I Am Belfast : A Film Review

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Digital Belfast

You couldn’t make it up, people often say about this place.  Glenn Patterson says much the same thing in his soon to be a movie, Book on DeLorean, Gull.  Circumpspecticion of a different kind than this film by Mark Cousins now, though a frequent visitor, a bit of an outsider and holds memory differently than those who live here. When I returned I noticed some things that a normal citizen (in the broadest sense of the analogy you understands!)would overlook or take as axiomatic. So it is with a insight brought in a filmmakers eye Mark Cousins enters Belfasts personality. It is the personality he seeks as he literally takes a woman ass the embodiment, the device to present and explore the place.

As part of 16th belfastfilmfestival.org presentations this will feature across Belfast at numerous locations which you can find via. the website itself. The residency is for 10 days at Queens Film Theatre, University Square, is that street in the film? You’ll have to see.  One or two nearby are certainly and what is Belfast without its Uni.

I Am Belfast is a mighty call.  It is the form of magic realism and thoughtfully inventive though constricted by viewpoint and what the director, writer, Mark Cousins signals and the cinematographer Christopher Doyle lights for you in his viewfinder.  Some times it strays tediously towards referencing Hitchcock, transference on a few pigeons on the street, or iceberg like doomladen mountainous hills ape actually a Salt pile for gritting.  Unenclosed.  The barn, or salt depository in East Belfasr, formerly, preceding this store was a almost medieval cathedral like building which is an intricate and simple cone arising from Belfasts skin. Not seen.   It takes a long memory and none is longer than, Helena Bereen the actor portraying the 2000 year old memory of the city in human form.
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a photo not from the film
A colorful tapestry
Decorous and sublimely serene with beautiful eyes and swept back silver hair she is a joyful, good mannered, robustly human and carefully cynical form encapsulating, it is hoped the qualities Mark Cousins seeks to convey.  She narrates his script, which is a tad literal in that it relies heavily on the image, the transference thing, Mondrian in Belfast for paint squares and rectangular affected geometries, the type you will find if looking long enough in basically any United Kingdom city.  Our yellow cranes are symbolic but so are red bridges, green clusters of agricultural buildings on outskirts, red buses, green buses, pastel raised terraces over a port, signal red statues and crimson icons.  Steely or otherwise each city is trademarked thus.  The music is from David Holmes who excercises constraint and ditches the Manic Street Preachers, and God knows Belfast has more than its fair share, always has, delivering a touristy feel ambient repeative soundtrack as a Kelly’s in Portrush holiday feel tinkle.  Never funereal or questionable dark and foreboding this predicates a certain style and mood.  
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Runty Monaghan and the other half of the art college disappears My photo
It is not intended that we are overcome by joy.  Neither is it manifested we accept this for a definitive documentary of a place in time or even across time.  The heft is ambitious while flawed by its one restrictions.  I see it as a kindly, painterly effort with no radical delving and believe me Belfast is there for the radical delving such are its straight talking devil take he hindmost people.  Social justice and cantankerous phlegmatic views have been elucidated by many, many citizens of Belfast for the Socila good that is put away by plunders and people whose ideals require a lot of scrutiny.  The people selling their grannie to the Mafia etc. The corrupt roping of the complacent and none cemented by the true radicalism espoused by such as Francis Hutcheson. His close proximity to Belfast, Hos capital city is without question and being the most prodigious of philosophers it is our right to claim him, even though he had to go to Glasgow to fulfill that.
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Pioneers and Scholars

During his time as a lecturer in Glasgow College he taught and influenced Adam Smith, the economist and philosopher. The order of topics discussed in the economic portion of Hutcheson’s System [of Moral Philosophy, 1755] is repeated by Smith in his Glasgow Lectures and again in the Wealth of Nations.
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If Belfast were to be seen as anyway a foundation of learning which I believe it is right to attest it follows its citizens from Henry Montgomery, the attention seeking Cooke, and the conflicting minds has contributed, across the world and needed some recognition in this film other than the arbitrary, it is through such thinkers or betrayer so we need look for Belfast intense integrity.  It has a sha,Ed recent past which has in many senses eclipsed previous ideals and these attributed to Hutcheson. Wiki comes to my aid!  These are some of his more famous quotes.

consciousness, by which each man has a perception of himself and of all that is going on in his own mind (Metaph. Syn. pars i. cap. 2)

the sense of beauty (sometimes called specifically “an internal sense”)

a public sense, or sensus communis, “a determination to be pleased with the happiness of others and to be uneasy at their misery”

the moral sense, or “moral sense of beauty in actions and affections, by which we perceive virtue or vice, in ourselves or others”

a sense of honour, or praise and blame, “which makes the approbation or gratitude of others the necessary occasion of pleasure, and their dislike, condemnation or resentment of injuries done by us the occasion of that uneasy sensation called shame”

a sense of the ridiculous. It is plain, as the author confesses, that there may be “other perceptions, distinct from all these classes,” and, in fact, there seems to be no limit to the number of “senses” in which a psychological division of this kind might result.

