7 Tips to Improve Your Small Business Marketing

When it comes to marketing your small business it’s not always easy to find the time to dedicate to a sustained campaign.

However, making a few small changes and setting aside some regular time can help businesses to start seeing a difference sooner rather than later.

Andi Jarvis, the Founder of Eximo Marketing, holds an MSc in Marketing and has extensive experience delivering both digital and traditional marketing campaigns for a wide range of clients.

A regular conference speaker and guest lecturer, Andi delivered a LunchtimeLearning session facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District), sharing seven practical and easy-to-implement digital marketing tips for small business owners:

1. Focus on your customers

It might seem like an obvious tip, but many people can get distracted from their main goal with vanity metrics and chasing after the next “big thing” in marketing. Andi is a firm believer in making sure your marketing efforts are focused on the most important thing to your business – your customer: “Marketing is about getting the message to your customer in a way that they understand, through a channel that has their attention, to get them to take the action that you want them to take” said Andi.

2. Spend what you can afford

The marketing channels and methods available to you to help you reach your customer are always evolving. From print to radio, and from social media to video, there are many tools available to help you share your marketing message. For small businesses especially, this means maximising your marketing opportunities while spending what you can afford.

Andi explained: “Lots of companies ask me how much they should be spending on Facebook adverts, on creating a video for their brand, the simple answer is spending what you can afford. If you can afford to hire a videographer to create a professional video, then go for it. If you can’t, use the tools available to you to make your own.”

3. Use the tools available to you

There are so many tools and resources available now that you don’t need to be an expert to use. One of Andi’s favourites is Canva: “For good quality images and graphics, it helps to use a graphic designer” he said, adding: “If you have a flair for design, that’s great, and tools like Canva can help you create images for social media, your website, etc. If you can use it, make the most of it. If you have the budget for a designer, spend it.”

4. Make your content F.A.B.

People make purchase decisions based on the Features you tell them about, but this information is usually incomplete or too technical. Explain the Advantages and Benefits as well to engage customers and aid their purchasing decision. Andi’s top tip? Tell the story backwards:

Andi said: “Talk about the Benefits first, then the Advantages for the customer, before listing the Features that make the Benefits and Advantages possible. Humans engage with narrative, so tell your customers the story of how your product with benefit them. There will be fewer benefits in comparison to advantages and features, but they are important to identify.”

5. Don’t forget about the dinosaurs

A typical Facebook post has organic reach of around 7% of the page’s total likes. Email has an average open rate of 15-25%. Direct mail can be more expensive but also very effective. Not sure which to use? Go back to asking a key marketing question – where are your customers?

Andi’s advice is: “If you are considering direct mail, target current customers first and spend what you can afford. Useful mail sits around the house for a week or two and gets undivided attention when it is being read. Why not try a blended approach? Stats show social and email campaigns improve following a direct mail campaign.”

6. Always have a plan

Andi explained: “If it’s important for your business to drive new customers and increase sales, why do you only give it a couple of minutes attention, or post sporadically on social media?”

Some form of planning is better than no planning at all. Get a 12-month wall calendar and plan out your marketing campaigns in advance.

7. Customer reviews and testimonials are key

Make it your mission to collect customer feedback and use it in your marketing. Facebook and Google offer user-friendly review options, and for those in restaurants, travel, or tourism, TripAdvisor is still top.

“91% of customers trust a review more than a sales person” said Andi.

“Got a bad review? Think of it as invaluable feedback that you otherwise wouldn’t know about your business, and use it to make your business better. Taking proactive action and responding positively to a negative review is an opportunity to gain a loyal customer.”

Want to hear even more top marketing tips from Andi? Check out the full recording of his session on the Cathedral Quarter website – https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/whats-on/lunchtimelearning-7-tips-to-improve-your-marketing

To find more Lunchtime Learning sessions go to https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/lunchtime-learning

12 Top Tips For Working From Home With Children

When it comes to adjusting to working from home with children in the house some workers have found it easier than others.

Not just that, having to juggle home-schooling with the many other tasks required can make working from home far more stressful than the daily commute to the office.

