CastleCourt Cracks it with Big ‘Unboxing’ Easter Eggstravaganza

CastleCourt brings back ‘unboxing’ phenomenon to Belfast with live YouTube heroes and a monster-sized inflatable Easter egg as part of a Cracking Easter Eggstravaganza

Northern Ireland’s best-loved shopping centre, CastleCourt, is bringing the internet phenomenon of “unboxing” alive in Belfast this Easter, as part of a fun-filled, experiential event for children over Easter weekend – The Big Unbox.

Unboxing is one of the latest crazes to sweep the internet, thrilling millions of viewers, which show youngsters inspecting their latest buys, toys, gifts and surprises in their own unique and entertaining way.

Now, CastleCourt has specially arranged another ultimate unboxing experience as part of its cracking Easter eggstravaganza on Friday 19th and Saturday 20 April from 12.00-4.00pm and is inviting families to take part in all the free action – which includes a giant-sized bouncy inflatable Easter egg to help burn off all that energy.

By registering your kids to take part using the special QR CODE (pasted below), they will be in with a chance to unbox a grand prize of £500 family holiday gift voucher alongside toys, Easter eggs and other great giveaways, all kindly donated by many of the centre’s top retailers, including The Entertainer and Hawkins Bazaar.

Other stores including American Candy, Matalan and Beleaf Juice Bar are also taking part, in what is one of CastleCourt’s biggest-ever prize giveaway events ever. Videos of your kids having fun inside the giant inflatable egg and ‘unboxing’ their surprise are available and can even be revisited back home to share with family and friends.

There’s plenty more though! YouTube sensations Beau from Beau’s Toy Farm will also be at CastleCourt on Friday 19 April from 1.00-4.00pm and both Tash Baller and his sister Tianna-Leanne will be at CastleCourt on 20 April 2019 from 12.00-3.00pm – which when combined with a Cool FM Roadshow and a walkabout by Peppa Pig and George, there’s no end to the thrills on offer.

CastleCourt Centre Manager Paul McMahon said.

“Unboxing is the runaway YouTube phenomena and we’re thrilled to be bringing it back to Belfast. With the biggest inflatable Easter Egg you’ve ever seen, free prizes, YouTube stars to meet and greet kids, Peppa Pig and her brother George for photo opportunities, Cool FM and treats a-plenty, this is a truly magical two-day family fun experience that’s going to be really hard to beat this Easter”.

Over the course of the two-day event, CastleCourt will also have a special electronic gaming area with eight screens, an inflatable ball pit, a bouncy castle, and a piñata game.

Register now and let your child giggle with delight as their imaginations take flight at the free family ‘Big Unbox’ at CastleCourt this Easter weekend. Pre-registration is essential using the QR code below or this link



Since it first opened in London in June 1973 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show has become the world’s favourite Rock ‘N’ Roll musical, having been performed worldwide for 45 years in more than 30 countries and translated into over 20 languages. This critically-acclaimed stunning new production is now back by public demand and returns for a 12 month UK tour starting at Theatre Royal Brighton on 13 December 2018.

This classic musical extravaganza will star West End star Stephen Webb* as Frank, Strictly Come Dancing Champion Joanne Clifton* as Janet and a1’s Ben Adams* as Brad. Kristian Lavercombe will also be reprising his role as Riff Raff, following more than 1300 performances in The Rocky Horror Show around the world. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, the smash hit show features all of the famous musical numbers which have made The Rocky Horror Show such a huge hit for over four decades, including “Sweet Transvestite”, “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, “Dammit Janet” and, of course, the timeless floor-filler, “The Time-Warp”.

Joanne Clifton said: “I’ve always loved Rocky Horror. I learnt the Time Warp in my dance classes in Grimsby when I was 4 years old … 30 years later and I’ll be jumping to the left on the actual Rocky Horror stage, I can’t quite believe it!

“It is such a loved show and anyone who has done it will tell you it’s the funniest show to work on….Rocky Horror is a show about being who you want to be – and that’s what we’re all striving for.”

Ben Adams added: “Performing in Rocky Horror is a dream come true – I love the show so much it inspired me to write my own musical Eugenius! Joanne and I make quite a team and I’m sure that the whole cast will be raising the roof night after night as we perform for all the amazingly devoted Rocky fans. Bring on the stilettos!”

