“Where there are people there are stories
Where there are stories there are songs
Where there are songs there are people searching
For where they belong”
I stole these lines from a Tom Petty interview I read years ago. I guess Petty was talking about what he did, about where he looked for inspiration. The artist is a watcher, a listener, taking in people and places and the interactions. A songwriter will ponder all of that and in a four minute song retell stories, gave insights into stories, throw another angle.
Belfast is a city full of people and our stories. Belfast is a city with a story but that story, like every other city, town or village is made up of many stories that caress and collide. The stories make up the culture of a place. For us the collisions have been a major emphasis of our story.
As we were nearing the end of the programming for this year’s 4 Corner’s Festival I began to see a thread; stories. We are listening to a lot of stories in different places across our city. How political leaders got to where they are. How Church leaders see their personal stories in the backdrop of a divided place. Poems of people’s stories of their Troubles’ experience. Tenx9 is a whole evening of storytelling. I felt there was one thing missing; songs!
My mind started thinking of that Tom Petty line and who would be good at showing what Petty meant. Not only that but what he meant in a Belfast context. Anthony Toner and Dave Thompson came immediately to mind. Anthony Toner writes with a real sense of place, often the places he finds himself across the world. Yet Belfast creeps in. On his A Light Below The Door record he takes us onto Bedford Street, from The Cranes to the Holy Lands, onto kerbs painted for the 12th of July. Dave Thompson is less known than Toner but, without them ever having come across each other yet, ploughs a similar furrow. His debut record Newsprint Sky juxtaposes the story of the signing of the Ulster Covenant with a story of a young IRA prisoner found mysteriously hanged in the Maze. The Castlereagh Hills, the Lagan at Stranmillis bend are all referenced. To that potent combination I wanted another voice, maybe an outside voice, maybe a different art form. So I immediately thought of El Gruer. El is a young poet who has graced stages across the world. Scottish, she has been in Northern Ireland for awhile and currently doing a Masters in Creative Writing at Queens. She is a gifted poet for reading or for performance and has an amazing way of bringing alive people’s stories.
I am thrilled that I have now got all three together for a night of conversation and performance. As well as being entertained by the quality songs and poems of the three artists I will be asking them how location impacts their work and how they find the stories and what they are attempting to do as they craft and offer up their work. In all of this we will all find an opportunity to find our stories in theirs. We might even begin to hear other perspectives and have our stereotypes untangled. Maybe, if we listen well enough and allow the stories to sink deep enough into head, heart and soul, it will even redirect our stories and the story of our broken city. Maybe our stories will find more caressing than colliding. Open the door of your soul...
WHERE THERE ARE STORIES THERE ARE SONGS (and POEMS) with Anthony Toner, Dave Thompson and El Gruer - Saturday, Feb 1st at 8pm, 174 Trust, Antrim Road, 156 Antrim Road
4 Corners Festival Press Launch – Monday January 13th at Dock Cafe, Titanic Quarter at 11am