Belfast Telegraph

Ian Hill - Man about town

Weaving a path to Sandy Row show

By Ian Hill

THE maps were out. For who, these nights, wants to be abroad on a street corner, muttering helplessly: "It should be here."

THE maps were out. For who, these nights, wants to be abroad on a street corner, muttering helplessly: "It should be here."

The search was for Weavers' Court, off Sandy Row, where Jack Murray, lately of Java Café Gallery, was curating painter Stephen McAvoy's first exhibition 'Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man'.

But first there was Paddy O'Hanlon's political thriller 'The Crossmaglen Dispatch' to launch. Paddy, once a major civil rights politician is now a Bloody Sunday barrister.

So instead of No Alibis bookstore's David Torrens' usual raffish habitiués, there was a squash of pinstripes, black jackets and weskets.

Round the corner, flamboyantly-bearded Chris Wilson welcomed guests to his 'Seven Attitudes' preview in John Carroll's and Vivienne Jackson's Donegall Pass Phoenix Gallery.

Sipping Macon Villages, nibbling exquisite tapas of roast Parmesan, coconut and chilli crab prepared by Robin Mulholland from Bangor's Genoa Café, most reckoned the paintings and etchings "Very Francis Bacon".

Across in the Linfield Road warehouse, Spa Wells piano restorer Will Stephenson tinkled the Baby Grand the way he entertains weekenders in Billy Hastings' Slieve Donard Hotel.

Parents, telephonist Carol and retired civil servant James McAvoy celebrated Steve's success. "He'd talent, even back in Coleraine's Christie Memorial," confided dad.

Friends, Molly Oliver, describing herself as a 'lady of leisure' and husband builder Sam, confirmed James' view.

Carr PR guru Jackie D'Arcy, son John and husband John of BDO Stoy Hayward admired the work. Also mad about the boy were his stylish auntie Rosie Boyde, with friend David Browne, a designer with British Airports Authority at Gatwick.

Rosie's in charge of the airport's signage, so you know who to call if lost.

Among fellow artists, Noel Baxter, late of the group Desert Acrobats, confirmed the cliché that art students sing in bands which, like Stephen's Fine American Band, break up with 'internal tensions'.

Photographer Neal Johnston, son of artist/lecturer Roy, and with his own show at Clotworthy, claimed he was Stephen's main rival in their final year at the York Street School of Art and Design.

But the night's private previews weren't over.

Attendee Graham Gingles, from Catalyst Arts skinflic show 'Under Your Skin' arrived at the Ormeau Baths' simultaneous preview of 'Underworld' shattered.

After exploring Costa Vece's cardboard tunnels, art academics Venice Biennale star Alastair MacLennan and wife Hilary Robinson remembered Stephen's work.

Peruvian photographer Luz Maria Bedoya confirmed the ambiguities of maps.

Finally, to Stranmillis's Welcome Restaurant where Belfast Circus School supremo Will Chamberlain, Arts Council Performance Director Philip Hammond and Cork's Martin Barrett - who's devising the Athens Olympics opening ceremony - were at table, soft-shell chilli crab the order of the night.

Belfast Telegraph


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