ArtBeat: The Twelfth, Rosemary Jenkinson's Billy Boy, the Ulster Museum, BBC Proms... and Boris Johnson

Notes and musings from the arts scene following the Twelfth, by Jane Hardy

The brilliant young actor John Travers performs in Rosemary Jenkinson's Billy Boy, playing in the EastSide Arts Festival and Féile an Phobail next month. Picture by Ross Reaney.
Jane Hardy

THE Twelfth is normally televised live by BBC NI; not this year, however. Instead, GB News covered it with one Arlene Foster commentating.

In south Belfast I heard the Ballynafeigh Lodge setting off for town with a speedy Abide With Me accompanied by the bass note of the Lambeg, threatening or grand according to your tradition.

You have to wonder whether the arts that frequently engage with conflict here can make a difference when bonfires sport threatening slogans.

Yet Stewart Parker saw theatre as a "potentially dynamic force in society" and in Pentecost pointed out the achievement, and cost, of the Protestant-led Ulster Workers' Council Strike.

Rosemary Jenkinson's play Billy Boy, being performed on August 4 as part of this year's EastSide Arts Festival and the following day in the Cultúrann for Féile, provides another side of the Twelfth.

Based on interviews with bonfire builders, the drama explores this annual ritual. Jenkinson says: "I did want to put across a positive sense in terms of the excitement. I think the play is saying this is not an expression of 'In your face' to the other side. It's not an external view, it's internal."

Billy, played by the brilliant John Travers, senses the divisions remain local, announcing, "I'm only sectarian in Belfast."

YOUNG people often have less history, so less baggage. A group of 18-25s have been given an opportunity to curate a show at the Ulster Museum called Reimagine Remake Replay: Power to the Young People, available until September 25.

Using digital skills, they've had access to artworks that have not been shown for a while. Their take on our heritage and art is interesting, their priorities fresh.

It's climate change and issues surrounding disability and sexuality which preoccupy them. The Nerve Centre, Derry, has led the project, generating VR and digital experience.

One topical work symbolises the death of the oceans with a white coffin on display lit up with LED light to show the sea. Next to it are glass jars containing squid and sea creatures, plus a poem, Coral Eulogy by Lydia Lenaghan and Ryan Harling.

EXCITING news that the first Belfast BBC Prom will be heard in the Waterfront Studio on Monday at 1pm. The Hebrides Ensemble chamber group are bringing us an uber-modern programme with some fabulous crash-bang-wallop discord from Greek-American composer Iannis Xenakis.

Hebrides director Will Conway promises music to "blow your head away". But as the resident pop musicologist said, anyone with any experience of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica need have no fears.

AND as Boris Johnson exits, having lost two ethics advisers, everyone echoed the obvious Oscar Wilde quotation. How about another attributed to him: Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

:: More on the Hebrides Ensemble's BBC Proms concert in The Irish News on Monday.