This month's Arts Show features director John Boorman, Belfast singer-songwriter Andy White, Ryan Vail floats up the Foyle and internationally renowned pianist Barry Douglas.
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Rave On - on The Arts Show.
Music, poetry, film, flying guitars and
a trip down memory lane with 21st-century troubadour Andy White.
All that and this.
From duelling banjos to books,
director John Boorman on his first novel at the age of 83.
Music producer Ryan Vail finds the Foyle floats his boat
and a century-old piano.
How Monet makes the world go round for classical superstar
And as she swaps Northern Ireland for
Northern England, Sinead Morrissey debuts a new poem.
Since his breakthrough single, Religious Persuasion, in 1985,
songwriter Andy White has worked with icons like Van Morrison
and Peter Gabriel.
Over the course of the show,
he takes us on a dander through his city.
So you would have been aged, what, 16 or so?
Yeah, we were partying on University Street.
-And what came out of that window?
-A friend of mine threw an acoustic
guitar out that window and it bounced on the pavement
and broke a big crack in the back.
There was a big hole in the back of it.
And he asked me if I wanted it and I said yes.
"Sure, I'll take that."
And I'd been writing a lot of poetry and playing the bass, mostly,
and electric guitar cos we were Good Vibrations punks, at the time.
And, yeah, I started playing the acoustic guitar
and put the poetry to the four chords that I knew, or maybe three!
And that was the start of everything.
It was music on the road.
You could put it in a case and travel the world with it.
Say what you wanted to say.
It was a big deal for me.
# I had to get back to Belfast city
# Where the Jeeps are green and the girls are pretty... #
Do you feel that you were a political songwriter or
a personal songwriter?
-Can you be pigeonholed?
-I think both, Marie Louise.
Everything has been political and personal.
There has always been a very strong sense of where I've come from
in what I've written about.
And I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and John Lennon,
reading Jack Kerouac.
And my songs inhabit that kind of world,
where I've got something to say and I want to say it.
I'd like to dedicate it to Mr Douglas Hurd.
It's called The Guildford Four.
# Oh, the bomb blew at night and the soldiers they died,
# We've got to catch the guilty no-one can deny
# We got to round up somebody call them the Guildford Four
# Doesn't matter who, just anybody as long as there are four... #
If you tear your chest open and say what you really feel about stuff,
that's what people really respond to.
And that's what...
That's how I express myself, really.
I put everything into the first album.
Rave On is 30 this year, but when I sing the songs again -
I've been singing a lot of them recently - they're not out of date.
I still feel them as strongly as I did then.
I can sing Things Start To Unwind in Brexit Britain, and
it's a similar experience people are going through, I think.
# If God and the government ignore us, things start to unwind... #
In a strange way, growing up in a terrorist environment is
a strange, strangely appropriate way to face the modern world, I think.
Now, all we need is a blue plaque outside this building, saying...
That would be wonderful!
Saying "Andy White got his first guitar right here."
And also, you went to school around the corner.
Just up the road.
And Barry Douglas was...
-He was a couple of years...
-Couple of years ahead of you.
-Ahead of me.
Well, from Andy White to Barry Douglas.
Internationally renowned concert pianist.
Here he is, telling us about some of his favourite key artistic moments.
When I first went to London to study, I was 18.
I saw, the very first week in Covent Garden, The Ring Cycle by Wagner.
And it just changed my life for ever.
From that moment on, I became a Wagner nut.
One of the most powerful books I've ever read in my life is
Call My Brother Back by Michael McLaverty.
And it tells us in a very poignant way the upbringing this young
boy had on Rosslyn Island.
Because of terrible hardship and a death in the family,
they moved to Belfast and how, even in such an oppressive and sad
and tragic existence in Belfast, they were able to find humour.
The film that I keep going back to all the time is
Groundhog Day, Bill Murray.
Because have you ever thought, if it was possible to repeat
a day and get it right this time, that would be an amazing thing.
Don't you worry about cholesterol, lung cancer, love handles?
I don't worry about anything, any more.
Bill Murray keeps repeating this one day until he makes
a perfect goal of this one day.
And I think it's an amazing comment about spontaneity and living
in the moment, that every day does count and so it's
a film which is remarkably profound.
