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June 2020


Rough and Rowdy

As June comes to an end here are my favourite albums of the first half of 2020. The quality of records released has been excellent, especially coming out of our own wee country.



I haven't reviewed this one yet. Not sure I can do it justice. It is a long time since he was so lyrically engaging, socially acute and cultural aware.)



From a 79 year old at number 1 to a 19 year old at number 2. Brue with the help of co-writer and producer Iain Archer has come cup with an album that respects the past and energises the present with an eclectic mix of styles. 



Between Dylan and Brue in age lies Jason Isbell, maybe the best songwriter of his generation.



Main man Mikel Jollett's Memoir of the same name might see this accompanying record getting lost in the rightful critical acclaim of the book but this is Californian indie guitar rock at its best with perhaps the most poetic writer in that genre. 



Deacon Blue get better and better. An album about Glasgow and the stories of love within it. Could be your city or mine. Crafted songs that I cannot what to see come alive live!



This might be Lamontagne's very best record. My review is coming but there are echoes of Morrison, Mitchell, Fogerty and Young. Rustic and true. Woodstock 69 revisited, not the Festival, the town.



An utterly utterly beautiful record of the gentlest mediations on small life America. 



Stevie Scullion teams up with Jason Lytle from Grandaddy, a perfect match for the song writing craft and instrumental layering. Sumptuous!



Can a good thing come out of ballymena. Also-flippin-lutely. This is an imaginative look at Northern Ireland's place in the Brexit fragmentation. Stunning collages of sound with a Heaney-like sense of land and sky.



Two more Northern Irish albums. I needed to squeeze them both in. Anthony's covers record is wonder4ful in its breadth of choice and stripped back arrangements. 

The Presleys is a side project of Brian Houston's. Heavy on the blues with a spiritual underbelly and seems more set in urban America than East Belfast. Another successful musical adventure from Brian.







Bob emotions

In the early 90s I discovered a young singer songwriter called Iain Archer. For a few years Iain played at everything that I had anything to do with. He went through a few band members but one remained the same - Robert Sinclair.

Robert is not a talented pianist. He is way beyond talented. He has a natural genius and that was on display night after night as he added grace note flourishes to anything Iain did. There were instrumentals when the two of them achieved musical trickery that was an amazing spectacle as well as sound.

When Iain took off to Novello Awards and Grammy nominations for his work with Snow Patrol, Jake Bugg, James Bay and most recently Sammy Brue, Robert remained at home in Bangor, still dazzling on the piano wherever he got a chance to play.

Now, almost 30 years on and Robert Sinclair has made his every own record. Emotions is a solo piano project that shows all the skills of his genius and adds a sensitivity to the different emotions we humans go through. For those of you who love instrumental music this is a winner.

I got a chance to ask Robert about how the album came about, how you name an instrumental piece of music and what he hoped for the new album.


So it has taken a long time to make an album. Why now?

Recording an album was a problem. I'm used to playing a lot of different styles so it would be very hard to pigeon-hole me to a certain genre. I’m not tied to jazz, blues, pop, classical, reggae, soul, pop, I just play the lot.  When I was a child I just stuck a record on and played along. 
And another problem was the idea of just showing off on an album filled me with dread! It’s not like me to show off - I make mistakes!  I needed a purpose for an album for the benefit of others. That’s when it all came about doing Emotions. Something people can listen to and use to reflect on days or times in their life when they are going through something. Music can do that, sometimes just better than words or anything else.


Tell me about where the record began? Did you set out to make an album or did the songs creep up on you and suddenly you had a record?

It’s honestly a collection of music I’ve came up with in the same way as the album’s purpose. It’s been the music I played on my own journey in life over the years. Or sometimes I’ve just been moved by something – Goodbye for example was the music I thought would be perfect for when Dr. Who had to say goodbye to Rose on the beach. I found that quite emotional. I thought – wouldn’t it be good to have a piece to use when you have to say Goodbye to somebody in some way?

