Episode 2 The Arts Show


Episode 2

This month's show comes from the heart of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter where it focuses on its vibrant annual Arts Festival.


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Transcript


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Welcome to The Arts Show. Tonight, we're in the cultural hub of Belfast - the Cathedral Quarter.

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The Cathedral Quarter lies roughly between Royal Avenue

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and the Dunbar link, with St Anne's at its heart.

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Walking this tangle of cobbled streets and dark entries

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reveals a past of warehouses and linen,

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a glimpse of when Belfast was an industrial powerhouse.

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Now, after years of neglect, it's been spruced up, redeveloped,

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and rebranded with culture at its core.

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The 15th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival took place last week

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and The Arts Show was there.

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Featured in the line-up was a stage adaptation of Flann O'Brien's

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masterpiece comic novel, The Third Policeman.

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Squeeze frontman and solo artist Glenn Tilbrook also appeared

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and took time out to give The Arts Show an exclusive performance.

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And a design classic by internationally-renowned

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textile designer Gerd Hay-Edie is recreated where it was first made,

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in the foothills of the Mournes, for a new exhibition in London.

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The Cathedral Quarter takes its name from St Anne's.

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This amazing, iconic building has married its traditional

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architectural past with a controversial postmodern spire

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stretching upwards to God and the heavens.

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This cathedral isn't like a gallery.

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It's a tangible, living space, where you can walk,

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feel and even touch its treasures.

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Lord Carson lies here.

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It houses the Creation Mosaic by Gertrude and Margaret Martin,

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whose work can also be seen in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament,

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and a marble maze leads the pilgrim to the altar and the glory of God.

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In World War II, as the Blitz ravaged Belfast, unbelievably,

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the cathedral survived, its art and grandeur unblemished by German bombs.

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There's a lot to be said for divine intervention.

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After years of decline,

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this last decade has seen the quarter re-emerge as a trendy, vibrant hub.

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It's host to its own arts festival, now in its 15th year.

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Its director is Sean Kelly.

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Is this, or is this not, the hippest part of town to be in now?

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I don't know if hip's the right word. I remember when there was real people here,

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not all these bearded guys with MacBooks, and stuff.

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I sometimes get nostalgic for that.

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It is quite a fashionable part of town, lots of restaurants

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and bars are opening up.

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We just have to make sure that the arts continue to be

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represented in the area.

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Why did you set up the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival? There was a group of us.

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We thought the arts weren't really representing us.

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I suppose, there was the Belfast Festival, and so forth,

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but we didn't feel that there was a voice being given to more marginal artforms,

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to younger artforms, to kind of alternative,

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slightly subversive, edgier artforms.

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In a way, did you see it as an alternative, almost a fringe,

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to the Belfast Festival? That would be the daddy, wouldn't it?

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Yeah, I suppose we did see ourselves, not in opposition

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but as an alternative to.

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We were quite lucky in that the cease-fires had come about

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and we felt there was an opportunity for arts in the heart of the city,

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right in the city centre. So it was strategic to place it here?

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Well, the north city centre of Belfast to me

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has always been associated with a certain type of radical thought and ideas.

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You can take that right back to the United Irishmen.

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But the Communist Party headquarters were here, punk found its form,

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Teenage Kicks was recorded here, ladies of the night, and now it's

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the gay community down this part of town, it was always a part of town

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that was relatively free from tribal politics.

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It was very rundown and the rents were cheap.

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And it just felt right at that time.

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Do you feel that the festival has been crucial to this area?

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Well, the festival has played a role,

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but even back in 1999,

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there were about 30-35 other arts and cultural organisations.

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That has grown exponentially over the last 15 years.

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We've given encouragement to a lot of other festivals,

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a lot of other arts organisations.

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So, yeah, I'd like to think we played something of a lead role

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but other people are there doing great work, you know.

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And it has been an incredible line-up this year.

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Well, we've been very lucky this year.

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You're sometimes at the mercy of various artists' touring schedules.

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But we couldn't almost believe our luck that we had the calibre of

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Ginger Baker, Martha Reeves, Tinawiren, The Handsome Family,

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Glenn Tilbrook, Simon Amstell, DBC Pierre, and so forth.

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Yeah, it fell into place this year.

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Sean Kelly, continued success. Thank you. Thanks very much.

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Strabane-born writer Flann O'Brien's satirical novel

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The Third Policeman was originally rejected by publishers

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who thought it too fantastical.

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It's gone on to become a cult classic.

