Janice and Martin 24 laugh

The day after the 4 Corners Festival 2024.

There is the almighty relief. It is over. We made it through the exhaustion. Eight days of - When do we need to eat? What time do we need to be there? Where can we park near the venue? Who is hosting tonight? Is this hoodie smelling yet?!

It is finished. In the can.

So the day after is a crash. Adrenalin tap switches off. Sleep. Sleep a lot. An empty evening. Just Janice and I in our favourite restaurant with all the time in the world. Bliss.

BUT… we miss each other. The committee. The Board. Megan, our amazing admin. The hoodie crew. The stewards. The sound crew. The streaming crew. The press team. The guests. 

AND… we are looking back. How did it go? All of it as one big sum. Each individual part. What were the highlights? What were the depth charges. What do we need to watch again? Whose script do we need to read? There will be blogs. David Campton’s first is up already.

It was very good. It went well. Was it great? Was it not just a good festival but a festival that was good for something. Good for our city. Good for Jesus’s peacemaking mission that we are called to. Good for every individual who came? Was God in it. Every bit of it. The bits that lazy theologians might call secular as well as the obviously sacred.

There are also lessons. Sometimes things we have learned but didn’t learn. The same wee tiny mistakes in the running of events. We will note them again hoping we really learn this time. 

There is a Post Festival Blues. The more you give, the more you’ll feel it. It’s a mix of exhaustion, loss of camaraderie and the feeling of belonging, the now lack of amazing events. It takes time to wring out those blues.

AND THEN… very soon… we will gather again. Oh we will reflect back, gaze across the pie charts that the online surveys (FILL ONE IN!!!!) help us with. We will look at weaknesses. Strengths. Audiences ages, locations, opinions. 

BUT… very soon… we will begin again. The fourth Friday in every month the planning group will come together, enjoy each other’s company and laugh a lot. 

We will throw the seeds of ideas into a fertile fields of dreams and watch as together, with the imagination that God gives us through one another, and watch for a harvest that is always a surprise beyond our abilities and wildest dreams - 4 Corners Festival 2025. #13.

I always ask, how do we top that and God always whispers, “Watch me!”

I love this Festival. Thank you Lord. 



Rev. Clare Hayns book Unveiled about women who have somehow got lost in the depths of the Old Testament caught my attention immediately. What an idea? How necessary to hear? 

I have watched Clare on line and among the many women that Clare has made me sit up and take notice of are Abishag The Shummunite, who she reckons has the funniest name and whose job it was to lie beside King David in his aging years to keep him warm at night! 

Also Huldah who when sacred text was discovered in the Temple, she was asked to exegete it. Wow, the role of women is never easily pinned down.

So, Clare is quite the authority on female characters. There are 40 in the book. She describes them well. Unveiled is an insightful book, both about women and also about lessons we can learn from them.

To top it all off, Clare’s book becomes a work of art in itself as her son Micah unveils the women in illustrations that are captivating and brilliant.

Clare and indeed Micah are with us for our opening event of 4 Corners Festival 2024. Clare will be our keynote speaker and Micah will teach a little sketching with chalk at Unveiled - Stories in Scripture which is at Fitzroy at 7pm on Sunday February 4th. They will also be speaking at our University Students lunch - Unveiling Stories Together on Monday 5th at 12.30 in the Hub, Elmwood Avenue.

This year’s Festival theme is stories and the stories of Scripture are dear to us. Indeed, many of us of other faiths and none will have been brought up in these stories. 

We are seeking stories that will bring hope and thought of no better way to set out for the week of the festival than Clare unpacking a few of these stories of women of faith who brought hope into the challenges of life, political and personal. Clare will have you mesmerised by who you have missed and how they can inspire you.

Way back in the early 90s a young woman arrived in Dublin to work for a year as an intern in Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church. She was gifted, able and feisty. I was the Youth Development Officer and Clare Benyon, as she was then, was a lot of fun to work alongside.

Initially Greenbelt and then social media have kept us in touch. Clare married magician John and had a family, got ordained into the Anglican Church and has been working as a University Chaplain at Christchurch Oxford. She is about to move on.

How thrilled am I that she will be with us in Fitzroy on Sunday night! Join us...



Doug 3

He strode out across a muddy Greenbelt field. Janice’s friend new him from old youth fellowship days and went over and chatted. He was Doug Gay and he was the singer in Candy Says. He was so cool.

No less cool when he played MainStage a couple of years later in the new Calvin’s Dream, the dark shades, the wind blowing back his hair. Did I say cool.

Calvin’s Dream were on the Sticky Music record label and I got to know those guys and therefore Doug again. There was lots going on under the cool. He seemed a sharp fella, theologically astute.

In 1992 he arrived at a festival we were organising in County Wicklow. Arklight. Over the next few years I got to know Doug as a very fine human being, even more theologically astute than I thought and a fine communicator. 

I loved every seminar he led at Greenbelt even when the subject didn’t seem to be my thing. There was always a thought or line to take away and process.

