The fifth annual 4 Corners Festival was launched this morning at a prayer breakfast at St John’s Presbyterian Church, Newtownbreda. This year’s theme is “Our Wounded and Wonderful City.”
The Festival runs from Friday 3 February until Sunday 12 February with events designed to celebrate Belfast and ask how we might find healing for our wounds. All events are free and accessible to all.
The programme includes a concert with Grammy nominated singer songwriter Iain Archer. It also features artist Colin Davidson, who recently painted a portrait of the Queen, in conversation with journalist Brian Rowan.
Survivors of the Troubles will share their own stories of pain and healing. The annual festival banquet at City Hall will be for full time carers and there will be an Interfaith event with members of Belfast’s Islamic, Jewish, Baha’i, Hindu and Buddhist communities. There will be a screening of the acclaimed film I am Belfast, including a Q&A with producer Lisa Barros D’Sa. Theologians Rev Dr Trevor Morrow and Fr Brendan McConvery will discuss the theology of healing and reconciliation. Other events will showcase stories of healing and songs that find wonder in the wounds.
The full programme can be accessed at www.4cornersfestival.com.
Festival Co-Chairs Father Martin Magill and Rev Steve Stockman were awarded the 2016 Community Relations Council Civic Leadership Award for their work with the festival. Magill and Stockman developed the idea for the first festival over a cup of coffee, as they discussed together the changes in perspective they had experienced when they travelled to parts of the city with which they were unfamiliar.
(Photo: Sr Martina Purdy & Rev Harold Good at the launch of the 4 Corners Festival.)
They wanted to encourage others to venture out of their comfort zones – geographically, mentally, and spiritually – and so a Festival was devised with events in all four corners of the city. This was designed to prompt people to cross boundaries and experience new people and new places.
This year’s Festival will be taking place during a time of especially acute political crisis, given the upcoming Assembly elections. Community Relations Council chair Peter Osborne, who spoke at the launch, urged civic society to communicate to politicians that they want reconciliation and to portray visions for a better future.
Prayers at the launch called for reconciliation to be at the centre of the elections. Stockman said:
“Reconciliation is our priority – it will not drip down from the hill of Stormont, but has to creep up from the grass roots. This festival imagines a different Belfast – a transformed city with reconciliation and grace at its heart.”
Magill agreed and added that simple acts make a difference for reconciliation:
“Over the last 4 years we have brought people out of their own area to let them see life in other parts of the city. Friendships have been formed and lives have been transformed. As Mother Theresa said, ‘Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.’”
All Events at 4 Corners Festival are free and accessible to all. The festival has been funded entirely by the generosity of hundreds of small donors. This year the festival also received support from the central Good Relations Fund administered by The Executive Office.
Disclaimer: I am on the committee of the 4 Corners Festival.
Gladys is a Research Fellow in the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. She also blogs on religion and politics at www.gladysganiel.com