Exceptional community champions and standout projects from across the Urban Village areas of Belfast are in the running for an Aisling Award at this year's gala — virtual — event on 10 December.
AT LAST! Danny Devenny is doing a book. He will have to finish it now that this column has broken the story. It will be a photographic and literary journey through his very eventful life. In my opinion Danny Dee deserves a book or twenty books to celebrate his life in struggle and his art. He has enriched all our lives with his creatativity and brightened Belfast’s streetscape and educated and uplifted its citizens and visitors with his murals. He will tell how art has been a huge help to him through all his decades of activism. That’s where this painting, The Session, comes in. The Session features John Lennon, Danny’s friend Bobby Sands, Ché Guevara, Chilean activist song writer and poet Víctor Jara and Woody Guthrie, the great American song writer and activist. It is availible as a limited edition print and a not-for-profit funder for Danny’s book. Check out his Facebook page and private message Danny if you want to buy a copy. Danny has had a mind to do such a painting for a long time. He was in Long Kesh with Bobby and knows how much music meant to him. Bobby loved John Lennon. He would have loved being in a session with him. And the others. He admired them all. There is a photo of a session of poítín-drinking prisoners in Cage Eleven which Danny based his painting on. I will tell you the story of that photo and that session another time. Anyway, Danny delayed doing the painting because he couldnt do a side view of Bobby’s face which satisfied him. Then Richard McAuley found the photo of Bobby in French photographer Gerard Harlay’s portfolio of photos when we were doing work on the Léargas book on Máire Drumm. That, and the pandemic, allowed the space for Danny Dee to work his magic. I know the political value of that magic from my time in the Kesh with him in the mid-70s. Danny Dee did the artwork for a number of publications produced in Cage Eleven and smuggled outside. These included Peace In Ireland and Our British Problem – unpublished – by this columnist and In Care Of Her Majesty’s Prisons by Hugh Feeney and Prison Struggle. He also did illustrations for the Brownie articles which were smuggled out to the Sinn Féin paper Republican News. His pen name was Flossie. Danny and Bobby were in the Gaeltacht hut in Cage Eleven. Bobby used to drive his comrades mad as he practised his guitar skills and learned his songs. Tomboy Loudon was just as bad. He was learning the mandolin. Bobby was taught guitar by blues legend Rab McCullough. They started in the Crum (Crumlin Road Prison) where there were two guitars. Bobby heard Rab playing and asked him for a few tips. Rab was already an accomplished guitarist. He had been in a number of bands, including Sunshine and The Big Soul Band.
FOUR grassroots organisations have been shortlisted for the 2020 Gaeilge Aisling Awards – Gradaim na hAislinge – for promoting the Irish language and keeping spirits high during the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s awards, dedicated to the 'Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic', will be presented at a groundbreaking virtual gala on December 10. The shortlist for the Coinnigh an Misneach/Keep Hope Alive Award for the Irish language, sponsored by Foras na Gaeilge, has been whittled down to the following four:
An unprecedented surge in first-time buyers roiling the housing market is, say estate agents, an unexpected consequence of the Covid pandemic.
THE widow of Pat Finucane has described a decision by the British government to once again refuse to hold a full public inquiry into her husband’s murder as “yet another insult”.
In St John the Baptist PS, we believe passionately in developing our children academically, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We provide an environment in which our children’s talents are nurtured, developed and celebrated throughout the entire school community. The ‘Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic’ Aisling Award nomination secured this year by the school reflects the professionalism and desire of all in our staff to consistently go the extra mile to meet the needs of our children and their families, something of which we are very proud.
Daniel O'Neill: Romanticism & Friendships is a newly-published book by Karen Reihill on West Belfast artist Daniel O'Neill who, with fellow-Belfast boy Gerard Dillon, is among the shining lights of 20th Century Ulster artists. The book is available from the publisher direct or from An Chultúrlann bookshop. This excerpt is from the opening chapter of the new publication.
