Delivering Peace? – Paperboy Launches 4 Corners Festival as Belfast Citizens try to put Peace in the News

paperboyAs the majority of people in Belfast retreat to their own corners of the city this evening in the wake of ‘Operation Standstill,’ some citizens are planning their own operations.

In ‘Operation Sit-In,’ people are encouraged to sit in a city centre restaurant or bar and enjoy some refreshment while waiting out the loyalist protest, thus providing the traders who have been so badly damaged by the protests with some much needed trade.

Last night, the first ever 4 Corners Festival launched with Tony Macaulay reading from his acclaimed memoir Paperboy, including some of the book’s more poignant reflections on peace.

‘The Peace Gathering’ community, which organised a peace protest at City Hall before Christmas, plans another action on Sunday, January 13 between 12.30-1.00 pm. And earlier this week, some of the organisers of the pre-Christmas Prayer for Peace at City Hall introduced the 11:11 initiative, explained this way on the 24/7 Prayer webpage:

In Proverbs 11:11 we read ‘By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.’ We are inviting you to join with us in setting the alarm on your phone or watch for 11.11 each morning and evening to take a few moments wherever you find yourself to continue to pray and speak blessing over our city and our leaders. Praying that God would give wisdom, courage and grace to us all at this time and that peace and hope would return to our streets.

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(See my earlier post on Slugger O’Toole, ‘What’s the Point of the Peace Rallies?’)

While Macaulay’s reading from Paperboy included many of its more humorous passages, in light of recent events his decision to read from a chapter in the book called ‘Peace in the Papers’ was timely. In it, he describes what it was like to observe one of the Peace People rallies in the late 1970s.

And while listeners knew that these rallies ultimately would not bring an end to the Troubles, Macaulay’s words, abridged from the original passage in the book, resonated (p. 225-226):

On that sunny August day, the front page of the Belfast Telegraph had a picture showing our mountain, Black Mountain, rising behind a 25,000 strong throng of widely flared women in Woodvale Park. … In the grainy image on the front of the paper, I could also see the fields on the slopes of Black Mountain in the background, where, only a few hours ago, I had sat and watched the huge rally for peace. I had been a tiny dot up there behind it all.

… As I climbed up the fields that day, I wondered why a boy could only watch peace. Reaching the higher fields, I was amazed at the sight of the crowds in Woodvale Park that afternoon, and moved by the sound of singing and cheering. A strange mix of laughter and the refrain of ‘Abide with Me’ was bouncing off the Black Mountain that day. This was unbelievable.

Unexpectedly, I found myself weeping. I was used to the echo of bomb blasts and gunfire. Were we really capable of this? It seemed a lot harder than fighting. This was the answer. The Troubles would be over soon. One day the killing would stop. There would be no more bombs at the shops and no more soldiers on the streets. And everyone would agree that all the fighting had been a waste of life. I was living in hope, so I was.

With Macaulay, I think we should still be asking ourselves:

Just what are the citizens of Belfast – of Northern Ireland – capable of? Are we capable of transcending our differences and transforming our society peacefully, democratically, and without infringing the rights of others?

Like Macaulay, I’m still living in hope, so I am.

(Images from Tony Macaulay’s reading of Paperboy at Ballygomartin Presbyterian Church)

The next event in the 4 Corners Festival is a lecture on the history of the Book of Kells, described this way on the 4 Corners website:

‘The History of the Book of Kells’ – Dr Angela Griffith, Trinity College Dublin

Thursday 17 January, 7.00 pm, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich


Dr Angela Griffith from Trinity College Dublin will be taking a lecture on the history of the Book of Kells. We are excited to celebrate this national treasure as a symbol of Belfast’s shared heritage in both faith and creativity.

The Book of Kells is one of the greatest surviving treasures of the early Christian period in Ireland. It is a testament of the craftsmanship, the faith and the creative powers of those involved in its production. This lecture will examine its origins, the processes used in the manuscript’s production, its artistry and cultural contexts. The discussion will also include a summary of how the Book of Kells became an icon for ‘Celtic’ Revivalist designers and artists at the turn of the twentieth century.

Tea/coffee at 7.00 pm, talk begins at 7.30 pm.

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