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Fans of the American TV series, Lost,

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rushed out to buy it after its cover appeared on-screen for one second.

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Now it's been brought to life here at the Cathedral Quarter

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Arts Festival, narrated by Dublin actor, Phelim Drew.

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"Not everyone knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers..."

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"..smashing his jaw in with my spade."

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The Third Policeman is the story of a gruesome murder.

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"But first, it is better to speak of my friendship with John Divney

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"because it was he who first knocked old Mathers down

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"by giving him a great blow in the neck

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"with a special bicycle pump,

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"which he manufactured himself out of a hollow iron bar."

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At that point, everything turns extremely surreal.

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DISCORDANT PIANO NOTES

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"Michael Gilhaney," said the sergeant, "is an example of a man

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"that is nearly banjaxed from the principle of the atomic theory."

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In this story, bicycles and their riders get their atoms

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and their personalities mixed up,

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and if this goes over 50%,

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then the human personality is never coming back and they will

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remain part bicycle for all of their days,

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so the policemen spend their time stealing people's bicycles,

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arresting people's bicycles, hiding people's bicycles,

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so their percentage doesn't get too high.

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" 'If it wasn't that his bicycle was stolen every Monday,

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" 'he would be sure to be more than halfway now.' "

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" 'Halfway to where?' "

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" 'Halfway to being a bicycle himself,' said the sergeant."

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It's very accessible to anybody with a kind of a fertile imagination.

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" 'How much is Gilhaney?' '48.' "

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" 'The postman?' I said.

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" '71%', he said quietly."

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" 'Great Scott!' "

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PIANO PLAYS

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It's also, in a very surreal way, very believable. It's...

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It's kind of, I think we are all sort of subject to nightmares and dreams

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that are very real when we are in them.

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" 'Did you never see a bicycle leaning against the dresser

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" 'of a warm kitchen when it is raining outside?'

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" 'I did.'

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" 'Not very far away from the fire.'

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" 'Yes.'

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" 'Near enough to the family to hear their conversation.'

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" 'Yes.'

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" 'Not 1,000 miles away from where they keep the eatables.'

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" 'I did not notice that.

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" 'You do not mean to say that these bicycles eat food?'

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" 'They were never seen doing it.

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" 'Nobody ever caught them with a mouthful of steak.

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" 'All I know is that the food disappears.' "

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" 'What?!'

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" 'It is not the first time I have noticed crumbs at the front wheels

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" 'of some of these gentlemen.' "

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I first read it when I was 15.

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It either appealed to my sense of humour, or what I actually think

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now happened is that it informed my sense of humour.

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" 'I will tell you a secret,' he said very confidentially, in a low voice.

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" 'My great-grandfather was 83 when he died.'

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" 'For a year before his death...'

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" '..he was a horse.' "

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HE CHUCKLES

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It was a great challenge to come up with appropriate music

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for The Third Policeman, but it was a wonderful challenge.

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The first thing that happened

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was the choice of instruments for the two men

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which turned out to be two cellos.

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The cellos can be atmospheric, dark and sombre.

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The opening musical piece is a duet

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as these two men reach agreement that they will commit the murder.

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Another thing that played into it, I would say,

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I was listening to quite a lot of Shostakovich at the time,

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which is dark and wintry

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and I felt that nicely informed the rural setting of the book.

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We played it in Strabane last summer at the Flann O'Brien Festival,

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so I got to talk this over with Flann O'Brien experts.

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They call themselves Flannoraks, of all things.

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There's never any remorse expressed for the killing,

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which is what I think has them go round and round and round again.

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They are in this Purgatory.

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It's very comic, but if you're stuck in the same situation

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and going round and round and round again, it is a type of hell.

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So I think what is being expressed is unresolved guilt.

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"He came over ponderously to the inside of the counter

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"and Divney and I advanced, meekly, from the door

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"until we were face to face."

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"Is it about a bicycle?"

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Author Glenn Patterson has written about the Cathedral Quarter.

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He has delved into its wrinkles and pores,

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attracted by its smells and fumes.

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Glenn. Hello. What is it about the Cathedral Quarter

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that has made you as a writer want to fictionalise it?

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What I love about this,

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we're standing in Commercial Court and the period I am interested in

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is the time when this area

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was the commercial heart of Belfast.

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In the 19th century, especially the early 19th century,

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this was really where all the business of the time was transacted.

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You get a real sense now, even with the warehouses rising above us,

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that this was such an important mercantile hub as well,

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but now, culturally, it's incredibly significant as well.

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Well, when I started to write about this, I was...

