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.


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; www.liveherelovehere.org or contact enquiries@liveherelovehere.org.



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

Corporate Colours Day for Autism NI

This April, Autism NI are celebrating World Autism Awareness Month with their new ‘Making Sense of Autism’ campaign. As part of the campaign they are encouraging workplaces to hold a ‘Corporate Colours Day’. In Northern Ireland, just 16% of Autistic adults are in full-time employment. Through this campaign, Autism NI is calling for all businesses to take positive steps to become more accessible for individuals with Autism – both as valued employees and customers.

Autism NI Corporate Fundraising Manager Sarah-Jayne wants companies to embrace their corporate colour and stand-up for Autism. All you need to do is choose a day within the month of April and ask all staff to wear your corporate colour. This can be socks, a tie, scarf, shirt or go all out and dress head-to-toe in that colour and then donate to Autism NI. The ‘Corporate Colours Day’ encourages employees to think about the Autism Spectrum and that all individuals are different just like the colour spectrum. Top local businesses Savills, Blush Boutique, Trust Ford and Lloyds Banking are all getting behind ‘Corporate Colours Day’. The charity’s aim is to get as many different coloured businesses within Northern Ireland to take part.

Alongside this campaign the charity will be holding ‘Making Sense of Autism’ Family Fun Days throughout Northern Ireland. On Saturday 14th April at venues including Belfast City Hall, Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena, Lakeland Forum, Enniskillen and Guildhall Derry/Londonderry and on Saturday 21st April at Lagan Valley Leisureplex, Lisburn from 1pm – 4pm. There will also be fun awareness activities that your friends and family or school can get involved in including our ‘Walk 5k A Day’ and the ‘School’s Sensory Challenge’ all taking place during World Autism Awareness Month.

Autism NI is a local charity providing life-changing services for the 30,000 individuals living with Autism throughout Northern Ireland and they rely on your help to improve the lives of children and adults living with the daily challenges of this hidden disability.

For further information or to request a ‘Corporate Colours Day’ fundraising pack contact Sarah-Jayne on 028 9040 1729 (option 3), email Sarah-Jayne@autismni.org or visit www.autismni.org.


Need Some Inspiration This Valentine’s Day?

Would Valentine’s be complete without a cocktail? If  you think a cocktail is the perfect way to add some romance to your evening, then we’ve got some perfect ideas for you! Cocktail culture is back to stay, with more people experimenting with different spirits and mixers at home. But what should you serve your special someone, your best mate or indeed your Ma this Valentine’s?

Here are some ideas!

First we have the crowd pleaser… Gin!

Jawbox Small Batch Gin is less than two years old but has already secured a cult following both at home here in Belfast and abroad. Championed for its premium quality and unique flavour profile, this is the perfect choice for the gin-lover in your life.

Gin has become the centre-piece of the cocktail scene, not just here in Northern Ireland but across the globe. It’s actually even more fitting as a base for Valentine’s cocktails than you would think. Jawbox gin features cardamom, a powerful, potent spice said to be used as a natural aphrodisiac by kings in olden times. Juniper, the main botanical of all gins, are highly aromatic and are often considered to be the most sensuous of all berries.

Jawbox’s signature drink, the Perfect Swerve is a great choice for Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t take much time to make, meaning you can give your loved one your undivided attention. Simply pour 35ml of Jawbox into an ice-filled glass. Top-up with chilled, premium ginger ale and garnish with a squeeze and a wedge of fresh lime. Ginger ale was invented in Belfast too, how’s that for an ice-breaker?”

Jawbox Small Batch Gin is available from all good licensed retailers including Amazon.

If you’d like to create something a little more extravagant try this, the Jawbox Love Club. Inspired by the classic Clover Club this one is garnished with rich, red berries.


¥ 50ml Jawbox Small Batch Gin

¥ 10ml Lemon juice

¥ 5ml Grenadine

¥ 10ml Sweet Vermouth

¥ 1 Egg white

¥ Redcurrants to garnish


Dry shake all the ingredients for about 30 seconds. Add ice and shake again until cold. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with redcurrants.