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?
CLIFTONVILLE FC fans are being urged to donate whatever items they can to support a local foodbank.
’Twas the night before Christmas when all through the houseNot a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.The facemasks were hung by the chimney with careIn hopes that a vaccine soon would be there. The MLAs nestled all snug in their bedsWhile visions of pay rises danced in their heads.And Arlene in kerchief and Michelle in capHad just settled down for some tea and a bap. When out on the lawn there arose such a clatterThey sprang from their chairs to see what was the matter.Away to the window they flew like a flashMichelle singing Grace and Arlene The Sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snowGave lustre of midday to objects below.When what to their wondering eyes should appearBut a red-eyed St Nick with a feg and a beer. He took a long drag and drank a long drinkThen looked up at the girls with a smile and a wink.‘I’m blootered and tired and I’ve had a long nightBut I’m still able to see when something’s not right. Arlene you’ve Edwin as your science bodBut the guy seems to think that nature’s a Prod.He says Taigs are more likely to contract the virusBut for truth in the news we should all be desirous. The places worst hit, who’ve suffered most pain,Are the Shankill and Woodvale, Springmartin, Coleraine.’Michelle clapped and cheered and blew Santa a kissAnd said it’s high time that someone said this. ‘This Poots thinks the planet’s a hundred years old,That gays are too loud and the Arctic’s too cold.’‘Hush,’ said St Nick with a burp and a fart,‘In this Covid madness your team’s played a part. Your teams up the country were given 10K,A mistake had been made, very sad to convey.But rather than send it straight back and be frank,They decided to give it a rest in the bank.’ On up to the housetop the eight reindeer flewWith a sleigh full of sacks and Saint Nicholas too.And then in a twinkling was heard on the roofThe prancing and pawing of each reindeer hoof. Down the long chimney he came with a thudAnd hit the deck covered in lager and blood.He sat up quite dazed and looked quickly aroundTo see politicians all drawn by the sound. ‘Hey, Steve,’ shouted Santa, and Aiken said ‘Yes?In what way can I help you, I’d like to impress?’‘Don’t be smart,’ said Santa, ‘you’ve no cause to be twee,You kept a guy in his job who’s much drunker than me. ‘The bloke’s lost his licence more than I’ve had hot dinners,You’d be firing torpedoes if that was the Shinners.’Then St Nick looked around and he stopped at Naomi,Cracked open a can and the lid went all foamy. ‘We’ve Brexit and Covid, we’re ready to buckle,But your party’s obsessed with a wee cúpla focal.No Irish in street names, it’s English, by Thor,Most likely a tribute to some bloody war. ‘But you play your guitars and you sing Kumbaya,You’re all things to all people and blah, blah and blah.’St Nick lit a feg and drank down his beer,And again at his audience started to peer. ‘Where’s that bloke from Derry, has he disappeared?The Stoop with the funny white spot on his beard?’‘He’s over in London,’ a junior Stoop said,‘He tried to stop Brexit but helped it instead.’ St Nick shook his head and he let out a sigh,Rubbed his face with his hands and said by and by,‘All I ever hear, and I find it so troublin’,Is him taking swipes at the Chucks down in Dublin. He speaks of TDs in the Dáil with such fury,But he hasn’t got one single rep south of Newry.’‘You’re so right, St Nick,’ said St Claire of the Greens,‘The others all act like they’re spoilt-rotten teens.’ Santa pointed angrily and took a deep, death breath,And fixed her with a steady stare as dark and cold as death.‘Your guy’s in bed with Leo, who slipped his pal a leak,But Eamon sat and looked away, not one word did he speak. ‘He’s in the Golden Circle, the Galway Races Tent,He said he’d save the planet, save the status quo he meant.’Then Santa drained his can of Harp and flicked away his butt,Hitched his belt and fixed his cap and slapped his ample gut. ‘I’ve checked my list, checked it twice, it’s very plain to seeNot one of you lot’s gonna get a single thing from me.There’s plenty that’s been naughty and no-one that’s been nice,You fight and blame then brief the press, but that comes at a price. I’ll leave a sack of ashes from your boilers’ wooden pelletsAnd tinfoil hats and party horns for anti-lockdown zealots.A helpful book on Covid grants called Bank Accounts for Dummies,It’s sure to pay for lavish fare to fill your festivetummies.’ And in a flash yer man was gone back up the Stormont flueAnd the local politicians stood and wondered what to do.Should they vow to mend their ways for their New Year’s resolution?To try and give some credence back to their damaged institution? ‘No!’ they cried with single voice, eyes all shining brightly,‘We’ll up our pay and up our perks and that’ll do fine rightly.’The silhouette of Santa’s sleigh was painted on the MoonAnd his parting words they sounded like a deep and loud bassoon. ‘So long till next year you lovely old city,That you’ve elected this lot is such an awful pity.Merry Christmas, Belfast, may your days be bright and merry,My advice is frig them all – get wired into the sherry.’
