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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

THE VALUE OF & GRATITUDE FOR ARTS COUNCIL FUNDING

I can't imagine how far I would have travelled on the memoir of my father's disappearance from our family without the support funding from The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The memoir is still in development but, in spite of my impatience, I realise this idea to printed book takes a long, long time.

Some who know this story might be sick of me bleating on about it. But there will be many who haven't a clue.

In summary, in 1960 my father, John Cushnan, left our Belfast home, his wife and seven young children, and pretty much vanished off the face of the earth. The next we heard of him was when we were told he had died at 57 in Clapham, London in 1982. By then, he had reinvented himself and his history as John Kelly from Derry.

I have all sorts of material and clues about his 22 'missing' years and I am on the umpteenth draft of a memoir. It is a frustrating process but also quite gratifying and fulfilling to find out about this man. I am convinced and confident that a book will come - eventually. I have had some sage and sound advice on the manuscript.

The funding has been a godsend, allowing me to travel home to Belfast to research family background and archives, and to travel to London to actually walk in his footsteps, the road to his bedsit, the pub he frequented and the church he may have worshipped in. Orlando Road. The Rose & Crown, St Mary's.

I will be forever grateful for the support, and the belief.

Late last year, I published a slim volume of poems related to the 'Da' project. It was a kind of trailer to the much bigger project but it was probably a premature step pissing off important supporters in my work. Lapwing Publications in Belfast liked the collection, I enjoyed the attention (still do) and Feathers Ruffled was published. It may well have been a step too soon.

I'm not sorry about that but I do regret any damage to a previous supportive relationship.

The work on the memoir continues and not a day goes by without some writing.

The story of my father's vanishing has attracted the attention of some very important and key media contacts: Gail Walker, Editor, Belfast Telegraph; John Toal, BBC Radio Ulster; Michael Bradley, BBC Radio Ulster; Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4. Thank you to all.

I top all of those names, fine people, by thanking Damian Smyth, Head of Literature & Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland for encouragement and support beyond my wildest dreams.

It will be forever thus.

The work continues with enthusiasm.

Arts Council and other funding helps the seemingly impossible to inch closer to the possible.


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