Culture of Hope Exhibition Captures Diverse Stories Through Photography At 4 Corners Festival

A thought provoking exhibition is to be showcased in Belfast city centre as part of this year’s 4 Corners Festival.

Opening on Thursday, February 1, A Culture Of Hope, will run until February 10 at ArtCetera Studio in Rosemary Street.

The exhibition, by the Westcourt Centre in collaboration with Westcourt Camera Club and a number of local community groups, will explore the stories of people who have come to make Belfast their home and it will reflect their hopes, their joys and their challenges through the medium of photography.

Launching on Thursday, February 1 from 7.30pm to coincide with Late Night Art, the launch will welcome Iranian musicians Shiva (a professional guitarist, singer, music teacher and co-founder of Guitar Club for people seeking sanctuary) and Omid (a professional guitarist and Persian Setar player) as well as allowing attendees to hear from members of the 4 Corners committee and the Westcourt Centre.

Speaking of the exhibition Director of Westcourt Centre, Cormac McArt said: “A Culture of Hope is a photographic exhibition capturing stories and experiences of individuals from across the many diverse communities within Belfast.

“The exhibition was produced by the Westcourt Centre and Westcourt Camera Club in collaboration with a number of local groups and services supporting minority groups and people who have arrived in Belfast from other countries.

“People can expect to see images and stories reflecting the journeys of many cultures and communities now resident in our city.

“The exhibition will share narratives of trauma, suffering, resiliency, connection, solidarity and ultimately hope for the future.

“We hope that people will develop an understanding of some of the reasons for displacement in order to help challenge negative stereotypes and promote tolerance in our society. We want people to see the humanity in diversity and the commonality across communities.”

Now in its 12th year, the 4 Corners Festival was conceived as a way to inspire people from across the city to transform it for the peace and wellbeing of all.

The festival features a range of music, discussion, sport and faith-inspired events and will run from February 1 to 11 in venues in all four corners of the city. 

4 Corners Festival committee member Ed Petersen said the exhibition will be a moving experience for attendees.

He added: “The imagery in this exhibition is not only thought provoking but moving, it allows us to experience the stories of people who have made Belfast their home through the lens of a camera.”

This year’s theme OUR STORIES…Towards A Culture Of Hope is about showcasing our city and our people’s stories reflecting the essence of belonging and unity within the city’s diverse community.

The upcoming festival’s suite of events is 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.

“There is a correlation between the stories we tell and the culture we live in. Stories can highlight common ground, increase understanding and create connections. They hold the power to have a positive impact on our community and promote hope for the future” said Megan Boyd, 4 Corners Festival Administrator.

The 4 Corners Festival is supported by The Executive Office’s Central Good Relations Fund, The Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund and Belfast City Council Good Relations Fund.

All festival events are free of charge, with most open to the public, although advance booking of tickets is mandatory. Select events will be streamed online on the official 4 Corners Festival YouTube and Facebook accounts.

For more information about the festival and to keep up to date with programme updates go to 

John Steinbeck takes centre stage at Roe Valley Arts Centre this February

Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre is delighted to partner again with the Steinbeck Festival in 2024 to host a captivating program of events that celebrate the legacy of John Steinbeck through art, music, storytelling, and spoken word.

The festival promises a wonderful blend of cultural experiences for attendees of all ages, inviting them to immerse themselves in the literary world of Steinbeck.

The Steinbeck Festival 2024 kicks off with two engaging exhibitions: a display of book covers created by local primary school students and The Dustbowl Photography exhibition, which this year explores the theme ‘People’.

The timeless appeal of John Steinbeck’s works and his profound impact on the world of arts and culture will also be celebrated with a diverse range of live events, bringing together literature, film, music, and community engagement.

Mark Carruthers will engage in a thought-provoking conversation on Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume, with former BBC Journalist, and author of John Hume – The Persuader, Stephen Walker (2 Feb). Then, the Swingtime Starlets will transport the audience to the golden era of the 40s and 50s with an exceptional night of music on 24th February.  Tickets for both these events can be booked at

There will also be a number of free events, including a live link up with the National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California where attendees will have the opportunity to view some of the centre’s East of Eden related articles. Following this Dr Linda McKeown (QUB) will discuss East of Eden in its social context and consider Steinbeck’s thinking behind writing the novel.

