Belfast 4 Corners Festival starts next Sunday. All events free to watch online…

Northern Ireland’s first-ever inter-Church arts festival will proceed despite Covid-19 by going on-line.

The Belfast 4 Corners Festival, now in its ninth year, co-founded by its Joint Chairs, Presbyterian minister, Rev Steve Stockman and Catholic priest, Fr Martin Magill, will live stream 30 events from January 31 to February 7.

The festival announced its lineup on its website 4cornersfestival.com

The festival said they had to abandon plans to invite a limited number of members of the public to attend some of the events owing to the current health emergency.

The festival’s theme is Breathe and its organisers say they “are trying to breathe hope and creativity into our very difficult situation.”

They added: “It is still our intention to invite people in Belfast and elsewhere to pause and take the deep breath we all need at this exceptionally trying moment in our history.”

The programme includes a keynote speech by United States-based Professor John Paul Lederach, an internationally acclaimed author and expert in conflict resolution plus contributions from the Jamaica-born singer-songwriter and teacher Raquel McKee, and the poet and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama.

There is an evening in the company of Belfast songwriter and performer Duke Special.

Hot button issues coming under the spotlight include domestic violence which has soared during the pandemic and racism, underlined by the killing of George Floyd in America, says the festival programme.

A panel discussion on domestic violence – in the wake of the passing of new legislation in the Assembly last week – the will include Dr Olive Buckley, OBE, a family GP and forensic medical doctor; Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher from Public Protection Branch, PSNI, and Rev Alan Lorimer, a chartered psychologist and Methodist minister.

The ugly face of paramilitary-style “justice” in post-conflict Northern Ireland is depicted in the screening of the short film “Rough” followed by an on-line panel discussion including its writers Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson.

The festival said: “We had planned a programme of online-only and blended in-person/online events (Covid-19 regulations permitting).

“However, given the deteriorating situation around the pandemic and the introduction of new tighter restrictions we have decided to proceed on the basis of a festival accessible only on-line. But one still true to 4 Corners’ original vision of inspiring people to cross traditional boundaries.”

The festival committee told supporters: “We think you’ll understand that because of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation we’ve had to change tack and go for a purely online festival. It’s not what we’d have wished but health and safety must be our priority.”

They added: “Due to the lack of social contact we cannot spread the word about our festival as we normally do, so we must rely heavily on social media and would greatly appreciate your help in letting others know about the events. Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and share our posts whenever you can.”

The mission of the 4 Corners Festival is “to inspire people from across the city of Belfast to transform it for the peace and prosperity of all.”

It promises “innovative events designed 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 to “celebrate our city through music, prayer, storytelling, discussion, and more.”

Morning and Night Prayer will be streamed throughout the festival and a special BBC Radio Ulster Morning Service will be aired.

To view all the events and book your free tickets visit 4cornersfestival.com

You can also follow the festival on Facebook and Twitter.