Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The 4 Of Us play Derry this coming Saturday night.

I first heard these guys live in Derry in 1989. The venue that year was The Guildhall and as a student I recall it with much fondness. I've followed the band's music ever since and was delighted to hear that they are indeed coming to Derry in just a few days time.
The Nerve Centre will host these guys and if reviews from shows over recent weeks and months are anything to go by, this is certain to be one gig to remember.
Having sold out shows and received standing ovations at Vicar Street, Dublin and the Lyric Theatre Belfast, The 4 Of Us celebrate 25 years together this Saturday night at The Nerve Centre. Here they will showcase all the hits alongside brand new songs stripped down for what promises to be an unforgettable show.
I for one am eagerly awaiting this coming Saturday night and reliving a few memories and making a few new ones.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A love letter to Ireland

Living in the small village of Muff, in North West Ireland, I along with so many others have first hand experience of emigration in recent times. I've said the 'goodbyes' to loved ones and I've been there for friends who have done likewise. I've encountered many people the world over who have left these shores but who never fail to call it 'home'. The extract below was written by Irish novelist Colum McCann who left Ireland almost 30 years ago. His love of his home country, his despair at the current situation here and his sheer admiration for Irish people comes across most beautifully in this amazing piece of writing.

Nearly three decades after emigrating to America, the novelist Colum McCann finds on every return to Ireland a place that never really lets you go.

There are many places in Ireland that haunt me. There are the rippling waters of Strangford Lough. There’s the curl in the river Barrow where the agile water sweeps beneath the stone bridge. There are the tree boughs in Glendalough, beautifully bent by the rigors of weather. There’s the swallow darting over the cliff face at Bloody Foreland, turning and returning, time and again.
But there are other places too, much grayer, much darker, and more ordinary. One is the short-term parking lot in Dublin Airport. Most of the time, it is a place of hustle and hum: designed for the quick pickup or the harried goodbye. People zoom in and out. The fluorescent lights flicker. Nobody stays much more than an hour or two. It is, after all, the most expensive parking lot in the airport. But every now and then it becomes the saddest, most poignant place in the country. A car pulls in. The barrier rises. A family piles out. They struggle with their suitcases. They walk toward the terminal. You can recognize them by the tears streaming down their faces. Eventually, the authorities realize that a car has been in short-term parking longer than it should be. On the front seat, they find mortgage papers. In the glove box, they find the terms of the car lease. In the backseat they find a child’s toy or a school textbook. The family is not coming back. They are done with Ireland, or Ireland is done with them. They are on their way to London, or Dresden, or New York, or Sydney, to make a new life away from the country that will always, in some way or other, haul them home.
Everyone knows the story of leaving something adored behind. But nobody leaves quite like the Irish. We have been going for centuries. We left on coffin ships for America. We left on cattle boats for England. We left on jetliners for the seven continents. We have had myriad reasons for leaving—the hunger, the economy, the pettiness, the greed, the stranglehold of the church—but perhaps one other reason we leave is because we want to remember, and nobody remembers quite as powerfully as those who have left everything behind. Leaving is a form of memory-making. There is, in the emigrant, a desire to wound himself or herself. The emigrant carries the scar in order to remember the moment of loss. This act skirts close to nostalgia and sentimentality, but also to violence and love.
I have been gone from Ireland for almost 30 years, yet I can’t shake the word “home” from my idea of her. I try to maintain a good degree of skepticism about where I came from because my country is, in so many ways, a spectacular ruin. Our sad love songs. Our happy wars. Our stunned submission to power. Our silent complicity with financial thuggery. Our willingness, especially early in the 21st century, to let our heritage be demolished. Ugly ring roads were allowed to encircle one of Ireland’s most mythical sites, the ancient Hill of Tara. Office buildings went up in Cork and Limerick without regard to taste or landscape. Cranes swung like toys over the skyline of Dublin. “Model” villages were built in the middle of nowhere, only to become ghosts.
But it is the essence of human instinct to be able to hold two or more contradictory ideas at once. What you can love, you can hate. What you can miss, you can revisit. What you lie about, you can reimagine. The truth is that I love coming home to Ireland. I feel as if it pries my rib cage open. I feel a pour of cold water along the hollow of my spine when I pass that short-term parking lot in Dublin Airport, because I know that I am picking up a part of myself that I left behind.
I want, immediately, to drive out toward the valley of Glendalough, where the light is more agile than anywhere else in the world. I want to head north to the farmland around Derry, where I feel like a younger version of me inhabits my older, more tired body. I want to walk west to Connemara and spend some time in a small patch of bogland where the soil leaves tea-colored stains on the cuffs of my jeans. I want to swim at Sandycove in what Joyce called “the scrotumtightening sea.” I want to take a kayak around the Aran Islands and call out to the ghosts of J. M. Synge and all the playboys of the western world. I want to wander through Belfast along the murals of the peace walls. I want to watch a flock of long-billed snipe rise from the grass around Faha. I want to find myself marveling at a piece of colored sheep’s wool making beautiful a strand of barbed wire on a fence near Roundwood. I want to scuff up my liver in the quiet snug of the Stag’s Head in Dublin. I want to hear the music filtering out from Leo’s Tavern in Gweedore. I want to spend time with that man on the corner in Stoneybatter who looks like he wears a storyteller’s hat.
Walking is so often the cure for me. I have, over the years, walked from Dublin to Galway, and from Belfast to Kerry. I strap on a pair of boots and stuff a sleeping bag into a backpack, tuck away a naggin of whiskey in the side pocket, and off I go. Back roads. Walking trails. Rutted laneways. Puddled tracks. Sleeping under stars that appear like rifle holes in the night. Hunkering under sheets of corrugated tin in old cowsheds to wait out the inevitable rain. These trips return me to what I want to be. And they also return me to what I want my own Ireland to be.
Landscape is character. Character is fate. Fate is belief. There is nothing more wonderful than topping a hill in the middle of an ordinary afternoon and looking down on the quarrel of green fields, and the wander of stone walls, and the squabble of river, and believing, once again, in your country—that place you left behind in order to rediscover the feeling that trills in your heart at that very moment, a sort of short-term parking of the soul.
Gone, in order to come back.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