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There were a couple of things I discovered about this area.

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There was a bar that used to be at the end, across Waring Street,

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in Sugarhouse Entry, which was called the Dr Franklin Tavern

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and in the 1790s,

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it was one of the first meeting places of the United Irishmen.

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There was a woman called Peggy Barclay who ran that tavern

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with her husband, James. I was very attracted by that...

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not just the revolutionary fervour at that time,

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but the kind of intellectual fervour

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and the enquiry there was in this city.

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I mean, Belfast, it's said a lot these days, but it was the first

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place to send congratulations to revolutionary France.

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There were festivals of harpers in 1792, in the Assembly Rooms.

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There was an awful lot going on.

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I have a great fondness for bars, especially Belfast bars.

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I was interested in that bar of Peggy Barclay's.

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I like the idea of the public house, I like the sociability,

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I like the great civic-minded things about public houses.

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You start to look forward to the stories that will come out of here,

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the things people will do. One of the things I like about this

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is that Belfast grew up around the main streets in these courts

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and entries and lanes. Tell me about those, because

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they feature large in your book, The Mill For Grinding Old People Young.

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I love that sense of coming down these streets.

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I think sometimes we think of the past as really, really different,

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not just distant, but different,

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but if you look down here, if you want to get a sense of

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what Belfast might have been like 200 years ago,

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maybe we're looking at it. Maybe this is what it was like.

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And for you as a writer, this area must be rich in story too.

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It is. There is so much of the history of the city here,

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but as a writer, what you want, you want people.

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You want life. And as I look here,

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you can't help but be intrigued by who the people are.

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That's where everything begins.

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I heard Martin Amis talking the other night

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and saying that novels begin with a shiver

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and you think, "I could do something."

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And I think as you are abroad in the city these days,

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you're shivering all the time, I'm shivering all the time,

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because you are asking questions about who these people are.

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That's what it is. Where there are people, there are stories.

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Glenn Patterson, thank you. Thank you.

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The Cathedral Quarter was once the gateway from the mills

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in York Street to the nearby Belfast docks.

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Cloth and textiles were ferried daily through these cobbled streets.

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Today, this craft tradition is kept alive outside the city.

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In 1951, the Norwegian textile designer Gerd Hay-Edie created

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a contemporary rug that established her reputation.

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Now, in the shadow of the Mournes,

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her daughter and grandson are recreating this design classic

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for a new exhibition.

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The black and white rug was first designed in about 1951.

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Up to now, we didn't have a loom wide enough to weave it all in one

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piece, but in this instance we now have an enormous loom.

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Gerd Hay-Edie first wove this rug

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to compete in an exhibition of interior design

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at the 1951 Milan Triennale,

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where it won a silver medal.

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Now it is being recreated in the same workshop

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using the same methods and materials.

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Well, we've got layers of the black yarn,

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and we twist the white fleece just by hand, so it's good and tight.

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There is a definite pattern,

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two rows of thick, one row of thin, and two rows of thick,

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throughout the whole rug.

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A lot of finger work!

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The thickness of the threads to the style of the threads

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to the combination of the wave,

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the whole structure has been finished, everything,

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we are trying to match it as she would have wanted it.

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My mother was a very determined woman.

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She was living in China with my father before the war.

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She met there a man who came from Annalong,

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and he spoke very highly of how beautiful the Mourne Mountains were.

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So on their first leave, they came over and stayed there

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and she fell in love with the Mournes

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and wanted to start a workshop.

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When we decided to recreate the Milano rug,

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we had to find out the threading.

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But it's quite an intricate threading

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and I couldn't find the design anywhere,

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until one day I was looking through some of my mother's possessions

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that had been put aside,

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and this book came to light

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and in it was the exact threading of the rug.

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The books would be one part of the rug but not the whole rug,

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and then you'd be looking through a box

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and little bits of card would come out, little handwritten messages,

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and you'd be like, "Oh, my God, that's it, that's the piece,

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"that's the other bit of the jigsaw."

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1951 was Gerd's breakthrough year

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and the rug was also exhibited at the Festival of Britain,

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a celebration of science and industry,

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but her approach was to bring together new technology

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with hand loom techniques that date back millennia

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to create a design classic.

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You've got a real combination of the loops of the carpet yarn

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and the soft, the unspun fleece.

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The colours are a strong contrast.

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They are creamy white rather than bleached white.

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She used to travel around, hunting out the black sheep

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to use in her rugs, to use the fleece in her rugs.

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It's warm underfoot, it's very pleasant to walk on,

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particularly in your bare feet. It's quite homely.

