4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

4 CORNERS FESTIVAL - FROM DIY TO NEEDING A BOARD

Matt baggott

photo: Matt Baggot speaking in Clonard Monastery at the 2013 4 Corners Festival.

 

The first 4 Corners Festival meeting took place in the old Irish School Of Ecumenics’ building up on the Antrim Road. I remember it quite well. Fr Martin Magill and I had come up with the idea of a Festival in September 2012 and called a few friends who we thought might be interested. Gladys Ganiel, then on the staff of the ISE agreed to host.

So, we gathered around a table in the middle of October - Martin, Gladys, Ed Peterson, Fr Paul Symonds and Glenn Jordan. Some others had been asked but didn’t show.

As Fr Martin and I had originally considered the Festival as a kind of fringe for The Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity we audaciously planned a Festival, to take place 3 months away! 

It happened and we were on our way. Though the shape of the festival has changed in shape over the years, theological discussion, literature, music and art. 

In that very first programme, there was a Prayer Breakfast in Clonard Monastery with the then Chief Constable of PSNI, Matt Baggott, speaking. The Chief Constable in West Belfast was always a crossing of borders but what we didn’t know when we planned it was that by January a Flag Protest would make Belfast a very tense city. This was the kind of contribution we set out to make. To Speak an alternative common ground and common good into our divided place.

I remember the Festival’s early days as times of innocence. Everyone brought an event and ran with it, we put them altogether and had a festival. I always felt that the Festival was like a fertile field to sow your dreams. Ed Peterson had an idea of a banquet for the homeless and the committee took it and dreamed of the Banqueting Room in City Hall. That started a series of such banquets that Ed headed up.

We added to the committee in very causal ways. Methodist minister David and his wife Sally Campton moved to South belfast the year after the first Festival. Janice and I invited them for coffee. As they were leaving I said to David that the committee were meeting at 3, come on down. That was David’s invite!

We didn’t think about money but started donations that we put through the Fitzroy accounts ear marked 4 Corners Festival. We were thrilled with our Do-It-Yourself approach. We thought it might inspire other projects. Speakers and artists were very kind and gave of their services free. We thank them. 

As we journeyed, though, things developed. We were being asked for insurance. We needed a bank account. We realised that we could no longer be DIY. We needed a constitution, a Board. We needed to get registered as a charity. We needed an administrator and Megan Boyd has done an amazing job in that roll.

So, we are a tighter ship now. We have a Board with members with specific skills and a Planning Group with creative souls. We have policies for everything. We are funded by so many generous funders. It’s all rather different BUT I hope much the same. A few followers of Jesus with wild imaginations and free spirit’s open to the Spirit of God to bring the peace and prosperity to the city as Jeremiah wrote about in chapter 29 of his prophecy!

Once a month the Planning Group meet and laugh our way through the entire afternoon. By October, we like to believe miraculously, there is a festival that we look at and cannot believe that we came up with that. Still sowing dreams in the fertile field.

 

Book for 4 Corners Festival HERE - https://4cornersfestival.com


WHO IS DECIDING OUR FUTURE - SUE DIVIN AT 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2022

SUE DIVIN 4CF

If you are anyway regular to this blog or my social media you will be well aware of my utter love of Sue Divin’s novel Guard Your Heart. Fr Martin Magill and I even had a slot on BBC NI during NI Book Week where we waxed lyrical. It was my Book Of The Year, albeit in a tie with another Derry/Doire/Londonderry writer Kerri Ní Dochartaigh and her book Thin Places.

In my review of the book here on Soul Surmise I began the piece with the quotation:

“Adults remembered our past. Would they ever remember our future? Smothering the frustration of it building in my gut was harder by the hour. Would our day ever come?”

I went on… It’s a question for more than a novel. It is a question that needs asked every time a leader in our wounded and wonderful island makes a decision. From politics to church to community to education to housing to economics to employment. Let us not smother the future of our gifted and wonderful youth in the old conflicts that had us do incomprehensible and reprehensible things to one another. 

