YOU know you are in good company and in a safe place when you are in the in the same venue as Marie Query, our home grown healer for the healers, a wonderful therapist and great a friend to all in Belfast and beyond.
I was attending an event on Imbolc, the Celtic first day of spring – also known as St Brighid’s Day – in the Belfast MAC which honestly blew me away with positivity impregnated with honesty. The event was the New Script mental health seminar. The room was filled, with everyone seated at round tables which were filled with goody bags and templates for our own personal scripts. There was also a little scroll for each attendee and on the scroll read the following: ‘Stars will shine and curious minds will find a way.’ (Sean Fitzsimons.)
Stars did shine at this conference as speaker after speaker shared their personal stories and one could not be anything but humbled by the spirit of change and how we have the power to change our own personal script.
Louise Kennedy joined Michael Patrick MacDonald on stage to talk about their experiences as recorded in their best-selling novels. Michael spoke of how the New Script is a transformative healing journey, letting us know that just as hurt people hurt people, healed people heal people.
Louise spoke of how when she took up the pen to write she discovered that she no longer required antidepressants, that her writing was re-writing and re-righting her past trauma. New Script is a trauma-informed group of community activists whose goal is to create communities in which we can all reconnect. My gut feeling was one of hope and wanting to get involved.
The wonderful poet Cathy Carson recited one of her poems, which shook me from the inside out. Cathy is what I would describe as a people’s poet and definitely a poet destined to poetic heights that know no bounds. One of the organisers, Sara Boyce, spoke of moral injury and how activism is and can be therapeutic.
Not too far away on another day at the Art College, I was attending the eightieth birthday party of our very own adopted legend, Professor Alastair MacLennan. The party events – there was more than one – was organised by the wonderful B Beyond artist group lead by Cherie Driver. I attended the afternoon event, which was located in our new art college on York Street and it was orated by another artistic legend and son of our city, Professor André Stitt.
André gave a lecture in honour of Alistair, looking at their performance art work through the years, beginning back in seventies, when I knew them both very well and in my own way I have followed their trail and kept contact. These guys were what I would call 'out there' when it came to art in relationship to the conflict and these guys through their art were able to put us on the global map, portraying the conflict with hard-hitting images that brought the message of Belfast to countries throughout the world.
I always loved both Alastair and Andre’s gift of performance art and how the transmission of performance art can shake us all up to what is happening now.
André brought us down memory lane on screen, through the seventies, eighties, nineties, right up to now. The slide show ended with lots of prestigious artists wishing Alastair happy birthday from around the world, each one citing Alastair as an international star and I would also endorse the same. It was Alastair and André who introduced me to a world that I would never have seen. It was also Alastair who introduced me to Zen.
To end the week, I was invited to dinner with Michael Patrick MacDonald, also at the table were, to name a few, the Reverend Karen Sethuraman and Allison and Mark Jackson from the global capital of civil rights, Birmingham, Alabama. The evening was more than just a meal – it was a banquet of ideas that transform. I also have to add that this would not have been the case without the maestro himself, the master of ceremonies, the man who knows what to do and how to do it, our very own legend and esteemed friend of mine, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.