That is all 20 years ago, some of it 30, and every chance I have gotten I try to spend some time with Doug. Janice and I value his counsel and how he widens our reading and thoughts and the way he nurtures us.

He’s a Church of Scotland minister, he is a Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at Glasgow University. He has made two albums in recent years, both reviewed on this blog, and authored various books on theology and culture. 

I am delighted to say that Doug is speaking at the 4 Corners Festival this year. How did it take so long!? 

As well as the Radio Ulster morning service (11th), he will be our key note speaker on February 11th@7pm in the wonderful renovation that is St. Comgall’s on Davis Street, Doug will speak under the title Towards a Culture of Hope. I have heard Doug in private and publicly speak of hope and imagination for decades and he is the man for such a night as this. 

Come on over. As well as Doug there will be songs from Eilidh Patterson, an exhibition about the story of Presbyterianism In West Belfast and I am sure a short look back at the entire festival before Doug inspires us out into the rest of the year.




Tru 5


Trú add their almost Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies as their very own fresh tributary to the traditional river of trad. New songs, old songs in Irish as well as English take us back through Irish stories from ancient to recent times. 

The In Conversation series across 4 Corners Festivals have been exciting evenings of insights of life as well as art and lots of humour and the unexpected thrown in. 

For Trú Steve Stockman will talk to the band about their own story, of finding each other and their muse and then Miley Brennan will seek to find out more about their work and the Irish stories that fill the songs from their two albums to date - No Fixed Abode and Eternity Near.

Performing at: An Evening In Conversation With Trú; February [email protected] In Orangefield Presbyterian Church




American husband and wife duo, Beki and Randy, have played more Festivals than most. Their Forgiveness Waltz was once vital to our closing nights. With Beki's rock voice and Randy's guitar skills they sing songs of holding to faith through tough times and how to recognise and celebrate the good times. After one 4 Corners Festival, Board member David Campton suggested that if there was such a thing as "good ear worm" then it applied to Beki and Randy. So good, they are performing twice!

Performing at: Unveiled - Stories In Scripture; February 4th@7pm in Fitzroy, 77 University Street


ALSO Performing at: Discovering Jesus In the Other; Challenging The Myth Of Otherness; February [email protected] in Agape Centre, 256-66 Lisburn Road



Somehow, this is Eilidh's debut at 4 Corners festival. It is hard to understand why when you hear her pure voice, accurate guitar technique and accessible songs that are filled with the spiritual. She has profitably used her songwriting to deal with her own personal anxieties and that story might come out as she sings on our closing night.

Performing at: Towards A Future Of Hope; February 11th@7pm in St Comgall's, Davis Street




For almost 15 years a collective of singers and players from Fitzroy have been performing The Gospel According To... series. They have covered U2, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and many more... including Christy Moore at our very first Festival. They have recently done Sinead O'Connor and will perform a few of those songs at the evening with Elma Walsh.

Performing at: DONAL WALSH: A STORY OF HOPE on February [email protected] at. Forthspring Community Centre, 373-375 Springfield Rd



Worship at the RTE TV service and the BBC Radio Ulster radio Service will be led by a 4 Corners Festival Collective. We need a little congregation for the Radio Ulster one on February [email protected] at 120 Cliftonville Road





Erin Quinn

(This is a Guest Blog by Karen Jardine, posted with permission)


Around a year ago I was invited to take part in the 4 Corners Festival on the theme of 'Grief of Dreams Unrealised'. This morning I had a wee read of what I shared last year and it still seems relevant. The finale of Derry Girls was the starting point and after a few meanders I ended up with this:

"Sure it’s only a television programme, but I wonder if it gave a generation, or generations, the validity and permission to share a story that they didn’t realise was theirs to tell – to grieve a future promised that has yet to be realised. 

Joel is one of the prophets in the Bible. His contribution comes in the midst of a swarm of locusts which has overrun the land of Judah and eaten everything in sight. Devastation and destruction are everywhere. Through Joel God calls his people back - ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning’. 

Grieve for that which is lost.  

Mourn and weep. 

But that is not the end of the story. 

There is a promise of restoration – that the years that the locusts have eaten will be restored.

Not only that – but that the Spirit of the Lord will be poured out on his people.

Sons and daughters will prophesy. 

Old men will dream dreams, young men will see visions. 

In the midst of communal trauma and political stalemate each generation has its own unfulfilled dreams to grieve. 

But let’s not make that the end of the story. 

Let’s refuel our imagination.

We have bolder dreams to dream and give voice to. 

We have more visions to see and put our words to.

Or to quote Erin Quinn:

“We have to be brave… and if our dreams get broken along the way, we have to make new ones from the pieces”.'


John Barry News

You can become no more of a public figure than being the headline photograph on the BBC News page.

So, with one of their faces right there today on that News page, it is a good time to announce our public figures who will be sharing with us at The Stories That Shape Us at the 4 Corners Festival on January 10th at 7.30pm. 

The idea is that our public figures, five of them, will share a book that has somehow affected their lives. We will also have actors on hand to read sections from those books.