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And yeah, definitely, in bare feet, I mean... It's tactile.

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It's very warm. It's a very tactile, definitely.

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A majority of people will stroke it immediately they see it.

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This one design proved pivotal

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and now the cream of British furniture designers

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wanted to use Gerd's fabrics.

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In 1954, she founded her own company, Mourne Textiles,

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employing her own daughter, and other people's daughters too.

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She trained up local girls

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from farmers' daughters, from the farms around us,

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and they came and she trained them up on the hand looms.

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At that, it turned into more of a... She hated to call it a factory,

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but it was like a mill.

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But although they made textiles for clients far away,

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the Mournes were a constant inspiration.

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Living here in the Mournes,

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you see the countryside outside the windows all the time.

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You see the colours of the gorse and the bracken

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when it goes a beautiful rusty red colour,

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and the granite of the mountains.

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They're all a part of what you see all the time.

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And the names, a lot of the name of the tweeds,

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there was fuchsia, fuchsia pink.

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Gorse yellow would be very strongly used.

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Gerd Hay-Edie died in 1993, but now history is coming full circle

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as a new generation of the family firm moves to the fore.

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It's what I've been wanting, for the workshop to come back to life again,

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and so it's quite interesting that it's starting with the rug.

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We're going to pack it up

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and I'm going to have to try and bring it back on the plane with me

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to London and then bring it up to the Pangolin Gallery.

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Many of the decisions that we're making now,

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I can sort of feel like my grandmother would have made them

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when she was first starting out.

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You can hear the looms beating away again, it's fantastic,

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it's very exciting.

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North Street Arcade is a 1930s Art Deco mall in the Cathedral Quarter.

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Built on the site of a former linen factory, it was once home to

0:21:040:21:08

a vibrant community of business and arts organisations.

0:21:080:21:12

Ten years ago, an unexplained fire swept through

0:21:120:21:15

and destroyed its essence.

0:21:150:21:18

Today, it sits derelict and overgrown in the middle of an area

0:21:180:21:21

earmarked for redevelopment.

0:21:210:21:23

Despite a very recent touch-up, the shutters remain firmly down

0:21:270:21:31

and each passing year brings more deterioration

0:21:310:21:34

to a once-bustling cultural hub.

0:21:340:21:37

Rebranding the Cathedral Quarter

0:21:460:21:47

has seen hotels, restaurants and pubs spring up,

0:21:470:21:50

transforming some of the city's oldest buildings,

0:21:500:21:53

but in giving the area such a face-lift,

0:21:530:21:55

have the artists themselves been priced out?

0:21:550:21:58

Businessman and hotelier Bill Wolsey

0:21:580:22:00

is a name central to this area's redevelopment.

0:22:000:22:03

Bill, the artists, have they been priced out of the Cathedral Quarter?

0:22:030:22:07

Not yet, there are still artists here,

0:22:070:22:10

but as an area becomes more successful commercially,

0:22:100:22:14

artists tend to be driven out of those areas, rents go up,

0:22:140:22:18

The price of property goes up, and that seems to be a price that's paid.

0:22:180:22:22

Not only in Belfast, it happens anywhere.

0:22:220:22:24

Tell me any successful city that artists haven't started an area

0:22:240:22:29

becoming trendy and then they've been forced out.

0:22:290:22:32

Is that not...criminal?

0:22:320:22:35

Because they've established the area,

0:22:350:22:38

and then they can't afford to live in it. It absolutely is,

0:22:380:22:41

but it's the way of the world.

0:22:410:22:42

When people come in and purchase properties,

0:22:420:22:44

they have responsibility to pay back what they've paid.

0:22:440:22:48

But any forward-looking local authority or government would realise

0:22:480:22:53

the importance of artists and this is happening in lots of major cities.

0:22:530:22:57

And the artists are put into buildings that are owned

0:22:570:23:01

by local authorities, and they are in there and heavily subsidised,

0:23:010:23:05

because they act as a catalyst for that area,

0:23:050:23:08

and the amount of business they bring into the area

0:23:080:23:11

is very hard to quantify.

0:23:110:23:13

So that money that should be given to artists to keep them in those areas

0:23:130:23:16

is paid back ten times. Is that not happening here in Belfast,

0:23:160:23:19

do you feel, within the Cathedral Quarter? I think it is,

0:23:190:23:22

I think there is a recognition. There is Cotton Court opposite,

0:23:220:23:25

and there are other art organisations that get grants.

