The Big Friendly Giant (BFG) in Pictures exhibition, is coming to the Flax Gallery, Theatre at The Mill, Newtownabbey, from Thursday 3 – Friday 25 February. The exhibition features 40 reproductions for Roald Dahl’s much-loved story, ‘The BFG’ including illustrations not used when the book was first published in 1982. The exhibition charts the development of one of the most iconic characters in children’s literature and offers a glimpse of a BFG that might have been. These are exhibited alongside reproductions of the final illustrations for the book, providing a fascinating insight into the collaboration between author and illustrator Quentin Blake.
The exhibition is free of charge and will open during the following hours;
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 9am-5pm
Saturday: 10am -4pm
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Billy Webb said “I am pleased that the Flax Gallery at Theatre at The Mill is hosting this remarkable exhibition. This is a great opportunity for the public to visit a display of such calibre. BFG is known worldwide and I am thrilled that we have this on display in our Borough.”
The BFG is a children’s book which tells the story of a friendship between 10-year-old orphan Sophie and a friendly Giant.
Northern Ireland company, Zymplify, has been appointed as a preferred supplier to deliver Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s digital growth plan for small and medium sized businesses, helping them to learn new skills, reach new customers and boost profits.
The Portstewart-based company has been approved to provide three innovative digital solutions to empower users to enhance their marketing and sales performance.
After a rigorous application process, Zymplify was one of a small number of UK vendors to be awarded the contract to deliver the scheme through which eligible businesses will be able to get a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved digital software including Zymplify Starter Package, Zym Lite and Zym Pro.
Michael Carlin, chief executive of the Zymplify Group said the team were delighted to be chosen to support SMEs on the scheme.
He added: “From day one, our goal at Zymplify has been to help real business owners use digital technology to grow their business – a vision that is mirrored by Help to Grow Digital.
“Like the Chancellor, we believe that small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy. We are a small business ourselves and created Zym and Zymplify for people like us – real business owners who want to save time, save money and grow.
“Just like the scheme we offer SMEs more than just the software. We have developed an ecosystem of three core elements – a planning framework to help users map their sales and marketing strategy, an Academy to help them master digital skills and the platform to execute, manage and measure their digital campaigns.
“I believe that it is this approach that helped us become one of the few suppliers selected to deliver this fantastic programme.”
Zym is a complete marketing software solution ideal for small and medium sized businesses. With a continuously expanding selection of innovative tools, unlike other solutions, the Zym platform lets users take full control of every aspect of their digital marketing journey, from finding new customers to ongoing marketing communications and detailed reporting all in one place.
More suited for medium size enterprises and B2B organisations with sales and marketing teams the Zymplify platform combines marketing automation, lead generation, sales prospecting and accurate real time reporting within a single platform.
As the first ever precision sales and marketing platform on the market, the unique software allows users to create, execute and report on sales and marketing campaigns at scale. It is the only solution on the market that provides users with qualified prospects who are actively looking for their products or services; while putting users in control of connecting with their target audience and closing sales at speed.
Zymplify Group chief marketing officer, Debbie Rymer explained: “Through the Help to Go Digital Programme, business owners will be able to catch up with the technological needs of their business and access discounted prices for tech platforms. Through Zymplify and Zym, eligible businesses will also be able to access daily live classes, digital marketing training advice and guidance to help their business save money, grow and scale fast.
“I have worked as a mentor on numerous business support programmes over the years and am also the CIM Academy Course Director for Digital Marketing Techniques so have seen first-hand the positive impact good marketing and digital technology can have on a business.
“That’s why we have developed our learning Academy to provide our users with the knowledge, skills and support they need to maximise their voucher and grow their business with the support of the Help to Grow Digital scheme.”
Last year Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that through the Government funded scheme businesses will receive expert technology advice and discounted software, as it aims to spark innovation as the UK maps out its recovery out of the pandemic.
Mr Sunak said: “Our brilliant SMEs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and generating prosperity – so it’s vital they can access the tools they need to succeed
“Help to Grow will ensure they are embracing the latest technology and management training, fuelling our Plan for Jobs by boosting productivity in all corners of the UK.”