Ben also commented on how the audience “can come into the theatre and enjoy two, two and a half hours of just forgetting about everything else and having the best time. That’s what Rocky Horror did for me…it’s all about being yourself and the interaction with the audience.”

Stephen Webb said: “What an incredible opportunity to bring such a bold, energetic show across the UK. Frank is a dream role! I’m so pleased to be a part of the Rocky team, and can’t wait to give it everything I’ve got.”

The Rocky Horror Show tells the story of Brad and his fiancée Janet, two squeaky clean college kids who meet Dr Frank’n’Furter by chance when their car breaks down outside his house whilst on their way to visit their favourite college professor. It’s an adventure they’ll never forget, with fun, frolics, frocks and frivolity, bursting with timeless songs and outrageous outfits.  The Rocky Horror Show is a guaranteed party, which famously combines science-fiction, horror, comedy and music while encouraging audience participation meaning, of course, getting dressed in the most outrageous fancy dress.

 The Rocky Horror Show first began life in 1973 before an audience of just 63 people in the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs.  It was an immediate success and transferred to the Chelsea Classic Cinema, before going on to run at the Kings Road Theatre, 1973-79 and the Comedy Theatre in the West End, 1979-80.  In 1975 it was transformed into a film called ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. This film adaptation took over $135 million at the Box Office and is still shown in cinemas around the world more than 40 years after its premiere, making it the longest running theatrical release in cinema history. Many stars including Russell Crowe, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Jerry Springer, Jason Donovan and Meatloaf have appeared in The Rocky Horror Show over the past 45 years.

In 2015, as part of a sold-out season at London’s Playhouse Theatre, a special star-studded Gala charity performance in aid of Amnesty International was broadcast to over 600 cinemas across the UK and Europe. The live screening – featuring a host of celebrities playing The Narrator including Stephen Fry, Mel Giedroyc, Emma Bunton, Ade Edmondson, Anthony Head and Richard O’Brien – smashed box office records and was the biggest grossing film in cinemas across the UK.  The performance was subsequently screened on the Sky Arts channel.

Ready to thrill you with fun and naughty moments, The Rocky Horror Show is the boldest bash of them all. But be warned, this show has rude parts!

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show runs at the Grand Opera House from 18th – 23rd March.

For tickets please visit

Belfast’s St Thérèse of Lisieux PS lifts the Rainbow Communications Champion Shield in Belfast Primary Schools’ Football Association grand final

A determined team of young football enthusiasts from St Thérèse of Lisieux Primary School has won the Rainbow Communications Champion Shield at this year’s Belfast Primary Schools’ Football Association tournament at Shankhill Leisure Centre after a thrilling game against Holy Cross.

Sponsored by Rainbow Communications, the five-a-side grassroots junior league competition encompasses more than thirty-seven community primary schools from right across Belfast and is a major annual event in the school calendar for more than 225 schoolchildren keen to pitch their skills in a competitive arena.

The Belfast Primary Schools’ Football Association has been developing promising all-ability young players for almost 90 years and is committed to using football to promote mental, moral and physical development while encouraging competitive play at national and international level.

Northern Ireland’s largest independent telecommunications company, Rainbow, which has been sponsoring the growing tournament since 2001 and enlisted the support of Northern Ireland football hero David Healy two years ago to help power its growth, commended the students, their families and the association for the commitment, skills and determination on show this year.

“Taking part is everything, so we’re absolutely thrilled to see so many schools and children join a tournament that continues to grow and attract real interest and participation from right across the city,” Rainbow Communications Sales and Marketing Director, Stuart Carson, said.

“This tournament is all about competition, camaraderie, fun and learning and the students who took part have really worked hard to demonstrate their best.  Congratulations to all the team from St Thérèse Lisieux Primary School on the Antrim Road who played so well to win and congratulations to everyone who took part.”

Schools taking part in the final this year included Holy Cross, Nettlefield, St. Clare’s, St. Matthew’s, St. Therese of Lisieux and Victoria Park.  

Mervyn Bryson (chairperson of the BPSFA) stated that “the competition is now synonymous with Rainbow Communications and it is hoped that the co-operation between the two organisations will continue in future years.  We are also indebted to the staff at Shankill Leisure Centre who are always very cheerful, friendly and helpful with the arrangements and discharge their duties in a professional way.  I thank Rainbow Communications for their time and generosity which means we can bring so many Belfast schools together in the name of sport.  We wish them every success in 2019”.

