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February 2018

January 2018


First Aid Kit Ruins

A few folk have asked that I would share my listening on a monthly basis. Here's what was new to me in January...

GLEN HANSARD - BETWEEN TWO SHORES : Our Irish national treasure comes up with another album of sublime songwriting. Deep bass groove underpinning songs of melancholy and heartache.

FIRST AID KIT - RUINS : Those Swedish sisters with a Blood On the Tracks style album. You just love their harmonies, verging on country, unique to themselves.

SUFJAN STEVENS - MYSTERY OF LOVE : a single song from the film Call Me By Name has all the fragile Stevens’ voice, acoustic gentleness and grace notes dashed across it.

SARAH MASEN - THREE STRANGERS : Just one song BUT a joy of 2018 is having new material from Sarah Masen… the density of her wonderful poetry and quirk of sound is all wrapped up in brilliant songwriting.

COLTER WALL : A young man from a small town in Saskatchewan full of Steve Earle type songs and a robust voice.

LAURA MARLING - A HARD RAINS A-GONNA FALL - Marling takes on classic apocalyptic Dylan for the Peaky Blinders finale… she does a fine job!


Joby Fox

“Now we are here…”

It is just a joining line between more significant lines in Joby Fox’s rewriting of Energy Orchard’s classic song Belfast but it is a perfect line for this year’s 4 Corners Festival with the title NOW. HERE.THIS. Of all our events this Festival this is perhaps the one that excites me most, for a whole plethora of reasons.

This is an event that I have been trying to put together for the last few Festivals. This idea that we could hear where we are now through the songs of our own Belfast songwriters. I thought that would be a helpful listening. Listening has always been a word we hold precious at 4 Corners. We are always more keen on keynote listeners than keynote speakers!

To have Iain Archer back at the Festival after his great performance last year is a treat. His song When It Kicks In is perfect fodder for such a night. That is the song of a young man looking back to what he went through during The Troubles, more than a little frustrated at the speed of our journey to healing, but in the end hopeful that the potential of shalom is up ahead.

Then Joby Fox. Energy Orchard’s debut album was a significant commentary into the Belfast of the late 80s. Oh how I loved that record. Sailortown, Somebody’s Brother and Belfast. Joby has rewritten a post conflict version of Belfast and again a listening will cast insights like shards of light across our tentative steps forward.

I have following Ursula Burns’s music for a long time and delighted that she too will bring her imaginative uniqueness in sound and content. Tony Wright is another strong name on this bill. Singer songwriter with VerseChorusVerse he is also the founding member of And So I Watch You From Afar.

As if the music isn’t strong enough it is all held together and unpacked by world renowned rock journalist Stuart Bailie. Stuart is just about to finish writing a book about music and the Troubles so he is a rich seam of knowledge on our subject. 

I cannot wait to hear, in the songs, where we are now!


Karen S


Sunday February 4th @ 7.30pm

Skainos Centre, 239 Newtownards Road


The 4 Corners Festival 2018 starts on Thursday (1.2.18). As it has developed over the last 6 years it is a varied mixture of events - concerts, book readings, plays, walks, banquets etc. Around our imaginative programme, the Sunday evenings have become the theological underpinning. So it is again this year.

On the first Sunday (4th) as well as the BBC Radio Ulster Service in the morning, we are gathering Church leaders from across the denominations to reflect on how the Churches have been, haven’t been and should be involved in Peacemaking in Northern Ireland. 

The speakers on the evening are Rev Dr Heather Morris former president of the Methodist Church, Fr Brian Lennon one of the founders of Community Dialogue, Karen Sethuraman (photographed) pastor of the Down Community Church and my good self. Hosting the event is Dr. Gladys Ganiel from The Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice and also one of the directors of the 4 Corners Festival. Jonny Fitch will add some prophetic songs.

Twenty year after the Good Friday Agreement our societal peace has a long way to go. Indeed as the 4 Corners Festival begins our political peace is a little more brittle than fragile. There is an urgency for Church leaders, among other civic leaders, to play their part in helping our peace process to move forward.

I cannot speak for my fellow speakers but I will be asking if we, the Churches, were more a part of the problem of our Troubles than part of the solution? Though some might say that The Troubles was not a religious war, was there a cold theological war going on among the Churches that in some ways encouraged the fighting on the streets? More crucially, did that theological war that might go back as far as the Reformation paralyse the Churches from their vocation to peacemaking? Did that prolong our conflict? What should we do to repent? How do we fulfil our vocation twenty years after the Agreement?

