Stocki and Dana 2

photo: Neil Craigan


In introducing Dana Masters at the 4 Corners Festival I said, “Her voice is her witness but here life is a witness too.” For nearly two hours Dana then proved me more than correct.

I have been doing such interviews for some thirty years. Indeed, I have been shaping them as their own art form. I sensed early on that a good interview could communicate more than a number of sermons while people thought they were being entertained.

In my dreams, Dana Masters, was the perfect interview. Oh I loved doing Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross but the ground that Dana’s life was able to cover made it exceptional. 

Dana’s life experience and her response to that experience has honed her into a humble, gifted, mature, spiritual and deep soul. We covered race, civil rights, protest, community, personal acceptance, faith, Van Morrison, the music business and dream for a better Northern Ireland.

Everything was wrapped in humour and song, the most crafted songs, with the most stunning voice and the magnificent accompaniment of Cian Boyland on piano. 

Remarkably Dana didn’t feel that she is a great singer in comparison to the voices that she grew up with. Her vocation she explained was in her connection with an audience. She learned that that was her biggest gift and longs to intercede, to “stand in the gap” for her audience. This came across tonight as she did that just as much in her conversation as in her singing. 

What also came across was the spiritual and social formation from her mother, her aunt and Grandmother. These women taught her that when she felt “unpretty” with her kinky hair and flat nose that she was “highly valued”. They did a wonderful job.

Dana has always known the power of songs and stories. The place of the song in African-American is not as primarily a means of entertainment. It has always been important “telling us who we are, where we are from and where we are going”.  

I found it fascinating that even in love songs Dana was looking for something more and deeper and more wholesome than falling in love but breaking up. Dana, inspired by Anita Baker, wanted songs about “the longevity of love”. More of it I say!

I brought her home to Dromara. Well, Andrew Masters did. Dana spoke of feeling at home and still unpacking why but that the Irish and our “hospitality” “roundedness” and "not think highly of yourself” was similar to South Carolina. 

Settling into a home in the back end of nowhere, up a hill in Dromara Dana then shared how she and Andrew had integrated into a Catholic community, sending their children to school there. Earning trust. 

Throughout the night Dana spoke about “fluke”, like singing with Kanye West. It seems like a fluke that a black girl from the deep south would meet a white guy from County Down and set up home in Dromara. Yet, it is a story that seems too well written, Dana’s soul seems too perfectly moulded for it to be a mistake.

So, Dana paused and started to share her dreams of here where she hoped her loudest stories would become stories of hope in what we’ve overcome rather than the wounds of the past. She wanted her children to see the world and know that there was nowhere to live like this. She cast her lot in with us.

She then finished the evening with what she called the African American national anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing and Call You Home her song about finding home here to push the emotion even higher. 

It was all that I ever dreamed my questions might draw from anyone I was interviewing. The depth, the insight, the wisdom. Amazing.




Grief in Dreams

photo: Neil Craigan


“It was one of the threads that tied community and whether or not you had the story already didn’t matter, you listened to this version and nodded and said, “I know” and let that knowledge be a comfort between you for a time.”


I read this from Niall Williams’ lyrical novel This IS Happiness the same night that I attended the 4 Corners Festival event The Grief Of Dreams Unrealised and remembered it through my tears.

The Grief Of Tears Unrealised was an evening of stories from people who had had something to knock their dreams. The different moments when the tears started was a strange revelation to me.

I expected them from Sarah Louise’s story. I knew it. I know the family well. Yet, I didn’t know her story inside her story and when she, who lost her dad before she could remember to an IRA bomb was sitting having a cup of coffee with a stranger that she had just met and had realised was a former IRA man. Oh my.

Gordon’s story was deepen the brutality of our past as he was caught up dramatically in the Shankill bomb in October 1993 as it exploded in front of his car. It was a difficult listen and when he named all the victims of that horrible day, the tears ran again.

The last tears were different and completed a whole. Karen shared how she’s gone off to University in Scotland not too sure that she’d want to come back. Fascinated by our peace process as you’d expect George Mitchell was coming to St. Andrews and her friend gave her her ticket to get to see him. Then she was in front of him and as they shook hands and she thanked him and he told her to go back and help change things, tears again.   

As I reflected on an amazing evening of stories I was back in Niall Williams’s paragraph. I felt deep down the need and the power of stories. To tell our stories and to listen. If ever there was a little place who need to increase our story telling then it is us, here in Northern Ireland. 

Sarah Louise and Gordon drew a catharsis, a lament that we need in the long term healing. Then Karen brought a hopefulness, a call for commit to that hope. Stories. Let us rethread our communities.


The Cube

Who’d have thought

Of a young loyalist working on her second Masters

Who’d have thought

Of a young loyalist dreaming of being a show jumper

Who’d have thought

Of young loyalists being 

The most imaginative, innovative and creative.


Who’d have thought

Of the young loyalists inviting Catholic friends to bonfires

Who’d have thought

Of a young loyalist dreaming of being a games designer

Who’d have thought

Of young loyalists being 

The most imaginative, innovative and creative.


Everybody dreams

Dreams whirl in colour swirls

Thump and pump and pulsate

Then bounce against society’s fate

Dreams are equally distributed

But the opportunities

Not so much.


Who’d have thought

Certainly not those of us

Who box in and confine young loyalists

To caricatures


And the butt end of jokes

Certainly not those of us 

Who never listen to their dreams

Who ignore the hurdles and hindrances

And don’t have in our own dreams 

That one day soon

Everybody’s dreams might come true.


I rethink. 


The exhibition PresentFuture at 4 Corners Festival 2023 was the most imaginative and innovative event that we have ever done. It was dreamed up and planned by young loyalists.

