Friday, 19 June 2015

SHIFT fanzine launch

Tonight saw the launch of the 1st issue of SHIFT fanzine at The Playhouse, Derry. From chocolate coated strawberries to wine, to outstanding writing and performance, this launch is certainly just the beginning of something which is set to grow.
SHIFT is a fanzine for lovers of the written word. Based in the NW of Ireland, it will give people the best of new writing and a place for new writers to publish their work.
SHIFT are: Siobhan Curley, Jenni Doherty, Áine McCarron, Geraldine Quigley and Monica Smallwood.
Together with a delightful audience, these ladies helped showcase just what talent is prevalent in the NW and surrounding areas. A host of writers read their work tonight and it really was talent at its very best. For myself the most poignant reading tonight came from a young chap, Micheál McCann. Micheál read his poem, PAPA'S PILLBOX, a very moving tribute to his late Grandfather.
This was just a snippet of what's in SHIFT's first issue. The fanzine is filled to capacity with the written word at it's best.
Just being among the people gathered tonight allowed me to experience the comradeship among the writers and the organisers; the NW people and their talent. It really did have a special ambiance throughout the gathering.
I for one look forward to many more issues of SHIFT and reading the written word of NW Ireland and beyond.
SHIFT is now available to purchase at Little Acorns Bookstore and Cafe Nervosa Derry for the small price of just £2.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Willis Clan at McGrory's Culdaff

Last night I was very privileged to meet, what I can only describe as a most amazing and inspirational family, at McGrory's in Culdaff, Co. Donegal. I've been familiar with The Willis Clan and their music for a number of years now, but on hearing them live in 'the backroom' last night, has shot my estimation of them through the roof.
The Willis Clan are a family of amazing musicians, dancers, song writers and story tellers. From Nashville, Tennessee, they merge their Irish roots with other music and dance genres to create a unique blend of the old and the new.
They are 12 siblings ranging in  age from 23 to 3. The children have won regional and national dance and music competitions and the boys have even won a number of wrestling competitions. But when this family get up on stage and sing, one can't imagine them doing anything else. The eldest 6 children play a large selection of instruments and are on stage continually. The younger ones are certainly playing a variety of instruments and singing also, and they dance at regular intervals throughout the show.
Last night The Willis Clan came on stage at approximately 8.45pm. Other than a short interval, they played, sang and danced for two hours. This was a musical spectacle in every way. Instrument changes were made regularly, siblings coming and going on stage throughout, and the little ones dancing brought a whole new dimension to a family show!
Music ranged from folk, traditional, bluegrass and even some pop/rock tinged songs.
The family are currently promoting their recent album release Heaven. This has just been released in May 2015 and has a real feeling of our very own The Corrs to it. The clan played a number of songs from it last night and it certainly is an album which will be well worth the purchase!
Although the music, song and dance was exquisite last night, one of the most familial traits I took away with me was the sheer ability of the siblings to converse and joke amongst each other on stage. Stories were told, jibes were made at each other and yet at all times, the family appear so comfortable in each others close proximity. This is no act. It is sheer love for each other and for their music and it comes across so strongly.
As their mother Brenda, joined them on stage for a selection of tunes on the guitar, it was clear to see how very proud each of the siblings are to play alongside their parent. And Dad Toby got a regular mention throughout the night for his work in the sound department.
McGrory's was the perfect setting for Donegal to showcase this family last night and the audience showed their appreciation with their final applause. Young and old witnessed a little piece of musical heaven in Culdaff on a summer's evening. The sun shone outside, but music shone inside.
The Willis Clan are not only multi-talented, but each and every one of them extremely beautiful. Natural beauty exudes for each child and it comes across in conversation. This is not any musical compilation. This is a family who have put their amazing talent together and are now showcasing it to the world. Donegal was very fortunate last night having them in 'the Backroom' and I for one will eagerly await their return visit.
Heaven is available to purchase now at all good record stores nationwide, and online. As Nike would say, 'just do it'!


