AS I went to most of the events, it’s impossible to do a full blog on every one of them so here’s 100 words on each with some photographs I stole off the internet.

Creative Writing with Nessa O’Shaughnessy

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Nessa is a famous poet and teacher of creative writing. I gained so much knowledge from her three classes. What she said was very important. She said “Take yourself seriously as a writer” so I have endeavored to stop saying to people when they ask about this blog “aye it’s a load of shite, don’t be reading it”. Self deprecation is one of my bad habits. She also said that it’s important to allow yourself to write badly. Yep Nessa, I’m good at that. See, I’m doing it again.

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

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This was the opening night event and the first time I’ve been in the main Marketplace Theatre.  And what can I say but wow – this is the most beautiful theatre I’ve been in and I have been in many.  This event was about where we are after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.  It was a mixture of music, song, poems and writing being read by loads of famous people.  Most recognisable was Aidan Gillen who everyone knew from Game of Thrones only I haven’t watched any of that, I knew him as Johnboy from Love/Hate.

Fiction: John Boyne 

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You’ve watched The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas haven’t you? Of course you have, everyone has either watched it or read the book.  So anyway, John Boyne was the writer of it.  I had the pleasure of listening to him read from his new novel The Heart’s Invisible Furies.  It’s about this boy who has grown up in Ireland from the end of World War Two up until the result of the Equal Marriage Referendum.  It was a great reading, really enjoyable.  So I bought the book, met the author and had my book personalised and signed by him.

Panel Discussion: The Art of Conflict Transformation 

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This was one of my favourite events because it was about how the arts plays a role in transforming society after conflict.  In other words – how to make themins talk to each other.  The panel was chaired by Katy Radford from the Institute for Conflict Research and a great discussion was had by Paula McFetridge from Kabosh Theatre Company, Marguerite Nugent from Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Oliver Sears from the Molesworth Street Gallery.  We all know who Paula McFetridge is.  But Marguerite Nugent has the largest collection of Troubles art in the UK and Oliver Sears is a second generation holocaust survivor who showed a film about his exhibition Jerusalem.  It featured portraits of people’s faces.  It only displayed their name and nothing else because the painter, Colin Davidson wanted the viewer to look at them and not their religion or nationality.

Theatre: Green & Blue

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This play was about an RUC Officer and a Guard who were stationed on either sides of the border.  The play was written by former IRA prisoner Lawrence McKeown.  I thought it was great and even though it was written by an ex prisoner, it was fair and sensitively told the stories of the police forces at the time.  This play is on in the Felons during Feile and it makes for a good night out.  Highly recommended.

Talk: The Future of National Borders across these Islands – Dr Katy Hayward

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Dr Katy Hayward is a political sociologist at Queen’s University.  She delivered an insightful talk into how Brexit will happen.  It was an early morning lecture based on the theme ‘A philosophical reflection on friction-less borders’ and one that required a large cup of coffee afterwards.  In other words – intense brain pickling.  She posed the question “Why is it so difficult to conceive flexible and imaginative solutions for the Irish border after Brexit?”  I came away from the talk with my own thoughts that Brexit has been mis-sold like PPI only it wasn’t small print we were suckered in by – but large print on a big bus which was soon discovered as lies.  Dr Hayward was heckled by some man who shouted about there not being a second referendum because the people have spoken.  There were lots of big words in the PowerPoint  and I can see why people are turned off by Brexit talk.  Because it’s very dull and the only people who know what’s going on and how it’s really going to affect us – are very smart individuals.  And if they are stumped – well, the politicians negotiating the UK’s exit are fucked.

Talk: Dr Caroline Magennis

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This talk was about the boom in Irish women writer’s post Good Friday Agreement.  There has been an increase in women writing and being published in areas of politics and social issues.  What I loved most about it was the discussion about ‘the tea towel’.  The famous Irish writers tea towel consisting of only men.  Therefore the women are allowed to use it to dry the dishes.

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Poetry: Jessica Traynor

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Jessica is from an Irish town called ‘Ballybock’ and translates as ‘Poor Town’.  She read a selection of poems that she had written about home when she was living in London.  She said that she felt a real strong connection to Ballybock when she was away.  I could really resonate with her because I couldn’t wait to get back to Belfast and a lot of my creative writing in the workshops featured me doing the dishes in my kitchen looking at the view of the city.  I’m not even joking.  I’m just a full scale townie who loves being a Mummy and it took me to go to Armagh to realise it.

Poetry: Enda Coyle

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I liked her instantly because she said “I should be pretending to be some sort of intellectual here – which I’m not”.  I appreciate that kind of honesty in people.  She read a poem called ‘Vertigo’ and it was about her father dying and passing on traits that she does without realising.  She said that poems arrive in the strangest places and it’s only when you’re faced with a dilemma do poems come to you.

Poetry: Pat Boran

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He was having the craic with the audience in between reading his poems and trying to understand his own writing.  One thing that really struck me was a discussion about immigrants and he said “Immigrants open shops” and it’s very true.  I noticed that Armagh has a large migrant community and in the small town, there’s two Eastern European supermarkets and many many painted pretend shops where the old businesses are no more.

Fiction: Lisa McInerney

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She’s my new favourite author.  Because wait for it.  She’s the same age as me, she originally started off as a blogger, she is unapologetic-ally foul mouthed and now she gets paid to write books.  I bought her two novels The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles, met her and made her laugh when I said I wanted to show them off on my bookshelf.  Think it was more nervous, get security type laughter to be honest.  If you like a bit of southern Irish comedy and crime, this will be for you too.

Film & Panel Discussion: Two Angry Men

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This was a short film about the play ‘Over the Bridge’.  It was a film about a play that no theatre houses in Northern Ireland would touch because it was deemed too inflamatory.  Over the Bridge is about the sectarianism of the ship yards and the film Two Angry Men is about the production team’s struggles to get the play performed.

Theatre: A Time to Speak

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Joan McCready played the part of Helen Lewis, a Czechoslovakian dancer who was taken to Auswich and survived.  She commenced her new life in Belfast.  This was a very sad play and you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium.  That’s why I was pissed off when some dickhead behind me kept blowing her nose and taking big slugs of water from a 2 litre bottle the whole way through.  It just goes to show, you can try to teach history and humble people by showing a play about something that will never be experienced again – but they may not take it seriously.

Talk: Dominique Searle

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Dominic Searle is a journalist based in Gibraltar.  His talk was about Article 50 and Gibraltar being a bargaining tool for Brexit.  He showed maps of the border between Spain and Gibraltar and spoke about how the island recovered after the Anglo-Spanish war.  He was interesting.  And again, another expert in the field of borders is mystified as to what should happen with Brexit.  But the narcoleptic heckling man who went in and out for a smoke and occasionally slept during the lecture – knew better.

Fiction: Tessa Hadley

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Tessa read from her novel The Past and left me and Stephen Buggy looking at each other in a WTF sort of way.  The chapter was about some woman listening to her brother and his new girlfriend ‘being intimate’ at a family reunion.  Then she goes and tries on the girlfriends clothes with no underwear on.  It was then that I really gave in and decided I needed to go home.  I was burnt out.  The week ruined me.

 

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