Last week Sammy brought forward an adjournment debate on the 50th anniversary of the death of an East Belfast man, C.S. Lewis, one of the World’s best-loved authors. The offical report is reproduced below.
Mr Speaker: The proposer of the topic will have 15 minutes in which to speak. All other Members who are called to speak will have approximately six minutes.
Mr Douglas: Thanks to the Minister for attending this Adjournment debate.
On 22 November 1963 — 50 years ago this Friday — the world was stunned to learn of the death of President John F Kennedy, who was assassinated. On the same day that JFK tragically lost his life in Dallas, Texas, Clive Staples Lewis died, one week before his 65th birthday, at the Kilns, Oxford, England. The death of Lewis, a renowned author, theologian and academic, did not make many headlines. Let me mention a few points about the remarkable life of C S Lewis, who was born about two and a half miles from this Building.
Like JFK, C S Lewis was known to his family as Jack. That was a name he chose for himself at the age of three, ignoring anyone who called him Clive. Just as the mystique continues to surround the untimely death of JFK, so too, half a century later, do the writings of C S Lewis keep their enduring hold upon the popular imagination of millions around the world.
C S Lewis was born on 29 November 1898 in Dundela Avenue, Strandtown. He was baptised in St Mark’s Church, Dundela by his grandfather Thomas Hamilton, who was rector at the church. In 1905, the family moved to the Little Lea on the Circular Road, a house that his father had built. That house is the location of the wardrobe that plays such an important role in those famous children’s stories, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. The house is privately owned and is not accessible to the public.
C S Lewis attended Campbell College in east Belfast. Earlier tonight, the East Belfast Partnership organised an event at Campbell College called “Lewis by Lamplight”, which is part of the C S Lewis Festival. The famous lamp, thought to be the inspiration for the lamp in Narnia where Lucy first met Mr Tumnus, was officially switched on by First Minister, Peter Robinson, and one of the Campbell College pupils.
I pay tribute to the East Belfast Partnership, which has organised the excellent inaugural C S Lewis Festival that is taking place this week. Although the festival will be based in east Belfast, where C S Lewis spent his childhood, it will feature other events across the city, with theatre, exhibitions, art, music, tours and outdoor events running until Saturday 23 November. It will be an opportunity for people in Belfast and beyond to remember and celebrate the life of a literary genius.
Mr Kennedy: I am grateful to the Member for giving way. Will the Member join me in welcoming the fact that, this coming Friday, on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C S Lewis, at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, he is to be permanently remembered? That is a fitting tribute to a great poet and ambassador not only for east Belfast but Northern Ireland.
Mr Douglas: I thank the Member for his intervention, and I agree with him. I will mention that later, and maybe add to what he said.
The fantastic programme of events organised by the East Belfast Partnership is a great way to celebrate the life of one of Belfast’s greatest sons. Already there has been a great response to the planned events from young and old alike, but, in order to build on the momentum and interest that has been shown, I suggest that we investigate the designation of a C S Lewis celebration day on the date of his birthday, which is 29 November.
After Campbell College, which he left due to respiratory problems, C S Lewis was sent to the health resort town of Malvern in Worcestershire. There, he attended a local preparatory school and went on in his academic career to become the creator of some of the most loved children’s stories. Yet he was much more than a children’s author. He was also a brilliant scholar, holding prestigious academic positions, first at Oxford, then at Cambridge, as well as becoming one of the world’s most influential Christian thinkers. ‘The Irish Times’ this morning contained an interesting article, including these words:
“Even 50 years after his death, no one can equal this Irish man’s gift for presenting the essentials of Christian faith in straightforward language.”
Lewis is described as an Irishman and as a child of pre-partitioned Ireland with roots throughout the island. Undoubtedly, Lewis was influenced by the country as a whole, but he was also a proud Ulsterman. His heart was firmly fixed in the northern counties, especially County Down. He once remarked to his Ulster student David Bleakley, who was a lovely man who became an MP for east Belfast:
“Heaven is Oxford lifted and placed in the middle of County Down.”
Although he spent his whole career teaching at Oxford and Cambridge, for him, County Down was heaven. A year after marrying the gifted American writer Joy Davidman, they belatedly honeymooned in Crawfordsburn, County Down in July 1958.
