Come and Play

‘Come and Play’, a social evening where flute bands got together in a non-competitive atmosphere was held at the Discover Ulster-Scots Centre. The event was hosted by the Flute Band Association of Northern Ireland in conjunction with the Ulster-Scots Community Network (USCN) with the flute band ensemble being conducted by Richard Douglas MBE. They played a great selection of tunes and many bands being represented in the ensemble.

Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

The Department for Communities held a celebration event in Mossley Mill to mark the 15th anniversary of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS). The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK to recognise their outstanding work.  Almost 100 local organisations have been honoured in recognition of the outstanding work they carry out in their communities since the Award launched in 2002. The event was organised by Volunteer Now alongside the QAVS NI Representative.Voices of Volunteers was an amazing evening full of volunteer stories, music and celebration as well as a speech from the key speaker, Sir Martyn Lewis CBE, chairman of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Awards Committee. Her Majesty The Queen sent a message to the event saying “Volunteers are the lifeblood of every community.  They address almost every kind of need and make a significant contribution to the lives and wellbeing of people across the United Kingdom.  Their work is greatly valued.”


Belfast’s Victorian Gem Sparkles Again

The Tropical Ravine in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens reopened to the public this week following a £3.8m refurbishment. The major task, more than three years in the making and well worth the wait came about with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast City Council who invested £1.5m in the project and a contribution from the Friends of Botanic Gardens.

The listed building has been restored to its former glory with Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, officially reopening the Tropical Ravine by unveiling a plaque alongside HLF chair, Sir Peter Luff. The Tropical Ravine is a unique asset for Belfast and a fantastic addition to Northern Ireland’s tourism offering. The listed building which dates back to 1887 has been restored with many of its original Victorian features reinstated and preserved. The ravine has been split over two levels with an open reception area on the ground floor, and the building has been modernised to make it more energy efficient with new triple-glazed windows installed to retain heat and create the right environment for the tropical plants it is home to.

Visitors will now be able to learn about the conservation work and plant collection thanks to new interactive and digital exhibits. Accessibility has also been improved with the introduction of sensory facilities for sight and hearing-impaired visitors. Sir Peter Luff, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, welcomed the reopening: “The Tropical Ravine is a true heritage treasure that rewards visitors with a unique, entertaining and educational experience.”“We look forward to many more people enjoying these new facilities,” he added.The Tropical Ravine has been transformed into a fantastic visitor and educational space, an outstanding amenity that will last for future generations. Some of the plants are estimated to be over 150 years old so the restoration has been a remarkable feat. Many of the plants were temporarily moved into the Palm House or rehomed at Botanic Gardens’ glasshouses. The large cycads that we couldn’t shift were covered and protected from reconstruction work and the cold.

Demand to see round the new ravine is expected to be very high but due to the nature of the building, the number of people that can be inside the ravine at any one time is limited.For more information on the restoration project visit

Belfast Bar Launches Northern Ireland’s First Menu For Dogs

Popular, Belfast bar, ‘The Dirty Onion’ is now catering to a wider variety of customers and local dog owners are in for a treat! The Dirty Onion’ has launched Northern Ireland’s first menu for dogs. The menu, created in partnership with local pet food brand, Naturo, means that dogs can now enjoy a nutritious meal with their owners, with dishes created using high-quality, fresh, natural ingredients, made in Northern Ireland.

Last year, The Dirty Onion became part of a select list of venues that are dog friendly in the city centre. The bar hosts a number of hugely successful Pooch Social events throughout the year in aid of Lucy’s Trust, a local charity providing a sanctuary for dogs in need. Tim Herron, general manager at The Dirty Onion commented, “We wanted to be able to offer dogs more than just water when they come to visit, so we are delighted to be the first to introduce Northern Ireland’s first dog menu, right in the heart of Belfast city centre.
The range of healthy doggy favourites on the menu include: chicken and rice, salmon and potato, lamb or turkey, served alongside rice and vegetables but of course, no meal out would be complete without dessert, so dogs can enjoy a liver brownie or Frozzys, a frozen yogurt packed with essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Based in County Armagh, Mackle Pet Foods, who own Naturo was established over 40 years ago by the Mackle family, whose aim is to create pure and natural pet food from the family farm. They work closely with leading nutritionists to ensure their products meet the specific nutritional needs of pets; targeting their immune and digestive systems, as well as the quality of their skin and coat.

