Episode 8 The Arts Show


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Episode 8

This month's Arts Show features live music from The Darkling Air, Gavin Ferris and Hannah McPhillimy, with readings and visual arts.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Hello. Glad you could join us in the BBC Studios

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here in Belfast for a very special Arts Show.

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We have got visual art over here.

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Very expensive bowls. Do not touch.

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We have got Mr Gavin Ferris, minus his guitar,

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but we also have Ross Thompson, poet extraordinaire,

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and we have Hannah and Jan, who are friends and collaborators.

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More on that in a moment.

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But first up, they are a duo that have been together for only a year.

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Their first album, Untamed And Beloved,

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has been released to critical acclaim.

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Please welcome The Darkling Air.

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# It's all imagination

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# When it's not before your eyes

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# The fairest is the new kid

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# Who observes before decides

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# Still clinging to the values

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# Of a vain and fruitless pride

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# On the inside

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# Watching as he loses his way

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# He can't even hear as I call his name

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# And turn your head around

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# Don't you notice

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# That you are of this?

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# Of this you made yourself

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# You're acting like the weather

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# Like snow on top of spring

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# You promised all your colours

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# And then covered everything

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# Will you recognise your children

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# When you've had a heart to heart

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# With yourself?

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# Watch me if I'm losing my way

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# Violently thunder my memory

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# And turn my head around

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# Make me notice

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# That I am of this

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# Of this I made myself

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# And turn your head round

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# Don't you notice

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# That you are of this?

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# Of this you made yourself. #

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APPLAUSE

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Thank you, guys. I love the sound.

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More from The Darkling Air later.

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Well, ceramics as an art form is as old as antiquity,

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but, as the most recent winner of the Turner Prize proved,

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it's more than just a load of old bowls.

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Claire Newell, welcome. You are a ceramicist.

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I use bowls, maybe not as dear as this,

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for my cornflakes in the morning.

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What makes this art?

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Well, everything's handmade completely by me,

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from start to finish,

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using porcelain.

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It's all hand-decorated and each dot's put on by me,

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so it might be a little bit more precious to you

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than just eating your cornflakes out of it.

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Would you let anybody eat their cornflakes out of it?

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Certainly, if they wanted to!

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But I see them purely as decorative.

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I'm afraid to touch them, because they're expensive, are they?

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-They are.

-They are. OK.

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So I'll keep my hands by my side and not do anything.

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But with Emma Hart winning the Turner Prize

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and also, a very big prize, as well, the Max Mara,

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do you think that made ceramicists sit up and cheer

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and say, "At last, you recognise we are a valid art form!"?

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I think so. I think it seems a bit more legitimate

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now that it is, sort of, it's even modern again.

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And it's great to see - hopefully, it continues.

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So, it's contemporary

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and would there have been the feeling up to now

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that maybe you were in the crafts world

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and not in the visual arts world?

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Is there that bit of snobbery going on?

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Certainly, I think so. I think crafts sometimes is not seen

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as something maybe as high-end.

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But high-end? I mean, this is high-end.

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How long would it take you, even, say, the smallest bowl? How long would it take to make?

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The smallest bowl, from start to finish,

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you're talking easily ten hours plus.

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Each little dot is just simply on and off into the pot

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and back on the bowl,

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so there's no quicker way of doing it, unfortunately.

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Why do you do it? What makes you do it?

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I suppose I find it quite therapeutic.

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I've developed a lot of patience in the last few years, as well,

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of developing the range.

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You're also a mum.

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You have a toddler now, what, 18 months old?

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Yes. Sophie. She's 18 months.

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Well, to paraphrase the famous quote

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about the pram in the hallway being the enemy of art,

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where do you stand on that?

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I think that's completely untrue.

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It's just finding the balance

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between your home life and your business life.

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I can do both.

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So you are a champion for both toddlers and ceramics?

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-Certainly, yes.

-Thank you so much.

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-Put your hands together, everybody, for Claire Newell.

-Thank you.

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APPLAUSE

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Now local author Jan Carson

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and singer-songwriter Hannah McPhillimy

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have been creating fresh takes on each other's work

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for about four years now,

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and they're still friends.

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In a moment, we'll hear Hannah's take on Jan's work, but first,

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please put your hands together for Jan Carson,

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reading from her novel Malcolm Orange Disappears.

