Press Release for KIlcranny House

August 23, 2009

Summer Daze at Kilcranny House

Coleraine is set for a bonanza week of arts and culture [15th-22nd August] as Kilcranny House hosts its Summer Daze festival, offering entertainment, enlightenment and a chance to experiment with a new skill.

Boasting an international flavour, the week kicks off this Saturday [15th] with a Festival Fun Day at the Centre with Bollywood Dancers and South American mask makers adding a touch of glamour to the day. There will also be a chance to learn a new skill through participating in one of the glass painting or drumming workshops. Bouncy castles and face painting will keep the children entertained for the afternoon and for adults looking simply to unwind, there will be live music on offer, ensuring an activity packed afternoon for all.
On Monday and Tuesday mornings there will be the opportunity to learn mask making from the Latin experts in Ballysally and Kilowen areas. On Monday evening listen to Roberta Bacic present ‘Threads of Hope’, an inspirational Chilean documentary. Bacic was a powerful voice against the military regime of Chile in the 1970s, suffering the consequences of being fired from her university job and being arrested. After many years as a member of the peace group War Resistors’ International, Bacic now lives in Northern Ireland and has a powerful story to tell.
For those with more of a palette for local history, local author and storyteller Dr Bob Curran will provide a stimulating historical tour of Garvagh on Tuesday afternoon, complete with lunch. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, why not try a new skill, be it Bollywood Dancing, or Jewellery making?
The week’s activities, which are funded by Coleraine Borough Council and International Fund for Ireland, finish on Saturday 22nd with a Gallery Exhibition at Coleraine Town Hall.

Kilcranny House was established in 1985 as a residential, educational and resource centre. Set alongside the River Bann, the centre aims to promote reconciliation in the local community, not just between residents, but between locals and the land.

For more information on the Summer Daze festival, or to make a booking telephone Lisa on 077*******7


Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 2 – Milk Cup Premier Final

August 1, 2009

This was written for the Sheffield Star


Sheffield United under 17s came within a last minute penalty claim to upsetting the odds and capping off a memorable week in Northern Ireland as they lost narrowly to Manchester United in their first appearance in the Milk Cup Premier Final. The Blades had reached the latter stages on goal difference and defeated F.C. Porto on penalties in Thursday’s semi-final in the prestigious youth tournament, which this year featured 50 teams from 18 countries.

Despite starting brightly with Shane Murray giving the opposing goalkeeper problems from distance, United fell behind to the defending champions on 16 minutes, when good link up play between Robbie Brady and Michael Ngoo saw the latter squeeze in the opener despite the best efforts of Sam Andrew and Terry Kennedy. United continued to close down the favourites effectively, and were almost rewarded at the end of the first half but Corey Gregory’s header went wide.

In the second half the match fell victim to the miserable conditions and tired legs in what was the teams’ fifth match in as many days. United hopes faded when on 52 minutes slick passing saw Etzaz Hussain finish the move he started, slotting home past the unfortunate Andrew.

The Blades continued to press however, and Murray continued to deliver dangerous set pieces. In stoppage time, it was a free kick swung in by the midfielder that caused confusion, leaving Kennedy to slot home from six yards. Moments later the referee turned down loud claims for a penalty after a United player was felled in the box.

Sheffield United (4-4-2) Sam Andrew, Kalum O’Kane, Harry Maguire (sub Joe Ironside 69), Terry Kennedy, Kingsley James (sub Liam Wilkinson 58), Kingsley Williams, Shane Murray, Jordan Stew, Ishmael Lammy (sub Elliot Witehouse 58), Corey Gregory (sub Troy Pennybrooke Morgan 53), Callum McFadzean
Coach: Kevin Fogg

Manchester United (4-4-2) Samuel Johnstone, Michael Keane, Ezekiel Fryers, Sean McGinty, Thomas Thorpe, Ravel Morrison, Etzaz Hussain, William Keane, Robbie Brady, John Cofie, Michael Ngoo
Coach: Paul McGuiness

A response to the death of Daniel Jimeno Romero, in the Pamplona Bull Run

July 11, 2009

Published: Belfast Newsletter, 11 July 2009, page 3, in entirety

When I heard the news that Daniel Jimeno Romero had been fatally gored running with the bulls in Pamplona, I listened with interest.  A year ago, that could have been me.

