This month's show comes from the heart of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter where it focuses on its vibrant annual Arts Festival.
Browse content similar to Episode 2. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Welcome to The Arts Show. Tonight, we're in the cultural hub of Belfast - the Cathedral Quarter.
The Cathedral Quarter lies roughly between Royal Avenue
and the Dunbar link, with St Anne's at its heart.
Walking this tangle of cobbled streets and dark entries
reveals a past of warehouses and linen,
a glimpse of when Belfast was an industrial powerhouse.
Now, after years of neglect, it's been spruced up, redeveloped,
and rebranded with culture at its core.
The 15th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival took place last week
and The Arts Show was there.
Featured in the line-up was a stage adaptation of Flann O'Brien's
masterpiece comic novel, The Third Policeman.
Squeeze frontman and solo artist Glenn Tilbrook also appeared
and took time out to give The Arts Show an exclusive performance.
And a design classic by internationally-renowned
textile designer Gerd Hay-Edie is recreated where it was first made,
in the foothills of the Mournes, for a new exhibition in London.
The Cathedral Quarter takes its name from St Anne's.
This amazing, iconic building has married its traditional
architectural past with a controversial postmodern spire
stretching upwards to God and the heavens.
This cathedral isn't like a gallery.
It's a tangible, living space, where you can walk,
feel and even touch its treasures.
Lord Carson lies here.
It houses the Creation Mosaic by Gertrude and Margaret Martin,
whose work can also be seen in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament,
and a marble maze leads the pilgrim to the altar and the glory of God.
In World War II, as the Blitz ravaged Belfast, unbelievably,
the cathedral survived, its art and grandeur unblemished by German bombs.
There's a lot to be said for divine intervention.
After years of decline,
this last decade has seen the quarter re-emerge as a trendy, vibrant hub.
It's host to its own arts festival, now in its 15th year.
Its director is Sean Kelly.
Is this, or is this not, the hippest part of town to be in now?
I don't know if hip's the right word. I remember when there was real people here,
not all these bearded guys with MacBooks, and stuff.
I sometimes get nostalgic for that.
It is quite a fashionable part of town, lots of restaurants
and bars are opening up.
We just have to make sure that the arts continue to be
represented in the area.
Why did you set up the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival? There was a group of us.
We thought the arts weren't really representing us.
I suppose, there was the Belfast Festival, and so forth,
but we didn't feel that there was a voice being given to more marginal artforms,
to younger artforms, to kind of alternative,
slightly subversive, edgier artforms.
In a way, did you see it as an alternative, almost a fringe,
to the Belfast Festival? That would be the daddy, wouldn't it?
Yeah, I suppose we did see ourselves, not in opposition
but as an alternative to.
We were quite lucky in that the cease-fires had come about
and we felt there was an opportunity for arts in the heart of the city,
right in the city centre. So it was strategic to place it here?
Well, the north city centre of Belfast to me
has always been associated with a certain type of radical thought and ideas.
You can take that right back to the United Irishmen.
But the Communist Party headquarters were here, punk found its form,
Teenage Kicks was recorded here, ladies of the night, and now it's
the gay community down this part of town, it was always a part of town
that was relatively free from tribal politics.
It was very rundown and the rents were cheap.
And it just felt right at that time.
Do you feel that the festival has been crucial to this area?
Well, the festival has played a role,
but even back in 1999,
there were about 30-35 other arts and cultural organisations.
That has grown exponentially over the last 15 years.
We've given encouragement to a lot of other festivals,
a lot of other arts organisations.
So, yeah, I'd like to think we played something of a lead role
but other people are there doing great work, you know.
And it has been an incredible line-up this year.
Well, we've been very lucky this year.
You're sometimes at the mercy of various artists' touring schedules.
But we couldn't almost believe our luck that we had the calibre of
Ginger Baker, Martha Reeves, Tinawiren, The Handsome Family,
Glenn Tilbrook, Simon Amstell, DBC Pierre, and so forth.
Yeah, it fell into place this year.
Sean Kelly, continued success. Thank you. Thanks very much.
Strabane-born writer Flann O'Brien's satirical novel
The Third Policeman was originally rejected by publishers
who thought it too fantastical.
It's gone on to become a cult classic.
Fans of the American TV series, Lost,
rushed out to buy it after its cover appeared on-screen for one second.
Now it's been brought to life here at the Cathedral Quarter
Arts Festival, narrated by Dublin actor, Phelim Drew.
"Not everyone knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers..."
"..smashing his jaw in with my spade."
The Third Policeman is the story of a gruesome murder.
