Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Salmon

This Friday, I'll be presenting a salmon-themed poetry reading in Portrush as part of Verbal Arts Centre involvement with 'Stories of Salmon Leaping', a cultural heritage project being delivered by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and partners, aimed at raising awareness of the salmon, its story and its lifecycle.

I'll be sharing poems looking at salmon in and out of the water; in rivers, creeks, Pacific currents and beyond; salmon in the hand, on the slab, and cooking it, in the poetry. With verse from Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Raymond Carver and much more, the poems explore mankind's connection with nature, looking at salmon not only as a source of sustenance and income, but of the magic and majesty of the fish, and of the wild tales their journey inspires.

This poetry reading will be the prefect excuse for me to dig out all my old fish puns... although really I've haddock up to here with fish puns. I'm really just making them up for the sheer halibut.

http://theverbal.co/blog/story/2015/fishy-tales-and-poetry-for-salmon-project-events

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Poetry Never Sleeps

It's been an extraordinarily busy last couple of months with poetry events and opportunities for Geraldine​ and myself. Months of blessings and excitement, getting to read alongside many great poets that we admire and are honoured to know, discovering new names, and helping to push poetry to the masses and extend the platforms for people to share their work through.

Over the summer we've had the chance to be a part of The John Hewitt Society​ International Summer School, Stendhal Festival of Art​, EastSide Arts​ (thanks Maria McManus​ and Bronagh Lawson​) and the Bounce! Arts Festival Weekender (thanks Chris Ledger​ and all at Arts & Disability Forum​).

There's been poetry written for great causes with Sofa Sessions raising money for NIAMH Wellbeing (well done Tracy Dempsey​), and poems for World Suicide Prevention Day this Thursday (organised by David Armitage​).

We've seen Rory Jones​ and David Braziel​ win the Belfast heat of the All Ireland Poetry Slam, and am excited to see who will advance through from the Bangor heat at Aspects Festival at the end of this month. And then there's the judging of the Funeral Services Northern Ireland National Poetry Competition to come on top of that!

There are plenty of possibilities out there for poets at the moment, and it's a dream come true to see poetry expand into so many areas. Thank you to all the facilitators, event organisers, directors and fellow poets for making this a great Summer of Poetry, and for keeping it rolling into the Autumn!

The dates of all the madness:

Thursday 30th July, 10pm
John Hewitt Summer School, Armagh
Purely Poetry

Saturday 8th August, 12-3pm
Stendhal Festival, Limavady
Poetry NI at the Garden Shed Stage 

Wednesday 12th August, 7.30pm
James Brown & Sons, 300 Newtownards Road, Belfast
FSNI National Poetry Competition – Belfast reading

Sunday 23rd August, 7.30-11.30pm
Duncairn Arts & Culture Centre
Sofa Sessions #9: Wellbeing Special [fundraiser for NIAMH Wellbeing] 

Thursday 27th August, 7.30pm
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Poetry NI Summer Reading

Friday 28th August, 
St Martin's Church,  Newtownards Rd, Belfast
Poems from a Pulpit - 'What else........'
(Part of 'Still Bunker' at Eastside Arts Festival)

Friday 4th September, 9.30pm
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Purely Poetry presents: the Belfast heat of the All Ireland Slam

Sat 5th September, 6.30pm
Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Bards at the Bar
(part of Bounce! Arts Festival)

Sunday 6th September, 4-5.30pm
Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Poetry Workshop
(part of Bounce! Arts Festival)

Monday 7th September, 7pm
John Gray & Co, Central Ave, Bangor
FSNI National Poetry Competition - Bangor Recital

Thursday 10th September, 10am
City Hall, Belfast
event for World Suicide Prevention Day

Thursday 10th September, 7pm
The Blackberry Path- Art Studios 26 Grays Hill, Bangor
Third Annual Bangor Poetry Competition (and Autumn Open Art Exhibition)

Friday 18th September, 11.55am
Ramada Hotel, Portrush
Stories of Salmon Leaping Symposium 