It is a moral fabric perhaps every city has too early extent or another.  It’s sense of place which in the mirror it reflects across the world.
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Where are we

Those of us born here know straightaway what our limitations are.  There’s that River through. The Lagan.  There’s the tributaries running down its hills and some like the Blackstaff go off on their travels divided ending up discharging into Strangford beyond Dundonald and out yonder at Comber.  Where once there were trains running through.  Our limits are known to us.  The Lagan just a broad important deep channel large enough to send ships to the mercy of the seas beyond the mouth at the end of Lough named after the city.  Broad and flat the select beds reach up the hills.  Cave hill our Napolean.  Dead warrior given his ‘mote’ to Jonathan Swift for Gullivers Travels apparently and were Wolfe Tone took to the Caves his henchmen whose fate was sealed by treachery Int heir midst and a severely idiotic undermanned and insouciance met with reactive violent repression by the cohorts of the occupying state whose ministries ran like a blade the length of Ireland, in the North the hangmen of the day, the Church of Ireland, and in the Southern part the same with a mightier Roman doctrine stifling their cohort.  On the sleech homes were built.  On the hills. Mills. Factories. In the Harbour ships, flying aero planes, in the port handling sheds.  The Cavehill to the North sweeps round West and forms a bowl disallowing building homes except for a landed few on the steep slopes. Confinement ultimately a downfall.  
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Rendering by the nomad

The film renders no topographical sense of place, no genus loci.  It is bereft of vision and eve with a raw past Belfast does do, does do nostalgia.  Softly Softly sings Ruby Murray over a cloudscape and direct plane view of the island beneath.  It’s not a satellite view so no sense of two joined tectonic plates, no rudimentary paleontology or archeology for that is the dictator of Belfast just as the Himalaya’s create the people of Tibet, the Serengeti produces the  Tanzanian sultans and practices of kinship.  “Here we are, caught up in this big ripple, Tinseltown in the rain“, (Paul Buchanan) except it is only its fore bearer.  The place left to spread the American Dream.
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Conclusion ### more to come

 – I had an interuppted insight as did several others and intend to complete this incomplete review – how will it end !!!!! – reviewers are not supposed to give away the ending but post a flavor and hopefully some insightful guidance to steer your own visions of the material, for what it’s worth.  Cinema changes and has intentional many different views to be absorbed.  Go lightly with your tone and candor then I hope and this is an excellent piece though unsurprisingly is short on detail and is not a serialism do documentary of which several may emerge over time.

See belfastfilmfestival.org for screening details.
At QFT from Friday 8 April through to Thursday 14 April 2016.

I will revisit this blog and review with a view to updating it soon!

John Graham

23 March 2016

Belfast

Scent of Dust as Memory

imageNo poverty of Poetry
Such is our fortune in Belfast and on this island to have a people who know the immense importance of all kinds of Poetry it is treated with great appreciation by many in the community.
Writers readers alike, aplenty, axiomatic, liking and writing mastery alongside the double jointed realism of words limitations which yield and weld solid lines and canons in some hands, none to many, greater than Michael Longley who would tell you winking there are far better than me.. Not a quote more a guess.
Those revered Poets to last longer and as art; in concert with the words of the poet Austin Dobsons lines –
All passes. Art alone
Enduring stays to us;
The Bust outlasts the throne-
The Coin, Tiberius.