For more further information visit

£7 million investment for Templepatrick

Galgorm Collection have agreed to buy Templeton Hotel, marking a staggering £10m investment in Northern Ireland tourism by the hospitality giant in the last 12 months

The Galgorm Collection, previously known as Tullymore House Ltd, will invest a further £7million in the local economy as they agree to buy the Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick.

The new property will add to Galgorm’s already impressive suite of hospitality investments, which includes £1.5million in Belfast-based restaurants’ Fratelli & Café Parisien and the £600,000 purchase and refurbishment of the Castle Kitchen + Bar at Galgorm Castle Golf Club in 2018. Galgorm Resort is also set to unveil a number of additional luxury cottages within the estate next month, offering guests a new way to enjoy the Galgorm experience.

As well as supporting its world-class leisure proposition, the move represents a further strategic enhancement of the group’s hospitality assets, but also reinforces the company’s ongoing commitment to the tourism industry and Northern Ireland as a whole.

Managing Director Colin Johnston said: “Our multi-million-pound investment in Templepatrick will strengthen the local community and economy, as well as cement Northern Ireland’s reputation as a world-class tourism destination.

“The Galgorm Collection are an extensive investor in Northern Ireland and our latest exciting venture in Templepatrick will bring our current employee count to just short of 1000 people, reaffirming our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland. Over 50 jobs will be created and all current staff will be retained.”

Galgorm are renowned for creating world-class hospitality experiences throughout their award-winning properties in Northern Ireland; and exciting and energetic plans for the redevelopment of the Templeton Hotel are afoot and will be revealed soon.

Galgorm’s stellar reputation was also bolstered last year when the Resort was selected to host one of the world’s most prestigious hospitality award ceremonies, the World Luxury Spa & Restaurant Awards, and are the current holder of the Global Luxury Spa Hotel of the Year award.

The Templeton Hotel was built by Stephen & David McCombe in 1990. It is a popular location for weddings, conferences and events and is a firm favourite with locals. Galgorm look forward to offering their warm welcome to the local community and world-class service to hundreds of local and international guests in the coming months.

Owners of Galgorm Resort & Spa in Ballymena have agreed to buy the Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick and have confirmed an investment figure of £7 million, marking a staggering £10m investment in Northern Ireland tourism by the hospitality giant in the last 12 months.

LITTER LEGENDS & WASTE WARRIORS ASSEMBLE: Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful Announce Community Award Winners

Tuesday 12th February saw volunteers gather at the 3rd annual Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful Community Awards in Belfast City Hall with host, TV presenter Joe Mahon and guest speaker Jo Ruxton, filmmaker and campaigner who opened the eyes of the world to the problems of plastic in A Plastic Ocean and influenced Blue Planet II.

The evening was designed to recognise and thank all the volunteers who had been short listed for their continued hard work and dedication to the cause – with an opportunity to hear their inspirational stories which instil pride in our local communities through practical environmental action.

From regular litter picks to the creation of shared community spaces these unsung heroes dedicate their time and efforts into making our home cleaner, greener, safer and more sustainable.

The winners have carried out some remarkable work this year including addressing social isolation and loneliness among older people living in care homes by creating beautiful gardens – the only green space that some residents will see.  A keen canoeist has made a significant effect on the appearance of the waterways by removing debris and litter while a young 15 year old litter picker has collected around 100 bags of litter and even taken his litter picker on holiday. Another local hero raised over £1000 from biscuit wrappers alone for ‘Kicks Count’, a charity that promotes baby movement awareness to reduce still birth whilst one group reached out to minority groups to address language barriers by publishing an infographic pack that displays the dos and don’ts of domestic waste disposal and littering – improving community relations.

Guest Speaker Jo Ruxton encouraged volunteers to make a stand in their local communities and champion the reduction of litter: “Never underestimate just how much one single person can achieve. The problem might seem insurmountable but take that first step on your own and just watch how many people join you and help bring about change.”

