Posts Tagged Belfast

Thompson Brings Noir To Belfast

Take Care Gorgeous by Alan Drew Thompson 

TAKE CARE GORGEOUS is the début novelette of Carrickfergus (Co. Antrim) based author Alan Drew Thompson. A fast paced often violent but sometimes sentimental affair that finally brings the noir genre to Belfast.

Set against the tough backdrop of 1950’s Belfast, the book introduces a new kind of local hero Inspector James Forsyth of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. A man who will bend the rules of authority in order to do what is morally right.

In the first instalment of a promised trilogy Forsyth finds himself tangled in a complicated web of murder, blackmail and shifting identities.

The story is set around a prominent member of Belfast society who finds himself at the centre of a blackmail plot involving an attempt to get a highly dangerous renegade Irish Republican released from the Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast.

The exciting and unique feature of the story is that for the first time the writing styles of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are set against the violent Belfast backdrop. The customary femme fatale is also on hand, this time a beautiful woman from West Belfast who bears a striking resemblance to 1940’s film noir legend Veronica Lake.

Fast paced, enjoyable with a twist in the tail Take Care Gorgeous left me desperate for more.

Thompson has promised that the sequel entitled Farewell Handsome will be released in the near future.

Reviewed by Lisa Thomas

takecare

Click on image to buy Paperback!

by Alan Drew Thompson
ISBN-13: 978-1500285371 is available from amazon.co.uk priced at £2.75
Also available on KINDLE price £1.53

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’71 (2014)

Gary Hook is a soldier from Derbyshire who instead of being deployed to Germany is sent to Belfast, Northern Ireland at the start of the ‘troubles’. There his orientation consists of a quick look at a map with ‘Green’ (unsafe/Republican) and ‘Orange’ (safe/Loyalist) markings with advice to stay out of the Divis flats.

Hook (played by the impressive Jack O’Connell) is thrown quickly into a chaotic, disorientating environment when he supports RUC police searching for guns in a Republican neighbourhood near the Falls. The soldiers are ill-equipped in every way to deal with the hostility and violence that greets them from a civilian population. Hook is separated from his troop, wounded and a tense cat and mouse game involving the newly formed Provisionals, the Official IRA and military intelligence begins. Who will find him first and who is he safest with?

Gregory Burke who wrote the screenplay says of his film ’71:

“It’s like an apocalyptic world, and it’s on our back doorstep. We think we’re immune to these things when we watch them on the news,We have this veneer of civilisation, but these young lads had no idea where they were, and it was brutal.”

’71 shows us a violent time where you can never be sure who is on which side – let alone who the ‘good’ guys are. Perhaps there weren’t any, though Sean Bannon, a young Provo (pleayed by Barry Keoghan) comes closest.

This is a nail-biting film with real suspense and a writer who understands the political nuances and recreates an authentic cultural and geographic setting. This isn’t just one for the politicos as it works on many levels not least as a human drama. Go see it!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Director: Yann Demange
Writer: Gregory Burke (screenplay)
Stars: Jack O’Connell, Sam Reid, Sean Harris
Certificate: 15
Release date: 10 Ocotober 2014 (UK)
Runtime: 99min

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HARRY FERGUSON

Harry Ferguson

By Bill Martin.

Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Cultra, Ulster.  1984.

THIS is a remarkable booklet.  Although it’s only the size of a large postcard, its 30 pages are crammed full of information, photographs and diagrams.  I really liked the way it was written – everything was direct and straight to the point.  Bill Martin is not a man who uses two words when one will do!  For instance, his introduction tells the story of Harry Ferguson in a single paragraph:

“HHarryFerguson 2 jpgarry Ferguson was born into an age of rapid change.  He contributed to the way in which change was applied.  He was born into a way of life which the industrial revolution had largely bypassed, where the horse reigned supreme, where brawn was more useful than brain and where a farmer could feed himself, his horse and four other people in that order of priority.  When he retired he was able to look at an industry in Britain in which one farmer could produce sufficient food for himself and forty others.  The other measure of his success is that some 80 per cent of tractors produced today the principles which he established.”