Last summer, I fulfilled a dream by participating in the pinnacle of the ancient San Fermin festival.  Swamped by tourists now, it grows increasingly dangerous, as with no limit on participants, crowds of people clamber over each other in search of safety.  The bulls are vicious beasts.  The name Capuchino, which was given to the bull that gored Daniel to death, betrays the destruction that is locked up in these tonne weight animals, a characteristic usually hidden if the bulls stay in a pack and continue forwards along the course.  Unfortunately yesterday [Friday] that didn’t happen, and the unpredictable nature of a frightened yet fierce animal was unleashed on whatever would move.  Separated from the pack, the bull feels vulnerable and pretty soon the foolhardy participants do too.  The bull will react to any sudden movement, and unfortunately Daniel was one of the runners who couldn’t get himself stopped quickly enough.

It is a dangerous game, but tremendous fun.  The most exciting things in life come with a risk attached, be that starting up your own business, or bungee jumping.  Given the chance, I’d run again, and one day before I get too old to be wise, I plan to.  Yesterday [Friday] was a sober reminder though, that risks should be calculated, or the consequences can be tragic.

Reaching out…

April 23, 2009

Published: Coleraine Chronicle, 23rd April 2009, page 17

In scenes resembling the TV shows Ground Force and Changing Rooms, local church folk – many of them teenagers – spent part of their Easter holidays carrying out acts of kindness in the Triangle Area last week [15-17 April]. For three days over 80 volunteers picked up litter, mowed lawns, weeded gardens, painted fences and stripped wallpaper free of charge as part of a programme called StreetReach, run by several of the local churches to demonstrate love to the local community.

After the success of the programme last year, local church leaders decided that it would be beneficial to run StreetReach again this Easter. Volunteers met each morning for a debriefing and time of worship, before heading into their local areas to help anyone who needed it in what one leader described as ‘The most relevant act of worship we will carry out’.

One of the co-ordinators, Jonny Doey explained what it was they were doing. ‘Streetreach is were we get people together from the local churches to go out into the community and to show acts of kindness and to relate the love of God in word and deed.
‘We’ve had young people involved from the age of 14 who have been coming in and serving during their holiday time. Not only that, but the Council and the Department for Social Development have got involved too.’

Having advertised their services via leaflet drops in Ballysally, Dhu Varren, Portstewart and the Heights area of Coleraine, the job list had mounted even before they began. In Ballysally the team spent much of their time picking up litter in the area as well as spending time with people in the community over cups of tea. In Dhu Varren, around 20 folk dressed in red and yellow t-shirts from the Elim and Presbyterian churches cut grass, painted fences and stripped layers of wallpaper. In Portstewart the young people learnt just in time the difference between a plant and a weed as they tidied up gardens in the Mullaghmacall and Lever Road areas. And in the Heights area, some of the young people decided to paint the park at Kylemore Nursery School as a way of brightening up the area. Robert McMullan, a 17 year old from the town had had the idea. ‘It was really old and there were names scored on so we just sanded it down and washed it and started painting it with bright colours and you can see a big difference in it now, it just shines so much more.’

One woman who StreetReach had a big impact on was Linda McAuley, who had just recently moved into Ferndale Avenue in Portstewart. She had responded to one of the flyers, as she needed help to chop large amounts of timber she had received into blocks for firewood. Initially four people had turned up to help on the first day, but as time went on the rest of the team followed. ‘ I looked out the back window at one point,’ Linda says, ‘and it was like a flurry of wee birds and worker fairies had come in in brightly coloured t-shirts. At that stage there were about 15 young people then working incredibly hard, and they ended up giving the garden a complete makeover, cutting the grass, trimming the back bushes, not just chopping the wood.’

‘The thing that I was noticing and that I couldn’t get over,’ Linda continued, ‘is that they were all so happy doing it. They were young people that were genuinely happy out helping other people and it just warmed me through to the soul. I cried and l laughed all in the one day. It was a lovely sight and I will never forget the kindness because it wasn’t done in a way that made me feel bad about asking for the help. Everybody has been so friendly and kind and happy and chatty and normal. It didn’t feel like there was an act of charity being done – it just felt like really genuine people coming out to help other people.’

With little reward, organisational chaos and extra responsibility, why would those who organised StreetReach do such a thing? ? ‘In the book of Jeremiah,’ Jonny explains, ‘it says to seek the welfare of the city and we believe that God here is calling us to seek the welfare of our cities and in the upkeep of them as well. We also want to go out and be hands and feet of Christ in the community, to let people realise that being a Christian is about serving and that the church is interested in people and the church wants to be real with people. We want people to see that the church is alive, but more importantly that Jesus Christ is alive.’