I am thrilled that Sue Divin is reading and speaking about the book at this year’s 4 Corner’s Festival. The evening hosted by American PhD student Mylie Winger Brennan and she hopes to gather a group of young adults to discuss the question Who Is Deciding Our Future?

All participants will have an opportunity to read the book in advance and will be able to share their views on our history, the intergenerational impact of the Troubles, and how they would shape a world where common ground might lead to more common good.

To receive a free copy of Guard Your Heart, register for this event by Thursday, January 27th and provide a mailing address – the book will be sent directly to you.

 

Info and Booking - https://4cornersfestival.com


4 CORNERS FESTIVAL - HOW IT ALL BEGAN (for 10th Anniversary)

4 Corners Festival early Logo

(As we prepare to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the 4 Corners Festival, this is my first ever blog about it from December 29th 2012. It is probably an over told story but if needs one more telling surely it is for this 10th Festival)

 

The first journey up to visit my friend Fr Martin Magill in his Presbytery house beside St. Oliver Plunkett Church in Lenadoon was a revelation. When I turned left at Asda on Kennedy Way it was like driving through a wardrobe into Narnia. I had lived in Belfast for about twenty five years of my adult life and here was a world that I had never seen before. There was a sports’ stadium, an amazing looking school, even a Fuscos Ice Cream Parlour never mind all the shops, parks and thousands of houses. This was my city and I had never been.

We live in an apartheid Northern Ireland. Former South African President FW De Klerk once shared with my students that the only mistake his Afrikaner people made was to institutionalise the segregated way South Africa lived. There was segregation all over the world, particularly in America he added, but making it law was their undoing he suggested.

We have never institutionalised it into Catholic or Protestant toilets or park benches in Northern Ireland but here I was experiencing the reality of our lived out apartheid about a mile from where I lived. It could even be argued that since the Good Friday Agreement we have become even more polarised.

Since that historic Agreement in 1998 it could be rightly said that we have a political peace in Northern Ireland. Societal peace, however, is another thing. The recent Flag controversy and street protests that followed or the parades issue as Loyalist bands and Catholic protesters confronted each other outside St. Patrick’s Church are just two of 2012’s reminders that all is not shalom on the streets of Northern Ireland. The political and indeed religious speeches that follow such events accentuate the fractures.

Sitting chatting over coffee with Fr. Martin Magill, some months later in that aforementioned Presbytery House in Lenadoon, we came up with a novel idea. Martin had been sharing a similar experience to mine when he searched out Ballyhackamore Library for an event in the East Belfast Festival. He didn't know his city.

We were chatting about the fact that The Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity was perhaps a little tired and not attracting a younger audience.

We were chatting about how that East Belfast Festival had touched on some interesting themes on religion and reconciliation.

The casual conversations suddenly untangled themselves in our minds and before I had left for the trip back to South Belfast we had decided to get a few like minded people together to see if a Festival could be birthed. Martin was taken with a poem I had written, fascinatingly for a Jesus In The City Conference in St. Patrick’s Church, called The 4 Corners of Belfast. Within a few weeks the 4 Corners Festival was founded.

In a segregated society, geographically, politically and religiously, one of the seemingly simple but I believe profound things to do is to get people crossing traditional boundaries and becoming friends. When we skew the picture we rip default positions asunder.

My friendship with Fr. Martin has been a case in point. One Sunday evening in Fitzroy the speaker was asked, during the question time, about the Apocrypha and did what any visiting speaker would do and sent the question back to the minister! Without thinking or contriving I looked across the Hall at my friend Fr. Martin and asked him to tell us about the Apocrypha. The discussion went on. Later on Facebook, a visitor to the event told me that it had been the most natural moment of reconciliation that he had experienced... and a default position was smashed and needed reconfigured!

So, our first foray in the 4 Corners Festival has small beginning in 2013 but aims to break down boundaries and build new relationships across north, south, east and west of the city.