On 8th February, come along for a captivating evening of verbal art by local poets and storytellers. Then, award-winning Northern Ireland film producer and screenwriter, Greer Ellison will give an illustration talk on 22nd February, offering insights into his illustrious career, sharing clips from his latest film, providing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of film and media.  Meanwhile, the Steinbeck Cafe in Drumceatt Square will host a lively Book Club discussion focused on Cannery Row on 27th February.

Secondary school GCSE groups are invited to a special programme of exploration and learning, delving into the literary masterpiece Of Mice and Men. Following the discussion, participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a screening of the 1992 film adaptation and an introduction to the live music of the era by Allan Nicholl (21 and 22 Feb).

All bookings for events can be made online at or by calling the box office on 028 7776 0650. Book is essential for free events.

The Arts Centre galleries are open throughout the festival as follows:

  • Monday: CLOSED
  • Tuesday: 9:30am – 5pm
  • Wednesday: 9:30am – 5pm and 7pm – 9pm
  • Thursday: 9:30am – 5pm and 7pm – 9pm
  • Friday: 9:30am – 5pm
  • Saturday: 10am – 1pm

For further information visit

Offers of the week from Discover Northern Ireland

Dobbins Inn, County Antrim

This cosy Inn is one of the town’s oldest buildings. You can simply relax by the open log fire or explore the town’s Norman Castle that has dominated this part of Belfast Lough since the 12th century. There’s lots to do in the area, from exploring the Causeway Coast, visiting the waterfall at Glenoe, or taking a walk to the Blackhead Lighthouse near Whitehead. Great food and a warm welcome await in the quaint Landings Restaurant. Avail of an overnight stay and a one course meal, with a hearty breakfast the next morning from £50 pp. Visit for more information.

Walsh’s Hotel, County Derry~Londonderry

Nestled at the foot of the Sperrins in the town of Maghera, this hotel is a great base to explore the lovely scenery of Mid-Ulster and County Derry~Londonderry. The hotel is offering a Children’s Adventure Package where you can spend the day at the nearby Jungle NI watching your little treasures have the time of their lives at the Treetop Adventure before heading back to the cosy comfort of the hotel’s Helena’s Bistro, where the kids can eat free. Then enjoy a great family breakfast the next morning.  From £256 based on two adults and two children. Visit for more information.

Lough Erne Resort, County Fermanagh

Escape to this five-star resort, located minutes from the island town of Enniskillen. Nestled on a 600-acre peninsula between Castle Hume Lough and Lower Lough Erne, it has spectacular views of the Fermanagh Lakelands and The Faldo Course. This hotel has welcomed many a celebrity and world leader. Why not feel special and pamper yourself at The Thermal Suite and Infinity pool at the Thai Spa, complimentary for all hotel guests. Then tuck into a delicious meal at the Loughside Grill. There is a wonderful Irish breakfast to enjoy the next morning, paired with memorable views. You can stay in a lodge or suite as part of this Stay and Dine deal for £269 per room based on two people sharing (Sun- Thurs). Visit for more information.


Book in advance to avoid disappointment. Subject to availability.

