100 000 deaths

(this is my Belfast Telegraph column on January 22, 2021...)


“There is always light

If only we are brave enough to see it

If only we are brave enough to be it.”


The words of that “young skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother who had a dream about being President and ended up reading a poem for the one”. Amanda Gorman. What energy. What poise. After her big moment, she spoke to James Cordon about how words are how she does her magic. 

Ms Gorman’s poem at the inauguration of the 46th President of America had me in tears at one moment, cheering like I was at a soccer game at another and feeling the call of God by the end.

The Coronavirus days are not going away. They seem to be getting worse. Watching the news at 6 can be harrowing. There is a lot of isolation and fear. We are locked down now until at least March 5th, almost a year since went into the first lockdown. 

It is dark. Way more people have died in the UK than in the Second World War. Think of the sacrifices people made to win that war. We need to show similar resilience and commitment. Your country needs you.

Yet, many are flouting the restrictions and playing loose with the lives of their families, neighbours community - even themselves. I have come more and more convinced that those who are ignoring this war on the virus should be made as socially reprehensible as drink drivers.

We have a choice. To be the light. Or the dark. 

I had a hand in writing the theme song for this year’s 4 Corners Festival that begins on January 31st. The song and the Festival is all about breathing hope. I feel a little insecure quoting it in the same article that I write about Amanda Gorman but the chorus goes:


Will we be the dark

Will we be the death

Will we be the kiss

Will we be the breath


Though we don’t use the word light in the lyric you can see the stark challenge. We are hoping that the 4 Corners Festival is a light and breath of hope across our city in the first week of February. On a daily basis we as a society have a choice to be the the dark or to be the light in our neighbourhoods, cities and town lands.


The light is actually most powerful when it shines in the deepest darkness. Oh how we have seen that light shining in the exhausting compassion of our NHS, as well as the staff in schools, those who have served at Foodbanks and so many others who have made the shadows more bearable in this strange year. 


What I loved about the last few lines of Amanda’s Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb was how she took two lines from Jesus and blended them. Jesus declares “I am lhe light of the world” — “If we are brave enough to see it”. He also looks at his followers and tells them “you are the light of the world” - “if we are brave enough to be it”.


That is where in Amanda Gorman’s poem I heard the call of God. She held the charisma and unction of the preacher and I heard those words as an encouragement in the darkness of what we are struggling through:


“There is always light

If only we are brave enough to see it

If only we are brave enough to be it.”


God, give me the courage…


Find out more and book events - https://4cornersfestival.com


Peace Players

It wasn’t long after we bought our house in Ballycastle (the house we live in in Belfast belongs to Fitzroy) that I got angry and frustrated with my Protestant upbringing.

Ballycastle is a hurling town. If you are a young person, you carry a hurley. Everybody seems to play hurling or camogie. 

On the grass at the sea front or on the beach, they are using these sticks to knock a sliotar between each other. The way they hit it and even more beautifully control it in the air with the hurley the more I regretted that I didn’t get an opportunity to play hurling when I was young.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Hurling is a game for the brave. Catching a well hit sliotar in the air with two or three players around you. Courage. 

As a soccer player I was very fast, had decent close control, a good eye for a pass and a goal but I wasn’t brave enough to take it to a higher level. At hurling I would have been way to much of a coward to make it. I would however have loved a bit of skilful playing around down the seafront.

It is one of the many downsides of our tragic divisions. If you are a Protestant and go this school you play Rugby or soccer. Go to a Catholic school and it is GAA football or hurling. 

My best mate when I was 11 and 12 was Frank Kelly. What a footballer. He had the courage. He also went to the Catholic school and played GAA football so I rememberer him trying to teach me how to dribble with the ball in your hand for a few seconds, kick, ball in hand, kick… at speed!

Then Frank moved to Dublin and I was cut off again.

How I would have loved Peace Players. No hurling but the opportunity for 11 to 14 year olds to play the sports they don’t get the chance to play. Love it. More of it. 