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The children revelled in the open sky.

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They flew like fighter pilots and dined like demigods

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on tinned fruit and Hershey bars.

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Recalling the claustrophobic fields and streets of Jefferson, Oklahoma,

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they could only conclude that their parents were selfish creatures,

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denying them the full breadth of their prodigal wings.

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By the time they hit Europe,

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all seven children had lost their instinct to return home.

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The ships docked in Belfast on January 26th 1942,

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and while the regular troops trooped through the city,

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exploring the public houses and dance halls,

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the children made darting exploratory flights

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through the Glens of Antrim and the Newry Hills,

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thrilled by the jungling foliage and the lush greens.

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Accustomed to the flat Oklahoma plains,

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everything seemed damp, pocket-sized and saturated in colour.

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"Such a small island", the children mused.

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No bigger than a single state,

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yet this tiny teaspoonful of a tiny continent

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served to whet their appetites for further adventures.

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In the early days, Europe felt like a homecoming for the children.

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The streets ran thick with mythical beings.

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Monsters, angels, immortal creatures.

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For one short instance,

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the flying children felt almost acceptable.

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Huddling for the night in barns and rural barracks,

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they began to speak healing words over each other.

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"Lucky" and "blessed" and "terribly, terribly fortunate",

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the squat syllables rocking them into deep, satisfying sleep.

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# Hey, kid

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# I knew before most did

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# How the Lord giveth

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# Prefers taking outright

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# So don't dress it up nice

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# No, don't waste your good time

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# Making things pretty,

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# For a man without sight

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# I've done all right

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# Just hold me when the sinking comes

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# I wasn't born like this

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# Gargantuan, repulsive

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# I had my waist pinched

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# By many fingers and thumbs

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# Just put on the weight of someone not made for love

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# And other than the absence of all human touch

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# Don't think I missed out on much

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# And maybe they'll hold me when the sinking comes

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# Ooh

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# Ooh, oh

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# Ooh, ah...

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# Don't let your precious child

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# Out in those blue skies wild

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# They'll only take off, fly to never return

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# So strip off their fledgling, strange and beautiful wings

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# It's for their own safety

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# And soon they have to learn

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# They're not right for this world

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# But we'll hold them when the sinking comes

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# In times gone by we used to fly

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# But it's such a heavy world

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# In times gone by, we used to fly

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# But it's such a heavy world

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# In times gone by, we used to fly

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# But it's such a heavy world

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# In times gone by, we used to fly

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# But it's such a heavy world

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# In times gone by, we used to fly

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# But it's such a heavy world

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# In times gone by, we used to fly

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# I'm just far too tired. #

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APPLAUSE

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Hannah McPhillimy with Sinking

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and Jan Carson with Malcolm Orange Disappears.

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So, who made the first move, then?

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It was Jan. She was more keen.

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-Really?

-Well, we've been friends for an awfully long time

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and I've always been in awe of Hannah's talent, as you can hear,

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and I was just dying for an opportunity to work with her,

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and this came up.

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So what is the physical process?

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I mean, Hannah, do you read Jan's work

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and then you hear something musically

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and then you rewrite it?

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-Yeah, well, Jan gave me... Was it the first draft of your novel?

-Yeah.

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And then I just read it in its entirety,

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and then Jan gave me the freedom to write about whatever I wanted,

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so just whatever I was attracted to.

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Then I scribbled away.

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And then what do you hear in Hannah's work, Jan?

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I hear a lot of my characters coming to life in a different way,

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so it's almost like getting someone else's eye to see things

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that you maybe missed the first time round,

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which is a lovely process to go through.

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I mean, there must be a huge amount of trust here.

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Is it like a screenwriter adapting a book for a film?

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Yeah. When she first asked me, I was terrified,

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cos I thought she might hate it!

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It's a big undertaking!

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Yes, but...yeah, I think with any creative collaboration,

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there is massive trust and I'd never actually done that before,

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so it was lovely to do it with someone I really respected.

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And you're heavily into music.

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Do you understand, really, though,

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the different approach that Hannah needs to take your words?

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Well, I actually got a little insight into it,

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cos Hannah did the same manoeuvre on me last year,

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and gave me some of her music to write a story about,

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so she flipped the thing over and made me do it.

