4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

4 CORNERS FESTIVAL KNITTERS CONTRIBUTE TO THE PEOPLE'S KITCHEN

Knit PK

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

 

A few years ago Irene Jovaras and Janice Stockman got yarning around the edges of the 4 Corners Festival about their love for 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. In 2022 they welcomed The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, though he didn't have time to do any knitting himself!

This knitting event has become a poplar place for people across the corners of Belfast to gather and chat and share their love. While they do all that 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 today Janice got to deliver bags and bags of hats and scarves to The People's Kitchen.

It is months later you might say. Well that is life and busyness but also because The People's Kitchen have been moving to their new premises at 1, Antrim Road. They have taken over an old bank, the safe vault doors are still there(!!), and are renovating it into a place for the homeless, the isolated and those caught in poverty.

It was great to see around the building, meet some of the volunteers and give a small contribution to helping those sleeping rough on the streets of our city for all kinds of tragic reasons.


4 CORNERS IS FREE... BUT NOT FREE... THANK YOU FOR GIVING.

Stocki  Martin and Carl F

photo: Neil Craigan

 

It was quite a week - the Pope, Carl Frampton and the Archbishop of Canterbury are only three of the unbelievable names. 

We are so overwhelmed this week at the incredible response of so many to our 10th 4 Corners Festival. Whether chatting to people or opening emails and letters or positive messages on social media were are thrilled that so many got so much from our wee Festival.

Thank you.

We are also thrilled that we can give this Festival to the people of Belfast FREE. Yet, of course it is not FREE. The Festival costs somewhere in the region of £60,000. 

We are so blessed by those who fund the Festival. The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the Northern Ireland Executive Office, Belfast City Council, The Belfast Linen Quarter Improvement District and Black Santa all give to us funds so that we can put the programme together and pay for our staff.

We would like to thank those who donate to the Festival in our Tesseracts at the doors or all the other ways.

Perhaps you didn’t get an opportunity to give at this year’s Festival due to all our Covid 19 restrictions. Can we encourage you to this even this long after the Festival - information here .

Lastly, and most important people, are our Friends Of The Festival. This is a group of people who give to us on a monthly basis which helps sustain our costs throughout the year. In many ways your regular donations encourage us psychologically through the year as well as financially. Again if you want to be a Friend of The Festival - information here .

Thank you all so much for all your support. We long to give the Festival a sustainable future. If we should lose one funder it would be difficult to continue to do what we do so we thank all of you for what you give to us. 


4 CORNERS FESTIVAL; CLOSING NIGHT - A Review

The Team 22

What a night!

Dana Masters’ voice. Oh my goodness. What a voice. I have attended live music for 45 years and yet Dana filling St Peter’s Cathedral was by far the most emotional musical moment of my life. I wept, line after line. That my wife, sitting somewhere else had the same experience… and others. Incredible.

Her love song for Ireland. When you have been at a festival that speaks into our divisions and dark side how healing it was to hear a South Carolina woman call our wee place home. Her story of her Grandmother, a major player in the Civil Rights movement, before singing Little Girl that she wrote imagining her Grandmother speaking to her children was so moving.

Later she reappeared to sing accapela Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come. It was like her voice called hope out of heaven and set it like a blanket over us. Astonishingly beautiful and yet so much more… strong… resilient…courageous… hope-filled. She’s her grandmother’s granddaughter and we are so blessed to have her in Belfast, particularly in St. Peter’s tonight.

In between her songs was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby! It was like he made the power of Dana's songs into words. His address was filled with war yet there was love and kindness and forgiveness and humour. 

He joked that he hadn't been told that he had to follow Pope Francis whose video message started the Festival in St Anne's. He called the Pope a brother. He later went into a story of the Pope and himself with all the violent factions sides of the South Sudan civil war. He told us that the Pope got on his knees and kissed the feet of all the protagonists to beg them for peace. My goodness. The humility. The sense of Christ washing his disciples feet.

