The absurdly talented Belfast-Brooklyn artist Oliver Jeffers has an unusual shtick — he creates the most glorious and intimate portraits and then destroys them by dipping them in paint.

It’s a painful process — for artist and certainly for this observer who was among a small crew who witnessed his father’s disappearance in the gothic setting of Riddel’s Hall former ironmonger’s last week.

But from the heartache and desolation of loss also comes rebirth — in the form of a new, luminous work of art. Not unlike hearing a child crying in a wake house.

A work by Oliver Jeffries

A work by Oliver Jeffries

And isn’t that what we are witnessing in Belfast today. Change, unlike peace, is not coming dripping slow.

It’s hitting this city like a whirlwind.

Which is why I am urging our friends in our global family to head home for the Belfast International Homecoming.

Because everything you think you know about Belfast needs to be rethought.

Every limit you set on our transformation needs to be raised, every preconception needs to be shattered.

Don’t believe me? Then come and stand in Riddel’s Hall, a 19th century masterpiece set to become an art gallery, and look up.

Get lost in the crowds in their tens of thousands who turned out for the annual Culture Night last Friday — where hundreds of events, for free, took place in every arts, church and hospitality venue with an electricity supply.

Or take back the streets in our annual Ciclovia which closed the roads today from Botanic Gardens to City Hall so that the citizens could cycle in a car-free ‘liberated zone’.

Or take a plush corporate seat at the first-ever big business-led forum backing marriage equality which took place in Ulster Bank headquarters on Monday past.

So get your passport sorted and your rations packed and make your way to Belfast for the fourth annual Belfast International Homecoming from 4-6 October. And don’t forget to bring everything you think you know about our great city. We’ll dip it in deep and give you back something different altogether.

Belfast City at night. iStock

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