A Gift to the City

Before I return to further thoughts prompted in part by Brueggemann's "Out of Babylon" I just want to point you in the direction of another wonderful book, entitled "GiftED: The Tale of 10 Mysterious Book Sculptures Gifted to the City of Words and Ideas." This slight but beautifully illustrated book tells the story a series of book-based paper sculptures created anonymously and left in various literary venues across Edinburgh and subsequently Scotland, starting in March 2011, with a "PoeTree" left in the Scottish Library of Poetry and inspired by its motto "by leaves we live" (taken from a poem by Patrick Geddes). As well as being an act of artistic grace this was also a profound political statement in the face of austerity-based cuts to education, libraries and the arts. On Goodreads I gave the book a 5* rating, as much for the generous, creative imagination behind this one person campaign as for the book itself. I have already been recommending it and may be gifting copies to various artistic and/or activist friends.

But I finished reading it on the day on which I joined with some of those friends in Belfast's City Hall to launch the third annual "4 Corners Festival". This faith-inspired festival seeks to entice people out of their own ‘corners’ of the city and into new places where they will encounter new perspectives, new ideas, and new friends, and together pursue peace and prosperity for all its citizens. This year the key words that underpin it are "imagination and generosity" which I suppose is one of the reasons "GiftED" seemed to resonate with the aims of the festival, and indeed I would love to see a similar venture taking place in this City... maybe as part of next year's 4 Corners Festival... But for this year we have enough to be going on with, including...
20 ARTISTS: RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY: From Thursday 29th January in Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts An art exhibition curated by Bronagh Lawson looking at contemporary spirituality in print, painting, sculpture and digital images.
A NIGHT WITH MESSY WOMENFriday 30th January at 7.30pm in Canada Room, Lanyon Building, Queens University. The  Biblical Storytelling Event with Wendy Johnston which premiered last year at the Agape Centre, I blogged on it then, so this is your chance to see it if you missed it then. It looks at the sometimes shocking stories of the women five women named by Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary, followed by a discussion panel exploring the importance of these stories and women’s stories in general in a world that often overlooks them. 
CORNERS OF THE CIRCLE: Saturday 31st January from 1pm – 4pm. Bus leaving from PS² Gallery, 18 Donegall St, Belfast, BT12 2GP at 1pm.  An opportunity to visit a series of art pieces installed in four different churches around the city, with the artist Bronagh Lawson. 
IMAGINATION TOWARDS GENEROSITY: A THEOLOGY: Sunday 1st February at 7pm, in St Malachy’s Church, 24 Alfred Street, Belfast. Michele Marken and Steve Stockman explore the Biblical mandate and the pragmatic outworking of imagining generosity in Belfast. 
IMAGINING A BELFAST WITHOUT WALLS: Monday 2nd February at 7.30pm in Townsend Street Presbyterian Church. “Belfast: Towards a City Without Walls” by Vicky Cosstick with photographs by Frankie Quinn, will be published in 2015 by Northern Ireland publisher Colourpoint. The book tells the story of Belfast’s “Peace” walls and of some of the people who are directly engaged with them. This is a chance to see some of the images and hear some of the stories in a church immediately adjacent to Belfast's longest "peacewall."
3 MAYORS FOR ALL 4 CORNERS: Tuesday 3rd February at 8pm in the Ulster Museum. The last two Lord Mayors, Gavin Robinson and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir along with the current one, Nichola Mallon, who helped launch the festival in City Hall on Friday, share their stories of their year as Belfast’s first citizen.
IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Wednesday 4th February at 7.30pm, Fortwilliam & Macrory Presbyterian, Antrim Road. Representatives of Tearfund, Trócaire and Stop the Traffik discuss the global and local fight against human trafficking and the exploitation of people as modern slaves or sex workers.
GREATER LOVE - STORIES, IMAGES & MUSIC FROM WW1: Friday 6th February at 8pm, Clonard Monastery, TICKETS £10The stories of several local individuals who were involved in the Great War, drawing hope from the selfless acts of people who put others before themselves, set against music from the period of the war and some more recent reflective items. This event is produced by New Irish Arts 
A STEP TOO FAR? A CONTEMPLATION ON FORGIVENESS: Saturday 7th February at 3pm, in Strand Arts Centre. A film investigating an alternative to revenge; the idea of forgiveness. From Northern Ireland to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, ordinary people share their real life stories and how they have come to view forgiveness. The showing will be followed with a conversation with the Director of the Film and others. This event has been sponsored by Irish Churches Peace Project. To book, please email: info@fourcornersfestival.com .
'SLIGHE NA BEATHA’ 'THE PATH OF LIFE': Saturday 7th February at 7pm in Skainos, 239 Newtownards RoadA journey through the Psalms with Scottish Gaelic Psalm singers, in a programme devised by Linda Ervine of the Turas Irish language programme in East Belfast Mission, exploring anger and despair, healing, forgiveness, acceptance and hope, in the light of the "progress" of our peace process and the confrontation that developed as a result of last year's 4 Corners event in Skainos.
A NEW GENERATION OF PEACEMAKERS: Sunday 8th February at 7pm, in Sacred Heart Parish Centre, 1 Glenview Street. An evening of worship marking the end of this year’s festival led by Fitzroy’s Source group and North Belfast’s Search group. Jasper Rutherford, who works for Summer Madness and the Church Army will be helping us to think about the need for a new generation of peacemakers.
See www:4cornersfestival.com for details on all these events.

Like the paper sculptures in Edinburgh these events are our gift to the people of Belfast. All events (with the exception of the Greater Love concert) are FREE, but donations are welcome towards the cost of the programme. There is also the opportunity to support one of the private events, the 4 CORNERS REFUGEE FEAST where, in conjunction with Embrace, NICRAS and others, Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon, will host a meal for refugees and asylum seekers in Belfast City Hall.  £20 will provide a meal for one of our guests.

I hope that you will join us at at least one of these events as we seek to imagine an even more generous city.



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