The Archbishop had so many moving stories. I was most drawn to those from Coventry where he once served as Dean. After the bombing of the city in December 1940 the words ‘Father Forgive’ were written on the wall of the ruined chancel. Some wondered whether it meant “Father, forgive them”: the enemy who had bombed their city, ended lives, and destroyed livelihoods. But the Cathedral Provost reminded them of the Epistle to the Romans: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

He followed that with the story of a guide at the Cathedral who welcomed a man who admitted that he had been to Coventry once before - in a bomber plane. The guide had lost his brother as a result of those bombs. He felt his fist tighten but then decided he had spoken about reconciliation for 20 years as a guide and therefore had to forgive.

“I said, ‘I forgive’. He wasn’t even sure if he meant it, but once he has said it, he knew it was true.”

It was powerful stuff. There was so much more. I loved his three habits of peace making - curiosity, the need to be present and the ability to reimagine. 

I was most changed by another line -

“Whenever we are tempted to draw lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’, Jesus can always also be found on the other side.” Wow!

Read the Archbishop's entire script here

Just to add to Dana and the Archbishop the evening began with Tony Macauley sharing an item that reminds him of 4 Corners Festival. Tony was the first speaker at our very first event in 2013. It was in his old church Ballygomartin. He read his book Paper Boy set right there.

That night he talked about the disco his dad DJed in a hut round the corner. Every night ended with The Last Waltz by Engelbert Humperdinck. Shortly afterwards some on fund the actual single his dad used in an attic and Tony’s item was that single framed. 

And so we turned full circle but none of us could have imagined when Tony spoken back then what this wee Festival would become.

Happy 10th Birthday 4 Corners Festival. That was our kind of party! 

Watch The Evening Here


BELFAST'S MOTTO, A FILTHY RAG, U2 and 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

Alderman

Deputy Lord Mayor Tom Haire and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at 4 Corners Festival's Wonderful Wander 2022 - photo by George Sproule

 

When I was an atheistic, adolescent teenager, growing up in Ballymena in the 70s, Queen’s University’s Rag Week magazine was the closest thing we got to porn! Every year a few copies found their way across our classrooms faster than a modern day Tweet.

When I came to faith in Lower Sixth I gave up PTQ. The jokes and images were not in keeping with my following of Jesus.

Little did I know though that the dirty magazine got its title from a Psalm.

The notorious magazine’s title came from the City of Belfast’s Latin motto "Pro tanto quid retribuamus." This is taken from Psalm 116 Verse 12 in the Latin Vulgate Bible and is literally "For (Pro) so much (tanto) what (quid) shall we repay (retribuamus)" 

The verse has been translated in Bibles differently – for example as "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" It is also translated as "In return for so much, what shall we give back?”

In 2001 I was sent a photograph of something gaffer taped to the stage of the U2 Elevation Tour. It was those words from Psalm 116 (12-14), this time Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message:

What can I give back to God for the blessings he's poured out on me? 

I'll lift high the cup of salvation - a toast to God! 

I'll pray in the name of God; 

I'll complete what I promised God I'd do 

And I'll do it together with his people.

Bono would read these words every night of that tour before singing Where The Streets Have No Name.

I was drawn back to all of this at the 10th Anniversary 4 Corners Festival when the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Tom Haire reminded us of the city's motto at the close of our Wonderful Wander.

These are powerful words of commitment. They are a recognition of all that God has done for us. They are seeking deep down in the soul how we might respond to such blessing. The answer is a vow of commitment to lift up the gift of salvation, not squander it and then to fulfil those vows in the community of God’s people.

And so... the Psalmist’s words that named a filthy rag and were then prayed by the biggest rock band in the world on stage got perhaps their best setting at a Festival of Reconciliation with a strong Scriptural foundation. Thank you Deputy Lord Mayor. I have and will continue to return again and again to Psalm 116 for a vow to renew my passionate commitment to God and his Kingdom.


SUNKEN TREASURES (4 CORNERS FESTIVAL)

Sunken treasures

A piece of art by Paul Hutchison at this year's 4 Corners Festival had me thinking of Sunken Treasures. Valuable things among wreckage. That is what reconciliation needs to find. Other ideas by Jonny McEwan and Pope Francis also sneak in. 

