January 8th, 2016
Our blog writer, Elizabeth Moore, profiles emerging, talented local fashion designer Kyree Forrest.
Following on from the resounding success of the preliminary Fashion Fest in 2014, Derry City and Strabane District Council had yet another success with the three-day event which took place back in October. This year’s exciting programme included a Gala Fashion Show, pre-season Designer Showcase, Junk Kouture Catwalks and a host of in-store and promotional events for everyone to enjoy throughout the city.
The ‘Designer Showcase’ event organised by Eddie Shanahan (Chairperson of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers & developer of “Create” at Brown Thomas) at the City Hotel seen Northern Ireland’s most talented designers coming together to showcase their latest pre-season collections. It proved to be a roaring success, exclusively aimed at retailers and potential buyers as well as established and emerging designers.
One of many emerging designers in attendance was 25-year-old Kyree Forrest, a recent graduate from Limavady who has newly launched her own fashion label. “I decided to launch my brand under my own name, “Kyree Forrest” as it is unique and fitting to my persona and vision,” she says. “Kyree also translates to “ladylike” in Greek, and I aim to project a strong, contemporary, ladylike character through my garments.”
Having always had a passion for art and design, the talented fashionista knew from a young age this was the path she wished to pursue. This passion further progressed into secondary school where she was awarded the title of “First in Northern Ireland” for achieving full marks in GCSE Art & Design.
Following a long awaited interrailing journey across Europe, in September Kyree was accepted as a resident designer at the Fashion and Textile Design Hub in Derry/Londonderry, which she admits has been a hugely beneficial platform to launch her own label. “I had long considered future outcomes after my degree and even though I had two options that appealed to me, between working for an established Fashion House and creating my own, the latter was the aspiration I desired most”, says Kyree.
According to the aspiring designer, the Kyree Forrest clothing line will be a luxury brand, using real leathers, suede and natural fabrics like silk and cashmere to create timeless, yet edgy and strong pieces, with a refined ‘rock and roll’ personality. Having referred to herself as an ‘old soul’, Kyree hopes to project this character into her own fashion line, “I am inspired by the 60s and 70s era in time, be it their music, their celebrities or their fashion and I eject this inspiration and induce it into my design aesthetic”, admits Kyree. “Although not a direct translation, I am influenced by their taste, their confidence and their free spirit.”
Like the majority of Independent Labels, the Kyree Forrest clothing line will defy ‘fast fashion’ and encourage people to buy one off, luxurious pieces to add to an individual wardrobe instead of the “factory induced manipulative high street” as referred to by Kyree, a strategy which she plans to avoid within her own label. As well as her own business scheme, the emerging designer has envisioned a signature for the brand, including the type of customer she expects to purchase her luxurious yet edgy pieces. “I am inspired by the faceted structures of diamonds and precious stones in my work, with patchwork becoming a signature of the Kyree Forrest brand”, she admits. “My customer is a woman who challenges trends and expresses a confident individuality. My colour palette is typically monochrome, however I like to play on contrasting ideals such as metallic/matte, sheer/opaque, hard/soft, all in an intensely feminine way.”
Since gaining her position at the Design Hub, Kyree has been faced with many opportunities. As well as the presentation of her SS16 collection in a Designer Showcase, Kyree also participated in The Gala Fashion Show, which was the finale to Fashion Fest. This was organised by Tracey Hall from the Style Academy, Belfast and included reputable designers such as the renowned and international, Helen Cody and established Northern Irish Designer, Una Rodden. “After only launching my brand a month, as well as still working on its launch, I was proud to show alongside such prominent designers,” says Kyree.
“I have been continuously working on starting up my company, and the Fashion Hub has been a perfect platform to do so, with Business Advisors on hand, in house Garment Technologists and a collective of other resident designers. Working alongside the other resident designers has been a fantastic experience as we offer each other support and working with other creatives with similar goals feeds ideas and motivation.”
Recently, Eddie Shanahan personally selected Miss Forrest for the 2016 Irish Fashion Innovation Awards for the category ‘Ones to Watch’ – of which he curates. ”I am honoured that he chose me when I have so recently began my endeavour and it has refuelled my confidence in my craft”, says Kyree. “This will take place on March 10th 2016 in Galway and is noted to be the “Irish Fashion Oscars.”
From designer showcases and canoodling with the crème de la crème of fashion, to catwalks and fashion hubs, the motivated 25-year-old certainly has a lot going on at the moment! In addition to this, the up-and-coming fashion designer has recently launched her own website, and has promising inspirations for the future, proving that this little lady is certainly one to watch!
