50 per cent of people in a recent survey by Thrive the audience development organisation (supported by the Arts Council of NI) have been accessing arts and culture online during the pandemic. Maybe you are one of them?

Or maybe you know someone who, with a little help with connecting to the technology, might enjoy this way of access the arts? There is a whole other world only a click away!

I’m particularly pleased to see the University of Atypical, a disabled-led arts organisation, shifting all of their festival online or outside.

Atypical: Bulletix

Atypical: Bulletix

I’ve always found something interesting and surprising in the festival every year and this year, because it is online, I hope to see more than usual.

Their annual festival Bounce showcases outstanding new work by D/deaf and disabled producers,  writers, actors, dancers, musicians and directors is always an eclectic treat for anyone with an open mind and an appreciation of diverse and unique creative talent.

It takes place from 4 to 6 December. It launches with some poetry from Alice McCullough highlighting the work of Chris Ledger the late chief executive of University of Atypical and includes Meabh McDonnell the Dyslexic Bitch, (parental guidance advised ) Die Hexen, aka Dianne Lucille Campbell the multi instrumentalist composer, producer, sound artist and award winning filmmaker.

Or how about registering for the Poisonous Pivot: looking at how to use free-to-access digital tools to take your art online with Rhiannon Armstrong, the award-winning artist. 
The offline part of the festival invites you to take a walk and follow Joni Marie Ayishe's sketchbook drawings which have been added to a trail of bus shelters in the city centre.

Jude Kuzna, Bulletix from Newcastle, County Down, sounds interesting. He's going to perform at a finale dubbed ‘autism pop’ which is described as "autism awareness set to contemporary pop music, reinventing 80’s rock and pop" with visuals from Robin Price.

All of the events are free but you need to register for a ticket to gain access to the online events. The festival is supported by Belfast City Council and Arts Council of NI. 

What might be the impact of having such a festival? On one level it’s pure entertainment, on another it inspires a much-maligned group of people in our society to consider how they could have a career in the arts. Indeed, there is a thriving disability arts scene around the world; albeit more developed in some countries than others. In many ways it’s considered that the D/deaf and disabled community are going through what the LGBTQ community had to do to be recognised and included in general society and the arts. So we hope to see much more of this in the future.

You can also find this week’s arts and culture update in Irish and British sign language on the University's Twitter feed.

If it’s shopping your after, the Craft NI shop is now online.

Vault artists had to close their physical shop temporarily but their online show is now up.  They have also moved their Christmas market to the 12 and 13 December, subject to possible changes. 

Two impressive young women who have set up business in North Belfast have seized the opportunities of online selling to help them on their way — something that wasn't available for creatives of my generation.

Both have been featured in recent Take 2 recordings at The Duncairn available on Youtube. The first is Síofra Caherty of Jump the Hedges (the title from a Van Morrison classic Sweet Thing, see bottom of page) design studio.

She makes bags from truck awnings and developed her ideas while travelling the world on a Winston Churchill Bursary studying sustainable fashion.  Síofra has worked in the fashion industry in New York and at home on Game of Thrones but wanted to get back to making products herself and is making an interesting business out of it. The second business, Olla Nua is run by Nicola Gates who makes hand-woven items on a loom which in the past would have been used for women at home to make cloth where there was a shortage after the Second World War. Weaving is such an addictive pastime and I always love to see people in the community with the skill. Sometimes there is difficulty in people understanding just what time and energy goes into making handmade cloth but this business, in my view, has real potential. 

Love and light,