I’ve always wanted to have my music used in film and television too. Maybe some day…?


How do you give instrumentals titles? I mean were you in Paris at midnight?

Midnight in Paris was recorded previously years ago and is a bit out of place but people liked it so I just stuck it on the album. I’ve never been to Paris at midnight so no lol! It’s just a thought as I wrote it in the early nineties - a place where you could still sit at a table in the street and drink coffee at midnight and watch the rest of the world pass by. The other titles were a lot easier and gives a much clearer link to where I was in life when I first played it.


Emotions is the title. When you are writing, is it about putting down the emotions you feel right there at that moment? Would you carry an emotion with you for a while and then eventually write a piece or do you sit down and say “how am I feeling now"?

Definitely the best time to play the piano I found is when I’m feeling emotional about something and, with the exception of Goodbye and Hope, I just press record and start playing. It’s just what comes out.

Hope was written out as I went – that was when my marriage started to fall apart but no matter what would happen, I always had hope. As a Christian, hope is something I hold on to a lot.  All the other tracks are just sit and play. I actually do this a lot but don’t always record it so who knows what I’ve lost! I recorded In Love and When I think of you after being with my girlfriend on different occasions. I listened to When I Think Of You the day after I recorded it in the car and I actually thought, did I play this?? Was that me? I wouldn’t have been able to play it ever again if I didn’t record it…! I actually had to write it all out for the studio to make sure I got it right lol!


Is the music about your own catharsis or joy or whatever emotion or do you think of an audience listening?

This album is a green light for me because it’s for other people. I find that a lot easier and acceptable. My music does comfort me and is a channel for me every day and, unless they are just being very kind, people seem to enjoy my music too. I love playing for people – it’s a very powerful God-given gift. I play at weddings and I remember once at a rehearsal, it was all going well, all great, no problems. They were just about to walk down the aisle and then I started playing the piano and after about 4 steps, the flower girl started crying and started off others. Music is powerful indeed!  (I was very professional by the way and didn't cry too!)   


What are your hopes for the album?

This is quite an ambition – I currently have 2 aims in life – to live long enough to see my boys married and be a grandad and to have my music heard all over the world or most of it anyway. Again, I’d love my music to be used in a film or even a TV series.

The album took about 5 hours to record and 7 months to actually get it on sale! But now it’s finally online, I hope I can sell as many tracks/albums as possible. But for other people to use. To help them. A life tool. It’s purpose.

It’s all a learning curve this album stuff... The second one will be easier… 6 months lol?




Today, June 29th, is the day that we have been told that we can consider re-opening churches again. I read one local newspaper that seemed to be claiming themselves the heroic instigators of such a decision. The argument was that if off-licenses were opened then it would be "an appalling contradiction" in a country with such deeply held religious convictions to have churches remain closed.

It is a bizarre argument. It is quite a stretch to compare off-licences with churches. In the former you walk in and purchase a few cans or bottles and leave. The latter is built on fellowship and a community listening to God's word and communal singing in worship. Off-licences can be opened quickly, they can be restricted to numbers easily. Contact between people will be minimal.

Sunday services in churches is a whole different matter. If we need to have numbers limited so that some are left out of fellowship and worship. If we cannot actually have fellowship because the after service coffee is not allowed. If we cannot actually sing as that seems to be scientifically a dangerous activity that might spread the virus. If all of this is the case, then we are not opening on anywhere like the same level as an off-licence. It would be good to ask if this is church at all and not just a few people meeting, very spread out in a church building.

Now I understand that buildings are important in some denominations and that I am speaking from a Reformed Presbyterian position where the building has no special or sacred importance. Yet, whatever our spiritual practice the June 29th date has thrown many church leaders into a quandary as to what to do and put them under pressure to simply return to how it was in early March. That can be done in an off-licence but certainly not in a Sunday morning worship service. I have spent a lot of time debating, discussing and wrestling with other clergy as to what we might do after we reached today's date!