Kyree adds “I plan to continue to build a strong foundation for my business by undertaking further business courses and I am a member of Women in Business N.I which will involve awards, networking and opportunities to attend classes with fellow entrepreneurs and specialists in various areas. I aim to have my business fully launched by early 2016 and seek stockists for my label throughout Northern Ireland and Ireland, and eventually expand internationally.”
Well done Kyree! We wish you success for the future!
Tags: catwalk fashion, creative industries, fashion, fashion and textile industry, fashion industry, fashionfest, irish fashion designers, kyree forrest, northern irish fashion
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October 28th, 2015
Elizabeth Moore, one of our new blog writers, reviews Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining, just in time for our Midnight Movie screening of the cult horror this Friday 30 October! We’re very scared…
Halloween is drawing close and what better way to spend it than to watch one of our all-time favourite scary movies at Roe Valley Arts Centre this Friday 30 October! Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this spine tingling psychological horror film, “The Shining” (1980) will certainly have you on the edge of your seat!
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Scratman Crothers, the plot revolves around the Overlook Hotel, one of the most iconic and most sinister fictional buildings of all time, in close competition with the Bates Motel. Built in 1907 in a location that gives off a tremendous sense of isolation, the fictitious Overlook Hotel was once home to a horrific tragedy which occurred in the winter of 1920. This tragedy involved Charles Grady, a former caretaker who suffered a mental breakdown or rather, “cabin fever reaction” and eventually murdered his wife and twin daughters with an axe.
Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a former teacher turned writer and recovering alcoholic who takes a job as an off-season caretaker at the secluded hotel. As the resort closes in winter due to snow conditions, Jack brings his wife and son to dwell for five months while everyone else leaves for home. As the hotel owner warns him of its past, we can’t help but feel a sense of dread and impending doom when Jack replies with his cheeky grin, “It’s not gonna happen to me.”
As the family arrive on closing day and are given a tour, everything seems perfect within the hotel, with its luxurious golden ballroom including the cosy and homey aura that Jack appears to pick up on. However, everything is not as it seems.
His young son Danny possesses psychic abilities and is able to see visions from the past and future including the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. One particularly disturbing scene involves a creepy naked lady in a bath tub who tries to strangle him! And if you think that sounds bad, Danny even manages to talk to an imaginary friend throughout the entire film, allowing the sweet little boy to inherit the sinister pitch of Tony.
Nicholson steals the show with his permanently arched brows, evil cackle and creepy smile. His best and most iconic performance takes place some time after the family is trapped in the hotel by a snowstorm. Jack gradually becomes influenced by a supernatural presence, descends into madness, and ultimately attempts to murder his wife and son, replaying similar associations with the crime which occurred from previous years. When he famously screams, “Here’s Johnny!” whilst holding an axe peeping through the broken door, you can’t help but have stomach flips anticipating his next move!
Duvall does a great job of playing the screaming and terrified victim particularly in this scene and bafflingly, she always seems to be holding a cigarette every time we see her!
For me, the film has very few downfalls. However, if you’re looking for a shock a minute, jump off your seat ‘slasher’, then this isn’t for you. It’s a frightening and unsettling horror which creeps under your skin. Also, the film is quite long at 2 hrs 23mins so be prepared for a lengthy sit! However, despite these minor flaws, the anticipated jumpy scenes have been replaced with a chilling sense of approaching disaster which is helped with the screeching “violin-type” horror music throughout the film. At times it becomes so loud, you can almost feel it go right through your body, almost as if we are becoming possessed with the same spirit that inhabits Jack! This is certainly what makes the film an engaging and special one.
So, if you have never seen this movie or even considered it, or want to see this classic cult horror on the big screen into the wee small hours of Halloween, do come along and give it a watch! It will definitely be one you won’t forget, although I can’t guarantee you won’t have any nightmares!
October 15th, 2015
Calm, serene, ferocious, wild
This week we embrace everything that is the sea. We appreciate its calming influence instilling serenity, but yet we have respect for its ferocity and utter wildness. It is true that in the Causeway Coast and Glens we are never far away from the coast. It is without a doubt one of the many reasons why this area is so special.
Many crafters who live and work in the Causeway Coast and Glens region are often inspired by the sea, as it is a continuous source of energy often empowering their creativity. Eleanor-Jane McCartney is a North Coast artist specialising in the craft of glass sculpture using both hot and cold press methods. Her work such as this beautiful piece in this post can be seen and purchased in the gift shop at the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre.
Why is a Ship Called She? is the title of a poem which can be found printed on one of the Ulster Weavers 100% Irish Linen tea towels available to purchase in the gift shop. Not to be taken too seriously of course this fun tea towel with nautical illustrations would make a humorous gift to perhaps take home to friends or family or as a personal keepsake from the Causeway Coast and Glens.