 

Sunken Treasures

 

Sunken

Going deep deep soul

In the old old wrecks 

Of conflict or storm

Where the seas of time

Grind down to dust

Or rust

Hear the frightening creaking

Of boughs now breaking

Like our past is speaking

About our lazy repeating tides.

 

 

Hope filled divers

Their hearts a tingle

Deep deep down

Where buried treasures mingle

Redemptive torches shining

Mining in different corners

Where precious pearls might be found

By the light of grace

In a tragic place

To make new 

From old 

Histories told

Given space between bridges

A Holy place not yet finished

For stories and songs and art

To blend and blur

And end the slur

We hurl too shallow

That carelessly unhallowed

The gift giving creator

Of one another

And the abundance of here 

Dearly given to all

Who dare to share

Common

Ground 

Good 

Home

 

So

We dive 

Deeper

For treasures 

Sunken. 


PRAYERS FOR BLOODY SUNDAY, POPE FRANCIS & CHURCH LEADERS

Pope screen St Annes

photo: Neil Craigan

 

This is the script of my introduction and words at the opening event of the 10th Anniversary 4 Corners Festival 2022

For years it has been a standing joke in our planning group… Sure we’ll get The Archbishop of Canterbury or Pope Francis for that. To have Justin Welby closing our Festival next Sunday is a dream. Austen Ivereigh was as close to Pope Francis that we could get. His biographer and co-worker on Pope Francis’s last book let US Dream which I loved. 

When Austen said he could get us and then did get us a message from the Pope we were beyond our imaginings. So tonight as we begin our 10th Festival let us hear from Pope Francis…

- THE POPE'S MESSAGE IS SHOWN -

WOW! What I picked up most from this message is Pope Francis's humility. He asks us to pray for him. So in a moment we will.

As well as marking our 10th Anniversary today marks the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday. We wanted to mark that. Anniversaries are never easy in Northern Ireland.

On Friday night at a Mass for the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday Bishop Donal McKeown said:

“But there is another way. It seeks to acknowledge the past but to have compassion and forgiveness for those who were caught up in systems and situations that they can now look at with other eyes. There is a grace-filled art in forgiving and remembering.”

This morning Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Tweeted:

"We lament the violent deaths of Bloody Sunday today. The very possibility of reconciliation in light of such deeds, might seem to be beyond us. Yet the gospel calls us to live beyond ourselves. Bless these and all grieving families, to whom we send love in Christ's name today. 

After I pray we will have the first song from our musicians. Caroline Orr, Peter Greer and Norman McKinney… At one of our first events Pope Francis was announced as Pope. Caroline sang a couple of Chriaty Moore that evening and she will later on… brings it all full circle.

Lord in this 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

We stop to remember the wounds of Derry today

The bullets of that day and the lives lost

The bullets that have continued to fly through these 50 years

The bullets still travelling in hearts, minds and souls

We pray for Derry today

And we pray for every other murderous event of our Troubles

And for all who were lost

And for all who have grieved

And for all who continue to grieve

May the Holy Spirit be their comforter

May you send the peace that Jesus said was beyond our understanding

Peace on our streets…. Peace in all our hearts

Lord inspire us to live beyond ourselves to bring reconciliation in a fractured society

And give us grace-filled art in the ways of forgiving and remembering.

Lord do more than we can imagine or dream

 

And Lord

Pope Francis has asked us to pray for him

And so we do

We pray for Pope Francis

And the Archbishop Of Canterbury

And indeed the 4 leaders of our traditional denominations here in Ireland

Father reveal to them the height and depth and breadth of your love

Jesus may they know you and your revolutionary ways and lead us into authentic discipleship

Holy Spirit in your Pentecost power be their companion, their counsellor, their comforter and their courage to prophetically lead us to bring your will on earth as it is in heaven.

- THE NEEDED TIME IS SUNG -


THE OPENING NIGHT OF THE 10TH FOUR CORNERS FESTIVAL - PREVIEWED!

