Fashion First Past the Post for Down Royal Best Dressed Winner

Racing fans and Ireland’s style elite showed off their fashion credentials at the Ladbrokes Festival of Racing at Down Royal Racecourse with Rhiannon Hegarty from Strabane, Co. Tyrone taking the Best Dressed Lady title.

The Best Dressed Competition, in association with Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, was judged by Irish fashion blogger, Nicola Hughes, Cool FM Breakfast Show Presenter and Fashion Stylist, Rebecca McKinney and Catriona McGleenon from Franklins Retail.

Rhiannon took home an amazing prize package worth £3,250 including an overnight stay in the Resort’s hidden gem, the Red Oaks Residence (for up to 6 guests) with private dining, cocktail masterclass and spa treatments – the perfect girls’ escape.

Rhiannon was way out in front of the style stakes and stunned the judges with her outfit, a gorgeous forest green trouser suit which she teamed with a faux fur stole and a fabulous headpiece featuring peacock feathers.

Beth Greenan, Group Sales Manager at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort said: “As Northern Ireland’s premier luxury hotel and spa we are delighted to have been part of this year’s competition.

“The standard of style was exceptional with ladies going the extra furlong to ensure they were top of the fashion stakes, making it an extremely difficult decision for our judges. Rhiannon really stood out in the crowd and we are delighted to crown her this year’s Best Dressed Lady.”

Claire Rutherford, Sales & Marketing Director at Down Royal Racecourse said: “The Ladbrokes Festival of Racing is one of the highlights of our racing calendar and is a superb day out for all. The spectacle of Ladies Day provides an extra element of colour to an already prestigious day of horse racing and we’re delighted that Rhiannon has been chosen as our winner.”


Zen Day Spa recognised as a Best-in-Class All Ireland business

Local Newry business Zen Day Spa received All-Star All-Ireland Business Award last Thursday in Croke Park, recognising the business as one of the most prestigious indigenous business in Ireland in relation to the All Ireland Business Foundation three success pillars metrics: performance, trust and customer centricity. It is a fabulous recognition to bring to Northern Ireland business community and Newry area after 3 years of operating.

New Aquatic Strategy for Belfast

A new Aquatics Strategy for Belfast is getting off to a swimming start with news that children can swim for £1 for the next 10 days in leisure centres across the city.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane, announced a range of ambitious targets for increased participation over the next decade at Olympia Leisure Centre today.

Belfast City Council developed the Aquatics Strategy for Belfast 2019-2030 in partnership with Active Belfast Limited and GLL, the social enterprise who run the council’s 14 leisure centres under the ‘Better’ brand.

The Lord Mayor said: “We’ve seen an incredible 24% increase in swim lessons over the last year. By 2030 we want to almost double pool usage to 1.5 million pool visits per year and we have a range of other very ambitious targets. This includes big increases in annual swimming lessons, significant growth of usage amongst women and substantial increases in pool visits by the over 60s.

“The Aquatics Strategy supports our Belfast Agenda vision of building a city where everyone experiences good health and wellbeing by 2035.

“Underpinning the strategy is Council’s £105 million Leisure Development Programme which will see seven new leisure facilities built over a ten-year period. These five-star facilities will be available at three star prices so that they are accessible to everyone in the city.”

You can download the Aquatics Strategy for Belfast and find out more at

Newtownards Flash Mob Highlights that Plastic Really Isn’t Fantastic!

Professor Plastic Not So Fantastic headed a children’s pollution themed flash mob into Newtownards’ Conway Square last week to highlight the problems caused by single use plastics.

Around 200 enthusiastic children who were registered for Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Community Summer Schemes congregated in the square to dance, chant and raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution.

Funded by the Council’s Recycling Community Investment Fund (RCIF), there was lots of fun, lots of colour and an important environmental message was delivered.

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Bill Keery, said: “Plastic pollution can be found on every beach in the world with an estimated eight million pieces finding their way into the ocean every day. Everyone needs to reduce their reliance on plastic and I’m pleased that Ards and North Down Borough Council is spearheading efforts to raise environmental awareness within our community through projects funded by our Recycling Community Investment Fund.”