‘Spirit of the Titanic’
Our children’s book of the week is Spirit of the Titanic, by Nicola Pierce which reminds us of the sometimes tragic nature of the sea. The story is told by the ghost of Samuel Scott who died while building the Titanic at a young age of 15. The book is priced at £7.99 and would make an interesting read this Hallowe’en for a young Titanic or history enthusiast.
September 4th, 2015
Ross Hutchinson reviews the animated film Leafie, A Hen into the Wild. Ross recently completed a volunteer placement with us and we were delighted to welcome him to the team. A fervent fan of film and anime, we asked him to review one of his favourite films….
The definition of “art” tends to vary depending on who you ask – is it an expression of emotion or a demonstration of skill? There will always be multiple factions debating this subject and what qualifies as “true art”, along with those of us who couldn’t care less and are just looking for some awesome movies we can enjoy and talk about.
One form of media that bares the brunt of all this madness would be the animated film. As the first Western release of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind should remind us, animated films – and animation in general – are more often than not seen by Hollywood as mere tools to keep the three-year-olds quiet for a few hours by beleaguered parents, and as mere packaged goods to be sold and merchandised to the uncaring masses by the people who release them.
If only such people were to stop comparing them to preschool shows and actually took the time to watch a few … Fans like me often compile a list of essential titles to recommend to such skeptics – The King and the Mockingbird, The Secret of NIMH, absolutely anything from Studio Ghibli … Such films easily demonstrate the sheer love and effort required to pull off beautiful results.
In the immeasurable time I’ve spent wandering the internet, wading through seas of Hollywood garbage in search of a decent movie, at some indeterminable point I came across Madangeul Naon Amtak, or Leafie, A Hen into the Wild. Released in 2011 and directed by Oh Seong-yun, this Korean movie entered my curiosity almost immediately after it did my line of sight. With an emotional premise, a team of animators hell-bent on making the movie as beautiful-looking as possible and acquiring the title of most successful Korean animated film to date – convincing its director to place more focus on animation’s creative and cultural aspects as opposed to the financial – you bet I was curious.
The movie follows the feats of an eccentric farmyard hen who, bored with her life of captivity and dreaming of freedom, escapes the farm and heads off, well, into the wild. Along the way, she comes across a newly-orphaned duckling. Wanting to fulfil its father’s last wish, she brings the duckling to a nearby glade. From there, the movie explores Leafie’s exploits as she searches for her place in the natural world and her adopted son coming to grips with his true nature while struggling to bond with his mother, as well as their efforts in evading a hungry weasel.
Overall, this movie is simply beautiful in all aspects. Though a great amount of background CGI is painfully noticeable and I personally didn’t find the score to be very memorable, the motherly tale this movie weaves is both very mature and very heartfelt. You will feel better having watched this movie. I wholeheartedly recommend watching it should one ever get the chance to do so.
By the way; it would seem that the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre will be playing host to a Cartoon Capers workshop for young people and an afternoon of classic Looney Tunes animations for everyone to enjoy on November 7 this year. Definitely not to be missed!
April 21st, 2015
This post explores the writer John Steinbeck’s connection with the Ballykelly area and includes excerpts from his article I Go Back to Ireland, originally published in Collier’s Magazine in 1952. We thank the National Steinbeck Centre, California for sending us a copy of the original article.
In 2012, we introduced an annual event to explore and celebrate the internationally acclaimed author John Steinbeck’s connection with the local area. Nobel-prize winning author John Steinbeck’s maternal grandfather, Samuel Hamilton, was born in Mulkeeragh, an area outside Ballykelly, on 7 October 1830. The son of Esther Clarke and John Hamilton, he emigrated to New York at the age of 17 at the time of the Great Famine.
Samuel married a young Irish girl, Elizabeth Fagan, in the summer of 1849. The couple first settled in San Jose and later relocated to Salinas and then a large farm near King City, 60 miles south of Salinas. Their youngest daughter, Olive, met and married John Ernst Steinbeck of King City in 1890. John, the writer, was born in Salinas in 27 February 1902.
Fascinated by his Irish roots, John travelled back to Ballykelly in August 1952 in search of his family, documenting his trip for the respected Collier’s Magazine. His resulting article I Go Back to Ireland was published later the same year.
In John’s eyes, his grandfather’s story epitomised the American experience, and greatly influenced his passions and writing. After he returned from his trip to Ireland, John completed the beginnings of a novel which became East of Eden, and included the larger than life character Samuel Hamilton, based on his grandfather.