Fitzroy's Session has decided that we will not be opening through July and August. We will continue to do Church on-line. We will relook at the possibilities of some kind of re-opening in the early autumn depending on what the Covid 19 status is in Belfast as we come out of the summer months.

Returning to gathering for worship is fraught with difficulties. The Presbyterian Church has sent all churches a very helpful document that includes a lengthy check list of the vast array of things that need done before we could meet the health and safety criteria. We will start working through that dossier very soon and use the summer to get ourselves in a place where those stipulations are met. 

By the end of August we may find ourselves in a healthier situation. Taking two months to see how the coming out of lockdown works out will be helpful. Of course it could go the other way and we might be back with more restrictions. These are the uncertainties we are living with. The reopening of pubs and restaurants, a main gathering place for people will be a test as to whether we can contain this virus. These will be hotspots for the possible spread. Churches might be too. Even more reason, in a love your neighbour way, to not be putting our members and the wider public at such risk.

The wonderful thing is that we have found Church in lockdown. We have somehow discovered a way to be Fitzroy, feeling very much together, even though we have been isolating on our own. Our on-line services have kept us all in touch. Indeed they have done so much more than that and we have now a virtual congregation that stretches from British Columbia and Alberta to Ohio through the British Isles and across to Greece, down to Bangladesh and over to Australia.

Our Children’s and Youth ministry has been doing an incredible imaginative job, not just surviving but thriving. Pastorally through telephones and even letters we have all looked out for each other and made sure that lockdown has not meant lonely or isolated.

In an email this weekend I thanked everyone in Fitzroy for their contributions in a plethora of ways throughout lockdown. I also asked that as a congregation we would be patient as we moved forward and worked our way through the challenges in our way so that we can gather together again.

At our last church gathering in March I spoke about the need for grace and imagination as we started the journey into lockdown. I thank God that he has given us that grace and imagination in abundance. I pray that God will continue to give us that grace and imagination as we traverse these difficult days out of lock down towards opening again as church in the early autumn. (If you wish to hear my sermon on that yesterday then you can watch it here on FITZROY TV)

There have been many lessons learned in these past few strange months. Lessons for individuals and hopefully society but also for churches. We have learned that church is not about buildings but about people. We have learned new ways to reach out missionally and how to do pastoral care more intentionally. We have lived in the revolution, not just sentimental cliche, of love your neighbour.

As I have blogged before the rhetoric to open churches on June 29th is much easier than the reality. The business community and particularly the hospitality community have been putting much pressure on government about opening and the physical distancing restrictions. The results of that for our nations health will be seen in the weeks ahead.

As for churches. We have no need to put on any pressure. Church is alive and well, maybe much more open for business in these days when the buildings are closed. I am looking forward so much to being back in a Fitzroy filled to capacity some day soon. BUT there is time and the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Let us take our opening up decisions in the light of that!





Van Spiritual

Van Morrison music has been full of the spiritual and transcendent since the very beginning. As I speak about it in my new series on Fitzroy TV - Light From Rock Music - here is one of two Playlists of 20 songs I have compiled to accompany that blog.


Hymns To The Silence

(from Hymns To the Silence)


In The Garden

(from No Guru, No Method, No Teacher)


Full Force Gale

(from Into The Music)


Give Me My Rapture

(from Poetic Champions Compose)


When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God

(from Avalon Sunset)


See Me Through

(from Enlightenment)


See Me Through Pt 2/Closer Walk With Thee

(from Hymns To The Silence)


When The Saints Go Marching In

(from Avalon Sunset deluxe edition)


Beyond The Ritual

(from Keep It Simple)


Haunts Of Ancient Peace

(from Common One)


Ancient Of Days

(from A Sense of Wonder)


These Are The Days

(from Avalon Sunset)


Beautiful Vision

(from Beautiful Vision)


By His Grace

(from Hymns To The Silence)


