Businesswoman and Former Model Alison Clarke – Exclusive Interview Preview

Jane Hardy is a feature writer who has interviewed a few of the big names from Arlene Foster to Mrs. Thatcher. She sat down with Alison Clarke, businesswoman and former model, to discuss sport, marriage, and her business. 

Alison Clarke

Anyone watching the TV coverage of the European Ryder Cup team arriving for golf’s top group contest in Minneapolis last month couldn’t help but notice that the golfers and their partners looked not just talented but fashionable. Sport has of course become affiliated to the style business in many ways- think Formula 1, Premier League football, tennis and yes, golf. As Alison Clarke, wife of Northern Irish golfing star and team captain, explains, the Tom Cruise in The Right Stuff style shades were part of the deal. “The men wore Tom Fords which were provided, although the girls had to provide their own sunglasses.” 

Although our boys did not succeed this time, having won the three previous Ryder Cups, Alison’s memories are good. She has an important role, of course, in the sporting highlight. The businesswoman who became Miss Northern Ireland in 1982 and runs ACA Models, is a kind of team mom. “Although it’s the same thing every two years, not every Ryder Cup is the same. It was a little bit more tense for the boys this time.” Alison adds that the team never gives up, though, and says she remembers the famous 2012 rollercoaster contest. “I was there in Medinah when we came back from over four down. Of course, this was the first time I’ve been here with Darren as captain. The previous couple of times, he was vice-captain.” In terms of stress reduction, it must be nice for Darren to have Alison around.

While not a golfer, Alison says she has a distinct role on and off the greens. “The role of the wife or partner of the captain is about support. There are 12 WAGs (wives and girlfriends) plus 5 vice-captains’ wives, so we walked the course together, which was important as there were some people who hadn’t been there before.” She adds that it’s a question of just being there and telling the other ladies what to expect.

Alison Clarke modelling for an 80s cover of the Ulster Tatler

The full interview can be found in the November issue of the Ulster Tatler, which is on sale now. 

Mr. Stitch Interview – Exclusive Preview

Ulster Tatler’s Adele Smith meets UT cover star Steven Simpson to find out about his latest venture Mr. & Mrs.

Rio & Brazil, Belfast.

I arrived early to meet owner Steven Simpson at the recently renovated and extended Rio & Brazil Belfast. Situated in Wellington Place, only paces from the City Hall. I had 5 minutes to quickly look around and straight away I could see the attraction of these stores.

   For the interview we decided to leave the busy shop floor for somewhere a little quieter. Up a flight of unassuming stairs and through an old Edwardian door into what is Mr & Mrs Stitch HQ. An interesting space, with three floor to ceiling sash windows that flood the room with natural light. I notice a rail of Winter coats waiting to be photographed. At the far end of the room is a stack of branded boxes ready to be packed with orders from the evening before. A busy design team are editing product images ready to go online, whilst from an adjacent room came flashes of light where the painstaking process of photographing the new collections was taking place. We sat down for a coffee and I begin by asking the first and most obvious question;

Where did all begin?

   “The business was started by my parents David & Kathy Simpson in 1978, making it one to the city’s longest established independent fashion boutiques. In the years prior, my parents had men’s and ladies’ stores in Antrim, Swamp & Bardot.  Both are semi-retired but still very involved in the business. In 2013, with the guidance and drive from my wife Jeané, the online store was launched.

   I had definitely underestimated the amount of work that goes into creating a website that is polished and can compete globally. Fortunately, Jeané’s eye for detail and unwavering resolve not to compromise the quality of the website from the beginning, is the reason we are now global contenders online.”

When deciding on the name for the site, why did you not call it after the stores, Rio and Brazil?

   “Rio & Brazil, although a trusted local brand, would always compete against its name sake, the city and country. The web store was aimed at a market beyond Northern Ireland. This gave us a unique opportunity to create a new brand that would translate outside of our region. After some really bad ideas, my heavily pregnant wife walked in and said, “I don’t have a stitch to wear”, that was it, Mr & Mrs was born.”

Inside Rio & Brazil, Belfast.

You can read the full interview in the November issue of the Ulster Tatler, which is on sale now. 

Ulster in Bloom

Ulster in Bloom was spectacular this year with beautiful designs popping up all over Northern Ireland. The competition aims to not only celebrate local gardeners’ skills and passion, but also aims to make Northern Ireland a more attractive place to live in and visit. From the look of the pictures, it looks like they succeeded!

More details and gorgeous pictures in our November Issue, on newsstands now.

Sparkling Ice introduce Refreshing Summer Cocktails

New to the market, Sparkling Ice – a refreshing range of flavoured sparkling water – invites you to experience the thirst-quenching array of cocktails created to cool your palette during the warmer weather. With a seasonal heat wave set to be on its way, these delicious summer serves are ideal for sipping in the sun, whether it’s over an intimate catch up with a friend, or hosting the ultimate garden party. The low calorie beverages that come in three refreshing flavours – Orange Mango, Black Raspberry and Peach Nectarine – have been perfectly paired with the finest spirits and flavours.

Sparkling Ice beverages combine sparkling water, natural flavours, fruit juice and vitamins to offer a great tasting lightly carbonated beverage. Sparkling Ice is the Bold Side of Water®, offering a bold, flavoured, lightly carbonated beverage that appeals to all age groups.

There is something for even the most discerning individuals. For those with a palette for wine, the Summer Pinot Punch combines the sweetness of the Peach Nectarine Sparkling Ice against the citrus Curado, creating the perfect long drink.

The Chinotto Sunrise is a twist on your ordinary Campari and orange, by adding mango into the mix and a fair share of vodka, this beverage is sure to get you into the summer spirit.