The author wrote of his ancestral search:
Every Irishman – and that means anyone with one drop of Irish blood – sooner or later makes a pilgrimage to the home of his ancestors. There he crows and squeals over the wee cot or the housemen, pats mossy rocks, goes into ecstasies over the quaint furniture, and finds it charming that the livestock lives with the family.
I guess the people of my family thought of Ireland as a green paradise, mother of heroes, where golden people sprang full-flowered from the sod. I don’t remember my mother actually telling me these things, but she must have given me such an impression of delight. Only kings and heroes came from this Holy Island, and at the very top of this glittering pyramid was our family, the Hamiltons….
Travelling from Belfast, John and his wife Elaine stayed at a hotel in Londonderry. They got a cool reception at the hotel, however –
There was no home feeling in the bleak hotel, that carried its own darkness with it. The girl behind the desk would not smile nor pass a cordial word, no matter how much we tried to trap her. In the bar there was no gaiety. I don’t know whether laughter was there before we went in for a drink or after we left, but none was offered for us to share, and curtains of rules brushed against us.
In a humorous tone, the author, frustrated by the rules of the hotel and the lack of customer service (the bar was shut, no food was available), asks the porter –
“Does the young lady at the desk never smile?” I asked.
“Rarely,” he said.
“Is no rule ever broken at all?”
“I don’t understand,” he said.
“Look,” I said, “my people came from hereabouts. They were law-abiding people, but there was a filament of illegality in them. My mother wasn’t above putting too much catsup on her plate and sopping it up with a piece of bread in a restaurant.” “
Catsup?” he asked.
I said, “One of my uncles had a major difficulty in college for stealing chickens. Another of my uncles had to be disarmed when he had murder in his heart, and I, myself…”
I stopped because the not-the-real-porter was looking at me helplessly, trying to make out my meaning. My voice was rising against a wall of frustration. “What I am trying to say is this,” I said. “Has all illegality gone out of this rebellious island in three generations?”
Sitting in his hotel, John almost abandoned his trip.
We sat in the window, looking across the street at the angry stone buildings and the small, locked-up shops. The street was deserted and a desolation came over us. I told my wife how brave and open my ancestors were, how full of lust and courtesy and fine laughter. I lied about them some – I guess I had to. The Sunday dark fell on that city which is sombre even on weekdays and in sunlight.
Now my reluctance came on me tenfold and I wanted to give up the pilgrimage and go away quickly and forget it, because reality was violating every inherited memory and I was saying to myself that if the old folks went away from here, maybe they had good reason.
On the morning of 18 August 1952, the author and his wife Elaine set out from Derry, renting a car and describing the passing landscape – ‘summer was full-blown in Ireland and the grain was bowing golden-headed, ready for the cutting’ –
We drove right through Ballykelly without knowing it was there, but at Limavady they turned us back. I guess I had thought of Ballykelly as a town; it isn’t – it’s what they call in Texas a wide place in the road.
An old man stood in front of one of the churches. “Mulkeraugh?” he said. “Second turning to the left – a quarter of a mile.”
“Do you know any Hamiltons there?” I asked.
“They’re all dead,” he said. “Miss Elizabeth died two years ago. You’ll find Mr Richey, her cousin, on the hill, though.”
Mulkeraugh isn’t a place at all. It’s a hill and three or four farms near about. Mr Richey came to the door of the house on the hill and he looked like some of our breed – the pink cheeks, the light blue sparkling eyes.
Mr Richey doesn’t recall John’s grandfather and thought it was Joseph, his grandfather’s brother who had emigrated to America. The author comments:
It was the same everywhere we asked – my grandfather did not exist. So far as Ireland was concerned, there was no Samuel Hamilton. Why should they remember? The tree of our culture had no roots.
Locals did remember the children of John’s grandfather’s brother –
Everyone knew the three children of my grandfather’s brother, Miss Katherine, Miss Elizabeth and Mr. Tom. It was a good farm they had – about 200 acres – and a good house of two stories… They were well-endowed, well-educated people, and they had more land than most. They had silver spoons and fine china and little coffee cups, so thin you could see through them, and all the collected things of the family for hundreds of years, pictures and books and records and furniture, to make them envied all over the countryside. But they never married. They were well known, well liked. They grew old together.
Then about 12 years ago, Miss Katherine died. The directing head was gone. The farm went to pieces little by little and month by month, so slowly that it was hardly noticeable. Tommy, with no-one to tell him what to do, when to plow and when to sow, began to neglect the land, and he sold some of the cows and didn’t replace them. When the roof leaked he didn’t mend it. The hedges began to creep into the fields.