C S Lewis grew up in Ulster. He continued to return for his vacation almost every year of his life, except when prevented by war or illness. In fact, he was wounded in the First World War. What an amazing life for one of our east Belfast born and reared sons, who wrote sci-fi novels, Christian books, children’s sagas, academic criticism and created the most famous lion and wardrobe in literature.
I am sure that most of us have seen the bronze piece of art at the Holywood Arches. Stood, fittingly, outside Holywood Arches library, the life-size statue is called “The Searcher”. It depicts the young man Digory opening a door of the old Victorian wardrobe for those who wish to enter the magical world of Narnia. Renowned Ulster artist and sculptor Ross Wilson, to whom we owe much for spearheading a C S Lewis revival in east Belfast, unveiled the bronze statue in 1998 on the centenary of C S Lewis’s birth. Inscribed on that sculpture are these words of Ross Wilson:
“C.S. Lewis did not just hang clothes in a wardrobe, he hung ideas — great ideas of sacrifice, redemption, victory, and freedom for the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve”.
He goes on:
“Set within the commonplace, revelation within something that looks ordinary on the outside — revelation through investigation. We should not stop looking, some of the greatest things can be found in the most ordinary of places, like a wardrobe.”
Is it not amazing, Mr Speaker, that ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ have sold well over 100 million copies? In fact, in 2008, a survey found that most people believed that his book ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ was the best children’s book of all time. ‘Mere Christianity’ and ‘The Screwtape Letters’, two openly Christian books by Lewis, sell about 300,000 copies each year. So, tonight, we celebrate the life and legacy of a literary giant who made, and continues to make, such an impact on the world.
This week, that life and legacy of C S Lewis will be honoured, as the Member said, with a permanent tribute in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner. A memorial stone inscribed with a quotation highlighting C S Lewis’s Christian faith will be placed among those for playwrights and poets, including such notable people as Robert Burns, William Shakespeare and John Keats, cementing his place among the nation’s greatest writers of all time.
It is fitting that tonight we are honouring one of Belfast’s greatest sons here in our seat of government. I believe that it would be entirely appropriate if we were to mark the life of C S Lewis, whose legacy remains varied and vast, with a permanent tribute in Parliament Buildings. Mr Speaker, I sent you a letter this week requesting that we look at having some sort of art piece permanently in this Building.
To conclude, I thank the staff in the Assembly Library for their help. They have been more than helpful in providing information for the Adjournment debate. I also thank the Linen Hall Library staff for all their help. Congratulations to the Linen Hall Library because it has organised a superb C S Lewis exhibition, Through the Wardrobe, which runs until 24 December. I encourage Members to go along to that if they get a chance.
Finally, 50 years after his death, C S Lewis continues to inspire and fascinate millions, just like the late Seamus Heaney, who was a hero of mine and another great literary figure. Lewis was a towering intellectual figure, a popular fiction author who inspired a global movie franchise around the world of Narnia, and an athiest turned Christian thinker. Lewis’s gift to the world was his stories and his belief in the power of storytelling, which shone through each word that he wrote.
Let me leave you with one of his famous quotes, which I believe is so relevant to all of us in the Chamber. He said:
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Mrs McKevitt: As has been highlighted, this Friday marks 50 years since the death of C S Lewis, one of Belfast’s most famous sons. Lewis is considered by many to be the greatest Christian writer of the second half of the 20th century. Born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1898, C S Lewis was a scholar and author best known for his beloved series of children’s books ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, including ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
Lewis went to Campbell College, a school just one mile from where we sit, before attending Oxford University as a student, where he later became a fellow. He spent most of his adult life in the grounds of Oxford where he taught, wrote and lectured for nearly 30 years. While he continued his work as a scholar, Lewis began a career as a Christian writer and novelist. He wrote 38 books during his lifetime, and not one of them has ever been out of print. Although it is 50 years since his death, I do not think that we will ever see the end of the enjoyment that each of his 38 books brought around the world.
The publisher Harper Collins boasts that Lewis’s ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ books alone have sold more than 100 million copies. ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, ‘Prince Caspian’ and ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, three of the Narnia books, were recently adapted to major motion pictures.
C S Lewis died at the age of 64 in his Oxford home on the same day as the assassination of President John F Kennedy.