We will have author Tony Macauley doing a reading from his book Paper Boy about life growing up in the north of the city; south Belfast musicians from the Fitzroy Arts Collective will track across to the Falls Road to do The Gospel According To...Christy Moore in Clonard Monastery; a theological discussion will take place about Protestant and Catholic views of justification by faith in St. Patrick’s Church; a look at the architecture of Catholic and Protestant Churches will end up at East Belfast Mission’s new Skainos building. There is more, all ending with prayer walks congregating at the Titanic Quarter. See all the events on the website - http://www.4cornersfestival.com/

It seems a perfect time to something imaginative and Christian in Belfast. The Peace Prayer on December 15th had Christians of all denominations linked arm in arm, looking out from the City Hall to all 4 Corners of the city, praying. It was the image of that poem I had written fourteen years earlier. It was the image that Fr. Gerry Reynolds used in his blessing in Fitzroy on the Sunday before Christmas. As we ask what ways we can answer the five minutes of silent prayers that morning there is no better time for a festival to give us the opportunity to visit the 4 corners and create a new Belfast. After all the tourist Board slogan says it is Our Time and Our Place!

 

The 10th 4 Corners Festival takes place between January 30th and February 6th 2022. Info and tickets on the website - https://4cornersfestival.com


STOCKMAN IN CONVERSATION WITH RUTH MCGINLEY - 4CF22 - a preview

Ruth McGinley 2

As I finished chatting to Ruth McGinley today she said that she was looking forward to a few days rest over Christmas and to just play the piano. She’ll practice maybe three hours a day. Her family will think she is mad. They think it is like going to work. For Ruth though it brings calm and restoration. 

It was just late Zoom meeting chitter chat but for me it sounded like very good news in a very difficult story. Derry born Ruth McGinley was Young Musician of The Year in 1994 but by 2003 was not playing the piano at all. I smiled that now she couldn’t wait to be playing a few hours a day! It seems proof that the healing of Ruth McGinley had not just begun but was in full swing.

I am thrilled that at the 4 Corners Festival 2022 I will get an opportunity to sit down with Ruth, and a pretty spectacular piano, and hear all about the healing. 

Some of the best nights of my entire life have come at the 4 Corners Festival given the opportunity to interview the likes of Duke Special, Iain Archer, Brian Houston and all time songwriting heroes like Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody.

In 2022 it’ll be a little different. I will adventure into some genres of music that I never have before to talk to a musician whose healing from the very worst parts of being a professional musician has come as she herself has explored genres of music that she never ever imagined she would.

Having won Young Musician Of The Year Ruth McGinley felt the pressure of the perfectionism of her profession. She made some bad life decisions while living in London and her found her talented life slipping into mental health issues, domestic abuse, addiction and isolation.

The birth of her son gave her a reason to reassess and she returned home to Derry where she struggled to come to terms all that had caused her to lose her deepest gladness. 

In 2013 during when her home city was City Of Culture she was asked to play a Philip Glass piece and was introduced to the genre breaking near genius, arranger, producer, musician Ryan Vail. Doors to a wider musical palette were being flung open.

Her 2016 album Reconnection tells McGinley’s story as she plays music from Rachmaninov to Philip Glass to Randy Newman and Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Eclectic. Common Ground.

Since then let me list:

  • Collaborated with Ryan Vail on the meditative Chrysalism. 
  • Written White Ribbon a song commissioned by NI Opera, Women’s Aid ABCLN and Ulster Orchestra with Duke Special. 
  • Worked with Graeme Stewart on a commissioned piece to play live at the Waterfront foR the Sky Arts week called Taking Blood to say thank you to the NHS (other artists included Gary Lightbody, Foy Vance and Soak)
  • Commissioned to write an arrangement of her favourite hymn as part of a project at Portico Of Ards.
  • Just finished a Tour playing for The Priests.
  • Neil Martin has written pieces for a new album in 2022
  • Started an album with Sheridan Tongue, Emmy Award winning composer who has written 8 pieces to be released in 2022.

