Thursday, 29 December 2016

Mark Lamb: Prince Charming today...but who tomorrow?

It was early December this year and I went along to the Millennium Forum in Derry to interview some of the current Panto cast about their production of Cinderella. I immediately recognised William Caulfield, Keith Lecky, James Lynch and Kathryn Rutherford. They're all familiar faces on the Derry Panto stage. A few days later I spoke with the Fairy Godmother, Orla Mullan, again a familiar local face on the Derry stage. But on that first day I also saw Prince Charming, a young man (then 20, now 21) who happened to be Mark Lamb. He was as charming as one would expect a Prince to be! But something struck me that day talking to this young guy.
When I went along to the said Pantomime a few nights later I can honestly say that this young guy, Mark Lamb, stole the show for me. Maybe I was contemplating that he was the age of my middle son last year, or my youngest son next year, but there was something about him that stole a little piece of my heart. He was impeccable as Prince Charming in every way. And so I had to know more.
Yesterday I got the opportunity to find out a little more. Mark kindly took some time out to chill with me and we had an absolutely delightful chat. Charming is an understatement to describe this young chap.
Just where did he come from? How did he end up in Derry? Where does he eventually hope to end up? I got all the answers I craved and more.
Mark Lamb turned 21 just before Christmas. He hails from Darlington, Co. Durham in England. He is currently in his first year of study at SLP Leeds. SLP Leeds is one of the leading UK training grounds for young artistic performing talent. Mark is studying Professional Musical Theater there. Just hearing him talk about his course of study and the college, showcases the passion that is within the young guy.
"My parents say I was always dancing and singing from a very young age. We had a caravan at a theme park when I was a child and when we holidayed there I was always on the stage! This is all I've ever wanted to do." And it shows. It shows in his very talking about it.
How on earth did he end up in Derry this very December as Prince Charming in the 2016 Pantomime, Cinderella? "In April this year I saw and ad. I applied and then I did an audition. This was my first professional audition. I'm not normally a nervous person but I was very nervous at this audition. Initially I auditioned for the position of a dancer. I ended up as Prince Charming."
During the month of May Mark was working his job then at Sainsburys and got a call to say he was cast as Prince Charming. "It was so overwhelming. I was simply over the moon", he told me. "Then in June I came over for a photoshoot. This was all so new to me. It was crazy. But I loved it all."
Mark said that he knew none of the cast and yet, "everyone was so nice to me from the onset. I felt right at home."
Mark also told me that Pantomime is something he always wanted to do. "Cinderella is the one pantomime I have always wanted to do and this was an amazing opportunity."
So how has Derry welcomed this young Durham chap, and has he had a pleasant experience here in the city we all love so well?
"Everyone has welcomed me. The Derry people have been so lovely. The Panto audiences have been great. The kids have been loud and great. I love loud. I love the kids. There have been days when I was tired, but the Derry crowd and people kept me going."
He adds, "I couldn't have asked for a better first job." This role has indeed been Mark Lambs first professional one. Derry will clearly hold a special place in his heart from here onwards.
"I would love to come back next year, I've enjoyed it so much." He also said that the cast have been so very nice to him, "everyone on the cast have been great. They have all welcomed me and made me feel so at home. William and the others have been brilliant."
So what does the future hold for this aspiring young musical theatrical actor? He doesn't hesitate in his answer. "A West End role. Hopefully I'll get an agent after college and then I'd love to be on the West End stage. My dream role would be to play Tony in 'West Side Story'."
When his dream does come to fruition (which I don't doubt that it will), I hope I get my name on one of those guest lists and have a tissue to hand as I wipe a very proud tear when I watch him perform on that West End stage. It might just be sooner that he thinks. The talent is there. The passion for his work oozes from his every word.
As a blogger and freelance writer, I've had the great privilege of meeting many famous musicians, actors and more, in recent years. I really do think I've made a friend in a potential future star this very month.
Here's wishing you lots of luck with everything you do in the future and fingers crossed we might even see you back on the Derry stage very soon. It really was a pleasure. But for now, it's over to you, Mark Lamb.


HOMEGROWN 2017 at Millennium Forum

Music fans are in for a treat in the New Year as the Millennium Forum hosts Homegrown 2017 on Friday 13th January.

Since 2013, the Homegrown gigs have gone from strength to strength, showcasing the best in local musical talent.   This year’s line-up includes Paul Casey & Band, Ports, Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas and The Henry Girls.
2013 saw Derry city host the UK City of Culture. There were lots of music events throughout that year. The first live event of that year was the first HOMEGROWN and it has been growing ever since.
I spoke with Paul Casey earlier today who is the founder of HOMEGROWN. Paul told me, "I always did a Christmas gig and thought that 2013 would be apt for something different. Alongside the others, I proposed the idea to the forum for a gig of home musicians. They agreed and the rest is history."
"That first gig sold 900 tickets and showed how important the people of Derry and surrounding area feel about local music. Many events that year were free and yet here were the Derry people paying for this. This gig showcased the importance of homegrown music and en-captured the importance of local talent."
Since that year, HOMEGROWN has grown in popularity and continuing to do so now into 2017. "Initially we planned a one-off show and now here we are still performing annually to a home crowd. It's incredible."
Casey adds, "we have another great line up this year as with previous years."