The Spirit Will Provide

(from The Prophet Speaks)



(from Roll With The Punches)


If I Ever Needed Someone

(from His Band And The Street Choir)


When Ever God Shines His Light On Me

(from Avalon Sunset)


The Master’s Eyes

(from A Sense Of Wonder)


Dweller By The Threshold

(from Beautiful Vision)



"There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places & desecrated places." Wendell Berry

Van Morrison has given a sacredness to the streets of Belfast and places all across Ireland. As I speak about it in my new series on Fitzroy TV - Light From Rock Music - here is one of two Playlists of 20 songs I have compiled to accompany that blog.


A Sense Of Wonder 

(from A Sense of Wonder)


Brown Eyed Girl

(from It’s Too Late To Stop Now)


On Hyndford Street

(from Hymns to The Silence)


Cyprus Avenue

(from Astral Weeks)


Into The Mystic

(from Moondance)


Cleaning Windows

(from Beautiful Vision)


Coney Island

(from Avalon Sunset)


Going Down To Bangor

(from Keep Me Singing)


Northern Muse (Solid Ground)

(from Beautiful Vision)


Madame George

(from Astral Weeks)


One Irish Rover

(from No Guru, No Method, No Teacher)


Song Of Home

(from Keep It Simple)


Irish Heartbeat

(from Inarticulate Speech of the Heart)


Streets Or Arklow

(from Veedon Fleece)


Choppin’ Wood

(from Down the Road)


Gotta To  Go Back

(fron No Guru, No Method, No Teacher)


Cry For Home

(from Inarticulate Speech of the Heart)


And It Stoned Me

(from Moondance)



(from Avalon Sunset)


Mystic Of The East

(from Born To Sing: No Plan B)

JUNE 28th 2020 in FITZROY

Light From Rock Music 1

I am thrilled to be back on the preach again tomorrow in Fitzroy. The service goes live at 11am on Fitzroy TV. I will be asking where we go from the crossroads that we are at. As pubs open, people start thinking of holidays and the possibility of church gatherings is being mentioned how do we traverse the road ahead. I'll be looking at Matthew 10, Romans 12 and Galatians 5 to see if we can find our way forward. All wrapped in the by now familiar bespoke worship that tis week includes a wee Psalm co-written by King David and Bono.

In the evening (going live at 7) is a new series Light From Rock Artists. When Presbyetrians are ordained as ministers and elders there is a phrase used in the preamble to the vows that says we “are not to set their reason above the Word of God, or to refuse light from any quarter.” I have been finding light in the songs of rock musicians for forty years. So we start a series that we hope will continue into the autumn but begins with a mini-series of three. The first is Van Morrison. I will be asking what light we can gain from Van Morrison's sense of wonder and fiery visions bright and will be accompanied by Brian Houston who has imaginatively revisited three Morrison songs.


Stockman bearded

So during Coronavirus Lockdown the Stockies as a family watched 100 films over 100 nights. It was a wonderful family experience. We rotated the choice of film. We found ourselves in a few little series. We picked a few awful movies and watched some amazing ones too.

People have asked me to share my favourites, so below are my favourite 10. 

Before I get to those I also enjoyed a few series. Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible. Phew. Hectic. So far fetched that anyone would survive most of what happened never mind film after film! 

The Harry Potter series. It was good to watch those actors growing up but for me a little inconsequential. 

Eddie Murphy was at his best in Beverley Hills Cop. Great fun. 

Best of the series section was the old faithful Indiana Jones. Action and fun and that last Gospel According To… sequence in The Last Crusade!

Then there were for me my old favourites. Groundhog Day seemed appropriate to the life we were living. We were glad we watched it early. It might have been a more painful watch after say 60 days. I have always loved Trading Places and as for The Breakfast Club, it still speaks about all our stereotypes and prejudices… and not just for teenagers! School of Rock is always a joyous night too.