Friday 18th September, 10am-11pm
various sites, Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
‘Poetry Postcards’, Culture Night Belfast

Saturday 26th September, 7.30pm

Festival Marquee, Bangor Marina
Poetry NI presents: The North Down Heat of the All Ireland Poetry Slam
(part of Aspects Festival)


Friday 2nd October, 9.30pm

Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Purely Poetry open mic night

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Spirit Glass


Another blast from the past... The Spirit Glass was a poster of poems, compiled by Mark Madden​ from the legendary open mic nights at Arcadia Coffeehouse in North Street Arcade. It was launched at the very first Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival​ way back in 2000 (which kind of makes me feel old).

Arcadia was at the time the only real public platform for poets to get together and share their work. It existed before the Cathedral Quarter had any real night-life: all the bars would be shut at 11pm, no buses home, and you might have to walk a half-mile before you even found a chippy that was open.


I had only read there once or twice before when Mark asked me to contribute to the poster and invited me to read at the launch, which I was incredibly grateful for. Mark, Brian Bailey​, Royce Harper​, Stephen Gharbaoui​, Colin Hamilton and others were featured on the poster. Looking back, my own poem was embarrassingly woeful, but it was the start of a love affair with live poetry, and Arcadia will always be an important part of my poetry roots.




Sunday, 23 August 2015

Speech Therapy Poetry Zine: a blast from the past

A blast from the past... Originally established in November 2005 as a print zine, Speech Therapy's aim was to publish poetry that will promote the talents of new and established writers from the North of Ireland and beyond. It was envisioned that the magazine be used as a platform for writers to allow their work to reach the wider audience that it merits.


A number of the poets featured were published for the very first time. Back then, I had little idea of who these people were that were submitting. All I knew is that I liked their work. It's amazing to me the number of great names such a little zine attracted. Thank you to all of them who supported the enterprise.


Poets in the first four print issues included: Darran Anderson, Mel Bradley, David Braziel, Stephanie Conn, Mark Cooper, Aisling Doherty, Emer O'Neill, Jenni Doherty, Lynne Edgar, Faux MoSés, Colin Hassard, Marcus Keeley, Mark Madden, Gerry McCullough, Gerard McKeown, Jim Meredith, Chris Murray, Geraldine O'Kane, Olive Groove, Alex Pryce, Heather Richardson, David Smylie, Michael Wilson and many more.






Thursday, 20 August 2015

Poetry NI Summer Reading preview

This piece was originally published in BAM Magazine.

I was going to start this piece saying something like it is ‘an honour and a privilege’ to be working with the eight poets we have in our Summer Reading. But poetry isn’t just for the honoured or the privileged, it is open and accessible to all, especially to those willing to hunt it out. That’s what Poetry NI is all about: creating platforms for poets to showcase their work, and bringing people who love poetry together into a community, rather than an audience. In that way, we hope to make the hunt a little easier for people.

In presenting our Summer Reading, we’re bringing together eight fantastic readers to present their work: Chris Agee, Ruth Carr, Deirdre Cartmill, Kelly Creighton, Matt Kirkham, Maria McManus, Geraldine O’Kane and Lynda Tavakoli. Within lies a great range of established names and exciting new voices from across the North.


As a lover of poetry first, and an event organiser second, it’s a thrill for me to have so many poets from my bookshelf within one room for the night, presenting presses that will be very familiar to Northern Irish poetry readers: Lagan Press, Salt, Lapwing, Summer Palace Press, Templar and elsewhere.

All our eight poets are recognised not only for the quality of their verse, but also for their contribution to the arts in other roles as well, whether as editors, publishers, creative writing tutors, teachers and/or mentors. In writing poetry, one should also support poetry, as has been exemplified by our readers. It’s therefore fitting that the reading takes place in the Crescent Arts Centre, a long-time friend of Poetry NI and of Northern Irish poetry in general.

So come join us for an evening of powerful words, dazzling verse and stimulating insight from eight of the best voices the North has to offer.