PORTS are a four piece band from Northern Ireland known for performing ‘emotionally literate rock’. They consist of Steven McCool (Bass and Vocals), Mark O'Doherty (Drums), Ryan Griffiths (Guitar) and Conor Mason (Piano). After the release of their first demo ‘I’d Let You Win’, the band received a flood of fantastic reviews including; 'Flavour of the Month' and 'Ones to Watch' from BBC Introducing which resulted in extensive airplay from BBC Radio 1, RTE and countless others. PORTS rose to prominence in Ireland after an exciting performance at 'Other Voices', Derry-Londonderry (when they stepped in to replace Two Door Cinema Club). After their memorable performance, they were asked to return to the Other Voices stage, this time in London’s own Wilton’s Music Hall, joined by Villagers; John Grant; SOAK and Imelda May.
No stranger to the Forum, Paul Casey’s music has also been on the rise with many of his songs used in major TV shows across the pond.
Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas are a 7 piece Folk Rock Country Pop Punk Blues Band from Northern Ireland. They are notorious for their no holds barred rocking live shows full of original songs about life here, there and everywhere. Paddy is often hailed as ‘Ireland’s Springsteen’, a badge he wears with diffidence.  The band released their third album ‘Laughter & Love’ earlier last year to a rapture of praise from critics and fans alike. 
The McLaughlin sisters are from Malin in Inishowen, County Donegal. They formed the band over 10 years ago. They named the band after their grandfather. They released their debut album, Between Us, in 2003, and was produced by Máire Breatnach. They released their album Dawn in 2010, and that year they were nominated for an Irish Film and Television Award for Best Original Score for the film A Shine of Rainbows, which featured songs from the album Dawn.

So just what is it about Paul Casey and the importance of this local talent on his local stage? "I'm a full-time musician and try to bring out a new album every year. I self-finance and I'm really lucky to be still doing this. Bringing my own music and other local talent to the home stage makes me feel privileged. I love what I do and this gig is very important."
Having played in many parts of the world, just where has been most poignant for Casey? Playing the Royal Albert Hall with Chris Rea was memorable. I was both in his band and his support act. That was a privilege."
"But for now, the most important gig is that on Friday 13th January at the Millennium Forum. After that I'm not sure where the next gig will be. The industry is interesting. It can be either a feast or a famine. But for now, the important one is Derry."
Music is very clearly at the heart and soul of what Casey is all about. But just what would he be doing if he wasn't in music? "I love film. Growing up I wanted to be Steven Spielberg! Recently I've had the pleasure of working with local film director Keith O'Grady. I've put music to two of his short films. One of these showed at Brunswick movie-bowl just a few weeks ago. This was a massive buzz for me. Hearing my music throughout the film was great."
I'm sure many like myself, hope Casey continues doing what he does for many years to come. Speilberg can stay in LA, but Casey continually returns to his hometown of Derry. That'll do for us!

HOMEGROWN is on at Millennium Forum Derry, on Friday 13th January and tickets can be purchased from the Box Office on 02871264455 or online at Millennium Forum


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Family time at The Red Door, Fahan

The North West has an array of restaurants and coffee shops at the present time. Here in Inishowen we are never lost for a culinary treat, be it an extravagant lunch, a light snack, or just a nice coffee. So there were a few choices to decide from recently as myself and siblings were deciding on a place for our  familial occasion.
The Red Door in Fahan was settled upon and reserved for the night in question. Last night was the night, and we were certainly not disappointed with the welcome we received at this premises.
From the onset we were treated like royalty. Mother and Father had not eaten here before and my siblings likewise, so it was a delight to be able to introduce all to this little culinary haven on our doorstep.
On arrival the evening sun had set, and darkness was upon us. The delightful Christmas decor outdoor was very welcoming. The decor and more inside was equally welcoming.
As we made our way to the sitting area beside the bar, everyone was taking in their surroundings of the quaint and yet elaborate setting. Photos were taken and smiles were getting tiresome as we were then shown to our table in the Violet room restaurant area. As we were a large party, there was ample room and our waiting hosts introduced themselves and immediately began showing menus, taking drinks orders etc.
A delightful meal was had and service was excellent. All agreed that the food combined with the character of the building added to our special evening.
Prior to departure we again returned to the sitting area at the bar and proceeded to take more photos to enable memories to be built.
The Red Door met all our expectations and more. Menu's provided an excellent choice of food, and service was superb from arrival until departure.
Mind you I do think the Knickerbocker glories stole the night for a select few gentlemen.
All agreed that a return visit shall be had and I'm certain it won't be too long until that visit is indeed had. Now to just get those siblings home again soon.


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Christmas Eve, by Jason Lynch

The following story is one written by Jason Lynch, from Muff, who attends The WRITE STUFF Kids Club at Muff, Co. Donegal. Jason used a spare five minutes on his last session with the prompt, 'On Christmas Eve'. His result is a lovely Christmas Eve story.

On Christmas Eve, at 10 o'clock, me and my brother went to bed. We talked for a while and then we fell asleep. When the twelve bells rang I woke up and heard something on the roof. I didn't know what it was, so I got out of my bed and put on my shoes. I went outside. I looked up at the roof and I saw a sleigh with twelve reindeer. But Santa wasn't in the sleigh.
I decided to go into the house, and there in front of me was Santa. He was wearing a red suit and big black boots. He said 'Merry Christmas' and then he disappeared.
I couldn't believe my eyes. I ran over to the door and I heard jingle bells and Santa's sleigh flew over my house and away they went.
That was the best Christmas Eve ever!

The End

(story by Jason Lynch)


Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Great Glass Slipper Hunt, Derry

The Great Glass Slipper Hunt is under way!

Do you fancy winning tickets to see the biggest show of the season? When you’re out doing your Christmas shopping this weekend, keep an eye out for some shoes. . . not any shoes, BUT Cinderella’s shoes.
The Millennium Forum has secretly placed six small ‘glass slippers’ in various locations around the city.   Each slipper found and returned to the Box Office will guarantee the finder a Family Pass (4 seats) to see the pantomime, Cinderella at the 7pm performance on Wed 28th December.

The slippers will be hidden at random locations around the city and clues will be posted each day on the Forum’s Facebook/Twitter pages. 

Well?  What are you waiting for?  Get looking before the clock strikes midnight! 

Prince Charming awaits.......


Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Christmas Story by Anna O'Donnell (age 9)

The following is a short story written earlier tonight by a young student of mine. As facilitator of Children's Creative Writing and Confidence building workshops with The WRITE STUFF Kids Club, I continually encourage children to express themselves and their creativity in language and words. Earlier tonight I had a workshop with my children at Tullyarvan Mill in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. The children were preparing little wording pieces for their parents for Christmas. One little girl had her work finished so I asked her to write a little story. Her prompt was...On Christmas Eve. The following is her story:

On Christmas Eve I was getting into bed. I was soooo excited for Christmas. Then I fell asleep.
I woke up at 2.10am and standing there was SANTA! He was putting some stuff in my room. I pretended I was asleep but he just said: "HO HO HO! I know that you are awake Anna. So then I just sat up and said, "are you actually Santa?" "Yes I am". "Did you come from the real North Pole?" "Yes, and I'll take you there myself". "Really?" I said. "Oh yes" he said.
When I got there an elf gave me a free present. I said, "I can't wait to open it tomorrow." Then I woke up. It was just a dream.
When I went downstairs I saw the present the elf had gave me. I opened it and it was a picture of me and Santa. This is the best present ever! I put it in my room and I treasured it forever.
The End.
Anna O'Donnell age 9


Derry's Fairy Godmother!

The Pantomime Cinderella is well and truly underway at Derry's Millennium Forum this festive season and its' Magical Fairy Godmother took time out of her busy schedule to talk to this North West Culture Gal yesterday. Orla Mullan is once again back on the Derry stage and is really making her mark alongside her magic wand and kind heart.
Orla told me, "This is my fifth panto in Derry and it's the best yet." The current show is exceeding all records in the history of the Derry pantomime and Mullan is certainly adding her magic touch to the stage.
"Of all the fairies to play, this is the best. Cinderella's Fairy Godmother is the most iconic of fairytale fairies and she really is like a Guardian Angel." This is certainly true and this fairy/angel takes care of our beloved Cinders throughout the story. She shows us that one doesn't need a prince to be happy and that loving yourself is the most important part of being true to yourself. Orla said, "she teaches you to look to the inside and believe in yourself. It's a rags to riches story but it also emphasies that riches don't really matter. Doing your own thing is what counts." What a truly wonderful message this is conveying to our young folk.
Orla was in Sweden last Christmas doing a Christmas show and is delighted to be back in Derry this year. "I love Christmas and it would be strange not to do a Christmas show. It's nice to get home at this time of year and this is a lovely way to end the working year."
Orla is of course working on stage with her partner Keith. One of the Ugly Sisters, Keith is more concerned with his make-up now at home than Orla is. "He's more into his make-up than any woman is", said Orla. "He never switches off. He's even doing his nail polish in the house." Somehow I can believe this having met the same man just last week. Or should I say, lady!!
So just how special is it to play this role of Fairy Godmother? "It's iconic. When the carriage and pony arrive on stage, it's just the most magical part of the show."
I couldn't but help asking Orla about Prince Charming, Mark Lamb. This being his first role, and his being exceptional in it, I was keen to hear the professional that is Orla Mullan's opinion of him. "Mark is just such a lovely young man. He is so hard working and a very special talent. His voice is stunning and he just blends with Cinderella. He is part of a great cast and he feels the warmth of that cast. It's coincidental that the first director I worked with is now also working with Mark. He's just a talented and very special person." Well I got my take on this young man right when I both met him and saw him perform last week. Simply stunning on the Derry stage he really is.
So what are Orla Mullan's plans for Christmas and New Year? "I'm spending Christmas at home with my parents then Keith and I are off to New York in January. I'm looking forward to showing Keith the sites and the city I love so much."
I only hope New York is ready for this Ugly Sister. I'm really not sure that even Broadway, or the Bronx will be able to handle that much dress and make up. Time will tell!!
Whether you're a little girl, or a mature adult (with a child's heart like myself) you can't help but love this Fairy Godmother and really wish she was yours. Orla Mullan wins the heart of the entire audience during this years pantomime and no doubt will continue to do so for many years to come.
Do treat you and your family this Christmas with the Derry Pantomime, Cinderella. It runs at Derry's Millennium Fourm until December 31st. You really won't regret it. It's magical in every way possible. And you never know, your wish might just come true!


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Cinderella - a truly Magical experience this Christmas