Looking a themes and there was one that raised its head tragically far regularly and poignantly while it did we had the George Floyd murder in America. My daughter Jasmine was exasperated from early on by the way white America was treating the black and coloured communities. 

Three movies that didn’t make my 10 but are highly recommended are Glory Road, Remember The Titans and McFarland USA. These are all sports movies where coaches bravely bring on black players to the first two Basketball and Football and Hispanic kids in McFarland. Joyous to see racism beaten against the odds but again as in so many movies the racism in colleges and communities is way too tragic.

So, here are the ten I enjoyed the most:



The true story of Bryan Stevenson who decided to defend black men who were falsely accused of crimes, many ending up on Death Row. 



Another true story of another inspirational and remarkable African American, this time using the Underground Railroad to help slaves to freedom. 



I wasn’t sure about this one as I have not in any way got into the the Lord Of The Rings movies. His relationship with CS Lewis convinced me to watch and it is a wonderful film about his youth and the war, that gave him the imaginative resources for his writing career which he is just about to start when the movie ends. 



I had wanted to see this for some time. A young Asian boy in Luton discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen and that helps him traverse his teens, avoiding racism and the tensions between him and his Pakistani Muslim dad. Serious and funny and at times celebratory, all beautifully blended. Also a true story.



Set in Malawi, yet another true story, about a young man who works out how to create a windmill that could then pump water to the famine stricken fields of his family and village. My father-in-law then read the book and this guys ends up in a Presbyterian College later in life!



Based on a novel a 16 year old black woman is witness to her friend being shot by a white policeman. It seems sadly so common and the movie is about the girl’s courage to testify and the riots and injustices. 



Fascinating film as a black journalist joins the Klan. 



I love the writings of Nick Hornby and this is based on his book of the same name when a women accidentally falls in love with the rock star her ex partner is obsessed by. 



Having spent some time in Guernsey this was a treat of a romantic historical drama based on implications of the German occupation of the island in World War 2.



An arty kind of film that didn't go down with all of the family but that I imagine movie buffs would love for its conjuring of late 60s Hollywood. I was fascinated by it because it centres around the Charles Manson murders that are indelibly linked with the music of that era. 



Well done Liverpool. It hasn’t been any doubt for some time BUT I know that Liverpool fans will be thrilled that it is official.

It is way overdue. A club like Liverpool should never have to wait so long. I personally was in a strange way disappointed that they didn’t win it it in 2014 under Brendan Rogers. He is from Carnlough for goodness sake. Somehow they lost a big lead to Crystal Palace and Stevie slipped against Chelsea and City stole it.

We had won it in 2012 after 44 years and so I would have been happy to share the joy. The first one after such a long time is utter joy. It is the best joy. That Aguero moment in 2012, stealing it from United deep into injury time on the last game. Well it will be pretty impossible to beat that.

That is my only regret for my Liverpool supporting mates. Not only will they get the trophy without the Kop being full to the gils but winning it when another team loses is not as good as it might have been if they had beaten City at the Etihad.

I do not think however that my Liverpool mates will worry about how it is done. I know the joy deep in their chests tonight. Enjoy. If any team deserves it then it is this Klopp team. Yes, City have let you down with by not competing as well as you guys did last season but to win the Premiership is not easy to win and to win it so early by so many points, maybe beating records that City set recently and that never seemed likely to ever be beaten.

Respect. Liverpool are Champions. Jurgen Klopp is the man. That front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino are scintillating. Van Dijk, Trent-Alexander and Robertson, what a defence. Champions! Party!


Van Cyprus

On Sunday night - June 28th 2020 going live at 7pm - Fitzroy TV will put out a short vlog called Dreaming In God - Light From Van Morrison in which Brian Houston will sing some Van covers and I will commentate on the spirituality in Van's work. This blog gives you the setting of Van Morrison's place in my life...