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So I realised at that point just how difficult it is

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to be given someone else's work.

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And you don't talk about it - I mean, do you just let it sit,

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and then you send it to her,

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and go, "Fingers crossed, it's going to work"?

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We had a lot of frantic coffee, and just...meetings,

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throwing ideas at each other, and things.

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But art demands honesty,

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so how do you retain the integrity of the work,

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while staying mates?

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I think it comes down to trust, to be honest.

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And if you really value and understand

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another artist's integrity,

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actually, sometimes their opinion is better than yours.

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-Really?

-Yeah.

-Do you believe that, Hannah?

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-Erm...

-Say "Yes!"

-Yes!

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LAUGHTER

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-She does.

-That's the right answer!

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Have you ever fallen out, though?

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I don't think so. Jan has some grudges held against me,

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cos she didn't realise when she was enlisting me

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she'd have to carry my huge keyboard.

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So she has a few scars on her shins!

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I actually pulled a rib carrying Hannah's keyboard around Ireland.

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Yeah, you don't do that with a pen and paper.

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Ladies and gentlemen, please thank Hannah McPhillimy and Jan Carson,

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and please, no falling out, we need more of you!

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Thank you! APPLAUSE

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Now, there's a healthy tradition of portrait painting in Ulster,

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from Sir John Lavery's epics and studies

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to Colin Davidson's list of heads of state and Hollywood icons.

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We add a new name to this roster - Donegal painter Daniel Nelis.

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Welcome. You won the Royal Ulster Academy Portrait Prize in 2015.

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So what did that mean to you as an artist?

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Well, I remember my first time

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getting to see the Royal Ulster Academy was in 2009,

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and that was the year that I was just committing to art, I guess,

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because I was doing my foundation course

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in North West Regional College in Limavady.

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And so we were brought up, and that was my first time getting to see

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people like Colin Davidson in person.

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There was even a drawing of Michael Longley

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by David Russell as well.

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That had a super, kind of, profound impact on me.

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They made me realise that, "Here's these guys that can actually

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"have a credible career out of making art."

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And then, a few years later,

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whenever the e-mail came through

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that I'd won the Portrait Prize,

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it was a super confirming moment.

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So talk to me about some of these...

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Some of them are fairly big, others are very, very small.

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So, what's the process?

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Well, I think the thinking behind all of my work is...

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It's kind of inspired

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by these still, quiet, contemplative moments.

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The place that conjures that kind of sensation the most for me

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is just the area that I'm from.

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-Which is Glenveagh, Donegal.

-Exactly.

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We're just surrounded by miles and miles of bogland.

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And it's not unlike, maybe,

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the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich,

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the German Romantic painter.

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His paintings were about being alone in nature, or figures...

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Very much being, in the bog by yourself, kind of,

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conjures a similar feeling.

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So you put your mum into the middle of a bog.

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-And you paint your mum.

-Yep.

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Imperfections and everything?

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For me, it's just about, kind of, bearing witness to the person

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in as honest a way as possible.

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Obviously, what we're doing still is an artefact of the person,

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it's not the person themselves.

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-But...

-Does your mother like it?

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As chance would have it, she did like the painting.

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-So that was...

-OK, OK.

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My father had been through a similar process,

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so she had seen the damage done there.

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You see, I have sat for a painter, Colin Davidson no less.

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And I know I was very honoured to,

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but I found it the most nerve-racking experience

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-of being looked at.

-Absolutely. Because it's...

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I mean, Lucien Freud even said of one of his teachers, Cedric Morris,

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that his paintings were more intrusive

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than they had any right to be.

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And I think that's true, they are intrusive,

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and they kind of make us bear witness to ourselves in a way,

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especially now, we wouldn't feel comfortable with.

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But I think that's super important, because it lets us see

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the truth in ourselves.

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So will your mother let you paint her again?

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I doubt it very, very much.

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Well, somebody else will want to be painted by you.

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-Daniel Nelis, thank you so much. Thank you.

-Thank you.

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APPLAUSE

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Now, you could say that my next guest

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paints sonic portraits with his six-string.

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He is Gavin Ferris, one of an emerging group

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of virtuoso guitarists in Northern Ireland at the moment.

