The Big Listen

Having noticed the rise in people sleeping rough in the surrounding area who are in need of support,  St Anne’s Cathedral have decided to  donate any money they receive on Tuesday 24th July to the Samaritans. For many of the people sleeping on the streets of Belfast the need for mental health support is a crucial as ever. However with the current lack of government and funding for mental health this has become a bigger problem.

The 24th July marks the Samaritans UK-wide Big Listen event. The Cathedral normally has a £5pp admission fee which they will be happy to donate to the charity for the day and encourages anyone who just wants to pop in and donate any amount big or small, all money received will be donated to the Samaritans at the end of the day.

St. Anne’s Cathedral is encouraging as many people and local businesses as possible to get involved and spread the word for this very important cause. Even just by popping in to make a donation, bringing buns, not bringing buns but eating buns or pointing people in their direction it will help make a difference.

Staff and volunteers have started attaching ‘Messages of Hope’ along the railings of the Cathedral, similar to those that run along the Foyle Bridge and are asking people to drop in their messages or attach them to the railings as a show of support. Some of the Samaritan volunteer Belfast team will be in the Cathedral on Tuesday 24th July if anyone needs to talk to someone. Every little will help!

Find more information on there Facebook page:



This July will see the return of the much-loved Skiffie Festival on Strangford Lough and in Delamont Country Park. From the 27th to the 29th of July, international competitors and locals will descend upon Strangford Lough in their community-built skiffs for this action-packed weekend of events. Visitors will not only have the opportunity to watch the racing, there will also be a range of free family centered activities including boat trips, live music, model air craft displays, a food village and much more.

The festival marks the first of five events in the Giant Adventures summer programme, spearheaded by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. Around 20 races take place across the weekend, with teams competing from across the island of Ireland and Scotland. Families can enjoy a wide range of activities, suitable for all ages at Delamont Country Park.

For further information about the Skiffie Festival and the Giant Adventures programme visit

Big Surprise’ for Northern Ireland National Lottery Funded Hero

Antrim’s Jason Kennedy of Knights Wheelchair Basketball Club honoured by The National Lottery on UTV primetime TV.

 The National Lottery’s ‘Big Surprise’ – which honours individuals who have made a real difference with the help of National Lottery funding – will next weekend (14 July) make a dream come true for County Antrim man Jason Kennedy, Head Coach and Chairman of the Knights Wheelchair Basketball Club.

The ‘Big Surprise’ is a 90-second weekly slot during the ad break of Saturday night primetime UTV/ITV shows – meaning local hero, Jason, is set to get national recognition with around 5 million people expected to tune in across the ITV network. The Knights were founded in 1990 to help give disabled people the opportunity to get involved in team sport. Jason originally came to coach a single session but 18 years later he’s still volunteering at the club and his list of responsibilities has grown to include Head Coach, Club Chairman, fundraising organiser and ever-reliable taxi driver.

The club now has over 50 players from across Northern Ireland taking part with ages ranging from as young as seven right up to players in their forties. Head Coach Jason and The Knights travel across the UK and further afield to compete in various wheelchair basketball leagues, with a recent success story being local star, James McSorley, who last year won an under-23 world championship with the GB Wheelchair Basketball Team.

For Jason’s ‘Big Surprise’, The National Lottery arranged for him to meet his favourite team, The Harlem Globetrotters, at a recent game at the Bournemouth International Centre. Jason enjoyed a special meet and greet with the team who presented him with a signed ball and even asked him to do the honorary ‘tip off’ at the beginning of the game. The National Lottery filmed the heart-warming results which will air at 7.58pm during the ad break on UTV and is the third of 17 short films which will be shown throughout the year, during ITV’s primetime Saturday night TV schedule, that will celebrate and showcase National Lottery funded heroes across the UK.The all-important Saturday night Lotto results will also continue to be delivered during the weekly slot.

The Knights Wheelchair Basketball Club was awarded over £29,000 of National Lottery funding to help them provide opportunities for disabled people to get involved in team sport and continue to promote a healthy lifestyle for disabled people and encourage more social inclusion. The Knights have around 20 volunteers who give up their own time to support the club and help out at weekly training sessions at their two main training venues at Antrim Forum Sports Centre in Antrim and The Hammer Youth Centre in Belfast.

For more information on Knights Wheelchair Basketball Club please visit:


Alex Best, star of “I’m a Celebrity…” and former wife of soccer legend George Best, officially launched Portaferry Gala Week at Exploris Aquarium. Press and VIPs basked in the sunshine in the courtyard of Exploris and were treated to a BBQ and an intimate taster gig from some of the artists who will be taking to the stage in the festival marquee from 15-21 July.

