Music In The Chamber – The Darkling Air : Isobel Anderson

On Thursday, 20 April, The Darkling Air will be joined by Isobel Anderson and The Arco String Quartet for a very special concert in The Chamber, Bangor Castle.

When songwriter and vocalist Rachel McCarthy (Farriers) met composer and producer Michael Keeney (Foy Vance, Duke Special) while mixing a record in Donegal some years ago, a future collaboration was inevitable.

A simple notion to write some songs together in late 2015 quickly and organically grew into The Darkling Air.

They will be joined by Arco String Quartet who have worked closely with Rachel and Michael for many years and play on the album.

Expect ambient soundscapes and haunting vocals underpinned by guitar, piano and strings.

Isobel Anderson is a Belfast-based musician and sound artist, originally from Brighton in East Sussex. To date, Isobel has self-released and produced three studio albums and has a PhD in Sound Art. Her music has over 15 million plays on Spotify, and has been played on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC 6 Music and The Guardian’s Music Podcast. Isobel features on two of Passenger’s albums, and has released a collaboration EP with violinist Ruby Colley titled The Sussex Sessions.

“I love this record… Real effortless simplicity. Dark path is a great album.” Jamie Cullum, BBC Radio 2

This will be their last show for a short while, as they are embarking on a short break so don’t miss out!

Tickets are on sale now at Price £12 including refreshments


Portico to feature on Channel 4

On Thursday night at 8pm Portico’s restoration will feature amongst that of seven other properties on Channel 4’s “Great British Buildings: Restoration of the Year” programme.

Presenters Kevin McCloud and Anna Keay showcase the most incredible restorations of historic buildings from around the UK. From palaces to watermills, department stores to music halls, they unfold nine centuries of history told through treasured places that have been brought back from the brink. These are bold interventions demanding great craft skills, enormous dedication and budgets that run into millions.

This second episode, on Thursday 30th March, explores several wonderful buildings of the nineteenth century, in the Victorian category of the competition.  Anna Keay and her team spent a week filming at Portico and at Northern Ireland’s two other entries: Mount Stewart and Sion Mills stables in Co Tyrone.  Portico is a grade A listed Greek Revival temple and widely held to be one of the best examples of its type in Great Britain and Ireland.  The restoration included everything from the ridge tiles to the subfloors and the result is a stunning landmark in Portaferry and a great credit to the foresight of those people who built the church in the mid 19th century as well as to those who recently restored it.

Prtico’s restoration was driven by the Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church (FPPC) who raised the £1.5m necessary for that project.  The primary funder was the Heritage Lottery Fund but 24 other charities made significant contributions and a very successful crowd funding campaign raised over £70,000.  Last May HRH The Prince of Wales reopened the building which is now an arts and heritage centre.  In the last 10 months Portico has held over 65 events.  Later this year from 26th – 29th May they will host their annual four day music festival “Festiv’Ards” featuring superb classical music ranging from organ concerts through clarinet, string quartet, piano, vocal and cello recitals (further information at

Ian McDonnell, chair of FPPC Portico’s restoration said “Portico has already won several prizes and many accolades and is a wonderful example and lead for those who own a listed building and aren’t quite sure how to rescue it.  To have the work that we’ve done recognized in this way on national television is a great compliment to the many people involved in the project, in particular Bill Maxwell our conservation architect”.

At the end of the episode Kevin and Anna hear which building the Judges from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have shortlisted to be in the running for the ultimate accolade of ‘Restoration of the Year’.

Put all your eggs in one Borough this year!

This year’s Easter activities in Ards & North Down will be bigger and better than ever! Celebrations will stretch right across the weekend.

World Number 2 Adam Raga will appear in Bangor as part of the Springtime Carnival event on Easter Monday.

Starting on Good Friday in Newtownards a colourful carnival parade will celebrate the awakening of Spring with budding flowers, Spring street art, fires and fairies Look out for mythical and magical creatures, a giant farmer and his animals and fantastic live music!

In Conway Square 12pm-5pm there will be the finest street theatre including interactive 3D art workshops, Bruce Airhead and his six-foot balloon, and junk orchestral duo Bang On. The Spectacular Spring Carnival will leave at 3pm, details of the route can be found on

On Easter Sunday, there will be plenty to do at Cockle Row between 2-4pm with Easter crafts, Plant and Play garden workshop, archery, traditional music and Tales of the Wild Animal Roadshow

Easter Monday in Bangor at 3pm the superb Springtime Carnival will leave Bangor Castle and travel through the town for all to marvel!