Michelle Tyson, founder and director of Tyson Wilson Recruitment, says with more and more of her clients giving employees the ability to continue working from home there’s going to have to be flexibility on both sides.

She added: “Whilst working from home might seem like a great chance to spend time with your children and get those odd jobs done around the house while saving time on the daily commute the reality is much different.

“Many households will be struggling to exist together in smaller, confined spaces. Both parents may require desk and work space as well as the children for their homework and some homes just simply will not have the luxury of space.

“Add to that the stress of being a present parent, home schooling, and the many other distractions that come from being a parent or guardian and it can be a recipe for disaster for some workers.

“The most important thing both employees and employers will need to recognise is that for some people productivity will go up and for others it will go down. This doesn’t mean one employee is better than another, it simply means they have different work environments.”

Michelle says becoming “adaptable and flexible” but “organised and focused” are vital qualities to master in order to successfully achieve a work/life balance during lockdown.

She added: “There are many ideas out there of what will make the perfect home working scenario but it’s not a one size fits all situation. It is absolutely imperative to understand that your children have their own personalities and their own individual needs which only you will know best how to deal with. Your space and logistical scenario may be unique, crowded or non-existent too.

“Taking advice is important but also, so is being flexible to create a situation that works for you and your family and ensuring your employer understands where you will be, when you will be there and how they can get in touch with you.”

Here are Michelle’s 12 top tips for working from home with children:

1. A flexible routine

That sounds odd, but the core of it is that while a routine is vital for you and your children, it will be disrupted simply because they are children… Ideally you can set out break times that reflect your normal working practices that the children can follow too, but just be prepared to change. It might be that you take more breaks and complete the tasks after they go to bed, or if they are teenagers before they get up.

2. Communicate

Your boss needs to know that you are working at home with your tiny terrors. Ask for reasonable deadlines for work, update them when things will be ahead of schedule or slightly behind. 

If your workplace has a joint working app or calendar this can help, but nothing beats a quick call, text or email. Try to stay off WhatsApp and their ilk as you will become easily distracted.

3. The 10-second rule

Every parent should know this but is worth reminding ourselves. Your lovely child will, at some point demand attention. Even if you are in the middle of a complex task or with a deadline looming. It is too easy to snap at them. You wouldn’t do that in the office, so don’t do it now. Count inside your head to 10, discuss it, or explain that mummy/daddy will be with them in five minutes or 10 minutes. Ask them to set a timer, set yourself one and hopefully any temptation to shout will be gone.

4. The magic of headphones

They really can be magic. Whether it is a conference call or just listening to some music make sure you explain to your children that when you have your headphones on you are not to be disturbed.

5. Workspace

Whether it’s a bedroom, dining room, or the conservatory you need to have a space that you can set up all the equipment you need, including some extra areas if needed. Try to avoid spaces used by the rest of the family such as the living room or kitchen.

6. Homework/home schooling

Your children may or may not have been given tasks by their school. It is important that you treat it the same way you would if you are making sure they complete their homework by a set time, ready to be checked. If they have questions or are having difficulties, you can take a break to help, but just a short break.

7. Work buddies

There will be other people in your work that are going through the same experience. Keep in touch with them, exchange hints, moan to each other, laugh at the absurdity of home schooling and working at the same time, whatever it takes.

8. Exercise

You will probably be sitting down for most of the day. So will your children. Make sure to get up, stretch, move around. You can’t usually do that in the office, but you’re at home. Make up some fun games with the children, look up some of the online resources for children’s exercise and join in. And, with them get out, walk the dog, jog around the park, just make sure that you all get fresh air and daylight, remembering to keep social distance from anyone also out.

9. Task allocation

At work you may have a routine that the various tasks in every project are allocated, with the timing understood. Can you do the same at home with children? Yes, but only by thinking it through. Can your youngest tidy away their toys in 30 minutes in an exchange for a treat? Can your stroppy teen earn goodwill points towards a gift by washing the dishes? The goodwill points are something all children can understand (smiley faces for younger children) and will eventually see them getting down to eagerly helping out with tasks.