To the groundhog!
When I moved to Paris, I walked into the Musee d'Orsay on the River Seine
and stumbled into Monet's Water Lilies.
This amazing room,
which is a curved room, and you see this incredible depiction of
nature and it's almost a feeling of tranquillity
which comes over you and you feel complete.
One of world literature's most eminent writers,
Cork-born William Trevor, has died.
In tribute, we go to our archives to hear the writer
in his own words.
Raised in provincialism, I'm a provincialist still.
Small towns of Ireland are what I know best
and turn to first to find my bearings.
All memory is grist to the fiction writer's mill.
The pleasure and the pain experienced by any
the euphoria of happiness, the ache of grief,
must of course be the storyteller's own.
It cannot be otherwise and in that sense,
all fiction has its autobiographical roots.
Spreading through, in my case, a provincial world.
Limited and claustrophobic.
The memory lane that winds through the little towns of Ireland
has its bundles of personal riches.
There is that sound, most evocative of all,
that will accompany you for ever on all your journeys.
John Boorman's films have often looked at the effect of man
on his environment.
From The Emerald Forest to Excalibur and from Zadoz to Deliverance,
he has had a lifelong affinity with nature.
To end among trees, there is a fine thing.
A great oak in its lifetime consumes little more than
a cupful of nutrients.
Everything else it needs to form
its great bulk comes from the air,
and light and water.
Light and water,
light on water,
have been my markers, my working companions.
I am 70, I have lived in this house in the Wicklow hills for 33 years.
I inherited great trees, some of them have died and fallen.
I shall leave many more than I have found.
Some are young oaks, now 25 feet high.
I started planting too late in life.
But some acorns are now sturdy trees and I'm not yet too old to climb them.
I lie in their arms and watch the world recede by one foot each year.
46 years, I've lived in this house.
And from this house I of course ventured out across the world
to make my movies.
I've brought up seven children in this house.
took me two wives to manage seven children, mind you.
Well, you may not be making films any more, you've written a novel,
Crime Of Passion.
The lead character is a film director called Daniel Shaw.
Doing OK, doing well.
How much of you, John Boorman, is Daniel Shaw?
Well, not very much.
Odd things, but, you know,
I deliberately put myself in the book as a character
because I wanted to disassociate myself from
this Daniel Shaw, who is much more manic and crazed than I ever was.
But he's based on a couple of...
..directors that I've known.
-Can you name them?
-No. Not really, they're still alive.
Is there any bit of you in Daniel?
The way he deals with actors, takes something from me.
There's a rather disaffected actor and he gets very upset and
Daniel consoles him by putting his arm around him, because what
actors mostly want is love.
At 83, you felt the need, the burning need to write a novel?
I was invited, asked to write a book about how to make a film,
and I sort of sketched it out and it grew, little by little,
and over several years, I've been just developing it.
It's very personal, because you are an insider, you know this world.
You know the people, you know their strengths,
you know their weaknesses.
Of course, I've been doing it for 50 years,
so I should have learned something about it.
The book also takes you to Hollywood and to the whole Hollywood
system, how the director goes there trying to pitch this idea.
You find out really how Hollywood studios work.
The thing about Hollywood is that they are all whores,
so they never...
I've insulted people in Hollywood for years and years to the point
where they I think they would never speak to me again,
but if you have a project they want, you're forgiven.
Your journey as a director and your life in movies comes out
cos you tell the most delicious stories.
Have there ever been any moments where you thought, what am I doing?
-Why am I doing this?
-Yeah, nearly all the time!
I've always had the fear of losing an actor,
which I came close to in Deliverance.
We had Ned Beatty going down the waterfall, cataract and
he disappeared and didn't come up and the diver went in after him
and couldn't find him.
And eventually, he turned up.
He was under water for nearly two minutes.
"Ned, what did you think about when you thought you were drowning?"
And he said, "My first thought was,
"'How is John going to finish the film without me?'
"And then my second thought was, 'He'll find a way to do it.'
"And that's when I decided, I had to live!"
It's such hard work,
and it's so demanding that every time I finish a film,
I always say, that's my last film, I'm not going to do another one.