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Of another art once said-
Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
So warns us wisely, of the stature less statuesque words descending a page, onto another and an other. You know the kind.
Another accolade if such trite words are necessary, in ML poetry is he himself readily puts out, is the brevity he favours. Ten volumes and the rest of writing in other forms will go far in quenching the thirst born in the mind satiated like Jameson alongside the friends absent and around.
Two pillars Seamus Heaney and the building stands with the hand reaching down holding the air supporting our own Coliseum. To put no finer point on it. It stands and time no respecter is confusing as once again it’s yesterday.
The sounder this becomes; the brevity, when ML has found each cast of a poem embarked on.
The works of Oscar Wilde have many subsequent orations and many times assiduously pertained in the oddest contexts. The learned teacher in ML will know education itself is a limit so future forgotten teachings evinces the confidence of memory deep and putting the matter at hand to rank and order however forgetful you maybe.
Reflections within poems are so.
The poet offers in precision of line material and insight further heights of connection rapidly flowing in the rafters of your mind.
They construct the architecture with words modern ancient and of others souls reworked as the devil and spirit of God or fashionable disbelievers.
Poems made of things.
The poet pulls the strings.
Telling by reading
ML reflected on a choice of coma, of a lateness in putting down a written word which prevented him as poems dictate a measure found once writing to be obeyed Homer like, restraint, from appending or including favourite common local names of flowers or a roll call of a places collection of villages, even the outlying hills.
This book of Poems is sheer wordcraft.
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From the title ‘The Stairwell’ unexpectedly set in America. Others cast out visions if that shore from this edge of Europe. Several rest in Mayo others next door. The scaffolding has been up and down for years in this immensely career defining passage of a book given the changes most recent.
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At the heart of the murmurations.
ML is a bit like- but not an ultra obsessive kind who becomes fixated on a particular thing it eventually becomes the scene of his destruction; – that person the brilliant Architect Charles Jeanneret. Corb. who so admired his once lover Eileen Grays house it called him – once rejected – to reside across from it merely or fixedly to admire its motionless form in the ever changing storms of the south of Frances environ. ML has a penchant for having the Homeric sensibility enter into his mind as a route through to the thought embedded taking shape. Sometimes the direct reference, other times the tonality.
Form of ‘The Stairwell’ is a piece of mastery to invert the accomplishment without pretence of any countervailing realisation. It simply is a modern and timeless work. Like most binding capturing time present for presentation the work cannot nor did carry all. Once completed the new building had gathered another Poem ‘Starling’ like nature requiring another roost. The willow bends but tends not to be uprooted so the building takes on another outlier. The ever near birds and continuing memorial a memory throughout this work of ML’s twin late brother Peter the practical Engineer whose perimeter had also no boundaries but a place to live. That place coastal North East England.
A place honoured and mythical by ML’s account in that here and now.

Footnoted prologue.
The QUB Great Hall was full as full can be 9 October 2014; hereafter remembered besides, as the day UKIP attained their first MP to sit on Commons benches. From one perplexity of unknown Politics in a querulous affectation known in daily passing as Democracy. The Battenburgs at tea were sweet as catastrophe and Wall Street took in the other other places recitations on the day today.
To all and forcthe next they have to be cited and marked. ML no less interested in the matters all around kept out the world beyond the ex-gothic famine dated college walks fenestrated to let in an approximation if a calm place outside mothering by. Tungsten lights competing with the hanging rings of candesent mock flames over our heads.
The appointed time was forward by enough time to see the gathering and ML emerge, circulate, visit the Chancellors facilities in case discomforted mid sentence or between the amplitude of anecdotal, or as allowed, some rich story and reasoning accompanying the muse.
At a point when he hesitated once, allowing an audience member who was making a discreet to most eyes exit, he proffered advice assigned for such occasions, by I think it was the discretionary lady Enda, that the best way to internalise any conjecture of slight was to put it down to the persons likelihood of a weak bladder.
Astute he shared it and on other occasions sequestered Gynaecological footnotes or birth notes. By sense or sheer persist acne he also placed a footnote on the poem dedicated and about his long neighbour, present this evening, the eminent and retired paediatrician Claude Field who shared
His anemones as a gift to the divide between their houses. A growing act which like nature occurred with an unexplained self will. He made, in the poem, he relates, CF of the age of 93 prefrontal to abide with the Poems rhythm to replace CF’s correct age of 96. Another act appreciated no doubt, having 3 years in limbo perfectly still and held all the time in natures revered presence alive and still.

I dislike long introductions and set about a Poem I had recently come across in the style of its own manifestation. Of that see the authors apology at the foot. A tactic to reach the bottom – you can skip as Churchill when sometimes asked about a book he recited – “I have read it- in a general way” so mea culpa.