4CF me Hoodie

The 10th 4 Corners Festival begins tomorrow evening at St Anne's Cathedral at 7pm. I am so excited about this event as the opener.

It is a jam evening packed with goodness, joy and challenge.

To celebrate our 10 years we have asked a variety of people to send us messages around items that remind them of the Festival. These will go out on social media daily but we have two live ones. Writer Tony Macauley, who was the first ever contributor to the Festival, will be sharing at our closing event with the Archbishop of Canterbury in St Peter's Cathedral next Sunday..

Tomorrow night's item will be shared by Jasper Rutherford. Jasper is European Director for Christ In Youth and spent some time with us on the 4 Corners Planning group.

From Jasper we will move on to Pope Francis. The Pope has sent a beautiful message to the Festival and it will be a treat to share it in St Anne's.

The Pope ends his message very humbly and ask us to pray for him. So we will and as we do we will remember that it is the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Music on the evening shows another circle of things. At our first Festival our Gospel According To... Christy Moore event was cancelled due to snow. The west Belfast Feile allowed us to add it to their Spring Festival and it was held in Clonard Monastery the very night that Pope Francis was elected Pope.

Caroline Orr sang that night and might have been the one who publicly announced it. Ten years later and the Pope is sending us a message and Caroline is singing Christy Moore again! She will be accompanied by Peter Greer and Norman McKinley. It'll be beautiful.

We haven't even got to our actual event yet. Gladys Ganiel will interview Austen Ivereigh. Austen is journalist, author, commentator and Fellow in Contemporary Church History at Campion Hall, Oxford. He is also biographer of Pope Francis and worked with Pope Francis on the Pope's last book Let Us Dream.

Austen will close the evening by sharing that Let us Dream book and how it particularly applies to us in the four corners of Belfast.

One more big sleep. My hoodie is ready. Bring it on!

 

check out tickets in St Annes and online here 4 corners festival

 


POPE FRANCIS AT 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2022

Pope 4CF

Breaking news on social media today is Pope Francis at the 4 Corners Festival. I mean… come on! We are in disbelief. For years it has been a standing joke on our planning committee - “sure we should ask the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury”. 

Indeed last week at our Directors meeting when someone said “well if we are starting the Festival with the Pope and ending with the Archbishop…” I shouted STOP! Can you please repeat that sentence and poke me in the eye so that I know that I am not dreaming!

Can I just make it clear. Pope Francis will not be in Belfast on January 30th in person. However he has sent a message to the Festival and that message will be how we will begin our 10th Anniversary Festival.

Now, I hear you asking, how did this happen? Well, I shared a few weeks ago in my BBC Radio Ulster Thought For The Day how God has blessed us in our short 10 year history by opening doors and sending resourses we could never have dreamed of when we started. This is perhaps the biggest of such stories.

Early on in our planning for our 10th Anniversary Festival we hoped and prayed that we might get the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby as a speaker. David Porter Chief of Staff and Strategy to the Archbishop was a founding member of ECONI (Evangelical Contribution On Northern Ireland) at the height of our Troubles and knows our situation. He has indeed spoken at a previous Festival. David was our link and we are so thankful the Archbishop agreed to come over.

Truthfully the only way to balance that in denominational terms was the Pope. We didn’t even try! However, about a year ago Máirtin Ó Muilleoir asked me to review the Pope’s latest book Let Us Dream. I did and loved it. Some of it resonated prophetically with our divisions here in Northern Ireland.

Talking about it at a planning committee someone said that Austen Ivereigh had written that book with the Pope. I had no idea. Before long we had asked Austen to come to the Festival to speak about the book. He agreed. When Fr Martin and I Zoomed him he even suggested he might get us a message from the Pope.

Fr Martin and I smiled at each other but dared not to dream I mean… come on! 

Well, last week, Austen was with Pope Francis discussing another book and lo and behold he sent us a message from the Pope. Now, I am a Presbyterian from Ballymena but even I understand that this is a big deal. Even I am excited. Fr Martin has had the widest grin on his face for days!

Like all good TV dramas, I do not want to give spoilers on the message. It is very warm and he commends the purposes of the festival, his love of Festivals in general and his delight that the Archbishop of Canterbury is speaking.