So 4 Corners Festival, working with Peace Players for the third year, will give your children the opportunity. If they are aged 11-14 years they are invited to connect with others across Belfast for games, sports and activities, all in the comfort of their own home. 

Being at home will not take away any of the friendly competition and fun. In all of the energy there will be time to take a breath from all that is challenging our younger teens and a contribution to bringing Belfast together. 


register at https://4cornersfestival.com



We are thrilled to have as our 4 Corners Festival film this year, the award winning short film by Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn.

Rough has a warning in its title. This is not Disney. It is black comedy and might not be ideal for the younger members of the family.

Yet, it is highlighting an issue that our city needs to take more seriously than perhaps it is. Punishment beatings. Week after week we hear news pieces about someone else receiving a brutal beating at the hands of post conflict paramilitaries.

I almost saw first hand  such vigilante justice in a township in Africa. That it happens on our streets is something that we should be ashamed of. 

After the film that stars Michael Smiley who I last watched on Would I Lie To You there will be a Zoom panel discussion that includes the film’s writers Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, as well as the film's producer Louise Gallagher.


Book your place on the website - https://4cornersfestival.com



Botanic Park

Over the last number of years The Wonderful Wander has become one of the most loved 4 Corners Festival events.

Jim Deeds and David Campton have plotted routes that have had us walking across swathes of our city, connecting areas perhaps really connected and filling the fascinating place a long the way with insights through poetry and story and art and song. 

Not so much prayer walks as spiritual awaking us to what goes on in our city that so often we can rush past or take another out around.

This year is obviously different but we are not going to let the fact that we can walk together get in the way of a good walk. We will miss the conversation and sense of 4 Corners community along the way but Jim and David have put together a wonderful wander celebrating Belfast City Council Parks.

The boys will “walk the walk” along an interesting, circuitous route from Ormeau and Botanic parks to City Hall, recording their thoughts and the sounds for a podcast that will be available on-line. 

We then invite you, when you feel free to do so, to grab your headphones or ear buds, lace up your walking boots and follow in David’s and Jim’s footsteps, listening to the podcast.

Register and receive the podcast - https://4cornersfestival.com


Walking in wards

(prayers I used in Fitzroy on January 24, 2021, inspired by Richard Carter's The City Is My Monastery and the lectionary text "follow me...")


Lord I want to walk with you through my city

I want to walk along the pavements

Down University Street onto the Ormeau Road

Weaving through people of different faiths and political persuasions 

People of many nations, colours, cultures

To smell fish and chips, see carpet stores

And kids spilling out of An Droichead

Running across the road to Mornington

Past cafes and bars and law courts and banks to Victoria Square


Lord I want to walk with you

As you stop to give dignity to the man sleeping in the doorway

Pray healing on the woman in the woman’s refuge

As you share your own story with the refugee running from dangers at home


Lord I want to walk with you

As you pray for the business woman struggling to keep going through lockdown

As you feel deep sadness for the rich man off to work for what isn’t gaining him his soul


Lord I want to walk with you 

As you make a special visit to our hospitals

As you put your hand on the shoulders of doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and cleaning staff alike

To breathe resilience, stamina and compassion into their weariness

As you sit by the bedside of those who are ill or dying

Being with them when their loved ones cannot

As you pray for those whose treatment is on hold in order to deal with the crisis with this pandemic


Lord I want to walk with you in my city 

As I do 

Caress my soul

With your compassion and love

Be the rock and refuge of the Psalms at my side

Lord I want to walk with you in my city

And as I do 

Collide with my soul

Turning around my attitudes, values, ambitions, decisions and daily intentions


Lord I want to walk with you in my city

To find myself redeemed and transformed

That I might do what Jesus would do

In my city.




why not take a walk through Belfast at this year's 4 Corners Festival... The Wonderful Wander is not cancelled... we are locked down but rocked up! Book for The Wonderful Wander and other events, including one with Richard Carter at: https://4cornersfestival.com