Expect stimulating challenge and inspiration and with Gladys in the chair, frank and open questions from her and the floor.



It is exciting to have the U2 Conference in Belfast this summer (June 13-15). I am delighted that we in Fitzroy will be hosting some of the event. I am thrilled to actually be taking part in the Conference. 

This is the 3rd U2 Conference. The previous two in 2009 and 2013 have produced two books Exploring U2: Is This Rock 'N Roll and U2 Above, Across and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments. The Conference aims to appeal to academic and general audiences and this year’s theme is based around the Pop album and Pop Mart Tour.

Coming to Belfast is all about coinciding with 20 years of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement which brought political peace to the country. U2 were very much a part of that historical moment when they appeared along with Ash and political leaders John Hume and David Trimble at a Pro Agreement Rally in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. 

The keynote speakers are Catherine Owens artistic collaborator with U2 and world renowned Belfast rock journalist Stuart Bailie.

I will be speaking about the power of the song, particularly in the work of U2, towards peacemaking.

Even more exciting, I will be in conversation with Andy Rowen. Andy is the subject of two U2 songs Bad and Raised By Wolves. In a communal way Cedarwood Road is about him too as it is about his home and family where Bono found refuge and salvation after his mother passed away. 

Raised By Wolves is about the UVF bombs in Dublin on May 17, 1974. Andy was 11 and he and his father got caught up in the bomb. As Andy told me there was no post trauma counselling in 1974 so he was back in school on the Monday as if nothing had happened. Sadly for Andy his way through that trauma was alcohol and drugs and Bad is about that.

Indeed the original lyrics of Bad, turning up in a U2 Exhibition at the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland was one of the ways that God threw his arms around Andy Rowen and brought him back form the brink of addiction. 

Andy’s story is inspirational and what I love most about his story is that Andy’s parents took a young teenager into their home when he needed salvation and thirty five years later a lyric written by that young man became the means of their own son’s salvation. 

It should be a movie! Someday it might be. Come along and hear it from Andy Rowen himself at U2 Conference 2018!


Furay CDS

Here’s a lovely re-issue that I have been waiting on for over twenty years!

Around 1980 I was a member of the Word Record Club. It was a Christian record club and I was drawn to the Richie Furay record I’ve Got A Reason. I was a Neil Young fan by then but not very aware Buffalo Springfield or Furay’s place rock history. 

I got fascinated by Furay, a rock star who became a Church pastor. It took a few years but I eventually started investigating Furay’s career. I got my hands on the two Souther Hillman Furay Band records that he did with songwriter JD Souther and one of the founders of the Byrds, Chris Hillman. Then there was Poco, the band Furay formed after Buffalo Springfield. Then there was Buffalo Springfield itself!

Over the last twenty years Furay has come out of his Church pulpit to make a few records. There have been a few that have been very upfront in their Christian content.  Then there are The Heartbeat Of Love and 2015’s Hand In Hand, Best of all 2007’s live record Alive blended his entire career in one stunning concert.

Of everything Richie Furay has done however, there is a trilogy of records that he recorded for David Geffen’s Asylum label in the late 70s - I’ve Got A Reason, Dance A Little Light and I Still Have Dreams - that I think are the best three records he was ever involved in.

Furay promised David Geffen that he would not preach in his music. He doesn’t. Yet, at least on the first tow of these records there is a underlay of faith. The songs are strong and the arrangements creative. The songs are as good as Furay ever wrote.

Being Richie Furay these records are littered with big names, Al Perkins, Waddy Wachtel and two Eagles, who were formerly Poco, Randy Meisner and Timothy B Schmit. David Cassidy even does backing vocals!

Over the years I picked up the vinyl versions and was always astounded that an artist of Furay’s status had not had these records re-issued. Finally… I was a happy boy on Christmas Day when Santa delivered the Remastered two CD set that has all three of the Asylum records on.