Another amazing cocktail worth trying is Braemble Gin Liqueur’s take on The Bramble, with its vibrant berry colour fitting with the occasion.

Just recently hitting shelves locally, Braemble Gin Liqueur is a sublime mix of sweet blackberries and finest London Dry Gin. Created by Jason Scott and Mike Aikman of the esteemed Bramble Bar in Edinburgh, along with proclaimed gin-genius Craig Harper, this simple yet sublime liqueur will have your Valentine thinking you’re not only a trendsetter but a pro-mixologist too.


¥ 25 ml of your favourite gin

¥ 20 ml lemon juice

¥ 10ml sugar syrup

¥ Blackberry / mint or both to garnish


Pour the gin into a short-stemmed glass, add lemon juice and sugar syrup. Fill with crushed ice and stir. Add some more crushed ice and cap with Braemble Gin Liqueur. For an extra touch of finesse, garnish with mint, a juicy blackberry or both.

For more sublime ideas visit braemble.com or @braemble on Instagram. Braemble is available from all licensed retailers including Harvey Nichols.

Last but not least the final cocktail idea will help you add an exotic twist this Valentine’s Day!

It might be freezing here in Belfast but Malfy Gin will make you feel like you’ve jet-setted off to Italy. The Malfy distillery is at the heart of Moncalieri just outside of Turin, the cultural centre of Northern Italy, famed for its production of wine and spirits. Established in 1906, Torino Distillati is owned by the Vergnano family – Carlo, wife Piera and their children Rita and Valter. Malfy Gin offers an indulgent, authentic taste of sought-after Italy anywhere in the world.

Malfy con Limone celebrates the finest, Italian produce including the humble lemon – a thrilling symbol of the sun-soaked country. Italian juniper is expertly blended with five other botanicals including coriander, Angelica root, cassia bark to giving a delicious and refreshing bite. The peels from the freshest coast-grown lemons of Amalfi and Sicily are steeped in to create a unique, crisp, zesty gin.

Malfy Gin con Limone offers an indulgent, authentic taste of sought-after Italy anywhere in the world.

To enjoy a Malfy moment this Valentine’s,

Pour 40ml of Malfy con Limone into a goblet of ice.

Top up with chilled, premium tonic water

Garnish with two to three slices of lemon peel.


For more information visit malfygin.com

‘The Ultimate School Trip’ makes its way to NI

A pair of yetis were spotted roaming the hallways of two Northern Ireland primary schools yesterday.

There was no need for alarm thankfully as Kumar and Maiya, mascots from the Sol Katmandu Park and Resort in Majora, jetted their way in to Blythefield Primary School, Belfast and Seaview Primary School in Glenarm, Ballymena to tell the children about a massive nationwide schools competition, ran by Jet2holidays.

‘The Ultimate School Trip’ competition gives children across the UK the chance to win the school trip of a lifetime to an award-winning Spanish resort with their classmates and teachers.

Northern Ireland was one of the final stops on the tour and Kumar and Maiya were happy to teach the pupils at Blythefield PS and Seaview PS their unique language and demonstrate their special breakfast dance, explaining all about their home of Sol Katmandu and how they can enter the competition to win an all-expenses paid trip there in April this year.

Nine schools in total, will win a place on the Ultimate School Trip which promises to be both fun and educational, including workshops which will focus on science, history, drama and crafts, as well as giving pupils all the excitement you would expect from a school trip overseas. Workshops will be ran by celebrities, including children’s TV favourite’s ‘Dick and Dom’.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said that they have loved going on the tour and roadshow in Northern Ireland as school trips provide so many amazing memories and the cannot wait to give children an opportunity to learn so many new things while also being able to have the chance to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

A total of 45 classes across the UK and Northern Ireland will be shortlisted to enter in the competition, all of which will have the chance to win £1,000 worth of vouchers for brand new school equipment and the nine lucky classes chosen as winners will get to jet off on the amazing trip from Friday April 20th until Sunday April 22nd 2018.

For more information on the competition, visit http://ultimateschooltrip.jet2holidays.com/

Love is in the air at The Lost City!