Also on Easter Monday Moto Trail NI Motorcycle club will be holding the biggest Bangor Trial bike display ever in the McKee Clock Arena with an eye opening daredevil course. This year’s trial bike rider highlight will be multi-award winner and current World number 2 Adam ‘The Destroyer’ Raga. Adam is no stranger to Bangor having made his arena debut at the tender age of 16. The event will start at 12 o’clock with two qualifying heats of breath-taking stunts and manoeuvres before the final at 4pm. This show is not to be missed!

The 7 times World Champion will also be running a Trials School while he is here, for further information log on to

Lots more family fun will take place from 12pm-5pm with a free Land train on the promenade and an array of street art and live cartoon drawings at Project 24. Everybody gets the chance to take part in these amazing art pieces, you won’t be able to resist stopping to take part, or popping back to see how things are going the order of the day. The North Down Museum will have a fabulous Easter Trial. Tickets £1. Follow clues throughout the museum in order to solve the puzzle and get your Easter egg. Afterwards make Easter crafts to take home. A great time for all the family!

So spring into springtime with these fantastic events throughout the borough this Easter weekend!

For further information, check

Ards International Guitar Festival – Don’t Miss Out!

With The Ards International Guitar Festival just around the corner, Newtownards is gearing up for the full programme of events which will see the town come alive with the sounds of classical, blues, folk, jazz, bluegrass and even some rock from some of the best guitar talent around.

The Ards and North Down Borough Council festival, runs from 5 – 9 April and features something for everyone with many of the events already sold out.

On Thursday 6 April, The Festival is delighted to host Will McNichol & Luke Selby with special guests The Joseph Leighton Trio in a very special evening at Ards Arts Centre. Will Nichol has won numerous awards for his playing and composition and is a Fellow of Trinity College London and a former winner of Guitarist Magazine’s Acoustic Guitarist of the Year. Luke Selby is a sought-after session drummer who has studied with some of the finest musicians in his field, supported by emerging talent Joseph Leighton, this celebration of young guitar talent will be an evening not to be missed.

The world renowned musician Jon Gomm will take to the stage in The Queen’s Hall on Friday 7 April. The UK based guitarist who combines draw-dropping guitar skills and artistic soul to craft compositions will be supported by Becky Langan and Amrit Sond, two remarkable percussive fingerstyle guitarists, making this gig a real treat for music lovers – bound to be a festival highlight!

On Sunday 9 April, The Queen’s Hall plays host to Songbirds On Sunday, a special concert by Sarah McQuaid, one of Europe’s hardest working and most talented fingerstyle guitarists. With special guests Eilidh Patterson and Brigid O’Neill, this will be an evening of beautiful voices and magical guitar sounds bringing together and celebrating female folk and acoustic talent.

Other highlights this year include the jazz guitarist Hugh Buckley in conversation and in session with Ronnie Greer. This relaxed afternoon of music and chat will feature the acclaimed Dublin-based guitarist Hugh in conversation with jazz guitar legend Ronnie and will also feature a number of performances by Hugh and Ronnie, solo and together. This event is taking place in Ards Arts Centre on Saturday 8 April.  If you fancy Sunday brunch with a difference, then the Classic Album Brunch event on Sunday 9 April might be the thing for you! Award-winning broadcaster Ralph McClean discusses the life and work of Jimi Hendrix, accompanied by clips of Jimi’s landmark guitar solo, songs and performances.

Ards International Guitar Festival is a must for the music enthusiast.  For ticket details or to view the full programme please visit the website  or alternatively call Ards Arts Centre on 028 9181 0803

Dark comedy unearths the secrets and lies that bind the FAMLA together.

Tinderbox Theatre Company unearths long buried family secrets in Famla by acclaimed writer John McCann.

Haunting, hilarious and heartbreaking, Famla dares to challenge the stories we tell ourselves to hide the truth of who we really are. Directed by Patrick J O’ Reilly with incredible performances by Tara Lynne O’ Neill, Rhodri Lewis and Hayley McQuillan, Famla is a theatrical feast not to be missed.

Hector has passed this place all her young life. An old house. Must be a hundred years old. Maybe more. Looks abandoned. Festering. She never really gave the house a second thought. Until now when she needs a place to escape to. She discovers someone is still living inside. Someone spiteful. Refusing to budge. Clinging on…


Famla director Patrick J O’Reilly, appointed as Tinderbox Artistic Director last year, says the play will resonate with audiences everywhere.