10. Limit screen time

For you, your children and anyone else make sure you have limits on screen time. It will be difficult but worth it.

11. Time off

No weekend, evening or early morning work. If you don’t normally work outside office hours don’t start now.

12. End of day procedure 

You’ve finished your tasks for the day, it’s five-to-five. Make a note of what you have completed and a note of tomorrow’s tasks. Close the laptop, pour yourself a cuppa and spend some time with your children. Perhaps once or twice a week have set activities: a movie night when the entire family agrees what to watch; a board games tournament across several evenings; or, learning something new such as chess or a craft – just as long as it isn’t members of the family learning a musical instrument – that way madness lies.

If you are in the position where you need to take a break from your current position or want to add to your income during these uncertain times Tyson Wilson Recruitment are currently recruiting a number of temporary and permanent roles.

For more information email Michelle at info@tysonwilsonrecruitment.co.uk or go to tysonwilsonrecruitment.co.uk/jobs

Talking To Children On The Autistic Spectrum Range About Covid-19

The ongoing crisis of Covid-19 has many of us extremely worried, given what we have seen on the news about what is happening across these islands and the unfolding picture across Europe.

However, the confusion we experience can be multiplied several fold for children on the autistic spectrum where the confusion, disruption in routine and school closures can be distressing.

For parents and carers they will know where their child is on the range, and what information they can absorb.

Meta Auden of Spectra Sensory Clothing, who has a daughter on the autistic spectrum, said that this is a distressing time for parents.

“We are bombarded on the news and online with this unfolding crisis,” she said. “But we mustn’t let it overwhelm our children. It is crucial that we take the time to understand it ourselves and communicate appropriately.”

Meta said that a lot will depend on how information is conveyed.

“It will be the case that they have questions and we must not try and sugar coat what is a serious matter, especially as it may affect relatives that your child has an attachment to.

“The first thing you need to remember is you are not alone in dealing with this. Other parents and carers are considering how to cope and have the same worries that you may have.

“If you have a friends network reach out to it through your phone, the internet or social media. There is a lot of comfort to hear ‘I know what you mean’ from another parent.

“The exchange of tips and ideas are vital, even just to have someone to speak to that understands.”

Meta said that there are online resources that can help. Mencap has a downloadable easy read guide: https://www.mencap.org.uk/advice-and-support/health/coronavirus. The National Autistic Society has a dedicated page that is updated regularly: https://www.autism.org.uk/services/nas-schools/vanguard/news/2020/march/coronavirus-(covid-19)-advice.aspx

“These and other resources can help guide you in discussing the issues with your child,” said Meta. “However, the right here and now is when we have to confront the disruption.

“The disruption to routine must be explained. Why they cannot visit their grandparents, why they cannot go to school, and so on must be explained frequently and with cool, simple understood terms.”

She was keen for parents to avoid situations that will increase stress.

“We all want to know the latest information as it emerges, but the round the clock media coverage can be overwhelming for adults let alone for children with autism,” said Meta. “You need to limit their exposure to it, as well as what you watch. When you watch or listen to the news be prepared to explain, discuss, chat or ease worries.

“It might be an idea to check online the latest updates from the likes of BBC News and give yourself some thinking time.”

Meta said that comfort is not always easy to give.

“We all know as parents and carers that there are things that your child reaches out for.

Sitting in their favourite chair, wearing one item of clothing that is special, a toy they love, or their pet need to be on hand when stress triggers a response.”

Meta said that all parents know that the distraction techniques that work best for their child, but the emphasis on regular handwashing could be an issue.

“We all want to keep everyone in the household safe but trying to explain to a child on the autistic spectrum the importance of regular washing can be challenging. Try and work out what will work best. The advice of singing for 20 seconds may be of help, but even more might be the videos online that explain it such as the one where someone uses black ink to show how to wash hands is useful so that they understand how thorough it needs to be. Make a game of it, if possible. ‘Let’s kill the invisible germs’ or such like can make it fun.”

The importance of issues such as coughing and sneezing, Meta said, can be tricky.

