The Cruellest Month

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Apologies, this is less of a blog and more of a public service announcement.

T.S.Eliot was telling fibs. April isn’t the cruellest month after all. April is like a long weekend by the pool compared to the month of May in the culture and arts community of Belfast. In the next month we have the Giro D’Italia, One City One Book, Writers on Writers, Polish Culture Week, Cruse Month, African Culture Week, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Festival of Fools, (plus there’s probably a few more stealthy festivals which have sneaked in under my radar). It will, as far as I can see, be impossible to leave your home in the Greater Belfast Area in the next month without being subject to an artistic or cultural happening. Furthermore, there appear to be roughly seven omnipresent and wonderful individuals running all these artistic and cultural happenings, no doubt becoming increasingly thin around the edges as the month progresses. If you know or come across one of these brave, young idealists during the next four weeks please be kind to them. Buy them strong coffee whilst on the job and strong beer afterwards. Do not, if you’re ill-inclined to be kicked in the teeth, utter the phrase, “it’s a gorgeous day out there,” as none of us are likely to make it beyond the ticket desk before June.The May avalanche is not a new phenomenon in Belfast. The programmers amongst us seem to be unnaturally drawn to the month of May at the expense of the other 11 perfectly programmable months in the year. Some might see this as masochistic. I prefer to see it as an opportunity to make the summer seem all the sweeter and more lazy when it finally rolls round.

I have 42 individual events in the next 31 days. If you do the maths you will soon realise that I will not be writing very much this month. I will be Titanic teaching, dance workshopping, screen printing, guided touring, family tree researching, African drumming, art hanging, film screening, Italian learning, puppet making, orchestra listening, lecture giving and poetry reading but I won’t be doing much writing. May has been looming on my horizon for months now and as far as possible I’ve tried to prep for it, to have articles written and speeches prepared in advance. However, on the eve of the avalanche I have to admit to being a little daunted. I’ve decided to give myself a little grace and allow myself the freedom not to write for a month. In all honesty writing whilst exhausted has always proven to be a pointless pursuit for me. I tend to write absolute shite whilst tired and then become increasingly frustrated when I read it back, doubting in my sleep-deprived state that I possess the ability to write anything of worth. Therefore, I’ve decided to leave Roundabouts at the halfway point and return to it when I’m able to give it my full concentration. Similarly, I’m not going to put any pressure on myself when it comes to reading. I’d never be able to give up books for a month. Readings is an integral part of how I relax. However, I may read “easy” books for the next month and allow my mind to rest in the downtimes. I’m going to move Infinite Jest to the bottom of the pile and reconsider it again in June.

No doubt there will be moments when I feel like May is running over me and it’s all I can do to avoid breaking into the art launch wine. I’m confident though that there will also be some glorious moments in the midst of the chaos and I’m blessed to have so many great people supporting me and working with me on these projects. Deep breath- let the month of May do its worst.

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