 “Every family has buried secrets and lies that we hope will never come to surface but John’s play beautifully digs them up and reveals the truth for us all to witness. With its riotous, nightmarish, grotesque and juicy behavior and dialogue, John creates a menacing and brooding atmosphere that will keep audiences wondering what’s coming next as it twists and turns between light and shade. He also paints a vivid picture of a small rural community in which you can almost see the curtains twitching and hear the tongues wagging of those bursting to know, feeling it’s their right to know what’s going on behind closed doors in this mysterious house.”

Famla playwright John McCann sees parallels between the answers sought by his characters and the wider debate about how we deal with the past In Northern Ireland.

 “The lives of the characters in Famla have been blighted by what happened many years previously. The problem is, they each have very different notions concerning what actually took place. A key moment in the play shows characters deliberately placing themselves in an imagined future where they have a chance to practice and experience what it might be like to actively reclaim and redefine your past. If successful they will potentially unlock their future. A key question for me is: will this imagined future manage to contain their different versions or be held hostage by them. Also, when will you know it’s the right time to stop re-hashing and rehearsing an imagined future and start living instead?”

Famla is recommended for ages 16 + and will be staged at The Market Place Theatre in Armagh on Saturday 1 April at 8pm. Tickets are priced £13.50 and £11.50 (concession) and can be booked by phoning (028) 3752 1821 or online at

To keep up-to-date with the latest news at the Market Place Theatre, you can follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter ( where you will find all the latest information, special offers and video previews.

Ronnie Greer and Nigel Mooney come to Flowerfield!

Blues guitar legend Ronnie Greer will entertain the crowds at Flowerfield on Thursday 6th April with his special guest Nigel Mooney.

Ronnie and Nigel are two of Ireland’s most popular blues and jazz guitarists and they will be collaborating for the first time at Flowerfield. Their musical sounds are reminiscent of the great jazz albums of the 1950’s and 1960’s with their inspiration stemming from guitarists such as Jimmy Smith.

Nigel has been a leading charismatic figure on the Dublin jazz and blues scene since the 1980’s. It is no wonder that he commands much admiration amongst fans, with his expressive hard- bop guitar sounds and flawless sense of pitch.

Ronnie’s distinctive guitar style, merging Chicago blues style licks with be bop jazz lines, has been critically acclaimed as world class clearly signifying his level of talent.

Joining Ronnie and Nigel on stage will be Scott Flanigan on Hammond organ and Darren Beckett on drums, two of Irelands very finest musicians.

Expect a night of hard swinging, blues drenched music played by some of the best in the business.

The concert begins at 8pm and tickets can be purchased at Flowerfield Reception Area at a price of £12 or online where there will be an added booking fee.  Please visit for more information.

Hotel Offers of the Week!

Northern Ireland boasts a unique collection of irresistible places to stay including quirky B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and hidden gem properties for an ideal short break and Discover NI has selected the best offers of the week for you to choose from.


·         Golf on the Causeway Coast, Portrush Atlantic Hotel, Co. Antrim, from £120pps.
Enjoy a one-night break on the world-famous Causeway Coastal Route with one night’s bed and breakfast at the three-star Portrush Atlantic Hotel situated in the town centre of Portrush overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Deal also includes a round of golf at the renowned Royal Portrush Golf Club – host to The Open 2019. Valid April – October. Subject to availability. To book call (028) 708 22311

·         Suite Treat, Manor House Country Hotel, Co. Fermanagh, from £50pps.
Located in the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands, the award-winning four-star Manor House Country Hotel combines old world charm with modern hotel luxury. This limited offer gives you the opportunity to enjoy a one-night stay in a Junior Suite overlooking Lough Erne with full Irish breakfast in the Belleek Restaurant and complimentary Manor House Chocolates in your room on arrival. Valid until 30 April. Subject to availability. To book call (028) 68 622200

·         Girlie Break, Silverbirch Hotel, Co. Tyrone, from £60pps.
Found in the bustling market town of Omagh, the three-star Silverbirch Hotel is ideal for business trips, family vacations and romantic breaks away showcasing classic interiors in modern, elegant surroundings. Escape with the girls and enjoy an overnight stay with full Irish breakfast, pre-dinner cocktail in a VIP reserved booth and dinner in the Barreta Bar & Grill.  Valid until 30 November. Subject to availability. To book call (028) 82 242520

10 exciting things to do this week in NI!