For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit

10 things to do in Northern Ireland

Here are ten exciting things to do 29 January- 4 February

  1. Birdwatch Morning, Comber, County Down, 31 January. Join the experts at the Castle Espie Wetlands Centre on the banks of Strangford Lough. You will have the chance to take a closer look at the wonderful variety of birds across the reserve, which is home to the largest collection of ducks, geese and swans on the island of Ireland. Everyone is welcome to join, no prior birdwatching knowledge required!
  1. Armagh Rhymers on Brigid’s Day, Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, County Derry~Londonderry, 1 February. This performance serves up an exciting mixture of music, song, poetry, storytelling and drama. Founded in the 1970’s, the rhymers hark back to ancient traditions where the kitchen floor was the stage. Their fabulous costumes and woven headdresses evoke the folklore of old Ireland. A fun day for the whole family.
  2. Winter Discovery Morning, Belfast, County Antrim, 2 February. Come and enjoy a seasonal walk amidst the splendour of the Lagan Valley Regional Park. These walks give you the opportunity for an informal but informative walk with the park’s rangers to learn about the wildlife and history of the area.
  1. Loughmacrory Lough, County Tyrone. Follow the shoreline of this serene lake. Wonderful flora and fauna abound, and gravel paths make this a very pleasant 2k stroll.  Keep your eyes peeled for a flash of electric blue, it could well be a kingfisher or just admire the swans and wild geese that visit.
  2. Imbolc, Celtic Mindfulness, Navan Centre, County Armagh, 3 February. This day retreat with Judith Greene and Karen Smyth celebrates the ancient Celtic festival which marks the beginning of Spring, falling at the halfway point between the Winter solstice and the Spring equinox. Historically, this festival was in honour of the pagan goddess, Brigid, who was adopted as a Christian saint. Connect with nature as it awakens from its winter slumber and get ready to welcome spring, refreshed and renewed.
  3. Belfast Bike Tours , Belfast, County Antrim, throughout February. Learn about the history, culture and architecture of Belfast in a fun way! Tour the city on comfortable, easy to pedal bikes taking in everything from the café culture vibe of the Cathedral Quarter to the street art, and peace walls. Visit the Titanic slipways and see why everyone is kissing the Big Fish. Two tours available daily, seven days a week. Includes helmet hire.
  4. Earth Yoga – In the Heart of The Marble Arch Cave, Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, 4 February. This multi-sensory experience will take your yoga practice to a place it has never been, surrounded by the sights and sounds of mother earth, deep in the heart of the show cave, 50 metres underground! A unique way to unwind and relax body and mind in an hour experience that is suitable for all levels. The yoga space will be lit with lanterns creating a warm and inviting feeling. There are 154 steps to enter the cave, so dress in flat shoes and warm clothing and bring along your own yoga mat.
  5. Moneypenny’s Forge and Lockhouse, Craigavon, County Armagh, throughout February. Want to make the sparks fly? Well look no further than this wonderful historic forge to learn the traditional skills of blacksmithing! Located on the Newry Canal just outside Portadown, this beautiful location has classes to suit all abilities from the novice to the more advanced metalworker. Or you can visit our canal-themed museum next door in the Lockhouse, named after the Moneypenny family who looked after the lock from the early 1800s until its closure in the mid-20th century. Class sizes are small so check the website for booking.
  6. The Sperrin Sculpture Trail, County Tyrone. Behold the three giant sculptures by artist Thomas Dambo on the Sperrins Sculpture Trail, which showcase the geology, archaeology and heritage of the Sperrins. The giants represent the past, present and future. You will evoke the mystical, ancient history and beauty of the region. You will find Ceoldán, the Stargazer, at Davagh Forest kneeling on a newly constructed timber boardwalk. He is trying to capture the brilliance of the night sky, ‘The Seven Sisters’, in his spiral. You can also find Nowanois, translated as the storytellers at Glenelly Valley near Cranagh and Darach, the Guardian at Mullaghcarn Mountain. A fun day out for all!
  7. Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum, Lisburn, County Antrim. Fancy trying your hand at spinning or want to watch one of the experts do it? Come along to this centre which celebrates Northern Ireland’s historic role as the world leader in the manufacturer of linen. You can see the cloth being woven in daily demonstrations with one of the onsite weavers. There are also fabulous exhibits on display such as a  fragment of linen from Tutankhamun’s tomb, and a pair of stockings embroidered for Queen Victoria. Entry is free and there’s accessible parking beside the building, there’s also a range of lovely linen to buy in the shop.

For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit


-Fun For All the Family this February at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium –

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium has announced a number of events to take place from Thursday 15th until Sunday 25th of February as part of NI Science Festival 2024.

These will include:

Experience the Calver Telescope tour, which will run at various times on Thursday 15th February. The event will see Armagh Observatory and Planetarium open its largest telescope dome to the public. The organisation has been conducting astronomical research for over 200 years, and these amazing telescopes are something to behold. Discover the difference between historic and modern telescopes during this unique event.