THE VW Campervan is an iconic piece of automotive history, it has never gone out of fashion and is supported by many famous owners including Rick Stein, Jensen Button, Richard Hammond and Robbie Williams to name but a few. And now with the growing trend of campervan holidays and glamping fuelling demand VW has launched two new models of their “California Beach” campervans called the “Camper” and the “Tour”. When the original campervan was released in 1949 it cost around £600, times have changed and the new vehicle will set you back more than £52,000. The original had a top speed of 65mph the new van will almost double that at around 120mph and of course the trim is a world apart. VW has reintroduced the Beach model to the line-up following this surge in demand, which will feature two variants, the Camper and the Tour, making the California 6.1 line-up more attractive to larger families and to those who need a more flexible Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) to accommodate their hobbies or occasional journey rest stops. Prices for the “Tour” will start from £52,062 and it features five seats as standard, with the option to increase to six or seven, making it the only campervan on the market flexible enough to seat this number of people. Prices for the “Camper” will start from £52,302 and it offers four seats as standard with an option to increase to five, as well as a pull-out mini kitchen with a single gas hob, and pull-out awning. With order books now open, Volkswagen Van Centre teams are available by phone or online for sales enquiries or appointment booking and VW have confirmed that all their Van Centres are complying with the latest advice on COVID-19. VW also guarantees that it will not pass on any post-Brexit tariffs to orders placed before the 2nd of December 2020, providing confidence and offering certainty in uncertain times. Deliveries for the Camper and Tour models are expected by March 2021. Both are powered by a 2.0 TDI 148hp seven-speed diesel engine with direct-shift gearbox and feature a manual pop-up hydraulic roof, 17-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio with App Connect and a camping table with two folding chairs. Product Manager at VW Commercial Vehicles, Alice Axtell, said: “The California van has been the camper of choice for many over many years and provides the ideal companion to explore some of the most popular destinations as more people continue to opt for staycations instead of travelling abroad.” If you are looking for a camper that will facilitate the odd weekend away for fishing, a festival or attending sporting event, something that will let you take an overnight break on long journeys then the California may just be right for you, but, if you are looking for a luxury glampervan for family holidays or long breaks, this may not be vehicle of choice for you, the VW is a great weekender it’s not a motorhome.
The pandemic has not gone away, you know.
PUP Councillor Dr John Kyle has expressed his support for the Care Partner initiative stressing how it would be of huge benefit to elderly care home residents.