It's both very stimulating as an experience...
And of course, the pleasures are in the relationships with your
comrades, with your crew and your cast.
And it's the intensity of those relationships that makes it
And all the actors I have made films with have remained very close,
It's like, you know, if you've been in the trenches with someone,
you are bonded for ever.
# It makes me want to get back home
# It makes me want to get back home... #
-You've lived away for how long from here?
I've been really lucky to be able to take whatever I do wherever
I want to, and retaining a sense of coming from here, for sure.
Sort of culturally, politically, socially,
I've got a very firm base in Belfast.
It's somewhere people are interested in, for sure.
And I think in this modern world we live in,
just growing up the way we did is peculiarly...
-relevant, really, to the kind of world we live in now.
# I'm leaning on a bus stop listening to the Lavery's din
# Bradbury Place, spring '93
# Old sensations rushing in... #
If you look back at the 12 albums, I can see
it's like an autobiography of sorts and each one is a chapter.
So I can see that Rave On is about growing up here.
Kiss The Big Stone is about going away for the first time.
Himself is about coming back and living in the countryside here.
I mean, a lot of the songs I wrote, and albums I wrote,
just because I wasn't really thinking of who was listening
to them, I was just writing the songs because I had to write them.
The fourth album, Out There,
was when we were asked to go to Eastern Europe after the Wall
came down and play in Czechoslovakia and East Germany.
And that was part of the reason that we were asked, was because we
were from a divided city.
And I was saying something about social concerns which chimed
with those people there.
# Walking down the town on this particular day
# I heard a voice from the radio coming my way
# You hear a bright noise out on holiday
# And we are all invited so you tell me what you're gonna say
# Revolution... #
If you're a troubadour,
you've got to go out and take your stories to the world.
-And that's what you see yourself as, is it? A troubadour?
-I think so.
Spreading...spreading whatever you do around the world
and getting reaction to it, yeah.
And so you see yourself in the exile of James Joyce and those kind
-of literary guys?
-Great literary figures of our time?
Well, in the way they had to get out of here, get off the island,
to feel that they could express themselves...
..in the way that they wanted to.
And I've thought similarly.
We've got you here at the moment, but he is a current exile
and Sinead Morrissey is about to become a future one.
The poet is about to leave our shores for pastures new.
It never looks warm
or properly daytime in black-and-white photographs
The sheer cliff face of the ship still enveloped in its scaffolding
backside against the launching cradle
Ladies lining the quay in their layered drapery,
touching their glass to their lips and just as
They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships
rises from choirboys' mouths
in wisps and snatches
and evil skitters off and looks askance for now
A switch is flicked at a distance
and the moment swollen with catgut, about to snap
with ice picks, hawks' wings,
pine needles, eggshells, bursts and it starts
Grandstand of iron palace, of rivets, starts moving,
starts slippery-sliding down,
slow as a snail at first in its viscous passage
Taking on slither and speed,
gathering in the Atlas-capable weight of its own momentum
Tonnage of grease beneath to get it waterborne
Tallow, soft soap, train oil, a rendered whale
This last, the only Millihelen,
her beauty slathered all over the slipway
Faster than a boy with a ticket in his pocket might run
the bright sheet of the Lough advancing faster than a tram
Heavy chains and anchors kicking in lest it outdoes itself
Straining up to a riot of squeals and sparks
Lest it capsizes before its beginning
Lest it drenches the aldermen
And the ship sits back in the sea as though it were ordinary
And wobbles ever so slightly
And then it and the sun-splashed tilted hills, the railings,
the pin-striped awning, in fact everything,
regains its equilibrium.
PIANO NOTE CHIMES
This wonderful piano spent its life travelling across the
Irish Sea into the port in Derry where it had one owner before
it went to quite an important figure in the town,
which was Dr Joe Cosgrove, who was my wife's grandfather.
And after he had passed,
his lovely wife gave Katie and I the piano and I thought it would
be a really interesting story to tell,
the story of this piano's 90 years on earth.
Surrounded by humans and this kind of connection between the piano
and the owner.
Its voyage to its home was from the Irish Sea up the River Foyle
to the Lisahally docks.