[Full details and tickets at http://crescentarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873539220/events]

Thursday, 9 July 2015

FourXFour Issue 13 - photography


I was going to use a section of the first photo for the cover of the next FourXFour Poetry Journal, but the clarity just wasn't good enough. Shame, it's an interesting scene, taken at Lough Fea. Instead, here's another water shot, taken from a tiny lake somewhere in Colin Glen Forest Park.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

#NoShameDay

Yesterday was ‪#‎NoShameDay‬, an opportunity for people around the world to unabashedly rally around mental health care. It started in America to promote mental health awareness and education in the global black community, but has been taken up by all communities around the world on Twitter.
I was tweeting about it yesterday, and people seemed to respond to what I was saying, so I thought it might help others to post those thoughts on here too.
To live with depression, we must turn a #NoShameDay to a No Shame Life. There is no stigma, no blame or fault. Be open and be yourself.I've been fighting depression since my late-20s (at least, that's when it was first diagnosed). On and off antidepressants, through different courses of CBT. I've been seeing my GP pretty much each month for my depression for years now. I've been blessed with a caring doctor thankfully.
In the past, at my worse, I shut myself off for months when I was at my worse and didn't talk to anyone. Nothing improved. Don't be afraid to speak up. If you feel you can't speak to family or friends, call Samaritans, Lifeline or equivalent. They understand and do not judge. No one has the right to judge you and how depression impacts on you. Do not judge yourself too harshly. You are human.
With depression, sometimes it makes it hard to keep in regular contact with friends, but true friends understand why. The response I hated most from people when I told them about my illness was "why don't you just take some pills and get better?" It can be hard for friends sometimes to reach a place of full understanding about depression. We must try to withhold judgement and support where possible.
Depression makes you doubt yourself on all fronts. Don't be afraid to express those doubts, it may help make sense of things. Someone said I was brave to speak up on Twitter. I don't think it's brave, just vital, and if we all speak up, then it moves from 'being brave' to being commonplace, without stigma.
If you feel you might have depression, please seek help. There is no shame or weakness in doing so. Here in Northern Ireland, I found Action Mental Health, Mindwise and Lifeline incredibly helpfully. See your GP. Ask about signing up to a Condition Management Programme (CMP), a 12 week voluntary programme delivered by health care professionals, which aims at helping people better understand and manage their health symptoms and return to a healthy lifestyle. It looks at lots of other areas beyond just stress and anxiety management, but overall is a good checkpoint for how you are coping.
Some leisure centres in Belfast also offer a Healthwise scheme, a free 12-week keep-fit programme. Programmes currently take place in Olympia, Avoniel, Grove and Andersonstown Leisure Centres as far as I'm aware. Don't worry, you don't have to sign up to any classes and wear a leotard, I just used the free access to the gym. You can be referred to it by your GP or CMP counsellor.
Hope this helps. Remember, you (we) are not alone in your depression. Good luck.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Woven Tale Press Vol III #7

There are four old(ish) poems of mine on p16-17 in the new issue of The Woven Tale Press.

'Comet' was originally written during the Comic Relief sponsor-a-poem challenge back in March 2013.

'Land' was originally published in the collection 'left of soul' back in 2010.

'Canvas for Dreaming' was first drafted back in Oct/Nov '13, and originally entitled 'Moon'. If memory serves me correctly, it was first born in a workshop taken by Shelley Tracey.

'The Silence of the Peaceful Reader' is from Feb '08, proving that some poems take longer to find a home than others...

Friday, 26 June 2015

North West Words - June '15

Many, many thanks to North West Words for their kindness and generosity in hosting Geraldine and myself on Thursday night in Letterkenny. We absolutely loved the event, had a lot of fun doing it, and meeting everyone. Consider me bowled over by the lovely words and well wishes from everyone.

Many thanks to Maureen Curran, Eamonn Bonner and the committee for having us the, and great to see Deirdre Hines, Guy le Jeune and Patrick McNicholl there as well.