Present
Summer brings occasional dryness
Through the ever open door
Wave after sunlight wave of dust
Has come indoors to lie in shade

Will it be disturbed this day?…..
It may lie until tomorrow, after sleep
shall I sweep or stir it with a cloth, maybe
gather a small community of dust

No. The dust may be a friend blown in
Returning after many years as visitors
Or the scraps of other nature maybe
Flowers or perished bark oak alder or beech

From where? the Yorkshire hills carried ?
Or Skye or the Hill of Slane? Curragh Plain
Could this dust be a warrior, sailor, Holy man
Or a victim of Gods refrain

On walls, doors, picture frames, a layer cast
Like a exotic creature in watchful rest
Regarding, replenished, open eyes observe
Around each room the dates unveiled past

Sun framed through garden window bars
over the threshold worn and grey
Light splits, spills on the table bright
Revealing on polished hardwood the dust

A dining rectangle, two triangles
Hesitation brings a thought
Wet a finger draw the fish in dust
With the open eye, the unscaled dead
Fish in air stare fixedly aghast to die

Psalms call the morrow on, Sunday
Simeon cradling the infant Jesus
Prophesies Jesus to die happy
Jesus looks up, shares the moment long

When winter calls the dust stays on
I let it rest, memory merges past
with the future skin I cast afloat
Bedfellows with the stories shared

Like a mind the cells link life’s
art of obtaining evaluation of
Dissent or assent? ever graduated
as education espouses to each an end

That theory becoming more, a fact
Prepared for long it will repeat
Gods patten revealed in halos last
Circling floating crowns, dust to dust.

All along the peace a layer outside
of snows crystals representing as life
bound water in constructed frames
To speak of all the kingdoms, us,
of futures evergreen, free words

John Graham
After ‘Dusting’ by Viola Meynell whose work is kept by Jacob Dallyn
VM who ‘imitated’? ‘translated’ a Poem by Theophile Gautier.

In the words of the beautiful Sade – ‘Is it a crime’ what price contentment?
Striking up a few words should be compulsory but wait then it would seem a chore which it clearly isn’t but it does bind you to the limitations of langauge and inform how that can be turned to advantage.

Bounce: Expression on Life

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Disability is only the Introduction
In seeking to describe the phenomenon that is the Arts and Disability Forum Belfast week long events I thought of the glass ceiling. Instead the forum has the capacity to have everyone engage with disability issues and reflect on very ones disability of one kind an another. So I came up with the concept of us walking uncomfortably on our own eggshells. No-one is immune from a disability and health issues encroach into everyone’s daily existence. Disability rights have meant there has been an annexing of disability into categories and a spectrum of mis-functions. There arises a collective of the separation on each form of disability which is summoned to lobby and integrate with the medical and emotional practices that need to be confronted.
Experience Expressed
Expression in this pieces title is Experience mostly recited through the vast array of arts medium seen, heard, signaled, felt, spoken, tasted is of all the sensations acting on us.
It gives each a sense of understanding, appreciation, acuteness, a things worth, security, isolation from the world and nature which is our space.

Bounce happen to collect a body of people whose disabilities have given them insights and factors to contend with others have only partial awareness of. By expressing their life and using it as an abundant well of emotional penetrating intelligence the life we live in is greatly enhanced and appreciation while understanding is only part of the interplay all enjoy the fact complexities of being are infinite.

I for one cannot imagine the millisecond upon millisecond of a severely disabled persons life, building those evaporating moments together into billions and trillion billions of time it is hard to imagine but it is traveling along every bit as linear as anyone’s. The split seconds alter when bodies behaviours are interrupted, disconnected from the signals of a mind whose life has been managing another story than the one we are used too. Inexplicably so, uncontrollably signals are pushed along damage of the creation of God to persist in exacting all that is good.

 

If these spasms could speak by Robert Softley A Creative Scotland with The Arches production. Producer Bruce Strachan Director Sam Rowe.
In performance the capsule that Robert Softley has put together as an active one hour play is astonishing in its connectivity and guidance. Where ignorance and unknowing are challenged; the audience in the first instance want to be informed and share collectively and internally the feelings washing through the space Robert occupies and envelops. He packages up from other disabled persons individual stories drawing them into his own story.
Characteristic of a pragmatic Scotsman he self deprecatingly takes the piss out of his different set of issues in contrast to most of the audience by starting out with the fact his speech is imparted and on a backdrop screen methodically and incrementally his words are scattered as text up on the screen. We notice later on that this is replaced as we learn quickly Roberts mode of speech irregular as it may seem.
Cerebal palsy is not a word or disability it is easy to get your tongue around he points out and he builds a picture of food and drink parameters that he needs to fuel his very very active body spasms which are un programmable and as a consequence proteins are burnt to deal with the amount of convulsions no matter how small or insignificant they are at different times.