The programme offers a new online platform where business owners can get free advice on technology that will help businesses to save time, reduce costs, and reach more customers.
Any eligible SMEs will be able to get vouchers offering up to 50% off the purchase of new productivity enhancing software worth up to £5,000 each for the period of one year.
Businesses interested in Zym or Zymplify will be given the opportunity to “try before they use their voucher”.
“We are committed to helping UK SMEs maximise the scheme. Anyone considering using either the Zymplify or Zym platforms won’t be pressured into redeeming their voucher without seeing our software in action first” said Debbie, adding: “we want to help them choose the right product for their business and their employees. That’s why they can take either or both products for a free 14 day test drive before making their selection. We hope that by providing the free trial and the live classes we help them to invest wisely.”
A new website listing arts and cultural events in the North West has been launched to provide a one-stop guide to the best family fun experiences in Derry, Strabane and Donegal.
The www.happydaysnw.com website, which covers the entire spectrum of arts and culture events and experiences across the region, is a joint initiative by Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council. The initiative, which is primarily aimed at engaging more families with arts and culture, is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and is part of the ongoing, cross border, North West Audience Development Project, supported by the North West Strategic Development Fund.
The comprehensive ‘What’s On’ guide involves partnerships with hundreds of cultural partners across the North West. These include visitor centres, theatres, arts centres, entertainment venues, festival organisers and experience providers offering great family days out, ranging from unique and exciting instead adventures to more relaxing cultural activities. The initiative also fosters and encourages public engagement and participation with cultural partners through social media channels.
Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Jack Murray, said: “Our region offers among the best family-orientated arts and culture experiences available anywhere and happydaysnw.com gives everyone the opportunity to quickly find and explore the information needed to plan their perfect family day out.
“The Happy Days initiative is yet another example of the strong partnership approach that exists between our two local authorities and will play an important role in engaging many more families with our rich arts and culture scene.”
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, said the new initiative is designed to “simplify the planning of great family days out in the North West”.
“I’m delighted to launch this initiative which gives people instant access to the many fantastic arts and cultural events and experiences our region has to offer – all in a single online hub. The North West has a very rich calendar of arts and cultural events, boasts a great many wonderful destinations and offers some of the most fun-filled experiences on these islands.
“Happydaysnw.com brings all of these and more together in an online listing that makes discovering, planning, and enjoying family days out simple and convenient for all.”
Sharon Meenan, Arts and Culture Officer at Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Challenge Fund, this initiative is part of the NW Audience Development Plan and is designed to enable everyone to easily access information about arts and culture in the North West.
“By providing all the practical information on one website, it’s easier for families to find out about cultural activities near them, connect with like-minded people online and plan their special days out across the Derry-Londonderry, Strabane, and Donegal areas.
“Whether it’s dancing, crafts, heritage, festivals, literature, theatre, visual arts, sport or learning activities you’re after; Happy Days offers a one-stop guide to what’s on, where and at what time. It also details all of the amazing spaces on our doorstep and highlights access-friendly spaces so you can plan great days out for everyone.”
This weekend sees the start of a series of Chamber Music concerts at Portico in Portaferry. With Lottery Project Funding support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Portico has been able to programme a range of high quality performers.
This Saturday (22 Jan) pianist Ruth McGinley and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin join forces to explore songs from the North of Ireland. The programme is drawn from Carolyn’s ‘Northern Songs Project’, which documents and celebrates songs from Ulster not often recorded elsewhere, and includes pieces by Hamilton Harty, Howard Ferguson, Joan Trimble, Dorothy Parke and Charles Wood.
French, Spanish and South American influences arrive in February with classical guitarist Thibaut Garcia and accordion player Félicien Brut. Their programme explores the common histories of the two instruments and the mixed roots of the players in what they describe as a captivating “Vol de Nuit” (Night Flight) including waltzes, tangos and fandangos!
In March, the multi-award winning Sitkovetsky Trio will perform Beethoven’s Trio No. 2 in G major, Perkin’s Freakshow and Schumann’sTrio no 3 in G minor. Violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, pianist Wu Qian and cellist Isang Enders have toured extensively to enormous critical acclaim: Gramophone noting, “The playing is at once virtuoso and even-handed, textures and counterpoint beautifully clear … a really beautiful performance.”