Veteran Irish rockers Bagatelle, who will be headlining on Thursday 19th July performed some of their much loved hits, including Summer in Dublin, Second Violin and Raining in Paris and were in awe of the sheer talent of local teenage pop/rock buskers Orlaith and Mollie, who will be supporting Derek Ryan on 18 July.  Local singer songwriter Michael Kerr, who is playing support to Bagatelle, performed some tracks from his latest EP Treasure Chest.

Cash Returns, the UK’s leading Johnny Cash Tribute, who will take to the stage on 16 July, effortlessly performed a few Johnny Cash songs with Ken Doyle from Bagatelle praising the lead singer by saying,  “Johnny Cash will never be dead when JP Mac from Cash Returns is alive.”

The launch finished on a high with star of Hit the Diff Ritchie Remo playing his upbeat repertoire. Kieran Quinn from Exploris is looking forward to the forthcoming festival.  He says; “Excitement is mounting as our festival is only a few weeks away and with such a strong and diverse line-up of music, this year’s music fest is sure to attract tourists from all over Ireland.  There’s no better, picturesque festival backdrop than Portaferry and the local hotel, shops and bars are so welcoming and friendly, it’s not surprising that so many people return year after year.  We have already received lots of pre-bookings for tours at Exploris Aquarium, during the festival, which I’m proud has become one of the leading tourist attractions in the heart of the Ards Peninsula.”

 Alex Best, who lived with George in Portavogie for three years, said; “I feel honoured to be the ambassador for Portaferry Gala Week, especially as Northern Ireland is my second home.  I have many fond memories of walking our dogs on the beach in Portaferry, eating at the Portaferry Hotel and buying furniture for our home from a quirky reclaimed furniture shop in Portaferry. I’m really looking forward to returning in July and the music will be fantastic.  There are so many talented artists from Ireland performing.”

Tickets for all concerts are available from or tel: 028 42728062.


Harvey Norman raises over £5,000 for Shelter NI

Harvey Norman teamed up with Shelter NI to raise awareness of the homeless crisis in Northern Ireland, helping those who are suffering from homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. Harvey Norman staff across stores, warehouses and offices in Northern Ireland fundraised and together with their customers, they’ve raised over £5,000 for Shelter NI in a one month period. Shelter NI reported that there were almost 12,000 households officially declared homeless during 2017 and currently estimates that around 5000 men, women and children in Northern Ireland are living in emergency accommodation right now. Shelter NI was founded in 1980 and is a charity whose mission is to promote and facilitate the provision of sufficient, decent and affordable homes to end long term homelessness and eliminate poor housing.

Director of Shelter NI, Tony McQuillan, said “With record numbers of people affected by homelessness or at risk of homelessness, there needs to be a significant review of the housing strategy here and an increase in public investment in new housing supply, if we are to eliminate long term homelessness.

Harvey Norman Ireland & Northern Ireland CEO, Blaine Callard said “We’ve been searching for ways to give more back to the communities we are in. Harvey Norman has been making homes in Northern Ireland for 15 years – it’s what we do best. Our teams are so excited to be able to give back in this way”.


Culture Night Belfast Shortlisted for National Awards Glory!

Organisers of one the biggest events in Northern Ireland’s cultural calendar have put the call out to the people of Belfast to get behind its bid for national awards glory!

Culture Night Belfast has just been shortlisted for a prestigious National Lottery Award, and is the ONLY Northern Irish organisation to be nominated in ”Best Arts Project”, alongside six other organisations including Hull, City of Culture.

Belfast’s largest cultural event beat off stiff competition from more than 700 organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with National Lottery funding.

Supported by the National Lottery, Culture Night is a major celebration which takes place across Belfast every September. Run by the Cathedral Quarter Trust, the occasion brings together 350 free events across 150 locations, and last year attracted more than 100,000 visitors to Belfast for the evening. This year’s Culture Night – the tenth – is set to take place on 21 September, with crowds of up to 150,000 expected.

The National Lottery Award is now down to the public vote, and Culture Night organisers are hoping local supporters rally behind their nomination, which they described as “a tribute to the city”.

Susan Picken, Cathedral Quarter Trust director, said:“We’re putting the call out to the people of Belfast and beyond! We are absolutely delighted that Culture Night Belfast has reached the finals of the National Lottery Awards 2018 and with the local public’s help, we know we’re in with a chance.””
“Culture Night has become a do not miss event in Northern Ireland’s cultural calendar. When it started in 2009, 15,000 people attended – now it attracts more than 100,000.
“This year, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Culture Night, we would dearly love to mark this occasion by winning the National Lottery Award for the Best Arts Project, for the city and the people that make it such a special place to live, work and play in!”

Paul McErlean chair of the Cathedral Quarter Trust said:“Culture Night Belfast being nominated for the National Lottery Awards is a huge honour, not to mention a superb start to our 10th anniversary celebrations. The Awards are UK-wide, with extremely stiff competition.

