ArtBeat: Hillsborough Castle's Meadow of Light, OAPs having fun, Goya in Belfast and class comedy from Grimes & McKee

Jane Hardy's bright lights this week include Hillsborough Castle, carehomes, Goya in Belfast and Grimes & McKee

The Meadow of Light is at Hillsborough Castle until January 1
The Meadow of Light is at Hillsborough Castle until January 1 The Meadow of Light is at Hillsborough Castle until January 1

THE spirit of Christmas is about light in the darkness. That includes the festive lights festooned over the high streets but if you go to Hillsborough Castle, you'll find dramatic light trails linking our celebrations to something magical, maybe ancient too.

This year's offering majors in colour, and there's a new contribution, the Meadow of Light, from Scottish artist Kate Bonney. A blanket of thousands of little fibre optic blades has been created by Bonney and her Lightworks partner Simon Hayes.

"They can go up a hill, and run through a cycle showing all the colours, so if you don't like blue, you may like pink," says Bonney.

Both are beautiful; the Christmas at Hillsborough Light Trail runs until January 1.


IT'S good to know there will be also be cheering culture beyond the bus pass. Commedia of Errors, the outfit behind Gap Year, have been bringing music and storytelling to those living in care homes for five years.

These are some of the people most isolated by lockdown and the 'OAPs having fun' ethos of the 2022 play is being delivered to independent care homes and the Radius Housing group.

"We started with the Irish idea of standing round the piano and doing a turn, maybe a poem or a song for residents," says Ben Gould, company co-founder. "It went down well so we expanded it."

The residents' reaction is strong, as Gould explains: "People who are maybe not verbal recognise a song, then can sometimes tell you when they heard it. One woman was in tears of joy listening to Petula Clark's Downtown. She said her son used to stand up in his cot aged one-and-a-half and sing it."

Her memory had been triggered by art and the result was healing: "It helps people reconnect with themselves."


IF you get the chance, visit the superb Goya portrait of Dona Antonia Zarate on display at the Ulster Museum until January 29.

They've surrounded the woman with creamy skin, sad eyes and rich black attire with other female portraits for context. And contrast, as next to her is Frank Auerbach's portrait of his wife, Head of Julia, pictured in bold squiggles in charcoal.


WHAT'S in a name? Quite a bit, if it's Alistair, subject of a stand-out Grimes & McKee sketch from their Christmas Craic-er show at the Lyric.

A couple of Alistairs are watching the rugby, bemoaning the cost of living crisis that has even reached Ballyhackamore. The skiing trips are at risk - not of cancellation but gulp, downgrading. No Val d'Isere this year, drawls one. Not Bulgaria, says the other Alistair, shocked.

How nice to hear humour about class rather than sectarianism.