Piano duets from Amandine Savary and Coraline Cuenot are set to enthrall audiences in May, with a programme including Ravel’s Ma Mere l’Oye, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Debussy’s Petite Suite and a selection of waltzes from Brahms. Amandine has won many prizes including First Prize at the Osaka Chamber Music Competition and the Frankfurt Commerzbank Piano Trio Competition and special Prize of the Vienna Chamber Music Competition. Coraline enjoys innovative and unusual projects such as this concert for piano duets.
To celebrate its new charity partnership with the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, one of Northern Ireland’s leading forest schools, Holistic Kidz, is holding a fun Forest Adventure Camp on Saturday 5th February.
Over 200 babies are born each year in Northern Ireland with congenital heart disease and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust provides practical, emotional and financial support to children, young people and their families affected.
The popular Holistic Kidz Forest Adventure Camp will be held in the great outdoors at Barnett Demesne from 2pm – 5pm, and promises lots of action packed fun and adventure for children aged four to 12 including forest trekking, stream trailing, tepee building, tree swinging, nature assault course and mudslide adventure. The fundraising initiative is being supported by Pizza Co with complimentary lunch for every child. Tickets are £20 per child and every penny raised is being donated to the Children’s Heartbeat Trust.
Colette McCartney, Founder of Holistic Kidz said: “We are excited to launch our new charity partnership with the Children’s Heartbeat Trust and have lots of plans to help raise as much money as possible for this amazing charity to help support the children across Northern Ireland who are born with heart disease to live full and empowered lives. And what better way to begin our fundraising than with one of our famous Forest Adventure Camp to have a day of fun in the great outdoors with our fabulous Holistic Kidz on Saturday 5th February.
I was introduced to the charity by an amazing young lady, Lucy Stewart who is 10 years old from Belfast, who has been supported by the Children’s Heartbeat Trust since she had heart surgery as a baby. Lucy is an incredible girl and started making beautiful handcrafted friendship bracelets over lockdown and we have commissioned her to make a bracelet for all of our Holistic Kidz. Promoting close friendship bonds is an important part of our ethos, so this really is the perfect partnership.”
Lynn Cowan, from Children’s Heartbeat Trust said: “We are absolutely delighted to have the support of Holistic Kidz with their outdoor forest adventure camp in February. This will be a wonderful opportunity for kids to have a fantastic day out whilst raising funds and vital awareness of congenital heart disease (CHD) and its impact on children, young people and their families in Northern Ireland.
Over 200 children are born with CHD in NI every year. We hope the local community will get behind Holistic Kidz in raising as much awareness and funds as possible. As a local charity, we receive no government funding and rely heavily on public donations to fund our support services so all funds raised from the Holistic Kidz event will be greatly appreciated and make a real difference to local heart children and their families.”
Booking is essential and to secure a place for your child at the Holistic Kidz Forest Adventure Campin aid of the Children’s Heartbeat Trust on Saturday 5th February go to www.holistickidz.com
Top recruiter warns businesses they need to invest in the right systems & processes
When it comes to remote working one Northern Ireland recruitment firm says employees need to learn and display new skills to secure work from home roles.
A Global Workplace Analytics report said that since 2009, the number of people who work from home has risen by 159%
Michelle Tyson, director of Tyson Wilson is also warning businesses that they “must invest in the right systems and processes” in order to be able to facilitate a “productive, healthy and happy remote working workforce”.
Michelle said that although the rise in work from home opportunities originally surged as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that she believes it’s a trend that’s here to stay.
She added: “The biggest trend that will continue into 2022 and beyond is the working from home and the hybrid working model.
“Statistics from Upwork say that by 2028, 73% of all departments are expected to have remote workers.
“It is undeniable that many companies are becoming more open to hybrid and work from home after being forced to put systems in place to handle the challenges that come with it during the pandemic.”
According to Michelle what this means is business leaders must now recruit differently for those remote roles.