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Monsters In My Tummy

I was looking for my birth certificate today and found these sketches in an old folder. They're all taken from the Roman Dirge comic book 'The Monsters In My Tummy' and must be at least eight years old. I have forgotten all about them. Pleased to have rediscovered them after so long!




Saturday, 4 April 2015

Peeling a Creme Egg - broadside

'Peeling a Creme Egg' - a tiny (and tasty) broadside (not so broad) from Poetry NI. We gave fifty of these away at Purely Poetry last night, first come, first served. That's a lot of chocolate!





Tuesday, 24 March 2015

List of main political parties' policies for arts and culture in Northern Ireland

For what it is worth, here is a list of the main political parties' policies on arts and culture in Northern Ireland. I have not made any attempt to distinguish what may or may not pass as 'culture', I have merely presented the information as I have found it.
If I have made any mistakes or omissions, I welcome corrections and additions.


Alliance
(from http://allianceparty.org/page/culture-arts-and-leisure)

The Alliance Party appreciates the importance of culture, arts, sport and leisure to a healthy and vibrant civil society. There are also considerable economic and social benefits to society as a whole.

Alliance is also particularly aware of the ability of culture, the arts and language to make a positive contribution to a shared future. Alliance supports the appreciation and expression of our rich and varied cultural identities. We believe that cultural participation and self-expression should be developed in the context of respect and understanding of our own and each other's heritage.

Shared space need not be neutral space; it is not about pursuing some sense of sanitised territory that denies the ability of people to celebrate their culture. Alliance will create a vibrant culture in Northern Ireland by:

Providing adequate and long-term funding for the arts, including better use of lottery funding.
Promote Northern Ireland's culture abroad to help develop our tourism industry.
Introduce a comprehensive language strategy which will support both languages in Northern Ireland, as well as other commonly used languages and sign language too.
Create a coherent museums policy to support Northern Ireland's museums.
Investing in sports and sports infrastructure to promote a more active society and to use sport to build a shared future. This includes supporting a shared stadium for GAA, football and rugby.


DUP
(from www.mydup.com/policies/culture)

Whether at Westminster, Stormont or Europe, the DUP is pro-active in developing Northern Ireland’s cultural wealth and encouraging creativity to develop new opportunities in our economy.

Over the next four years a DUP Minister would seek to build on this work in the following ways:

STRUCTURES
  • Reduce the number of arms-length bodies associated with DCAL
  • Separate the dual responsibilities of Northern Ireland Screen, with the international component coming under Invest NI and educational elements being the responsibility of DCAL
CULTURE AND THE ECONOMY
  • Seek to build Northern Ireland’s reputation internationally as a centre for creative industries, and continue supporting the Creative Industries Innovation Fund
  • Promote cultural tourism, enhancing collaboration between DCAL and DETI with a focus on developing facilities, activities and trails
  • Enhance the role of the Public Records Office in promoting genealogical tourism
  • Assist the arts sector to promote the Northern Ireland brand abroad and contribute to our economy
PARADES
  • Support a new start on parades including abolition of the Parades Commission, working alongside the Loyal Orders to achieve this
  • Promote and support the development of flagship Twelfth events and the Maiden City Festival
CULTURAL FACILITIES
  • Maximise the use of the substantial number of new dedicated arts facilities which have been developed over the last few years
  • Support high-quality library provision and extend the mobile library network including internet availability particularly for rural users
  • Display appropriately our cultural assets at the Ulster Museum to promote the Northern Ireland brand
SPORTS FACILITIES
  • Invest £138m in regional stadium development for football, rugby and GAA, and sub-regional facility improvements for football across the Province at all levels
  • Support capital projects through the Community Sports Fund, promoting a shared and better future by ensuring facilities are open to all sports and the entire community
MAJOR EVENTS
  • Ensure Northern Ireland maximises the benefits from the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and hosting the 2013 World Police and Fire Games
  • Continue to offer high profile entertainment events to showcase the Province nationally and internationally
  • Seek to commission an official history of Northern Ireland to be published for the Province’s centenary