With dirty hands, paint in their hair and wet clothes from Wednesday’s rain, what inspires young people to give up three days of their Easter holidays, and get involved with StreetReach? Robert, who was volunteering for the second year, concludes, ‘I guess it’s for the love of Jesus. He’s got such a big part to play in all our lives. For me he’s changed my life. I would never have dreamed of painting a park, or helping someone clean up their garden just for the complete love of Jesus. He’s got so much to share and he wants to share it with everybody and to use us.’

Not all students to blame for riots

March 25, 2009

Published: Belfast Newsletter, 25th March 2009, page 14

Robin Peake, 23, is a Final Year History and Journalism student at the University of Ulster, Coleraine

As students, we are as appalled as anybody at the inexcusable behaviour witnessed in Belfast’s Holylands area on Tuesday. The area has long been an issue in local news coverage and remains a topic that springs to mind any time students are mentioned.
With a BBC survey on the same day showing that many universities want a sharp increase in tuition fees, with some desiring the removal of a cap altogether, this was not a good day for students to garner sympathy for their cause. Already seen in some quarters as tax-dodgers, a drain on the public purse, lazy and drunkards, we have an ever increasing battle to fight if we want to promote a positive image.

I am personally ashamed that fellow students could cause such a diversion of PSNI resources, particularly at a time when 350 officers have been deployed to join the hunt for the dissidents responsible for last week’s murders. I am ashamed that students cannot enjoy a day off in a peaceful manner, adding to the colourful festivities that the rest of the city enjoyed, and instead caused such disruption and chaos.

The blame for Tuesday’s antic lies not with the police whose heavy-handed approach was only necessary because of the threat to public property and personal safety that the mob was presenting. Nor does it lie with the Universities who cannot be held liable for the behaviour of their students off campus. The blame lies squarely at the feet of those students and non-students who allowed excessive drinking habits to fuel such behaviour which has further tarnished our flagging reputation.

The reality is however, that such incidents are rare. The good weather seen on Tuesday combined with the fact the universities were closed were major contributing factors in the all-day drinking binge that culminated in the scenes that layered our newspapers yesterday morning. Students are demonised somewhat, but we are not as bad as we allow ourselves to be portrayed. Students from University of Ulster, Magee have this year embarked on a ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ mission, to practically support local residents and promote the reputation of students in the Maiden City. Here at Coleraine the Students Union are liaising with the Council for a litter pick up in off-campus accommodation areas. Some students from the Christian Union did something similar last year after the North West 200 motorbike races and residents were as impressed as they were surprised by what they saw. And right across the University of Ulster campuses, thousands of pounds were raised for various local charities during Raise and Give (RAG) week held in the middle of February. These are student driven initiatives designed not as some form of propaganda, to convince the rest of the population that deep down we are nice people, but because we believe that as students and residents we have a responsibility to serve the community that we are a part of.

‘Rowdy’ students disrupt north coast resort

March 19, 2009

Published Belfast Newsletter, 19 March 2009, page 9

Students in the Holylands area in Belfast were not the only culprits of disruptive behaviour last Tuesday. There was trouble too in Portstewart, where a significant number of students attending the nearby University of Ulster, Coleraine live throughout the week. In Old Mill Grange, off Lisadell Avenue where a large proportion of students living off campus reside, students were reported as putting traffic cones and roadwork signs in the middle of the street, forcing drivers to manoeuvre around them. Arguments fuelled by alcohol spilled out into the street and rowdy behaviour was noted from 6pm onwards, forcing police to step up their patrols of the area which they had been visiting all day.

Rebecca Golding, 20, an English and Education student at the University who lives in the area said; “I get extremely annoyed when students give other students a bad name, when many of us have simply come to University for a good education”. Whilst she said that there was “nothing wrong with a party here and there”, she condemned the behaviour, saying “It shows a lack of respect for other residents and brings down the reputation of the vast majority of students here.”

Local Alliance Councillor, Barney Fitzpatrick firmly expressed his disapproval towards the Students’ behaviour. “I completely condemn this sort of behaviour. Just because students had a day off from University is no excuse to spend it drinking excess amounts of alcohol which inevitably results in this kind of behaviour” he said. Cllr Fitzpatrick went on to say however, “This behaviour is in no way representative of the majority of students here at Coleraine. The Students Union has liaised well with local residents and the police to seek to minimise this behaviour and some students are involved in initiatives to serve the community.”