If you type C S Lewis into Google, 21,300,000 results will come up in 0·18 seconds. A statue dedicated to Lewis stands in east Belfast, and an inaugural C S Lewis Festival takes place from today until 23 November, which will be funded by Belfast City Council. The new C S Lewis Trail, which will be launched during the festival, will take people through east Belfast and the landmarks that helped to shape the young writer’s life and work.
The C S Lewis exhibition on display in the Linen Hall Library includes a wonderful work by artist Jonathan Barry. Barry’s work includes scenes from the ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. Only an Irish artist could capture an Irish author’s imagination as Barry has done.
C S Lewis also has a strong connection with my constituency of South Down and the Carlingford lough region, particularly the beautiful Kilbroney Forest Park in Rostrevor. That forest was the natural environment and cultural setting from which C S Lewis derived inspiration for ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. To celebrate that occasion, I am pleased to say that Newry and Mourne District Council, in collaboration with the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership, plan to implement a Narnia trail in Kilbroney Forest Park. I have read the concept report for the project, and I am confident that it will be an excellent addition to the area. Unfortunately, the trail will not be ready for this anniversary, but a walk along the Narnia trail would certainly be a wonderful way to mark future anniversaries of this most respected author.
Have we done enough here at home in the land where C S Lewis was born to honour a man adored by millions? Are we guilty of neglecting C S Lewis? We have done much to recognise and honour people such as George Best and Van Morrison, but have we done enough for C S Lewis? In support of the Member who spoke previously, I would support any affiliation, whether through art or in some other way. I am happy to discuss a way in which we can celebrate the life of C S Lewis.
Mr Speaker: I call Danny Kinahan.
Mr Kinahan: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. You caught me slightly off guard. I thought that I was going to be last, but I am very pleased to be called. I congratulate Belfast City Council and the East Belfast Partnership on their commemorations for C S Lewis. We are right to celebrate a fine intellectual man who had three Oxford degrees. Even though he was from County Down, as a County Antrim man, I give him all the praise that he deserves.
I also grew up on ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and all his books. I even played games in other people’s houses and got shut in a cupboard for more than an hour and a half on one occasion but, sadly, found no way out to the snow or a Mr Tumnus to help me. I feel that we should look at not only how we can commemorate him but how we can, sadly in a commercial way, make more of our great writers. We have Brian Friel; Brian Moore; the poet Louis MacNeice; Seamus Heaney, of course; Oscar Wilde; and Samuel Beckett. Only last week, I spoke about a sporting hall of fame, and we should look at something such as that as a means of commemoration. C S Lewis is known worldwide, and I read that the film brought in $750 million alone. Here is someone who would really draw people to Northern Ireland. If that means a trail in the Mournes or something in Belfast, we should look at that in an even wider way. A sculpture has been created, so perhaps we should have a sculpture chase around Ireland whereby people could move from one art object to another and link it to something such as the Titanic, so that it brings people here. I like the idea of a statue or something else to commemorate him here, but let us make it work for Northern Ireland.
As a young child, probably a particularly naughty one, my parents tried to bring me up on ‘The Screwtape Letters’ and the fact that the devil was sitting on my shoulder tempting me. Little did I know that I would end up here. Lewis was a Christian whom we should all respect. He did not simply accept what he was told. Members referred to the fact that, in line with ‘Mere Christianity’, he was continually looking at how we could be more human. He was trying to set out a rational basis for Christianity and, with it, build a compassionate morality. He believed:
Christianity is not a religion of flitting angels and blind faith, but of free will, an innate sense of justice and the grace of God.”
Maybe we should all reflect on that because those are the three values that we should use here in the Chamber.
Let us look through the examples from Lewis’s life. Having created a pact with Edward Moore, who was later killed in the First World War, he went on to look after Mrs Moore, as he had promised. There is a set of values that all of us must admire. Then, in ‘Shadowlands’, we see the awful end to his life and that of Joy Davidman. It is a heartbreaking but wonderful example of love. Again, he is setting us examples.
I will end on two further quotations. I was expecting to be called to speak last and to have to cross these off as other Members used them.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
He sets fantastic examples, and we should sit down and work out how we should commemorate him. I welcome tonight’s debate. It is extremely good to see.