0:23:250:23:30

The government have put in money to support the artists

0:23:300:23:33

and I hope that will be ongoing.

0:23:330:23:34

Is it your role to support artists?

0:23:340:23:37

Any business within this area or within this city, it's their role

0:23:370:23:40

to have an understanding of the wealth that artists bring into it,

0:23:400:23:44

very hard to quantify but it's definitely something,

0:23:440:23:47

we should have a voice,

0:23:470:23:48

but it's the government's role to support them.

0:23:480:23:51

For you, why the Cathedral Quarter? What prompted you to come here?

0:23:510:23:56

This was a very quiet area.

0:23:560:23:59

We had the opportunity to buy other pubs within the area.

0:23:590:24:01

We saw the mistakes that Temple Bar had made,

0:24:010:24:04

and we were determined not to make those mistakes,

0:24:040:24:07

so we don't allow hen nights or stag nights or karaoke nights

0:24:070:24:11

and the area has a very definite feel to it.

0:24:110:24:14

There is a great vibe in the Cathedral Quarter at the moment.

0:24:140:24:17

Is that going to continue, grow, or will it reach a plateau?

0:24:170:24:22

Well, I think it's very important that we encourage daytime trade here.

0:24:220:24:26

For that, what we really need is shops.

0:24:260:24:29

Artisan shops would be the way to go.

0:24:290:24:32

The high street is having trouble

0:24:320:24:35

because it's all become so homogenous.

0:24:350:24:37

If we could have a tailor making the suits there,

0:24:370:24:41

a jeweller producing the jewellery there,

0:24:410:24:44

a baker baking the bread, that would really make this area special.

0:24:440:24:49

Bill Wolsey, thank you. Thank you very much.

0:24:490:24:51

That's almost it from The Arts Show.

0:24:570:25:00

Join me live on Twitter now. You can stay up to date

0:25:000:25:03

with all arts and culture on BBC Radio Ulster's Arts Extra,

0:25:030:25:06

weeknights at 6.30pm.

0:25:060:25:09

And do check out our website for some great archive and arts content.

0:25:090:25:14

Now, he may have just released his fifth solo album

0:25:140:25:18

but for die-hard fans of Glenn Tilbrook,

0:25:180:25:21

he will for ever be one half of the songwriting duo Tilbrook Difford.

0:25:210:25:25

The brains behind the British group Squeeze,

0:25:250:25:28

he penned international hits such as Up the Junction,

0:25:280:25:31

Cool for Cats and Tempted.

0:25:310:25:33

Glenn was in Belfast last week for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival,

0:25:330:25:37

and gave The Arts Show an exclusive performance.

0:25:370:25:40

# Persephone is not afraid

0:25:450:25:48

# Of life's indecent haste

0:25:520:25:56

# Time to spend, time to embrace

0:25:560:26:00

# Gentle, not right in your face

0:26:020:26:05

# She travels light and easily

0:26:060:26:10

# She lives a life outside of the mainstream

0:26:140:26:18

# And she's got everything she needs

0:26:180:26:22

# In her VW bus

0:26:230:26:26

# Persephone

0:26:270:26:30

# Persephone

0:26:330:26:37

# She doesn't know how to be mean

0:26:390:26:43

# She's scared of guns incessantly

0:26:470:26:51

# She wears her heart right on her sleeve

0:26:510:26:54

# Tonight is going to be a big one

0:26:560:27:00

# For Persephone

0:27:000:27:03

# Persephone

0:27:060:27:09

# Countercultural debris

0:27:120:27:16

# On a slope that is slippery

0:27:160:27:20

# Not a brilliant advert

0:27:200:27:23

# Poor Persephone's inert

0:27:250:27:29

# Pity poor Persephone

0:27:290:27:32

# She had lost her phone, her car keys

0:27:320:27:37

# And her short-term memory

0:27:370:27:40

# Logic's all Greek to me

0:27:430:27:46

# Pickles Persephone

0:27:460:27:49

# She spent all night shaky and pale

0:27:500:27:54

# She had no wind left in her sails

0:27:580:28:02

# Although she tried, she could hardly speak

0:28:020:28:05

# "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

0:28:070:28:11

# Sa-aid Persephone

0:28:110:28:16

# Persephone

0:28:180:28:22

# Persephone

0:28:240:28:27

# Persephone

0:28:300:28:34

# Di di-di-di-di-di-di

0:28:360:28:39

# Di-di di di di di-di-di

0:28:390:28:41

# Persephone

0:28:410:28:45

# Persephone. #

0:28:470:28:51

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