“Remember the simple advice: Catch it, Bin It, Kill it and repeat over and over again.”
One area that might be a real issue is when your partner returns from work if they are a key worker.

“The advice, rightly so at this time, is that they should change their clothes, and wash or have a shower before contact with any member of the family,” she said. “If games work for your child, get them to time how long it is before they get to see their mummy or daddy after they get home. For some children they can see how much time it takes each day and if mummy or daddy can be quicker.”

However, Meta said that with the spread of Covid-19 there may come a time when your child needs medical support.

“The thought of your child having to go into hospital, without support is frankly terrifying,” she said. “Remember that this is unlikely, and that the vast majority of children experience mild symptoms. If you have to contact your GP or out of-hours service, make sure that you explain your child’s circumstances.

But Meta said that above all, keep calm: “If we as parents can keep calm, discuss everything in a way that you know will be absorbed and do not emphasise it this will be reflected in your child.”

Of course there can be challenges in visualising the issues for younger children. “There is a great resource on www.littlepuddin.ie with pictures and simple terms that can be downloaded and might be useful to print out and have at hand.”

Above all, Meta said, take care of yourself and your own mental health.

“This is a troubling time,” she said. “We are worried and concerned about our child and family circle. We will all be doing our best, but we should know that this will pass in time.

And, remember that our child is the gift that we never expected, with a character that sets them apart and deserving every second of our love.

“Look after yourself, look after your family and communicate as much as possible and as frequently as possible for each other.”

For more information about Meta’s company Spectra Sensory Clothing which sources, manufactures and retails clothing, accessories and other products aimed at people on the autism spectrum go to spectrasensoryclothing.co.uk

6 Top Tips For Keeping Fit At Home During Isolation

6 Top Tips For Keeping Fit At Home During Isolation

It can be hard to think about your fitness, whilst in isolation. But it is important to keep fit and healthy whilst being at home especially if you are used to having regular exercise.

Co Down model and author of The HouseWork WorkOut Patience Bradley said now is the time for people to get to grips with their personal fitness.

She added: “Even if you don’t usually take regular exercise, the extra time you might have on your hands can be a great opportunity to focus on your fitness”.

Former Vogue model and TV dancer Patience Bradley releases her latest book The HouseWork WorkOut Picture by Debbie Deboo Photography. Publicist & Publisher: Tina Calder, Excalibur Press, 07982628911 / tina@excaliburpress.co.uk

Here are Patience’s 6 top tips for keeping fit in isolation:

1. Make a Plan 

In isolation it can be hard to know what to do with your day and you may often seem overwhelmed but not having the structure of going about your daily life.

Patience says planning is the key to success: “Making a plan can be the perfect way to structure your day and allows you to see where you can fit exercise in. Plan how much time per day you intend to spend on fitness whether it be 30 mins or an hour and try to stick to this. You will then feel you’ve accomplished something once you complete it.”

2. Wake Up With A Positive Mindset

Patience said: “Mindset is a huge part of keeping fit, it can be easy to slip into a negative way of thinking when you are stuck in the house. But remember everything you are grateful for and even write a list of things you are grateful for to put things into perspective. Lying in bed all day can reduce your mood, so it’s important to get up out of bed and release some endorphins.”

3. Make Exercise Part of Your Housework 

“Isolation can be the perfect time to get housework done or even odd jobs that you’ve been putting off. You can incorporate exercise into the tasks. For example rather than standing try running on the spot. Try doing calf raises whilst washing the dishes or lunging while you vacuum or clean. These exercises will help you keep your muscle strength whilst in isolation” explained Patience.

4. Use What You Have

You might not have your own treadmill in your house, but Patience says you don’t need fancy equipment to get a good workout.

“Running up and down stairs can burn around 500 calories per hour” she said, adding: “This is a great way to still be able to do cardio from the confines of your home. If you have a garden this is the perfect time to use it to get some fresh air whilst completing your exercise.”

5. Get the Family Involved

“There’s nothing better than turning your workout into a fun family affair” said Patience.