Mr Lyttle: I thank Mr Douglas for securing the debate. It is a real relief to be able to debate something uniquely positive, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to celebrate the life of C S Lewis in the week of the fiftieth anniversary of his death. He was one of east Belfast’s finest sons. I will make sure that we emphasise that tonight, being an east Belfast boy myself.
I grew up on the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ and, in particular, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. The creative writings of C S Lewis have inspired imagination and a love of reading and storytelling among children all over the world.
For me, two quotations from the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ capture the symbolism and fun of C S Lewis’s children’s literature. The first is:
“‘I am [in your world]‘, said Aslan, ‘but there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.’”
Another quotation is:
“’Girls aren’t very good at keeping maps in their brains’, said Edmund, ‘That’s because we’ve got something in them’, replied Lucy.”
That is a small insight into the mischief and fun that he brings to his children’s writing, as well as its symbolism.
I have also been guided in my adult faith by the world-renowned Christian writings of C S Lewis, which others mentioned, such as ‘Mere Christianity’ and the fantastic ‘The Screwtape Letters’. In ‘Mere Christianity’, C S Lewis writes:
“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
We could be here all night reading some of the quotations from ‘The Screwtape Letters’. Here are some of the ones that I enjoy most:
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
He also says:
“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”
He also writes:
“The humans live in time but our Enemy (God) destines them for eternity.”
I think that the creative way in which C S Lewis turns ‘The Screwtape Letters’ on its head is a brilliant direction for us all.
The aspect of the life of C S Lewis that I love most, as an east Belfast boy who went to Belmont Primary School and was christened in the same church, St Mark’s, is the fondness and healthy pride that he had for east Belfast. In the 1955 work, ‘Surprised By Joy’, he writes, with a degree of self-praise, I suppose:
“I think we Strandtown and Belmont people had among us as much kindness, wit, beauty and taste as any circle of the same size that I have ever known.”
He really does have a mischievous passion for east Belfast, despite having lived in other areas.
Various literary commentators argue that C S Lewis’s frustration with some of the sectarian conflict in Belfast led him to be a passionate ecumenical Christian. I think it is perhaps worth reflecting on what he would have made of some of the events that we have seen in our community over the past year. We can learn a lot from the teachings and writings that he would have applied to those situations.
We are also able to celebrate the statue that has been erected yards from my office at the Holywood Arches. It is a daily reminder of one of east Belfast’s finest sons. Indeed, some of the movies that have been inspired by his writing have been the highest grossing this century, as has been mentioned. He truly has become a worldwide figure, yet still belongs to east Belfast.
I also join in paying tribute to the East Belfast Partnership, Wendy Langham, Sandy Smyth and Belfast City Council for inaugurating the C S Lewis Festival that is taking place this week. There are going to be some fantastic events. Bus tours, readings and trails have all been mentioned. People can visit the Connswater Community Greenway C S Lewis Festival website to find out how they can get involved. It really is a fitting way to celebrate and to bring to life everything that was great about C S Lewis. I agree that, in response to the question of whether we have done enough, many people would say that, until now, perhaps we have not done enough to celebrate and mark the life of C S Lewis.
In response to the suggestion made by Mr Douglas this evening, maybe we could go one further and think about creating a Poets’ Corner in the Assembly, where C S Lewis and some of the other great artists that have been mentioned could be celebrated in a united way. Indeed, I am aware of people who are working in relation to a children’s literature centre on an Ireland basis. Perhaps those MLAs among us who are passionate about the life of C S Lewis, children’s literature and the arts in general could get together to consider some of the suggestions that are coming forward tonight. I support everything that has been said in relation to the amazing life of C S Lewis.
Mr Newton: Like others, I commend my party colleague Sammy Douglas for securing the debate. It is fitting that we have the debate this evening and fitting that we pay tribute to C S Lewis, his life, his values, his achievements and the standards that he set. It would have been remiss if we had allowed the fiftieth anniversary of his passing to go without marking it in some fitting way. It is all the more important that we pay tribute to him as he is honoured in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner. I have to say that the fiftieth anniversary would have passed me by, only that I read an article about him being honoured in Poets’ Corner. I am glad that we have not allowed this landmark to pass without speaking here today.
