Last year, I had the lovely job of being commissioned by Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership to work with a number of community groups, local experts and organisations to firstly research and then script a number of stories, which would be made available for visitors to listen to via two "listening posts".
The first listening post was for Victoria Lock in Newry and I got to research and talk to people about the history of the canal, how the restored lock actually works, the local history of seafaring from Fathom, the Flagstaff Fiesta and wildlife in the area.
The second listening post was for beautiful Camlough Lake, and while I was busy researching the area and its history I discovered my good friend Cathy and her family are from Camlough so it is a small world indeed! This post has stories about secret tunnels and outdoor swimming, and I am feeling very inspired to get in for a splash this summer - though, perhaps not as inspired as some of the locals who have competed in Siberian ice swimming challenges...
Anyway, although my part of the project was completed in 2017, the scripts then had to be recorded and the posts made so I was delighted to get an email last week to let me know they have now been installed. So if you are visiting the gorgeous Ring of Gullion area over the summer (and you should - it's class) and you get a chance, please go and have a listen!
This week we marked the conclusion of 2018's XBorders: Accord project with a reading event at the Irush Writers Centre, showcasing completed work and work in progress from the 18 writers who completed the programme.
I have learned a lot from taking part in this programme and I have had the privilege to meet some incredible writers and all round humans from across the island and around the world. I hope to be able to draw on my newly honed editing skills and all the MANY ideas I now have on borders for years to come. With thanks to Maria McManus who facilitated the course throughout, Patsy Horton for her work with us and feedback, and to Irish Writers Centre and Arts Council NI for their funding which allowed it to happen.
I was in the fortunate position to be invited to create a response to Hickey & Hickey's inaugural curation, House Taken Over. A site-specific show, on for one weekend only as part of Sonorities Festival, last night was the opening night.
This is a house I already know well, from dinners, Christmas parties, birthday parties, a wedding, drinking wine in the kitchen, Halloween bonfires, watching movies... So it was very different and in many ways unheimlich to consider the house itself as an entity separate from the family I know living here; a fundamentally empty space.
I was particularly inspired by three stories about the house. The first involved the house's covert purpose durung WWII as a listening post; a theory proposed by some local historuans which acted as the inspiration for the whole curation. Secondly a story that Ciara told me about how the house's previous residents used to send the house itself, rather than the family now living there, Christmas cards after they moved out. And finally a story that Elizabeth told us about a friend of theirs who, many years ago, was adamant that when she was staying in the house that she heard it say goodnight to her.
So I had a lot of rich material to draw on in creating 'The Time Of Their Coming', my response to House Taken Over, the themes it explores, and the house itself.
...One solitary afternoon
Last week Riddel's Warehouse in Belfast's city centre was re-configured as the arts fringe space at the Peace and Beyond Conference. Poetry Jukebox was in residence both in a Label Lit incarnation and as a sound installation.
A real highlights was seeing the thought-provoking messages left by visitors and writers from around the world and across the city, hanging side by side with our own micro-poems. Another was watching the film 'The Grappling Hook' made by Raymond Watson who physically scaled one of the city's peace walls, "escaping" from one ideological prison o ly to find himself in an opposite but equal prison on the otherside. A timely reminder of what unites - as well as divides - us, twenty years on from the Good Friday Agreement.
Belfast's newest resident, the Poetry Jukebox, was installed at Crescent Arts Centre a few months ago with a deceptively simple mission: #changingthemessage
A new curation arrives at the beginning of April marking twenty years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and asking the question.. "What else?" And this is the type of question McGibbon O'Lynn's post-human narrative likes to interrogate and explore in The Xenophon Project. So I am vey delighted that one of my Xeno poetry fragments, 'The Signal' from our Almanac of Tomorrow piece has been selected to be part of this new curation. Words have power, language carries a resonance far beyond ourselves.
A consensus could not be achieved on whether this was an explosion or an implosion.
The poems in the #GFA20 curation will also become a LabeLLit intervention, part of the arts hub of the Peace & Beyond Conference which is being organised by the Centre for Peace & Democracy, Ulster University & Queen's University Belfast (10-12 April). Our poetry will be an installation of literature designed for conference delegates to take away with them - little thoughts on where the future will take us all.
This weekend marked the final of the three XBorders:Accord sessions, with a last seminar in Belfast. Of course we took our writerly friends around the Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Queen's quad, the Naughton Gallery and last - but certainly not least - to listen to some of the inspiring voices (including our very own Adam Trodd!) on the Poetry Jukebox at Crescent Arts Centre #changingthemessage
After a very pleasant morning of meandering in a shockingly sunlit Belfast, what awaited us within was a rather more rigorous and intensive seminar on sharpening our editing skills and really honing our writing to be the best that it can be. I am a terrible editor so this was a tough session for me but I feel like I have learned a lot from it and I hope the ideas will percolate well over the nextfew weeks as I prepare my work for the last few steps of the XBorders project - a 1:1 mentoring session and a showcase at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin in May.
We had earned our wine after all that!
jWell, there's me at last night's pretty fancy Hennessy Literary Awards. The whole evening was fabulous from beginning to end - a Hennessy cocktail bar! John Lavery art on the walls! A Hennessy swag bag to take home! People wearing beautiful dresses! Canapés! (Priorities, people...) Bernard MacLaverty there in person to be inducted into the literary hall of fame! Marina Carr up on the judging panel! The Irish literary institution that is Ciaran Carty himself who had plucked all our stories and poems to publish from a submissions pile of over 3000 entries in 2017! Roisin Ingle compering the whole thing!
It is fair to say I am beyond starstruck!
Huge congratulations to the three very deserving awardees from last night: Aaron Finnegan, Louise G Cole and Manus Boyle Tobin.
Extremely delighted to be amidst some pretty exalted company on the shortlist for the Hennessy Literary Awards 2018 - and especially in the same year that the venerable New Irish Writing reaches the half century milestone.
Got some pretty cool post into the bargain, inviting me to the awards ceremony in Dublin the week after next - can't argue with that, though it is very definitely the first time my name has been on the guestlist for a party sponsored by Hennessy. Feel like a rap star.
And of course had to go and buy a copy of the paper today, because I'm not a rap star - I am a geek.
Siobhan and I are very please to announce our new show, Xenophon: From the Beginning, as part of Drogheda Arts Festival, at Droichead Arts Centre.
Featuring artifacts old, new and post-human from The Xenophon Archive, we will be employing sculpture, narrative, animation and technology to explore the interstices between art and science, and the future of the human species. There will be some new text incorporated through poetry and multi-layered journal entries.
Entrance is free, everyone is welcome, all are one and details are here.