Tourism NI has put together a list of 10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland (March 27 – April 2).

  •  Belfast Film Festival, various locations, Belfast, until April 8. Belfast Film Festival launches its 17th annual festival of premieres, unique events and the best in world cinema. With over 100 films from 30 countries, the tantalising line-up includes new international cinema and documentaries, critically acclaimed television, features and shorts from local filmmakers, and plenty of post-screening discussions throughout the city.
  • Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea, The Argory, Co. Armagh, March 27. Treat your mum or someone special this year to Afternoon Tea at The Argory this Mothering Sunday. This stunning nineteenth century Victorian mansion will provide the perfect backdrop for an afternoon tea consisting of delicate finger sandwiches, Victoria sponge, homemade scones and other traditional delights.
  • Celtic Soul – Songbook of Van Morrison, Strule Arts Centre, Co. Fermanagh, April 1. Celtic Soul celebrates one of the truly great singer/songwriters of all time: our own Van Morrison. Acclaimed by devout Van fans wherever they perform, you’ll hear his hits and classic album tracks in a packed show.  Celtic Soul will take you through the songbook of a musical legend! Tickets from £12.  To book call 028 82 247831.
  • Comet Man Stargazing, Cushendun, Co. Antrim, March 31. Join Nicholas Wright as he tells the story of the fascinating life, works and achievements of Cushendun born Astronomer Andrew Claude de la Crommelin. This event gives people the opportunity to explore the night sky and enjoy the wonders of the Universe in a stargazing event funded by the Royal Society and supported by the Northern Ireland Armature Astronomy Society. Booking required. To book call 028 27 660230.
  • Opera Film Club: The Magic Flute, Portico, Co. Down, April 1. Portico’s second Opera Film Club show is Mozart’s Magic Flute from the Dutch National Opera in Association with the English National Opera.  Join renowned music critic Michael Quinn for an introduction to the evening’s film and then sit back and enjoy world class opera in the glorious surroundings of Portico.  A complimentary glass of wine will be served at the interval.
  • Chekhov’s Shorts, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, March 30 – 31. Including ‘The Evils of Tobacco’, ‘The Dimwit’, ‘The Bear’, Swan Song’ and ‘The Proposal’, this is Chekhov at his comic best, before Uncle Vanya started shooting, The Seagull got stuffed, The Cherry Orchard was ‘car-parked’ and The Three Sisters started moaning. Why spend an evening going to see one great play when you can see five in under two hours for the price of one?
  • Strabane Drama Festival, The Alley Theatre, Co. Tyrone, until April 1. Strabane Drama Festival is an integral part of the cultural and creative identity of the area. With a mix of comedy, tragedy, classical pieces and original writing, there will be something for everyone to enjoy. Highlights include Blackbird, Dancing at Lughnasa and Portia Coughlan.
  • Car Bazaar, Mount Stewart, Co. Down, April 1. Take in the glorious sights of Mount Stewart and pick up a bargain or two at Car Bazaar. Join the crowd and sell your unwanted items or browse around the many stalls for treasures.
  • The Game, MAC, Belfast, April 1. This challenging show gives audiences an insight into a world that sits uncomfortably beneath the surface of the day-to-day lives. It is a play that’s also a real-life game, with levels and consequences. Five new men have volunteered each night. These men have never played ‘The Game‘ before. They’ve no idea what they’re about to do, they won’t be given a script.  All you have to do is watch.
  • Waggy Races, Portstewart Strand, Derry~Londonderry, March 26. Waggy Races is a cross country fun run where you compete as a team with your dog! Pack your sunglasses, your finest beach attire and your dog as this year’s race will take place on the golden sands of one of Northern Ireland’s finest beaches, Portstewart Strand. The race will start at low tide, which means lots of beach to work with and the BIG START will be at the entrance to the beach!

Jacqueline from whatsonni shares her pick of what’s on this weekend across NI


Portico and the Portaferry Hotel are hosting a Wedding Fair in Portaferry on Saturday 25th March from 12.00 to 4.00pm. With classical architecture modelled on the Greek Temple of Nemesis, Portico is the perfect venue for a romantic and elegant wedding. This beautifully restored former church is now a non-denominational grade A listed venue that hosts weddings of all kinds. Stunning architectural features such as original wooden pews and beautiful stained glass windows combine with discreet modern technology to provide a venue worthy of the gorgeous natural scenery all around.


