Derry, make a point of seeing it in Letterkenny. This is one play that is not to be missed.
One of the greatest Irish plays of the 20th Century, Sive stands tall in the Irish theatre canon. If it's one show you catch before 2014 is out, make it Sive. You won't regret it.
For more information visit An Grianan Theatre online!

AUTUMN LEAVES: An Autumnal evening of word and song!

As I walked along the Derry walls yesterday evening there was a real chill in the air. It was my first outing with the woolly tights and doctor marten boots since last winter. My favourite time of year is here and I was about to experience Autumn like never before. The orange street lamps along Magazine Street set the scene perfectly as I walked towards St. Augustine's Church.
As I approached the church the tall trees awakened me to the genuine autumnal setting I was surrounded by. I noticed the gate was closed but then a gentleman arrived and opened it....I felt like royalty!
On entering the church one cannot but be amazed by the sheer brilliance in character that welcomes you. I ventured upstairs as I like to see everything that is happening! (some might call it nosey!)
Shortly after 8pm Autumn Leaves got underway. Autumn Leaves is part of the WOW (Woman of the World) festival 2014 and is an evening of spoken word, drama and music. As Ann Craig said in her introduction, 'this evening will stretch Autumn to its limits'. The evening did just that!
Writers Anita Robinson and Mary Murphy left us all in laughter with their stories which had the genuine human touch! Like myself and many Mums Anita's prose about the child going to university struck a chord: it was not only extremely funny, but so very true. Mary touched my heart as she read Post Script by Heaney. Jenni Doherty encapsulated Autumn with her poetic words. Her poem Village Buttons awakened a sense of nostalgia in us all.  Mairead Mullan and Jim Craig became characters perfected for a Autumnal night. Eamonn Friel sang poetic lyrics about the city and Ursula McHugh had the hairs on my neck standing to attention as she sang Autumn Leaves! Throughout the evening Deirdre Doherty not only accompanied Ursula but also played the keboard as readers read. Her music created a real ambience to the night.
Autumn Leaves was a very special night to be a part of. It captured all that is autumn and allowed the spoken word, drama and song to fill the hearts of the autumnal audience. The appreciation of the night was evident on everyone's face as they left St. Augustine s church.  As John Donne wrote; 'No spring nor summer's beauty hath such grace/As I have seen in one Autumnal face.' I saw that grace in many Autumnal faces last night!

All proceeds from this event are donated to the upcoming Derry'Londonderry WOW festival (7-9 Nov 2014).

Friday, 10 October 2014

Josef Locke: A Grand Adventure!

I have been very privileged over recent years to see many productions on the Derry and Donegal stage. Local writers are very much at the fore at present.
 Last weekend showcased one of the finest pieces of local theatre in Derry in recent years. Namely, Josef Locke: A Grand Adventure. Written by Felicity McCall and directed and produced by Kieran Griffiths, this is a production which will surely tour.
The stage was The Playhouse, Derry and the audience was local and far afield!
Growing up as a teenager in the '80's I recall my parents going to hear Josef Locke. I recall them watching him on television. I was more interested in pop idol Nik Kershaw and Irish rock band U2! I didn't pay much attention to Josef!
However when I heard during the summer of 2014 that Felicity had penned this piece of music theatre I knew that it would be something special. The final night of the show happened to coincide with my mothers birthday. What better gift to give her than her first visit to The Playhouse and a show I knew she would would I!
So on Saturday last, we headed to the Playhouse. And what a night we did have!
On entering the theatre our eyes were immediately drawn to the large vinyl record stage. It was very impressive. The play told the story of Josef Locke's life, from childhood right through to his later years. Three actors were on stage, each representing a different era of Josef's life. These persona's interacted with each other throughout the show.
Ten year old Breen Doherty 'Identity' Josef was outstanding. Baritone Karl McGuckin excelled in his singing as the 'alter ego' Josef. Peter E. Davidson surpassed himself as the 'reflective' Josef!
McCalls script told the story of Josef's life whilst the three men portrayed it.
My mother, who turned 69 that day is normally a quiet, reserved woman, was foot tapping, clapping and singing along. A number of times I had to tell her to 'hush' as she was retelling me what this song was about and what song should be next! I had to nudge her quite a few times!
However, she, like myself, relived the life of Josef Locke that night. It was simply amazing.
This show will hopefully go on tour later in the year so others can experience this excellent piece of music theatre. Derry, it's writers, producers, it's musicians and it's actors have excelled once more!

