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Snow Patrol's Lightbody to tell festival-goers about his upbringing

Gary Lightbody

Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol is among the big names set to grace a cross-community arts festival in Belfast later this month.

Alongside Bafta award-winning filmmaker and playwright Damian Gorman and homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry, he will form part of the line-up for this year's inter-church 4 Corners Festival.

Now in its eighth year, the festival will run from January 31 until February 9 and its theme for 2020 is Building A City Of Grace. Around 150 people attended the launch at Hydebank Wood Secure College, a prison for young people and women.

Co-founded by Presbyterian minister Rev Steve Stockman and Catholic priest Fr Martin Magill, this year's 4 Corners includes an intimate evening with the Snow Patrol frontman talking about his upbringing, the impact of the Troubles, and Belfast.

The closing event will see Fr McVerry discussing his 45 years working with the homeless of Dublin's north inner city and founding a national housing and homeless charity.

Other highlights include the former Church of Ireland Bishop of Connor Alan Abernethy returning to St Anthony's Catholic Church in east Belfast, the scene of one of the most horrifying moments of his life.

As a 15-year-old boy, he lived with his family next door to St Anthony's, witnessing in 1973 one of many attacks on the church down the years.

There will be a response from his friend from university days, Brendan McAllister, the Interim Advocate for Victims and Survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse, who is training to be a Catholic deacon.

"I watched late at night as a crowd of rioters desecrated St Anthony's and nearly killed the priest," said Bishop Abernethy.

"This was a moment that changed my life forever, it led me on a journey of ecumenical endeavour committed to finding Christ in my neighbour."

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From left: Fr Martin Magill, Cheryl Lamont (NI Probation Board), Ronnie Armour (NI Prison Service) and Rev Steve Stockman

From left: Fr Martin Magill, Cheryl Lamont (NI Probation Board), Ronnie Armour (NI Prison Service) and Rev Steve Stockman

Out of the experience, the bishop resolved to get to know Catholics and subsequently met Brendan, describing it as "one of the grace moments of my life".

Other events will include Miami Showband massacre survivor Stephen Travers telling his story in song, and an evening with directors of Belfast's four big football clubs.

Fr Magill, parish priest of St John the Evangelist on Belfast's Falls Road, hopes the festival will encourage everyone to show grace and generosity towards their fellow citizens.

The priest, who won a standing ovation for his stirring address at murdered journalist Lyra McKee's funeral last April, said: "It's not lost on us that the event begins on the day of Brexit so whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer there's an added poignancy with all the uncertainty about what life will be like after that.

"Back last March when we were discussing the theme for this year there didn't seem to be any hope of the Assembly coming back, so that has come as a very pleasant surprise and obviously we are delighted that has happened."

Head of the Prison Service Ronnie Armour welcomed the opportunity to co-host the launch at Hydebank with the Probation Service. He said: "It is the first time such a festival has been launched in a prison and is a demonstration that prisons are now very much part of the community, they are not apart from the community. An event like this in a custodial environment would just have been unthinkable not that long ago."

Belfast Telegraph