She explained: “In the call centre industry, for example, companies are looking for a new set of skills for people working from home – they now need to ensure those staff have self motivated, disciplined and proactive traits which whilst beneficial previously were not essential because the working model created an environment in which they had to be productive and were constantly monitored by line managers in person.”
This, in turn, means there can be a more flexible approach to talent acquisition.
Owl Labs reported last year that small companies are twice as likely to hire full-time remote workers than their larger counterparts.
However, whilst the future is bright for hybrid and remote working Michelle said one of the biggest challenges for business leaders has been changing the way in which they communicate with their team.
Research published by Buffer suggested that communication was one of the top three challenges associated with remote work behind “unplugging after work” and “loneliness”.
Michelle explained: “Communication is key. Mutual respect in the team is more vital than ever before – for example, in online meetings everyone has to be given the opportunity to take their turn to speak and leaders and colleagues need to learn how to listen.”
Michelle’s top 6 tips for managers and leaders are:
1. Be available
Michelle said: “Leaders have to ensure they make time available for the staff to be able to check in and ask questions because in an office environment this is very often done off the cuff or on an adhoc basis.”
2. Connection with colleagues
“When working from home there needs to be an onus on the business leader to create a culture where people feel connected to their colleagues” said Michelle.
3. Remove the stigma of struggling
Michelle explained: “It is important that staff understand the importance of speaking up when they feel lonely, disconnected, frustrated or lost as a result of the working from home model.
“This can only be effective if they believe their disclosure of these things won’t have a negative effect on how they are seen and treated by management and colleagues.”
4. Open lines of communication
“One solution that works for many teams is leaving a Zoom or Google Meet call open all day or having a Microsoft Teams, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp or Slack group can help employees keep in contact with each other throughout the day” said Michelle.
5. Morning emails
“Another way I find works really well is to have communication every morning with your team” said Michelle, adding: “An email for example rounding up the achievements from the day before, outlining new developments, recognising outstanding work and outlining the work and priorities for the day can help people feel more focused and ultimately more productive.”
6. End of day reporting
Michelle said: “I’ve also found with many of my clients that having staff email their direct line manager an end of day report helps everyone to keep on top of what other departments and their own teams are doing. An end of week report from all departments to each other is also crucial for larger teams.”
Tyson Wilson currently have a number of remote and hybrid working roles in Bangor, Newry, Belfast, Antrim, Omagh and across Northern Ireland including customer support advisors, customer service operators and customer sales and retentions advisors among many others.
4C UR Future, the social enterprise that aims to empower young people to make more informed education and career choices, has announced its 4C UR Future LIVE events are returning in 2022.
In 2019, the organisation delivered a successful ‘proof of concept’ pilot event, which was supported by over 120 volunteers from over 30 cross-sectoral companies. Almost 1,200 Year 9 pupils participated in 4C UR Future LIVE over two days.
These are not dry and boring information-based events. Instead, young people take part in a range of sector-related skills games and work-based challenges, developed in collaboration with local employers representing every sector, which are designed to draw out and identify their key strengths, attributes, and talents.
Due to the impact of COVID19, the at-scale pilot events due to be held in 2020 and 2021 were postponed. However, with the pressure on our teachers and education system, the need for the business community to step in collectively to help inspire, inform and support young people is even greater now than prior to the pandemic. Therefore, the organisation is delighted to announce the return of 4C UR Future LIVE events, as an at-scale pilot, in 2022.
4C UR Future’s Founder, Rose Mary Stalker, said: “The careers environment has become increasingly complex for our young people to navigate, with new jobs and sectors emerging, and employers are facing significant skills shortages and bottlenecks, inhibiting our businesses from growing.
“4C UR Future LIVE was developed to provide a safe at-scale solution, to involve, inform, and inspire young people before they choose their GCSE subjects, so that they can make more empowered career pathway choices, and boost their opportunities.
“We are delighted to announce that we plan to hold 11 4C UR Future LIVE events this year – one in each Council area. In collaboration with a wide range of local employers, and supported by ten Councils, through our 2022 LIVE events we will engage with almost 7,500 Year 9 pupils from across Northern Ireland.”