There are other exciting projects in what looks like an amazing 2022 for Ruth McGinley. It is all proof that she has rediscovered that deepest gladness. She is a perfect symbol of 4 Corners Festival's 2022 theme Common Ground Common Good. I am thrilled to be hearing about that healing and a good degree of music as well. It is near perfect soundtrack to 4 Corners Festival's 2022 theme Common Ground Common Good

https://4cornersfestival.com


4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2021 - 10 ANNIVERSARY

4 Corners 2022

The 10th 4 Corners Festival with the theme Common Ground Common Good is just around the Christmas corner. The Festival aims to make a Christian contribution to reconciliation across Belfast in best Jeremiah 29:7 tradition - “seek the peace and property of the city”.  The week begins at the end of January (Sunday 30th) and is an event packed celebration of 10 wonderful years.

I am probably most excited with the theological bookends of the Festival. We are so thrilled to have Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury as our closing speaker. I have walked the Peace Walls with The Archbishop and I know how committed he is to reconciliation and how well he knows our own particular divisions.

To the begin the Festival with Austin Ivereagh is almost perfect for me. If we were not going to get Pope Francis, then Austin is perfect. He has written extensively on Pope Francis and was also ghost writer of the Pope’s prophetic book Let Us Dream.

That we begin our 10th Festival with Pope Francis’s ghost writer in St Anne’s Cathedral and bring it all to a crescendo in St. Peter’s Cathedral with the Archbishop of Canterbury is a wonderful symbol of everything we have been trying to do over our 10 years - bring Belfast together.  

The rest of the week is full of art, drama, song, sport, conversation, knitting and danders. There are some amazing guests in our programme including Susan McKay whose book Northern Protestants : On Shifting Ground opens up conversation; Sue Divin whose book Guard Your Heart opens up questions that our 18 to 25 year olds might want to ask os us; and Ruth McGinley, winner of Young Musician Of The Year in 1994 tells us about a difficult journey ever since as well as blowing us away with her piano playing; from Rachmaninoff to Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The event that might catch the eye is Carl Frampton in Clonard Monastery. As a World Boxing Champion Frampton has become a hero and legend in his home city. Remarkably he has made himself a hero across the two communities in Northern Ireland; a man from Tiger’s Bay married to a girl rom Poleglass. Filmmaker and former journalist Declan Lawn will draw out Carl’s life.

As with last year we will end each evening with Night Prayer, Jim Deeds leading us. Carole Kane’s art that will be an ever present throughout the week will feature in that. 

All in all, it is a cracker 10 Anniversary Festival. Tickets as always are free and you can grab those in the new year. In the meantime check out the website!

https://4cornersfestival.com


TEN THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT DUKE SPECIAL, ART & FAITH in our 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL IN CONVERSATION

Duke

It was another personal privilege to get the opportunity to interview Duke Special at the 2021 4 Corners festival. Here are 10 things I learned about Duke Special.

 

  1. HOW GOOD IS DUKE SPECIAL

Some time in the late 90s Peter Wilson who would become Duke Special asked me to be his manager. I had managed Iain Archer and Iain’s talent, not at all my management, had got him places. I was seen as the man. I wasn’t and I was also really enjoying Chaplaincy life in a Residential Hall. I passed Peter on to Stephen Orr, staring out with real enthusiasm. 

I say all that because to be truthful I liked Peter’s work but didn’t think it was good enough to make a career of it. 

I was wrong. In researching this evening I came to admire the unique gifts that Duke Special has far more than I ever have. This man is not just a singer. He is an artist. His body of work includes pop songs, collaborations with an Irish trad bands, a legendary poet and musicals for theatre. In everything the melodies, the arrangements, the thoughtfulness of content and lyrics is so impressive.

 

2. FINDING YOUR VOICE

Paul Pilot sees production as trying to help others find their voice. What a job he did with Duke Special. Peter Wilson went through a few years of different musical ideas before finding his voice. That voice became Duke Special. Paul Pilot it seems was the friend who encouraged Duke to follow his vaudeville/musical hall/pop hybrid.

 

3. COLLABORATIONS

I wonder how many collaborations that Duke Special has had if you count co-writes, projects, players and guests at gigs. The sizeable number speaks of an artist who doesn’t let ego get in the way of art and who is welcoming of disposition. The crux of his band for two decades has been a gang of brothers that came together from various places as if they born to share this music.

