Grand Opera House’s Summer Youth Project

This summer, for the first time, the Grand Opera House will present not one but two large-scale productions – Bugsy Malone and Miss Saigon® School Edition

Over 1,700 young people have taken part in the Grand Opera House’s Summer Youth Project since it began in 2011.  This summer, for the first time, the Grand Opera House will present not one but two large-scale productions – Bugsy Malone, starring 150 local 10-18 year olds, and Miss Saigon® School Edition, with a cast of 80 talented young people aged 16-18, supported by Phoenix Natural Gas and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Now in its ninth year, the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Production gives young aspiring singers, actors, and dancers the opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people on the iconic Grand Opera House stage, following in the footsteps of stars including Laurel and Hardy, Luciano Pavarotti and Darcey Bussell.

Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House, added, “Everyone at the Grand Opera House is extremely proud of the Summer Youth Productions. We look forward to staging the biggest and most ambitious productions ever in July and August.”

For tickets visit

Mount Stewart Conversations Festival

The National Trust Mount Stewart team is announcing a partnership with Open House Festival, which will see Mount Stewart Conversations Festival 2019 headlined by Sky News Presenter, Mark Austin, on one of the two days of the Festival.

Mark will regale audiences with tales from his 35-year career, spanning warzones  and major sporting events including four Olympic Games and four World Cups.

Access to Mount Stewart will be free. The two day festival will take place 7 and 8 September 2019, which last year attracted over 6,000 attendees, and is supported by both Ards and North Down Borough Council and Tourism NI.

Visit to find out more.

As a conservation charity, the National Trust is bolstered by the support of volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, visit

Irish Interprovincial Track & Field Championships 2019

Congratulations to Grosvenor Grammar School pupil Jenna Breen, Year 11, who performed superbly whilst representing Ulster Under 17s at the Irish Interprovincial Track and Field Championships 2019, held at Santry, Dublin, on Saturday 22ndJune.

Sprinter Jenna, who three weeks earlier claimed gold in the 300 metres at the Irish Schools’ Championships, secured first place in the same event, in a championship record time of 39.39 seconds! Jenna later backed up her earlier victory by securing gold in the 4 x 300 metres relay, as well as in the shorter 4 x 100 metres relay, where she made up an incredible eight metre deficit to anchor her team to gold

Furthermore, Year 11 pupil Dylan McBride went one step better than his performance at the Irish Schools’ event, where he claimed bronze in the 1500 metres, by this time finishing as runner-up in a personal best time of 4 minutes 04.27 seconds.

Elsewhere Grosvenor’s representation was completed by Nathan Stewart, Year 12, who finished 6th in the 100 metres, and Helena Rieske, Year 11, who placed 10th in the Hammer.

Well done to all of Grosvenor’s competitors on the day. To be selected for this elite event was an accomplishment in itself. As a result of their success, Jenna and Dylan are now in line to represent Ireland at a Schools’ International, due to take place on 20th July in Swansea.

TEDx QueensUniversityBelfast

Queen’s University Belfast hosted the first ever TEDxQueensUniversityBelfast event on Thursday 23 May. TED is an organisation that aims to bring together bright minds to give talks that are idea-focused, and on a wide range of subjects, to foster learning, inspiration and wonder – and provoke conversations that matter. PwC was the event Corporate Partner.

Belfast Trad Fest

Traditional music fans are in for a treat as Belfast’s Trad Fest returns this summer from 27thJuly – 2ndAugust 2019. The festival will be the only one of its kind in the North and brings together both the Irish and the Ulster-Scots musical traditions, in a shared celebration of culture and heritage.

Descending upon the city – in a series of concerts, masterclasses, workshops, talks and sessions – will be a host of world-renowned traditional musicians. For full details, visit

This year Belfast Trad Fest will hold a very special opening concert on Saturday 27thJuly when three of the hottest acoustic acts in the Trad scene play Belfast for one night only.

The Arts Council wishes the Belfast Trad Fest another very successful event as it brings this highly accessible, upbeat and positive addition to the creative and cultural life of the city.