The piano now is in quite a rough state.
We tried to salvage it as much as we
could, so this is almost like its final voyage.
It's on the river that it arrived on and so, you know,
it's pretty special.
It's 30 years since you stood on a roof in Belfast to launch the
songs that kicked off your career.
Yeah, the Whistle Test filmed us playing
Religious Persuasion up there.
-That building there?
One Saturday morning, 1985.
# Should have packed my bags headed off for the coast
# Had my time already come to meet the heavenly host... #
So, talk to me about this career that you have had over 30 years.
You've got a very unique relationship with your fans, don't you?
Well, I was always very independent.
I always... I grew up with the spirit of the Good Vibrations
punk thing from Belfast that you could do it yourself.
I was just arrogant and young and believed that I had
something to say which nobody else was saying.
# The mothers do the rain dance
# The daughters file for rape
# While the lawyers behind closed curtains
# Adjust their red tape... #
From the very start, I controlled what I did,
the master recordings and the writing.
We always recorded in Northern Ireland.
And just kept it very independent.
# I said, someone gotta stand up or nothing is gonna change
# Till religion is rearranged... #
Like, who wants to release a single with as many words on it as
Or as Speechless, another song I did on Out There,
which is eight minutes long?
I mean, I believe that you should be able to do those sorts of things,
and if you do, then you've got to control your output yourself.
In fact, the whole social media and independent record company thing
is just a development of that, really.
So you're very close to your fans. And you love that?
I still meet people at concerts now, on the tour I'm just
doing of the UK, who saw that very first performance up there.
And say to you, "I saw that.
"The first album really meant something to me."
And I think it's a very precious thing.
That was the start of, my whole thing, and I didn't ever know
that I would end up on another rooftop in Belfast!
With you being Rod McVeigh.
To recreate that video, we're going to do it now.
I'm going to hold the lyric cards.
-And that's where we will leave the show for tonight.
With a little bit of 30-year-old persuasion of the religious kind.
One, two, three, four!
# Protestant or Catholic cried the boys from the crowd
# Not you again, St Peter I was thinking aloud
# I should have packed my bags headed off for the coast
# Had my time already come to meet the heavenly host?
# They switched on their halos adjusted their harps
# Checked that the blades on the pearly gates were sharp
# I asked them what they meant about religious bent
# They said, that's the test I said, that's the test I meant
# They were giving holy orders I think you'll find
# I was up against persuasion of the religious kind
# It was hailing Marys at the drop of a tract
# I said the seven deadly sins were staying round at my flat
# I pondered on the churches of England and Rome
# I hadn't paid the rent for my spiritual home
# Needed guidance from the leaders whose names I knew
# Archbishop whatever he's called now
# And John Player No 2
# I quaked in my sackcloth threw away my joss-stick
# Burned my Koran and said I was agnostic
# I mean an atheist, I cried as they moved in for the kill
# The walls tumbled down as they handed me the bill
# They weren't impressed with my distinctions, I think you'll find
# I was up against persuasion of the religious kind
# You'll find
# A lamb to the slaughter a human sacrifice
# I told their spiritual leader his sceptre looked nice
# A hymn book skimmed my ear but I was only grazed
# And I dived for cover as the sawn-off bibles blazed
# In the gore I gasped was it something I said?
# Then a solid granite altar hit me on the head
# A collection plate plunged deep into my groin
# They marched off discussing the Battle of the Boyne
# As I expired I was thinking they'd been rather unkind
# I was up against persuasion of the religious kind
# Bleeding and naked I was somewhat at a loss
# The Good Samaritan was drinking at the sign of the cross
# Recalling their question I felt totally alone
# As I peered out from underneath the tablets of stone
# In the gutter lay the crushed remains of a Bible
# It proclaimed their grievances were purely tribal
# They made me see the light
# For that I offer my thanks... #
On this month's Arts Show, legendary director John Boorman, on what inspired him to write his debut novel at the age of 83. 'Belfast's Bob Dylan', Andy White on the streets that inspired him and internationally renowned pianist Barry Douglas on why Groundhog Day is his favourite film. Plus we float producer Ryan Vail up the Foyle and Sinead Morrissey reads an unpublished poem.