“If your kids are off school and stuck in the house, get them away from those screens and release their energy through exercise. Help each other to stay motivated and even create little competitions to make it more fun.”

6. Try Breathing Exercises 

“As well as your body it is important to make sure your lungs are healthy at this time and for this you can do breathing exercises. Take a deep breath in through your nose and a longer slower breath through your mouth – do this three times and spend some time thinking about how you feel.”

The HouseWork WorkOut by Patience Bradley is published by Excalibur Press and available from Amazon or www.excaliburpress.co.uk/book-shop

Recruitment For Temporary Workers On The Rise According To Belfast Agency

Rise in jobs for temporary workers in response to Covid-19

Northern Ireland recruitment agency Tyson Wilson Temps has reported a surge in temporary workers in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as more employers needing to respond to the rapidly emerging business needs.

Michelle Tyson CEO of Tyson Wilson Temps, Tyson Wilson Recruitment

With a number of major employers having laid off staff the recruitment company is looking for further candidates to register and workplaces for candidates already registered.

Michelle Tyson, CEO of Tyson Wilson Temps – a division of Tyson Wilson Recruitment –  said: “We are looking for responsible employers who are reacting to the growing need for temporary workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

“We have a pool of candidates who have been registered with us in recent weeks and who are ready, willing and able to work.”

According to Michelle all Tyson Wilson candidates will be briefed on guidelines for protecting themselves and others from risk of infection before being sent for interview.

In addition to the existing pool of candidates they are looking for people to register for posts in call centres, retail, warehousing, administration, home working and stock control. A number of these fall into the government’s ‘key worker’ status.

Candidates are available right now in Belfast, Greater Belfast, Bangor, North Down, and Newry.

“Whilst the UK looks to be on a trajectory towards lockdown and has already implemented a number of working from home directives it is absolutely essential that key areas of recruitment are still being filled by those able to work,” said Michelle.

“We are working diligently to respond to those needs and are able to find staff quickly and efficiently for our clients.”

Established in 2015 Tyson Wilson Recruitment has developed its services for prospective employees and those with staffing requirements, including not charging a fee until appointment of successful candidates.

To apply for a post or to find out more about how we can help please visit tysonwilsonrecruitment.co.uk/jobs

Leading Catering Company Posh Nosh Ireland Launch Delivery & Collection Pantry Service Amid Covid-19 Crisis

Delivery & collection service to help social distancing

Posh Nosh Ireland has launched a range of meals that can be safely collected from its Bangor HQ or delivered direct to your door.

The Posh Nosh Pantry service, which will roll out across North Down and Belfast to begin with, is in response to the changing requirements of consumer needs during the Covid-19 crisis the company said.

With 30 years experience and a purpose built large 4000sq ftcatering and cooking facilitythe company can produce a wide range of meals in their kitchens,new developments means they will continue to maintain their incredibly high standards of hygiene.

Posh Nosh Ireland launch new pantry range. Pictured is co-owner and executive chef, Tolson Sherwood. For more information contact Tina Calder Excalibur Press 07305354209 tina@excaliburpress.co.uk

The online pantry service has been over a year in the making but owners Tolson and Lynda Sherwood decided to fast-track their plans following the cancellation of a number of large events giving them time to focus on completing planning for the new service.

Whilst the company has always offered a pantry service to its long-standing and regular business customers the new developments mean they are ramping up production and offering a wider range of menu items to residential consumers..

Co-owner and executive chef, Tolson Sherwood said: “We have always dabbled in the pantry but this is the first time we have found the time to launch it online.

“We hope this will help our local community, staff and friends in these uncertain times. Being in the hospitality industry we face several challenges ourselves in terms of the business so it makes sense for us to release these additional services sooner rather than originally planned as we want to do what we can to keep our staff in employment and protect the business for the uncertainty ahead.”

Meals on offer week to week can include Chilli Con Carne, Chicken Curry and Vegan Thai Curry amongst others, with a fresh menu being produced by Tolson each week.

“We are in a perfect position to provide a service to our local community in this difficult time,” said Philip Davidson, Front of House Manager of Posh Nosh Ireland, adding:  “We are delighted to have fast tracked out our Pantry launch and menu in the new online format.