Belfast Trad Fest 2019 welcomes the support of its generous sponsors The Dirty Onion, The Cloth Ear, and Bullitt, who are supporting the launch of the event by offering 10 bursaries to young people during the festival. Trad Fest is also delighted to be sponsored by esteemed local business Dawsons; as well as Comhaltas and Ulster University. A full list of funders and partners can be found on the back of our official programme brochure.

Belfast Trad Fest is also proud to be generously supported by Belfast City Council.

Virgin Media Reveal New Belfast Offices

Virgin Media has opened a brand new state of the art office in Belfast. Former Ireland International rugby stars, Stephen Ferris and Isle van Staden, joined Virgin Media Ireland CEO Tony Hanway and the local Virgin Media Team to officially open the new office.

The new headquarters will be home to the majority of the company’s 350 Belfast employees, many of who are overseeing the company’s multi-million pound network expansion and investment programme.

Virgin Media has invested more than £65 million in Northern Ireland since 2015 and now 300,000 homes and businesses are connected to its ultrafast, gigabit-capable network.

Tony Hanway, CEO of Virgin Media Ireland, said:

“Virgin Media is Northern Ireland’s fastest widely available broadband provider and our new office signals our continuing and unstinting commitment to the province.“

We’ve big plans to continue rolling out our gigabit capable network to more citizens and businesses to support economic growth and underpin Northern Ireland’s long-term success.”

Since Virgin Media launched its Project Lighting expansion programme in 2015, more than 100,000 premises in Northern Ireland have been connected to Virgin Media’s network and more than 300,000 homes and businesses can benefit from the new speeds.

More than 10 million metres of cable have been laid by their build crews across Northern Ireland as part of Virgin Media’s network expansion programme. The company is a major investor in Belfast, having connected 98% of the city to its ultrafast network.

Virgin Media’s new network investment is supporting the Belfast Region City Deal where up to £1 billion could be invested over the next decade, generating up to 20,000 jobs across the region.


Northern Ireland Musicians Showcased At Major Music Gathering In Canada

Two of Northern Ireland’s top emerging artists, Steve Scullion of Malojian and singer-songwriter, Brigid O’Neill recently took part in Folk Alliance International- the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community. 

The five-day event took place in Montreal and offered musicians who are at critical stages of their careers the chance to promote their work through showcasing performances and networking with industry leaders. 

Vanessa Reed, CEO at PRS Foundation said, “We’re delighted to partner with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest NI in extending our vital career development and international showcasing opportunities to talented music creators in Northern Ireland. It’s fantastic news that the whole of the UK is now eligible to apply to this important fund which has a significant impact on music creators’ careers and continues to promote the strength of UK music worldwide.”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added, ISF, is open to artists in Northern Ireland who wish to travel to and perform at music industry facing showcase events including, SXSW, WOMEX, Folk Alliance, Classical:NEXT, Eurosonic, JazzAhead, Reeperbahn Festival and Canadian Music Week.  ISF can support costs for international travel, accommodation and visas for those artists invited to perform at an industry event in a territory that will be beneficial to their career development. 

The International Showcase Fund is currently open for applications.  Visit for details.

Joanne Wright, Brigid O’Neill, Stevie Scullion and Lyndon Stephens.


Show-stopping line-up announced for Gradam Ceoil 2019

A world-class line-up of top trad talent has been announced for Gradam Ceoil TG4 2019. Known as ‘the Oscars of traditional music’, the live concert and awards show, which returns to Belfast for the second year, will take place at the Waterfront Hall on Sunday 17thFebruary,promising a night offoot-stomping entertainment right in the heart of Belfast.

Legendary traditional Irish band, Four Men & A Dog will headline the bill. All-Ireland céili band champions, The Thatch Céili Band, pivotal members of the Irish diaspora in London, will also perform on the night.