The Dispassionate Student?

March 12, 2009

Published: UFOURia Spring 2009

Robin Peake attended the Students’ Union protest against fees at UUC and was taken aback by what he saw.

Students have a history of making a stand, and making a difference. In 1941 the White Rose movement was formed by students in Munich, making a defiant stand against the Nazi Regime. The chain of events leading up to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was started by peaceful student demonstrations. In 1967 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed, spurred by Catholic Students who were benefitting from the free education that had come into Northern Ireland in 1947 under the new ‘Welfare State’ and who were now disenchanted with discrimination from local authorities. The Tiananmen protests in China, culminating in the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 came off the back of students dissatisfied with the Chinese method of governance. Around the same time in Europe, students were holding pro-democracy protests in Soviet states, which can be argued to be a catalyst for the rapid downfall of communism.

Yet where is the passionate student today? Last year, a protest organised against fees was held at Stormont. Some 30 students bothered to turn up. Not so long again at UUC, the Union General meeting attracted only 40 people, though this was twice as many as the considerably larger UUJ campus. Talk about issues of Fairtrade and the student is interested in change, but only if someone else will do it for them. Speak about poor parking facilities, and the threat of doing away with Sunday train services for which many students on this campus rely on, and there are complaints, but no action.

It disheartens me to see a vast number of young people here, affected by various issues but so dispassionate and apathetic that they don’t want to see anything changed. Maybe it all comes back to selfishness? Why bother campaigning if by the time we have change I won’t be here any longer? Why lobby on Fairtrade if all it does is ease my conscience a little?

Tuesday, 2nd December seemed different though. The Students’ Union organised a protest against Fees. At the minute in Northern Ireland, tuition fees stand at £3,145 per annum, the maximum which Universities can charge. There is a short term proposed move to increase this by £80, to help ‘deal with inflation’. On top of this, Sir Reg Empey, leader of the Ulster Unionists is calling for a removal of the cap, meaning that Universities could charge as much as they like. This would lead to an increase to £5,000, £10,000, £20,000…who knows. Ultimately it would weed out the last remaining students from low-income families, and ensure that our institution-educated people are those people who come from middle class backgrounds. The Bible talks about campaigning for the poor, lobbying for justice.

Isaiah says;
“Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

He goes on to say;
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
(58 v 6)

Ultimately the majority of students are not coming to protest because of any God-given command, but I was shocked to see the numbers who started arriving from 12.30 in the Students Union, ready to make their voice heard

Why? The increase is unlikely to affect us, especially for those of us who are in our last year; it’s more for those teenagers who will be coming to Uni in the years to come. And yet students wanted to speak for those who couldn’t speak. Students wanted to stand up for their brothers and sisters who would be coming to University after them, and didn’t want them to be labelled with an even bigger financial burden.

There were probably around 150 people gathered in the Students Union building. Councillors Billy Leonard (Sinn Fein) and Barney Fitzpatrick (Alliance) spoke well and passionately. Their calls for students to continue to be active and to hold politicians accountable (all 5 major parties in Northern Ireland committed to a removal of students fees in 2004) were greeted with loud cheers.

Followed thereafter a march from the Students Union building to the Central building. Shouts and chants were heard. Upon entering the front entrance of the University, these grew louder. Classes were disrupted. Students and staff stopped to watch. Security men stood on the steps of the stairs.
“What do we want?”
– “No Fees”
“When do we want them?”
– “Now!”
We all sat down on the floor, the local photographer clicking like crazy, the media students grabbing their soundbytes for their voxpops as the chants continued, growing louder. Adrian, the Site VP tried to make a speech but could barely be heard above the racket.

I was in awe. Here were students, doing what students do best. Having their voice heard. Making a stand, against perceived injustice.

The Assembly should be listening. The University should be scared. And I think they were. The poor security chaps didn’t seem to know what to do. As I made my way up the stairs for the class I was late for, I was grabbed on the arm and told I could not do so, that I wasn’t allowed up there with a sign (which was a mock of a Father Ted protest). When I went round and used the lift, there the little bald man on an ego trip was again, having cleverly scented my devious plan. In the end, my class was cancelled, presumably due to the Lecturer being unable to have herself heard as the deafening roars continued.

If we students ever realise the potential to change the society we live in, the world will be an exciting (for some) and scary (for others) place.

I am a happy man. The Revolutionary Student isn’t dead. He’s just having a break