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January 2023


My Name Is Ottilie

“Can this white woman sing the blues?”

When the question was pointed at Ottilie Patterson the answer was “Oh my goodness she really can”. 

I am interviewing Dana Masters this week at 4 Corners Festival so it caught my eye that she was doing a Tribute To Ottilie Patterson back in November.

I immediately assumed that Ottilie was a Nina Simone kind of singer, some blues or jazz voice from Dana’s homelands of the American deep south. 

But no… Ottilie Patterson was from Comber close to where Dana Masters now lives. Ottilie it seems was a significant influence on the early sixties English blues scene. 

In the late 50s and early 60s she toured constantly across Britain and did seven tours of America in the Chris Barber Jazz Band. She played with the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the bluesmen Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy, bringing her among the influencers of The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things. 

Most favourite of all anecdotes is of a night in Smitty’s Corner, Muddy Water’s renowned blues club in Chicago’s South Side. After her stunning performance, a member of the rapturous black audience called out – “Hey lady, you sing real pretty. How come you sing like one of us?”

When Dana Masters first heard Ottilie sing she said ‘You have to really understand the pain expressed in the Blues in order to sing it, I had to know where that was coming from for Ottilie Patterson”.  

The documentary is just that. Another stunning documentary produced by Double Band, its magic is that Dana who hosts the show doesn’t know Ottilie’s story before they begin. Dana only discovers as they go. That leaves the Dana’s face on the screen to paint a thousand words as Ottilie’s brilliant but then painful career is revealed. There is more magic as Ottilie and Dana’s voices are blended. 

It ends in the tragic. How a woman so strong to ask a band leaving the stage after a gig to let her sing, and how that gets her the gig, ends up broken in mental health in a retirement home in Ayr, hardly even remembered but never feeling the victim.

A previously unheard cassette is the spine of the film. A cassette on to which Ottilie told her life story, the highlights and the pain. It takes away all the conjecture, almost moving the documentary from biographic to memoir. It ends with the truth that perhaps Ottilie overcame the racial boundaries but lost the gender battle, being treated terribly as a woman in a man’s world. 

My Name is Ottilie is another beautiful piece of documentary. It tells a story that has long needed told. It has Ottilie Patterson on my playlist, at last.


My Name is Ottilie will be shown on BBC 1 NI on February 1 at 10.40pm and again on BBC 2 NI at 11.15pm


Dana Masters will be In Conversation at 4 Corners Festival on February 3, Fitzroy Church, 77 University Street, Belfast at 7.30 - BOOK TICKETS HERE



We are very grateful that yet again BBC Radio Ulster are once again broadcasting our 4 Corners Festival Sunday Morning service.

For various reason this has taken a couple of hits over the past two weeks so let me spell out the what, where are who.

In keeping with this year's Festival theme, our guest speaker, Paul Lutton is preaching on Joel and Acts - where God's people dream dream and see visions. In our broken city, particularly as it is now we need prophetic dreamers. Paul will call us to that. Paul's assistant minister at Kirkpatrick Memorial Church and a very able communicator.

Celtic Psalms, made up of Kiran Young Wimberly and The McGrath family, will be with us after an amazing performance at our opening event in Skainos. Bringing those reflective Psalms to shine light on prophetic dreaming - beautiful.

On of Fitzroy's bands will lead us in and out of the service and there will be a range of people taking part. 

The service is NOW in Fitzroy Presbyeterian Church (77 University Street). You need to be in your seat by 10 as the broadcast goes live at 10.15.

So, we encourage you to join us live or listen on the radio! Regular Fitzroy streamers note that the service will go up on Fitzroy TV at



Sunday night (January 29th) sees the first public event of 4 Corners Festival 2023.

Our key note speaker is Julieann Moran, who is the General Secretary of the Synodal Pathway in Ireland.

The Catholic Church have been going through a world wide synodal project, engaging the laity in discussions about the future of the Church should look. Julieann has been heading this up and will share how a denomination does such a thing.

It gives her a perfect place to assess communities of faith can dream God's dreams together.

Kiran Wimberly and The McGrath Family will bring their Celtic Psalms to the evening. Kiran is an American Presbyterian minister who has a wonderful gift at laying Old Testament Psalms to Irish and Scottish traditional airs. Beautiful and reflective.