For Culture Night to make the shortlist for Best Arts Project is a recognition of how far we’ve come in the past decade as well as a massive tribute to Belfast’s arts community. Culture Night is their free gift to the people of Belfast and its visitors and what a night it has become. This nomination is also a tribute to the hard work of the Culture Night team and the wider Cathedral Quarter Trust as well as our key financial supporters and sponsors.

Now it’s down to cold hard votes, and we’re calling on as many people as possible to get behind us and help us make the tenth year a Culture Night to remember!”

Musician, activist and National Lottery Awards Ambassador, Professor Green, added: “It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise over £30 million each week for good causes, that extraordinary projects like those in the finals of the National Lottery Awards are possible.“Culture Night Belfast is an impressive event and a real asset to its local community. So what are you waiting for? Give them your support and get voting!”

People can vote for Culture Night Belfast in the National Lottery Awards in one of three ways:

Belfast Zoo to hold first sensory day!

On 30 June 2018 Belfast Zoo will hold its first ever ‘sensory day’!  This new event will allow visitors on the autism spectrum (or with other sensory requirements), their family and friends to enjoy a ‘zooper’ day out in a stress-free environment.

The zoo will open an hour early, at 9am, to allow visitors to enter before the busy crowds which peak at lunchtime.  Early opening will allow families to explore the sights and sounds of the zoo in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, without the typical noise and crowds that can be challenging for children and adults with sensory needs.  If visitors can’t make it to the zoo for early opening, and there is a queue in the visitor centre on arrival, visitors with sensory requirements can enjoy a fast track queue system throughout the day.

There will be fun for all the family as visitors can visit their favourite animals at feeding time, learn about species biology at touch tables and find out more about the animals the zoo cares for and the work they do at the keeper talks.  The enchanting kingdom of Hullabaloo will be brought to life with live action storytelling and a selection of puppets, props and scenery with Mr Hullabaloo’s interactive children’s theatre, suitable for children with sensory requirements.  The zoo will also be joined by the team from Mini Explorers for interactive, animal-themed sensory play. Visitors who require some ‘quiet time’ can avail of a calm dark den with sensory lighting, or take time out in quiet zones found throughout the zoo.

For more information on accessibility at the zoo visit,email call 028 9077 6277.

Host of Stars Confirmed for Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am

STARS from the worlds of sport, music, TV and film will align up to play in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation Pro Am on Wednesday July 4, the eve of the fourth Rolex Series event of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Representing the sporting world is former Republic of Ireland, Manchester City and Newcastle United goalkeeper and RTE pundit Shay Given, while Donegal’s GAA Football Captain Michael Murphy will delight the home support just over a week after he leads the county out in the Ulster Football Championship Final. He is joined in the field by Kerry football star Kieran Donaghy, former Ireland international rugby players Keith Wood and Stephen Ferris, while renowned jockey AP McCoy will also make an appearance. Completing the sporting representation is ex-snooker World Champion Dennis Taylor and Derry City Football Club players Paddy McCourt, Gerard Doherty and Rory Patterson.

Also taking part in the Pro Am is former Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, professional dancer on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing Anton du Beke and pop singers Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy. Completing the star-studded line up is well-known Northern Ireland actor James Nesbitt. “Ballyliffin is a great golf course,” said Rory McIlroy. “It’s always nice to be back home and play in front of the home crowd so I’m very much looking forward to playing the course and also having some fun at the Pro Am before the tournament kicks off.” Fans will also be treated to a festival of music as country star Nathan Carter headlines the ‘Glashedy Sessions’ on the Friday night (6thJuly) of the tournament. A host of exciting local bands will also entertain the crowds at the Glashedy Stage, including popular four-piece the Logues and regular favourites the Groove Robbers.

Tickets for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation are on sale at www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.comand begin at €20 for Pro-Am Wednesday, with tickets for Thursday and Friday costing €32 and day tickets for the weekend costing €34 each. An adult season souvenir ticket, which covers five days of world class golf from Wednesday to Sunday, costs just €110. Concessions are available for customers aged over 60 and between 14 and 17, while children up to 13 are permitted free entry when accompanied by a ticket holding adult.


AS part of Bright Young Things biggest ever summer programme, the leading drama company is giving pupils attending its first ever Actor’s Studio the chance to win a day on set with patron, Jimmy Nesbitt. The BYT Actor’s Studio takes place Monday 6 – Friday 10 August in the Crescent Arts Centre and is a unique, intensive five-day screen acting course giving the ultimate learning experience covering all attributes of acting for film and television and includes acting technique, script writing, practical rehearsal methods and the opportunity to work on their own production. All members of the BYT Actor’s Studio will have the chance to win The Jimmy Nesbitt Creativity Award which includes a one-day visit to join the renowned local actor on the set of one of his forthcoming projects next year.