During the 20-minute exercise, children chanted and danced with a Samba band in the background while Professor Plastic Not Fantastic informed the gathering crowd of key plastic pollution facts and figures.

The flash mob exercise was made possible thanks to the Council’s RCIF and the Community Development team. Funding from the RCIF enabled children who attended the Community Summer Schemes to work with DU Dance (NI), learn about plastic pollution and share their knowledge with the masses through their entertaining public display.

The RCIF was established as a ‘thank you’ to residents for their recycling efforts. It costs the Council half as much to recycle waste compared to the cost of sending it to landfill and almost £15m has been saved in landfill costs since the programme’s inception.

A portion of these savings are ring-fenced every year and are made available to the RCIF for use in environmental projects in the borough.




Ulster Youth Choir 20th anniversary

The Provençal Festival will welcome 40 of Northern Ireland’s most talented young singers, in concerts from 2-5 August, as part of the Ulster Youth Choir’s milestone 20th anniversary celebrations.  The tour, which is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, follows a spectacular performance with 240 singers at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on Saturday 27 July, featuring current members of the organisation’s three choirs plus many of their alumni who have gone on to carve out successful singing careers.

The Ulster Youth Choir is the leading youth music provider in quality choral tuition and performance opportunities for the finest young singers in Northern Ireland.   Over the last few years, the organisation has grown to three choirs, supporting young people, aged from 11 up to 24, to access high-quality music making and develop their talents, coached by a team of highly-experienced professional tutors.

The 20th anniversary concert, conducted by Ulster Youth Choir’s Artistic Director, Andrew Nunn, takes place at the Ulster Hall on Saturday 27 July at 7:30pm.  Visit for tickets.

Open House Festival

Katie Rose Gilmore and Candice Cathers, get ready for a month of festival events throughout Bangor and Donaghadee.

The seaside town of Bangor Co. Down is getting ready for the hottest month on its calendar when the seventh annual Open House Festival begins on Thursday 1st August.

Throughout the 31 days of August, Open House – the only month-long festival in Ireland – will host 163 music, literary, food & drink, theatre, film and art events in and around the town. Among the 40 different venues used for this year’s festival is the Old Auction Rooms on Gray’s Hill which has been gifted to Open House for the duration of the Festival.

On Sunday 25thAugust, the McKee Clock Arena on Bangor Seafront will host 70s ska icons The Specials, support by The Skallions and The Vibes, with a host of free after-show gigs and DJ sets taking place across the town. Other headline guests appearing throughout the month include King of the chat show sofa, Sir Michael Parkinson, former Labour cabinet minister Alan Johnson, leading forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes, former Newcastle United football protégée, Paul Ferris, and BBC Radio 6 Music’s poet-in-residence Murray Lachlan Young.

“Aside from all the household names coming to Bangor this year, there is a really strong local connection running through the programme,” said Festival Director, Kieran Gilmore. “It’s a celebration of Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage and particularly embraces Bangor’s vibrant creative scene.

More than one third of this year’s events are free, including Bluegrass Picnic in Ward Park, and resident gigs by local artists. Over 50 of all events in the programme finish in time to get the last train back to Belfast.

For more information and tickets, visit

The 7th annual Open House Festival begins on Thursday 1st August.

New Eco Store ‘Scoop Shop’ in Whitehead

Local woman bringing back the ‘Scoop Shop’ with new Eco Store in Whitehead

There’s a new store based at 1 King’s Road in Whitehead which aims to help you cut out single use plastic, reduce food waste and save you pennies.  ‘Purple Earth’ is the brainchild of Islandmagee woman, Julie McFarland, who has been testing the concept as a pop up, at fairs and events over the past year.

Ditch Single Use Plastic

Julie’s product range includes eco-friendly alternatives to household and selfcare products such as reusable water bottles and coffee cups, stainless-steel straws, wax wraps, bamboo toothbrushes, etc.

In addition, she offers refillable cleaning products such as laundry liquid and washing up liquid, and self-care products like shampoo and body wash.  “Purple Earth helps you reduce your plastic consumption as you bring your own containers to fill”, explained Julie.  “With the loose foods too, you are only paying for the product, not the plastic wrappers, bags and bottles”.

