Stepping into Stendhal

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The weekend just past saw Ballymully Cottage Farm in Limavady come alive with the sounds and sights of the 2013 Stendhal Festival , which saw myriad musicians, artists and entertainers take to a variety of platforms for two heady days of fun. The family festival has become increasingly popular with each passing year, this being the third successive event and I consider myself fortunate to have enjoyed some of it firsthand!

As I mentioned last week, Ulster Scots poet Wilson Burgess read some of his work at Poetry Corner and pics of him and the rest of the Derry Writer’s Group can be found here. I’m afraid to say that I missed this but am assured that it went very well!Image

My own festival highlights included seeing Pocket Billiards perform, along with Paddy Casey and of course, the headliner for the final night – The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon solo). Having always been a fan of his music, the performance didn’t disappoint. With a grand piano on stage and an acoustic guitar, Neil delivered all his big hits and more to an appreciative crowd. For those who were there however, yes I should probably mention the unfortunate problems with the sound to begin with, when the piano drowned out the vocals and Neil couldn’t quite hear the piano (!), but he still won the crowd over and kept going and I was very pleased to be right up at the front cheering him on!Image

Under moonlight and stragically placed lighting, wandering around the rest of the festival made for quite a magical experience, with something fascinating and unexpected around every corner. Smaller stages were dotted across the fields, with DJ tunes and songs from live bands floating across the night air, mixed in with the laughter from those enjoying the stand-up comedy further along the way and the general conversation of campers and visitors as they ambled along or relaxed in areas such as the Peace Garden.

In one tent, under cover of semi-darkness, we took in some local artwork – with colourful portraits, beautiful landscapes and, my personal favourites – a moonlit scene with two rubber ducks holding an umbrella and another picture with the silhouette of a metal summerseat on an autumn evening. All very atmospheric!

Moving on into the trees at the bottom of the main field, we crossed a bridge – the ‘dancing bridge’ – following a rabbit path which meandered through thick trees dressed in their finest colourful crochet and hung with prettily patterned ties. ImageMusic wafted across the air – a DJ squirreled away beside a huge trunk providing the tunes – with campers taking turns to enjoy the delights of the swing attached to its branches. It was chilled out, it was attention to detail and it was simply impressive how the Stendhal organisers managed to attract so many top acts to the event. A job very definitely well done and… if you want to experience it for yourself, why not go along next year!Image

Moving on to some writing news… I am very pleased and excited to report that the literary and arts ezine, ‘A New Ulster’, is to publish some of my poetry in their next edition, out in September! The publication is in fact one year-old next month and although I have been aware of it over the past 12 months, I never quite considered that they might take on some of my work. Having received positive feedback from the recent literary festivals and events I’ve been attending however, I decided to go for it and contacted the editor. Lo and behold, he said they would be delighted to do so. I now await September and fully intend to order a hardbacked copy of issue number 11!

ImageMeanwhile, this coming weekend sees the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival but I’m afraid that due to a bereavement, Winona Ryder will not be attending, so neither will I, as it was the only event I had booked! I do hope to go along next year however and have been reading up on some of Beckett’s dramatic work over the past week – beginning with ‘Waiting for Godot’ – courtesy of Mr Wilson Burgess. By next year I will hopefully be a lot more informed about his writing and subsequently better able to appreciate the festival for what it is. In the meantime, I look forward to the On Home Ground Poetry Festival in Magherafelt next month!

One final piece of news is that September will also see me begin a new sub-editor job in Belfast with RE&D (NI) Ltd so, whilst I will still be blogging, if I miss a week to begin with, you’ll know why – new job stress!

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