It’s three cheers for the Four Corners

By Staff Reporter

Belfast’s 4 Corners Festival has returned for a second year based on the theme of providing stories by ‘them-uns’ for the enjoyment of ‘those-uns’.

Organised on a cross-denominational basis by Fitzroy Presbyterian and Sacred Heart Parish – and supported by congregations from all denominations across Belfast – the festival aims to encourage people to leave their corner of the city and explore new places and new perspectives.

The three-week festival contains a host of free public events including ‘Listening to Your Enemies’, a conversation between the Brighton bomber, Patrick McGee, and Jo Berry, whose father died in the 1984 blast,  and ‘4 Corners, 4 Stories’ with senior church representatives and cross-denominational prayer meetings at some of the city’s peace walls.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, said he was delighted to be associated with the festival and to allow the use of City Hall to support the venture:

“This is a beautiful example of the work our churches are doing collectively to engage with those who, for a variety of reasons, may feel marginalised,” he said. “This is outreach in its truest sense and I applaud all who are committed to carrying it out. I feel proud to play my part in ensuring that no aspect of the life of Belfast remains hidden away. We must celebrate the diversity of our city – and include every corner.”

Fr Martin Magill from Sacred Heart Parish – formerly of St Oliver Plunkett Parish – explained the project.

“Belfast is such a small city,” he said, “but our recent history has created a fractured and divided community where opportunities to experience all it has to offer are surprisingly limited.  Much of the impetus for the 4 Corners Festival came from the personal realisation by myself and Steve Stockman that we had a very insular view of our own city.  We simply didn’t appreciate what was on our own doorstep because we were so conditioned to stay cocooned in our own little corner.”

Reverend Stockman of Fitzroy Presbyterian said the festival is for everyone who wants to share experiences.

“Martin and I quickly concluded that our neat little compartmentalisation of Belfast sat uneasily with our Christian faith which challenges us to love our neighbours, no matter what their background or where they live,” he said.  “4 Corners is the result of a lot of work by a lot of people who have a passion for Belfast, who love this city and want to promote reconciliation.  It’s a festival for those with faith and those without – it’s for anyone who wants to appreciate all the diversity that Belfast has to offer by listening to stories from every corner of the city.”

The festival includes a wide variety of events in both church and other venues such as Belfast City Hall, An Chultúrlann and the Black Box.  The aim is to challenge and inspire people of all ages to cross Belfast’s many cultural and physical boundaries. Running until the beginning of February, the Festival also includes a Robbie Burns celebration in Sacred Heart Parish Centre, Oldpark, an event in Stormont’s Long Gallery with four Belfast politicians recounting their personal stories, and an eclectic mix of musical, story-telling and poetry recitals.

Professor Roddy Cowie of Queen’s University’s Pysychology Department will  lecture on the psychology of peace in ‘The Sermon on the Mount’.

Full details of the festival programme are available at www.4cornersfestival.com

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