CULTURE AND THE COMMUNITY
  • Continue to support the Community Festival Fund
  • Further develop our marching bands infrastructure and provide funding to replace instruments

ULSTER-SCOTS
  • Support the work of the Ulster-Scots Academy in developing the culture, heritage and language


Green Party NI
(from their 2014 Local Government Manifesto)

Under Caring for Communities:
For our society to flourish in all respects, lively culture, arts and leisure sectors are vital. The Green Party celebrates the creative talents of all members of our society, and believes everyone should be able to enjoy our rich diversity of cultures. We will work in partnership with organisations already active in this area, in order to foster an open and welcoming sense of shared cultural space.

We will promote opportunities for greater involvement of marginalised groups in the arts, and in sport, promoting both physical and mental health. The arts uniquely open a space where a new conversation can take place, where connections are forged, and where greater empathy and much needed understanding can develop.

Under Goals:
We will continue to support the arts and our creative sector as both a unique cultural resource and a key economic driver. We believe every town and city should be a ‘city of culture’, not just for a year, but for good.


Progressive Unionist Party
The PUP's site, www.pupni.com, was in the process of updating as I was compiling this list, but for general enquiries, they request you e-mail info@pupni.co.uk.


SDLP
(from www.sdlp.ie/issues/culture-arts-and-leisure/)

Ireland has a rich creative, linguistic an artistic heritage. We are committed to the development of our artistic talents into economic drivers.

As proud supporters of the arts, the SDLP wish to build on the economic success of our creative industries. The talents of our artists had led many large international companies to base projects in Northern Ireland.

We must build on this potential. We must better nurture business entrepeneurship within our arts comminity to develop a sustainable and indigenous creative industry in Northern Ireland which is boosted by, but not dependent on, international investment.

Sinn Féin
(I couldn't find any mention of the arts under www.sinnfein.ie/policies. However, the following is from www.sebelfastsinnfein.com/policies and www.sebelfastsinnfein.com/policy/language.)

Under Irish Language:
The potential for the development of the arts, cultural and leisure sectors in Ireland is immense. Recent political developments, particularly of an all-island nature, could be underpinned by the inclusive and unique scope of Irish arts and culture. Furthermore, a more integrated, imaginative and innovative arts and culture policy could open up markets which generate indigenous business and craft sectors and also serve as a dynamic to reinvigorate Irish culture in general.

Arts Councils, North and South, should work for better co-operation in project co-ordination and strategic development;

Community arts provide individual development and community empowerment and should be given a special designation within arts and culture policy and budgeted accordingly.


Traditional Unionist Voice
Having searched through http://tuv.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/manifesto2014.pdf, there is no mention I could find of any policies concerning arts and culture.


UK Independence Party
(from http://www.ukip.org/policies_for_people)

Under Reducing debts we leave to our grandchildren:
UKIP will abolish the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

Under Culture:
– UKIP recognises and values an overarching, unifying British culture, which is open and inclusive to anyone who wishes to identify with Britain and British values, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.
– Official documents will be published in English and, where appropriate Welsh and Scots Gaelic.
– UKIP will ensure that the law is rigorously enforced in relation  to ‘cultural’ practices which are illegal in Britain, such as forced marriages, FGM and so-called ‘honour killings’
– We will review the BBC Licence Fee with a view to its reduction. Prosecution of non-payments of the Licence Fee would be taken out of the criminal sphere and made a civil offence.
– UKIP will amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open smoking rooms properly ventilated and separated from non-smoking areas.
– UKIP opposes ‘plain paper packaging’ for tobacco products and minimum pricing of alcohol.


Ulster Unionist Party
(from http://uup.org/our-vision/policies#culture)

The Ulster Unionist Party recognises the value of culture, arts and leisure in encouraging economic growth as well as maximising quality of life for the people of Northern Ireland.