The Cathedral Quarter bar also features as a stop on Belfast’s new dog friendly pub tour, with The Dirty Onion’s dog menu starting from just £1.25 per meal. For more information, visit and Belfast’s dog friendly walking tours, visit

The Dirty Onion’s Dog menu includes

Chicken and rice with vegetables, 150g, £1.25

Salmon and potato with vegetables, 400g, £2.00

Chicken, lamb and rice with vegetables, 400g, £2.00

Turkey and rice with vegetables, 400g, £2.00

Liver Brownies, 150g, £1.75
Frozzys, 85g, £2.00

Snuffle dog beer, chicken flavor, £3.50


Kids With Cancer Charity Event

A ‘Kids with Cancer’ charity event was held recently at the Royal Hotel Cookstown, organised by Gary Smyth, the leading drummer of Quinn Memorial Pipe Band. The fundraising event was attended by over 250 pipe band enthusiast and friends.  Bands, pipers and drummers took part including Steven McWhirter, who recently won his eighth World Solo drumming title. Steven, a former member of Cullybackey Pipe Band, is now Lead Drummer of current world champion pipe band, Inveraray and District, Scotland. The final amount raised was a phenomenal £9,000.

Also taking part was:

Pipe Major Richard Parkes MBE and a mini band of fourteen members of eleven times world champions Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band Drum Corps, Tullylagan Pipe Band Drum Corps and Bernagh Folk Group.

Pipers included:  Senior Ulster Solo Piping Champion (2017) Ashley McMichael, Glenn Ross and Ryan Cupples-Menendez (Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band) and Ian Burrows (Drumlough Pipe Band).

Snare drummers included:  Steven McWhirter and Chris McNicholl (Inveraray & District Pipe Band), Stephen Creighton and Michael McKenna (St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band), Gareth McLees (Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band), William Glenholmes (Vale of Atholl Pipe Band), Daniel Lynn (Cullybackey Pipe Band), John Scullion and John Lappin.

Tenor drummers included:  Jordan Bailie (Inveraray & District Pipe Band) and event organiser Gary Smyth’s son Calum (Quinn Memorial Pipe Band) from Magherafelt.



BelFeast has arrived!

Calling all foodies out there or anyone who is up for some good food, drink and a bit of craic! BelFeast – a new three-day food and drink festival taking place from 23rd until 25th March.

The event promises a ‘taste’ of Belfast and aims to boost Belfast’s reputation as a top food and drink destination by showcasing the finest in local produce, the skills of local chefs, and the best of local restaurants, cafes and bars. The foodie festival, based around the Cathedral Quarter is being complemented by an entertainment programme that includes live music performances, street artists, tours, workshops, and talks. The Cathedral Quarter will come to life with special events like an artisan food market and street food village. For those interested in learning more about local produce and how to use it, BelFeast Food Theatre at Mac will feature demonstrations from some of the finest chefs, food writers and creators in Northern Ireland as well as showcasing some of the emerging stars of the local food industry. BelFeast, funded by Belfast City Council and sponsored by Destination CQ BID, is being delivered by the team behind Culture Night in collaboration with Food NI and supported by local producers and the wider hospitality industry. Tickets for all the events can be purchased from individual venues.

Lonely Planet 2018 has already named Belfast as one of the best places to visit. A big reason for that is our food culture with Lord Mayor, Nuala McAllister hoping that BelFeast will boost this reputation as a food destination.“The festival will celebrate the unique role that food plays in our lives, encouraging people of all ages to get involved and learn more about what they eat and where it comes from,” added Councillor McAllister.

Gareth Neill Destination CQ BID Manager said: “BelFeast promises to be a fresh and exciting addition to Belfast’s rapidly expanding menu of world class fare sure to tempt visitors from near and far to sample a taste of Northern Ireland and the Cathedral Quarter.”

This is definitely a date to add to the Food lover’s calendar with thousands of people expected in the city centre to enjoy the foodie festival. More information on the festival programme is available at where a downloadable programme is available. Tickets are purchased directly from venues.

‘Step by Step’

Pupils from leading drama company, Bright Young Things, released a single in aid of Cancer Fund for Children. The single called ‘Step by Step’, commissioned by Bright Young Things, was written by local artist Katie Richardson and recorded at Half Bap Studios in Belfast with all the money raised going directly to Cancer Fund for Children. The single is accompanied by a music video which shows it being recorded in the studio and on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral, the children in their Bright Young Things drama classes and also highlights some of the vital support services that Cancer Fund for Children provide in Northern Ireland.