There will also be a little sneak preview of our two week long exhibitions.


Dreaming God's Dream - Walking The Path Together is at Skainos Centre, 241 Newtownards Rd, Belfast BT4 1AF at 7pm (Online viewing tickets also available)





The Letter

It is difficult to imagine a 4 Corners Festival without something about the climate crisis. If we look back over the years we have touched in this subject regularly. As an issue that impacts the world, it is bound to impact Belfast.

Like many other things our politicians have let us down. Northern Ireland has lost more nature than any other part of the UK. We’re also the only country in the UK whose government hasn’t committed vital Green Recovery Fund to turn this around. We at 4 Corners Festival want to be involved in advocacy towards change. 

This year’s programme includes the film The Letter. In 2015 Pope Francis sent an encyclical around the world. Called Laudato sí  this was Pope Francis’s prophetic challenge to our way of life, our consumerism and irresponsible abuse of the earth. It then calls us to "swift and unified global action.”

The Letter is a film about how Pope Francis’ letter worked its way across the world and became a starter for discussion and a call to action. The Letter tells the incredible story of how these words engaged with frontline leaders battling the ecological crisis across continents. Somehow a letter became a movement. It is powerful and ultimately hopeful.

We are delighted that after the film two young activists Dakota Reid who is conservation officer with RSPB NI and Curtis Irvine who has been working for student justice organisation Just Love will respond in insightful conversation. 

This year 4 Corners Festival is taking their responsibility seriously as we attempt to offset the carbon footprint of the Festival in a tree planting project around Belfast. 




Stocki with drillers

When you get to my age you start looking back at your life. You wonder have you lived a good one? Could you have lived a better one? You look for highlights. You remember fondly, aware that some of your best ever experiences only happen once. 

I have been looking back a lot more recently and to be truthful I have felt a little blessed. Today I have realised that ahead of meeting musical heroes, hosting radio shows, being on TV, watching the sun rise and set over Table Mountain or the Grand Canyon there is one experience that has blown the others away.

Not once, but twice I have been there when Fields of Life water drillers struck water and gave a local village the gift of life in clean water. Standing with the community, all expectant, as drillers do their work and then seeing that spray of water burst through the driest earth. Listen to the ululations and squeals of excited people. Watch a village celebrate.

In 2018 in Kaberamaido I was standing near Lois. She was 75. She was beautifully wrinkled! Her soul seemed as smooth as a new born. Her voice sounded like the tender strength of resilience itself. She smiled revealing teeth ravaged by injustice. She gestured towards the place she had had to walk for water. As a child, she carried the water, in clay pots on her head. The walk was around ten kilometres each way. The water was dirty, the same water that the cattle used. 

Then gush. Water is in in the air. Lois waited 75 years for water! 75 years! Clean water. She pointed to her thatched traditional house, maybe now the closest house to the new water pump.  I felt tears well up inside me. Tears for Lois, for sure. It was an honour to meet this woman who had survived such hardship and had lived to see clean water so close to her house! I felt tears for a community that genuinely felt blessed and transformed by this gift of water. The celebratory noise was evidence of deep deep joy, bursting out like the water the drillers had found!

It is an astonishing thing. It changes lives. It transforms communities. What we take for granted, many only dream of. Then the drillers come. Miracle workers I call them. It is the highlight of a life.

Tonight (25.1.23) Fields of Life CEO Tony Gaston will sleep out rough with the Fields of Life drillers in Uganda. I envy Tony being there to see miracles but it is a courageous thing to sleep under the canvas with the drillers. Respect sir and enjoy the miracles. When you are my age you will look back...





This was my Thought For The Day on BBC Radio Ulster back on October 17, 2012 (my daughter Jasmine's 12th birthday!). When Baumgartner was used as an answer in Pointless I thought it was a perfect time to reblog...


Felix Baumgartner’s sky dive from 128,000 feet reaching
a speed of 834mph had been the talk of the world the week he dived.

Some had been excited that there are still frontiers for humans to explore and conquer, crazy stunts still left for someone to do for the first time. The sheer courage has impressed many.

What caught my attention was Felix’s imagination. Somewhere over coffee Felix had to come up with this incredible idea. He had to believe he could go where no human had gone before. He had to think he could actually
carry it out.

Imagination is the birth of everything. I sometimes wonder when God imagined green... fields and forests and blue... skies and sea.