Culture, Arts & Leisure

  1. Development of genealogical tourism
  2. Long term investment in the Creative Industries
  3. Maximise the Legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games
  4. Advancement of Ulster Scots heritage, culture and language
  5. A shift in focus to promote our people as well as places

Introduction
The Ulster Unionist Party recognises the value of culture, arts and leisure in encouraging economic growth as well as maximising quality of life for the people of Northern Ireland.

Cultural identity is an important aspect of our make-up and in that respect Ulster Scots heritage, culture and language should be advanced and developed beside the significant resources currently being deployed on the Irish language. Unionism has been on the cultural back foot in the past as we have had to defend our heritage, however the Ulster Unionist Party want to change that so we can celebrate our history with a sense of pride.

Our museums, libraries and the arts have a crucial role to play in society and although resources are limited, we believe that public funds must still be dedicated to areas with an evidence base of delivering benefit to society.

Sport continues to be integral for improving health outcomes and facilitating increased sharing and integration between communities. The Olympic and Paralympic Games have been a huge success and the legacy of London 2012 must be used as a springboard for sporting development here. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially for our young people, and it is up to sporting administrators and politicians to grasp it.

The Case for Change
The current Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Cuillin, has made no secret of her crusade to promote Irish, often at the expense of other priorities within the Department. This blinkered approach cannot go unchallenged within the carve-up at the heart of government.

The closure of a number of libraries as well as reductions in library opening hours has caused much consternation in the communities affected and this situation needs to be managed carefully, especially among rural communities with limited access to these important resources.

The arts have suffered from cuts at a time of budget reductions across Departments. Whilst efficiency savings are necessary within the context of the current economic climate, clearly adequate facilities and high quality programmes must be maintained.

We believe that the creative industries have so much potential but the Creative Industries Innovation Fund (CIIF) has been slashed and there is no long term financial commitment to this important sector.

As regards sports, large capital projects such as the £138 million stadia project must be matched with sufficient emphasis on participation at grass roots level. We also have to stop the carve-up and inefficiency demonstrated in the allocation of funding which was characterised in the stadia project.

The Way Forward

Culture
2012 is the Centenary year of the Ulster Covenant, which was signed by 237,368 men and the parallel Declaration which was signed by 234,046 women, on 28th September 1912. We will continue to affirm the legacy which remains in place today as a result and emphasise the importance of what is a living document which has been digitised on the PRONI website.

The Ulster Unionist Party will continue to promote Ulster Scots as well as British culture in areas such as education, the media and the economy.

There is huge untapped potential within the field of “Genealogy Tourism” and we will push to ensure its development including further promotion of the Public Records Office Northern Ireland (PRONI) as well as the advancement of Ulster Scots culture, heritage and language particularly in Scotland and North America.

We believe that DETI’s long overdue tourism strategy must embrace our heritage of producing exceptional people, as much as it promotes our world class destinations, like the Giant’s Causeway, and our great achievements, like the Titanic. A shift in focus is therefore required to promote the seventeen of the forty three American Presidents of Ulster Ancestry as well as the likes of George Best and Mike Gibson from the sporting world, Philosopher Francis Hutchison and influential writer Samuel Beckett.

We will oppose the implementation of an unnecessary Irish language Act. Irish language legislation would be costly, especially within the context of the current economic climate, and overtly divisive.

Parading
The Ulster Unionist Party will always stand firm in our belief that freedom of expression is a fundamental and democratic right in any society. Parading is traditionally an important part of Unionist and Protestant culture and we believe in the right to celebrate culture and heritage in this way.

Parading carried out in a respectful manner presents huge opportunities for tourism. Many of the issues around parading can be attributed to a lack of political leadership in driving forward a shared future agenda. The Office of the First and deputy First Minister (OFMdFM) must address this failing. There must be cross party discussions to bring forward recommendations for a workable alternative to the Parades Commission given the inability of the DUP and Sinn Fein to do so following the Hillsborough Agreement.

