An audience with…

During 2018, Miss Mawhinney gathered up members of our Pupil Council to write to some famous people, to invite them to the school. As a result, we had two very special visits in the summer term of that year. Dr Glenn Patterson, (author, novelist, screenwriter and playwright) and Mr Colin Davidson, (artist). Glenn and Colin are both past-pupils of Finaghy PS and, remarkably, both remain linked by their work to this day..

Glenn Patterson attended Finaghy PS from 1966 to 1973. During Glenn’s recent visit he said he remembered being told at school that he had a writing talent and, with encouragement from his teachers, had always felt it was something he was inwardly  driven to do. Glenn is the co-screenwriter of Good Vibrations which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2012 and was staged as a musical in the Lyric Theatre in 2018. Amongst his many novels is Gull – a fascinating story based on the real events surrounding the arrival of the Delorean Motor Company in Dunmurry, and its impact on the lives of local people.

Known at Queens University Belfast as Professor Glenn Patterson, he is currently also Director of the QUB Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry.

Glenn’s advice to our pupils: follow whatever is in your heart to do. If you enjoy writing, write about what you know. Glenn also advised that it’s not always the loudest and most obvious characters who achieve their dreams. As a writer, he said his natural environment is in a study, on his own, with a word-processor and lots of coffee. Success, he says, comes mostly from putting in the hard work and long hours that others don’t see you doing. Be tenacious – stick with things and see them through.

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Colin Davidson attended Finaghy PS from 1973-1980 – just arriving in fact as Glenn was leaving.

As you can see below, Colin now has worldwide fame as an artist and during the past decade he has been specialising in larger-than life images. Amongst those who have sat for Colin are HRH Queen Elizabeth, Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt, Ed Sheeran  Liam Neeson and indeed Finaghy PS’s very own Glenn Patterson. Colin’s ‘Silent Testimony’ exhibition, a series of eighteen portraits of individuals affected by The Troubles, has brought global attention to the Northern Ireland peace process.

During his visit with us, Colin was reunited with his first art teacher at Finaghy PS – Mr Jay Mateer, and his P5 teacher Mrs Heather Currie. Mrs Currie surprised Colin by producing a figurine – hand-painted by the artist aged 9, which has been in Mrs Currie’s china cabinet all this time! We also discovered an old school magazine with the front cover decorated by Colin.

When Colin spoke with our pupils his advice was strikingly similar to that given by Glenn. Again, he spoke of the importance of spending time on his own – reflecting upon, and perfecting his craft. ‘What you don’t see,’ he said, ‘ are the many, many pieces I paint which never see the light of day.’ He advised our pupils to take some time out for just thinking and reflecting in our busy, loud, smartphone world, to try to get a true sense of who they are, and where their talents lie. As with Glenn, Colin has never sought the limelight and does not particularly relish public speaking. He said that his work puts him in a very privileged position with his subjects, insofar as he spends a relatively long period of time in a room with them, often engaged in calm conversation. Ironically, many of the individuals he paints would have very little time to spend being still during their normal existence. ‘It is that intimate, still space with the subject,’ he said, ‘which enables me to try to capture the spirit of the individual on canvas.’ At the end of Colin’s presentation to our pupils, he put up a slide showing his own P7 autograph book, turned to a page on which Mr Mateer had written: ‘With best wishes to a fellow artist from James H Mateer, 27 June 1980.’ Colin’s message to the teaching staff was clearly heard – often teachers’ words of encouragement, praise and motivation can deeply influence young lives, and plant seeds from which great things can grow.

 

One last connection…

The picture below from September 2018 at The Lyric Theatre Belfast, shows Colin Davidson taking a picture of Aaron McCusker, who plays the lead role of Terri Hooley in Glenn Patterson/Colin Carberry’s stage version of Good Vibrations. Aaron is standing beside Colin’s portrait of Terri Hooley. The film and stage play are based on Terri’s independent record shop and recording label Good Vibrations, which operated in troubles-torn Belfast, producing such bands as The Undertones and The Outcasts. (Catch it when you can – it’s great!)