Sive on the Derry stage!

I first read J.B. Keane's Sive a few years ago. I immediately fell in love with his masterpiece. The play is set in 1950's Ireland. It is a time of harsh poverty and people are measured in terms of the land and the crops they possess. Throughout the play  there are various references to the fear of the poorhouse and the reality of poverty.
Marriage, and indeed love, are viewed in pragmatic terms in relation to ones possessions. At the time matchmakers were popular and local trade flourished. 
The land is an important feature of this play! Running throughout the play are the themes of greed, lust and ambition at any cost!
Today I expected to be impressed with The Abbey Theatre;s production in the Millennium Forum Derry. However, nothing prepared me for what I witnessed. This was Irish theatre at its very best.
The stage setting set the scene. It was dramatic in appearance and yet it worked, and I felt like I was actually sitting beside the fire. I could smell the embers as the grandmother poked at them for her secret smoke!
Keane's play follows the lives of this family thrown together by tragedy. Mena is married to Mike and lives with him and his mother . Mena and her mother in law don't get along (an understatement). Mike's adopted illegitimate niece has suffered under Mena since coming to the Glavin household after her mother's death. Sive's plight is accelerated by the interference of Thomasheen Sean Rua, looking to marry off the 18 year old to the wealthy decrepit Séan Dóta for the financial gain of Mena and himself. This business deal will drive the young girl to take her own life!
The drama flowed with the swift winding rhythm of the text. The language was lyrical, musical, and yet hauntingly funny. It allowed  the full horror of the story unfold on the stage. The tension is ever present and rises until the very end. When Sive disappears on the night before her wedding the tension is at its peak. This tension was mirrored in the audience today. I could feel it seeping through.
Today's performance was for schools so the theatre was packed with quite a few students. Some of them are currently studying Sive, others were there to watch one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century come alive on the Derry stage. I was intrigued how the young people were so silent at certain points. In particular when Liam Scuab carried the body of Sive into the kitchen at the end. I'm sure it wasn't just me who had a tear in my eye. It was heartbreaking. At other times the students were talking among themselves and yet laughed at the humour. It's amazing how they can multi-task (whisper, snigger and yet listen)! They didn't miss a word.
At times the drama was farce like, at others it was eerily tense. And at the very end it was pure tragic. 
For me the heroine is undoubtedly Sive who is clearly a passive victim of the self-interest and selfishness of others.
Irish literature and drama is at the fore of world culture. It has been for many years. This production only serves to explain why Irish writing and theatre is the best in the world. 
Would I recommend a viewing of this play? Most definitely. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

AUTUMN LEAVES: A Seasonal Evening of Spoken Word, Drama & Music.

As part of the 2014 WOW Festival AUTUMN LEAVES: A Seasonal Evening of Spoken Word, Drama & Music will take place on Tuesday 14th October at St. Agustine's Church, Palace Street, Derry at 8pm. Tickets are priced at £7.

Millennium Forum Theatre & Conference Centre Book Office. Tel: 02871 264455 or call into Forum direct or book online:

Little Acorns Bookstore (Derry), Bedlam, Pump Street (Open Wed - Sat 11am-5:30pm) 

This event will feature writers Anita Robinson & Mary Murphy; poets Jenni Doherty & Michael Wilson; actors Mairead Mullan & Jim Craig plus musicians Eamonn Friel & Ursula McHugh accompanied by Deirdre Doherty on piano.

'No' to Water Tax! March in Dublin this coming Saturday!

'No' to the forthcoming Water Tax! Do you want to have your say? Now you have the chance to stand alongside the nation in this protest against the said 'Tax'. A march against the Water Tax is taking place this coming Saturday, October 11th at The Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dulbin at 2pm. So why not book your name on the bus from Letterkenny and be a part of the people.
Bus details for Saturday: Leaving Letterkenny (Mr Chippy) 8am; Ballybofey (McElhenies Bus stop) 8.20am; Donegal Town (Garda Station) 8.45am.
The cost of the bus is €12 per person. Expected to arrive in Dublin at 1pm.
Call 0872337593 to book your place.
There will be another bus leaving Ballyshannon (Abbey Arts Centre) 8.45am and Bundoran at 9.10am. Call 0861255632 to book your place on this bus.
If you are traveling independently the protest commences at 2pm at The Garden of Remembrance. Go along and stand together as a nation to speak out against this Water Tax.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Charles Macklin Festival 2014

The 25th Charles Macklin Autumn School takes place this coming weekend, October 10th - 12th. It is as always lined up to be a showcase of a weekend. The programme of events is outlined in the following programme. Do go along and enjoy. There's something for everyone.