Robert asks the audience to consider his body this way and to note how muscle toned it makes him as he surveys the arrival of some additional fat or paunch like middle age spread. Explaining his sexual desires and his hitting it of with partners of the same and different sex, the dialogue satiates our desire to know how his sex life differs. His life he says is of being continually horn but with some random nods and sex organ dis behaviours to cope with which only enlighten and displace the daily routine and the puts in place a rationality that this is like all urges of the kind pleasure filled and satiating. He gulps with delight and spits out, not literally you fool! his diatribe on the ups and downs and sideways and back enjoyments and pains of sexual pairing. Everyone is filling the room with laughter and feeding back to Robert our own heartfelt anxieties and our stumbling onto unexpected locations of pleasure with sparks and flames burning and going out when something pisses on the love from our immutable senses.
A love found by looking is his message.
Everyone shares this connection and the boundaries and eggshells are forgotten as we throw our vocalized laughter and cheers as a prove life of encounter with Robert. Our feelings and consequently our appreciation has been taken to another level in this seemingly minor act of theatre. It is immense and will long remain with everyone in the room.
Medical Know How
Expressed and implicit in Robert Softleys story is to educate us all and to share with individuals coping with variations of mis-function how important for them to have a voice and use it. A proposal by Doctors to have him fitted with calipers to stretch his legs as a teenager told of the reaction this had from Robert. Strongly he refused this treatment allying it to pain and pointlessness completely misunderstood by health care professionals.
You could feel the grief in the room of folk considering what those who have not been able to assess and voice their views must have suffered not simply endured. Such was the graphic means and theatrical sharpness this and other basic acts of mindless physicians trying to make corrections – and Robert compared their approach to fixing cars – were driven like nails fixing us under the impressed gravity of the facts conveyed succinctly and admirably by Robert. It was more than observational humour or light touch statement making. It was multi-coloured content, beneath the flesh irascible contagious warmth for humans and our multitude of cords and nerves were ironically fixed and furiously delivering in rapid superenergised rapid sequence to our minds, the Cerebal cortex it elevated the continuum of the evolving panoply of emotions building and building in fre spaces of our minds new information linked God knows how between us amongst us and in us.

TenX5
In line with the collective who run TenX9 once a month in Belfast, check website of the same name, they joined ADF to put together a TenX5 co rising five people from the disability community and create an audience for them to tell a story elation g to their lives and let us know moe about them.
As with the ethos of TenX9 what is said in the room stays in the room as some stories are very personal and those bold enough to get up can rely on their being privacy for the story which is used to educate the audience and fill the person involved with a level of confidence and in an intimate surrounding. Like a large dinner party without the after gossip and back over the shoulder asides and I think I’ll leave it at that.
The individuals needless to say were very very thought provoking and had highly personal tales to get across with an audience in the Lyric Naughton Studio supportive and receptive of every word. I will remember the people long after and met some again at other events.

Let me Stay by Julie McNamara
Julie is a one-woman whirlwind who has a story to tel of her mother Shirley, Queen of the Mersey’s journey into Alzheimer’s disease.
The Naughton Studio again came into effective use, this time with the bleachers pulled out, providing a conventional stage, raked seating setting.
Now Julie began immediately throwing herself into her mothers part, indeed shoes came up as frequent personality quotients from slippers to high heels to shiny gold specked show stoppers. Shirley came from Co. Down and found herself in Liverpool and a husband who was a dandy spotted the very attractive youthful Shirley and that was that. Her singing and theatrical drive found her in clubs and on the Liverpool social circuit. Shirley’s songs were played and a texts screen captured every word on the circular set.
The set had a semi circle of layered boxes which served as a projection screen and Julie waltzed us through the life and times of this still perky woman who is now a woman of closed inner sacrum recognising another set of parameters so different from the past. Memory has locked things away never to be brought out again but music is a constant pleasure for Shirley as she recalls all the best songs from the glory days.

This is a tender loving biography for Shirley which is adored by wide audiences as it fits into so many people’s own struggles with Alzheimer’s in their family. None the same and everyone as complex a set of issues to deal with.

Julie McNamara has sat down with the idea and talked over the stories Shirley would want to have in the Play we now see. From Song choices to the very beautiful montages and visuals we are hearing it from Shirley through Julie. The boxes break up the images sufficiently enough not to make it intrusive and the dignity despite the newest tendency of Shirley to speak her mind using the F word as a gobstopper, and why wouldn’t she be entitled to pour out a few expletives if they polished out a few home truths about the world seen through her eyes.

It is a very effective piece of theatre and drama of social disability and coping. I certainly hope it reaches a wider audience and we have a lot to thank Julie McNamara for shining the light on the subject.