Live Here Love Here Manager Jodie McAneaney comments:  “These awards are so important, they give us the opportunity to highlight the issues and reward those who are actively making a difference.  Plastic in particular has been hitting the headlines this year with its devastating effects, making our special guest Jo Ruxton the perfect candidate to inspire us to really strive for change.  The fact that every piece of plastic ever created is still on the planet is a real eye opener.  Hopefully in 2019 our continued efforts and that of our volunteers and partners can make steps towards tackling this terrible problem.”

At Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful we run a number of campaigns and programmes that embody the values of Live Here Love Here which would not be possible without the help of our dedicated volunteers.  If you would like to find out more or get involved with Live Here Love Here please visit our website; or contact


Women In Finance Awards UK 2018

The Women in Finance Awards UK took place on Wednesday (10th October 2018) and Managing Director of local business, Insight.Out, Jayne Gibson was announced as Financial Advisor of the Year in Northern Ireland.

Run by Professional Adviser, Retirement Planner and Cover publications, the Women in Financial Advice Awards celebrate the achievements of women working within the financial advice community and also the broader financial services sector.

The glamorous occasion took place at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square in London.

This latest news follows a successful year for Insight.Out Financial in which the company re-branded from GWM Solutions, relocated its business to the Holywood Road in Belfast, and increased its headcount with five new members of the team joining Insight.Out this year.

Announcing Jayne as “A well-deserved winner”, the judges commented that she is “A wholly impressive individual whom is clearly setting the benchmark very high for all advisers, not just women.”

Managing Director of Insight.Out, Jayne Gibson, comments:

“I am absolutely thrilled to be announced as Financial Advisor of the Year for Scotland and Northern Ireland, especially after our major investment and growth over the past two years, which has witnessed our Northern Ireland client base – from businesses to private individuals – dramatically increase.

Jayne Gibson with Zoe Lyons

“These awards are amongst the most prestigious in the finance industry, and the win is a huge credit to my dedicated team here at Insight.Out whom support our clients and myself every day.”


Special Preview Screening of Johnny English Strikes Again At Movie House Dublin Road

Excited families and a host of well-known faces were spied at Movie House Dublin Road on Sunday 30th September 2018, as they attended a special preview screening of Johnny English Strikes Again.

Guests and their families, who included BBC Radio Ulster’s Ralph McLean, model and blogger Lucy Evangelista, and MMA Judo athlete Leah McCourt, enjoyed a spy-themed reception before a first look at the movie.

Johnny English Strikes Again is the third installment of the Johnny English comedy series, with Rowan Atkinson returning as the much-loved accidental secret agent.

The movie opens to the public on Friday 5th October 2018.

Lauren Child: ‘If we don’t take risks and fail, we will never make anything spectacular.’

Lauren Child MBE visited Queen’s University Belfast for the first time in honour of the UK Children’s Laureate for a special BookTrust Northern Ireland event on Friday 21stSeptember 2018.

Perhaps best known for her book series, Charlie and Lola, Child was also joined by children’s book illustrator, Bruce Ingman and Children’s Writing Fellow, Myra Zepf.

The 3 literacy enthusiasts enjoyed a lively discussion on creativity chaired by BBC Radio Ulster presenter, Marie-Lousie Muir.

Speaking at the BookTrust NI event Lauren Child said: “We need to be able to fail in our lives.  If we don’t take risks and fail, we will never make anything spectacular. I also think boredom and staring into space must be allowed.  These spaces are the beginning of the imagination.”

The authors and illustrators discussed the best types of literature to share with children to encourage them to read and the joy that reading and creativity can bring to children’s lives.

Myra Zepf, Northern Ireland Children’s Writing Fellow on inspiring a love of reading: “When trying to inspire a love of reading, those children who don’t want to read can be the most interesting. I hope this event helped shine a spotlight on the challenges of cultivating creativity in children’s lives – something we are arguably more in need of than ever.”

Children’s author and illustrator Bruce Ingman said: “Give a child some paint and a brush and see the pure joy it brings. They let us into their world, how exciting is that? I’ve learned so much from reading and drawing with kids.” 

Liz Canning, Head of BookTrust Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted Lauren Child made a special visit to Northern Ireland as The Waterstones Children’s Laureate. We hope this BookTrust hosted event helped inspire families and practitioners in Belfast to get reading and get creative!”