It's Christmas season once more and of course that can only mean one thing here in Derry. PANTO time again. It's the sixteenth annual Christmas panto at  the Millennium Forum, Derry and is continuing the Forum's tradition of producing outstanding quality and indeed value-for-money entertainment for everyone at this festive season. William Caulfied (Buttons) told me when I caught up with the cast last Tuesday that, "Pantomime is a child's first experience of theater and if they enjoy it, they come back." After tonight's performance there will be quite a few children returning to theater.
Pantomime is a show filled with acting, music, jokes, innuendo, slapstick comedy, colour and more. But there was something different (or maybe just extra) about this year's Derry pantomime. It's a fairy-tale and it's one of the most timeless of tales at that. Perhaps it's because we all like to see good win in the end, but this show showcased so much tonight.
'Once upon a time' started the show. In reality all our lives begin as 'Once upon a time'. Orla Mullan as always excelled in her role, and this year the Fairy Godmother warmed everyone's heart, both young and old. She really did explore the lesson of 'beauty being on the inside', and reinforced the message throughout the night that, 'You are special'. Her role was one which allowed everyone in the theater to feel good about oneself and take that message home.
As always William Caulfield won the heart of every child, man and woman. Buttons gained our sympathy and our love. This man owns any stage he is upon and this year's pantomime was his stage yet again. You can't help but love him.
James Lecky and Keith Lynch were the terrible twosome...the ugly sisters...Kim and Kourtney Hardup (distant relations of the Kardashans!) We all loved to hate them, but a little piece of us all secretly loved them. The guys told me on Tuesday last how much they love doing the Derry panto. They both admitted that they "love coming back to do the panto and the Derry audience always welcomes us home." There were a few tonight who wanted to send them packing at times!! They also told me of the importance of Panto in Derry. "It's a tradition and a real family occasion." To say
they were colourful would be such an understatement. They rocked!
Chamberlain, Conor O'Kane, was brilliant in his performance tonight. I felt his pain when being attacked by those uglies. Chris Grant equally so as Baron Hardup.
Kathryn Rutherford was a stunning Cinderella, and won all our hearts from the beginning. Her voice, like her fellow actors, blew us all away throughout the performance tonight. Cinders really did go to the ball, and deservedly so. Kathryn told me during the week that, "Cinderella is a magical fairy-tale and there's a nice message behind it: Beauty is on the inside." What a truly wonderful sentiment.
But tonight wasn't just about the acting for me. I was totally blown away by the music which really brought this fairy-tale into the 21st century. Green Day, Cold Play and Dirty Dancing had my feet tapping and my toneless voice, singing. God love the folk sitting around me. I didn't care. The music lyrics were so apt and I was transported to another world!
But still this fairy tale had more. We all know the story of Cinderella, but sometimes forget the morals incorporated within. I brought home a reminder tonight to always 'believe in myself' and that 'beauty really is within'. It's never what's on the outside that counts, it's what's within. Also, a lesson I continually teach my children is the importance of friendship. Buttons shows us how it can hurt at times, but also that it's important to have a friend, and also to be one. And of course, Good always does win in the end. Cinderella really did win her Prince.
And as for that Prince Charming, Mark Lamb, what can I say? I have to admit, he stole the show for me tonight. I spoke with Mark on Tuesday and discovered that he is a young man in his first year at drama college. He told me, "It's an amazing experience for me." This role is his first professional one. I really can't imagine the talent he will be on completion of college. At just 20 years of age (soon to be 21) he really is a talent in the making. His acting, his very presence on stage, and his outstanding voice, was the highlight of my night. Mark
you are a treasure, a real gem.
Tonight I had the pleasure of bringing my friend Louise and her two children with me to see the Panto. Colm (12) and Eleanor (8) both loved it, and agreed that it was truly magical. As for their mother, Louise came home with sore hands and a sore throat!
And I finally got to take part in a Mannequin challenge! How cool was that?
The stage setting tonight was simply awesome. From the kitchen, to the palace, the forest to the snow clad ground, we really could have been in London's West End or indeed Broadway. Outstanding in every way.
Huge acclaim also to the General Ensemble and the Rainbow School of Dance Junior Chorus. You all nailed it at every turn.
If it's one treat you give your family this Christmas, do make it the Derry Pantomime, Cinderella. It runs at Derry's Millennium Fourm until December 31st. You really won't regret it. It's magical in every way possible and Cinders really does go to the Ball.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Derry Panto is bigger and better than ever!

“Oh no it isn’t!” It really is that time of year again where across the country the Pantomime is alive and entertaining as ever. Having opened just last weekend in Derry, it is the time of year when young and old come together and enjoy what must surely be one of the greatest pantomimes in the country. In recent years the panto really has become a festive highlight for families here in Derry.
The now infamous Derry pantomime is set to break all records this year. Having played to almost 30,000 people last year, the Millennium Forum announced earlier today that, ‘tickets for this years show have already been sweeped up by 25,000 panto fans keen to get into the Christmas spirit.’ 2016 is soaring and it’s still only in its early days of the first week.  

Since opening on Friday 2nd December, thousands of children of all ages have screamed, booed, hissed, sang and cheered along to the latest festive offering from the cityside theatre. Schools from as far away as Enniskillen, Arranmore Island, Newry, Co.Donegal, Ardara, Glenties, Gortahork, Irvinestown, Omagh, Dungiven and Ballycastle have also made the journey to the city for the annual Christmas show. 

It really is time to step into Christmas and have a truly magical family experience at the Millennium Forum with the ultimate rags-to-riches tale of Cinderella. Will Cinderella win her Prince?  Will the glass slipper fit?  You’ll have to wait until after the clock strikes midnight to find out!

Packed with great song and dance routines, hilarious comedy, dazzling scenes, sumptuous sets and magical special effects, Cinderella is fun for all the family from 4-94!

This year’s Derry panto is featuring a star studded local and Northern Irish cast including the return of William Caulfield as ‘Buttons’, Mark Lamb as ‘Prince Charming’, Kathryn Rutherford as ‘Cinderella’, Orla Mullan as the ‘Fairy Godmother’ and Keith Lynch and James Lecky as the ‘Ugly Sisters’. This glittering Christmas treat is already destined to be a hit with audiences far and wide.

But just what makes the Derry pantomime so special? Just why do the crowds flock to the Millennium Forum year in year out? I caught up with leading actors, William Caulfield (aka Buttons), James Lecky and Keith Lynch (Ugly sisters), Mark Lamb (Prince Charming) and Kathryn Rutherford (Cinderella) earlier today to find out.
Caulfied now in his 11th consecutive year as leading role in the Derry panto tells me: “Derry people are very much into the arts. The rest of Northern Ireland looked to Derry most especially in the dark days, for their theatre and entertainment. Derry always had entertainment and Derry always welcomed entertainment.” Caulfield went on to say, “Pantomime is the first introduction to theater for children. They fall in love and they return. Derry welcomes this and it shows.”
Keith Lynch and James Lecky told me: “It’s a tradition in Derry. It’s a family experience at Christmas and it’s magical. For us, it’s a home-coming.”
Kathryn Rutherford agrees that panto is indeed, “something for the whole family to enjoy. It’s magic and it appeals to all.” Mark Lamb, who is experiencing his first professional role as Prince Charming here in the Derry panto says, “this is an amazing experience for me. I’m having the best time. I’m also going to experience my 21st birthday here in Derry next week so it’s special in many ways.”
Derry is certainly alive with panto fever at present and is set to brighten further as the weeks leading up to Christmas and after, come upon us. The Derry stage really is magical at this time of year and Christmas really wouldn’t be Christmas in Derry without an annual visit to the panto.

Cinderella runs at the Millennium Forum, Derry, from Friday 2nd December until Saturday 31st December. Tickets are now available from the Box Office. Telephone 71 264455 or visit for bookings.  

Book your tickets now and you shall go to the ball!