Borderline Project by Shiro Masuyama
This was an installation within a two bed caravan parked alongside the Lyric which Shiro adds to and has been adding to since about this time last year. It comprises a caravan of two distinct nationalities expressed in each side, by half, through everyday domestic bric a brac and memorabilia. It is kitchen without the kindness and as an artist obviously very insightfully observant about how Britishness and Irishness are expressed through the design of food wrappers, Tayto v Cadburys, from Tea Canisters, Lyons v Barry’s there is a proliferation of shock candid evaluation going on which is end idly taking all of us to task in the accumulations of our lives.
It is dizzingly daft and at the same time profoundly good subjective art.

If you want to know more another daft project had Shiro Sheep shearing and the photos of the result and his reversal of fortune for the piebald sheep is another piece of originality he lays claim to.

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One of us must Die by Gareth Berliner and Kiruna Stamell
Enabled by The Disability Arts Touring Network and DaDa Fest.
I didn’t get to see this couples play unfortunately but I add a note or two.
Kiruna who has dwarfism met the sardonic abnormally funny comedian Gareth and they connected. Married and living in London, Gareths British,
Kirunas Australian, and no they don’t live on the Earls Court Road or anywhere close, they create stories which relate to our latent body fascism with a special place for a gun.
Whether its deliberate for a Belfast audience I can assure you that’s not the case but they have it in for ignorance and there is no better shout out needed.

ADF don’t stop there, the year has many outreach and on site events from the headquarters in 109-113 Royal Avenue which once was Hercules Street.

A very pleasurable feast of from people who’s life’s are without question very different and more challenging than the majority. It was an honor to be given the opportunity to be a part of the collective good atmosphere and vibe of incomparable people and every success is wished for continued Expression on life by these folk and all who are similarly energised to reach out.

John Graham

3 September 2014

Belfast

Harp and Vibe : Irish Music Nua.

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A performance on an April lunchtime by
Una Monaghan. Irish Harp and Breige Quinn. Fiddle.

3 April 2014 HartyRoom Queens University Belfast.

The Sonorities series as it used to be known continues at SARC QUB with some truly outstanding programmes with which new experiences and old in music development can be heard in very unique and useful venues.
From the SARC performance space at Cloreen Park, The Great Hall, Harty Room and seminars at other campus locations there is a vibrancy in the players and playing which is set apart from the manicured bespoke concerts formulated to attract the taste that is relatively as expected.

By creating a diversity of programming which intends to show the music medium in its raw authenticity, sometimes in the abstract, in the free playing there are fewer certitudes except that we return again to the high spiritual place music can take all of us to. Even the hard of hearing, the to ally challenged can benefit somewhere in the cast of the events.

On the platform of the Harty Room the stage was set with Fiddle, Irish Harp and a range of electronic instruments. One very tiny device was a motion detector which Una Monaghan wore in her hand while playing, with the sound arriving and returned via. a speaker cone set on the floor in front of her playing back a treated resonant pattern.

With ease beyond her years Una Monaghan began her own compositions Tubaiste Agustin Taisceadan, One born every minute. Two jigs which sang directly. The first slowish and melancholic, the second accompanied with a repeated melody. Not your usual jigs but fresh as Mountain Dew.

Next came a Harp and Fiddle piece from the Orkneys which was not bossy and the Harp picked out the air entitled Mrs Violet Eunson an apparent memory which was soft and sweet with all the nurtured playing with both instruments took on magically the tonality expected from a traditional island air. A reel, Derrycraig Wood came out dextrously without the hoofer pace associated often with a reel and it carried with the fiddle and coloured midstream.

There are certain musical compositions which you know once heard are unique and of real quality. This was effect had of Namhog.
The name given to an Irish wooden rowing boat.
Without first seeing the notes of the programme the piece conjured images
resonant with this little name the moment it began.
First was Feicim do Thintreach. (Cloud Party) A jig.
It conjured up immediately the launch of a boat. The boat straight and fronting the waves. Topping the first, remaining in place, topping the second wetting and winning a yard until it coasted up onto open sea and onward coasted beyond the shore. Taking the jig out onto its mission on water Una has composed a set of pieces which are intuitively mature and she composed these last year on an educational trip to Maine In the US.
Conversations, rhythms, transition, poise, stretched and reached out as the source sound of the Harp interwoven with the fiddle with electronic accompaniment feeding back into it, settled on the air in the room and captivated the listeners lucky enough to encounter this new fresh expression of Irish traditional music. The middle section, the air Scathan do Shuille (Look in, see out) was gentle, waiting for things to happen, fashioned on simple rhythm and washed like a breeze. It may have been inspired as the programme notes suggest the St Brendan voyage. It as I say capable of standing alone with the listener without hint or prethought as evoking voyage, passage. The journey handed over to small things, like sparse notes, the tight stretch of simple canvas cloth and a wooden sculpted vessel taken to encounter unseen lands.
The tautness of the music is symbolised by the tension of having electronics play back to the players. Music evolving and individual at performance and understood also as a recording piece. The singular gathered sound. Many things can be advanced from the music but principally the music is itself. It symbolised discovery and we as listeners no matter how wrapped between pathos and bathos regard that passage as our own moment of experience.