My 2008 Interview with Richie Furay


Cole 2

There is a unique evening at this year's 4 Corners Festival that I have nicknamed "Greenbelt Wednesday". Cole Moreton and Ricky Ross on the one evening has all the hallmarks of a Greenbelt night. It would be very easy over the last few decades to have been to a Cole Moreton reading in a Greenbelt tent and to come out and head straight to a Ricky Ross solo gig in another venue. If you are a Greenbelter, or have been in the past, then this is a Belfast evening that is too good to be true.

Unfortunately by now the Ricky Ross concert is full. There are no tickets left.

So... there are two options on Greenbelt Wednesday. If you have tickets for Ricky Ross In Conversation in Fitzroy at 8pm then you could come along at 6pm and hear Cole reading from his most wonderful book The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away. Cole's book reading is in No Alibis Bookshop on Botanic Avenue, just a few hundred years from Fitzroy Church where Ricky will be chatting and singing.

If you have not been able to get a ticket for Ricky then do not feel the might is all lost. Come and hear Cole in No Alibis. 

Cole's book is a true heart tugging and inspiring story about organ donations following the lives of two teenage boys whose lives are brought together through tragedy and their parents who engage with each other in the wake of the event.

Cole is one of our guest speakers at the 4 Corners Festival Banquet in Belfast City Hall on February 6th when we will host a meal for those who have donated the organs of loved ones or received them. If you would like to donate to that worthy event then press HERE


Fitzroy Church Weird Light

"Strangled by confusion, my mind is in decay
Can't picture tomorrow, can't remember yesterday
Send out for the Black & Decker and the psychiatric couch
Open up the window, let the bad air out"

I was drawn to this Bruce Cockburn song as I prepared the sermon for tomorrow morning (11am) in Fitzroy. As we set ourselves up for a Lent series in the Gospel According To Mark we are in the Lectionary Reading in Mark 1 where a demon cries out to Jesus as he teaches in the synagogue. Cockburn's Bad Air is wanting out! We will look at the epiphany and apocalypse of Jesus arrival and how Mark lays out his authority and humanity's need to take Jesus seriously. The Bad Air certainly takes him seriously. What Bad Air lurks in our minds... in our parliament... and how will Jesus deal with it?!

"Traitors in high places take my money, tell me lies
Take a walk past Parliament, it smells like something died
They ask for trust, but somehow I've got serious doubts
Open up the window, let the bad air out"

Please note that there will be NO event in Fitzroy in the evening as we will all be at Stormont Presbyterian Church for the ordination of Brent Van Der Linde into Royal Navy Chaplaincy at 6pm


Travers McBride

Twenty four years out of our conflict and there are many times that I am still shocked at the memories of what we did to each other in this little country. It always sobering to stop and ponder the bloody violence that rained own upon us over the 35 years of the Troubles.

Alongside the inhumanity that many showed to their fellow humans I am on the other hand constantly amazed, challenged and inspired by these who have suffered at the hands of that inhumanity and shown human qualities in dealing with loss and hurt and life changing consequences.

Our Life After Death event at this year’s 4 Corners Festival will give you the opportunity to hear two stories of devastation that were followed by resilience, dignity and a coming to terms with the horrible hand dealt.

Alan McBride last his dear wife Sharon in the 1993 Shankill Bomb. Sharon’s father was also killed when an IRA bomb went off too soon. I have listened to Alan tell me where Sharon would have been when her killers entered the shop and how she would have smiled and engaged with them. The personal touch in Alan’s story brings a painful reality to the Troubles. So often we think names and statistics not loved ones and deep sorrow.

Alan could have focused his anger into hatred and we would have understood if he’d given up int he country altogether. Instead he has been a peacemaker and an activist for the victims and survivors. He works for the WAVE Trauma Centre and is a member of the Victims Commission. Life After Death will be an opportunity to hear the hard journey from that devastating loss in September 1993 until now.

Alongside him will be Stephen Travers. Stephen was a member of the Miami Showband who were ambushed on their way home to Dublin after a gig in Banbridge in 1993. Three of the band were shot dead but somehow by a stroke of fortune Stephen, though shot, survived. You can only imaged the horror of being shot at in the dark of night and your friends beside you ending up dead.

Stephen has written his story down in a gripping book,The Miami Showband Massacre: A Survivor's Search for the Truth with Neil Featherstonhaugh which follows him as he comes to terms with life after the death of his band mates and then seeks to find the loyalist paramilitary perpetrators and ask them why? That there is a suspicion of collusion in this heinous incident adds to the sorrow and the intrigue.

