Sing to save buildings such as Carlisle Memorial Church

Plans are afoot to stage a specially commissioned opera in Carlisle Memorial Church in north Belfast later this year

THE first of February – can you believe it? This is the month of romance with Saint Valentines Day on the 14th so you've a couple of weeks to take a look at your love life and decide if it's what you desire.

If not, there's time to gently let your significant other know you're moving on. Tough but necessary if you aren't happy and it gives you a chance to look around for your perfect Valentine – is there such a thing?

Another interesting fact is that next week is Freelance Writers Appreciation Week – hooray for us!

However, a far more important date is Saturday February 20 when between 2pm and 4pm you are invited to the Belfast Central Mission in Glengall Street. There you'll enjoy an afternoon of singing and at the end of the day the nucleus of a 120-strong choir will be formed for a new opera being produced in June.

“A ‘taste and see' session,” as Shane Quinn puts it. “Come and see if you would like to be involved. No auditions will be held, just come and sing.”

The organisation behind this ambitious project is Belfast Buildings Trust where Shane is development manager, an important group that wants to preserve the best and most historic buildings in our city. Their latest project is to produce an opera in the majestic Carlisle Memorial Church.

No ordinary church – rather, considered the Methodist cathedral of Ireland; architect WH Lynn, a pupil of Sir Charles Lanyon, and builder James Henry selected Armagh limestone and built the whole thing inside 12 months.

Considered a ‘downtown church', its doors opened in May 1876 to all comers; the rich and the poor worshipped there beside the ornate pillars and the jewel-like windows.

Appropriate that the Belfast Opera isn't just any ordinary opera either; this is the result of a lot of work by a lot of people from all parts of the community who spent last spring and summer gathering stories about Belfast in it's heyday – the mills, the markets, the factories and, above all, the people.

Glenn Patterson has taken the stories and woven them into the libretto and Neil Martin is busy composing the music to bring the stories to life.

"Then we'll have weekly workshops with the chorus during March and twice-weekly rehearsals during April and May. The creative team will be launched in a few weeks in partnership with the Prince's Trust and auditions for the professional roles will take place this month,” says Shane.

At a time when money for the arts is as rare as hen's teeth, the organisers have turned to crowdfunding, not a new way of gathering money but an idea that is growing in momentum in the arts and business world.

A bit like going round the houses on Halloween night – lots of people giving a little money until the target is reached; in the case of The Belfast Opera it's hoped that during this month they will raise £12,000 to add to funds from Belfast City Council and the Arts Council in time for the World Premiere performance in Carlisle.

“A building is only important when it's alive inside as well as being imposing on the outside; it should impact on people lives in many ways. This opera is not elitist in any way. It has been conceived by the community and performed by the community and it will bring life to a beautiful building.”

:: If you would like to pledge your financial support, details are available at or


The harrowing story of little 12-month old William Mead from Cornwall who died because no-one picked up the symptoms of sepsis, has alerted people to this condition.

Every parent should ask the doctor about this; every doctor should know; out-of-hours services should know.

Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition triggered by an infection. Symptoms develop quickly – a high temperature, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and fast breathing. The immune system is responding to an infection by attacking the body's organs and tissues and it can originate in many parts of the body so don't hesitate, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Get to the doctor, a hospital or dial 999.

Sepsis can affect people of any age but is more common in infants under three months, the elderly, people with chronic medical condition and those whose immune systems are compromised from conditions such as HIV or cancer.

I have taken this information from the NHS website – I encourage you to go to the page and read more about this little understood condition. Just type in Sepsis.


Some lovely poetry from an Irish News Reader: “Some thoughts as I sit and try to make sense of my 70 plus years!”


I smell the turf and know I will be warm tonight.

I hear the faint sound of the tilly lamp that hangs from the ceiling.

I see my mother counting the stitches on her knitting needle,

I see my father engrossed in the Ireland's Own. Security.


First Love

I see him and my young heart sings

He waits for me each day, singles me out from other girls

But I am only 14, still a child my mother says,

In her eyes I will always be a child.

Though we went our separate ways I will never forget him. My first love.

First Love brought back so many memories. His name was Lyle and I was about 14!

I'd love to know your name, Irish News Reader, and say a proper thank you for your poems. You say you wouldn't blame me for ignoring them – no way: they speak for many of us.


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