Thank you Culture Northern Ireland

Thank you Culture Northern Ireland for giving me a £100 Amazon voucher (for winning a writing competition completing a survey). And thank you Gerry Anderson and politician Gregory Campbell for helping me spend it. Well, to be more precise – they had a row. But it was a big help to me.

The first bit’s easy. One reason I feel jealous of people living in or near Belfast is that so much is going on there – and I hear about it through the Culture Northern Ireland (CNI) mailout. You may remember tour guide extraordinaire Arthur Magee. I heard about him through CNI. So the CNI bunch were already great. And they’ve now achieved beatification by giving me the aforementioned voucher.

But that left me with a problem.

The sort of thing that tickles my fancy is often not available on Amazon. S0 – how to spend the filthy lucre?

First purchase? Easy. The Point by Gerard Brennan. (He’s also in CNI talking about his odd route to getting published.) I was going to treat myself to The Point for Christmas, and now I have. (I think you deserve one yourself too, don’t you? He’s also written Wee Rockets, which is out as an ebook.)

But what next? I clearly don’t listen to Gerry Anderson’s podcasts as often as I should, otherwise I wouldn’t have needed DUP politician Gregory Campbell’s help.

Mr Campbell became famous in the 1980s for appearing in a temporarily banned BBC TV documentary about Northern Ireland called At The Edge Of The Union. He was shown talking about kill or be killed and loading his (legally held) pistol. But it wasn’t his fault the show was banned.

Gregory Campbell MP, MLA, Councillor, Christy Moore fan

The other man featured in the programme, former IRA leader Martin McGuinness, was depicted doing something far worse – playing with children. That was what prompted the ban. He looked too nice.

Both men ended up in devolved government together for a while later on. But after Martin McGuinness’s recent failed attempt to become Ireland’s next president, it’s Gregory Campbell who has now shot to renewed prominence as a cultural arbiter – using his bully pulpit to promote deserving artists.

His latest unlikely protégé is singer/songwriter Christy Moore. Christy is part traditional/part Irish Billy Bragg/part folkie/part Republican/part hippie. And fair play to Gregory, he didn’t let Christy’s Republicanism get in the way of giving the veteran musician a boost with his latest album.

Gerry Anderson

Whimsical and erudite BBC Radio Ulster presenter Gerry Anderson (or here) played one of Christy’s new tracks on his daytime show, and Gregory was quick to see the potential for helping Christy along with even more publicity. The chirpy ramble – Weekend in Amsterdam – is loosely based on an older song – The Crack Was Ninety In The Isle Of Man. They both discuss the antics of a group of lads away from home, drinking and flirting. Almost identical really – except for fleeting references to coffee shops, drugs, transvestites, bordellos, sex shops and Queen Beatrix. She doesn’t get to the Isle of Man much.

Quick-thinking Gregory quickly raised a hullabaloo, complaining that the song was inappropriate. Next thing you know, the BBC are apologising and the “row” is getting headlines. I say “row” because Christy must be splitting his face grinning. I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that himself, Gerry and Gregory cooked the whole thing up between them.

It all came as a great relief to me for two reasons. First of all, I knew what to spend my voucher on – Christy’s new album Folk Tale, that has Weekend in Amsterdam(A lovely listen so far.)

Secondly, with former Northern Ireland Culture and Arts Minister Gregory Campbell championing new music north of the border, and Ireland’s new president Michael D Higgins – a poet and former arts and culture minster – settling in south of the border, I feel reassured the country is in the hands of those who will encourage imagination and creativity.

Still had some money – lots (thank you CNI) – left over. So, apart from Christy’s Folk Tale, it has gone on:

And some books too. Apart from Gerard Brennan’s The Point

  • The Dead RepublicRoddy Doyle (last in the trilogy – follows A Star Called Henry & Oh, Play That Thing).
  • Orchid Blue Eoin McNamee (I feel a shiver of anticipation any time I open a new book by him – would like to write like him).
  • The Wings of the SphinxAndrea Camillieri (Another writing inspiration – great food, great humour).
  • The Track of Sand – Andrea again. (Like Jackie Leven, Andrea Camillieri is a bloke.)

And I’ve still got a bit left. What should I spend it on? Suggestions? Meanwhile, here’s the offending song to offend you…



Filed under art, media, Music, What I'm Reading

18 responses to “Thank you Culture Northern Ireland

  1. 29

    Isn’t great to have a biblical provenance, to be whiter than white, to be a good upstanding pharisee and not be like that interloper, that publican at the back of the temple. I just love being 100% right all the time.
    Also I’m a great believer in democracy ie 7 men telling 6 men what to do all of the time.

    • blackwatertown

      I trump your holier than thou-ness by pointing out that Black is Beautiful and women now have the vote.
      (And didn’t you hear that coalitions are now popular? Well, I say popular… er…)

  2. Congrats on your Amazon voucher win … bought your own Christmas gift.

  3. Well done you! Hardly have you cleared one bundle of books, but you build another. Enjoy!

    • blackwatertown

      It’s my personal Forth Bridge.
      Just been working from hom listening to Lisa Hannigan. Her “safe travels, (Don’t Die)” song didn’t go down so well with Top Boy and Top Girl – but I liked it a lot.

  4. “…coffee shops, drugs, transvestites, bordellos, sex shops and Queen Beatrix.”

    There’s clearly more excitement across the pond!

  5. Rather your life than a philistine’s BWT. Congratulations!

  6. Congrats!!! I wanted to pop ’round and say a heart-felt Happy/Merry Christmas, Paul. May God bless you and your family richly in 2012.

    • blackwatertown

      Thank you kinzi.
      Another reminder of how far behind I am in cards, emails, tweets and now comment greetings. Oh well.

      • Paul, there is lots of grace given in this club of ours…receive it and take it easy!! We have to all be a bit ADD to keep track of all these networking venues! Cheers to you and yours

  7. I only have 2 weeks off you know, how am I going to get through all that! Nice prize. Just entered an Irish writing comp…fingers crossed.

  8. Wowser- you are a master shopper- I would have been completely waylaid at the shoe department, on my way to the books of course…Thanks for the intro to CNI as well- will have to subscribe to their mailing list. Great post, and now I’m off for a listen to Christy- we’re actually off to see him in Dundalk in March-cant wait!

  9. I am very offended.
    You can tell, because I’ve been rolling about the place, laughing.
    You’ve done well with that shopping list, and reminded of some things I *need* to get for myself. Congratulations on your win.

    • blackwatertown

      Thank you.
      I also like his – Christy’s – song about his little Honda 50. (“It’ll do 150 on a windy day.”)
      “A love song? To his motorbike?” opined my Top Girl. “That’s just weird.”

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