Founder, Lisa Duffy commented that the original song ’Step by Step’ has been made by children, for children and conveys the ethos of Bright Young Things as they aim to build confidence and wellbeing in children. “We wanted to create an anthem that children and young people from everywhere could sing and listen to, something which they could relate to and would help get them through even the toughest of times. ‘Step by Step’ is about empowering young people with resilience and self-belief and letting them know that it’s okay not to be okay, and knowing that no matter what life throws at you, that you can get through it by believing in yourself, finding your voice and taking everything, step by step. This is a sentiment that is very relevant given that one in every ten children suffers from some form of mental illness, a figure that is growing all the time,”

Lisa continued, “The children at Bright Young Things know that they are contributing to making the lives of other children better and they have also got real strength from the song itself as we have all taken time to discuss and understand its meaning throughout classes over the last few terms so every single pupil has been a part of the whole experience.”

There is nothing more special than young people supporting other children, they may not know and may never meet, through one of the most difficult times in their lives. Every week in Northern Ireland another three children, teenagers and young adults are diagnosed with cancer. Cancer Fund for Children understand the devastating impact a cancer diagnosis has on families. Their support is not just focused on the young person but is built around the whole family.  Every year they help around 800 children and their families by providing practical, financial and emotional support to help them become stronger, feel more connected and empowered.

To download ‘Step by Step’ by the Bright Young Things for £3.50 (inclusive of VAT) or to find out more information on the Bright Young Things Children’s Festival of Creativity go to All the money raised will go directly to Cancer Fund for Children.

Midtown Sounds

The rising stars of the Northern Ireland’s Music scene performed in venues all around Ballymena last weekend. The occasion, ‘Midtown Sounds’, celebrated the local talent who gave live performances including;

  • Ryan Price in the Corner Bakery and later in Ground Coffee Shop.
  • Andrew Farrell in Wellington Barber and later in Outdoor Adventure.
  • Dean and Matt helping Bob & Berts celebrate their third birthday.
  • Amy McAlister on her harp in Wallaces, Ultimate Fashions and McKillens Shoes.
  • Patrick Donnelly played in Red Star Music.
  • Stripped in Midtown.
  • Makers and Erin Fullerton in Moore Electrics.
  • Sara Crockett played in Marmalade.
  • Tiernan Heffron was in Follow Coffee.
  • Jedidah Shanks played in both Woodside Chemists and Montgomerys Restaurant.
  • Students from the Music Rooms also joined in. The afternoon of music ended with Brash Issac in Middletown.

The live music in shops and eateries around the town was very well received by local traders and the public. The event showcased all that is good about the local music scene to a varied audience in an unconventional but brilliant format.

Ballymena BID manager, Alison Moore said, “Midtown Sounds brought a very different sound to Ballymena on Saturday. We have had great feedback from the traders in the town, there is no doubt that it was well received and it has been reported that customers and staff in shops were noted to be swaying to the music.

“This event allowed us to highlight some of the local music talent as well as Ballymena and its great offering.  With Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s assistance, this has been a great event.”

Midtown Sounds was officially launched on Friday 23rd February in Follow Coffee Co with three fantastic videos, Runabay performing in the Grouse, Andrew Cameron from Brash Issac in Middletown and Sara Crockett in Marmalade. The videos can be viewed on Ballymena Means Facebook page. The project has been supported by The Executive Office through Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Good Relations Programme.


‘Pravha’ Launched in Northern Ireland

Molson Coors have announced the launch of their new beer ‘Pravha’ in Northern Ireland.

Pravha is a 4% ABV Czech style pilsner from the brewers of leading lager Staropramen. The beer has been introduced at time when the trend for craft and niche beers is on the rise and will now be available exclusively on draught at select outlets across Northern Ireland. Brewed using the passion, ingredients and knowledge of the famous Staropramen brewers, Pravha represents the unexpected side of Prague, by offering a twist on the classic Czech pilsner made with two specially selected malts and three Czech hops.

Ryan McFarland, NI Director at Molson Coors said that they “ are delighted to welcome Pravha to the Molson Coors portfolio in Northern Ireland,”

“In Prague, there’s always something new and exciting going on underneath the surface of the city. In the same way, Pravha is the unexpected side of Staropramen, a refreshing drinking experience that consumers may not expect from a Czech pilsner. By introducing this beer, we hope to excite our customers and consumers and continue to expand our premium world beer category.”