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Here he is with The Dragon Is Coming.

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APPLAUSE

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Those fingers were a blur, Gavin, thank you so much.

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Now, Ross Thompson is an English teacher by day,

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and when the school bell goes, he writes.

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This year bodes well for him,

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as he's been chosen as one of 12 to watch by Lagan Press.

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Ross, over to you.

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The Slipping Forecast.

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Viking, North Utsire,

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South Utsire, Irish Sea.

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South-westerly veering north-westerly, four or five,

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backing into East Yamatai.

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Moderate or rough, becoming good.

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Sweetwater, trimble fee, ley line.

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Narnia, magnetic pull veering centrally at first,

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heliosphere fragmenting later, rough or very rough,

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chances of meteors high, obliteration unlikely.

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Nettle song, Legoland, shimmer moon, silver pen,

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fog patches, white squall,

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vengeful ghost pirates hunting for plunder.

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Severe gale, becoming cyclonic,

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occasionally very violent in Groomsport.

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Golden glove, solitude, honey trap, trill.

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Infrequent sightings of three-way fisticuffs

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between Godzilla, Mothra and King Kong.

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Screaming Japanese civilians decreasing three,

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at times hellfire and brimstone rising,

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but tailing off by End of Days.

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40s, middle-aged spread sinking southward,

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afternoon naps increasing,

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self-loathing eight, weepy clouds ten,

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mood swings frequent,

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anguish severe,

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periods of low depression, ennui, rough,

0:24:330:24:37

crises inevitable,

0:24:370:24:38

staring at childhood drawings of snowmen, nine.

0:24:380:24:42

High chance of crying over spilt milk.

0:24:420:24:46

Tumbledown, fox willow, apple glass, adultcy,

0:24:460:24:52

cosy and carefree middle-age ebbing to all four corners.

0:24:520:24:56

Wistful, yet without regret.

0:24:560:24:59

Unhappy, but content.

0:24:590:25:02

Restful slumber, not giving two hoots.

0:25:020:25:06

Peace descending, zero to zero.

0:25:060:25:11

APPLAUSE

0:25:110:25:14

Thank you to Ross Thompson,

0:25:190:25:21

and thank you to all our guests and performers here this evening.

0:25:210:25:25

You can't get away from us, we are on radio and online all the time.

0:25:250:25:30

We'll leave you tonight with one more tune from The Darkling Air.

0:25:300:25:34

Goodnight.

0:25:340:25:36

# The darkling air descends its veil

0:25:580:26:03

# Upon the rugged hills

0:26:030:26:05

# I stayed too long and now I can't see anything

0:26:070:26:14

# Though the night is young, my glass is full

0:26:160:26:21

# It's another done deal

0:26:210:26:24

# With the tendency to sting you in the morning

0:26:260:26:32

# Barefoot though the wilderness

0:26:350:26:40

# It's what I'm comprehending

0:26:400:26:44

# Magnificent yet cold and cruel

0:26:440:26:49

# And unforgiving

0:26:490:26:57

# Deep it lies, the olden spring

0:27:140:27:19

# Broken by the years

0:27:190:27:23

# Now quilted by a heather bed is sleeping

0:27:230:27:30

# Nature stands to nurture life

0:27:320:27:36

# Then leaves it to decay

0:27:360:27:40

# I collect the bones she casts away

0:27:410:27:48

# Barefoot through the wilderness

0:27:500:27:54

# It's what I'm comprehending

0:27:540:27:59

# Magnificent yet cold and cruel and scorning

0:27:590:28:06

# I feel it all, I feel my way

0:28:070:28:11

# Until I finally find you

0:28:110:28:16

# I do it all in hope

0:28:160:28:19

# I do it all

0:28:190:28:23

# For love

0:28:230:28:28

# Ooh, ooh, ooh

0:28:300:28:36

# Mm

0:28:360:28:39

# The darkling air descends its veil

0:28:580:29:03

# Upon the rugged hills

0:29:030:29:06

# I stayed too long

0:29:080:29:10

# And now I can't see anything. #

0:29:100:29:17

APPLAUSE

0:29:200:29:23

This month's show is a performance special with audience featuring live music from The Darkling Air, Gavin Ferris and Hannah McPhillimy, with readings and visual arts.