Teatime, what does it mean to you? R-Space Gallery in Lisburn has an exhibition that explores our fascination with tea, and its origins across world cultures. It made a public call out for proposals just at a time when I was working on some art work around my church visits.

For anyone not aware of this, I’ve spent twelve years, starting as a non-church attender, to visit every church in Belfast for a service. When looking at the call out I could not help but think that our fascination with tea has filtered into our church culture in Belfast. You can make your own conclusions as to why this might be. I submitted four photos which were selected for the extended part of the exhibition.

For instance, I have never been offered a cup of tea either before or after a service in a Catholic church anywhere in the city. Yet with Protestant churches, I have been often been offered tea, coffee, donuts, biscuits, tray bakes, juice and, at a couple of churches, lunch. Why does this cultural difference exist? Where was it written that it must be so, how did this evolve?

At a non-subscribing Presbyterian Church, after the service when the congregation sat down to tea and some Mr Kiplings, they explained that they welcomed anyone whatever their background, marital status or sexual orientation. They knew that people often came and went from congregations and that was fine with them. But they also talked about the need to rent out their hall. I noticed since taking the photo that they have rented out both the church and the hall to a theatre company with their congregation being amalgamated with another.

The photo I included at Church of the Nativity in Poleglass is part of a series I took there at a confirmation. It looks to me like a renaissance painting with all the children wearing sashes. I found myself speaking about it recently in the exhibition in Platform Arts who have moved to Connswater shopping centre in the East of the City.

The exhibition of drawings by Niamh Clarke of QSS studios was analytical in nature and included some video footage of a procession of Mary’s statue with hundreds of little girls in their confirmation dresses walking around the edges of their school in Newry.  As I was talking to Niamh inside the gallery a women came in spotted the footage and started taking about how much people spend on holy communion. I was able to explain my experience in Poleglass with FrPat Sheehan and suggest that perhaps there were many different experiences.

Part of the reason why I love visiting exhibitions is the space for conversations and the thought processes it triggers. In a world increasingly pushing us along with technology, it’s important to support spaces for independent human thought.   Other artwork in the exhibition includes Amanda Crofts’ lockdown project which showcases her love of knitting with gorgeous tea cosies (which have also been selected for the RUA annual exhibition for the last two years), Fiona Jiangani photographs taken in tea plantations and much more. Rspace Gallery, 32 Castle Street , Lisburn open Tuesday to Saturday 11-5pm until 26 November.

Belfast Film Festival continues until 13 November with some in-person and online events. Wednesday night sees partition ‘celebrated ‘with 100 years of happiness.  This is billed as a multimedia experience with a score by The Argonauts and the event will be hosted by a psychiatrist. The film part is hundreds of clips of people in the North of Ireland investigating and “exploring nodes of desire, knots of yearning and promises to be playful, humorous, joyous, surreal and disturbing journey into the collective psyche.”
Or perhaps if you’re curious about Brassneck Theatre Company’s move into film, supported by the Arts Council NI, Friday night at the Odeon 7pm is for you where they will show their six short films. Most were shot in the offices of this newspaper on Hannahstown Hill.

Outburst Queer Arts Festival runs from 12-20 November. It will address the question of LGBTQ and religion by commissioning Conor Mitchell along with the Belfast Ensemble and Ulster Orchestra to create a symphonic queer mass score. Simply called Mass, its by line is “We believe”. By all accounts Conor Mitchell is a composer and musical theatre maker who is very much in the zone. His musical theatre/opera ‘Abomination: DUP the Opera” premiered at the Lyric and was everything you might expect, winning numerous awards internationally. So I suspect this production will be epic.