There must be much trauma in Stephen’s memory and his unpacking of what happened to him but he is a delight of a human being to share a conversation with. 

4 Corners Festival are delighted to give us all the opportunity to hear Alan and Stephen’s stories. The telling of such stories and more importantly the listening to such stories. That listening is important for our catharsis, the lessons of the past and the example that so many like Alan and Stephen can give us as we seek a peaceful future. 


Thursday February 8th @ 7.30pm

St John’s Parish Hall

444 Falls Road
Belfast BT12 6EN


Hansard Two Shores

Glen Hansard. Irish national treasure. From Busker to Oscar and almost thirty years of great tunes via The Frames, The Swell Season and now solo. On stage he has a charismatic presence but one that differs from most as rock star ego gives way to a fella next door kind of ordinariness. He is creeping up on 50 and still a bachelor. Surely Ireland’s most eligible…

Why he is still a bachelor might be the thesis below the surface of the songs on his third solo record, Between Two Shores. These songs portray a man who is romantic, passionate and determined but who seems to be uncertain, maybe prone to commitment issues and not without complications! 

It would be easy to see the album as Glen’s Blood On The Tracks, that exquisite heartbreaking record where Bob Dylan dealt with the fall out of his marriage to Sara Lownds. Between Two Shores might be more Hansard’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel Of Love. On that record from 1987 Bruce is caught in a dark tunnel somewhere in his short marriage to Julieanne Phillips, not knowing what decisions to make. 

On Between Two Shores Hansard takes us through every emotion of a relationship on the rocks. At moments he wants to hang in and at other moments he knows it is over. Throughout he is aware of the cost of the heartache when decisions are made.

Very direct lyrically, where Between Two Shores really succeeds for me is in the musical sound. Roll On Slow sets the album off in the most delicious deep loose blues. The rest of the record might shift into different styles and paces but there is a strong subtle gorgeous groove throughout! 

Wheels On Fire is even more glorious intoxication than Roll On Slow, Setting Forth is gentle but still rumbling under, One of Us Must Lose even more fragile on the surface but no less deep. The production is strong but subtle, much slicker than its Grammy nominated predecessor Didn’t He Ramble. There is something simple about the beauty of the song construction but it is all layered and anchored in brilliant instrumentation and arrangements. 

Though the record is a melancholic investigation of the heart Hansard does get a wee political jibe in about America’s new President:


“I see you move your mouth

But I hear nothing of any weight come out”


He is distraught about the new dispensation but has hope for change:


“Your wheels on fire

Your one desire

Is to roll and rule over everyone

Come on let them do it

We see right through it

You can roll and rule

But we will overcome”


In the end Hansard leaves us with a near benediction of advice for our romantic or political woes. Time is indeed a healer:


“Keep your friends and neighbours close at hand

Stay busy with your work and don't give in

To the bottle or your self-defeat again

Time will be the healer once again”


Glen Hansard is so good. He is a natural songsmith. He has matured in how to present his work to the world. He has a band around him that breathes musical finesse. I did say national treasure!



Tony Little House

Before Tony Macauley was a popular author, even before he was a popular radio DJ, he was a courageous peacemaker. Indeed, all three of those things mingle in Tony’s most recent book Little House On The Peace Line.

Little House On The Peace Line tells a story of a Protestant project of reconciliation and social justice in the Catholic New Lodge area of Belfast. Macauley being brave enough to move in and work in a Catholic areas is quite something. Catholic communities allowing them too, is quite something too. 

Some years before Tony’s subjective memoir of this pioneering project, Philip Orr wrote a more objective history of the 174 Trust. The book was called An Ordinary Kind Of Miracle, it was and still is.

We are delighted that both Macauley and Orr are going to read form their books at the 4 Corners Festival. In a festival that hopes to inspire courageous transformation, this is a story of that already attained. Come and be inspired by change that has already happened to give us all hope for more change to come.

Read my reviews of the two books: -

Tony Macauley: The Little House On The Peace Line

Philip Orr: An Ordinary Kind Of Miracle


Hear both authors read from their books...

Friday, February 9th @ 7.30pm

Ekenhead – Rosemary Church Halls

19 N Circular Rd
Belfast BT15 5HB