Hello! Welcome!

I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Belle-fast

Last weekend my good friend (and hugely talented author and film journalist FYI) Andrew took me for a long overdue catch-up and a dander around our favourite part of our beloved Belfast - the Cathedral Quarter. It's gaining a reputation as a hip n' happenin', artsy part of the city and it would be easy to grow cynical and dismiss this as hype and overstatement. But the cobbled streets of this part of my home town (albeit I now live 8 miles down the road from it) truly are a joy to stroll down.

Around every corner there are galleries, museums, studios, independent shops, cafes, bistros, pubs and bars, with beautiful, colourful characters milling in and out of them. Someone tweeted one recent sunny evening that the Cathedral Quarter felt "balmy and buzzy" as the sun went down and I couldn't put it better myself.

I heart Belfast. Here are some snaps of our day.

The MAC

After I got over my initial disappointment at the giant tables and chairs not being in the top floor gallery any more, I found myself warming to the idea of Johanna Billing’s video installation that now resides here.

Not so much the actual subject of the films (amateur improvisational, interpretive dance. Cringe) but the interactivity of the personal DVD players and the customisation aspect – you pick which DVDs to watch. You can pop just one in a personal DVD player and watch a minute or two, or you could sit and watch each one in sequence order, back to back. I like the idea of everyone’s experience of an exhibition being somewhat unique and self-created.

OH YEAH CENTRE

We wandered out of the MAC into blazing sunshine and dandered round in the direction of Hill Street, when the Oh Yeah Centre caught Andy's eye and we realised I'd never been in.

This much-loved bastion of independent local music celebrated its fifth birthday this year and was where my sister's band Whanau did some of their early recording sessions.

You can order a cappuccino, lounge on the fashionably battered sofas and talk about the direction your band's going, man, or take a bit of inspiration from the permanent (free) music exhibition.

The little white cabinets contain rock memorabilia from Northern Ireland's music legends; from Van Morrison, to Gary Moore, to Ash and Snow Patrol.

Well worth a visit.

Sunglasses on once again and we headed again toward Hill Street, where a striking new mural on the side of the Black Box stopped me in my tracks. Isn't it phenomenal?

I discovered it's called 'The Duel of Belfast, Dance by Candlelight' and it was done earlier this year by a Cork-born, London-based artist called Conor Harrington. You can read more about it on Conor's blog.

After a bit of ooh-ing and aah-ing at the Black Box's new bake, we hung a right and this is the sight that greeted us. Ah, Belfast, quare an' well ye look with a bit of sun on yer face!

THE DARK HORSE

I know, on a day like that, it is a bit of a sin not to fight your way to the Duke of York bar and sit outside with a pint in your hand, However, I was driving so thirsts were quenched with a soft drink in the Duke of York's significant other across the road, The Dark Horse.

During the day it's a coffee house/lunch restaurant and at night, it often opens its doors to help accommodate the overflow of punters from the DOY.

I've been in here a couple of times before and it's a treasure trove of antique kitsch; I've been itching for a while to come in and take a few pics of this cool and quirky place.

The pics below are of some of the stuff they've adorned the very loo with. Brilliant!

Not often you get to leave the final word on a post to Yeats, eh? Hope you enjoyed this little photo post! Let me know what you thought - leave comments, email me or fill in the feedback form. I love to hear from you!

Mela Monday: Dancing toward the big day

Mela Monday: Dancing toward the big day

Mela Monday: A flash of inspiration