The theme for 4 Corners Festival 2024, amazingly our twelfth, is "Our Stories... Towards a Culture Of Hope."
At all the previous eleven festivals we have been aware of the stories that we carry, pour out, share. The stories that have made us who we are and the stories that can transform us going forward.
Our hope is that this year's stories propel us into a better future for all of our citizens, firing our imaginations and giving us hope.
As we begin to get excited here are a smattering of five that I am so looking forward to across our programme that is on our website now.
A CULTURE OF HOPE EXHIBITION
Last year the Westcourt Camera Club put on an exhibition in ArtCetera that invited the homeless to photograph life as a homeless person in Belfast. It has been shown across Ireland in the days since.
So, this year, Westcourt Camera Club are back. This time we will hear (or see) the stories of refugees and asylum seekers in Belfast in another exhibition that is guaranteed to provoke and change our stereotypes.
Though the Festival makes no apologies that we are organised from a Christian perspective and purpose, we have been well described by others as a hybrid festival of the sacred and the secular. Indeed one of our aims would be to break down the dualism that has hindered the Church for centuries.
We do, however, unapologetically lay down a Biblical backbone to the Festival on Sunday nights.
This year I am delighted that we have Rev Clare Hayns and Rev Dr Doug Gay as our two keynotes. Clare is College Chaplain at Christ Church, Oxford and author of Unveiled a book which looks at 40 women in the Old Testament. We are delighted that her son, Micah, an artist in his own right who illustrated the book is coming too.
The final night of the Festival has always been a way out of the programme and into the real and rest of the year. There are no cul-de-sacs. We end the week by looking at the new beginnings that the festival has opened up.
Doug Gay is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at Glasgow University and as well as having published books, has released albums. He is theologically robust, spiritually wise and culturally discerning. He will be inviting us to reimagine towards hope. I cannot wait.
TRÚ IN CONVERSATION
Trú are one of the most innovative trad bands to appear on the scene in recent years. Their new record Eternity Near will be high up in my albums of the year. Having had nights that I have loved my In Conversations with people like Gary Lightbody, Ricky Ross or who can forget last year with Dana Masters and am no less excited about having Michael, Zac and Donal in the chair and be helped out by Millie Winger Brennan. We will hear the story of the band and the stories that they sing about.
We were so honoured to have had the short film Rough, written Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, at our Locked Down 2020 Festival. Who would have known, but surely we should have, that within a couple of years they would have written the Award Winning BBC TV police drama Blue Lights.
They are just finishing Series 2 and though I am sure there will be no spoilers we will have a chance to get wee hints of what's next as well as "why did you kill Gerry?"
Declan spoke at our Launch event just a few weeks ago and I found him fascinating. I mean who spends a full year on creating the characters before they get around to beginning the story. Story telling secrets will abound!
THE STORIES THAT SHAPE US
Now... here's one. This one is still in the finishing and I cannot wait to let you all know who will finally fill our public figures slots.
As we wait for a confirmation or two I want to say that this could be one of our most memorable events as people you should know tell us about books that changed them in some way.
Watch this space...
... and in the meantime GET BOOKED - FULL PROGRAMME HERE