Festival of Words the perfect remedy to beat those winter blues

Jan Carson

DON’T let the dark nights or the falling temperatures get you down, because Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have the perfect remedy for any winter blues with a packed programme of intimate gigs, book readings, workshops, sound baths and so much more taking place as part of the International Festival of Words from now until the end of the month.

The festival is a celebration of the spoken and written word and is a new partnership between Council’s Arts Service and the Inter Ethnic Forum of Mid and East Antrim, and runs up to 30 November.

With a stellar line-up of events – from mindfulness and meditation for all ages to the world premiere of a Ballymena artist’s recreation of the iconic Supper at Emmaus painting by Caravaggio – the festival organisers have come up with a programme that honours the diverse identities and cultures across our area, with a large number of the events free to attend.

Budding orators from schools in the Ballymena and wider area will set the festival in motion on Thursday 7 November at the Braid Arts Centre when they take part in the 47th annual Ballymena Soroptomist Club’s Public Speaking Competition, with the winner selected to go forward to the Northern Ireland Final in February 2020.

The British Film Institute and Braid Film Theatre present the dark comedy, ‘Extra Ordinary’, which tells the story of a sweet, lonely driving instructor with supernatural abilities who finds herself being called upon to investigate a series of bizarre events in her home town, with free admission, on Friday 8 November.

The Festival of Words is also excited to present a live theatre production of the hard-hitting ‘Removed’ to local young people, adults and organisations working in this field, on the same night.

Based on real-life experiences of young people in care in Northern Ireland, the production gives a voice to all those who shared their stories in a bid to create a better understanding of the system they find themselves in.

There’s a chance to hear Scottish archaeologist, TV presenter and author Neil Oliver’s Story of the British Isles in 100 Places on Saturday 9 November, meanwhile, as he embarks on his first tour of the UK with a visit to the Braid at 8pm.

You won’t want to miss your chance to grab a copy of the inspirational Avah McGinty’s new book, Avah’s Beautiful Butterfly, when she holds her official launch on Thursday 14 November from 6pm.

The seven year-old Gracehill Primary School pupil, in association with her charity Love Hope & Faith, hopes the book will help create a better understanding of the condition Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and the challenges faced by those living with it.

Other highlights include a poetry reading with award winning author Clare McCotter on Saturday 16 November; a storytelling event featuring family tales passed down through generations and facilitated by the inimitable Liz Weir on Tuesday 19 November in High Kirk Church, and a one-night-only presentation of work by the Writers Block Group that evening in the Braid Arts Centre’s Studio Theatre.

There’s plenty of choice for music lovers, too, with Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlai taking to the stage at the Braid on Saturday 23 November; songwriter Anthony Toner and novelist Jan Carson set for an unmissable duet on Wednesday 27 November; and Belfast artist Andy White closing the programme with a one-off performance as part of The Braid Real Music Club on Saturday 30 November.

For a full list of what’s on during the International Festival of Words, including details on how to book for ticketed shows, visit www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/events

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