As others have said, he is one of Belfast’s most famous sons. He was proud of his east Belfast roots and his roots in this country. Indeed, as has been said, even though he moved away, he was a regular visitor to the Province. He recalled his life in east Belfast — if you do not mind, Mr Speaker, I am going to read it so that I get it accurate — and, indeed, his life in his childhood home, which, as others have said, is still on the Circular Road and is a private home. I understand that the chap who owns it is sick of people driving up in buses and taking photographs of his house, to the extent that he has had to put private gates on the home. They were knocking the door and wanting to know whether they could come in to have a look around.
C S Lewis recalled his childhood home and said that it was:
“almost a character in my story. I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstair indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes and the noise of the wind under the tiles. Also of endless books … From our front door we looked down over wide fields to Belfast Lough and across it to the long mountain line of the Antrim shore.”
Therefore, he was proud of his east Belfast and County Down links but also looked longingly at that County Antrim scene.
He has a worldwide reputation, as has been said. He is more appreciated, I think, in America. Is it not often case that prophets are not appreciated in their own land and that their value is really appreciated in other lands? His ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ has sold 100 million copies worldwide, an achievement that is unlikely to be bettered, certainly in our lifetime, and it was converted into blockbuster films, on top of all that has been said about his life.
Much has been said about him, but Mrs McKevitt and Danny Kinahan questioned whether we have made enough of C S Lewis. Mr Lyttle made the point that he was christened in the same church as C S Lewis, and I will say that just yesterday the minister was looking for everybody who was christened there for their freewill offerings, so you may want to go and make contact with that minister. [Laughter.] He said that it has been a long time since you have been to make an offer to the church.
Anyway, the question is whether we have made enough of C S Lewis. Compared with what America has done for him, the answer has to be no, because the fact is that scores of Americans arrive here every year to look at where C S Lewis trod, went to school and enjoyed his playful childhood. I suppose that we have not made enough of that.
I was pleased to play a small part via Belfast City Council in securing funding for the C S Lewis festival, which is a springboard that we can use to go on to even greater things. We remember that, for other reasons, we were neglectful, nearly ashamed of and did not want to speak about the Titanic for such a long time. However, we have neglected C S Lewis. We have neglected the magnitude of the man and the figure that he is worldwide, but we now have a springboard and, in line with what Mrs McKevitt and Mr Kinahan said, C S Lewis could make a huge contribution to Northern Ireland life in the future. Look at what is left of C S Lewis around Belfast. Look at where we came from with that great ship Titanic —
Mr Speaker: The Member’s time is almost gone.
Mr Newton: Let me just finish on this point. C S Lewis offers us an opportunity to use that springboard to move on to even greater things, to celebrate his life and stature, and to honour him in a way that we have never done before. By doing so, we can make a contribution to his life and all his values, and we can honour and embrace those values in the life of Northern Ireland.
Ms Ní Chuilín (The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure): Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom buíochas a thabhairt do Sammy Douglas as comóradh 50 bliain de bhás C S Lewis a roghnú mar ábhar díospóireachta.
I thank Sammy Douglas for selecting the 50th anniversary of the death of C S Lewis as a topic for the Adjournment debate. As we have heard, there is no doubt that C S Lewis was an intellectual giant of the 20th century and arguably one of the most influential Christian writers of his day. His major contributions were in the forms of literary criticism, children’s literature, fantasy literature and popular theology. His work brought him international renown and acclaim.
C S Lewis, as many mentioned, wrote more than 30 books, allowing him to reach a vast audience. It was also mentioned with fondness that his works include ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, ‘Out of the Silent Planet’, ‘The Four Loves’ and ‘Mere Christianity’, to name but a few. So, it is fitting that the inaugural C S Lewis Festival will take place from 18 to 23 November to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of that renowned author, theologian and academic. Fair play to Belfast City Council for doing that. He famously wrote ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, which many of us hold dear. The new C S Lewis Trail, which will also be launched during the festival to transport us through Lewis’s east Belfast and the landmarks that helped to shape his young life and work, will be a lasting tribute for us all to enjoy.
The East Belfast Partnership is organising the festival in conjunction with the council, and the Arts Council has acted as an adviser on aspects of the festival. The Replay Theatre Company, which is a funded client of the Arts Council, is also participating. The Replay Theatre Company will tour an interactive adventure that is inspired by C S Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ to P4 classes in Belfast primary schools to excite their imaginations and to inspire them to explore the author’s wonderful worlds.