“In terms of COVID-19 we have taken every precaution that we can, we have reduced staff on our base in Bangor so at a max we have three people on site.

“When collecting meals, we have our catering van that means a no touch approach to this, no doors no waiting in stores in crowded areas, we are totally cashless.”

All meals can be collected from the Posh Nosh trailer, which will be located outside their Bangor base in Balloo, meaning therefore no door handles or confined spaces to tackle.

In addition to collection a delivery service is available in Belfast, Bangor, Ards, Comber, Donaghadee, Holywood

All meals are produced in a sterile kitchen, packed into boxes, and placed in a blast chiller.

Most can be frozen, and can be stored in the fridge for between three and four days.

For those concerned about how to celebrate Mother’s Day, a special menu has been prepared.
“We have always had and will continue to maintain our 5 star rating for hygiene “

Full details are available from www.poshpantry.com.

10 Top Tips For Working From Home

With the current precautions being ramped up in light of the Covid-19 pandemic many companies are advising staff to work from home. Equally, if someone in a household shows symptoms current guidelines are that the household will have to self-isolate for at least 14 days.

But for many this will be the first time they have worked from home, as opposed to just checking emails.

Michelle Tyson from Tyson Wilson Recruitment said: “After the euphoria of not having to commute passes the reality is that working from home is still putting in the hours for your employer.

“It’s important to get it right from the beginning because showing that you can be productive from home will help to protect your job and help your employer stabilise the company in these uncertain times.”

Here are Michelle’s top tips:

1. Routine

“With all the distractions in the household, it is vital that from day one you establish a routine. That includes starting at the appropriate time, taking the same breaks as you would if still in the office” explained Michelle.

2. Workspace

Whether it’s a bedroom, dining room, or the conservatory you need to have a space that you can set up all the equipment you need, including some extra areas if needed. Try to avoid spaces used by the rest of the family such as the living room or kitchen.

3. Family

When working from home it is important to make sure that everyone knows that you will not be available for every whim. Tell your partner, and your children when you are taking a break.

4. Communication

Michelle said: “It is important for your work, and your morale, to keep in touch with your manager and colleagues. However, as well as email and phone calls Skype, Facetime and other devices means you can engage in virtual meetings that may be required. And, it’s one good reason why you shouldn’t just work in your pyjamas.”

5. VPN

If your employer has a Virtual Private Network, make sure to use that to help protect industrial confidentiality. Otherwise speak to your IT team about ways to keep everything secure.

6. Exercise

You will probably be sitting down for most of the day. Make sure to get up, stretch, move around. You can’t usually do that in the office, but you’re at home. And, get out, walk the dog, jog around the park, just make sure that you get fresh air and daylight.

7. Do something different

You may find that without the distractions of office life and meetings you have a little extra time around lunch or after you’ve completed your daily tasks. Bake, paint, garden -just do something different.

8. Time off

“No weekend, evening or early morning work. If you don’t normally work outside office hours don’t start now” said Michelle.

9. End of day procedure

You’ve finished your tasks for the day, it’s five-to-five. Make a note of what you have completed and a note of tomorrow’s tasks. Close the laptop, pour yourself a cuppa and…relax!

10. Finally

Make working from home fun. Can’t listen to music in the office? Crank up the tunes! Endless coffees and biscuits are on the work from home agenda. No suit/formal work wear, t-shirt, jeans or whatever you are comfortable wearing. No alcohol, however, no matter how tempted you are.

If you are in the position where you need to take a break from your current position or want to add to your income during these uncertain times Tyson Wilson Recruitment are currently recruiting a number of temporary and permanent roles.

For more information email Michelle at info@tysonwilsonrecruitment.co.ukor go to tysonwilsonrecruitment.co.uk/jobs

COVID-19 – Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council announces closures

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council will close all leisure, sports and cultural facilities to the public from close of business today (18 March) until further notice in response to COVID-19.

All events, exhibitions and courses are also cancelled.