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Children's Creative Writing at Wexford Libraries

Last weekend, Saturday October 15th, I had the honour of facilitating three workshops at three libraries in Co. Wexford in my capacity as 'Children's Creative Writing Facilitator' with The WRITE STUFF Kids Club. I travelled to Wexford on Friday 14th October from my home here in Donegal. Having visited Wexford and delivered two such workshops in August of this year, I really was
delighted to return to this absolutely beautiful county in Ireland. Not only is it beautiful but it is a county filled with creativity and culture. The scenery, hospitality, and even the weather is also not half bad!! It was the perfect host in August and so I was very looking forward to this return visit.
On Saturday morning my first port of call was to New Ross Library. On arrival here I immediately took a stroll around their beautiful new park and amphitheatre. Stunning in every way. However, the script on the gound really struck me: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword. I immediately decided that this was going to be our theme for the day. And it proved very successful. Some amazing discussion was had around this theme, and after covering a lesson is story building, all the teens were invited to write a story around this theme and send to me - when they arrive, I shall be posting here on North West Culture Gal!
I did a number of little writing exercises with the teens throughout the day at New Ross LibraryWexford Library and finishing the day at Enniscorthy Library. One such exercise was creating Halloween 'Six Word Stories'. None of these teens had ever done such before which made the exercise so much more enjoyable. I of course introduced them to the most famous Six Word story by Hemingway: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn. This immediately prompted all 3 groups to discuss the content of the story and how interesting that such a story could be told in just six words. And so they set about creating their own six word stories. Below is a selection of such stories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did, and am still doing such!

Conor, Age 12, New Ross Library: English Moors. Wolf out. Be safe.
Castle of dracula. Bats fly high.
Patrick, age 12, New Ross Library: Darkness falls. Spirits awaken. Moon rises.
Sinead, age 13, New Ross Library: Darkness arrives. Laughter comes. Clowns appear.
Orla, age 14, New Ross Library: Seeing skeletons in autumn frost air.
Hannah age 15, Wexford Library: Watch out: ghouls roam around here.
Cian, age 13, Wexford Library: Night is awoken, children roaming, searching.
Shane, age 12, Wexford Library: Empty wood. Creepy sounds, Strange figures.
Conor, age 13, Wexford Library: Werewolf came; got candy. Went away.
Aoibhín, age 13, Wexford Library: Halloween Costumes. Trick or treat. Sweets.
Eva, age 14, Wexford Library: Black cats. Carved Pumpkins. Shadows following.
Niamh, age 14, Wexford Library: Cold water. Cold ice-cream. Cold summer.
Meadhbh, age 13, Wexford Library: Prisoners out. Roaming free. Death commences.
Ciara, age 13, Wexford Library: Dressing up, collecting sweets, halloween fun.
Diana, age 13, Wexford Library: Wild costumes. Crazy parties. Awesome pumpkins.
Chloe, age 14, Wexford Library: Trick or treat. Children eating sweets.
Alicia, age 13, Wexford Library: Child alone. Growling sound. Child gone.
Jessica, age 15, Wexford Library: Haunted house. Scared children. Halloween night.
Julia, age 14, Wexford Library: October's ending. Dressing up. Collecting candy.
Jack, age 14, Wexford Library: Insane asylum. New position. Impending doom.
Amy, age 15, Wexford Library: Halloween night. Monsters roaming. Watch out!
Alex, age 13 ,Enniscorthy Library: Strange man. Lonely child. Man follows.
Erin, age 13, Enniscorthy Library: Haunted house. No-one haunts. Except HIM.
Gintare, age 15, Enniscorthy Library: Attics cleared. Costumes found. Halloween begins.
Lucy, age 14, Enniscorthy Library: Trees walk. People trampled. Horrible sight.
Harry, age 12. Enniscorthy Library: Halloween night. Sweets everywhere. Costumed children.

Maybe I'm slightly biased but I belive this is some amazing work from some amazing teenagers. This was a beautiful autumnal Saturday with the sun in the sky and yet these young folk came along and showed immense creativity throughout the day. Huge well done one and all.
I look forward to the stories coming along over the coming days/weeks and getting a read of them then.
All of this not only showcases what amazing creativity we have among our young folk, but it highlights the importance of our libraries.
Wexford, it was a pleasure for this North West Culture gal to visit and I am already looking forward to my return visit.


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Packie's Wake at Derry's Millennium Forum

Twelve years ago, Eddie Kerr's sensational and hilarious play went from a three week sell out in Derry, a tour of Ireland, to receiving worldwide acclaim after a sell out stint at the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York. 
Last night the funeral cortege arrived once more at the Millennium Forum in Derry. This time I just had to pay my respects. So along myself and Martine went last night, and thank heavens we brought tissues!!
Packie's Wake tells the side-splitting story of how local hero, Packie Devlin, through an ironic quirk of fate, is allowed to attend his own wake. The poor misfortunate has the opportunity to find out what his family and friends really think of him as he participates in the hysterical play that has become a theatrical masterpiece in black comedy.
This two act play is set in the Bogside area of Derry in 1994. It coincides with the annuncement of the IRA cease-fire in the North.
I went along last night knowing absolutely nothing about this production. Having only heard of it in recent weeks, I didn't research as wanted to see with the naked eye and mind. My friend had seen it on its first production in Derry 12 years ago. 
As it opened I really wasn't sure what to make of it. Packie Devlin was clearly meeting people from his past on the Derry docks. When it became clear he was dead, the setting of the now living room, took on a whole new meaning. 
I honestly think it's hard to write about this production without giving it all away. This is one you really want to see for yourself on the stage. 
The idiom is very much based in the locale of Derry. The entire production is extrememly rooted in the city. And the one liners are just brillliant. There is oxymoron, anecdotes, black humour and then there's simply, "ye ould bastard"! Never has swearing on the stage been so hillarious. 
From it's onset to the final scene, you will break your side laughing. But underneath all the laughter and humour is a number of very serious issues. Packie's Wake makes one stop and think about everyday life - the needless worries, the needless feuds, the needless envy - the grass isn't always greener, and the enemy isn't always the enemy. 
At the heart of this play is 'family'. Family in a very real sense of the word. Family that have dispersed, and family that have fallen out. Death puts life in persepctive. Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Packie. Don't leave it too late to appreciate what we really have. Life really is for living.
My favourite line from last night must surely be: "sometimes the poorest of people have the most money." How very true. Material wealth doesn't make for all in life. Family does. Treasure yours.
Packie's Wake runs at the Millennium Forum until this Saturday night, 15th October. One last piece of advice, if you decide to leave early, DON'T....just wait till the very end! This is over 3 hours long, but worth every minute. If it's cheering up you need, or a really good reality check, go along to this. 


