You’ve gotta laff, aincha

Welcome laydeez and gentlemen to… The DOCK’s very first and very wonderful Comedy Night!
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Put the date in your diaries now – Sunday 21st Feb at 7pm.  Perfect chance to start the week with coffee and craic in Dock Cafe.  There’ll be admission at the door on the night – but this being The Dock, it will be an Honesty Box ticket desk!

I’ve seen Andy Kind in action in front of a packed Waterfront Hall and I know it’ll be a fantastic night.  Here’s a bit of info from his website:

Andy-Kind-1Andy Kind won Anything for Laffs in 2005 and recently hurdled over the 1000-gig barrier. Other stuff happened in between. Described by The Scotsman as ‘Terrific’, Andy’s stand-up style can best be described as ‘the joyful rant of a post-30 chaos vacuum’, and he has been featured on BBC1, ITV, Channel 4 in the UK.

Not long after supporting Tim Vine, Andy’s first book ‘Stand Up and Deliver’ was published by Lion Hudson. The sequel, ‘The Gig Delusion’ was released by Wilmot Books last year. Andy is now working on his third book (his second with Lion Hudson) and recently hosted successful residences at New Wine 2013 and Spring Harvest 2014. Soon after, Andy toured a series of churches in South Africa alongside Mark Palmer.

“We booked Andy for a ‘fringe’ gathering of friends new to church and ‘Alpha’. Andy won us all from the ‘get go’! His dazzling humour was pacy, real, self-critical, teasing, and hilarious! Waves of laughter from a crowd of 150 plus. He’s inventive, playful, totally original, with a ‘knock-out’ spiritual punch to finish with. What a buzz!” Rev. Greg Haslam, Westminster Chapel, London

“Without doubt Andy Kind is one of the best evangelists I have come across – a brilliant comedian! Over 170 came to hear him in our church building – well over 100 of these were first time visitors – he held the audience for one hour – no one walked out! Two women came in and said if this is about God we are not interested – they took alpha leaflets on the way out! I would book him now before word gets out how good he really is – then it would be difficult to get hold of him!”
John Owen, Pastor South Manchester Family Church

“I laughed, cried, laughed some more. Andy was hilarious. His opening routine was totally off-the-cuff as he bantered with the audience- this spontaneous comedy was genius. As good as anything I’ve seen on Live at the Apollo.”
James Hunting, Crown Church, Hillingdon

“Andy took the roof off during our event earlier this year! A packed house for an hour of belly laughing, alongside a genuine and cringe-free provocation for people to explore the claims of Christianity made it one of the best evenings we’ve done for guests that aren’t yet part of the church. I’d encourage you to invite Andy… and make sure you get your friends along!”
Steve Wilson, King’s Arms, Bedford

Sweet Caroline

IMG_0274The last time I was on board HMS Caroline, in 2012, I was in the audience of a Wendy Austin radio broadcast aimed at keeping Caroline here in Belfast, where she has been moored ever since the 1920s.

At that time it looked as if her future lay in being transported to the Naval Heritage dockyard at Portsmouth – but, as everyone who phoned, tweeted or spoke in the radio programme maintained, Belfast and Caroline have been inextricably entwined for so long that it would be a crime to move her from her adopted home.

DSC015 - CopyFast forward a few short years – and Caroline’s future in Belfast is now assured.  Her future lies in the Titanic Quarter, repaired, restored, and re-interpreted as a visitor attraction with hundreds of tales to tell – adventures in the East Indies, base of operations in World War Two, a long career as the headquarters of the Naval Reserves here in Belfast, and – most significant of all as we approach its centenary in May this year – the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in World War One.

DSC01222I’ve been longing to get back on board for ages, especially as we’ve watched the scaffolding going up and the repairs progressing as we tootle past on the Wee Tram each week.  And thanks to the wonderful Jamie, I finally got my chance!

So here’s a little glimpse of the phenomenal work that’s underway to get Caroline ready to open to the public this May:

A special treat was to get down into the engine rooms, where the original engines (now the last of their kind in the world) lurk in the darkness:

Out on the deck on a gorgeous crystal winter’s day, the views of both the ship and the Titanic Quarter were amazing:

And down below, the low Winter sun looked phenomenal streaming through the portholes:
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It was fantastic to be beck on board, and to see the evident care and passion that’s going into Caroline’s rebirth.  This workman’s doodle on a porthole window summed it all up!
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More Tea Vicar (of Baghdad)

A real honour for some of the Dock team this week – as we were invited to the City Hall to meet Canon Andrew White – better known as the Vicar of Baghdad:
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What a fascinating man!  One of life’s great eccentrics, but with boundless compassion and bravery, BWB_7184Andrew ministered in the midst of almost unimaginable daily danger, conflict and suffering until Dock volunteer Archbishop Justin Welby brought him back to the UK in 2014 as the risk to his life had grown too great.

During an inspiring discussion with faith leaders from around Belfast, there was one moment that really made me smile.  We were talking about the way that differences, prejudices and preconceptions can sometimes just melt away when we sit down for IMG_3656a cuppa with those who are seen as ‘other’.  Andrew sat up in his chair and with great excitement announced, at the top of his voice, his new two-word principle for conflict resolution:

“More Chai!  More Chai!”

IMG_3650So in honour of our meeting I’m sitting in Dock Cafe today obeying his instructions with a yummy cup of Suki Chai tea.

Nice and warming on a cold day too, as the snow falls on the Belfast hills outside!