SHIFT: Literary Fundraiser at Cafe Nervosa

Why not come along later today (Wed 22nd April) at 7pm to Cafe Nervosa on Magazine Street in Derry to what promises to be the first of many literary gatherings to help get SHIFT fanzine up and running. 

An evening of readings and raffles to raise money for the first issue of SHIFT. 

SHIFT is a fanzine for lovers of the written word. Based in the North West of Ireland, it will offer writers a place to publish new work and  give readers the best of new writing. 

In advance of each issue,  an 'open mic' night will be held for writers who would like to try their work on an audience. Whether you're a writer or someone who loves beautiful writing, you are invited  to join us on 22nd April for our first fundraising night. All money raised will go towards publication of the next issue. 

'We particularly welcome people who have a secret desire to write but who have never felt confident enough to put their writing to an audience.' 

The 'editorial panel' consists of 5 local women who shamelessly stole the idea from PUSH magazine. They've adapted the idea to suit their own notions of what will work in this area. The hope is that the first Open Mic night will provide you all with an evening of beautiful writing.
Contributions are welcome from writers who would like to read their work. All that is asked is that your contribution is in the English language and lasts no more than 10 minutes.
As an added incentive, there will be a raffle with all prizes reflecting the theme of A Writer's Journey.
Cafe Nervosa will be providing cafe facilities this evening. If you don't have time to get home for your tea, you'll be able to purchase light snacks and hot drinks.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Hedda Gabler at The Abbey

I'm a regular visitor to the theatres in Donegal and Derry and am forever saying I must pay a visit to The Abbey in Dublin. As an avid literary enthusiast, freelance writer and English tutor, this is a visit I should have made years ago. But something always got in the way.
Not last night. As a tourist in the Fair City for the weekend I was adamant this would be the virgin visit to The Abbey, and it would also be the first of many. And that it most definitely was and will be.
It was opening night of Mark O'Rowe's new version of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. Just who is Hedda Gabler and what is she, I mused. As the drama unfolded on the stage I was soon to discover that Hedda was a troubled soul and simply didn't know who she was. She is something to everyone around her but apparently she has no idea who she is to herself. On entering marriage because she clearly feels she may be left on the shelf, a whole new world awaited her. Or did it? She was bored, unamused, felt left out, and in many ways had a serious feeling of inadequacy.
In a world of convention and compromise, did she really have the courage to shape her own destiny? That is a matter for each individual to decide upon.
But either way I think every female can relate to a little piece of Hedda. She is an amalgamation of all of us - the good, the bad and the ugly.
Catherine Walker was outstanding in her role as Hedda last night. She never faltered. And she won our sympathy at every turn - she certainly won mine anyways!
So, was it worth the trip all the way down from Donegal to Dublin to visit The Abbey? It most certainly was, and on my regular visits from herein I think the said theatre and I shall become close
friends. A warm welcome awaited me on arrival, a delightful glass of wine was ready at the interval, and perhaps most striking was the feeling of being somewhere special for those few hours. That somewhere special is certainly going to become commonplace in my life and I look forward to many future visits.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Muff Festival 2015

2015 Mayoral Canditates:

The Mayoral campaign for the Muff Festival goes on each year & it really is a great way to raise money for charities or local community groups. Previous Festivals have had some amazing Mayors and equally amazing fund raising stories over the years. The Mayoral campaign really is a wonderful way to raise money for your chosen charity or community group and of course you also have the privilege of representing this great community.
The Festival Committee are now calling for 2015 Mayoral candidates! If you'd like to put yourself forward as a candidate you can drop a line here on the North West Culture fb page or email the festival gang at Give them a call on 0857870135 or 0876045719, or pop along to one of the regular committee meetings on Thursdays at 7:30pm in Muff Resource Centre.
We, as a village, know that there are so many inspirational charity & community groups right here in our village and the festival committee really want to emphasize what a great fundraising opportunity the mayoral campaign offers. So get your thinking caps on and put someone forward for your group!
The Festival also has a new 2015 logo which has gone live on the website. The logo is inspired by the Northern Lights.

An online shop for buying the Muff Festival T-shirts is now up and running and taking paypal payments. So there's no excuse NOT to have one of the sought after tops!!
Muff Festival Shop
Muff Festival 2015 is just around the corner...are you ready?