Stories sought from Larne to help put pins on Jo’s map

A unique arts project is helping to put stories from east Antrim on the map – quite literally – and the author involved is appealing for more input from the Larne area.

Thursday, 14th January 2021, 5:05 pm

Jo Zebedee came up with the idea to record and publish stories from around the area online and to present them through the map of the area.

The ongoing project includes stories by local authors featuring places such as Carrickfergus, Greenisland, Loughmorne, Brown’s Bay, the Devil’s Churn at Drain’s Bay and Whitehead.

When a reader views the storytelling map at they can select an area and read the story title and author before delving further.

Author Jo Zebedee.

Among the stories currently displayed are The Emerald Excursion, The Magic of Whitehead by Gerry McCullough, Jean Park by Angeline King, The Armada Tree by Kerry Buchanan and The Cassie by Jimmy McTeggart.

But author Zebedee says she would like to see more Larne stories to add to her map, and she is encouraging writers to play a part. The stories can be factual or fictional, but they should be a good and engaging read.

Jo, who is a published science fiction author, runs the Secret Bookshelf bookshop in Carrick, and said she first conceived of the idea last autumn. However, time moved on and it was not until she found herself unexpectedly underemployed thanks to Covid-19 that she returned to the idea.

“As time has gone on and the world has become a changed place, it felt more and more relevant, as a project of hope,” she said.

“When the Arts Council of NI opened its emergency funding programme for artists, I applied for support to work at the project, and they gave me enough support to let me work on this over the next few months.”

The project idea began to form when the author was working on an original piece of short fiction to accompany the Big Telly theatre company’s The Worst Cafe performance.

“The remit was to take the streets around the venue, deep in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, and set a fantasy story there that pulled on the area’s history, and its current atmosphere,” she said.

“I loved working on that. I enjoyed the practical research and I loved the sense that this story had a very particular place. As anyone who has read my Irish novels, Inish Carraig and Waters and the Wild, will know, sense of place is very important to me when I write.

“I explored why that project felt so very right – and freeing – to me, and decided it was about the different reflective space it gave me. Belfast of now is built on Belfast of old, and both form our culture and understandings of the city – and all places are like that. And so, I started to explore the possibility of maps linking with stories to deepen our understanding of our place and history.”

Jo emphasises that the stories do not need to be grand, epic efforts, although those too will be welcome. But they can be small and about something that has happened that the person has never forgotten about, that seemed magical at the time. Or about someone who proved inspirational and why, or a place that someone goes to for solace.

She also says the project is there for communities, not just one person, and it is certainly not about her collecting the stories and writing them down. “It’s real stories, that aren’t always widely known,” she said.

If the person prefers, Jo can write up the story and see if it captures what the owner wants, but the owner of the story will always be attributed unless they wish to be anonymous.

“I would love to have more stories in from the Larne direction,” she said.

If you have a story you would like to share on the map then contact Jo at [email protected]

Click here to read: Second sci-fi tale for Carrick author Jo