I remember a friend showing photographs of Belfast as part of a Children’s Talk during a Church service. He had taken a walk around the city but not in the rush of our every day schedules. He had gone with a more alert eye. He had taken his time and looked… really looked.
I was amazed at the wonder of the buildings he had shot with his camera and stunned that there were many intricate pieces of art moulded into walls and roofs. I realised that I had walked past all these beautiful things hundreds of times without even noticing, If only I had taken time to look up, or down… to listen to what was going on in my city.
Artists have been listening to our cities for a long time. They have walked streets, parks and back alleyways and took time to ask what the pavements under our feet or the walls or benches around us have to say.
In Belfast we don’t have to think too hard before we are immediately drawn to the work of Van Morrison. From Cyprus Avenue to Hyndford Street to Beechie River, to the man with the saw at the City Hall, Morrison has listened to our city and opened up its ordinariness and its transcendence. Last year’s concerts on Cyprus Avenue in themselves were a powerful opening up of East Belfast, it’s history, it’s boundaries, it’s hidden stories, the sadness, the love, the hopefulness and the spiritual epiphany.
This Saturday afternoon (Feb 6th 2016 at 2.30pm) the 4 Corners Festival is running an event to help us to listen to our city. We will hear how this Psycho-geography has inspired writers and artists;
• Garrett Carr, novelist and map-maker based in Belfast.
• Kate Trenery, photographer, writer and creator of the project ‘Walking Walls’
• Allan Leonard, blogger and director of the Northern Ireland Foundation
• Susan Mansfield, writer, wanderer and creator of Passion Walk Belfast
We are delighted to be holding Listening To The City in Girdwood Community Hub. If we cock our ears, open our eyes and engage our souls then this very venue will help us to understand Belfast’s past, present and hoped for future. A former army barracks we will meet in an area that is called Shared Space. Girdwood has been a contested area on a Belfast interface. It feels like the Hub is giving a hope for a different future for Belfast even as we are aware of the stories that linger here.
This is an exciting afternoon in our 4 Corners Festival programme. We believe it will help us all to understand our city better and that this understanding might be a force to bring our 4 Corners together.