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Blood Brothers explodes on the Derry stage!

To say that Blood Brothers the musical exploded on the Derry stage last night would be such an understatement. But I have never seen a Derry audience explode to their feet so quickly as they did last night as that last song was sung: as the last curtain went down. This really was an explosion of an applause. One I've never seen before in the city.

This story is both elmentary and creative. It tells the story of Mrs Johnstone who has five children, husbandless and expecting twins. She works in the home of the fancy Mrs Lyons. Mrs Lyons is unable to have children of her own and so offers to illegally adopt (buy) one of the unborn twins. The mothers both do their best to keep the twins apart, but life doesn't quite abide by their wishes. Despite their very different upbringings, the boys become childhood friends and eventually 'blood brothers'.
This was a first for me. I knew the basic plot, but hadn't read the book or watched the movie. I was a 'Blood Brothers' virgin and I eagerly awaited this show for some time. Boy, but I wasn't disappointed.
I really didn't expect the show to be so deep. This is social politics at its best. It's examining nurture versus nature. It showcases how a child's surroundings and familial circumstances can pave the way for greatness or indeed sheer oblivion. There is much bleakness involved in both situations but reality really is at the core of this production.
Initially I was unsure about the adults playing kids. I was wrong. Mickey and Eddie, Lynda and the rest were all excellent in their portrayal. Mickey and Eddie were so competent throughout and in particual Mickey. One can't but make him 'star of this show'. Sean Jones who played Mickey was so convincing from the 7 year old boy (nearly 8) right through to the last scene. His portrayal into the downward spiral of depression excelled.
The question of council estate living versus the big house living is one I feel very strongly about. Having raised a family on a housing estate and written widely about my experiences, I immediately fell in love with Mrs Johnstone and her very protective nature towards her wayward children. She had nothing but love for her children and never stopped loving Eddie. Mrs Lyons on the other hand was more focused on where Eddie played, who he played with and what school he went to. The cracks were there to be picked at. They always are in life. This show expressed so much social political realities. And they hit home last night. Social Class is still very much rife in the modern world. The saddest line last night for me was Mickey saying, "I could have been him." Tears still well up in me this morning at the thought.
Friendship was everything for these boys as children, and as they grew up. They respected each other and 'loved' each other. Adulthood changed all that. It brought about the stigmas that permeate our world. Social class at the fore!
The narrator, Dean Chisnall, was also a very powerful figure on the Derry stage last night. In many ways the conscience of the mothers, he remained consistent throughout. A force to be reckoned with - as is our conscience at all times.
I wasn't familiar with the motif of Marilyn Monroe used in this show. But surely she's there to show the passage of time. Monroe was an icon, a child fostered out, had a depressive mother, became addicted to drugs. She was a parallel for the entire story of Blood Brothers. Mrs Johnstone was initially flattered to be compared to Monore, and by the end Mrs Johnstone pleaded that Mickey would not be like Marilyn Monroe. Two tragic tales, one ending.  A real echo of Shakespearian technique at work here.
The sheer volume of tears I witnessed last night shows what an emotional roller coaster ride this show really is. There was so much laughter throughout, but one always knew it couldn't end well.
I spoke with Lyn Paul (Mrs Johnstone) a couple of weeks ago. She told me that this show 'changed her life'. I can now see why. I can also see why she admits to crying at the end of each one as she sings, 'Tell me it's not so'. Any mother would do likewise. Lyn was simply outstanding.
So just what is this show teaching us alongside the social awareness of class difference? For me there are a number of lessons to be learned: Mental Health is paramount: The truth always comes out in the end: We can never escape our past, and the utter importance of friendship. I'm glad I had a lovely friend alongside me watching the show last night.

Blood Brothers runs at Millennium Forum, Derry until Saturday 8th October. This is one show you really don't want to miss. A real must see.
Call the Box Office now to book: +44 (0) 2871264455 or book online at Millennium Forum.


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Celtic the Musical opens in Derry

To say I'm an avid Celtic fan would be a huge lie on my part. But a football (soccer) fan I am. Arsenal all the way. My aunt Bernadette lived in London when I was a young girl and she introduced me to Arsenal before I even started school. I haven't wavered since!