If you want to be there for a big moment for 4 Corners Festival, and indeed in many ways for Belfast, then Pope Francis’s message will be the opening of our Festival, on the evening that Austen Ivereigh speaks about the Pope’s book in St Anne’s Cathedral on January 30th. 

It seems prophetically symbolic to what 4 Corners Festival are trying to do in bringing Belfast together, that the Pope in an Anglican Cathedral opens our 10th Festival and the Archbishop of Canterbury in a Catholic Cathedral brings it to a close on February 6th. 

BOOK NOW - https://4cornersfestival.com


THE NIGHT 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL CAUSED A RIOT!

Dangerous Night

 

I thought I would write a blog about some 4 Corners Festival moments as we celebrate 10 years. I wanted to write something about the night that we caused a riot. We were front page news the next day. In the end I couldn't better the blog I wrote the very night it all happened. A 4 Corners Festival moment for sure but also an evening that said so much about what we hope to do.

 

Tonight as I drove home from a 4 Corners Festival event at Skainos in East Belfast I was listening to David Crosby’s new record Croz. The song I was listening to was like a soundtrack to what I had just experienced...

 

“Now some small parts seem right scattered here and there

One smiling face in a crowd that’s angry and scared

Can’t seem to see where it doesn’t get worse

It’s like one good thought getting lost in an angry verse

 

I try to write Buddha and it comes out guns

I vote for peace and the blood still runs

I want to believe I can pass happy to my child

But the truth gets lost and the system runs wild”

 

I thought that a “good thought getting lost in an angry verse” was as good a description of the evenings events as I could come up with. The Festival event was called Listening To Your Enemies while outside on the street people shouted abuse, threw stones and injured policemen because they didn’t want their enemies to be even in their corner of the city. I had entered Skainos early and didn’t have the intimidation others had arriving but at one point as the crowd surged towards the front of the building we had to move away from the window, fearing it might come in around us. Leaving, on a route lined by riot police, I found myself stuck behind an armoured Land Rover with Union Jack clad menace all around. It was tense. As Crosby was singing, the truth was getting lost as the system that has kept our city captive for so long was running wild.

Crosby carried on singing: -

 

“Send me someone who has doubts about it

Who has conquered their own fear and lived to tell about it

Someone who won’t give up in the frozen rain

Who’ll walk right next to me through the orchards and the grain”

 

That was what we experienced inside Skainos; people conquering their fears and yet not without doubts. People not giving up but seeking a way through the frozen rain. Jo Berry is a brave woman whose father was killed when the IRA bombed a hotel in Brighton in 1984. Beside her was Patrick Magee the man who had planted the bomb. He was also the enemy that those outside were protesting about. The discomfort of the situation was best illustrated when, as Jo spoke, a line of Riot Police walked down the corridor on the other side of a window wall. “We are just back from Beirut and it was easier than this,” Jo humorously commented.

The discomfort of what was going on outside was matched by a discomfort of what was going inside and yet a very different discomfort. Inside was filled with hope, a tangible and inspiring hope, but I felt that my soul needed spiritual riot police to protect me from the trauma that was being so honestly and eloquently shared. Jo’s tentative reaching out to Patrick and the nervousness of their first meeting. Patrick’s journey to re-humanise Anthony Berry and say, “It's difficult sitting with Jo because I killed her father. Even after 14 years of dialogue [with her] it's still difficult.” 

Their story was moving but the evening was far from finished. When Lesley Carroll opened it up to the floor the first woman to speak shared how her husband was the milkman shot dead in retaliation for the Brighton bomb. She explained how she had to attend tonight and shared about the thorn in her heart and her head, always there, but she needed to pay tribute to her husband to deal with that thorn in her head. Another man shared how he had been blown up in a bomb 38 years ago this very night and his good friend Jim Smiley was killed in the attack. Sweet mercy!