Radiance Skincare Range Launch

Radiance Beauty & Day Spa in Finaghy, Belfast has recently launched its own signature skincare product range. The range has been developed by proprietor Christine Mackin and a team of dermatologists, & pharmacists to ensure a clinically proven range of products with multiple active ingredients, tailor made for different skin types.

For further coverage of this event see our November issue on sale this Friday!


Try The Spa Experience By Better First Hand


If you want to try the Spa Experience By Better first hand, be sure to check out their Ulster Tatler Readers’ Event on 6th April (from 6-9pm), where guests can sample a range of free mini treatments, receive shopping discounts on retail products and future bookings (up to 30%), as well as a glass of Prosecco and canapés. Spaces are limited, so to secure your place, simply email: putting ‘Ulster Tatler’ in the subject bar. 

Spa Experience by Better, Boucher Road, Belfast. Tel: 07483031864.


Ulster Tatler’s Kellie Burch samples pure pampering perfection at the Spa Experience By Better, located within the new Olympia Leisure Centre complex in Belfast.

When you think of Belfast’s Boucher Road, tranquil retreat does not automatically spring to mind. However, nestled within the uber modern, state-of the-art new Olympia Leisure Complex, is the Spa Experience By Better, the ultimate getaway from everyday hustle and bustle.

I was recently very lucky to be invited along to sample what delights the Spa Experience By Better has to offer. I was warmly welcomed by the professional staff at reception and provided with a robe, towel and flip flops, presented in a lovely ‘Spa Experience’ tote, then shown to the Spa’s changing area. The space is stylish with modern showers, a hair-drying station and lockers to securely leave your belongings.

Once changed, I was given a tour of the impressive Thermal Suite. I decided to alternate the different hot and cold experiences, starting with a visit to the super relaxing Sanarium, which is like a mix between a sauna and a steam room, followed by a trip to the stylish white and blue Ice Room, which has a steady supply of crushed ice to rub into your skin. It was then time to heat things up again in the Aroma Steam Room, which, with a fragrant scent, indulged all my senses. The perfect antithesis to this was the Ice Bucket Shower, which was as cold as it sounds, but was the ideal way to get my circulation pumping. My final hot experience was the sauna, which offers a lovely dry heat and left me feeling completely relaxed.

My next stop was the impeccably designed Monsoon Showers, which boast premium features including colour changing shower settings, to create an ambient atmosphere to wash away all your stress. After I worked my way through the full spectrum of the jet sprays, from warm tropical downpour to the cool water stream, it was time to try the Hydrotherapy Pool. As I got settled, the powerful jets kicked in, instantaneously pummelling any residue tension from my body; this really is heaven on earth.


After a long soak, it was time to dry out on one of the exquisite Hamman Benches. These heated tiled loungers are the quintessential way to unwind between experiences. The Hamman Benches are window facing, allowing you to watch the clouds lazily drift across the sky as you enjoy a glass of fruit infused water. I am not ashamed to admit by this stage I was so chilled out, I could have easily drifted to sleep. It was here that Isabelle, my beauty therapist for the day, found me.

After completing a treatment card, I was shown to the treatment room. With a delightful aroma of oils, combined with a chic decor, I immediately felt at ease. As I got comfortable on the heated treatment bed, I was excited to try my first treatment: the Experience Wellbeing Massage. Upon consultation, Isabelle asked me what type of a massage I preferred (I opted for destress), as well as enquired as to where I held most of my tension (my back). The signature treatment incorporates a variety of massage techniques and is designed to alleviate tension, aches and pains. Isabelle used a fragrant oil and after enquiring if the pressure was to my liking, worked her way through the knots in my back to my neck, shoulders, arms and legs; the massage, combined with the soothing heat of the bed, left me feeling serene from my head, right down to my toes.

To complete my experience, I then got to sample the Elemis Superfood Pro Radiance facial. Again, Isabelle quizzed me about any areas of concerns I had regarding my skin. I am prone to break outs and so she tailored the facial specifically to tackle this. With an enzyme exfoliator and a balancing face mask, in addition to a plethora of superfoods, this treatment provided my skin with a nutrional boost. My skin has been feeling the effects of the winter, however once Isabelle had worked her magic my skin felt smooth, soft and plumper and was noticeably brighter. That evening, the slight break out I had around my hairline had also died down considerably.