Tommy died about seven years before John’s visit. After he died, Miss Elizabeth began acting very strangely. Neighbours told John they would hear her at night, walking on the lanes, calling her brother back home, as his dinner was getting cold. When neighbours were visiting, Elizabeth would talk very sensibly as she always did, but then quickly usher them out, saying Tommy was coming home from the fields and he would be tired. ‘She’s just turned strange, they said.’
When she died, neighbours said it was a sorrow to see the house torn apart:
It was well known that the Hamiltons had beautiful things. On the day of the auction, the automobiles and the carriages came by the hundred, and people bought pictures just for the frames; and the beautiful silver went, and the fine china, and the books, bought for the binding only – and all by strangers. Strangers bought the farmhouse. It was a sorrow, the neighbours said.
I went to see the house and there was nothing of us there. The rose garden was overgrown with weeds and only the whips of the rosebushes showed above the grass, with haws still on from the last year. The ivy had nearly covered the stone paths. The new owners were kind. But they were strangers, and, what was even worse, we were strangers.
The sexton of the church at Ballykelly is an old man, lean and dry, and his speech is like my grandfather’s speech. I asked, “Did you know the Hamiltons?”
“Hamiltons?” he said. “I ought to – I dug their graves. I buried them, all of them. Miss Elizabeth was the last, two years ago. She was a bright one.”
We looked at the graves, with the new cement coping around the plot. “Miss Elizabeth put in her will about coping,” the sexton said. He didn’t ask, but we felt that he wanted to know.
I said, “My grandfather was William’s brother.”
He nodded slowly. “I’ve heard,” he said. “Went away – I forget where.”
“California,” I said.
“What was his name again?” the sexton asked.
The rain was beginning to fall, he left us for a moment and came back, carrying a full-blown red rose.
“Would you like to have it?” he asked.
I took it. And that’s the seat of my culture and the origin of my being and the soil of my background, the one full-blown evidence of a thousand years of family. I have it pressed in a book.
Tags: American Irish, Ballykelly, Collier's Magazine, East of eden, Grapes of Wrath, I Go Back to Ireland, Irish Ancestry, Irish Emigration, John Steinbck, limavady, Londonderry, Of Mice and Men, Pulitzer, Steinbeck, Writing
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March 3rd, 2015
In promoting Limavady and its key attractions Lance through his camera work showcases what a visitor can expect to experience during their stay or visit
Last summer was indeed a busy one for Lance Wilson, Lancorz Design, who in over a short period of 2 months produced 10 promotional videos of Limavady. This project was funded by Arc North West through the Rural Development Programme and Limavady Borough Council. Lance, who has achieved great accomplishments including success at competition level at the Ulster Media Show 2010, representing Northern Ireland at Global Game Jam in 2011 and creating animations for the BBC, naturally has a love of design and gaming but when he does have some project-free time, juggling is a key leisure pursuit.
In promoting Limavady and its key attractions, Lance through his camera work showcases what a visitor can expect to experience during their stay or visit. The Limavady Myths and Legends Sculpture Trail which can be viewed online, features the iconic sculptures and commentary by one of the sculptors Maurice Harron. Creating the video involved capturing stunning locations and views as early as dawn alongside the sculptures depicting myths and legends including Manannán Mac Lir, Danny Boy and Jane Ross, the Leap of the Dog, Paiste, Finvola, Rory Dall O’Cahan and the infamous highwayman Cushy Glen.
Lance did have a challenge in producing some of the videos, as heavy rain poured down during location interviews, but it certainly didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. It really doesn’t matter what the weather, Limavady promises adventure for all from outdoor activity providers including Carrowmena Activity Centre, Longline Surf School, FoyleHov and Benone Tourist Complex. This is certainly not an exhaustive list and many more outdoor pursuits can be found on Limavady’s tourism pages which can be found at www.limavady.gov.uk/visting/activities.
Of course we can’t forget about coffee and the café culture which exists in Limavady. Even if you are not a coffee lover, Limavady eateries offer excellent fare and an abundance of home baked produce. In another short video, Lance interviews café and restaurant proprietors about what they offer customers. Limavady does promote the use of locally sourced produce and suppliers and is home of Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil which has reached culinary markets overseas.
Considering that Limavady is steeped in local history, Lance captures what the local community know about subjects, including the origins of Danny Boy and what life in the Limavady Union Workhouse was like.
Also through the videos, viewers can learn about the Roe Valley Country Park, Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Limavady’s best small festival – Stendhal Festival of Art and the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre.
Limavady Borough Council would like to thank Lance for undertaking the video project, which certainly showcases Limavady as a visitor destination to Explore, See, Do.