Jimmy Nesbitt said: “As patron of Bright Young Things, I am delighted that this very special company is embarking on a huge summer of drama with 17 locations across Northern Ireland for 3 – 11 year olds and the very exciting new Actor’s Studio for secondary school age. Drama is such a powerful and life-changing thing for young people, not to mention, seriously fun. However, it can be misunderstood, so I have a message for those who have never tried it or think it is not for them. Drama should be for everyone. Whatever you want to be in life, who doesn’t need a bit more confidence, communication, creativity and fun in their life. Drama can give you all that and more.”

“The inaugural BYT Actor’s Studio is an incredible opportunity for those aged 12 – 18 and is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. Which makes me very proud to announce the launch of The Jimmy Nesbitt Creativity Award. The person judged to be the most creative across the week will get the rare opportunity to spend a day on set with me in one of my forthcoming projects. The winner will experience all that goes on on a professional film set, both in front of and behind the cameras – and I am sure we will have lots of craic on the day too,” Jimmy added.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing about all the new Northern Irish talent coming through the Actor’s Studio’s first intake. I wish all Bright Young Things’ an amazing summer, and you never know, I might drop in and see you at your BYT summer camp,” Jimmy concluded.

Lisa Duffy, founder and creative director of Bright Young Things said: “We are looking forward to the very first Actor’s Studio as part of our biggest ever summer programme and we are thrilled to team up with our patron, Jimmy Nesbitt, to give young people the chance to win the priceless opportunity to join Jimmy on set. We believe this prize, along with Jimmy’s ongoing support, demonstrates his belief in the work we are doing across Northern Ireland to make drama more accessible and help children and young people develop confidence, communication and creativity that will stand by them for the rest of their lives.”

The Jimmy Nesbitt Creativity Award will be judged by the Actor’s Studio Facilitators and Lisa Duffy, Creative Director of Bright Young Things and will be announced on the last day of the camp (Friday August 10).

For further information or to book the Bright Young Things Actor’s Studio or a BYT Summer Camp, go to

New York showcase for Belfast International Arts Festival

The Belfast International Arts Festival was highlighted in New York this week, at an event hosted by Tourism Ireland, the Northern Ireland Bureau and Tourism NI. 
The event – which was an excellent opportunity to shine a spotlight on Belfast and this year’s festival – was attended by influential American arts and lifestyle journalists, as well as representatives of the travel trade in New York. Guests heard about the unique and authentic cultural experience on offer in Belfast for American visitors and about the festival programme which is set to feature world-class artistic performances.
Belfast International Arts Festival is one of the many festivals in Northern Ireland being promoted by Tourism Ireland around the world this year, particularly to our important ‘culturally curious’ audience.


Bushmills® Irish Whiskey has kicked off the #BlackBushStories collaboration series, showcasing and celebrating those who have gone against the grain to follow their passion and become champions in their chosen field. A collaboration with Belfast photographer Ronan O’Dornan will see the talented documentarian host a mobile photography masterclass at House Belfast on Thursday 21st June in association with #BlackBushStories ambassador and acclaimed bartender Paul Rocks, who will offer a tasting session on some of Bushmills’ best loved whiskeys.

Former art teacher Ronan threw himself into a career in photography following a serious car accident in 2017 which pushed him to make the most of every day and pursue his passion for capturing people, moments and experiences in images. Ronan is now one of the country’s most exciting new talents, attracting commissions from big brands that see him travel all over the country to capture Ireland’s untold stories. The ‘Black Bush and Photography’ interactive event will see Ronan teaching attendees how to take great photos on their smartphones with tips and tricks that can be applied straight away, and how to tell stories through images. Alongside a tasting session, attendees will also be treated to specially-created Bushmills® Black Bush® drinks throughout the night where whiskey enthusiasts can experience the signature rich, fruity notes and velvety smooth character of Black Bush.

Bushmills Irish Whiskey has also collaborated with Ronan to launch an all-Ireland social media competition, whereby budding photographers are encouraged to find an Irish story that moves them and upload their photographs to social media using the hashtag #BlackBushStories. The photograph could be a city, a person, a landscape, a moment or anything else that captures their imagination. A winner from each county in Ireland will be picked and will receivea bottle of Black Bush, with the overall winner also receiving a Sony Xperia XZ2 smartphone and trip to the The Old Bushmills Distillery (including an overnight stay at the Bushmills Inn.) Inspired by the supreme craftsmanship, passion and care that goes into the special premium blend of Bushmills Black Bush, #BlackBushStories celebrates the stories and talents of independent, spirited and extraordinary Irish individuals who challenge traditional thinking in their fields and live outside the box. A series of immersive collaborator events will be held across the country’s leading venues over the coming months. Each event will celebrate those who have pioneered their craft with phenomenal success and have had the determination to nurture their talent to be the best they can be.

To register for ‘Black Bush and Photography’ and for more information on the photography competition visit