As my time in the spa came to a close, I reluctantly returned to the changing facilities to get ready to head back to reality. I have been to a few spas in my time and I can honestly say the Spa Experience By Better was definitely up there with the best of them. The facilities are stylish, state-of-the-art and designed to perfection. The staff, from reception to the beauty therapists, were ultra professional but also welcoming, attentive and engaging. After my trip to the Spa, I could feel the effects well into the next day; I felt relaxed and energised whilst my skin felt nourished, detoxified and supple. After such an impressive first visit, I know I will definitely return to Spa Experience By Better!






Carrie Neely- Arts Diary November 2016


What can I say about Culture Night? It has become one of the most legendary dates in the Belfast social calendar, not just for us creative types…artists, musicians, poets, circus performers, designers, writers, photographers, actors, street artists, pantomime horses etc (you get my drift), but for all the people from Northern Ireland and further afield to enjoy Belfast at its best.

The city was awash with colour and colourful characters lining the traffic free streets of the Cathedral Quarter, whilst music blared from every corner and entertainment was laid on for every creative taste. A huge dinner table was set along the length of Donegall Street in Belfast City Centre, as a giant vegetarian curry made from locally sourced surplus produce fed hungry revellers!

During Culture Night, I took part in a creative Q&A at Blick Studio’s, where myself and five lovely people from both the creative and business world, including the gorgeous Catherine McGuinness from Maven, were grilled about life, business and creativity and how to get that ‘balance’ (which does not seem to exist!).

I surprised myself by making some lovely mono prints at the Belfast Print Workshop with help from my lovely artist pals Karen Daye-Hutchinson and Helen Paisley. Art Loves was well and truly branded by Kaizen Brand, as was Aly McElroy, who brought her gorgeous new baby girl Tig out to play. Some amazing street artists invited by the man himself, Culture Night organiser extraordinaire and Seedhead Arts founder Adam Turkington, came from all over Ireland and the UK to work on some superb new murals for our city.

Local businesses opened their doors and their minds. Line dancers made Hay outside The Spaniard, Bill Harris Hairdressers had a live gig in between the hairdryers, and our all our best loved drag queens took center stage outside Maverick. With over 100 events, there was so much to do and see that I could not fit it all in, but after a quiet drink served by the Adams Family in Malmaison, I did end up in Villa to watch Lumen before heading off to join the long cab queues to head for home.


Within the last few years, and after the huge international success of Good Boy (their first film together), my lovely friends Conan McIvor and Michael Daly have been creating quite a buzz in the film world with awards flying in everywhere from Los Angeles to Cannes. I was invited to the premier of their latest Short called DAM, starring Conor Doran and Cillian Lenaghan which won Best Short Screenplay at the LA Independent Film Festival Awards. DAM packed out The Movie House on Dublin Road, and was of course attended by Belfast’s great and good. There were a few tears shed in the audience as we watched a very sensitive performance as Dickey and Smurf performed the young men’s ritual of getting drunk whilst meandering through their emotions and pondering life after the suicide of their best mate. DAM supported the charity Mind your Mate and Yourself with the film, and provided an insight into some of the emotional struggles that young men have. We were all invited to join the cast and crew for drinks afterwards in Marcus Ward, where I had a lovely catch up with my boys.


My three children go to Loughview Integrated Primary School, and I am always so pleased to support the Integrated Education Fund, which is a charity that works tirelessly to help our Integrated schools in Northern Ireland. So, it was with a hop and a skip that I went to watch five funny friends of the IEF entertain a huge crowd at the Ulster Hall with a one-off comedy special which raised lots of laughs, whilst raising cash for the fund’s work. Supporters of the IEF gathered before the show to enjoy a VIP reception kindly sponsored by Mervyn McCall, with wine donated by Terry Cross and Chateau de la Ligne. The evening was also sponsored by the family of late and legendary Belfast comedian Frank Carson.