No matter they were relatively short, 2 and a bit, 3 and a bit and perhaps 4 minutes respectively, they created an astonishing resonance with the addition of digital counterpoint making them all the more settled and unhurried. They were mature reflective developing sounds,turning, waiting and prevailing tones ushered out as a weave of all things. The musicians Una Monaghan and Breige Quinn aware of what they were producing and themselves making discoveries and instant decisions on the evolution of the material. Technically this was demanding and their own anticipation was belied by the simple cast of what was a mesmeric rhythmical effect.
Provoking playing and everything that the series sets out to put together to widen the hearing and provide venturous encounter of new devised material. The reel Cibe ata Caite (Whatever is thrown) was a summation of the Namog piece and it is interesting Una has put these all in the one in order to relate them as parts of each other, as consequences of each other. The former need not speak of other things as those things will establish and recall essences of the former and so it goes. The understanding musically can develop and you have to wonder how much more will be uncovered on this duos musically journey and the further output and composition of Una Monaghan shall be. One thing is clear. There are apparent gifts in the musical meadow and there are higher vistas out there. A very grounded musician from whatever elevation with a delightfully refreshing and instinctive evolutionary feel for the art.

The possibilities were also seen in music composed by Liz Carroll and played by the pair. Nothing overtly formulaic but evoking other things.

A recollection of a session, so important as a combining of all traditions within the sphere, was the finale piece Omos do Coleman for Seamus Begley written by Una Monaghan and Farewell to London. Sesions in space in time now captured and memorised with appropriate sentiment.

Overall the works and playing reminded me of the great exponent of Irish music and a living legend, a force of god and consciously human artist.
Paddy Keenan. His work from the tradition of the pipes and his own rich contribution to the Irish vibe and instinctive mind dwelt memory of the ancient art of music gathering: aside from Seamus Ennis there has been no-one I can think of who has maintained that linear evolving sound of Ireland than Paddy Keenan. He can express the Irish persons heritage through the medium of music as no other and at times on something as simple as a low D whistle.

It sounds like a challenging comparison but there is the same humility and understanding of the vibe and place of music in our lives, only for some labeling purposes Irish music, inherent in Una Monaghan as it is in Paddy Keenan.

A privilege and a pleasure encountered.