 

4. IN SEARCH OF THE BRILLIANT LINE

Duke Special has written with award winning songwriters, poets and playwrights. He chatted about writing the wonderful Condition with the amazing songwriter Boo Hewerdine and the healthy competitiveness of trading lines. Duke then added. “But I came up with the ‘the words are crawling back inside the ink’ “said Duke with a glint. What a line indeed.

 

5. ADVENTURE AND MISCHIEF

In researching the interview I discovered the breath and depth of Duke Special’s art. In a documentary Paul Pilot speaks about looking for adventure and producer Paul Pilot adds “and a little mischief”. 

 

6. DIFFERENT LOCATIONS

That adventure was played out in the belief that more interesting locations could play a part in not doing the same musical thing twice. Production of the I Thought This Day Would Never Come started in Champaign Illinois and then moved to Cullybackey, less than two miles from the original Stockman homestead. The adventure and mischief is key to the outcome. 

 

7. AUTHENTICITY

I have so come to admire Duke Special’s authenticity. I was particularly taken by two things he did in the making of Hallow, his record of the legendary Michael Longley’s poems. For the song Remembering Carrigskeewaun, between two gigs a long way away, he traveled to record sounds of nothing more than wind and birds! Also in the poem The Ice Cream Man where Longley’s poem named 21 flowers from County Mayo and later discovered there were actually 21 flavours in the Ice Cream shop on the Lisburn Road. So… before every gig that he played on the Hallow tour it Duke lays out 21 flowers on the stage. This young man is serious about the art!

 

8 WRITING FOR OTHER CHARACTERS

Since his move into theatre, Duke has been writing for different characters. What is the difference I asked? Duke spoke about finding empathy in the character and finding a little bit of himself in every one. That authenticity again.

 

9. SINGING SONGS OVER AND OVER EVERY NIGHT

I always considered that it must get tedious for an artist to play the same song over and over every night. Duke however shared how playing the same song every night, if it is particularly confessional, about some mistake once made could be played over and over in an artists heart and soul. It could actually be damaging. Not touring as much as he did I don’t think his Dukeness misses this!

 

10. SPIRITUAL DEPTH CHARGES

Duke Special has moved in his creedal belief over the years but there is a spiritual reservoir that draws out some nuggets of wisdom. Two songs have left me with depth charges rippling across my soul. Condition that highlights our contradictions “I am holy/I am disaster”. In A Dive reminds those who think they are holy that God is found in intriguing places and “Don't shrink it down to the size of your head/You know that some things are more than can ever be said”. Amen! Advice for the pilgrim to hear.

 

WATCH the In Conversation HERE


THE MORNING AFTER... POST FESTIVAL BLUES AND OTHER REFLECTIONS

Breathe Out

The morning after the 4 Corners Festival is usually the early feelings of post Festival blues. I had known this ailment way back in my Greenbelt days and had warned Fr Martin Magill about it at the end of our second Festival. The next day he rang to tell me that he understood exactly.

It is a feeling of being bereft. Bereft of the events. Bereft of the buzz. Bereft of the adrenaline rush of a busy week. Bereft of the audiences and the post event feedback around tray bakes. Bereft of the sense of team camaraderie. Bereft of the anticipation of the next event.

This morning was slightly different. I did have a sense of relief that we could breathe out and there were not pressures on us today about plugging events and making sure everything was ready for tonight. Yet, many of the normal berefts were absent from this year’s Festival. We had already missed seeing regular 4 Corners folk and one another. 

There is still a rush of reflection. The mind is filled with events. There is a jotting in the notebook of things to think about for next year. Lessons learned. New ideas stimulated. 

There is also a combing through the insights and stories and songs of the events that particularly resonated. Again the notebook gets a little work as I think about the depth charges dropped into my soul. Are there a few blogs in there? Where is my life changed as a result - rebuked, redirected, inspired? Watch this space!