“Stand Up for Integrated Education” brought top names together on stage as mentalist David Meade was joined by comedians Tim McGarry, Neil Dougan, Colin Murphy and Wendy Wason (who seriously made me laugh out loud), generously giving their time in support of the IEF.  All the performers were taking time out from their solo tours and Wendy had just finished an intensive run of 50 shows at the Edinburgh Festival. Thanking the stars for the great night of entertainment, IEF Campaign Chair Baroness May Blood said: “Separating children into different schools from the age of four is not a laughing matter, but it’s good for us to giggle, and it’s all raised valuable funds to help our work at the IEF. The charity exists to grow integrated education in response to parental demand and we couldn’t do it without our generous supporters.”

I am so excited to have been invited by Baroness Blood to attend a dinner at the House of Lords in November with my partner in crime and long-time Integrated Education campaigner and fundraiser, Christine Trueman. Now that will be a night to remember!

Carrie Neely- Arts Diary October 2016

David Hockney at The MAC

I grew up with a much loved, signed David Hockney in the Neely household and have always had a soft spot for his work, so I was very excited to hear about his exhibition in Belfast.

More than 200 people packed into Belfast’s leading arts venue, the MAC, for the highly-anticipated unveiling of this new exhibition by the iconic artist. The exhibition, which opened on August 19 and runs until mid-October, is the first significant presentation of Hockney’s work in Ireland and the excitement among art lovers at the launch was palpable.

Representatives from local government, including the Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston and Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell, mingled with invited guests from the worlds of business, culture and the arts at the event, which was addressed by Lady Dufferin, a personal friend of the artist.

Marking his 80th year, the exhibition entitled David Hockney: I draw, I do, focused on the artist’s early work including the famous ‘Paper Pool’ series, alongside work from the current decade, all of which celebrates Hockney’s interest in drawing. Hockney is a painter, printmaker, photographer and designer and much like Andy Warhol at the MAC in 2013, this collection marks another first for Belfast.  The MAC presents this Hockney exhibition in advance of the many celebrations that will happen next year.

19th August-16th October

Culture Night Launch

Art is at the heart of Culture Night, which is undoubtedly the best annual night out in Belfast for bringing people together and sharing the city centre. The roads are closed to traffic and over 100 bars, theatres, galleries and local business are filled with a riot of colour, sound, art, music, drama and circus acts. As Culture Night Programme Manager Adam Turkington says: ‘It never rains on Culture Night!”

At the Culture Night launch we were given a small glimpse of what lies ahead…pantomime horse racing, a street tea party, clowns playing brass and belly dancing to name a few. Lots of colourful characters sat on a long table in amongst sponsors, artists, press and culture night organisers, where we were served soup and bread from The Dark Horse in Culture Night mugs (which we were allowed to take home!), washed down with Club Orange.

This year food plays a massive part with a free feast on ’The Big Table’ for 5000 people in Donegall Street, supplied by supermarket surplus and sponsored by Belfast Harbour.

Last year Culture Night brought over 65,000 visitors, and an estimated 2.5 Million spend into local economy, and 2016 will smash these numbers. If you haven’t been yet…I urge you…GO GO GO!!!

16 September 2016 #CNB16 

Belfast Mela

A capacity crowd packed Belfast’s Botanic Gardens to celebrate the tenth Belfast Mela in truly global style. I brought the whole family down to enjoy the eclectic global village showcasing arts, culture and cuisine drawn from a wealth of nations, creating Northern Ireland’s largest ever celebration of diversity.

As always, the city took its magnificent Mela to its heart and good-humoured, multi-generational audiences danced, sang, shopped and ate their way around the world in one great global afternoon. Reflecting the resounding success of the most ambitious Mela Festival ever, Nisha Tandon, founder and Executive Director of award-winning ethnic arts organisation, ArtsEkta, said, “Ten years ago ArtsEkta’s founding members had a vision of an exciting inclusive festival which would bring the world to Belfast and highlight our emerging diversity.  What we could never have foreseen, as we took those early tentative steps, was just how much Mela would grow and develop.  Over our ten year history around a quarter of a million people have now enjoyed the unique Belfast Mela experience.”

The word ‘Mela’ is actually derived from the Sanskrit word for ‘meet’, which is highly appropriate as I could not turn a corner without bumping into someone I knew! Belfast Mela is enjoyed by people of all ages and from all social and ethnic backgrounds and has such an eclectic mix of entertainment…where else can you watch your kids dance to the Dohl drums, Aggro Jazz, Balkan Folk and Zulu Afro-gospel and then go and chase Chinese dragons? Brilliant day out!