As part of Navan Fort’s series of FREE events, they are bringing to you lots of mini-beasts, bugs and creepy crawlies this Sunday 26th March.  Get up close and person with some of the bugs and beasties that live around us and some more unusual characters too!  With friends from Mantella Environmental Education they will highlight the roles these important animals play in our local environment.  Come along and learn what a millipede feels like, why spiders have eight eyes and why some of our birds of prey are making a comeback after years of absence.  This event coincides with Mother’s Day so is the perfect opportunity for you and your family to spend a lovely time together at no cost!


This Sunday delve off the beaten track to explore ‘real’ caving, deep inside the Marble Arch Caves System. Meander through wild cave passages, climb through boulder chambers and squeeze though the famous flyover to emerge into the Marble Arch Showcave, before returning to the boulder chambers on your way out, muddy but proud!


Strabane Drama Festival begins this Friday 24th March and runs until Saturday 1st April at 8.00pm each evening at the Alley Theatre.  The programme include Heroes by Gerald Sibleyras, Blackbird by David Harrower, Eclipsed by Patricia Burke–Brogan, Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh and Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel plus many more!


Hailed by the New York Times as “inspirational”, Wonderland is an enchanting musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with a huge heart, a medley of magic and a whole lot of wonder.   Here a timely and touching story of love in all its forms, it’s an adventurous exploration of who we are, who we want to be and the power of everyday magic in our lives.   In the tradition of the best stage musicals, Wonderland boasts a catchy score full of songs by Frank Wildhorn, writer of pop hits including Whitney Houston’s ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go?’ and theatre classics including ‘This is the Moment’ from his internationally acclaimed show, Jekyll & Hyde.  Starring Wendi Peters & Dave Willetts this week from Tuesday 21st to Saturday 25th March at the Millennium Forum.


Easter’s almost here so why not pick up a few gifts and treats at Raceview Mill’s indoor monthly Food & Craft Market.  Returning Saturday 25th March, 11am – 3pm, the market is a fabulous mix of the finest in local food, arts and crafts with over 40 traders in attendance.  Visitors can also treat themselves to a bite of lunch and a cup of coffee in the Red Brick Coffee House.  Additional amenities include FREE onsite parking, public toilets and disabled access.  Raceview Mill is only 35 minutes from Belfast and just over an hour to Derry/Londonderry.


The Fine and Dandy Market returns to the Crescent Arts Centre this Sunday 26th March. Fine and Dandy is a marketplace showcasing the work of independent artists, designers, illustrators and crafters alongside stalls from collectors of records, vintage wares and high quality, local food & drink produce. FREE ENTRY 11.30am to 3.30pm.

­For more details on these events and to add your events free go to Follow us on twitter @whatsonNI and on facebook at for news, competitions and what’s on near you.

Holywood Harmony Festival Announce Stellar 3-Day Line-up

Chart toppers Hothouse Flowers among the headliners!

THE Holywood Harmony Festival has announced a three-day line-up that is set to boost the growing reputation of the volunteer-run spectacle.

Hothouse Flowers, Ulaid & Duke Special and Gareth Dunlop will headline each day from Friday June 2 to Sunday June 4 respectively.

Now in its third year the County Down festival is a family-friendly event, guaranteed to further enhance what was so well-run that not only did it bring in tourists to the town, but was shortlisted for the Best Tourism Event at the North Down Business Awards for last year’s efforts.

On Friday June 2, Ulaid and Duke Special will be supported by The Emerald Armada and Red House.

On Saturday June 3, The Hothouse Flowers will be supported by The Nat Youle Band and singer/songwriter Ciaran McElhinney.

On Sunday June 4, Gareth Dunlop will be supported by Dana Masters and Sam Wickens.

“We’re delighted to be able to secure such well respected and well known artists,” said organiser Mari Jackson. “In addition to the superb headliners, to have a top lineup of support artists from across Northern Ireland coming to entertain Holywood and a raft of visitors is brilliant.”

The festival is a non-profit organisation, and to help make 2017 even better at the festival there is a crowd-funding campaign to lay on other events, including free ones for children, families and the elderly.

“With your support, no matter how big or small Holywood will be celebrating an event that helps put the town on the map as a tourist destination, brings people to the shops and businesses in the town, and gives us all three wonderful days of musical fun,” said Mari.

For tickets log onto or check out and for more information