The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, through the Ulster-Scots Agency, was also involved in a joint project with Tourism Ireland that records Lewis’s Ulster-Scots ancestral links and demonstrates a connection with his east Belfast routes. The book reveals that Lewis’s maternal line indicates a strong, previously undiscovered, Ulster-Scots lineage that can be traced back to James II of Scotland. As we know, there are many more events to appeal to adults and children alike.
The C S Lewis Festival, which focuses on the full range of the writer’s artistic and cultural work and on his writing for children and young people, is a means to recover ownership of the global Narnia brand for the North. It will help us to throw a spotlight on a hidden and wonderful history of the east of the city and its association with one of the most accomplished and renowned writers and academics of his generation. It is a great way to celebrate the life of one of Belfast’s greatest sons. He is recognised as one of the most talented authors in the world, and he has brought our city international acclaim.
To commemorate the anniversary, Libraries NI is running a programme of events, including exhibitions, talks and readings. They will be centred around Holywood Arches Library and Belfast Central Library, both of which are close to the area where C S Lewis was born. As mentioned previously, the Linen Hall Library will also mark the anniversary, with such events as ‘Through the Wardrobe’, which includes C S Lewis’s personal items from the library’s archives. That is part of the inaugural C S Lewis Festival, which is run by the East Belfast Partnership and the Connswater Community Greenway Group.
Linen Hall Library is also facilitating an Ulster-Scots Agency event at which local author Sandy Smith will present the findings of his recently published book, ‘C.S. Lewis and the Island of his Birth’. As I mentioned, his new book has lifted the lid on C S Lewis’s early life in Belfast and reveals his strong links.
As Danny Kinahan, Sammy and others outlined, a memorial plaque to C S Lewis has also been placed at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. It will be unveiled on 22 November, which is the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
In commemoration of Lewis, visitors to the area can visit murals that are dedicated to the man and his Narnia creations, and they can take in ‘The Searcher’ statue at Holywood Arches, which was created by the great artist Ross Wilson. ‘The Searcher’ was erected outside the Holywood Arches Library in east Belfast in 1998 on the centenary of Lewis’s birth.
I think that the legacy for east Belfast needs to be continued. One way in which we can commemorate C S Lewis’s legacy is to support the arts in east Belfast in particular. This year, my Department has provided small funding to scope and develop an arts strategy for east Belfast. That will be important for the future of the area. I look forward to receiving a copy of the draft strategy and discussing it with Sammy, Robin and other East Belfast Members soon. The East Belfast Arts Festival has already achieved a lot of valuable work, and it is important that that momentum is not lost. Much of that new arts activity also tries to reach out beyond east Belfast, with Woodstock using city centre locations such as the Black Box and the Garrick, and the arts festival working closely with Féile an Phobail in west Belfast.
East Belfast has a rich heritage in the arts. It has areas of distinction and character and wonderful stories to tell, as well as social and political issues that could be ameliorated through redevelopment and the arts in this city.
There are no boundaries to the appeal of C S Lewis. His work appeals to those of different generations, religious beliefs and social circumstances. A common bond is created between us all where we can share in the enjoyment of his literature. Literature and the arts can create many opportunities for experiences to be shared and bonds to be developed. I believe, in particular, that the arts and festivals can continue to play a part in helping all areas across the North in an ongoing transition from conflict to peace.
The key is not necessarily just about throwing together people from different backgrounds and environments in the hope that it will magic away the barriers and differences between them and, indeed, even between us. It is about building up self-confidence in individuals and their communities, recognising and valuing those communities, and developing and supporting a strong sense of self-worth. That sense of self-worth is important. It is also about the relations that are less strained by insecurities over identity and difference. That should be our legacy and a C S Lewis legacy.
Achieving that has everything to do with participation and empowerment. Festivals and arts activities, particularly those that are taking place in east Belfast now, can help to do that. I am delighted that this topic is the subject of today’s Adjournment debate, and I thank Mr Douglas for securing it. I look forward in helping in any way not only to support the legacy of C S Lewis but to do it through east Belfast and, indeed, across the city and beyond.