Live Here Love Here Awards

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful hosted the second Live Here Love Here Community Awards in Belfast Harbour Commissioner’s Office recently. The event was sponsored by ISL Waste Management Ltd and compered by Lesser Spotted Ulster star Joe Mahon. The evening was filled with inspirational tales from volunteers who have and continue to instil pride in the local communities through practical environmental action.

The fourteen award winners, aged 5 to 77, showed that caring for your local environment and working to make a change is a passion that spans all generations. From regular litter picks to the creation of shared community spaces these unsung heroes dedicate their time and efforts into making where we live cleaner, greener, safer and more sustainable.

The bespoke award pieces, handmade out of recycled materials, were created using unplugged methods by David Keys Sustainable Woodcraft.

Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful commented that, “we are all remembered for our actions and everyone involved in Live Here Love Here, whether volunteer or funding partner, is changing people’s lives for the better and leaving a lasting legacy. With 170 nominations for the awards it is obvious that there is a growing movement of people who act because they care.”

Sponsor ISL Waste Management Ltd, commented that, ‘We can’t take the attitude that it’s someone else’s problem. Supporting the Live Here Love Here Community Awards is an essential message to the whole business community that if we all play our part in creating a clean environment we will make Northern Ireland a place where people want to live and work.”

Guests were entertained by music from talented Claire Louise Turner and Eastside Partnership Community Choir. Award winning journalist, Joyce Ferder Rankin was the guest speaker for the night, and spoke about what is happening to our changing environment and what one person can do to help save the world. Prizes were donated by Belfast Cookery School, Jungle NI, Ulster Rugby, Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel and Chalets and The Odyssey Trust Company.

If you would like to find out more or get involved with Live Here Love Here please visit our website; or contact



The award winners are as follows:


Antrim and Newtownabbey Litter Heroes Award; 

Winner: Tidy Randalstown

Ards and North Down Litter Heroes Award; 

Winner: Beach Cleaners – Ards and North Down

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Litter Heroes Award;

Winner: Peter McKernan


Belfast City Litter Heroes Award; 

Winner: St. Mary’s CBGS Eco Club


Derry City and Strabane Litter Heroes Award; 

Winner: John Lennon

Fermanagh and Omagh Litter Heroes Award; 

Winner: Camowen Community Anglers


Mid and East Antrim Litter Heroes Award;

Winner: Nicholas Davis

Mid Ulster Litter Heroes Award; 

Winner: Brénainn Brunton


Newry, Mourne and Down Litter Heroes Award; 

Winner: Charlie and the Hamilton-Cooper Family

Adopt A Spot Award presented by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful;

Winner: AES Kilroot Green Team

Good Neighbour Award presented by Choice Housing;

Winner: Springhill Live Here Love Here Garden Group

Community Together Award presented by Northern Ireland Housing Executive;

Winner: Magheralin Community Association

BIG Transformation Award presented by McDonald’s;

Winner: Millisle Youth Forum


Spirit of Live Here Love Here Award presented by DAERA;

Winner: Screen Eco-Schools

Introducing A New Category For Ulster Tatler Awards 2018…

The Ulster Tatler Awards Voting is now officially open!

As you all know we endeavour each year to be bigger and better and so, with that in mind, we would like to announce the addition of a brand new category…


All you need to do is submit up to 500 words plus a selection of images which illustrate why your home should win. Submit your entry to

This exciting new category is being sponsored by…


Innovative Home Solutions are specialists in the Design, Build and Interiors of luxurious homes and extensions. Their vision is best expressed through their multifaceted approach to the design and construction of bespoke homes by exploring new forms, pushing the boundaries and evolving technology, without compromising on the authenticity of the design, aesthetics, and materials. They:

  • Deliver beautiful yet functional homes that are sympathetic to sustainable design and grounded in passive design principles.
  • Believe that to make your mark, you have to innovate and not be afraid to push past what is generally accepted to be comfortable or conventional. INNOVATIVE HOME SOLUTIONS is not afraid to break with convention and find creative ways to express the unique perspective of each client.
  • Their Design+Build+Interiors approach is about freedom of design, considering the practical side as well as the functionality requirements of the home.
  • The company’s philosophy is ‘Total Design’. This creates a seamless transition between the exterior and the interior of every home.
  • Their diverse team transition projects between design and construction, always aware of budget constraints and important milestones. It is this discipline that keeps elegant designs on course, and ensures that as each project progresses to completion, with all the expectations of design, cost and schedule are being met.

For more details visit