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One hundred winners book their date with novelist Glenn Patterson

By Ann Maguire

One hundred copies of a novel at the centre of an Arts Council initiative celebrating local writing have been presented to Belfast Telegraph readers.

The competition’s winners were presented with a signed copy of The Mill for Grinding Old People Young — the eighth novel by east Belfast author and documentary-maker Glenn Patterson.

The exclusive Belfast Telegraph competition was part of One City One Book Belfast 2012 — a four-week festival which is encouraging everyone to read the same book this month.

It is the first time that Northern Ireland has hosted a One City One Book festival since the initiative started in Seattle in 1998.

The four-week programme of events — currently under way in the city — incorporates a diverse selection of talks, tours and film screenings focusing on 1830s Belfast — the setting for The Mill for Grinding Old People Young.

Gordon Lindsay from Lisburn was one of the lucky 100 to win a copy of the book.

He said: “I was attracted to this competition because of the subject matter of the novel. I suppose the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic stirs up memories.

“My own grandfather loved to relate stories from that period of time too and so I can’t wait to read Glenn Patterson’s novel.”

Edmund Green from Belfast, who also won a copy of the novel, added: “I knew Glenn and his brothers when he was younger, growing up in Belfast in the ’70s, and have followed all the articles in the Telegraph regarding his book.”

Set on Christmas Day 1897, the novel tells the real life story of Gilbert Rice.

Aged 85, and in failing health, the Belfast man recounts his journey into manhood in a city on the cusp of great change.

Looking back to city life in the 1830s, he recounts his work with the Ballast Office, supervising Belfast Port, and his love affair with Maria, a Polish exile from Russian persecution.

Noirin McKinney, director of arts development at the Arts Council, said the One City One Book programme serves as a reminder of Northern Ireland’s strong literary connections.

She said: “We have been overwhelmed by the response to the programme so far and the Belfast Telegraph competition has been a phenomenal success with an unprecedented number of entries.”

One City One Book Belfast 2012 is an initiative developed by the Arts Council and supported by Belfast City Council, Libraries NI, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Queen’s University, Faber & Faber and the Belfast Telegraph.

The programme continues this month with events happening from now until May 31. Full programme details can be found at or join in the conversation at @ArtsCouncilNI or ArtsCouncilNI.

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