My over riding feeling is of gratitude. At Night Prayers, every evening, Jim Deeds would ask us to think of a reason to be grateful. There are so many. 

I thank God for the idea he inspired over a coffee in Lenadoon in September 2012. 

I thank God for my fellow committee and Board members, brothers and sisters with like minds and passion for peace. 

I thank God for our staff. Megan is amazing as an admin. Martin O’Brien has gotten us lots of wonderful press. Alan Meban and Richard, Martin and Emma at Accidental Theatre put everything on line. They all went beyond the call…

I thank God for the contributors who played a proverbial blinder whether as speakers, panelists, poets, actors, musicians, singers, actors, comedians, dancers… we are so blessed to have such talent willing to support what we are trying to do.

I thank God for all of you who went online and registered for events, who watched and listened and shared your comments. It assures us that that idea wasn’t some idea of ours and that all the last Fridays of the month when we laugh ourselves towards a programme that it is indeed God who is giving us a clue to what might reach you all.

I thank God for funders. We have so many organisation who pay for staff and events.

I thank God for all the donations that you have given. There was no tesseracts this year so we are aware that you needed to be more intentional and go onto the site to give. Thank you!

I thank God particularly for the Friends of The Festival who give us a monthly donation. This doesn’t only help our cash flow throughout the year BUT there is a real feeling of support. 

Can I add that it is not too late to send us a donation now. We would so appreciate it. It helps us to look ahead in the development of the Festival and not be so dependent on the whims of funders. 

So today is the time for a good rest BUT… you’ve guessed it Fr Martin Magill is coming up with idea upon idea upon idea for 2022. If any one comes close to his social distance can you please pull his Duracells out! 

Enough to say… 2022 is going to eb great. Hope to actually SEE you there! Thank you again!

https://donorbox.org/become-a-friend-of-the-4-corners-festival


TOMORROW IN FITZROY & 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

Stocki in Ho's TV

Fitzroy Sunday Service goes on line at 11am as usual. The Lectionary Reading takes us into the homes of Simon and Andrew where Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law. That opens up all kinds of fascinating insights... and then with the crowds closing in he has to find space for prayer. We will find our place in humanity's order of things is so crucial to salvation and resurrection.

 

Before that at 10.15 I have a big hand in this year's 4 Corners Festival Sunday Service even though my voice will never appear. It goes out on BBC Radio Ulster and can also be seen if you register at https://4cornersfestival.com. We have original songs, the Festival theme song and familiar hymns redone. There will be poems, including one from the profound Richard Carter and Charlotte Curran from CFC will be our preacher.

 

Finally, the final event of this year's 4 Corners Festival goes out online at 7.00pm. This will be an event that takes us out of the Festival and into the year ahead. To help us do that we are thrilled to have the amazing voice of Beki Hemingway who has written a song especially for the evening, the poetry and wisdom of the amazing Damian Gorman and some comedy from Play It be Ear. David Campton will send us out with the help of Diane Holt. It will be a fitting finale. 

 

 

 


THE WARM SWEET BREATH OF LOVE - A Prayer

McCrea Belfast from Cavehill

Photo: Philip McCrea - Belfast, Sunday just before sunrise from Cave Hill 

 

A prayer I prayed in Fitzroy just before the 4 Corners Festival 2021 where the theme of the Festival was Breathe...

 

Lord, when we think of our city and our world

Over these last 10 months

We are aware that we have had the breath knocked out of us

Not only by Covid

But by sectarianism, ever with us

And racist attacks 

Like the one in the Belfast Multi Cultural Centre building

That uses to be a church

Donegal Pass Presbyterian met in that building

And some of us worshiped there

A racist hate crime

Knocking the breath out of people’s lives

And Domestic abuse Lord, 

Sometimes literally knocking the breath out of us

Businesses on the brink Lord

In these strange times, knocking the breath out of us

Brexit’s uncertainty, knocking the breath out of us

And the pressures in hospitals and schools

Working on our frontlines

Breathless, weary

And Lord there has been illness, grief, isolation

It is not only the physical that we are feeling

But there is pressure 

On our mental, emotional and spiritual lives

Like the breath is being knocked out of us

And so we pray for our city

Our world 

And our own lives

That you would breathe

Your warm sweet breath of love

And comfort, strength and resilience.