Saturday, 13 June 2015

Happy Birthday Mr Yeats

Today, 13th June 2015 we celebrate what would have been the 150th birthday of one of our beloved poets, WB Yeats. There are many cultural and historical events being hosted nationwide today, and indeed all weekend, in celebration of the poet's life and works.
So as I read a selection of articles in this mornings papers, I began to ponder on what Yeats means to me.
I was first introduced to the poetry of WB in the mid '80's whilst a teenager in secondary school. I recall reading The Lake Isle of Inisfree alongside Easter 1916 and more. I read this poetry as it was required in the school curriculum. However, like many other works, it left a lasting impression on me. As I brought up my own family I continued reading the works of Yeats and enjoyed instilling an understanding of his work in my children as they grew up.
In recent years I returned to university where I completed an MA in Irish Literature and of course I studied WB at a more in-depth level. Here I grew even more fascinated and inspired by his varied works.
I now work as an English tutor and nothing gives me greater pleasure that seeing a student appreciate the poems he/she is reading. On first glance a student normally rolls the eyes and says, 'why do we have to know this?' Then on further exploration it sinks in, 'ah, I get it now'. Just recently I was explaining The Lake Isle of Inisfree to a student and I asked her to contemplate the many young Irish people forced to leave the homeland in recent years....surely a certain image will regularly stir up a memory from home - such is the simple context of the poem. Yeats too was in another country when a simple water image in a shop window reminded him of Ireland and where he longed to be. Such poetry will live on and so Yeats will inevitably live on also.
I find it impossible to drive towards Sligo and not stop off at Drumcliff. It just wouldn't feel right to drive by. It only takes a few minutes to stop off and say hi to WB!
I'm an avid fan of the play Cathleen NiHoulihan by Yeats. Here Ireland is portrayed as a beautiful woman who entices young men to fight for her. Again, it's a timeless piece of work.
Sailing to Byzantium is one of my favourite pieces of Yeats' poetry. Just before the Leaving Cert exams this year, a young student said to me that this is also her favourite. I find it so encouraging and rewarding to hear a young 18 year old praise the work of WB. It shows just what a legacy the man has left.
So as I listen to the Waterboy's An Appointment with Mr Yeats today, it with awe that I hear the words of 'White Birds', 'The hosting Of the Shee', 'September 1913' and so many others.
Today we celebrate the birthday of one of Ireland's greatest poets: one of the greatest cultural icons Ireland has ever known, and possibly one of the most inspirational writers the world has borne. Yeats continues to nurture the creativity not only in writers, but in artists, musicians and historians the world over. And I continue to learn from this great master of language.
Happy birthday Mr Yeats!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Milk Teeth - Book launch, 11/6/15