John Lennon famously asked us to imagine that there was no heaven. He said it would be easy if we tried. I couldn’t agree more. Believing there is no heaven is easy. Yet, surely there is a flaw in being a dreamer if you imagine nothing there.

I always think that something far more difficult would be to imagine that there is a heaven and then trying to bring some of its realities to earth.

Imagine if the meek were blessed.

Imagine if humans loved their neighbours...or be even more daringly... loved their enemies.

Imagine if the first in our world were last and the last in our world were the first.

Imagine all of that happening here in earth.

These are the things that Jesus came to help us imagine not only in his words but in the ways that he interacted with others.

So today over coffee what will we talk about. Where will our imaginations take us. Could a really short sentence like “I think I’d
like to sky dive from 24 miles above the earth” change the world, for
ourselves, our neighbours and even literally... the world.

Maybe it is, “I am going to imagine being friends again.”

“I am going to imagine that habit dealt with”

“I am going to imagine clean water and education for every child in the developing world”

“I am going to imagine the peace walls, in Belfast, removed”

“I am going to imagine poverty being made history.”

I am going to imagine... It is what Jesus was on about when he taught his disciples to pray “thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as in heaven.”

Ah, Mr Lennon, the need to imagine heaven to bring peace on earth. That’s a sky dive! What if?


Peoples Kitchen

(Janice and I handing over 4 Corner's Festival 2022 knit items to Damian McNairney of The People's Kitchen) 


A few years ago Irene Jovaras from Focolare and my wife Janice got yarning around the edges of the 4 Corners Festival about their love of knitting. It didn't take too long for their love of wool and the Festival to spark an idea for a knitters event.

So in 2019 the first 4 Corners Festival Big Knit took place. I have dropped in to all the knitting events and the chatter and laughter and needle work always creates a real sense of a buzzing community.

In 2022 I was able to bring The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who was so impressed by the vibe. He sadly didn’t have time for a bit of knitting himself. 

This knitting event has become a popular place for people across the corners of Belfast. While they do all the nattering and make new friendships they actually do knit. The idea has been to knit items useful to the city. The idea for hats and scarves for the homeless was the creative ambition.

So the knitting was not only good but good for something and after the Festival Janice got to deliver bags and bags of hats and scarves to The People's Kitchen.

So, perhaps I can declare the 4 Corners Knitting event the most industrious of the entire Festival. Not only are garments knit for others, but relationships are knit too. This event definitely weaves the city together. 


Knitting 4 Corners Together in on February 4th at 2.30pm in St John’s Parish 444 Falls Road Belfast BT12 6EN

Book Here NOW!



Stocki and Marty Fitz Welcome

As we draw near to the 2023 4 Corners Festival with the theme Dreams: Visions For Belfast, here is a poem that I wrote a few years ago about the problems and the audacious dream of peace making.


Between the bloody dark

And grace’s redeeming light

Between the hate riled gloom 

And the rays of forgiveness, bright

Friendships can be messy.


Between the blowing up

And the pieces fixed on landing

Between the bleak black funerals

And the bridegroom standing

Friendships can be messy.


This is an awkward dance

With partners disconcerting

The tender tentative steps

With all our wounds still hurting

Take two up and one back

Move close to hold the seams

Swirl in the suspicious space

To soar in audacious dreams.


Rather Be In Uganda

Today in Uganda Fields Of Life will celebrate 30 years as an organisation. I wish I was there as I was for the 25th Birthday Party. They asked me to send some thoughts to these questions. I did and thought I'd blog them here.


How did you hear about FOL?

I think my first encounter with Fields Of Life was through Alain Emerson and his late wife Lindsay. They had been on trips with me and the students from the Queens Presbyterian Chaplaincy with Habitat For Humanity in Cape Town and had wanted to replicate those with their church. As far as I remember something went wrong with the Habitat trip and they went instead to Uganda with FOL. Then after Lindsay passed away they funded the Light For All  school. 


How did you felt when you heard the story of the work we do in East Africa.


Without doubt God was weaving a plan around Fitzroy and Onialeku Primary School around 2011/12. In Arua a man of God called Bishop Isaac had sensed asking God him for some time to start a school for the children around his church. He did and then applied to FOL.

Meanwhile a long way a way in Belfast Fitzroy were doing a major project on their Church Halls. 

