By Lyndsey McDougall

I have always felt an affinity with songs that reference motherhood, both its absence and presence. I knew I wanted to have children at some point in my life and at times this dominated my thoughts. It also influenced the decisions I made about my future, relationships and creative practice. The primal urge of wanting to be a mother consumed and terrified me for years.

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Genre categorisations are probably helpful to those who market books. They are helpful, sometimes, to readers. They are not so helpful to those who have to review books which exist between genres, as is the case with Thin Places, by Kerri ní Dochartaigh. But what else would we expect from a story which is about existence in the thin places between hard definitions?

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We’re watching Sabres of Paradise at Sugar Sweet in Belfast, September 25 1993. The dress code is leather trench coats for Jagz, Gary, Phil and Nick plus an Elvis shirt for Andrew Weatherall, freshly liberated from the racks of American Madness. The message is large, swaggering beats, spirit of Suicide plus elemental, rock and roll lurch. “I’ve always liked groups that look like a horrible gang,” says Andrew with the conspiratorial laugh. “Now I’ve got one of my own.” Continue Reading…

The image of Lyndon Stephens, Belfast’s greatest music industry figure, is now part of the city’s graffiti culture. Lyndon passed on 10 January 2020 and his loss is still palpable. He gave us Quiet Arch Records and impacted on the art of Joshua Burnside, Ryan Vail, Beauty Sleep, Cherym, Dark Tropics, Ciaran Lavery, Malojian and the Borders project.

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Andy Cairns is a rock and roll omnivore, feeding his art with Fugazi, Charles Mingus, Immanuel Kant and Samuel Beckett. He can speak Ozzy Osbourne and Kazuo Ishiguro. His lyrics are tremendously twisted, blessed with a mordant Antrim wit and salted by a few decades of civic conflict. It’s probably not surprising that he found a kinship with the Manic Street Preachers, drinking with James Dean Bradfield and doing a bookshare with Richey Edwards.

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Mahalia Jackson

Sinead O’Connor is back with us, singing ‘Trouble of the World’, looking for freedom on the far side of despair. Her voice is exceptional, like it always has been and she’s making her case for Black Lives Matter. She wears the BLM legend on her shirt for the  video shoot as she walks through Peckham, South London. The singer looks battle-worn but not defeated and she holds up the image of Mahalia Jackson like a religious relic. The song is testament to a life of weeping and wailing. But eventually, Sinead tells us, there will be the best reckoning.

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“We’ve started a collective called Reckless Abandon,” says Rocky O’Reilly, boss of Start Together Studios. “And the whole concept is just robots shooting lasers over Belfast – just let’s fucking blow stuff up. The first is our band Vivid Dreamer, which is me and Ryan (McGroarty). We had The Simpsons on a loop in the background. We were picking lines from the show and turning them into songs and playing synths. Pure escape from running a business in the music industry.

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When Joshua Burnside was about six he planned to run away from home, escaping through his ground floor bedroom window. Finding out about this plan, his older sister warned that if he jumped out the window, he’d go straight through the ground and into the depths of Hell to meet the Devil himself.

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John came on from stage left and David made his appearance from the other side. They walked cautiously, past the microphone stands, the amplifiers and the effects pedals. The pair met in front of the drum riser and with some ceremony, they shook hands. David crunched down firmly, but John was also a practiced gripper. There were a few more reassuring pats, taps and exchanges and 2,000 school children roared over the awkwardness.

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There’s drama in the second Fontaines album. Will it be a hasty release, banking the goodwill from the endless tours, the dues-paying grind and the rolling acclaim for Dogrel? Also, is there any juice left in the tank after that astonishing year? Alternately, might they decide to play the punk card at this strategic moment and deliver a moment of clanging self-sabotage?

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