"But first, it is better to speak of my friendship with John Divney
"because it was he who first knocked old Mathers down
"by giving him a great blow in the neck
"with a special bicycle pump,
"which he manufactured himself out of a hollow iron bar."
At that point, everything turns extremely surreal.
DISCORDANT PIANO NOTES
"Michael Gilhaney," said the sergeant, "is an example of a man
"that is nearly banjaxed from the principle of the atomic theory."
In this story, bicycles and their riders get their atoms
and their personalities mixed up,
and if this goes over 50%,
then the human personality is never coming back and they will
remain part bicycle for all of their days,
so the policemen spend their time stealing people's bicycles,
arresting people's bicycles, hiding people's bicycles,
so their percentage doesn't get too high.
" 'If it wasn't that his bicycle was stolen every Monday,
" 'he would be sure to be more than halfway now.' "
" 'Halfway to where?' "
" 'Halfway to being a bicycle himself,' said the sergeant."
It's very accessible to anybody with a kind of a fertile imagination.
" 'How much is Gilhaney?' '48.' "
" 'The postman?' I said.
" '71%', he said quietly."
" 'Great Scott!' "
It's also, in a very surreal way, very believable. It's...
It's kind of, I think we are all sort of subject to nightmares and dreams
that are very real when we are in them.
" 'Did you never see a bicycle leaning against the dresser
" 'of a warm kitchen when it is raining outside?'
" 'I did.'
" 'Not very far away from the fire.'
" 'Near enough to the family to hear their conversation.'
" 'Not 1,000 miles away from where they keep the eatables.'
" 'I did not notice that.
" 'You do not mean to say that these bicycles eat food?'
" 'They were never seen doing it.
" 'Nobody ever caught them with a mouthful of steak.
" 'All I know is that the food disappears.' "
" 'It is not the first time I have noticed crumbs at the front wheels
" 'of some of these gentlemen.' "
I first read it when I was 15.
It either appealed to my sense of humour, or what I actually think
now happened is that it informed my sense of humour.
" 'I will tell you a secret,' he said very confidentially, in a low voice.
" 'My great-grandfather was 83 when he died.'
" 'For a year before his death...'
" '..he was a horse.' "
It was a great challenge to come up with appropriate music
for The Third Policeman, but it was a wonderful challenge.
The first thing that happened
was the choice of instruments for the two men
which turned out to be two cellos.
The cellos can be atmospheric, dark and sombre.
The opening musical piece is a duet
as these two men reach agreement that they will commit the murder.
Another thing that played into it, I would say,
I was listening to quite a lot of Shostakovich at the time,
which is dark and wintry
and I felt that nicely informed the rural setting of the book.
We played it in Strabane last summer at the Flann O'Brien Festival,
so I got to talk this over with Flann O'Brien experts.
They call themselves Flannoraks, of all things.
There's never any remorse expressed for the killing,
which is what I think has them go round and round and round again.
They are in this Purgatory.
It's very comic, but if you're stuck in the same situation
and going round and round and round again, it is a type of hell.
So I think what is being expressed is unresolved guilt.
"He came over ponderously to the inside of the counter
"and Divney and I advanced, meekly, from the door
"until we were face to face."
"Is it about a bicycle?"
Author Glenn Patterson has written about the Cathedral Quarter.
He has delved into its wrinkles and pores,
attracted by its smells and fumes.
Glenn. Hello. What is it about the Cathedral Quarter
that has made you as a writer want to fictionalise it?
What I love about this,
we're standing in Commercial Court and the period I am interested in
is the time when this area
was the commercial heart of Belfast.
In the 19th century, especially the early 19th century,
this was really where all the business of the time was transacted.
You get a real sense now, even with the warehouses rising above us,
that this was such an important mercantile hub as well,
but now, culturally, it's incredibly significant as well.
Well, when I started to write about this, I was...
There were a couple of things I discovered about this area.
There was a bar that used to be at the end, across Waring Street,
in Sugarhouse Entry, which was called the Dr Franklin Tavern
and in the 1790s,
it was one of the first meeting places of the United Irishmen.
There was a woman called Peggy Barclay who ran that tavern
with her husband, James. I was very attracted by that...
not just the revolutionary fervour at that time,
but the kind of intellectual fervour
and the enquiry there was in this city.
I mean, Belfast, it's said a lot these days, but it was the first
place to send congratulations to revolutionary France.
There were festivals of harpers in 1792, in the Assembly Rooms.
There was an awful lot going on.
I have a great fondness for bars, especially Belfast bars.
I was interested in that bar of Peggy Barclay's.
I like the idea of the public house, I like the sociability,
I like the great civic-minded things about public houses.