To see all of the videos click here
February 20th, 2015
Claire Lynch, one of Youth Arts Correspondents, reviews our current exhibition The People of Limavady Past.
The Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre has been a vibrant hub of activity ever since it opened its doors in October 2010. Every month it offers a wide and diverse range of theatrical performances, discussions, exhibitions and film screenings as well as educational experiences and classes for both children and adults. Exhibitions often run for several weeks at a time and are free of charge, so it is well worth just popping in sometime to see what’s going on.
The People of Limavady Past is the latest exhibition to go down a storm in the centre, which displays Nelson McGonagle’s fascinating collection of black and white still images depicting life in the Roe Valley over the last century.
Jamie Austin, Museums/Heritage Officer for Limavady Borough Council, whose idea it was to curate the exhibition due to her enthusiasm for photography, describes the immense interest in the display from local people who have been flocking in and recognising their friends, relatives and even themselves on occasion. The visitor book, filled with comments of gratitude and awe, imply that many people have been back several times, sometimes bringing friends with them to reminisce together about their days gone by. Visitors who have moved away from Limavady have also been travelling to the centre, and amazingly some of them are seeing family members for the first time!
Photographs are powerful sources in reliving oft-forgotten moments, especially for those who have lived long and full lives and have perhaps not thought about their earlier years for a while. One lady I spoke to, knew many of the people in the photographs, and the ones whose names escaped her, she recognised their faces or knew the family name they came from. The various landmarks brought back experiences of her time spent working in the different restaurants and hotels around the town, where she recalled the strict, high standards expected of her. We spoke for a long while about how certain things have changed over the years, not just the buildings and the houses, but also ideas and values.
Despite there being more than 60 years between us, we found common ground in having both spent time growing up in the area and in knowing the street names and surroundings. While much looks different, we concluded that much too is the same. It was this encounter that made the experience all the richer for me and I am grateful for this lady’s generosity in sharing her story.
After 6 weeks on display, The People of Limavady Past will draw to a close on Tuesday 24 February, however it will be on display again at the Arts Centre from 4 July-29 August, followed by an exhibition at Green Lane Museum. The centre is still interested in hearing from people who may have images similar to these ones, so if you have some photographs you would like to contribute, contact Jamie Austin, Museums/Heritage Officer at the Roe Valley Arts & Cultural Centre.
If you have a spare 30 minutes in your day, I highly recommend going along to view the photographs. You never know who you might recognise, or what feelings the images will evoke, or better still, what interesting and inspiring stranger you might meet.
January 31st, 2015
One of our Youth Arts Correspondents, Florentyna, reviews a recent concert by classical pianist Robin Colvill.
Last month the Roe Valley Arts Centre has seen Robin Colvill play in the Danny Boy Auditorium. Having studied in Scotland, Italy and Austria, Colvill is currently one of the busiest pianists performing in Britain and Europe. This truly was a wonderful opportunity to see a talented British musician who has played at a variety of venues for a variety of audiences – amongst others he has performed at opera houses across the world, major UK festivals, as well as for the members of the Royal family. His work has attracted attention of media and he has appeared on Austrian, British, German and Spanish TV and radio.
The whole evening had quite a relaxed atmosphere – before playing each piece Colvill told the audience a little background information, the playing technique used and included humorous anecdotes. It was an event that could be enjoyed by both the concert going novices who wish to find out more about classical music, as well as the experienced melomaniacs who want to listen to wonderful piano music in a more casual environment. The disappointingly small, yet – judging by the conversations I overheard during the interval – delighted audience was able to enjoy a selection of classical piano works that came from genius minds of such composers like Chopin, Rachmaninov, Sibelius, Grieg and many others.
Robin Colvill performed each piece not only with an obvious technical ability, but it was also clear that he felt every note, from thunderous roars to gentle whispers. As a pianist myself I was able to appreciate the great skill and talent that Colvill must possess, especially because he made it all look incredibly effortless! However, what struck me most was how despite the fact that he was playing only for a handful of people, Colvill behaved the way one would playing for thousands – there was an impression of mutual respect between him and the audience, which is rare nowadays.
After the performance the audience were able to purchase Colvill’s album, a lovely collection of romantic piano music, which he was keen to sign. I am sure that for the people who bought it, including myself, the CD will remain a perfect remainder of this enjoyable evening.
November 12th, 2014
One of our Youth Arts Correspondents, Florentyna Syperek, reviews Dyad Productions‘ recent chilling theatre offer, Female Gothic, which was presented here at the Roe Valley Arts centre on 23 October 2014.
Are you brave enough to face the creations of your own imagination?