But one cannot grow up in Donegal and not be aware of Celtic. They're almost a local team going by local support and regular bus loads going from my now home village of Muff to Park Head. My brother, who lives in Glasgow, and many of my relations, are all die hard Celtic fans. I never did get, or understand, the sheer passion they all seem to share.
Last night I went along to Celtic the Musical at Derry's Millennium Forum with an open mind. I really didn't know what to expect. Suffering with sciatica at present I wasn't particularly looking forward! I know the game, and most of the rules (though Off-Side does beat me on occasion), and I do enjoy the game. So just what would this show be about?
The title pretty much explains the plot. It is indeed the history of Celtic Football Club. Founded in 1888 by Brother Walfrid, it has seen many ups and downs in its 100 plus years, but it has continually enjoyed the support of fans. Those fans who have seen much history in the country, the world and life in general over this period. The show serves as much as an insight into the social history and that of Glasgow alongside the history of Celtic FC.
Using archive footage and media clippings from newspapers etc Celtic FC historical informaion is continually on screen and we are reading, watching throughout. However, at the same time, I was watching an exceptionally energetic performance on stage. There is so much consistency among the cast that I was beginning to get caught up in the phenomenon that is Celtic. No, this couldn't be happening to me! Could it? I even got a tad excited when Tom Boyd came on stage!
I was singing and clapping along. How did I know these Celtic songs? I've no idea but I did. And I actually wished I'd had that green and white scarf in my son's wardrobe with me.
I can't help but admit to the fact that the history of the football club intrigued me. From it's very onset in 1888, there was a real community spirit and community support for this club. The fans are so dedicated to their team that it forms a very large part of their lives. Something I've never understood before. Until now! Family members gone before have loved the club. Celtic is like an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. One cannot help but be impressed.
Amidst all the history, the facts and the game, this show is intertwined with comedy. Sammy and Paddy have just got to be the new 'comic' duo of 2016. They are brilliant. In fact everyone on the stage is brilliant. The music excels almost anything I've heard to date. The keyboard, drummer, guitar and fiddle player are among the best I've seen on a West-End stage.
What moment stands out for me from last night? When I learned of the young goal keeper who died on the pitch. John Thomson was just 22 years of age and died as the result of a collision against a Rangers player at Ibrox in 1931. He never regained consciousness and died shortly after. This story hit me. The music on the fiddle was just so poignant and I must admit to wiping a tear. The show portrayed the incident beautifully, yet heartbreakingly.
Would I recommend this show to non-Celtic fans? Most definitely. This show will win you over. If you have even the slightest interest in what it may be about, just go along. It runs at Derry's Millennium Forum until this coming Saturday, 1st October. If you are a Celtic fan, do NOT miss. Wear your Celtic jersey and bring your green and white scarf.
I can honestly say I wasn't particularly looking forward to this show last night: boy was I wrong. It totally blew me away - for all the right reasons. Am I now a fan? No, but I've a whole newfound respect for Celtic FC and their supporters. I left last night knowing that if you're a Celtic fan, you really will 'Never Walk Alone' in life. 
Tickets for the show can be booked here Millennium Forum Derry or call the Box Office on 2871264455.


Sunday, 25 September 2016

Lyn Paul and Blood Brothers

She's been voted the 'undisputed Mrs Johnstone'. She's been in the public eye since the 1970's. She is currently playing this lead role (yet again) in what has been described as 'One of the best musical's ever written.' And now we are going to witness this legendary Mrs Johnstone on stage right here in Derry in just over one week's time.
The international smash hit musical Blood Brothers is set to visit the Millennium Forum for a week long run from Tuesday 4th October as part of an extensive UK tour this autumn. Blood Brothers played its debut performance in Liverpool in 1983 and has gone on to be a West End and Broadway smash hit show.
Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited in a twist of fate and a mother's haunting secret. The memorable score includes A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It's Not True.
No stranger to Blood Brothers, Lyn Paul returns to the iconic role, Mrs Johnstone, one she first played in 1997. Lyn played Mrs Johnstone in the final West End permormances at the Phoenix Theatre in 2012. She has also starred in the UK tour of Cabaret in 2013, in Boy George's musical Taboo and in Footloose - the Musical.
I was delighted to catch up with Lyn just last week and have a chat about her forthcoming visit to Derry. Which also turns out to be her first ever Derry visit!
Just how does it feel being described as the 'undisputed Mrs Johnstone'? Lyn warmly tells me, "It makes me very proud and its very flattering. I'm simply doing my best." Lyn went on to tell me that although she was with the show from 1997 to 2012, now in 2016, she says it haven't changed and works so well. "The show is exactly the same as it was 30 years ago and it just works as it is. There have been cast changes but the show remains firmly the same."
She goes on to tell me, "It's a very grounded show and people can relate to all of it or at least to parts of it. It's about working class people and folk can just get it."
Lyn Paul has been a singer, actress (screen and stage) and now musical theatre actress. Just how does Blood Brothers feature in her life's work. "It's right at the top", she told me, "Mrs Johntone is the best role for me at this age. She's right at the top of my life's work. This show has changed my life."
Paul stands very firm in just how important Blood Brothers has been in her life. She's clearly very passionate about this role. So much so that she still cries on each performance of the last song, Tell Me It's Not True. Just how can she be so consistent with this emotion. "I just think of my son every time. He is now 27 and has travelled with me since he was about 8. I just have to think on him and the tears flow." I don't doubt that there will be more than Lyn Paul shedding tears on each night of the show's performance in Derry!
So is Lyn Paul looking forward to her first visit to Derry. "It's my first trip there, and yes, I'm really excited and looking forward to it. I hope the Derry audience enjoy our performance."

Blood Brothers performs at the Millennium Forum from Tuesday 4th October until Saturday 8th October. Tickets are now available from the Box Office, Telephone 71 264455 or visit Millennium Forum.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

CELTIC Musical at Millennium Forum, Derry


A brand new stage show, Celtic - The Musical has been created by Alterean Media with the official backing and support of Celtic Football Club.   It opens at the Millennium Forum on Tues 27th Sept for a week-long run following its World Premier in Glasgow.  Tickets are now available from the Box Office.  Get on the ball to the Forum Box Office now!

Featuring the songs that have rung round Celtic Park over the years, the show tells the amazing story of this legendary club.

It takes audiences on an emotion-charged journey from the foundation of the football club by
Brother Walfrid and its charitable origins through Willie Maley's legendary successes as manager and the scoring feats of Jimmy McGrory. From the wing wizardry of Jimmy Johnstone to the triumphs of the immortal Jock Stein and the lasting legacy left by icons such as Billy McNeill, Tommy Burns and Henrik Larsson.

Celtic Chief Executive, Peter Lawwell commented: “Celtic is a Club like no other, with the richest history and tradition and a wonderful story which deserves to be told in this way”.

