One City One Book: Watch Glenn Patterson Reading from his Latest Novel

Find out what talks, tours and film screenings are happening near you this month

The Mill for Grinding Old People Young, the latest novel by Belfast author Glenn Patterson, has been selected as Belfast’s first ‘One City One Book’ read.

Set in 1830s Belfast, the novel will be the focus of this Arts Council initiative to develop the art of reading and promote Northern Ireland’s rich literary heritage. A programme of events will take place in venues across the city in May, to encourage as many people as possible to read and discuss the same novel this month.

The Mill for Grinding Old People Young has received wide-spread critical acclaim. The finely researched novel is littered with references to historical Belfast. Set in the cold dawn of Christmas Day 1897, Gilbert Rice, 85 years old and in failing health, recounts his journey into manhood in a city on the cusp of great change.

Belfast in the 1830s is in flux. Industrialisation has led to an increase in population as workers flock to newly created jobs. Gilbert, a young man with prospects, begins work with the Ballast Office, supervising Belfast Port. When he meets Maria, a Polish exile from Russian persecution, he is drawn into a love affair that will drive him to an act that could change his life, and the town’s, forever.

The One Book One City programme features a wide range of talks, tours and film screenings hosted by local celebrities including journalist Ivan Little, fashion expert Cathy Martin and writer Malachi O’Doherty.

Noírín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council,

commented, 'Whether you are a regular bookworm or an occasional reader, we want to encourage as many people as possible to get reading and talking about local literature this May.

'Glenn’s novel was the ideal choice for the first One City One Book Belfast - a compelling story set in our own historical city during a time of great industrial change. In a world of 24 hour news and entertainment, it’s all too easy to forget the simple pleasure derived from reading.'

Northern Ireland Libraries is hosting a series of talks as part of the programme. To support the initiative additional copies of the books have been flooded into the local library network.

Irene Knox, Chief Executive, Libraries NI added, 'Libraries NI is pleased to support this Arts Council initiative One City, One Book by hosting events in libraries in and around the Greater Belfast area.

'Highlights of the programme include one of Northern Ireland's best known broadcast journalists, Ivan Little, giving a talk on A Little History of Belfast in Finaghy Library, and In Conversation with author Glenn Patterson to be held in Ballyhackamore, Dundonald and Falls Road Libraries, and many more. We would like to extend an open invitation to everyone to call in and enjoy the range of free events being held in our libraries.

'The selected book Glenn Patterson’s The Mill for Grinding Old People Young will have broad appeal and extra copies of this book have been bought for libraries, to encourage as many people as possible to participate in the One City One Book Belfast 2012 Project.'

Councillor Ó Muilleoir, Belfast City Council, said One City One Book is a welcome addition to the cultural calendar and a great first for Belfast. 'We are delighted to support One City One Book as part of our Literary Belfast initiative which highlights our city`s rich literary heritage and vibrant contemporary scene.

'There are few better ways to get to know a city than through its writers and our new Literary Belfast app, website, exhibitions, tours and trails, will not only showcase our existing literary talent but will also ensure everyone has up to date information on events and festivals. They present a unique and compelling experience for visitors and promote our characters and writers, poets and playwrights on the world stage.'

East Belfast author, Glenn Patterson was delighted his new novel had been chosen as the focus for the campaign. ''I have always considered myself first and foremost a Belfast writer. The city is my imaginative heartland. For one of my books to be recognised in this way is a tremendous honour.'


Developed by the Arts Council and supported by Belfast City Council, Libraries NI, Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Queen’s University, One City One Book Belfast 2012 is a first for Belfast but has its origins in Seattle in 1998. Since then the One City One Book initiative has spread throughout the globe, celebrating local writing.

For details of events, talks, and tours taking place as part of the 2012 programme download the programme of events or join in the conversation at Facebook or Twitter.

Find out more at or @ArtsCouncilNI.