During all of this I found myself in Fitzroy at a FOL gathering. I called in just to say hi. At least so I thought. Alain spoke about Light For All and how for £75,000 they had made such a difference. Fitzroy’s new halls were to cost £750,000 and God almost shouted into my soul “TITHE”. 

Fitzroy quickly agreed to the tithing idea but it took a round of interviews to see what was the best project. Richard Spratt came and blew us away with this place ion Onialeku, Arua. Bishop Isaac’s dream and ours came together.


Did you share message with your church and how did they respond?

Fitzroy responded beyond my wildest dreams. They only agreed to build a Primary School building but because the church got so excited about the partnership, quite a few going on teams to Onialeku and everyone involved in crafts and preparation for teams we have since funded a fence, a well, a girl’s toilet block, text books and just last year a Nursery Building. On top of this we have been sponsoring 60 children at the school for 7 years. That’s a congregation commitment of around a quarter of a million pounds plus prayer and trips and fund raising events.

This could only have happened by the close partnership. Fitzroy connecting with a community over years, knowing names, grieving as we lost brothers and sisters, celebrating when buildings got finished. Being loved back.


Who from the UK side was involved with you when committing? 

Richard Spratt convinced us on Onialeku and then Helen D’Arcy has been so important to our trips. As a result of those trips and helping to write Trevor Stevenson’s memoir the Stockman family have gotten to know all of the staff in both Lisburn and Uganda and we have been so blessed by those relationships.


What experiences have you incurred as family and as church?

Oh so many. We have so loved so many weeks in Onialeku with Pastor David, the staff and pupils. Even the bus trips no longer seem a burden. We have also loved our times in the flat at Shalom, living around the staff and getting to know them so well.

I think the big thing has been the sense of connection, partnership and family. Fitzroy would not have given so much to a general NGO. 


Any interesting observation or comment?

As already said, the personal is vital. It opens hearts to compassion.

I would also like to say that Fitzroy have gained as much from these trips as we have given. As I often say in Uganda, “We are rich in shillings but poor in so many other things. East Africans are poor in shillings but so rich in love, innovation, resilience, faith and hope.” This is a mutual partnership where we share what we can.


Can you share a Bible Verse that ties you to your commitment.

When I walk across the playground in Onialeku the children shout 10:10. I hope they know that more importantly than that being my birthday it is John 10 verse 10, “I have come that you might have life, and life in all its fulness.”

BUT for the over all work with Onialeku, I like to use Philippians 4 verses 10 and 14 which show us how Paul was in mutual partnership with the Philippians, needing them as much as they needed him. 



The Busk has been a Christmas tradition in Ireland for some time. Our favourite Irish singers home for the family season get together on Grafton Street. They sing a few carols and other songs, gather a very chuffed crowd and raise a stack of money for the homeless.

At the heart of it was Glen Hansard, a man who started his career as a busker, starred in Once as a busker and has this ability to make it feel like he is still busking when he is actually in a large venue with a finely tuned band. 

This unique vinyl record is a more compered version of the Busk. For it the artists entered Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral  over two evenings, the 19th & 20th of December 2021.

The set list is a wee treasure trove of rarities. Bono does an emotionally raw version of Running To Stand Still. Liam O’Maonlai is joined by Glen Hansard, Damian Rice and the Busk Choir in a rousing yet hymnal version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. The Frames give Fitzcaraldo another lash. Damian Rice puts his arms around Glen Hansard & Rónan O’Snodaigh for Astronaut.

If these are the stars that might tease you to buy then let me encourage you that the new artists are as vital players here. Lisa O’Neill gives us a pre release lullaby on Goodnight World, Big Love give a buskers band feel to Lily and Laura Quirke, half of Lemoncello shows us why she is a natural to collaborate with Belfast’s Joshua Burnside, equally quirky on In The Half Light.

There’s even more. The spoken word adds a lovely tone and a sense of weightiness in both the art and the content. Adam Mohammed and Manchán Magan bring their spoken word power before in the closing meander Tá’n t’Ádh Liom our street poet laureate Stephen James Smith brings us right up to Christmas with a personal, societal and indeed even Biblical reflection, sharp and prophetic.

These must have been great nights. They make for a great record. Beyond that it is not just good but good for something as profits go to the Simon Community!


Get the record here