Henry George “Harry” Ferguson was born in 1884 at Growell, near Dromore, County Down.  The son of Mary and James was the 4th child of 11 in the family.  In 1902 he became an apprentice in his elder brother Joe’s engineering business, Hamilton and Ferguson – later to become J.B. Ferguson and Co. Automobile Engineers based in Little Donegall Street in Belfast.  The brothers were known for their discipline, efficiency, accuracy and quality.  Great innovators, they used the most up-to-date equipment.  Harry also took part in sporting events to publicise the company.

He was very quick to spot trends.  He first saw aircraft in summer 1909 and by December he had a plane built and undergoing trials in Hillsborough, Co. Down.  This was no mean feat as he was “trying to design an aircraft and learning to fly it at the same time.  There were no reference books to work from only indistinct pictures in magazines.”

After several attempts, he won a prize of £100 for the first official flight in Ireland over a three mile course.  Despite his flying success he split from his brother JB, who could not see how it would benefit the garage business.  They decided to go their separate ways.  The May Street Motor Company (later Harry Ferguson Ltd.) opened for business in 1911 and became agents for Vauxhall, Maxwell and Ford.  He also started to sell Overtime tractors imported from America in 1914 – something that would later ‘make his name.’

Tractors had been introduced in 1894 but there were only 300 in the whole of Ireland by 1917.  The situation was to rapidly change:

“1916-17 was a period of national crisis and the need to increase home food production became paramount if starvation was to be averted.  There was neither spare manpower nor industrial capacity and large numbers of women were already employed in agriculture yet the problem had to be solved and the area under the plough increased immediately and substantially.  The tillage order of 1917 gives some indication of the desperation since it required holders of 10 acres or more to plough 15% more than the previous year and large landowners with 200 acres or more to plough an extra 20 percent.  The Government made two important decisions which were to have far reaching effects on Ferguson.  It arranged to have 6,000 Ford tractors imported from America, which helped to get Ford firmly established in the U.K. tractor market, and it also made arrangements to ensure that farmers were taught how to use them properly.”  

This proved to be a turning point in Ferguson’s life – he was regarded as a ploughing expert because of his previous association with US Overtime tractors.  In March 1919 he (and his employee William Sands) were appointed by the “Irish Board of Agriculture to travel throughout Ireland and by demonstration, instruction and example to improve the quality and efficiency of tractor ploughing.”

It was during these trials that he began to think about faults and problems associated with ploughing and started to construct his own ploughs.  According to Martin: “The plough was built in the May Street premises in Belfast and compared to its contemporaries was about as revolutionary as a plough could be.”  Mounted directly on a Ford Eros tractor it was four times more efficient than other tractors and “set the pace and style for development for the next 20 years.” 

In 1933 Ferguson designed the revolutionary ‘Black Tractor,’ which was both light and powerful.  It was built in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, by David Brown Tractors Limited.  The Ferguson Brown Type A was introduced in 1936.  Sales were slow – but some success was to be found in the Channel Islands and Scandinavia.  Later on (in 1938) Ferguson met Henry Ford and – famously sealing the deal with a handshake – agreed to go into business together.  The equally famous Ford Ferguson Tractor was born and thousands were built (in the Ford factory in Detroit, Michigan) up until 1947.

Relations between Ferguson and Ford were soured when Ford’s grandson took over the company and set up the Dearborn Motor Corporation.  Here he produced tractors based on Ferguson’s designs – but neglected to obtain use of the patent rights.  As Martin notes, this led to one of the most famous industrial law suits ever: “It took four years to settle and eventually Ferguson was awarded over £3m as compensation for patent infringement and loss of business.”      

Ferguson switched production to Coventry in the East Midlands and in 1946 the TE 20 made an appearance.  He later became involved with the Canadian-based Massey Harris (later known as Massey Ferguson) until 1954 when he resigned as chairman of the group.

Whilst his name is – rightly – most commonly associated with tractors, Ferguson had always retained his interest in motor cars.