There were other comments, questions and challenges to Jo and Patrick. Jo shared how Conservative politician Norman Tebbit, injured in the bomb and whose wife was paralysed in the blast, has never spoken to her. Tebbit feels that she is betraying her father. Patrick shared how he had never come to terms with what forgiveness meant and wasn’t looking for it. Both were asked if they saw Patrick as a terrorist or a soldier. Patrick saw himself as neither and Jo saw him just as a friend! When asked by a loyalist ex-combatant if he had come to believe that what he did was not justified, as the loyalist now believed about his own involvement, Patrick stood firm in his belief that for him as a Republican what he had done was the only way.

In all the sharing and questions and disagreements, there was a humble gracious listening in the room. It is what 4 Corners had been aiming to do this year. To allow people to share their story but maybe more importantly to listen to one another’s story in a non adversarial way. This was exactly the atmosphere we had been hoping for. It was a grace space that our city needs more of. In that way, what was going on in the room was the very antithesis of what was going on outside where the vitriolic crowd was not prepared to listen at all.

As I drove the last mile home up the Lisburn Road, that looked so calm and unaware of the riots that our wee Festival had caused in another corner of the same city, I reflected on this dangerous night and dared to dream. David Crosby continued to sing me home...

 

“I wake up from a dream of a baby and a blast

Scenes from the television in the blue light it cast

Seek peace in your own heart sounds true, sounds right

I’m a troubled soul searching for peace in the night

  

Trying to figure out how it all fits together

Humans and sun and oceans and weather

And even if I dream alone on such a dangerous night  

Tryin’ to make all these pieces fit right

 

 Even if I dream alone on such a dangerous night

Somehow I know I’m going to dream again tonight.”

 

Tickets for this year's Festival - https://4cornersfestival.com


POPE FRANCIS CO-WRITER & ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY BOOKEND 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

Pope and Archbishop

For 10 years it has been our little 4 Corners planning committee joke. The Archbishop of Canterbury! Pope Francis! We should ask them. I guess if you are a Christian based Festival across the divides those are the star players! Ha! Ha! Ha! Any other business.

It was our 10th Anniversary and so we thought we’d test it, stretch it, dream. The Archbishop just might. We knew that he knew about us. Various parts of our planning group had done things with him. His chief of staff David Porter was a long pioneer of peace making in Northern Ireland and had spoken at a past Festival. 

When he agreed we were thrilled. We love to bookend the Festival with theological reflection. To end our 10th Anniversary with the Archbishop was almost perfect. 

Almost! I am not sure when someone mentioned Austin Ivereigh. I had been taken with Pope Francis’ book Let Us Dream. Someone mentioned the guy who wrote it with Francis. What? He lives in England. 

It wasn’t very long before I was suggesting Austin as the bookend. If we couldn’t start the 10th Anniversary 4 Corners Festival with the the Pope as the bookend for the Archbishop then surely a man who has written two biographies on Pope Francis might be a very fine replacement.

On investigation we only received positive recommendations on Austin and were then utterly thrilled that he agreed to come. Once we had Zoomed him we were more than excited.

If we couldn’t have Pope Francis then Austin Ivereigh is as close we could get. Austin was not just a scribe for Let Us Dream but a shaper of the prophetic insights that Francis shares. 

As I wrote in my review there are some very clear lessons for us here in Northern Ireland. The Pope talks about the “great danger in remembering the guilt of others to proclaim my own innocence” and of “reducing a person’s history to the wrong they did.” He implores us to  “look at the past critically but with empathy.” It seems to me that such attitudes would help our healing?

Pope Francis also shares a lesson from the synodal approach taken by the Catholic Church. “Rigidity is the sign of a bad spirit concealing something” but a synodal approach is about “mutual listening” and the “productive tension of walking together” . These latter quotations touch on this year’s 4 Corners Festival theme Common Ground Common Good. 

I am excited because I believe we have ended up with a near perfect set of book ends for our 10th Anniversary. The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury in St Peter’s Catholic Cathedral will close our week BUT just as exciting Pope Francis’s writing partner in his most recent book will set the week off in the Anglican Cathedral at St Anne’s. 

Don’t miss either! BOOK NOW - https://4cornersfestival.com