They that Wait on the Lord: An Uncharted Journey. Neal Carlin.

Father Neal Carlin was ordained in 1964. He recently celebrated 50 years in the priesthood. Neal spent his early priesthood years in Scotland before returning home to minister in Derry at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Fr Carlin believed that the Holy Spirit was guiding him into the ministry of peace and reconciliation. He went on to found Columba House, a centre for prayer, healing and reconciliation. This progressed to the creation of the Columba Community in 1980. This community is regarded as a model for the renewal of the Irish Church. Since the formation of the Columba Community, Neal has also developed St Anthony's Retreat Centre, White Oaks Rehabiliation Centre, the Iosas Centre and the Celtic Prayer Garden.
 In this book, Fr Carlin reflects on an eventful journey travelled in faith, that took him to America and Mexico to experience emerging new communities and houses of prayer, and led to the foundation of the Columba Community in his home city in the midst of The Troubles. It gives us, the reader, a real insight into his life and what this journey has been like for him. It also allows us to go on our own journey of faith as we read it.
Before embarking on this read, I was a little hesitant as to what I might find. As a Catholic I find that I have my own means of practising my faith and keep it private. I pray in my own time and talk to God when I'm alone. I was afraid that this book might lead me to believe that my own beliefs and attitude were perhaps insufficient or inadequate. However, I found the exact opposite. I realised that it's ok to practice my faith in my own private manner. In many ways this read has helped to strengthen my own personal faith. 

This is a book which anyone can read. Whether you're a practising Catholic or not, this will definitely prove a very worth while read. 
Normally I read a book in two or three sittings. This book however I read over two weeks. I felt it was important to take my time and capture as best I could all of Neal's experiences. And I feel that I have!
As this story of Neal Carlin and the Columba Community unfolds, we get a true insight into the life of Burnfoot based Fr Carlin and the community. From his origins of faith as a young boy to his ordination into the priesthood we see his continued openness from then through to now in being led by the Holy Spirit.
As a young teenager in the 80's I was present as St Anthony's Retreat centre was developed. I recall many Monday nights going to mass there, and many happy evenings spent walking around, feeding the goats, and meeting the community. This book brought back many of those memories for me.
One of my favourite features of this book are the reflections written by Neal over the years. These give us a clear insight into his passion and love of nature and his visions of God in everything. These remind me of works by Patrick Kavanagh, one of my favourite poets, who saw the extraordinary in the ordinary. Fr Neal sees such also.
Throughout this book Neal shares his vision for the Church of the future and his hope that small basic communities, like the Columba Community, will 'sprout up all over Ireland, like small springs to again irrigate this holy land of ancient saints and scholars'.
At the launch of the book in An Grianan Hotel, Burt, Bishop McKeown said that, 'without memory we live in a mere present. Without density we live in a hollow present. We need memory. Time is experinece'. This sums up the book by Fr Neal. This book is experience. It is memory. It is a pathway for us to learn from the past and build a better future.

‘They that Wait on the Lord’ is published by The Columba Press priced €19.99/£16.99

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

October at McGrory's, Culdaff!

McGrory's of Culdaff have yet another great line-up of events set to take place this month. It is kicking off with The Lark & The Robin this Thursday night. Guests on the night are Eve BelleFinbarr Doherty and Mark Black, and they will join Kate O' Callaghan for a night of pure, unadulterated acoustic music.

Later this month, local favourites and McG's stalwarts The Henry Girls will play a headline show as part of this year's Charles Macklin Festival (Saturday 11 October), while Sligo five-piece Moxie will also bring their blend of traditional Irish music and contemporary rock to The Backroom (Saturday 18 October). Tickets for these shows are available by calling reception (+353)(0)749379104 or online on