This October we were once again invited by Dyad Productions to explore some fascinating stories under the guidance of Rebecca Vaughan, a wonderful and talented storyteller. Directed by Guy Masterson and written and performed by Vaughan, “Female Gothic” brings to life three spine chilling tales from now forgotten female Victorian writers.
In “Female Gothic” Vaughan is playing the most powerful instrument of all – human imagination. Even though the stories themselves may not be as terrifying as they would have been back in Victorian times, Vaughan still manages to encourage the strangely familiar shapes of our fears to emerge from the dark depths of sub-consciousness. After all, who can scare us better than our personal demons, whatever or whomever they may be?
This is especially important during the final tale, where Vaughan’s character is recalling her own encounter with the supernatural – the whole audience fell completely silent and the feeling of uneasiness crept in, settling in among the shadows in the Danny Boy Auditorium. At this point, it was clear that Rebecca Vaughan and Dyad Productions have succeeded in making even the most sceptical of the audience members fear what might be lurking in the darkness.
Typical of Dyad Productions, their minimalist staging is very appropriate and proves rather effective, with a lone leather chair and candelabra with three candles which accompany Vaughan allowing all the attention to be focused on the storyteller. The mood of foreboding tension is brilliantly conveyed through clever lighting changes and subtle use of sound throughout the piece.
However, what is particularly fascinating about “Female Gothic” is how the type of stories Vaughan chose to tell and act out weren’t just about providing entertainment for the Victorian readers, but were also a way of showing the frustration female writers were experiencing in relation to the position of women in those times. Those gifted female authors are mostly forgotten now and it is wonderful that Dyad Productions brings their stories to a wider public, helping us remember their importance and the contribution they have made to British culture during that period.
“Female Gothic” is a must-see play for anyone interested in Victorian times or wanting to get into the spirit of Halloween. Fantastically directed and another great example of Vaughan’s talent for storytelling, this is a show that will without doubt be the cause of a few sleepless nights!
August 22nd, 2014
Kendra Reynolds, one of our Youth Arts Correspondents, reviews our current exhibitions, Juniper by Shona Macdonald and Creature Comforts by Lauren Scott.
Walking through the upstairs galleries I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Like Shona Macdonald’s picture Gateway, in which her protagonist Juniper gazes with inquisitive purple eyes into a tiny doorway that appears to be mounted on a tree, I stood in awe surrounded by the fantasy exhibitions that make up part of the annual August Children’s Month.
Yet, these exhibitions are not just for children. Juniper’s root-like arms that blend with the barky entrance of the gateway reminded me that these magical works offer us a chance to get back to our roots and vivid childhood imaginations which are often stunted by the worry of our mundane everyday lives.
However, there is also an astounding darkness in this art, as the picture Tangled Throne implies. Here, a person is locked inside a tree with only her face and hands free from the foliage that engulfs her: perhaps the person whose mind Juniper is negotiating, for Shona tells us that Juniper has “just woken into this place, with only fragments of another’s memory to guide her”. Whilst the branches growing from this person are adorned with colourful lights, not all is merry and harmless in this magical realm. Shona labels it “dark and menacing…snapshots of the various fantastical, obscure and predominantly threatening places Juniper encounters”.
The artist’s interest in what she calls “magical realism” seems to echo here how a cruel reality (real world place names like ‘Sweden’ and hierarchies of ‘Kings’, a word written on Juniper’s dress, with smaller animals looking in fear at larger ones with spears and sharp long noses) impinges upon the child-like fantasy world. The innocence of acceptance and equality is a contrast provided in The Lost Marshes of Juniper’s squirrel-like friend reaching out his hand across the rooftops and the little mice carried across the treacherous marsh by winged companions, adds to the brilliance of the exhibition. As I wrote in the visitor’s book: “hauntingly amazing!”.
In the corner of the room I saw a sign stating that the artist has hidden a rabbit in each one of her pictures and an invitation for children to seek them out. Yet, for adult viewers a much greater search is apparent in the artist’s statement which outlines a journey undertaken by Juniper and her creature friends to discover their origin and purpose. I couldn’t help feeling like one of Juniper’s companions travelling with her through this weird world, making up my own narrative in my head as I went along. A member of the cleaning staff snapped me out of my daze when she noticed how entranced I was and nodded knowingly to indicate that she too could empathise with the sense that you could sit there looking all day into these portals and continue to find something new hiding in every nook and cranny. The detail is unbelievable.
