Our hopes were high… The Dock reached the finalist shortlist for the NI Rising Stars awards and we went along to the fancy awards shebang with fingers crossed.
But alas! this happened:
But hey! The Dock is FULL of rising stars and we don’t need some flipping award (mutter mutter) to tell us so…
For example, look at our amazing team of volunteers. Over the last few weeks they have all given up an evening to attend one of Stevo’s fantastic in-depth training sessions – from how to make the perfect cup of Suki Tea, to what to say to a confused tourist who has never heard of an Honesty Box, to the intricate moods and whims of Doris the Dock Dishwasher… EVERYTHING was covered!
And look at the result… Dock Cafe is more welcoming, more cosy and more heavenly than ever – and every visitor always comments that it’s down to the cheery volunteers (who is the mystery “lovely older gentleman” – anyone want to claim that one!):
The volunteers also came up trumps again at A Night To Remember – the annual remembrance service to mark the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Wild and windswept we gathered at 11:40pm on the slipways after an evening of storytelling and dramatic reconstruction of the Titanic story – so no candles this year (just mobile phone flashlights!), but the care and enthusiasm of the Dock volunteers held it all together.
And it’s not just the Cafe volunteers… I was with the Dock Market gang recently for their setup in the Odyssey Pavilion at the crack of dawn – how inspiring to watch them turn such a big space into a riot of colour, creativity and quirky originality. Don’t miss the next Dock Market at the Odyssey on Sat 22nd April!
And finally (for now…) some of the unseen Rising Stars of the Dock: the Dock Angels, who have been steadily signing up ever since our birthday party back in March. Dock Angels are people who support the Dock financially – whether through a one-off donation or a regular gift.
As the Dock shines brighter and brighter, we couldn’t survive without their support – and if you want to join them you can find all the details here.
Stars, every one of ya! Now to put in a bit more practise at the “gracious loser face”…
Another Thought from the Brain Of Bennett… just in case you don’t listen to BBC Radio at 6:55 on Wednesday morning (and why on Earth not?!)
What’s your favourite beauty spot in Northern Ireland? We’re kinda spoilt for choice: Silent Valley, Strangford Lough, the Mourne Wall, the Giants Causeway (of course) but also all the little hidden gems around the North Coast like Dunseverick Harbour, White Park Bay and – one of my favourites – Murlough Bay just outside Ballycastle.
You need nerves of steel to get there by car: a tiny ribbon of bumpy track cuts precariously through the cliffs and plunges down towards the sea. Your brakes are steaming by the time you get to the bottom – and your engine is steaming by the time you get back up again. Every heart-stopping moment is worth it when you breathe in the wild, elemental landscape at the bottom of the track; it has a kind of savage, prehistoric beauty.
I was there last week and I couldn’t stop taking photographs of the trees. At Murlough Bay the trees grow horizontally rather than vertically – the fierce winds coming in from the sea obviously batter them and put such massive pressure on them that the branches claw away from the sea towards the land as if trying to escape – physical proof of the enormous stress of day after day being constantly blasted by the wind.
I think we are all living in days of enormous stress. Our uncertainty about our future in Northern Ireland is echoed by fear and disquiet around the globe. Any sense we once had that the world was gradually becoming a safer, happier and better place is being eroded and called into question. There are reasons to hope but also reasons to despair. And when you add the personal pressures and stresses we face on a daily basis – about money, health, relationships, being overworked and underpaid (aren’t we all?) – you can see why I was so drawn to those windswept trees at Murlough Bay and felt like they expressed something true.
But I found one tree right down by the water’s edge that was different. It actually had the most exposed position of all, should’ve been practically flat on its back. But the tree was so old, the roots were so deep that the pressures of the relentless wind could warp and twist a couple of the branches but couldn’t bend the core.
That’s what we need: Deep roots. When we’re under pressure, one of the first casualties can be time to nourish our souls. But every minute spent in prayer, in quiet, in nature or in good company can be vital root-deepening time in preparation for the next storm.