The 2022 LIVE event schedule is available to view on the Events section of 4C UR Future’s website, with the registration process for schools to register their interest in attending the at-scale pilot events launching in Q1 2022.
A new art exhibition inspired by the stunning seascapes and coastline of Inishowen has opened at Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre in Limavady.
Songs of the Sea by internationally acclaimed artist Rikki-Louise van den Berg explores the dialogue between artist, land and coast in the beautiful surroundings of Donegal.
The exhibition spans two galleries, featuring a collection of new works from 2021, with a range of small and large pieces reflecting Rikki’s explorative walks along the shore.
Its official launch will take place via Facebook Live on the Arts Centre’s page at 1pm on Wednesday 12th January with a virtual tour led by the artist.
Originally from Holland, Rikki spent her formative years in Ireland and returned to these shores in 1997 to establish herself as a figurative and abstract painter, embarking on a personal journey in search of identity and place.
Explaining her inspiration, Rikki said: “My work is an inner-response to my outside world, my surroundings, to nature; it’s vulnerable beauty, colours, movement, contrasts, it’s fleeting moments of timelessness.
“I work intuitively, and I welcome the tempestuous, the surprise and unexpected beauty in a stroke, movement or colour.
“To me the essence of painting lies in the process, the learning, mark making, the discovery. It’s about expressing what I feel. During the painting process I can build, destroy, uncover, paint over, wash and scrape, apply layers of paint by knife or hands or even sometimes from a distance. An intriguing conversation between me and the canvas, mirroring perhaps the acts of nature on the landscape.”
Rikki’s work has received both national and international acclaim and is currently represented by several renowned galleries in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In 2012, she was selected as part of a small group of Irish painters to participate in ‘Irish Wave 3’, Beijing, China, curated by BIGsmall and Fion Gunn. A series of visual art events were held in Beijing and Shanghai in March 2012, continuing into 2013.
In 2016 Rikki received the Tyrone Gurthrie Residency Award for the second time, which followed by being selected for the Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Show in 2017, marking an important point in her career as a landscape artist.
She has recently been nominated for the Hambly & Hambly French Residency Award 2022 under the mentorship of Irish Artist Eamon Colman in collaboration with Centre Culturel Irlandais Paris.
The Songs of the Sea exhibition is free to visit and will remain in place until February 5th.
Details of a series of intimate live music gig, organised as part of Derry’s “Illuminate” festival scheduled to take place over two weekends, 17th -20th and 24th – 27th February, have been unveiled.
Funded by Tourism Northern Ireland, ‘Illuminate’ will bring Derry’s city centre to life with a series outdoor light and live illumination experiences to transform iconic buildings into spectacular pieces of art with light installations and performances across multiple sites, as part of an exciting live illumination experience planned for February.
Among the exciting music acts confirmed to perform as part of the festival are Kila, Neil Cowley, the Henry Girls and Aoife Scott. They will join other local acts such as Glenn Rossborough, ,Roe and John Deery The Heads, Comrade Hat. Clodagh May Music, Kate O’Callaghan, Ciaran Lavery, Maria Kelly and Basork for what promises to showcase the region’s diverse range of talent.
The artists will perform in intimate settings such as the Guildhall, St Augustine’s Church, Echo Echo studio and Contemporary centre of Arts as part of a live illumination trail experience with superb outdoor projections, sound and animation telling original stories through digital animation and innovative design.
Details of the gigs included in the programme are as follows – Thursday 17 February, Comrade Hat and Clodagh May Music from 730pm-9pm at CCA; Friday 18th February, Glenn Rossborough and Kate O’Callaghan, from 730-9pm at St Augustine’s; Saturday 19 February, The Henry Girls (Boswell) and Aoife Scott, from 9-11.30pm at the Guildhall; Thursday 24 February, Roe and John Deery The Heads from 730-9pm at the Echo Echo studios; Saturday 26th February, Neil Cowley, Ciaran Lavery and Maria Kelly from 9-11.30pm at the Guildhall and on Sunday 27 February, Kila and Basork from 9-11.30pm at the Guildhall.