He was successful in helping to launch the Ulster Grand Prix in 1922 and the Tourist Trophy Races in Ards between 1928 and 1936.  He also became interested in the idea of cars obtaining more power safely using a four-wheel-drive system.  Prototypes were built but there were no takers.  To try to encourage public acceptance of the system, the P99 racing car was built.  (Stirling Moss gave the car its first win, the Oulton Park Gold Cup in 1962.)  The system was later used in the Jensen Interceptor FF, a luxury car, but sadly never in a ‘people’s car’ as he wished.  Ferguson sadly died in October 1960.

Reviewed by John Field

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Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations PosterAnyone in Belfast who plays in a band, appreciates music or even who buys records regularly will probably have come across Terri Hooley. Terri would admit that he is an unlikely businessman. He certainly can’t claim to be the most successful record shop owner in history, but then again, the Virgin Megastores, Zavvi, Tower Records and Our Price have passed into history and HMV is in deep trouble but Good Vibrations manages to hang on in there, despite it all.

The crazy thing is that Terri Hooley opened his shop in Belfast in the mid-seventies in the city’s most-bombed street above a dusty whole food shop run by the Guru Maharaj Ji’s Divine Light Mission. The city in the 1970s was a bleak place. Belfast city centre emptied at 6 o’clock of all but the brave or the foolhardy. The conflict – which Ulsterfolk euphemistically call ‘The Troubles’ – was at the height of its random tit-for-tat viciousness. People retreated in the evenings to the ghettos where they lived in search of some security. They socialised where they could; in local clubs, pubs, parish halls, Orange halls or illegal sheebeens. They rarely – if ever – met with people from ‘the other side’.

The novelist Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry have conjured up a film script that really captures the nature of this anarchic mould -breaking larger-than-life character. Their script buzzes with dark Belfast humour and a soundtrack that brings everything to the mix from Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light, Phil Spector’s girl bands, through to Rudi’s Big Time and of course, the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks. The action was intercut with contemporary footage of background events. This gave an immediate reminder of the very real dangers stalking the city then. Many folk of a certain age would have been delighted to see one-time Scene-Around-Six news anchor Barry Cowan, (sadly no longer with us), on-screen again.

Terri’s mum was a devout Methodist and his dad was a revolutionary socialist. He never quite fitted in to Ulster’s divided society. In the Sixties, he protested against the Vietnam war and in favour of nuclear disarmament, but as the Troubles took hold many of his contemporaries forsook protesting for peace in favour of violence.

His first love was music, especially reggae, but he became enthused by the energy of the growing punk movement which drew young folk from both communities to the rundown Pound Club on the edge of the city centre to hear bands like Rudi and the Outcasts. This led him into launching a record label to introduce Rudi to a wider public. Other bands followed. The ‘big one’ was The Undertones from Derry whose single, Teenage Kicks went stratospheric after it was taken up by the influential Radio One presenter, John Peel.

Despite its bleak environment of bombs everywhere, soldiers on the streets, officious cops and random, casual violence, this is a real fun, feel good movie. Dormer’s Hooley often messes things up, not least his life and his relationship with his wife, Ruth. He’s more interested in the music than making money from it.

Some scenes will haunt the viewer for life. I was struck by the scene where Terri hears ‘that’ Undertones song for the first time and fell about laughing at a scene where a bemused British soldiers stops Hooley and the band in the van only to discover that they are both Protestants and Catholics from north, east and west Belfast. Terri had never asked them what they were.

Coming out at a time when old divisions threaten to open up again in Belfast, this movie reminds us that we can do better. In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king. Roll on the DVD release. One Love!

PS.  The DVD is now available,

By David Kerr

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The Boat Factory

The Boat Factory

Happenstance Theatre Company

Hill Street Theatre, Venue 41

0131 226 0000

For more than a century, East Belfast has been dominated by what writer Dan Gordon calls ‘the Boat Factory’ – the Harland and Wolff shipyard.  In this centenary year of the sinking of one particular product of the Boat Factory, Happenstance Theatre Company have given the writer and actor Dan Gordon the opportunity to tell the world how the heritage and history of the shipyard and how it made him what he is.