Belfast’s latest attraction ‘The Lost City’ is offering an innovative solution to couples that are seeking a ‘date with a difference’ this Valentine’s Day.

The Lost City Adventure Golf at Cityside Retail and Leisure Park in Belfast has become a top date destination since it opened to the public in December. In response to demand, the popular venue has decided to celebrate its first Valentine’s Day in style.

The Valentine’s Day in style, coincides with Lent. This gives the perfect opportunity for their two 18-hole adventure golf courses – ‘Sunken Skull Ridge’ and ‘Explorer Falls’ to offer the perfect alternative to a dinner for two!

For more information on ticket prices and booking information, visit: www.lostcityadventuregolf.com/belfast/

Corick House Hosts Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI Winter Gala

Corick House in Clogher  was the setting for the Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI Winter Gala on Saturday Night where over 300 guests came to show their support for this worthy cause.

The event was organised by Dungannon man Barry Williamson who has been tirelessly fundraising for the charity following the death of his wife in 2016. Alison Williamson was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma in 2015 and sadly passed away just nine months later, leaving behind her husband Barry and their two children, Mya and Rhys.

An inspirational man, Barry has raised over £60,000 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI with a number of fundraising events and challenges throughout the past two years. This gala was a great opportunity to highlight the efforts of many friends and family members who have helped along the way.

The gala was kindly sponsored by Starplan fitted furniture.

Three people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with blood cancer every day, making it the United Kingdom’s fifth most common cancer by diagnosis and the third biggest killer. This frightening statistic is a stark reminder that although research has come a long way the outlook for many blood cancer patients remains poor.

Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI is the only charity in Northern Ireland dedicated to funding research into the causes and cures of blood cancers. Established as the Northern Ireland Leukaemia Research Fund by the McDowell family in 1964 following the death of their daughter, the charity has since invested over £12.5 million pounds to life saving research.

Based at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queens University Belfast, the charity funds research into the causes and cures of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma in Northern Ireland by supporting laboratory research, clinical trials and education. All money raised by the charity is spent in Northern Ireland and 85% of all money raised goes into research.

‘Night Ride to Armagh’

World-renowned Irish folk musicians, Brian Finnegan and Sean Og Graham produce ‘Night Ride to Armagh’.

Ed Sheeran’s supporting act for his sold out Dublin show, ‘Beoga with Brian Finnegan’ have took their high profile success and followed it with a re-imagined style of music. Their new style of music, used to tell the story of Armagh from the eyes of a visitor captures everything that Armagh has to offer and comes complete with a promotional video on the ‘Visit Armagh’ website which has been recently re-launched.

It was originally created by musician, Brian Finnegan, who took upon himself to re-record and bring new life to the piece with a contemporary twist. A key feature of the reworked sound would have to be the different sounds that have been used.

The merging of Irish music and Lambeg drum is a key factor in the music to reflect on how the present day, modern Armagh has such an amazing background and a rich history, reflecting on the Celtic legends and mythologies associated with the city.

Sean Og Graham, founding member of Beoga performed the music which he arranged and produced with Brian Finnegan, Liam Bradley, John Joe Kelly, Aidan O Rourke and Lambeg and snare drummer, Mark Wilson was a hit as it was set to support the launch of a five-year tourism development strategy.

Brian Finnegan, ‘Night Ride to Armagh’ composer said that he was delighted when he was approached to re-imagine and bring new life to the piece of music as it was a great ending to a memorable week as he performed with Ed Sheeran and Beoga at the O2 Arena.

The group, who originate from Co. Antrim, have performed at Glastonbury and also featured on Ed Sheeran’s award-winning album ‘Divide’. The band have also been shortlisted for a Grammy, performed with the Ulster Orchestra at the BBC Proms and have even been presented with a certificate of Congressional Recognition from the US House of Representatives, and now they are currently writing an album with Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol and Foy Vance.


To view the ‘Night Ride to Armagh’ video, please visit www.visitarmagh.com.