I discovered Van Morrison at University. Beautiful Vision was released in the second term of my first year. Two things drew me. Reviews spoke of Morrison’s spirituality and Mark Knopfler, a musical hero of mine at the time, played on it. Those were two similarities to Slow Train Coming that had converted me to Bob Dylan about a year earlier. 

From there it was a catch up on the twelve album released before Beautiful Vision. I quickly fell in love with Moondance, Wavelength and Into The Music and got intrigued with Veedon Fleece, Common One and Astral Weeks. Astral Weeks took decades before becoming my very favourite and I would dare suggest one of the most unique and brilliant records of the 20th Century; unquestioningly a masterpiece.

I was so into Van that I was pretty sure that God would call me to be minister of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church which has the road sign for Cyprus Avenue outside it. It wasn’t to be. I ended at Fitzroy… oh hang on… “Down on Cyprus Avenue/With a childlike vision leaping into view/Clicking, clacking of the high heeled shoe/Ford and Fitzroy, Madame George”. Read to the end of the verse Steve!

Van Morrison hasn’t always been understood in the rock music world. He is often labeled grumpy which I count as lazy journalism. Van Morrison is a deeply introverted man who never envisaged when he set out in music that he would have to deal with stardom, celebrity and paparazzi invading his personal space. He just wanted to be a musician “blowing saxophone on the weekend/In a Down joint”.

So if grumpy is his defence against invasion into his privacy we need to be more forgiving. Anyway, how could a grumpy man write the kind of beautiful romantic songs that Morrison has given us - Moondance, Crazy Love, Tupelo Honey, Have I Told You Lately to Someone Like You, Carrying a Torch, In The Afternoon. 

Someone Like You has always been Janice and my song. One of my rare romantic moments was when Have I Told You Lately That I Love You was on the radio and I phoned her, said nothing, and just played the song.

There are two obvious things that grab my attention in Van Morrison’s work. He is from Belfast for goodness sake. He is up there with Dylan, Springsteen, Mitchell, Cohen and Young and he comes from my city. Indeed if you drink coffee enough in east Belfast you might find him find him at a table near you.

Not only is he a Belfast artist but he has right from the very beginning of his work had this sense of place. Even while in self exile in America in the 70s there were still those references to home. Belfast has not always had a good reputation across the world but when you listen to Van Morrison you can only be intrigued by something sacred about our streets, rivers and cakes!

As I already stated the spiritual aspects of Morrison’s work endeared me. I love using music as a way to nourish my soul but also as a way for my faith to caress and collide with the world around me. 

Van Morrison’s work is more of the former kind. He has never veered towards societal critique. Yet songs like In The Garden, Whenever God Shines His Light, Give Me My Rapture and the two we will use on Sunday night, Full Force Gale and When Will I Ever Learn To Live in God are helpful resources in devotional disciplines.

Full Force Gale was the song used as an introit to my Installation service in Fitzroy sung as a choir piece in the style of The Voice Squad’s version on No Prima Donna: The Songs Of Van Morrison. 

Full Force Gale was also a central piece when we built our entire morning service around Van Morrison’s art on the eve of his 70th Birthday concert up on Cyprus Avenue and I preached on When Will We Ever Learn To Live in God. 

On Sunday night I will be asking what we can spiritually learn from Van Morrison’s work and how we can apply it to our daily walk of faith. 

Brian Houston will be singing three Morrison songs, reinterpreting them in his own imaginative way and eeking out their deepest soul. 


Tony Macauley

Tony Macauley has become a pillar of the Northern Irish writers community with memoirs, novels, musicals and potential movies. I also love how he has this passion for reconciliation and justice and that that weaves its way into his writing. I asked him about these last three months in lockdown. It seems that though his introverted writers personality has been enjoying time in his Portweatert home that he has been all over the world in his creativity.

What were you working on before the lock down?