The Data Visualisation Laboratory (DVL) tour, for which public drop-in sessions will occur throughout Thursday 15th and Friday 16th of February. The Data Visualisation Lab brings the immersive experience of the planetarium dome to you, providing tools for the visualisation of three-dimensional data sets.

Check out the event’s public demonstrations, where you can talk with an astronomer while embarking on tours of the Cosmos using Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s panoramic display and the Digistar computer that it uses to generate the planetarium’s shows.

The Ultimate Bubble Show event, which runs at various times throughout Friday 16th and Saturday 17th February. Experience the best in soap bubble entertainment! Join Ray, International Bubbleologist and Guinness World Record Holder, and help him in his quest to complete the bubble game and create the ultimate square bubble.

This is a fast-paced, energetic show that’s full of surprises, with Ray using various different gases to create incredible bubble sculptures, effects and magical displays. Watch in amazement as he creates a volcano bubble, a soap bubble carousel, a bubble ghost and even a tornado inside a bubble!

This month in Astronomy: Director’s Cut dome show, which runs at 2pm on Friday 16th February. Join the Director of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, Professor Michael Burton, for a live planetarium show where he discusses the latest in astronomy.

Go on a guided tour of the Cosmos, taking in the planets, stars, and galaxies. Take a look at interesting objects in the night sky and examine the latest news in astronomy. The show will also feature a Question and Answer session, so feel free to ask Michael any burning questions.

Little Astronomers event, which runs at 10am on Friday 23rd February and is suitable for children under 5 years old. Transport your Little Astronomers into the exciting world of science!

Start with the toddler dome show, Astronaut George, followed by hands on activities and explore Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s state of the art sensory room. During the full dome show, George investigates the best planet to live on and the dangers lurking on the surface of other planets in our Solar System. But will he find any alien friends to play with? Find out in this inter-planetary adventure!

Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon Music Dome Show, which runs on Saturday 24th February at 4pm. The album was 50 last year and has sold 50 million copies since its launch in 1973.

Celebrate the anniversary by experiencing the album set to stunning 360 degree visuals of our Solar System and beyond in this brand-new full dome show.

Our World from Space Saturday Club, which runs on Saturday 24th February at 10am and is perfect for Key Stage 2 children. Embark on a captivating journey through the wonders of our home planet, as seen from space, at this family friendly event.

Explore the vital roles of satellites in monitoring the Earth’s ever-changing surface and learn together with your child at this fun and interesting club!

CapCom Go! Dome Show, which runs on Sunday 25th February at 4pm. Translated into British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language, CapCom Go is an immersive, historical documentary that showcases the achievements of the Apollo programme and what it took to put the first human on the Moon.

It introduces a new generation to the immense challenges that were overcome and aims to inspire the STEM leaders of the future!

Sinead Mackle, Education and Outreach Manager at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, says, “At Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, we deliver internationally-recognised research in astronomy and related sciences and vibrant educational and outreach programmes for all ages.

We have been engaging with the NI Science Festival since it began and it is a pleasure to take part again in 2024.

“This year’s programme of events will showcase some of our most popular dome shows and experiences, along with new events, such as our Calver Telescope tour and the This Month in Astronomy: Director’s Cut with Professor Michael Burton.

“We hope that these events will help to inspire the STEM leaders of tomorrow and look forward to welcoming visitors to this exciting, family friendly calendar of events.”

To book tickets for these events, visit:

10 things to do in Northern Ireland

Here are ten exciting things to do 22-28 January

  1. If Buildings Could Talk, Belfast, County Antrim, 27-28 January. This walking tour of Belfast City Centre will leave you laughing out loud, amazed and moved in equal measure! Barney Gribben’s fascinating and hugely entertaining jaunt is a tour de force of interesting facts and fabulous true stories delivered in a warm and engaging way. Guaranteed to make you look at the city anew!  A fun and informative two hours that will stay long in the memory.
  1. Storyweavers, Cultra, County Down, 27 January. Come along to the Ulster Folk Museum and take part in this special Irish-speaking children’s workshop for 5-10 year olds and listen to storytellers as they weave new life into old stories! Join Maire Zeph, the author of the Rita books, in this ancient Celtic celebration of the start of Spring, Imbolc.
  2. An Ode to Robert Burns, Omagh, County Tyrone, 27-28 January. Come along to the Ulster American Folk Park and celebrate Scotland’s famous bard, the man who gave the world Auld Lang Syne and popularised, at least once a year, the eating of haggis! Enjoy this “Great Chieftain o’ the pudding -race’ as part of a haggis pie and hear readings of some of his world-famous poetry. There’ll be theatrical performances of a ‘Not So Serious Burns’ by Bready Ulster-Scots, including a traditional bagpiper and highland dancers.
  1. New Year’s Ramble at the Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, County Antrim, 27 January. Fancy meeting at first light for an early morning stroll along the Causeway cliffs? Appreciate this beautiful coastline in a new light! Venture off with Nature Engagement Officer, Dr Cliff Henry, and catch a glimpse of some of the wonderful Winter birdlife – flocks of skylarks, oystercatchers, meadow pipits, peregrines and maybe even a snow bunting or two; all singing their hearts out to serenade you on your adventure. After working up an appetite enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Causeway Hotel. Check website for availability.
  2. Eco Cleaning Workshop, Mount Stewart, County Down, 27 January. Why not start the new year a little cleaner and greener? Mrs R’ganics returns to Mount Stewart – join and discover how to tap into a cleaner and greener home environment. This workshop will teach you tricks on how to avoid waste and excessive plastic use by learning how to make your own economical and eco-friendly cleaning products. Check website for availability.
  3. John Hume, The Persuader: Stephen Walker in Conversation, Bellaghy, County Londonderry, 27 January. Join journalist Stephen Walker in the Seamus Heaney Homeplace for a discussion on his new biography of peacemaker, politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, John Hume. Hume was a contemporary of fellow Nobel laureate at St Columb’s College in Derry. Based on 100 new interviews, including unpublished interviews with Hume, Stephen Walker’s timely and authoritative biography examines the career of a man once dubbed “Ireland’s Greatest”. A great opportunity to learn more on the fasinacting work of John Hume.
  4. Warrior Willow Workshop, Navan Centre, County Armagh, 27 January. Unleash your creative spirit and make your own organic sculpture from willow grown onsite at this ancient place. Learn age old skills with Heather McDermott using this multi-purpose sustainable material. Your finished piece will be approximately one metre tall! All materials included as well as tea, coffee and scones. Check website for availability.
  5. Joe Gregory exhibition, Omagh, County Tyrone, 22-27 January. Come along to the Strule Arts Centre for the final week of local artist Joe Gregory’s sole exhibition. In this showing ‘History Again’ he looks at the link with his work in Liverpool in the 80’s and 90’s where he studied the ever-changing cityscape and how ignored spaces are gradually regenerated. He revisits this theme of the abandoned and overlooked, where the lives of history are stamped on the structures that were once inhabited and loved. There are no figures or landscapes in his pieces, using oil on canvas or wooden board he seeks to give the pieces a look of being aged. He will talk about his work in a free event at the venue on the 26.
  6. Imbolc International Music Festival, Derry~Londonderry, County Londonderry, 28 January- 4 Febuaray . Based in Derry’s Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, this eight-day celebration of music, arts, and culture features over 25 artists from as far afield as Canada, India, and South-Korea, amongst the island’s own outstanding musical stock. The festival combines the grassroots with the international, family-friendly festivities with their ever popular late night “Club Trad”, and most importantly, provides a platform for artists to experiment.
  7. Florence Court, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Located around eight miles from Enniskillen, Florence Court is one of the most beautiful Georgian houses in Ulster, nestled against the wild mountain backdrop of Benaughlin and the Cuilcagh Mountains. You can enjoy glorious walks around the grounds which include a pretty walled garden, holiday cottage, sawmill and ice-house. In the gardens you will find the famous Florence Court Yew – reputedly the ‘parent’ of all Irish yew trees.