From the signs of the stalls in Night Circus, including ‘Award Winning Eyeball Cake’ and ‘Beastly Bites’, the monster juggler’s apparent innocence until you notice he’s juggling human-like heads, eyes which peer from small crevices, to books entitled ‘The Emotional Life of a Slug’ and ‘The Truth About Scarecrows on Other Planets’, every detail adds a startling depth to this amazing planet. And, despite Juniper’s apparent search for an escape, she, like myself, seems to linger inquisitively and with a certain reluctance to leave this realm behind! All I could say to my parents when jumping back into the car: “I’m going back to see that again!”, with my enthusiasm clearly suggesting that there was no room for negotiation, my dad simply looking at me wide-eyed and muttering “Alright”.
I’d be kidding you if I pretended to capture everything about this exhibition, there simply are not enough words, but there is a couple which really stood. Trapped haunted me from the moment I laid eyes on it: in this picture Juniper looks into the pleading gaze of her squirrel friend locked inside a jar. It appears to be some sort of science experiment storeroom, which fits with the lab depicted in Emanation and Transmission. It reminded me of the times we live in and its attempts to dissect everything and understand them rather than appreciating things for their simple beauty.
Shona deliberately defies our attempts to make sense of her world, literally depicted in The Glowing Field of Confounded Fruit and its signposts pointing off in vague directions to locations as appealing as “Harmony and Sparkly Things” or as repelling as “Often Smells Like Fart”. Eerily the book titles in ‘Trapped’ signal the fate of the imprisoned animals, which though blurred, seem to read as “Using Spoons For Eyes”, “Trembling With Blood”, and “Struggling with Hapless Turkeys”. This sense of a damaging power or force lingered for me throughout my journey through the pictures.
Even in the first image Pinnacle City, it depicts beehive slots for small busy creatures as the foundations of an elaborate city occupied by robed and masked figures (the same ones that hold the spears in other images). One thing which stood out for me was the text about ‘Israel’ and ‘Kings’ that makes up Juniper’s dress in Trapped, and it seems fitting at the present time with the violence raging overseas: Juniper and her cross-species gang in their innocence, manage to work their way through the problems of this realm and it is only a corrupt adult force that complicates their simple acceptance of the beauty of this world and each other. The whole thing highlighted for me the simple beauty of a child-like mind that our society seems to have lost. Shona’s art acts as a powerful reminder.
Yet, back in the ‘Wonderland’ of these exhibitions, my mind boggled from Shona’s ‘Perplexing Perplexities’, I was happy to seek a more cuddly contrast in Lauren Scott’s Creature Comforts. These figures compliment the animals from Shona’s exhibition perfectly and continue the slightly dark strand through her inspiration from taxidermy and dead animals. Luckily for me she too prefers the “veggie alternative” of fabric and textiles!
Lauren also captures beautifully the ruthlessness of humankind’s hurtful impact on animals and nature, with the hare’s red threaded scars on his impressive ears supporting his attached statement: “You can lead a fool to wisdom but you cannot make him think”. Humour is something Lauren aims to capture in her exhibition and I personally giggled reading this quote, mentally creating my own interpretation of a posh and slightly sarcastic tone for the majestic, but slightly irritated, hare as he curses the mindless driver of the car who ran over him (admittedly I made that scenario up in my head too, but for me it seems to fit!).
A similar scenario played in my mind when viewing the lunging Mr. Hedgehog, whose belly hung out over his display stand, wearing his adorable dungarees with the caption: “No matter how hard he tried, Mr. Hedgehog could not get himself out of his sticky situation” – situated beside each other perhaps Mr. Hare is irritated at Hedgehog’s lack of logic! The detail of Mr. Hare astounded me (I was almost slightly hesitant taking a close-up picture of the intricate detail of his feet in case he came to life and tried in vain to lead me to wisdom before inflicting his irritation upon me!).
The third large figure prowling at the other side of the gallery was the fantastic Mr. Fox in his remnants of a tail coat jacket, short cuffs and collar with his mantra: “It is better to regret something you did than to regret something you didn’t do”. Whilst this is amazing advice, the dubious nature of his sly smile is slightly unnerving and made me think “what did you do?!” – I was thankful anyway that he was separated from the already war-scarred Mr. Hare whose superior air wouldn’t fit well as prey for Mr. Fox’s sharp teeth and menacing gaze.
These two exhibitions work on so many levels to give visitors an experience no matter what their age or interests. They are staying here until the end of August and I cannot stress enough how much you would be missing to let these slip by without seeing them in all their beauty, humour, sadness, and magic. I could have stayed there all day like Juniper and her friends in the midst of their ‘Library of Perplexing Perplexities’. To capture every detail is impossible but I appreciated the fantasy space they provided as a retreat from this world for an hour. So whether you are bringing children along or embracing your inner-child, this is an event that your imagination will not want to miss!
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