Past winners pictured: Conor Connolly, Anne McAuliffe, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Thomas McCarthy,  Catherine McEvoy, Nicky McAuliffe and Brendan Mulkere


A dedicated Gradam Fringe Festival will also set the tone for the evening, with a host of free music events and workshops taking place throughout Belfast in the days building up to the main event. Running between Friday 15thand Sunday 17thFebruary, this year’s Gradam Fringe Programme promises a packed line-up of free music events, workshops and talks taking place throughout the city. Full details of the Gradam Fringe programme can be found at

Tickets for TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards 2019are available from +44(0) 2890 334455

Ulster Museum says goodbye to Dippy the dinosaur

After its phenomenal success, National Museums NI has officially handed over the Dippy on Tour exhibition to the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow.

The 292-bone structure welcomed over 132,000visitors in just over three months and had the busiest day on record for an exhibition at the Museum.

Dippy will be dismantled and packed into 16 crates to be transported in a specially-prepared vehicle to travel to Scotland by road and ferry.

Glasgow is the fourth stop for Dippy, who is on an eight venue tour designed to spark the next generation of scientists and encourage families to explore nature on their doorstep.

The natural science exhibition at the Ulster Museum, which sat alongside Dippy, explored the uniqueness of our natural world and biodiversity in this part of the island of Ireland.

Chief Executive of National Museums NI, Kathryn Thomson, said: “National Museums NI has been so pleased to have been a part of a nationwide tour to display this iconic dinosaur. It has allowed us the opportunity to showcase some of our own amazing natural science collections to existing and new audiences to the Ulster Museum. The excitement of the children that have come to see Dippy has been brilliant to witness and the visitor figures have been astounding.

“It has also been very encouraging to learn how the exhibition has also inspired tens of thousands of visitors of all ages to explore,discover and find out how they can get involved and protect the nature on their doorstep.”

Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventurewas brought about by the Natural History Museum London in partnership with the Garfield Weston Foundation, and supported by Dell EMC and Williams & Hill.

Philippa Charles, Director of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are delighted that Dippy has enjoyed such an impactful stay at Ulster Museum and has inspired visitors to consider the wonders of our natural world. We hope this success continues as he ventures to Scotland where, like in Ireland and across the United Kingdom, we look to forge partnerships with inspiring charities.”

For further information on other exhibitions and events at the Ulster Museum visit For information on Dippy on Tourvisit

Rockport Ladies’ Lunch

The Annual Rockport Ladies’ Lunch was held at the Merchant Hotel on Friday 7th December. A lovely festive afternoon was spent with carols from the Rockport Junior Choir and prizes up for grabs. Proceeds raised were in aid of Wellbeing of Women.

For further coverage of this event see our January issue, now on sale.

Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir Getting Into The Festive Spirit

Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir got Lisburn into the festive spirit on Wednesday 5thof December as a part of the several events taking place during the month of December for the Lisburn Light Festival. The evening of Christmas Carols and great family entertainment is one of the several events including music and entertainment, fire jugglers and much more, all taking place in Market Square, Lisburn.

Model Railway Day Rides Into Town

On Saturday 10thNovember, Friends of Cultra hosted a day for families and rail enthusiasts of all ages to view over forty exclusive layouts, models and associated displays.  Visitors saw familiar faces and places such as Thomas The Tank Engine and Northern Ireland rail layouts all located in the unique setting of the full-scale locomotives and carriages in the Transport Museum’s Rail Gallery.

Mark Kennedy, Senior Curator of History at National Museums NI said, “National Museums NI is delighted to be working with Friends of Cultra to develop this ever-popular one day event that will excite the young and young at heart.”

Key highlights for younger visitors at this year’s event included a replica model of the Thomas the Tank Engine branch line, ‘Ffarquhar’, from the famous stories of Thomas and his Friends.

Other model train designs and layouts featured included the memorable cartoon characters Road Runner, and Postman Pat’s ‘Greendale Rocket.’ There was also a chance for kids to ride on a miniature train.

Model lovers had the chance to see a one of a kind model of Lisburn Train Station built entirely from Lego, complete with models of NI Railways trains.  For fans of vintage railways, there were layouts based on Irish prototypes, including Castlederg, which closed 85 years ago in 1933, and Stanfording which features O gauge models of Irish trains.