Antrim Civic Centre and Mossley Mill remain open to the public as do all Community Centres and Pavilions. However, all classes, courses and bookings are cancelled at these venues.

The decision has been made following the latest expert advice from the Government, Public Health Agency and Department for Health regarding increasing efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Statutory Services including Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Environmental Health, Planning, Building Control, Parks & Cemeteries and Waste Collection Services will continue.

The Council will monitor this ongoing situation and will make changes as deemed necessary by the relevant authorities to help with these measures.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alderman John Smyth, said:

“This is a challenging and fast-moving state of affairs that requires careful decision making to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our residents, colleagues and families are protected at all times.

“The public must heed the advice of the experts and ensure they take all the essential measures to guard their safety and that of others, especially those more vulnerable during these difficult times.

“Both Civic Centres remain open, Council’s statutory services will continue, our staff will be reporting for work and our parks and recycling centres remain open.

“I would like to thank the Council staff working to maintain essential services, and those at the frontline of our Health Service or caring for others.

“I would urge residents across the Borough to remain calm, and to pull together so we can meet these challenges as a united and resilient community.”

Council Following Expert Advice on COVID 19

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is following expert government advice in response to the public health situation surrounding COVID-19.  

The Council is pro-actively planning for a number of contingency measures that may be required. The Chief Executive met with the Leaders of the Political Parties represented on the Council today and it was agreed that they will meet on a daily basis to review the situation.  

A Spokesperson said, “The Council is adhering to all advice and guidance issued by the Government, Public Health Agency and Department for Health and will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis, and will make any changes as deemed necessary by relevant authorities.

We would urge all residents to follow the expert advice on stopping the spread of COVID-19 and take all necessary precautions particularly regarding self-isolation and vulnerable groups.

“As part of Council efforts to contain the virus, additional hand sanitizers and hand washing guidance posters are in place in all public areas of Council buildings and facilities.  

The Council is also offering all employees support and advice, and is providing them with regular updates and information via text, email and on-site and on-line notices.  

“The Council is considering how we can support the community to help people who are vulnerable and isolated. “The Council’s Leisure centres are currently open, however due to the uncertainty around COVID-19, monthly MORE membership fees will not be charged until further notice.

MORE members can continue to use the leisure centres and facilities. This is subject to ongoing Public Health Agency advice which can be accessed via https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/or via a link hosted on the Council website.  

“All Council facilities remain open, and the Council’s core events programme is unchanged. We will of course endeavour to notify those attending third-party events at council facilities if these are not going ahead via social media platforms.”

20th Belfast Film Festival Postponed

It is with heavy hearts that we are announcing the rescheduling of the 20th Belfast Film Festival. 

To slow down the spread of COVID-19 and protect our guests, audiences, staff and volunteers, the festival, which was due to start on April 1st, will now be postponed until the autumn.  

We considered the ‘social distancing’ and digital models but yesterday, at an emergency board meeting, we decided unanimously that halfway measures would not work. 

Just over a week ago we launched our 20th anniversary programme to a room packed with hundreds of excited film lovers, and we have already sold 2,000 tickets.  

We want to respond imaginatively to this difficult time.  In order not to disappoint people too much, we will offer a few treats to our audience to thank them for their patience. A selection of online events will be available free for our audience, including legendary film producer Jeremy Thomas in Conversation with Mark Cousins; the Short Film Competition and Official Selection Shorts; and others to be confirmed. Key special events from the 2020 programme will be rescheduled as soon as it is possible. 

We are also delighted to announce a one-off collaboration with our colleagues at Foyle Film Festival in November. We are all in this together and we think that film culture will be stronger from such co-operations. This partnership shows the true spirit of collaboration and will lead to innovative film events in both Belfast and Derry this autumn.

When people self-isolate at home, what is one of the things they’ll do?  They’ll watch films.  Classic movies and new work. Film isn’t a fair-weather friend.

In the next few days, we will process refunds for all tickets and passes purchased. Keep an eye on our website www.belfastfilmfestival.org for further updates.

We thank our customers, our staff, volunteers, guests, funders, sponsors and venues for your support, and look forward to the clear weather once the storm has passed.