In a year when our Festival theme was Dreams:Visions For Belfast, we had asked Alternatives NI through their BAND project to ask young people and children in loyalist communities to share their dreams. Beyond our wildest dreams they conjured an immersive visual experience of lights, colour swirls to a beat driven soundtrack. There were photographs and spoken word too.

I spent an afternoon at the exhibition with some of those young loyalist dreamers and the Minister of State For Northern Ireland, Steve Baker. Conversation was frank and honest. It was a listening experience. More than listening I was stretching to hear. We heard from articulate young loyalists seeking investment into education and jobs in their areas. 

And I asked myself… what am I doing to help these young people to fulfil their dreams.


Thank you BAND at Alternatives NI and the two Debbies, Jonathan, Oisin and Ryan



For quite a while now I have had one night every year where I get to do what teenage Steve wanted to do - be an interviewer like Parkinson. Like Wogan. Nothing like Norton.

There was a day when Television chat shows were not hosted by comedians. They were serious shows. I loved them. I wanted to know about the artist and the art. 

So, as a sixteen year old I wanted to be a journalist. Indeed, in 1979 I went off to Sunderland Polytech to do Media Studies but three days later came home, went back to school and shifted my direction towards ministry. 

Yet, at every turn I have had an opportunity to do my journalism. At the Presbyterian Church’s annual Youth Reach Festival I got to co-host a magazine show with my mate David Montgomery. I then did some radio in Dublin in the early 90s before hosting a music show on BBC Radio Ulster for 10 years from 1996. I have also written articles, even been a magazine editor and of course blog and more recently podcast.

Never am I more happy that when I have someone to interview. The 4 Corners Festival has given me the chance to chat to Gary Lightbody, Ricky Ross, Ruth McGinley, Duke Special, Brian Houston and Iain Archer. Tonight it is a sold out Fitzroy for Dana Masters.

I am deeply grateful for those who say they like my interviewing style, particularly if they are artists. Many artists are almost insulted by a template of dull repetitive questions from journalists. I like to fool myself into thinking that I am a little different.

I am primarily a fan. I have a favourite artist in front of me. Yes, there is an audience there too but I pretend that I am in my kitchen. What would I like to know? What have other journalists not asked? My only fear is that I bore the audience with my own interests. Ricky Ross even had a song that would break the seriousness if needed!  

Tonight it is Dana Masters and it was during her songs at the closing event of the Festival last year with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that a spark went off in my head. Her story of growing up in the deep south, her Granny being a Civil Rights activist yet here she is in Northern Ireland. I knew there were tales to dig into not just for the sake of it but to hear insights that might help us as we try to do our little bit for reconciliation here.

Of course we never planned that she’d be featuring on BBC TV the two nights before I interview her. We’ll get to talk about Ottilie Patterson too.

A bonus. She’s going to sing. What a voice! 

I’m getting excited. Being a talk show host in the same spot that I preach. God didn’t erase my dreams. I am grateful!



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 11.pm



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. 




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.




American Presbyterian minister Kiran Young Wimberly has this sensitive ear that can take beautiful traditional Irish and Scottish melodies and set on top of them the even older Old Testament Psalms. Finding the McGrath family from Dungannon helped put those songs on a stage and not only that they have now released 4 albums of Celtic Psalms. They will also be playing some Psalms at our BBC Radio Ulster Sunday morning service on February 5th at 10.15am.

Performing at:  Dreaming God’s Dream – Walking the Path Together - 7pm January 29, 2023 at Skainos Centre, 241 Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 1AF



Ferna stretches and squeezes the bounds of the songwriter here with intrigue and quite original beauty It is a couple of months on from her winning Northern Ireland Music Prize’s Best Single of 2022 for Wasting Away and two months from the landing of her debut album. Two songs that she has written about Coretta Scott King will connect Ferna’s songs to the Dreams of this week’s theme. 

Performing at: We Have A Dream: Role Of Women In Peacebuilding - 7.30pm January 31, 2023 at  Clonard Monastery, 1 Clonard Gardens, Belfast BT13 2RL



Andrew is no stranger to the 4 Corners Festival where he has very often lit up an evening with his songs that all seem so personal but always speak universally about themes like hope and faith and love. Think of him as a Belfast Brice Springsteen without the E Street Band. 

Performing at: David Goodwin in Conversation with Mark Simpson - 7.30 Thursday February 2nd at Agape Centre, 236-266 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 6GF



I’d be bold enough to suggest Vail as our most innovative musician. Though mainly working in electronica and modern classical. His award winning Borders album with Elma Orkestra that included guest appearances from Clannad’s Maire Brennan and Ireland’s trendiest poet Stephen James Smith.

Working with his friend Jonathan Hodge from Wonder Arts Ryan has written the soundtrack to Present Future.

Ryan’s soundtrack will be playing at Present Future - January 30 - February 2, 2023 at Telegraph Buildings, 1 Library Street, Belfast BT1 1FH.



After years standing behind Van Morrison, Dana Masters is now front and centre in her own solo career. She has a Jazz voice to astonish with. Steve Stockman will be chatting to her about her family’s roots in the Civil Rights movement of South Carolina as well as her life now in the Dromara Hills… and of course she will be singing!

Performing at: In Conversation With Dana Masters - February 3, 2023 at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, 77 University Street, Belfast BT7 1HL



Established in 2005 The Concentio Chamber Choir, directed by Jonathan Ireland have been rightfully gaining a reputation for mixing the secular and sacred in the most relaxing of moods.

Performing at: The City Where Dreams Become Reality - 7pm February 5 at St John’s Parish, 444 Falls Road, Belfast BT12 6EN