I found myself thinking the other day that the sooner the pubs are open the better. Away back in April I made the cardinal mistake of telling Wee Jap that when the hairdressers reopen he should get sorted out asap. My big mistake was that I said this within earshot of Billy Gillen. Billy weighed in about possible styles, emphasising that short back and sides has long been out of date. Wee Jap hasn’t been in a barber’s shop for years just as Billy sheds tears when laughing, he shed the crop on the top of his head a long time ago. Just as Jap was leaving my house last week he pointed at the garden fence and said, “Get that painted before the pubs re-open.” I assured him I would. However, I'm fairly sure that either my wife or neighbour overheard him as he was quite loud and he was laughing as he drove off. So after a lapse of many years I find myself painting the garden fence. On the question of how often a garden fence should be painted there is some difference of opinion but I have long thought that give a year or two either way I should not let a decade go by without wielding the brush. After all one can't be too careful about one's property and it's as well to do the painting whilst there is something to paint. I must admit that I had thought hard over the summer about starting the job but with the uncertainty about when the pubs and clubs would reopen I postponed the undertaking rather than be caught out halfway through the job. I even bought some tins of wood stain in Tesco a few months ago but when my daughter told me she had just had a new fence erected in her back garden I gifted the stain and brushes to her. Now when a room needs papered or the skirting needs a lick of paint or a door needs touched up I have no hesitation in calling in others who have greater claims to craftsmanship than me but when it comes to putting a stain on the fence I’m your man. The technique of fence staining looks simple to passers-by. I know this when I see them raise their eyebrows as If to say, “he's dipping and sloshing.” Maybe it's my imagination but they all seem to be on the footpath on the other side of the road as they pass me by. Now I admit there is no washing down, no smoothing with differing grades of sandpaper, no flat undercoating. I find if I keep my head down and my right elbow near my side I can get on with the job. However, although the passerby would not see any difficulties, I find that I have to keep my wits about me for every plank in the fence is different! I have long recognised that someone as finicky and fastidious as Wee Jap would never make a fence stainer. You have to recognise that some planks are more thirsty than others. Experience has taught me to take each plank unawares and slap on the stain before the wood has time to mop it up. To slightly vary the words of Kris Kristofferson’s song it's a case of “One plank at a time, Sweet Jesus.” Another problem which the likes of Wee Jap are oblivious to, is the appearance of creepy crawlies. You have to give them a reasonable chance of escape on their wee legs but you can't afford to wait all day and even the most humane fence stain has a fairly high casualty list. This is totally regrettable but death is the price of progress. The passers-by will also be unaware as they look on this task as a brutish kind of work, that there are advanced mathematical calculations to be made. While some fence stainers will work away until the tin is emptied or spilt on his trousers, the enlightened fence stainer will do an audit every time he lights his pipe or takes a drink from his flask. Thus if he has stained seventeen out of the one hundred and fifteen planks, he will know he still has almost eighty two and a quarter percent of the work to do. Passers-by will be unaware that the squiggles of stain on the next three or four planks from where he is working are the “sums”. One of the big advantages in being involved in staining the fence is that you are absolved from doing other chores. I don't have to put out the bins or post letters. In the past this might have seen me excused from helping with the homework. Passers-by will notice the smudge stain on your nose and realise that as the evenings are drawing in fast, you are striving to get the job done. It's now got to the stage where no-one could be expected to work in the open after tea. This year has been a bad year for fence-staining. On some days I got into my painting trousers, brought the stain, brushes and steps out one by one onto the footpath and then down comes the rain! Everything must then be returned to the garage without any perceived achievement. What appears to be a simple job has become a campaign. It's now coming into the Christmas season and days are getting shorter. I'm of a mind, what with the dark evenings, the cold mornings and the poor light – not to mention the incessant rain – to take my Christmas holidays and set a definite target of having the job finished before the clocks go forward for the official start of Summer time. And when Billy Gillen makes the remark about a good first coat I'll do what I did over a decade ago. I'll bite my tongue and literally “sit on the fence.”
AS I sit down to pen these words we have just finished putting up our Christmas tree. I have always loved Christmas, but this year is different. This year, hope is hard, belief is hard, resilience is hard, and many of us are weary. In the midst of another lockdown, it is a daily task to guard our hearts against compassion fatigue.