You start to look forward to the stories that will come out of here,
the things people will do. One of the things I like about this
is that Belfast grew up around the main streets in these courts
and entries and lanes. Tell me about those, because
they feature large in your book, The Mill For Grinding Old People Young.
I love that sense of coming down these streets.
I think sometimes we think of the past as really, really different,
not just distant, but different,
but if you look down here, if you want to get a sense of
what Belfast might have been like 200 years ago,
maybe we're looking at it. Maybe this is what it was like.
And for you as a writer, this area must be rich in story too.
It is. There is so much of the history of the city here,
but as a writer, what you want, you want people.
You want life. And as I look here,
you can't help but be intrigued by who the people are.
That's where everything begins.
I heard Martin Amis talking the other night
and saying that novels begin with a shiver
and you think, "I could do something."
And I think as you are abroad in the city these days,
you're shivering all the time, I'm shivering all the time,
because you are asking questions about who these people are.
That's what it is. Where there are people, there are stories.
Glenn Patterson, thank you. Thank you.
The Cathedral Quarter was once the gateway from the mills
in York Street to the nearby Belfast docks.
Cloth and textiles were ferried daily through these cobbled streets.
Today, this craft tradition is kept alive outside the city.
In 1951, the Norwegian textile designer Gerd Hay-Edie created
a contemporary rug that established her reputation.
Now, in the shadow of the Mournes,
her daughter and grandson are recreating this design classic
for a new exhibition.
The black and white rug was first designed in about 1951.
Up to now, we didn't have a loom wide enough to weave it all in one
piece, but in this instance we now have an enormous loom.
Gerd Hay-Edie first wove this rug
to compete in an exhibition of interior design
at the 1951 Milan Triennale,
where it won a silver medal.
Now it is being recreated in the same workshop
using the same methods and materials.
Well, we've got layers of the black yarn,
and we twist the white fleece just by hand, so it's good and tight.
There is a definite pattern,
two rows of thick, one row of thin, and two rows of thick,
throughout the whole rug.
A lot of finger work!
The thickness of the threads to the style of the threads
to the combination of the wave,
the whole structure has been finished, everything,
we are trying to match it as she would have wanted it.
My mother was a very determined woman.
She was living in China with my father before the war.
She met there a man who came from Annalong,
and he spoke very highly of how beautiful the Mourne Mountains were.
So on their first leave, they came over and stayed there
and she fell in love with the Mournes
and wanted to start a workshop.
When we decided to recreate the Milano rug,
we had to find out the threading.
But it's quite an intricate threading
and I couldn't find the design anywhere,
until one day I was looking through some of my mother's possessions
that had been put aside,
and this book came to light
and in it was the exact threading of the rug.
The books would be one part of the rug but not the whole rug,
and then you'd be looking through a box
and little bits of card would come out, little handwritten messages,
and you'd be like, "Oh, my God, that's it, that's the piece,
"that's the other bit of the jigsaw."
1951 was Gerd's breakthrough year
and the rug was also exhibited at the Festival of Britain,
a celebration of science and industry,
but her approach was to bring together new technology
with hand loom techniques that date back millennia
to create a design classic.
You've got a real combination of the loops of the carpet yarn
and the soft, the unspun fleece.
The colours are a strong contrast.
They are creamy white rather than bleached white.
She used to travel around, hunting out the black sheep
to use in her rugs, to use the fleece in her rugs.
It's warm underfoot, it's very pleasant to walk on,
particularly in your bare feet. It's quite homely.
And yeah, definitely, in bare feet, I mean... It's tactile.
It's very warm. It's a very tactile, definitely.
A majority of people will stroke it immediately they see it.
This one design proved pivotal
and now the cream of British furniture designers
wanted to use Gerd's fabrics.
In 1954, she founded her own company, Mourne Textiles,
employing her own daughter, and other people's daughters too.
She trained up local girls
from farmers' daughters, from the farms around us,
and they came and she trained them up on the hand looms.
At that, it turned into more of a... She hated to call it a factory,
but it was like a mill.
But although they made textiles for clients far away,
the Mournes were a constant inspiration.
Living here in the Mournes,
you see the countryside outside the windows all the time.
You see the colours of the gorse and the bracken
when it goes a beautiful rusty red colour,
and the granite of the mountains.
They're all a part of what you see all the time.
And the names, a lot of the name of the tweeds,
there was fuchsia, fuchsia pink.
Gorse yellow would be very strongly used.
Gerd Hay-Edie died in 1993, but now history is coming full circle
as a new generation of the family firm moves to the fore.
It's what I've been wanting, for the workshop to come back to life again,
and so it's quite interesting that it's starting with the rug.
