ARE you a passive participant of culture or would you like to engage a bit more? It's the time of the year to get involved in a few new things and if it's free, hey, it's a bonus.
The City of Belfast is not lacking in opportunities and it can be a great way to meet new people, maybe get a nosey behind the scenes, gain new skills, or just see where the opportunity takes you. To encourage you all, here are of few of my top selected opportunities coming up.
1. Are you male, over forty and like to sing? The Mac are looking for four men to perform as the 'Pit Men Singers' in the Gary Clarke Company's 'Wasteland' touring production about mining communities. The call-out asks for men who are currently part of a community choir or singing groups to play ex-coal miners. (four local men will be recruited for each tour venue). No professional experience is necessary, however the men should have experience of singing songs from memory and singing in unison. There will also be some movement on and around the stage. This is the sequel to the production 'Coal' where he required the Clarke Company to go down the mines to experience the conditions of the miners. You will not be required to do this but you do need to be available the end of April. Email Sarah at engagementGCC@gmail.com for details or apply at www.wastelandtour.co.uk
2. Liminal Space Belfast is looking for forgotten spaces in the city . They have teamed up with the Imagine Belfast Festival asking citizens of the Belfast City Council area to send in photographs and descriptions of your favourite forgotten spaces. If you remember, they did a great job of curating temporary exhibitions down Belfast alleyways.
'Belfast is full of underused, overlooked and unloved spaces Pockets of neglected land development sites in limbo, vacant buildings, lonely car parks and empty windows'
The images can be in any artform and will be exhibited online. They will be put to the public to vote, with winners given prizes of £50 to £100 at an award event in the Europa Hotel. The places submitted will also have the opportunity to be considered to be the location of future projects. So if you're always walking past somewhere that you think needs some TLC now is you chance to spotlight it. www.liminalspacebelfast.com for details.
3. Look North! The North Belfast Festival is looking for volunteers for the festival, running over the weekend of February 24 to 26. The festival will be jam-packed with activities to showcase and celebrate North Belfast's rich heritage, cultural, creative and literary talents. The John Hewitt Society suggests the skills and experience gained would include event support and teamwork advocacy, to name a few, and there is a large amount of different opportunities. Being a festival volunteer is a great way to meet new people and develop new connections. To apply, fill out a form on www.opportunitynow.co.uk – full programme to be released soon.
4. If you're interested in the idea of using photography as a tool to heal, Belfast Exposed Gallery have developed a two-day conference exploring the concept. They have been running photography programmes around mental health and have developed a specific expertise in the area. The April conference is an opportunity to focus on some interesting work and they want to bring people together to talk and find synergies for healing through photography: – seeing through a different lens. They are looking for volunteers who will get free access to events, a T-shirt and goody bag and an end-of-conference party. Early bird tickets are priced at £30 but, recognising the cost of living crisis, they have a number of bursaries on a first come first served basis. If you live more than ten miles out of the city there is a limited opportunity to have overnight accommodation as well. For more details and bursary information see www.htpconferance.com
5. The Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts Festival (NIMHAF) has a publication call open for this year's festival. This years theme is myths. Poems, short stories and images are all welcome, deadline February 14. Submissions via firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Are you a secret artist and have you considered submitting to the Royal Academy annual exhibition that gets installed in the Ulster Museum every year but are still too nervous about submitting your work? Take a look at the TV programme about the experience of following five artists on BBC1 on February 8 which will perhaps demystify the process and inspire you for next year; after all, if you're not in you can't win. It includes Colin Murphy the comedian, who knew he could paint but – spoiler alert – he did win a prize at last year's exhibition so he did get in.
Finally, Late Night Art is Thursday, February 2 if you want an excuse to experience contemporary art in the City of Belfast. If you're not sure where to go, find a gallery, pick up one of the new Belfast art maps and just follow the crowd.