For a zestier refreshment, the Desdemona Dream combines vodka, Lemoncello and the sweet Black Raspberry Sparkling Ice, creating a fresh, easy sipping, revitalised cosmopolitan.

Summer Pinot Punch

100ml Pinot Grigio

15ml Dry Curacao

80ml Peach Nectarine Sparkling Ice

Combine over plenty of ice and fresh cut peaches, nectarines & diced honeydew in a pitcher. Garnish glasses with fruit.

Desdemona’s Dream

50ml Vodka

15ml Lemoncello

30ml Black Raspberry Sparkling Ice

Shake Vodka and Lemoncello with ice. Pour into chilled martini glass and top with Sparkling Ice.

Garnish with Lemon twist.

Chinotto Sunrise

40ml Vodka

40ml Campari

30ml OJ

60ml Orange Mango Sparkling Ice

Mix Vodka, OJ and Sparkling Ice in highball glass with ice. Add Campari slowly to create “sunrise”.  Garnish with a wedge of orange.

Ballymena Academy Past Pupils Ball

The Ballymena Academy May Ball was the first event to be held at the stunning new Ivory Pavilion in Galgorm Castle. Over 200 guests were treated to fine dining form Jane’s Kitchen and entertainment from Conor Taggart and the Phat Katz. The black tie event, which waised funds for both the Past Pupils’ Association and the RNLI, was another bumper night in the Association’s calendar which also hosts a number of events through the year including the recent Cycle Sportive and Daffodil Tea.

For more photo coverage, see our July issue which is out now!

Nurse of the Year Awards

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Awards took place recently at a special ceremony at Hillsborough Castle. This was the 20th year of the awards which also celebrated the RCN’s centenary. Pauline Casey from Donemana in county Tyrone won the overall title RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Award 2016.  Lead Nurse for older people’s mental health at the Western Trust, Pauline won the award for leading a challenging redesign of services to ensure that people with a dementia are assessed and treated in a dementia unit or their own homes and communities.

For further photo coverage, grab a copy of our July edition which is in shops now!


Sharon O’Neill – Newshound

If you want the definition of a newshound, look no further than award-winning UTV reporter Sharon O’Neill. The glamorous 47-year-old happily talks scoops, deadlines, women’s role in the newsroom and her predilection for wacky shoes on Sunday morning in a downtown Caffe Nero. But her real enthusiasm is the headlines. She’s already bought all the Sunday papers in Botanic and stashed them in her rather sporty red car after having her usual skinny cappuccino at Clement’s cafe. She says: “On Sunday, I go to Clement’s, grab a coffee and read all the papers. I would still buy them even if I weren’t a journalist as I am a bit of a news junkie. I like to know what’s going on.”

She certainly does. Sharon’s passion for news led to her and the UTV investigative team winning the prestigious award for Scoop of the Year last month at the ITV press awards. She says that it’s an important recognition of Northern Ireland, as well as a personal coup. The scoop in question involved the results of the exhumation of the body of Joseph Murphy who died in 1971 during the so called Ballymurphy massacre. A bullet was discovered and the significance of this was that the man’s claim, that the Army had shot him leading to the gunshot wound from which he later died in hospital, was finally believed. And for his family, that was vital. “The award indicates that they still care about us, that Northern Ireland still matters to London. It was a real team effort and I must name check my producer Jim McConville and cameraman John Vennard. Jim found the story and pulled it together.”

For the full interview, grab a copy of the July Tatler which is out now!

Enter This Month’s Competition – July 2016

For your chance to win a Summer Holiday package including gel nails, gel toe nails and a spray tan just email us with your name and mobile number to Alternatively you can enter by post by sending your details to Ulster Tatler/Beauty Within Competition, 39 Boucher Road, Belfast, BT12 6HR.

Competition closes on Friday 29th July 2016.

Star Baker

In our June issue, best selling English novelist, Jo Baker, tells Jane Hardy that studying in Belfast, her adopted city, was key to her success.

It takes a brave woman to reimagine Jane Austen’s sublime masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. Jo Baker, a young 43, was more than up to the task when she wrote Longbourn four years ago. As the northern novelist explains, she wrote this upside down version of Pride and Prejudice, in which we experience the familiar tale of Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy from the servants’ perspective, because of her family’s history. The result is a revelation. “My grandmother, whose name was Florence, was a servant and worked as a maid in London. Her sister Ann, who was the one with the bad reputation, was also in service.” Jo remembers seeing Ann’s treasurers, thought to be wedding presents or even gifts from men, round the house when growing up in Lancashire. “I recall a piece of silver.”

Read the full interview in our June issue, on sale now. 


Great Ulster Houses – Mount Stewart: The Land Of Heart’s Desire

In our June issue, Jane Hardy visits Mount Stewart and meets Lady Rose Lauritzen and her husband Peter.

The sun was glinting on Strangford Lough, which looked uncharacteristically blue, the day we visited Mount Stewart. After admiring what has to be the finest folly in Northern Ireland, The Temple of the Winds, the Ulster Tatler’s photographer and I approached the main house. 

It’s a fine Victorian residence grafted onto the original, smaller 18th century property. Bought in 1744 by the family with money gained from the sale of linen and other materials, it has changed a lot since then. In the late 1800s Charles, the third Marquess of Londonderry, decided to refurbish the family’s Ulster home and did it in characteristic wonderfully extravagant style, spending £150,000 in the process. He was able to do this as his second wife, Lady Anne Frances Vane-Tempest, was an American heiress. It was undoubtedly worth the money.

To read the full article, check out our June issue, in shops now.