ArtBeat: Work, Place and Language at Templemore Baths, Brian Desmond Hurst exhibition at Ulster Museum, poetry from Padraig Regan

The Work, Place and Language event at Templemore Baths, Brian Desmond Hurst exhibition at the Ulster Museum, and poetry from Padraig Regan are on Jane Hardy's cultural radar...

Dr Connal Par
Dr Connal Par Dr Connal Par
Templemore Baths
Templemore Baths Templemore Baths

THE beautiful and historic Templemore Baths have reopened with a splash and an EastSide Arts Festival event this evening.

The Victorian baths provided washing and swimming facilities for the expanding working population drawn to the shipyards, and George Best and James Ellis would have swum there.

Cultural identity is the theme of the Work, Place and Language event, chaired by Dr Connal Parr for the Thomas Carnduff Appreciation Society. He notes "a new buoyancy" in the area and says Carnduff, the so-called shipyard poet, exemplified the best of Irish and British.

Dr Connal Par
Dr Connal Par Dr Connal Par

"It's about the working class identity as much as anything. He was writing pre-Partition, and his poem The Song of the Unemployed is a good place to start." Its lines about "the hands that shaped your mansions have the cunning in them still" remain moving.

Dramatist and short story writer Rosemary Jenkinson is contributing: "I can't wait to see how the baths have been revamped," she says.

"It's fantastic the Carnduff Society is holding this event for writers tackling cutting-edge, contemporary aspects of the East. As well as reading from Love in the Time of Chaos I'll be involved in a panel discussion on work, place and language in the thriving East.

Playwright Rosemary Jenkinson
Playwright Rosemary Jenkinson Playwright Rosemary Jenkinson

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"I love this festival as it's on my front doorstep and reflects the whole literary and artistic renaissance of the last decade, flourishing via writers like Lucy Caldwell, Wendy Erskine and Jan Carson."

The Ulster Museum contains another key Northern Irish cultural footprint in its exhibition on noted film director Brian Desmond Hurst.

Film as Art, co-curated by Hurst's great great nephew Allan Smith, is a bit of a revelation. It indicates that the visual material around movies – and Hurst was linked to some of the best, including the much-loved 1951 feature Scrooge with Alistair Sim – have been ignored.

The late great Brian Desmond Hurst
The late great Brian Desmond Hurst The late great Brian Desmond Hurst

Yet, Hurst also produced Bucket of Blood, a 1934 horror movie that was too shocking for some cinemas, and Ourselves Alone, with its love story crossing the sectarian divide.

His background was, like Carnduff's, working class. A linen worker, he went on to study art and bumped into the great director John Ford while hitch-hiking in America. The rest is movie history, superbly outlined in this show that runs until January.

Padraig Regan
Padraig Regan Padraig Regan

Writing isn't an easy job and awards help profile, funding and status: poet Padraig Regan, whose day job is teaching at the Seamus Heaney Centre, has been receiving gold stars for a first collection.

Titled Some Integrity, it examines life, queerness and again cultural ID. One poem, The Snail, works a little like a modern Metaphysical poem, teasing out a trail of meanings as Regan examines the "chalky leaving on the tiles" that show where the gastropod has been.

Regan is "almost reluctant to scoop the b*****d up in the bow of a spoon & whip it over the fence", remembering academic Speranza thinking you might spot in the leavings the initial of "the man you might marry".

But it takes too long.