Sunday, August 16, 2015

Curfew Tower visit

At the beginning of August I went to Cushendall in Antrim, Ireland to Bill Drummond's Curfew Tower ( which is where artists take up residency for a period throughout the year to work.  This is an annual event at the beginning of August usually where people can vote on the artist they think has produced the best work in the previous year and win the Curfew Tower Award for that year, and enjoy a drink and a curry in the kitchen and back garden.

This year was different, instead of the voting for a winner, the book The Curfew Tower Is Many Things which contains the poetry and prose written by those that were in residence in The Tower during 2014 (who were all writers of various forms) in the evening the artists gathered in the garden to read their piece from the book.  During the day there was an open invitation for people to go into The Tower's cell to be recorded reading any one of the poems or stories contained in the book. These recordings will be broadcast I believe in November in Belfast in the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry,  In the evening there was a great atmosphere as the daylight disappeared and people were gathering around the bonfire with tasty homemade curry and drink to listen to the readings by light of the bonfire and a mobile phone torch.

I'd missed this last year and had made up my mind ages ago that I was going this year, but left the planning till quite late on.  I booked a B&B and my return ferry ticket from Troon to Larne at the end of the week before, and once booked I was really looking forward to going, especially as I've never been to Ireland before.  I was pretty lackadaisical about planning transport from the ferry terminal to Cushendall thinking I would work it out when I got there.  I got the train from Glasgow to Troon, and as a jammy fecker I cadged a lift in a taxi with a couple also going from the train station to the terminal who were going to visit their daughter.  The ferry ride was fine on the first part of the journey, but the water was pretty choppy during the second half and there were countless weans crying at the constant movement of the boat - I lost my balance a couple of times so stayed sitting down as long as I could.  As I was walking to the terminal exit I was thinking that I'd contact a friend in Belfast to see how he's doing and maybe catch up with him, when who was standing at the doors but Bill himself!  You couldn't have written that scene any better!  I've had little focus and motivation for the last while and hadn't even dropped him an email to let him know I was going so it was a total surprise for both.  He was waiting for a friend to come off the ferry to give him a lift to Cushendall, turns out it was Johnny who I met five years ago in Stornoway the first time I met Bill when I went to one of The 17 performances at the standing stones early in the morning.  I've caught up with Johnny a few times over the years cos he doesn't live that far from me (he's written a few books and does a lot of interesting travelling) and has become mates with Bill.  So, jammy cadger part II, I got a lift to Cushendall with Bill, Johnny, Bill's son Flint and his mate.  Fate was being damn kind to me that day!

It must have been a good half hour journey through beautiful scenery.  We stopped at the Curfew Tower and I met Tracy Moberly again (Bill's photographer friend and colleague), Bill's daughter Tiger, Bill's brother John and his son and his girlfriend all from London.  Bill invited me back later on to enjoy the evening with them all once I'd got my B&B sorted.  Once I got myself sorted at the B&B I went for a walk (I didn't want to push my luck and intrude on the gang too much) and found a beautiful beach so had a nice wee time relaxing my mind for a while before going to hang out in the Tower.


It was amazing to feel welcomed and as it turned out there was a festival in Cushendall starting that evening with food on the street, a jazz band and a few stalls.  I was chatting mainly with Tiger and Hugo (Bill's nephew) and with Johnny and a bit with Bill, enjoying a fine tasty beef burger from the local butchers stall (the butcher, Zippy, also looks after the tower) asking him about how the tower and how he found out about it, before heading off to a local pub know as Johnny Joes.  There were a few folk who had travelled from Birmingham and I got talking to one of these guys in the pub and we were drinking the night away in a cosy wee Irish pub.  I was chatting to Hugo as well again, and we were all chattering away about creative stuff, the usual interesting work vs commercial work.  There was a guy who brought his guitar in and later we were singing songs and battering a tambourine.  It was a really enjoyable traditional evening in great company and I enjoyed a few glasses of wine, when I'd originally planned not to drink anything but ach well, these things happen...  I left at the back of 11 to hit the hay.

I was a wee bit hungover the next day, so had a long lie, and another walk before going back to the Tower around lunchtime on the Wednesday - again I didn't want to intrude on people who know each other really well but that was out of politeness cos I was made welcome.  I enjoyed another walk along the river (it was raining, as per that part of the world but hood up and I was fine) then made myself helpful by getting messages and helping out with doing the best to fix an oversight in the book.  Tiger and Tracy were making curry and scones (amazing tasty, fluffy scones) - the deal was that once someone had read their selected bit from the book their reward was a scone, jam and cream which was a pretty good deal.  There were people popping in and out all day to chat and read, it was a great olde worlde atmosphere of an open kitchen door where folk were welcome to come in and chat, so easy going and friendly.  A lad called George flew from London to Belfast to be there for the day and I loved talking with him.


Johnny, Flint and Oscar were away most of the day getting firewood for the bonfire, then arranged seating round it with breeze blocks and planks and just as the daylight was starting to dim the readings started.  It was very inspiring to be there with such a bunch of people genuinely entertained by a simple evening around artistic work.  The night had what I can only imagine as a druidic feel to it, which kicked off my motivation for a project that's been languishing with me and a friend.

I didn't get much time to talk with Bill during the two days which was a bit of a shame, but I had great conversations with other people and enjoyed the company I was in hugely.  It was exactly what I needed to make me feel inspired again after being on a rollercoaster in several ways during the last year and a half.  There were lovely new people to talk to, and I find it quite liberating to just talk to strangers and find out what we've got in common.

Bill had said to stop by the next morning to say bye  but by the time I got there all the guys had gone fishing but at least I got a hug from Tiger.  I had about an hour to wait for my bus back to the ferry terminal and, bumped into a couple of the women who had come from Birmingham and had been a bit pished the night before (it was really nice for me to have been stone cold sober, seeing drunk folk when you're not is either amusing or annoying, the night before it had been amusing) so we went to a wee cafe for a while.  As it turned out, the bus never showed up due to a funeral so I got a taxi back to Larne, and really enjoyed another deep conversation with the driver about how we dislike the world the way it is, how it's so unfairly controlled and how we see how it could be.  A wonderful last minute inspiration that just happened to be dealt to me.

So, back to Glasgow on a smooth ferry ride, it was a bit depressing seeing some of the unmotivated gargoyle faces but that's the situation with big cities...  My motivation was totally ignited and after getting my energy back I've updated my stylist site and been on the hunt for work in and beyond Glasgow.  I've got a few good contacts made in a few days which has helped with making me motivated and productive again, which is something I've missed for months.  It's good to be back :)

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