This is the last new news announcement before the Festival and we are delighted to tell you that our five public figures, in alphabetical order, are:

JOHN BARRY (Academic/Environmental activist/Union man)

BISHOP ANDREW FORSTER (Religious leader)

NUALA MCKEEVER (actress/writer)

TARA MILLS (News Presenter)

and one other... how exciting.





Alan and Jim

Wouldn’t Northern Ireland be a different place with more books like this one.

Jim Deeds and Alan Abernethy grew up in different corners of Belfast and somehow in a divided city became friends.

Their new book Discovering Jesus in the Other: Challenging the Myth of Otherness is their two stories told alongside each other and then crossing into the one story of friendship.

Sadly, it is not a plenty told story. It is too much of a rarity. 

So why was it different for Jim and Alan. Well, openness is one thing. Listening is another. Courage might be a crucial one. 

In their case a central passion for Jesus without all the religious rigamarole that we have tragically attached to that was their trump card. The Spirit’s help to see through the rigamarole a necessity. 

We are delighted that Jim and Alan, who later became the Anglican Bishop of Connor, will launch their book and tell us more about their prophetic if ordinary lives of discipleship. 


Donal Walsh

When Shannon Campbell mentioned Donal Walsh at one of our 4 Corners Planning meetings last year I was quickly down in.

Many of your regular readers of Soul Surmise will be aware of our dear friend Lucia Quinney-Mee who we lost in 2020, just days before her 21st birthday, from the impact of her fourth liver transplant. 

Lucia had lived with her previous three livers for some 13 years and had inspired us by making the very most of her too short a life. She started a Transplant Awareness Campaign called Live Loudly, Donate Proudly that gained her a British Empire Medal from the Queen and still continues through her parents David and Rachel and her sister Alice. We miss Lucia so much.

Donal struck me as having had a similar life and being mightily inspirational too. Having had cancer since he was 12, recovering for a time but then being struck down again before finally passing away at just 16 years of age. 

During those years when he might have lived something less than a teenagers potential Donal instead upped his game. I mean literally upped his game by, even with a prosthetic knee to become a sports coach.

He was also disturbed by other teenagers taking their own lives, while he fought for life. Fundraising throughout his later life he now has the Donal Walsh #Livelife Foundation set up by his family primarily to promote Donal’s anti-suicide #Livelife message.

Donal wrote about life, his journey with cancer and about suicide too. He was Brough to national attention in the Republic of Ireland when he appeared on Brendan O’Connor’s ‘The Saturday Night Show’. 

Donal's mother Elma continues her son's story, taking #Livelife all over Ireland and beyond. 

We are delighted to have Elma Walsh to speak at 4 Corners Festival. Come to be inspired. It will not be a comfortable evening but it will be a story that helps us in creating a culture of hope as we dig into the life of a young man and his family as they travel through tough times yet always seeking faith and hope for themselves and others as they go.




Jani One Show 1

It was an exciting night in our house. My wife, Janice, was on The One Show! Having filmed last year we have held the secret for months that Janice would feature in a feature on Hope Macauley. And how good was Janice. She talks about being shy and nervous. You wouldn't have noticed tonight - a. natural!

Hope is a 27 year old fashion designer who branded her own chunky knitwear range a couple of years ago. Her star has been rising almost with every star who has fallen in love with her wool work. Jennifer Hudson, Billie Piper and Tom Daly are Hope Macauley fans. Magazine wise Vogue, GQ, Sports Illustrated have covered her on the cover. You name it and Coleraine’s finest jumpers are on it! 

Chatting about all of this about a year ago, her dad, author Tony Macauley, and I were saying how at Hope’s age our ambitions would have been New York, London or LA. 

Today’s 27 year olds have different values and ambitions. Hope is not only happiest when at home around Portstewart and Coleraine but she wanted to make her brand local and involve local knitters. No machines. Every piece lovingly hand knit. 

Enter Janice about two years ago whens he came one of a number of knitters strewn across Northern Ireland. Usually on a Wednesday, Hope’s mother, Lesley, brings a bag full of special wool and Janice exchanges her week’s work. The One Show tonight must have been a revelation of that mysterious lift to our neighbours.

Janice has always loved knitting and as she said on The One Show this gives her the right to knit, as it is now her job! It is very part time which fits perfectly with Janice’s other work with Baby & Toddlers and church. BUT how she loves opening that bag and seeing what wool she had gotten this week! 

As another knitter on The One Show piece said, this helps making knitting popular again. It has been but Hope Macauley has helped. She has made knitting local and fashionable. 

Even better is when knitters gather for a natter and knit. For a number of years now Janice and her friend Irene Jovaras from Focolare have been running such an event at the 4 Corners Festival.  This is an opportunity to gather with others across life experiences and to knit for something socially useful. We have supported The People’s Kitchen with knitwear in the past. This year's event is on February 10th.




Stocki 4CF Blue hoodie

(old photo!!!!)


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.



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 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!



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