For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit

Ards Arts Centre To Open New Exhibitions for February

Ards Arts Centre in Newtownards will welcome two new art exhibitions for the month of February: Internal Space, a joint exhibition by Ned Jackson Smyth and Helen Bradbury and Real Lives: The Art of Living with Dementia, a Community Exhibition by Dementia NI.

Visual artists Ned Jackson Smyth (sculptor) and Helen Bradbury (painter) come together in the exhibition ‘Internal Space’ to share the work they have created over the past year which links their personal thinking and perspective in response to the external physical world.

The exhibition, which will show in Ards Arts Centre’s Georgian Gallery, will feature painting, sculpture and film that give the viewer an insight into the thinking of both artists and the inspiration drawn from the world around them.

Curated by Dementia NI, Northern Ireland’s leading charity for people in the early to middle stages of dementia, ‘Real Lives: The Art of Living with Dementia’ will include thought-provoking photography and patchwork quilts created by Dementia NI members, all of who live with a diagnosis of dementia.

Challenging some misconceptions about dementia, the exhibition will share a message of hope that many people with dementia are still able to enjoy life in the same way as before their diagnosis and live well with dementia. This exhibition will be on display in the Sunburst Gallery.

Both exhibitions open on Thursday 1 February and run until Saturday 24 February.  Admission is free during gallery opening hours.

All are welcome to attend a preview event in Ards Arts Centre on Thursday 1 February at 7pm.

For more information visit;

A Jungle Adventure for Cheeky Monkeys at The Market Place

Attention adventure seekers! On Sunday 28 Jan, Henrietta Hippo, Eddie Elephant, Gilbert Giraffe and Deborah Zebra will be taking the stage at The Market Place for a rollicking jungle journey!

Follow Henrietta, a clever young Hippo who is always asking “why?” on her adventure through the jungle.

This action-packed stage show is filled to the brim with audience participation, games, riddles and sing-along songs with amazing characters.

Perfect for your cheeky little monkeys ages 3 – 9 years. Don’t miss out, book now for a wild time!

‘Born to be Wild’ will be on stage at Armagh’s Market Place Theatre on Sunday 28 January at 2pm and 4pm. Tickets are priced at £10.

Tickets for all shows can be booked online at or through the Box Office on 03300 561 025.

The Power Of A Positive Mentality: Matthew Bell On His Second Chance


Pro hockey player Matthew Bell was at the top of his game. In 2016 he was gearing up for the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. When he didn’t make the cut for the sporting world’s biggest stage, he thought he was having the worst day of his life. He had no idea what was ahead of him. 

Three years later, Matthew began experiencing vomiting and migraines and his hockey form started to drop. As a result, his new club signing in Belgium sent him back to his previous German club – a stroke of fate that would prove the difference between life or death.

Craigavon born Matthew’s world was upended when he went for an MRI scan in September 2019 which revealed a brain tumour the size of three golf balls in his midbrain. He would need emergency surgery to stop a fatal brain haemorrhage. 

After spending six weeks in hospital in Germany and enduring five surgeries, Matthew was flown home to Belfast by air ambulance to start cancer treatment. While away from home he stopped eating, talking and walking for seven weeks. His parents were told by the consultant neurologist that he couldn’t tell them if their son would ever walk or talk again.

However, in a testament to his sheer resilience, strength and determination, one year to the date of his diagnosis, Matthew beat the odds and ran unaided for the first time.

“The first day I ran unaided my dad said to me he didn’t think he’d ever see me run again. I was in a wheelchair for two months so the first time I ran unaided, I cried” he said.

“The first few weeks in Germany I was up walking, talking, eating and then the last week I just took a really bad turn and stopped all of those life skills. I think about six weeks into hospital in Belfast dad had obviously had enough. 

“He came into my room one day, pulled up a chair beside me and sat down and sternly spoke to me and he said ‘I know you can speak, you know you can speak, so pull your finger out and start speaking.’  Now he wishes he hadn’t told me because I haven’t stopped speaking since.”

Back home in Belfast, Matthew spent time at the Belfast City hospital receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy and worked with different physios, occupational therapists and speech therapists in hospital to get back to normality. 