We're going to pack it up
and I'm going to have to try and bring it back on the plane with me
to London and then bring it up to the Pangolin Gallery.
Many of the decisions that we're making now,
I can sort of feel like my grandmother would have made them
when she was first starting out.
You can hear the looms beating away again, it's fantastic,
it's very exciting.
North Street Arcade is a 1930s Art Deco mall in the Cathedral Quarter.
Built on the site of a former linen factory, it was once home to
a vibrant community of business and arts organisations.
Ten years ago, an unexplained fire swept through
and destroyed its essence.
Today, it sits derelict and overgrown in the middle of an area
earmarked for redevelopment.
Despite a very recent touch-up, the shutters remain firmly down
and each passing year brings more deterioration
to a once-bustling cultural hub.
Rebranding the Cathedral Quarter
has seen hotels, restaurants and pubs spring up,
transforming some of the city's oldest buildings,
but in giving the area such a face-lift,
have the artists themselves been priced out?
Businessman and hotelier Bill Wolsey
is a name central to this area's redevelopment.
Bill, the artists, have they been priced out of the Cathedral Quarter?
Not yet, there are still artists here,
but as an area becomes more successful commercially,
artists tend to be driven out of those areas, rents go up,
The price of property goes up, and that seems to be a price that's paid.
Not only in Belfast, it happens anywhere.
Tell me any successful city that artists haven't started an area
becoming trendy and then they've been forced out.
Is that not...criminal?
Because they've established the area,
and then they can't afford to live in it. It absolutely is,
but it's the way of the world.
When people come in and purchase properties,
they have responsibility to pay back what they've paid.
But any forward-looking local authority or government would realise
the importance of artists and this is happening in lots of major cities.
And the artists are put into buildings that are owned
by local authorities, and they are in there and heavily subsidised,
because they act as a catalyst for that area,
and the amount of business they bring into the area
is very hard to quantify.
So that money that should be given to artists to keep them in those areas
is paid back ten times. Is that not happening here in Belfast,
do you feel, within the Cathedral Quarter? I think it is,
I think there is a recognition. There is Cotton Court opposite,
and there are other art organisations that get grants.
The government have put in money to support the artists
and I hope that will be ongoing.
Is it your role to support artists?
Any business within this area or within this city, it's their role
to have an understanding of the wealth that artists bring into it,
very hard to quantify but it's definitely something,
we should have a voice,
but it's the government's role to support them.
For you, why the Cathedral Quarter? What prompted you to come here?
This was a very quiet area.
We had the opportunity to buy other pubs within the area.
We saw the mistakes that Temple Bar had made,
and we were determined not to make those mistakes,
so we don't allow hen nights or stag nights or karaoke nights
and the area has a very definite feel to it.
There is a great vibe in the Cathedral Quarter at the moment.
Is that going to continue, grow, or will it reach a plateau?
Well, I think it's very important that we encourage daytime trade here.
For that, what we really need is shops.
Artisan shops would be the way to go.
The high street is having trouble
because it's all become so homogenous.
If we could have a tailor making the suits there,
a jeweller producing the jewellery there,
a baker baking the bread, that would really make this area special.
Bill Wolsey, thank you. Thank you very much.
That's almost it from The Arts Show.
Join me live on Twitter now. You can stay up to date
with all arts and culture on BBC Radio Ulster's Arts Extra,
weeknights at 6.30pm.
And do check out our website for some great archive and arts content.
Now, he may have just released his fifth solo album
but for die-hard fans of Glenn Tilbrook,
he will for ever be one half of the songwriting duo Tilbrook Difford.
The brains behind the British group Squeeze,
he penned international hits such as Up the Junction,
Cool for Cats and Tempted.
Glenn was in Belfast last week for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival,
and gave The Arts Show an exclusive performance.
# Persephone is not afraid
# Of life's indecent haste
# Time to spend, time to embrace
# Gentle, not right in your face
# She travels light and easily
# She lives a life outside of the mainstream
# And she's got everything she needs
# In her VW bus
# She doesn't know how to be mean
# She's scared of guns incessantly
# She wears her heart right on her sleeve
# Tonight is going to be a big one
# For Persephone
# Countercultural debris
# On a slope that is slippery
# Not a brilliant advert
# Poor Persephone's inert
# Pity poor Persephone
# She had lost her phone, her car keys
# And her short-term memory
# Logic's all Greek to me
# Pickles Persephone
# She spent all night shaky and pale
# She had no wind left in her sails
# Although she tried, she could hardly speak
# "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
# Sa-aid Persephone
# Di di-di-di-di-di-di
# Di-di di di di di-di-di
# Persephone. #