Tickets for the intimate music experiences are currently on sale and are expected to sell out fast as numbers are restricted – for more details on the gigs and how to book tickets visit –www.musiccapital.org.
Funding for this iconic celebration of the Walled City has been secured from Tourism Northern Ireland through its Market-Led Development Programme for Local Authorities. The fund is part of the Embrace A Giant Spirit campaign which pledges to create authentic and innovative experiences that will provide more reasons to travel to and within Northern Ireland and to enhance and animate the experience for visitors from NI and ROI.
Kieran Dunlop from Music Capital who has been appointed by Council to organise the music element of the festival said he is delighted to be part of this hugely exciting showcase of visiting and local talent. He said he is delighted to be hosting a range of music acts that people can look forward to attend in early 2022.
He said: “Illuminate will be an amazing event that will really showcase a wide range of talented musicians and artists and perform in some of the most iconic and intimate settings. We are delighted to be part of this fantastic spectacle and we are delighted to have artists such as Neil Cowley, Kila, Aofie Scott, Ciaran Lavery and Roe performing live in the city and bringing some much needed cheer and positivity after such a difficult time for many people.
Derry City and Strabane District Council is currently working closely with a wide range of statutory bodies in terms of ensuring the event is COVID friendly and in adherence to any possible restrictions that may be in place at that time. The primary focus when planning for this event will be to have a crowd friendly circuit of the city that can accommodate the numbers of people expected to attend, taking into account social distancing and crowd management, whilst allowing people to enjoy the experience safely.
Council is also working with local businesses to get them involved and to maximise the opportunity the festival will bring to grow the city and region’s evening economy and to assist in COVID recovery.
The Mayor concluded: “I am hugely excited about this and delighted that once again our Council is set to deliver another fantastic event to showcase our city and region. This festival will be an opportunity for us to celebrate after a difficult and challenging period.
According to Google 59% of shoppers say they’ll research a product before making an in-store or online purchase.
One of the ways they will conduct research is to check out a company’s website and, in particular, the blog section.
A DemandMetric study revealed 68% of consumers spend time reading about the brands that interest them and in 2019 54% of Fortune 500 companies had a public facing blog.
Belfast based multi-disciplinary marketing and communications agency Excalibur Press’ latest training webinar looks at how business owners can take advantage of this powerful marketing tool.
Delivered by trainer and content strategist Tina Calder, the session How To Supercharge Your Blogging & Content Marketing For 2022 which takes place on Friday January 21, and will take attendees through the secrets of creating blog content for their business.
Speaking ahead of the session Tina Calder said: “It’s unquestionable that the rise of content marketing and blogging cannot be ignored by businesses wanting to increase their digital footprint online.
“However, for many business owners the thought of writing a blog and publishing it can be a daunting experience. From lack of confidence and ideas to not knowing what will resonate with their potential customers the blog and content marketing often gets put to the end of the ‘to do’ list
“In this session we are going to focus on helping people first create a list of content ideas and find out how they can work out what to write about when creating their content. The session will also outline the different types of blogs businesses can create as well as showing examples and run through practical templates for writing a quick and easy blog.”
The 90 minute session will also take attendees through everything from what types of blogging you can do for your business, how to create quick and easy blog posts, what are the key ingredients to a successful blog and how to come up with ideas for your blog.
Tina added: “Throughout this session I will be revealing all the tools we use at Excalibur Press to create good quality content for our clients as well as lift the lid on the secrets other social media professionals don’t want you to know.
“We’ll even cover the structure of a blog, language, rules and tone, where to publish your blog and how to get it seen by others.
“This session will help businesses reduce their stress levels when it comes to creating a blog, create content quickly and give them confidence knowing that they are bringing value to their customers throughout 2022.”
This is the second webinar in a new year series by Excalibur Press with the first being How To Set Up Your Social Media Content Strategy & Plan For 2022 which takes place on Friday January 7, book now at excaliburpress.co.uk/social-webinar-2022.
For more information and booking details for How To Supercharge Your Blogging & Content Marketing For 2022 on Friday January 21, go to excaliburpress.co.uk/blog-webinar