“The Musical will be a celebration of Celtic, one of the world’s true great football clubs and will take the audience on a fantastic journey through almost 130 years of history. We are sure this production will be extremely popular with all our supporters.”
Alterean Media previously enjoyed successes with the hit stage plays The Official History of Liverpool FCand One Night in Istanbul. Writer, Nicky Allt said:

“Celtic is a story about people, about immigration, and about a football club born of purpose. Growing up in Liverpool my family were always aware of Brother Walfrid, Celtic and its charitable foundations. Since then it has always been a story that resonated with me, fascinated me, and a story I always wanted to tell."

Celtic – The Musical performs at the Millennium Forum from Tues 27th Sept until Sat 1st Oct.  Tickets are now available from the Box Office.  Telephone 71 264455 or visit


Creative Energy - Classes

Creative Energy - Creativity, Emotional, Mental, Physical and Spiritual Well-being

Creative Energy offers a range of art workshops to explore your creativity through various art forms such as kids workshops, life drawing, painting and one off specialist workshops.

Creative Energy offers classes, a healing service and workshops in Subtle Energy Medicine. SEM is a combination of Energy, Crystals, Bachflower Remedies, Colour and Sound. 

Classes and workshops give individuals the tools to maintain balance and well-being in everyday life. This can take the form of taster workshops or longer courses for self development.

The healing Service offers individuals the opportunity to avail of a treatment to experience the benefits of a healing or to regain their balance during a time of change or transition.

Up and coming courses

Painting Course
Six week Painting Course.
Over the duration of the course participants will have the
opportunity to complete a canvas, learning techniques on successful composition, painting mediums, light and shadow and colour mixing. 
Venue: CVA  Cost: £60.00

Life Drawing Course
Six week Life Drawing course.
Over the duration of the course participants will have the
opportunity to complete drawings and painting using a variety of mediums. Learning techniques on successful body proportion, light, shadow as well as depth. Towards the end of the course explore the body through painting medium. Please note the model for this course is male 
Venue: CVA  Cost: £60.00

Meditation Course
Six Week Meditation Class.
During the duration of the Meditation participants will have the opportunity to experience SEM through Bach Flowers, Colour, Crystals, Energy and Sound where appropriate.
Through the course of the classes participants will learn techniques to maintain their own health and well-being.
Venue: Killea community Hall Cost: £30.00

Kids Art Works 
Five week Kids art course.
During the duration of the kids art course children will have the opportunity to engage in creative play using various arts, craft, painting, sculpting sessions each week coming away with a finished piece.
Venue: Killea community Hall Cost: £25.00

Emmajane Logue Founder Creative Energy MVHF MFSEM SEMS
Artist & Subtle Energy Medicine Specialist


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Together In Pieces - Graffiti Film to screen in Derry on Culture Night

Graffiti Film to Screen on Culture Night

Local audiences will have the chance to see the documentary film Together in Pieces, which has been receiving rave reviews at major international film festivals, at a special Culture Night screening in Derry this coming Friday evening at the Nerve Centre.
The film, shot in Derry by local film makers, Eileen Walsh and David Dryden of Foxwall Films, was commissioned by the Community Relations Council. John Peto, Director of Education at the Nerve Centre, was Executive Producer. 
Together in Pieces documents the changing political landscape of Northern Ireland. The film examines how political murals and sectarian slogans are prolonging the healing process in Northern Ireland and how they sit cheek by jowl with a new wave of street art and graffiti.
The film makers are just back from the USA where the film screened at the first ever Hip Hop Film Festival in New York, which took place at the National Black Theatre in Harlem.
Producer Eileen Walsh said: "We're really looking forward to showing our film in our home city. We've had a great response to the film internationally. Earlier this year in March, the film was selected for a primetime screening at the biggest Irish film festival in the US, the Capital Irish Film Festival in Washington DC. Myself and David went over for the premiere and were overwhelmend by the repsonse the film got. Audiences over there loved it.
"The Hip Hop Film Festival was simply amazing. We hadn't realised what a big deal it was until we arrived in the US. Everyone was talking about it. The festival was listed in Time Out magaazine as one of the top ten things to do in New York. And the fact that the film was selected for the first ever Hip Hop film festival in New York, which is the birthplace of hip hop and graffiti, was amazing. We felt so honoured as white people from Northern Ireland to have the film at a festival for black film and music, especially in light of the political situation in the US at the moment."
Co-Director of the film, David Dryden said: "We have screened the film lots of times on the island of Ireland and it has done really well internationally. But we originally made it for a local audience, so
we are really looking forward to our Culture Night screening this Friday at the Nerve Centre.
"The documentary has been successful as a springboard for creating debate around the use of sectarian symbolism in public spaces. The original concept of the film involved showing the film and having a panel discussion and audience Q & A afterwards. This format has worked so well that discussions have lasted for up to 2 hours, even though the film is only about 25 minutes, signifying a strong desire both locally and internationally to share and understand the issues expressed in the film. At one venue the staff actually asked us to leave as they wanted to lock up the premises and go home.
"There will be a similar format this Friday at the Nerve Centre. Myself and Eileen will present the film and join the panel afterwards, which will be chaired by Catriona Mullan, Chair of the International Centre for Local and Regional Development and will also feature Michael Doherty of Mediate NI and Linda Watson of the Caw Nelson Drive Action Group.
"Michael and Linda are both in the film, and have very interesting stories to tell. The film features international graffiti artists and local street artist Donal O'Doherty of UV Arts, as well as young people from youth clubs and community centres in the area. We also managed to film former US President Bill Clinton on his last visit to Derry. And he had a very powerful message for the city. We're hoping for a good crowd on Friday and a very interesting audience discussion afterwards. Admission is free and everyone is welcome. We'll have a reception beforehand with refreshments from 7-7.30pm.
This will be followed by the screening and Q&A panel discussion which runs until 9.30pm. And if it's like previous screenings, we may have to continue discussions afterwards at another venue."

Culture Night Screening of Together in Pieces         Nerve Centre            Friday 16 September 2016 
Screening starts at 7:30pm     Admission free     All welcome
Refreshments served from 7:00-7:30pm
For more information see our new website
Contact Eileen Walsh (075) 963 151 63