Burns Night Celebrations

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Northern Ireland Branch celebrated Robert Burns’ birthday following their Branch Meeting at the end of January in Lisburn. RSPBANI Project Manager Ian Burrows of the Drumlough Pipe Band, played the Burns tune ‘A Mans A Man for A’ That’ as he piped in the haggis and the address to the haggis was given by the Winston Pinkerton (RSPBANI President).  Guest enjoyed haggis, neeps & tatties, pavlova/trifle, tea and coffee. The afternoon of food, music and craic was a fitting tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish bard who was born on 25th January 1759 and died aged just 37 on 21st July 1796.

Branagh In Belfast Film Festival

Freedom of the city of Belfast has been granted to Belfast born legend, Sir Kenneth Branagh. As part of the freedom celebrations the city will be hosting a pop up film festival ‘Branagh in Belfast’ in Partnership with Film Hub NI on Tuesday 30th January.

The events of the festival will take place across the city in a range of venues with many spectacular showings of the actors many movies. Some of the main highlights of the festival include a screening of the live action Cinderella at Belfast Castle with audiences encouraged to dress up as their favourite princess and Dunkirk which is being screened on-board the HMS Caroline.

More films being shown throughout the city on the day include ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ at Queen’s Film Theatre, ‘My Week With Marilyn’ at The Lyric Theatre and ‘Harry Potter’ at Belfast Castle. Full details on the ‘Branagh in Belfast’ programme can be found on the council website www.belfastcity.gov.uk/branaghinbelfast

Belfast City Council are marking this occasion by doing things a little bit differently, getting out into the community and involving as many people as possible; in particular, young people and aspiring young actors. As part of the celebrations Into Film and Cinemagic are also coordinating showings of some of Sir Kenneth’s work across several schools in the city to give children the opportunity to enjoy the Belfast born actor’s work. The main event the ‘Sir Kenneth Branagh and Friends’ Freedom ceremony will take place at the Ulster Hall on Tuesday 30th January at 7pm. Belfast residents can apply for free tickets to the via Belfast City Council’s website www.belfastcity.gov.uk/branaghinbelfast

Sir Kenneth described being made a Freeman as an “incredible honour from his home town. It took great care of me until the age of nine. It gave me a profound sense of family, a magnificent landscape to play in, and a Belfast sense of humour that is a constant boisterous reminder to never take yourself too seriously. I’m proud to say that you can take the boy out of Belfast, but you can’t take Belfast out of the boy. This is an incredible honour from my home town and I am humbled to be included in a roll call that includes artists like Van Morrison and Michael Longley.”

Follow #branaghinbelfast on Twitter to stay up to date

‘Out To Lunch’ Festival – Let The Winter Celebrations Continue

The festive celebrations may be over but that doesn’t mean that the party has to stop! This January marks the 13th year of “Out to Lunch”, the bespoke boutique winter festival that reaches the parts others can’t. The festival kicks off the new year in style from Friday, 5th January and runs until Sunday 28th January.

This year’s highlights include Shirley Collins, Moon Duo, Wolfgang  Flür, the heady afro-electronic swirl of Ibibio Sound Machine, Hazel O’Connor, The 4 of Us, The Story of Carole King & James Taylor, Opera for Lunch,  DJ Yoda’s Stranger Things Mixtape, Bernard McLaverty, Hollie McNish, Andrew Maxwell, Andrew Ince and Iain Lee.

Harpist/ Singer Amy McAllister, below helps with programme distribution ahead of her performance at this year’s Out to Lunch Arts Festival! For full programme info, go to www.cqaf.com Out to Lunch is generously supported by principle funder Arts Council of Northern Ireland (Lottery Fund), Belfast City Council, Department of Communities and Krombacher & Erdinger.

Images by Bernie McAllister (Argyll Images)


‘Christmas Cheer’

Robbie Butler MLA hosts Stormont reception for Dynamic Brass
‘Christmas Cheer’. Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler hosted a reception for Dynamic Brass at Stormont on Thursday 21st December.  Family and friends who packed the Great Hall for the ‘Christmas Cheer’ event enjoyed a great evening of festive entertainment, a special visit by Santa and supper during the interval.  The compere was Downtown Radio Presenter Paul Orr.