Earlier this evening I was delighted to attend the launch of Julieann Campbell's collection of poetry, 'Milk Teeth', published by Guildhall Press, Derry.
'Milk Teeth is a celebration of all that is new and much that is old. A new mother sees the world afresh through the eyes of her child, aware that her own childhood is 'trapped in videotape'. She revels in musty pages of the Derry Journal file room and rues the day the company phones arrived. Online dating, text-speak and dizzyng space -jumps - this is life in the 21st century.'
This is Campbell's first solo collection of poetry. I was fortunate to get a copy of the book earlier today and had planned to read it prior to the launch, but time didn't allow for such. After hearing Julieann read from her collection a short while ago, I'm glad that I didn't get the time earlier to have a sneak read. Had I done so, I would not have captured the emotion and the sentiment which is very much present in this work.
Hosted by Freya McClements and guest speaker Felicity McCall, the night reached its peak on the reading from Julieann herself. Both Freya and Felicity praised Campbell and her work but nothing prepared me for hearing the
words written by Julieann as she read.
There were poems about motherhood, her work, her family and more. Perhaps as a mother myself I could clearly relate to the emotions expressed in this; words about that first night having just brought your new baby home (The Day We Brought Her Home); the learning curb of motherhood from the mother (Mother and Child) and many more.  It touched me greatly.
Much of this work is a celebration of family and the importance of family. Her unending love for her beautiful daughter Saffron is evident throughout the collection.
The memory of her father is captured lovingly and fondly in her work. The particularly poignant poem, 'The Comb' set a tear in everyone's eye I don't doubt. Losing a simple comb which belonged to the author's father had such deep meaning and sorrow and yet a real sense of happiness. Happiness in that she has captured the significance of the comb in a poem. The comb is no longer lost as she has ensured it is very much present in her memory and lives on in these words. It encapsulates how important her father was and will continue to be.
Campbell reflects on the importance of memory and the power that it holds. She reflects on the importance of history and most importantly she reflects on the power and the emotion of experience.
'Fused with a raw, bold emotion, Milk Teeth explores our yearning for familiarity while encountering change at every turn'.
So as I embark on my reading of this collection of poetry tonight, it won't be with the naive quick glance which I might have given it earlier: it will be with a determination to relate to this very talented poet and engage a little more deeply than first anticipated, with some very honest and truly thought provoking, inspiring words. As Felicity McCall has said, 'this is truly one to treasure'.
I look forward to the read and a review will follow :)

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Milk Teeth, Book Launch.

Why not come along to Guildhall Press (Derry) Book Launch of JULIEANN CAMPBELL's Debut Poetry Collection MILK TEETH, in association with the Derry Writers' Group and Libraries NI in the Derry Central Library this Thursday evening, 11 June 2015 at 7pm. Guest Speaker on the night will be author Felicity Mccall. Light refreshments will be provided. Everyone is welcome. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Golddigger - Book launch!

This coming Friday night, 5th June, sees the launch of Golddigger, a story of love, loss and hope, by Hilary McCollum. The launch will take place at Derry's Playhouse, Artillery Street, in The Gallery. The launch commences at 6pm and the author will be available to sign copies on the night.
"Golddigger is an extraordinary achievement. The characters and what happened to them will stay with me for a long time." Helen Morales, Author of Pilgrimage to Dollywood.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Strawberry Festival at Glen House

I'd been really looking forward to the Strawberry Festival this afternoon at Glen House in Clonmany beside Glenevin Waterfall. Having read about it a few weeks ago, I had invited mother and my aunt along for the afternoon. So when I woke this morning and saw the weather I decided that the winter coat and hat would accompany me - I wasn't missing out on this treat.
So at lunchtime today we headed to Clonmany and it was blowing a gale, and pouring from the heavens. But that didn't deter anyone. The carpark was full, the minibus was lifting and laying from the nearby GAA carpark, so we parked up and took the ride!
On arrival at Glen House, folk were ducking and diving amongst the showers and rushing from one tent to the next. In each and every tent was a real treasure trove. Candles to soap, knitwear to tyre plant holders, food to glassware, paintings to bbq, Glen House had it all amid the winter summers day!
I browsed and I bought, and then it was definitely time for afternoon tea. After a very short wait, we were seated at a delightful window table. Looking out across the mountains, I can only imagine what an amazing view on a real summers day this must be. Tea/Coffee, sandwiches, scones, cheesecake, rocky mountain squares and such were served. Not forgetting the strawberry for each!
It really was simply divine and as I don't normally dawn my china-ware near often enough, this was a real treat and every crumb and drop was devoured. Service was extremely busy and it never faltered. Everyone had a smile and it wasn't forced. Clearly the day was being enjoyed by staff and visitors alike.
As we left earlier today I was saddened that it was just too wet to make the walk to Glenevin Waterfall (a regular haunt of mine from the children were little and now a Sunday stroll for myself and himself). We shall have the walk another day soon.
This was nowhere near perfect conditions for a Strawberrry Festival but I certainly had a pretty perfect afternoon. And having now seen Glen House and it's glory, I look forward to a wee night there soon.