Arts Council of Northern Ireland

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for The Arts in Northern Ireland

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ACNI Introduces..Sophie Hayles

Thursday 7th May 2020 at 2pm 0 Comments

Sophie Hayles, Chief Executive of The Crescent, Belfast Image: Sophie Hayles, Chief Executive of The Crescent, Belfast

Sophie Hayles is Chief Executive of The Crescent, Belfast. As lockdown enters May, we asked her to reflect on how life has changed and where she’s finding comfort and joy in those precious moments of quiet…

"This last week has been the toughest one yet. Closing The Crescent on 20 March feels like a distant memory and with little purchase on the future my feet are desperately searching for a little piece of ground to rest on.  The regular check-in with the creative companies in The Crescent had a different feel to it this week; there was a sadness there - but I took solace in the spirit of connectivity, care and honesty that is at the heart of everything anyway, and even more so now. That we are all responding in different ways – professionally and personally - to processing what’s happening – is reflective of The Crescent as a jigsaw puzzle, as the sum of our parts.

In the little windows that appear between scenario-planning, home-schooling, staying connected with the vast network of those The Crescent engages, arguing with my husband, and pretending to enjoy baking, here are some of the things that I’ve also taken solace in: 

(Re)reading as much of Anne Enright’s work as possible. I’ve just finished ‘Actress’ which is glorious. It opens with a question about what someone is like as a normal person and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished.

Speaking of normal people I’ve been completely swept away by the TV adaption of Sally Rooney’s novel, and wish I could relive that experience of watching something gorgeous for the first time, more slowly.

A favourite on my bedside table is Wendy Erskine’s debut collection of short stories ‘Sweet Home’, and as I listened to Wendy in conversation with Nicole Flattery at the 2019 Book Festival I’ve also picked up Nicole’s collection ‘Show Them a Good Time’ once again. It’s discombobulating to hear fragments of their conversation from 10 months ago drift into my mind as I read, but entirely in keeping with the strange sense of time and place that we are all experiencing. 

In the spirit of looking forward to a new generation of writers The Crescent is really happy to be running the 4th edition of the Mairtin Crawford Award. The Awards are aimed at writers working towards their first full collection of poetry, short stories, or a novel and we are thrilled that our supporters – The River Mill and NIPR Books – have joined us again this year and in these challenging times. The submission deadline is 13 May, and my thanks go to our judges Moyra Donaldson, Naomi Foyle, Lucy Caldwell and Rachael Kelly.

I’m also looking forward to tuning into the Big Book Weekend (8th-10th May) – the brainchild of Kit de Waal and Molly Flatt, and supported by BBC Arts and Arts Council England, which brings together contributions from cancelled literature festivals. Listen out for Marie-Louise Muir hosting a panel discussion with Belfast Book Festival Patrons Lucy Caldwell, Paul Muldoon and Glenn Patterson"

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