4 Corners Festival dream of bringing people together from across Belfast

The annual 4 Corners Festival has announced its dates for 2023 and this year’s theme which will be Dreams…Visions for Belfast.

The festival will feature a range of art, music, discussion, sport, debates and faith-based events from January 27 to February 5 in venues across the city.

Now in its 11th year, the festival was conceived as a way to inspire people from across the city to transform it for the peace and wellbeing of all.

It features innovative events designed to entice people out of their own ‘corners’ of the city and into new places where they will encounter new perspectives, new ideas and hopefully meet new friends.

Co-founders Reverend Steve Stockman and Father Martin Magill. Picture: Pacemaker

Co-founder, Father Martin Magill explained that while in the past there was a focus on peace-making, the festival was about the next step.

"I see the 4 Corners Festival as making a contribution towards peace building,” he said. “The idea of people getting to know one another, spending time with one another, building relationships and I see the festival really as a catalyst to help encourage that building of relationships.

Fellow co-founder, Rev Steve Stockman said the traditional divides have changed much in recent years and that's one of the things that keeps him involved.

"It is those moments where people come to a part of the city they’ve been in before and they meet somebody across whatever the divides are,” he explained.

Co-founders Rev Steve Stockman and Father Martin Magill. Picture: Pacemaker

“Of course, we have the traditional Catholic / Protestant divide and that’s one of our major divides in Belfast, but there are other races in Belfast now too so there are all those kinds of divides, but there’s also class divides.”

Included in this year’s busy programme will be a photographic exhibition and discussion of homelessness in the city, women in peace building, visions of Belfast, and will conclude with the theme of ‘the city where dreams become reality’.

2023 marks a number of significant anniversaries: 25 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and 60 years since Martin Luther King’s ‘I Had A Dream’ speech. The 2023 festival explores whether the dreams behind these historic events have been realised and if we still hold enough hope to dream big for Belfast.

"Martin Luther King Jr didn’t have a complaint. He had a dream. Likewise, we want to ask, what are our dreams for our city, now?” said Reverend Stockman, adding: “Our hope is that as we hear the dreams of the homeless, young loyalists, women in leadership, sportsmen and musicians as well as church leaders that we be inspired to live out our dreams.

"I think just being asked what your dream is, what your vision is, is sometimes enough because I don’t think we walk around enough saying ‘what are our dreams for how we can change the city’,” he explained.

"Once you start thinking about it and what you’d like to change or see differently, then perhaps it would provoke us and inspire us into imagining it and becoming part of the change itself.”

Father Magill shares similar sentiments when it comes to his own vision for the city. He explained: “My vision is of a city at peace with itself. It is about tackling the issue of poverty and creating an integrated city where people can live in whatever part of the city they want to.

"The festival’s theme has got a message this year for our world because we’re living in such a fragile, broken world at this moment.”

One of the many events of the upcoming festival will see 48 young people from four youth clubs become involved with social action and meeting one and other, as well as service providers from the police, ambulance, fire service and the council.

Although faith is an important component of the 4 Corners Festival, Father Magill explained it is not exclusively for ‘believers’.

"Every one of us who are part of the planning committee are coming from places of faith, however, we welcome those who don’t come from a place of faith,” he said.

"We’re trying to be the gospel that some people don’t actually get to read. I suppose in many ways we would see it as the living out of the gospel, the loving of your enemy, the making of peace, of loving one another, and we try to put into practice those words.”

Rev Stockman echoes the sentiment, saying: “There are events for everybody, not just for those who believe the same things that we believe. Each and every one of us living in Belfast have dreams for a better future.

"We hope 4 Corners will help people listen to each other’s dreams, and keep working towards a more peaceful and just city.”

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A full programme will be released over the coming weeks, for more information go to www.4cornersfestival.com/the-festival