John Graham

Belfast

4 April 2014

Starred Up : A Film Review

Director David MacKenzie. Written by Jonathan Asser. UK 2013. 1hr 46mins.
12 x 7 x 10 feet high
Every cell in the Crumlin Road jail was around these dimensions. Every prisoner shared a cell sometimes three to a cell. The windows were high and each of the 4 wings came off a control centre. The symmetry of the place is as unsettling as the restricted spaces inhabited by the regime and the inmates. Crumlin Road Jail is the centerpiece non-speaking part in this dark film.
Desolation Row
It was into this environment, first into a secure single basement unit young Eric Love, played with intensity and mastery by Jack O’Connnell is introduced to Adult Prison life. He has graduated in the slippery scale of prisoner status having Starred Up, been a leader without a cause in the young offenders unit he has been here despatched from. The rows of cells face each other like surreal bedsit flats with three inch thick steel doors and a letterbox viewer at just below eye level for vertically challenged screws. This really is the end of the current road. Many inmates due spending extremely long periods in these vile in-humane conditions. The narrative of prison reform is portrayed only a control freak. The character Oliver, a self contained anger management teacher whose instinct he selflessly deploys in managing those few attendees at his Governor authorised encounters with the prisoners. His skills are borne of his own well educated and unknown derangement with a singular role of being someone he defines as being of use to fellow human beings. At continual cost to himself. So the borders and boundaries for Eric are the confines. What of the fluid state of the rest, those whose bodies comprise around 87% water? The other inmates whose only defence seems to be their physicality and bruised minds.
Jail House Rules
On his first exercise the second main character dissects the circling inmates, signaling an existing status above the rest as he crosses and approaches an isolated Eric standing alone and surveyor of the factions and clocks all around him as he smokes or looks to smoke beneath the high mesh fence.
This is his father, Neville Love, played by a twitchy Ben Mendelsohn.
The role is equally as demanding and is collected and carried as a force of anger pent up and without sense of time or purpose. As a means of communicating beyond basic verbal discourse, other than the primary token of male presence, body language, Neville nudges, communicates a great deal with a bow, shuffle of the feet or his shoulders which begin rotating and halting as a hunched internal piston wrapped in swarf laden oil.
They play off each other’s unspoken love. The never purposefully expressed love.
The love absent and through lack of, the love missing when the demons appeared to enter their lives. The narrative develops progressively deepening the fault lines present in their lives, adding new layers on this layer cake violent environment without cliche or sentiment.
The writer, Jonathan Asser, himself an ex, Wandsworth Prison therapist – which I assume he has extemporalised a great deal on, (otherwise he has had a life of caning himself on finding a new route for others), has taken each scene of the relentless gruesome violence which makes this film grab your attention and wrung the blood and water out of it until everyone has a dry disembodied taste in their mouth. The director David Mackenzie ratchets up the bi-polar criminalistics of naked ruthlessness and somewhat nascent racist division. The group which Oliver operates acts as a racial forum showing the capacities to hate irregardless of race and how most violence occurs through primordial fear. Kick offs are the glue that binds the prisoners existence. They establish the knocking order and the pyramid has its head within the prison where issues can be taken.
Order
A large part of the film is devoted to the ruinous state the regime is in. Far from reforms being exercised or even given some scope the inn-keepers are fractured and flawed and not involved on any emotional level and given the conditions it is not the least surprising.
If I saw a Chapel or a Congregational spiritual place where no words were to be spoken, thoughts could come and go and a higher essence be reached then it must have been in a nano second of light because I remember no such place. It had no visible drug issues either, except the hand to hand transactions – and one hand beneath pillow act, that seemed to have been the writers only hint of it. The use of force and values extended by the regime however were of a level which gave little prospect of reform or even retention of self belief. The fuses were very short for good reason in a lot of cases. That belied the measures and not the means.
Eric
The entry of Eric into this prison became a contest and battle with his self control. His father with a belated interest in his son begins to see sides of himself and his son that he wasn’t bargaining for. One kick off happens when it becomes obvious to him the son can make his own choices and the fact Eric is in his Neville’s long resided in establishment Neville find his marker has moved so menaces his son into explaining what he is at. The don’t answer back slippage used is well gone. Along with the characterisations and full on interactions, this is what engages and lifts the viewers expectations. How will this pan out? Will Eric reach a goal he has yet to be shown or will it end up in the bin as lives un recyclable?
Vision
It takes both an accomplished director and writer not to overwhelm and in creating a contemporary piece it carries without proselytising a message that much of what we are seeing could be the present condition somewhere of incarceration. The prisoners in the therapy group or the place were those attending get to speak their minds, to some extent show how things can improve and their dialogue speaks volumes more than reports by institutions written for institutions. The Regime has its conspirators as do the prisoners. The actors doing the rounds as warders and the ordinary joes caught up in their own choice of failures as criminals are very well acted throughout. The coloured prisoners work out who they can and cannot trust across the races and their own instincts tend to serve them at this sharp end where time boredom and reflection feature most of the time.
That is when it doesn’t kick off. But if I could give the prisoners a piece of advice it would be to keep their door on the landing closed as there are a lot of criminals about. Grayson Perry apparently couldn’t believe it when he was on in the streets of the Newtownards Road a while back – that people still left their front doors open. “It’s not like that around Islington where I live” he apparently said.

****4 A very well made British film which ‘captures’ the eye and takes no prisoners. Sorry couldn’t help it. Very compelling narrative and densely packed with bravura performances worthy of high award when the season comes next around. No small part played by Northern Ireland Screen and local contributors. Shame some nob is going to be distilling exotic drink near its walls. You would think someone would have learnt how bad addictions have taken hold here and elsewhere. Enough crime being drug and alcohol based locally to keep lock ups like the 4M’s – Magaberry, Magilligan, Mountjoy, Maze in business for years to come.
And why were there no drugs etc on the wings in show?
The product placement was of cigarettes and a shout out for a brand of rolling tobacco. Another of Belfasts poor trade history perhaps.

John Graham

Belfast

23 March 2014

QFT Belfast Friday 21st March to 27th March 2014.
On general release.

JUSTICE FOR ALL

Hebrews 13:3

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt the pain in your own bodies.

Matthew 25:3

Then will they make answer, saying, Lord, when did we see you in need of food or drink, or wandering, or without clothing, or ill, or in prison, and did not take care of you.