After Davy Gordon’s (Dan Gordon) da ‘spoke for him’ he met a whole range of characters on his first day as an indentured apprentice in the Boat Factory, most notably that ‘cheeky wee shite’ Geordie Kilpatrick (Michael Condron).  Wee Geordie had been partly crippled by polio, so he had a bit of a limp.  He was inspired to sail the world once his apprenticeship finished by reading Moby Dick. In the Boat Factory everyone seemed to be either ‘big this’ or ‘wee that’.  There were no in-betweens.

As well as their portrayals of Davy and Geordie, Gordon and Condron carry a outstanding array of complex characters to this impressive production. Dan Gordon brings such an expressive face and eyes to the stage that he often doesn’t even have to speak.

This is a warm, witty, evocative, and often laugh-out-loud hilarious story of the men who built the Titanic and the Canberra. It’s not afraid, though, to look at the darker side of the Yard in the 1920s when Catholic workers were expelled for ‘disloyalty’. Nor does the script avoid the dubious tradition of ‘homers’.

Some of the best lines come from the repartee between the two main characters as they climb scaffolding and look out over the whole yard during their lunch break. The Boat Factory is a remarkable, vivid look back at what has become a forgotten time for most folk in Northern Ireland.

This play is due to go on tour once it finishes its run at the Edinburgh Fringe.  Catch it if you can. It’s superb.

***** Five Stars

David Kerr

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Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu:

The Shankill Players

Dorothy Evans, the Creative Director and Writer of Déjà Vu has created a real monster; a low-life alcoholic hate-the-world cynical bully called Charles (played with evil relish by Mark McClean). He delights in spreading misery wherever he goes, whether it’s to his longsuffering wife Gail (Nichola Price), his younger brother Winston (Adam Crooks) or his world-weary mum Etta (Lynda Hastings) a woman with a few secrets in her own past.

Artful lighting with two alternating sets side-by side on the same stage area allowed fast-paced scenes to hurtle along without any need for an interval break.

 

This fusion of personal tragedy, long-hidden family secrets and blackBelfastgallows humour really hit the spot with most members of the audience; who laughed out loud at some parts only to be stunned into shocked silence a few moments later as the plot developed.  It’s a pity that some half dozen members of the audience couldn’t manage to keep quiet and did their damndest to spoil it for others by gabbling away inanely during the action.

The Shankill Players are best known for lighter stuff than Déjà Vu; usually annual pantomimes, so it’s good to be reminded that they are capable of stretching themselves in order to stage more serious work.  This little company deserve a lot more recognition than they are currently getting. I don’t know if this is Dorothy Evans’ first script or not, but she is well on the way to knocking Martin Lynch off his perch, if she can keep up this kind of pace over the next few years.

 

***** Five Stars

This play is set to tour several venues in Northern Ireland

 

 

 

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Scene of the Titans

Cheesy dance routines

Karaoke Night

By Tim Foley

Faulty Productions

C Venue 34, Adam House, Chambers Street

TIM FOLEY, a member of the Belfast Titans RFC has penned this improbable account of how the famous rugby team was founded.  If you’re looking for innuendo and jokes about men playing games with odd-shaped balls you’ve come to the right place. There are some priceless one-liners in this sharp, witty script. Pay attention or you’ll miss some.

Loosely based on true events, the story unfolds with Terry – a regular in the Belfast gay bar, the Kremlin – telling a TV crew how he set up the team initially to impress Colin.  The goal of the makeshift team was to contest the Bingham World Cup in Dublin (the Emerald City) and do it all in just eight months.

Presented as a Broadway-style musical, each stage of story unfolds in song with some deliberately cheesy dance routines. Just one caveat, the dance scene of the song, My God is Gay may offend some folk. It didn’t advance the plot in any way to have one of the dancers appearing in cruciform. You have been warned.

Despite the name, Faulty Productions have managed to pull off (sorry it’s infectious) a hit show.  The mix of music, humour and pathos is just right with an upbeat and catchy score whose tunes that will haunt you for hours after the show.  This show should tour and consider releasing a CD of the soundtrack.

 www.sceneofthetitans.co.uk

**** Four Stars

Reviewed by David Kerr

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