Sport
Shared facilities are an integral part of ensuring sport makes the maximum contribution to our society. It is clear that much of the sporting infrastructure in Northern Ireland is tied up within the educational estate. As such its use is limited and restricted. By building partnerships with local government the potential exists for schools to reduce the revenue cost of providing such facilities and at the same time reduce the capital costs to local government of meeting local need.

The Ulster Unionist Party proposes that in the short term locally based facility development partnerships are created involving local government, sporting bodies, schools and the private sector where appropriate to identify opportunities for sharing and to maximise the benefits of any potential investment. In the medium term these partnerships should be formalised under the Review of Public Administration process as a community planning mechanism within local government.

We also want to back grass roots level sports clubs through placing an obligation on the main sporting bodies to support these clubs, with a clear emphasis on youth development. There must be firm recognition of the contribution sport provides for the nation’s health and to that extent we would highlight the vital and integral collaborative role which the Department of Health has to play.

Therefore, it is clear that joined up government between DCAL, Education and Health is essential in taking forward an effective sporting policy with aspects of rural and social development also key.

The opportunity also exists to develop and enhance the potential from Motorsports, both two and four wheeled, and the possibility of a professional venue should be considered. To this end we want the Minister to assist in the production of a business case for the development of such a venue.

Arts
The Ulster Unionist Party recognises that Northern Ireland has a selection of excellent facilities, but the focus must now be to ensure that these facilities are capable of becoming self-sustaining.
We also need to fully utilise the sites we currently have and the Crumlin Road courthouse is a prime example of a failure to do so. Whilst OFMdFM has spent £62 million to date on preparing six former military and security sites for development by either private companies or government bodies, the courthouse was sold for £1 due to its maintenance costs. This is a missed opportunity to progress a new significant landmark along the lines of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Johannesburg which is built on the site of the Old Fort Prison Complex.

We will continue to support and further promote facilities such as the Inniskillings Museum in Enniskillen and the Police Museum to be built at PSNI Headquarters in Belfast.

Culture and the arts have a major role in improving mental health and well-being, primarily through participation, and there must be a concentrated approach on youth development and active participation across Northern Ireland.

We also have a large collection of public art and we should look at ways to adequately display and promote these pieces for the national good.

Waterways & Fishing
We have taken a lead to date in the promotion of the angling estate and the protection of our indigenous fish and, following our intensive and detailed engagement, the Ulster Unionist Party are keen to establish the overall responsibility of all sections of our waterways under one body.

The current situation is not working and one authority would simplify administration and allow our waterways to operate to their full potential from an environmental, recreational, tourism and economic perspective. It is also an excellent example of how we are aiming to promote efficient, effective, joined up government.

Libraries
The Ulster Unionist Party believes there is a need to refocus the importance of the Library within the local community.

To that end we should look to implement a model where libraries are an economic driver and are supporting education, learning and health. Libraries, working in conjunction with schools, should therefore be part of a community hub where, for example, the local community centre, health centre, doctor, chemist or tourist information services could be located. We believe that this would best be served by Libraries being returned to local Council control.

Creative Industries
It is important that we truly value creativity and recognise the worth of our creative industries.
To that end the Ulster Unionist Party wants to establish a Task force with the aim of unlocking the creativity that is within Northern Ireland. The task force would include the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure; Invest NI; Further and Higher education; the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and experts from creative industries with the rationale being to create a long term strategy including skills development and the subsequent launch of an all-encompassing policy.

We also believe in the necessity of long term investment in developing our “screen Industry” given the recent success of the Game of Thrones series as well as the Oscar winning film The Shore.

Structure
Under the imminent review of Departments within the Northern Ireland Executive, the Ulster Unionist Party would propose that the Culture, Arts and Leisure department be dissolved. This is due to the fact that currently 80% of its current budget is administered by arm’s length bodies, and the remaining 20% has enhanced synergies with potential to develop in other departments such as the Department of Education and a potential Department of the Economy.