Throughout his journey he never lost that positive elite sportsperson mindset and credits this as helping him get through the most difficult period of his life.

He explained: “My parents and my family thankfully have always been very positive and that definitely helped me get through. It’s not something that I think will go away, having that attitude. I think it comes from being a sportsperson at the highest level. It’s something that’s ingrained in me, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.”

There is a lot of rhetoric around those who have been through what Matthew has been through as being ‘inspirational’. Despite already being this for many, Matthew doesn’t see himself in this way. In ‘Second Chances’ he states “I don’t see it as inspirational. I just see it as someone getting over an illness and getting back to the sport they love. Nothing inspirational about it.” 

He elaborated: “I think it comes from being a professional international hockey player, that kind of elite sportsperson mentality. It definitely helped me get through what I went through: the times in a hospital bed wondering if I would ever get back on to the hockey pitch. 

“I think it is all down to that positive mental attitude that you need to have to get to the top of your game.”

This attitude is something that is ingrained in Matthew and will stay with him going forward into the future, which looks bright:

“Last year I played a full season for the 3XI and last year we got promoted so this year we’re going to be in the top league that we can possibly play in. 

“I want to continue on the hockey pitch, trying to improve as much as possible and also I’m going into a coaching role within the club. I’m not as good as I used to be on the pitch, but I still have that knowledge that I can hand down to the younger members in the team and club and can pass on the experience and knowledge that I have. If I can benefit them in any way, that’s brilliant for the club and the sport.”

Matthew’s book, Second Chances, priced £9.99, can be purchased from Excalibur Press 

4 Corners Festival Bringing Young People Together Through Sports

Uniting young people with a Game of 4 Corners

This year’s 4 Corners Festival is set to bring young people from local communities across Belfast together through the medium of sport.

Now in its 12th year, the 4 Corners Festival was conceived as a way to inspire people from across the city to transform it for the peace and wellbeing of all.

The festival, which features a range of music, discussion, sport and faith-inspired events, will run from February 1 to 11 in venues in all four corners of the city. 

One of the many activities taking place within the festival is the Game of 4 Corners on Wednesday February 7 from 6-9pm, which sees young people from all areas of Belfast brought together through the power of sports.

PeacePlayers NI are facilitating the event, open to all young people aged 11 to 14, of sport and team activities, focusing on positive lessons and outcomes, on and off the court.

Games such as Gaelic football, soccer, basketball and rugby will be played by integrated teams from Belfast as well as having on-site PeacePlayers Coaches and mentors to help participants throughout the 3-hour long event.

During the event the young people will hear inspiring stories from local sportsmen and women and be encouraged to consider how they can contribute to a positive culture on and off the pitch. 

Gareth Harper, PeacePlayers Managing Director, said he’s delighted to once again work with the 4 Corners Festival team to co-design an exciting and high energy event.  

He said: “PeacePlayers coaches will be on hand to lend their expertise of facilitating fun, engaging and inclusive peace building through sport activities to what will be an amazing event.  

“Young people from the 4 Corners of the City will have the opportunity, some for the first time, to play and learn together about sports from Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.”

Pre-registration is required for this event which is open to individuals and youth groups from across Belfast. Visit the 4 Corners Festival website for details on how to register.

Ed Peterson of Clonard Monastery, representing the 4 Corners Festival, explained that the event is aimed at bringing young people from all communities, backgrounds and corners of the city together.

He said: “I love the overall ethos of the 4 Corners Festival to encourage all of us to get out of our corner of the city, not only just the geographical corner of the city to experience other parts of Belfast but also just around other ideas and opportunities.

“Young people can meet new people and explore various different subject matters together with people from different areas of Belfast or even beyond.”

The 4 Corners Festival is supported by The Executive Office’s Central Good Relations Fund, The Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund and Belfast City Council Good Relations Fund.

This year’s theme OUR STORIES…Towards A Culture Of Hope is about showcasing our city and our people’s stories reflecting the essence of belonging and unity within the city’s diverse community.

The upcoming festival’s suite of events is 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.

For more information about the festival and to keep up to date with programme updates go to