 

As we breath in Lord

May we breath in

Your warm sweet breath of love *

 

And Lord we are aware this morning

That we have a city and a world

That needs that warm sweet breath of love

Breathed upon it

Lord “may we be your breath

Moving over the face of the deep

May we be a particle of your light

Glowing over the hills of morning” **

May we be your resource

To breath out

The warm sweet breath of love

And comfort and strength and resilience

To all of those that we may meet

Though that is less likely in lockdown days

But to those we intentionally reach out to

In social media, or my phone or by letter

Or maybe even just prayer at a distance.

 

As we breath in Lord

May we breath in

Your warm sweet breath of love

As we breathe out Lord

May we breathe your warm sweet breath of love

Across our city… and our world.

Amen

 

* The Warm Sweet Breath Of Love is a song by Horslips

** These lines are from Bruce Cockburn's song The Hills Of Morning


ROUGH - Short Film - My Response!

Rough+Film+Poster

One thing about a ten year friendship with the ubiquitous Fr Martin Magill has me never surprised where he turns up. After the showing of the short film Rough the writer Declan Lawn explained how wonderful it was to be showing it at the 4 Corners Festival as Fr Martin Magill (who else?) had inspired the film.

Back in 2018 Fr Martin had sent out two tweets on the same Sunday evening. One was about a young man shot four times in his arms and legs. The Tweet got 18 engagements. The second Tweet was seeking help for a pigeon that he had found injured. The pigeon got 1350 engagements. Declan found this horrendous and phoned his mate Adam and Rough was born.

Rough is dark. It’s rough. There is horror and humour. The dog never ruffs though! There is also absurdity, poignancy, social critique and a prophetic edge. It lingers with you…

The idea that a dog, Buddy, would be up for a paramilitary beating seems far fetched but as Bunter, the paramilitary leader’s, cat has been killed we find a crazy kind of realism. 

Sadly there is too much realism at play. These beatings are all too real in so called post conflict Belfast. Sometimes parents even bring their children to be “punished”. Yet in Rough we find hard tough men struggling to kill a dog but shooting young people in the knee and calf without a second thought.

A quote from Duncan Morrow suggests that we only shrug at these vicious beatings. What sort of society is that? Someone on the chat line, up the side of the Zoom panel discussion, spoke about living in a part of Belfast where the landlord admitted it was happening but without fuss and it was almost good security. Writer Declan Lawn, a former journalist, suggested it need to be further up the news schedule. I am left asking serious questions about our growing class divide. If these beatings were taking place in BT9 how much closer to front pages would they be?

The haunting question after the Zoom was turned off was what to do now. A shrug is not enough. This indictment on our society needs more engagement than Fr Martin’s Tweet received. 

BUT… there was something else. In the midst of all the macho community bullying there was personal tenderness, compassion, forgiveness and Christlike sacrifice. Mucker loves his dog and does everything to save Buddy’s life. He actually at one stage offers himself in place of the dog, like an atonement. Christlike.

Having failed that attempt, before Buddy is executed Mucker gets on his knees and sensitively talks his wee dog into eternity, a better place than all this around them. It is beautiful. 

The film ends with another spiritual twist. Jordan, another young victim of the neighbourhood bullies, comes to Bunter’s door. They share chat about their wounds like middle class young people might talk about Saturday’s Rugby injuries. Then Jordan tells Bunter that he killed the Bunter’s cat with his catapult. Mucker’s dog might have been actually trying to save the cat!

The half truths of hearsay back alley juries gets exposed. Now Mucker knows that the cast he is hobbling in and the pain beneath was all a result of someone else’s misdemeanour. Just as you wait for more anger, revenge and violence to be unleashed, maybe a crutch over Jordan’s head, Mucker tells him not to worry about it. 

The real bravery; of confession and forgiveness. Now that’s what our city needs!