For the past year I’ve been working on a novel set in Rwanda in 2004. It’s a collaboration with a young Rwandan screen writer called Juvens Nsabimana, who I met in Kigali in 2017. Over the past few years I have been visiting Rwanda as part of the steering group with a vision for a new reconciliation centre (UPRC: The Ubwongo Peace & Reconciliation Center ) to share the remarkable stories of forgiveness and reconciliation from post genocide Rwanda with the rest of the world.
When I met Juvens we discussed ideas for collaboration. We agreed to co-create a story on the theme of reconciliation. Juvens would write the screenplay and I would write the novel. It’s been a remarkable experience to try to co-write a book via email and WhatsApp. I sometimes think the story of how we are writing this book is just as interested as the story in the novel!
How did lockdown impact your work?
I had been very slow in writing this book because I had been travelling so much. I was barely writing one chapter per month. However, lockdown has meant no travel and therefore more time to work on the book. It’s been an unexpected writing retreat at home and I’m enjoying it. In the past two weeks I’ve written around five chapters and I now hope to have the first draft completed by the end of July.
How did you deal with life in general?
I’m quite an introverted person so staying at home in Portstewart with a daily walk on the beach has been good for me. For years I’ve thought my ideal life would be spending more time at home writing. Isn’t it interesting that it took a global pandemic to get me off the hamster wheel of busyness to spend most of my time doing what makes my heart sing. 
I believe that a crisis is a time when people show us who they really are. For the past few years I’ve been coaching a brilliant young entrepreneur in Uganda called Trinity Heavens. When lockdown was enforced in the slums of Uganda, people began to run out of food very quickly, so Trinity organised his team to serve the urgent needs of the community. So far they have provided over 150,000 meals! As part of my partnership with Trinity, last year his company produced and recorded the audiobook of Little House on the Peace Line. When I saw what Trinity was doing I was inspired to release the audiobook free on my Youtube Channel and I asked people to donate to this work if they enjoyed the audiobook.
How did you stay in touch with the public?
At the beginning of lockdown, when all my public book readings were cancelled I decided to do book readings on Facebook Live every weekday evening. 12 weeks later I had read 58 chapters, starting with Paperboy, then Breadboy and finally All Growed Up. I was surprised and delighted at the number of people from different parts of the world who watched and it became a little community that I will always remember as my experience of lockdown.
Though we are coming out of it, it will take time to get back to normal. Are there ways we can help you and other artists?
One of the big disappointments for me was the cancellation of the Breadboy musical at the Lyric Theatre in August. It’s now been re-rescheduled for next summer, but this is a good example of how badly hit theatres have been by the lockdown. While many other places are re-opening and trying to get back to normal, theatres remain closed and many theatres are now at risk of never re-opening as a result of the huge and unexpected financial losses they have incurred. This collapse of the theatre industry will have a big an impact on many artists such as writers, actors, directors, musicians, sound, lighting and stage technicians. I think anyone who can offer creative ways of helping theatre to survive would be greatly appreciated.
What plans have you as the world opens up more and more?
I hope the novel will be published in 2021. The film version of Paperboy has been delayed by a few months but the last I heard they are still planning to begin shooting the movie in Belfast in October. That will be very exciting! I’ve also had some interest in television versions of Little House on the Peace Line and my latest book, Belfast Gate. I’ve also been working on an idea for a musical set in the slums of Uganda which would be an exciting international collaboration, if we can make it happen.
Are there lessons you have learned in lockdown that you would like to take into the new normal?
In a time of crisis people show us who they really are. Don’t be too busy to get round to doing what makes your heart sing.
Any books you’ve read, films you’ve watched or music you discovered that you would recommend to us?
During lockdown the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn asked me to host a Virtual Book Club on Zoom. I loved it! We read Birds Without Wings by Louis De Berniere and The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, but my favourite was ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owen.
On television I finally got to watch Stranger Things, which is right up my street! I’ve just started Series 2.
In terms of new music, my favourite song released during lockdown was Sometimes by Belfast singer, Scott Mac although I’m biased because he is my nephew, Scott Macaulay!