Purple Earth’s opening hours during August are: Thursday 3-5pm, Friday 1-6pm, Saturday & Sunday 11am-4pm.  If you would like more information you can reach Julie McFarland on 07725 083 784 or on FB/PurpleEarthNI

The Great Belfast Tee Off

Belfast is putting itself on a par with The Open as City Hall gets on course to host The Great Belfast Tee Off.

Belfast City Council has teamed up with Belfast One and Tourism NI to transform the lawns of the city’s most iconic building into a putting green to celebrate the golf competition being hosted in Northern Ireland.

The Great Belfast Tee Off will get the ball rolling on Sunday 14 July and activities will run from 11am to 6pm daily, until the closing day of the major championship on Sunday 21 July.

The nine-hole crazy golf course will challenge people of all ages to navigate their way around some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Albert Clock, the famous H&W cranes, and Titanic Belfast.

During the week-long celebration, City Hall will be dressed to impress with golf banners and the building will be lit in blue and yellow on Sunday 21 July to mark the final day of the 148th Open.

For more information visit

The Perfect VenYou in Belfast

It’s clear that there is a growing need for good office space in Belfast.  However, VenYou in association with the Scottish Provident Building knows that organisations want more than just a space they want the full package.

Donna Linehan, VenYou Client Services Director explains: “Our focus is on making the space work for the company.  VenYou is a service, one in which ‘You’ is the central point. You just tell us what you want and we deliver.”

With an ethos centralising around the clients’ needs, VenYou enables companies to make a statement without the need for their own building.  From contemporary to traditional, VenYou tailors working spaces to help companies create an interior and a working space that helps them achieve their ambitions.

Donna continues, “We understand that fast and flexible is the future, that companies want to concentrate on doing business, and doing what they do best. We have the ability to service their business needs as well as help them grow whether within one building or move into a larger bespoke space in another.”

Jonny Hill, Operations Director, VenYou commented “Basically, once you have identified the location that meets your needs you can leave everything else to the team at VenYou.”

For more information please visit or call 028 9091 8500 to speak to a member of the team.

Life and Times of Belfast’s Mary Ann McCracken

The Belfast Charitable Society has launched an updated version of ‘The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken – A Belfast Panorama’, which was first published by its author Mary McNeill in 1960, and will be republished on the date of her 249th birthday.

Mary Ann was a central figure in Belfast’s history, tirelessly working for the cause of the poor, children, women, workers and slaves. Paula Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Society explains; “Mary Ann McCracken was an abolitionist, social reformer and activist who fought for the rights of women and championed Belfast’s poor throughout a long life that encompassed the most turbulent years of Irish history.”

This republication is the first major piece of work undertaken by the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, set up by Belfast Charitable Society to celebrate the life and works of this remarkable woman, and her legacy and relevance today.

Paula concluded; “We are very thankful to the family of Mary McNeill, who themselves have had a long history with our organisation, and have given us permission to republish. Both Mary Ann McCracken and Mary McNeill, her biographer, were tireless activists for children and the disadvantaged throughout their respective lives. The Belfast Charitable Society is proud to recognise these two important women in its history through this republication.”

Published by Irish Academic Press the book is available now to pre-order online at

Garden Party Fundraiser

A garden party was recently held in memory of Benjamin Davis, who tragically died in an accident in San Diego last year. The event, organised by his family raised money for the amazing charity, The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, who were a great help and support to the family at the time of Benjamin’s death. Edna and Colin, founders of The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust were among the 450 guests who attended the garden party. A great day was enjoyed by all with music by Punk Papa, Blues Cats and Gentlemans Jukebox. A raffle with amazing prizes such as sports memorabilia and Rayban sunglasses went down well with guests, as well as an auction and a ballot with a Lunns watch up for grabs.

Photographer: Michael Lowther

UPPS Awards Gala

The Ulster Post Primary School inter provincial squad were presented with their awards at a presentation night in Kelly’s Inn for their outstanding performances in Gaelic Football. They were entertained by the young musicians from Fintona CCE. Gerry Doherty was the MC and welcomed everyone to the gala. Ulster Schools Chairman Paddy Donnelly and Ulster President Eileen Jones addressed the attendees and a four course meal was enjoyed by everyone. After dinner, each girl received their All Star award from President Jones.  

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