Panto popularity just keeps on growing!

The Grand Opera House’s Giant of a pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk is enthralling audiences with its magical 3D effects, fabulous song and dance routines for every member of the family and a more talented cow than even David Attenborough knows about.

Following the story of adventurous Jack Trott, played by Aidan O’Neill and his Mother Dame May McFettridge Trott, the fairytale has more thrills and spills than you can shake a bag of magic beans at.

Add Paddy Jenkins as the dottery King Crumble and local beauty Tanya Shields as his darling daughter Princess Apricot and the seeds are sown for a beautiful romance to occur.

Don’t miss the chance to see this fantastic tale told with wondrous sets, lavish costumes and magical 3D sequences at the Grand Opera House.

Jack and the Beanstalk runs until Saturday 21st January, with evening and matinee performances available. Tickets start at £11.00 and can be purchased via telephone on 028 9024 1919, online at or by visiting our Box Office located in the Theatre foyer.

Giant Blunderbore gets ready for a meal as Fleshcreep (Mark Dugdale) keeps Princess Apricot (Tanya Shields) hostage.


One of Northern Ireland’s most innovative new businesses has teamed up with Pubs of Ulster in an effort to promote the hospitality trade in the run up to Christmas.

L-R Jamie Hanna of local tourism company My Tour Talk is pictured with Sam McClure and Pubs of Ulster chief executive Colin Neill to launch the Belfast Pub Tour app. The app offers iPhone and Android users a unique audio experience by guiding them through more than 20 city centre bars and providing insider local information on each location. The product is endorsed by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board as well and the licensed trade governing body, Pubs of Ulster and is already proving to be a hit with festive shoppers and revellers. The app can be downloaded at

My Tour Talk which is endorsed by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is set to roll out its new app technology to provide users with insider information on up to 20 Belfast-based pubs and up to 50 additional bars in the free listing directory. Pubs of Ulster, the representative body of the pub trade in Northern Ireland, is backing the product as it has the potential to bring a welcome boost to hospitality businesses during the festive period.

Available on both iPhone and Android devices the app allows the user to listen to helpful ‘local’ information on each pub in the tour such as its speciality drink, best times to visit as well as the more traditional information about the history of the venue. It should prove attractive to tourists visiting the city because once downloaded they will not incur additional roaming charges by continuously dipping in and out and the GPS mapping system will recognise where the user is in the city and direct them to the nearest pub on the tour.

My Tour Talk is already proving a hit in industry circles since being established18 months ago by winning a competition funded by NITB and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, and being shortlisted for the Travel and Tourism App of the Year2011 and more recently being the Northern Irish winner of the IntertradeIreland Seedcorn competition.

Jamie Hanna of My Tour Talk said, “The Belfast Pub Tour is one of a range of apps we have developed in the past year. We are confident in the overall user experience as we carried out extensive research with bar owners to ensure the content is interesting and professional local actors keep the quality of the audio at a high standard. We are delighted with the recognition the apps are receiving and look forward to building on this partnership with Pubs of Ulster together with our endorsement from NITB further cements our position in the local tourism industry.”

Chief Executive Colin Neill said, “The local pub trade has become an increasingly important part of our local tourist offering, with visiting a pub rated by tourists as the most popular activity when taking a break in Northern Ireland.  It is clear that pubs play a vital role in the overall visitor experience and any initiative that helps boost this is greatly welcomed by the pub industry.  The Belfast Pub Tour apps are a unique and innovative way of doing this and have the potential to increase customer footfall in pubs in Belfast during what will hopefully be a busy Christmas trading period.  We look forward to working further with My Tour Talk and exploring more innovative opportunities for pubs across Northern Ireland.”

The Belfast Pub Tour App is available on iTunes or by visiting  Watch the video…


Coca-Cola informs a selection of ‘Future Flames’ that they’re just one step away from carrying the Olympic Flame during London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay next year

Northern Ireland: 8 December 2011: Coca-Cola today announced that local teenagers, Aymen McGonigle (15) from Upperlands, Lucy Camlin (16) from Antrim and Peter Brittain (18) from Bangor have made it through to the final stage of becoming a London 2012 Olympic Torchbearers, thanks to Coca-Cola, during the Olympic Torch Relay next year.

Pictured in Belfast are local teenagers, Aymen McGonigle (15) from Upperlands, Lucy Camlin (16) from Antrim and Peter Brittain (18) from Bangor who have made it through to the final stage of becoming a London 2012 Olympic Torchbearer during the Olympic Torch Relay next year, thanks to Coca-Cola.

Lucy, Peter and Aymen; all extraordinary young people who have a burning passion which brings happiness to others – were handed an invitation to carry the Olympic Flame next year.

Aymen McGonigle, a Downhill Mountain Bike enthusiast has been passionate about his sport for two years – selling everything he owns to build his own bike.  The teenager who built his own racing track in his home town of Upperlands does all his own repairs, mechanics and fixes other people’s bikes – all of which he taught himself. Amyen clearly demonstrates passion and dedication for his sport and in his entry says: “I want to do well in downhill racing, get a career out it and have fun”.

Lucy Camlin, an aspiring Olympian who at the age of 16 represented Ireland at the Youth Olympics, dedicates her spare time to coaching junior hockey and volunteers in her local Special Olympic club, helping others achieve their dream to be the best they can be. For Lucy sport is so much more than playing a game – in her entry she says: ‘It has enhanced my whole life and has taught me valuable lessons in relating to others and working as a team.  I hope to share this knowledge through my volunteer work and continuing to coach hockey.”

Peter Brittain, a local volunteer, dedicates his spare time to Bangor based charity FASA which deals with suicide awareness and drug addiction. As a regular volunteer he wants to develop his work with the charity and continue to provide a service to the community helping vulnerable people. In his entry he says: “Suicide and drug addiction is one of the most prevalent issues throughout Northern Ireland, yet little is known about its cause. My goal is to help raise awareness of these issues through FASA in Northern Ireland and further a field.”

To recognise and reward the positive contributions made by young people every day in the UK, Coca-Cola, a Presenting Partner of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay spent the summer searching the country for Future Flames: young people who use their passion in areas like sport and physical activity, music and dance, and community and the environment; to spread happiness in their local communities.
All successful nominees now need to confirm acceptance of their place with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) before the final list of Coca-Cola Olympic Torchbearers is announced on 14th February 2012.

Until then, they are invited to join the Coca-Cola Future Flame Torchbearer Facebook group to enjoy exclusive content and socialise with other Future Flames.

James Quincey, President, Coca-Cola Northwest Europe and Nordics, said:

“We have been overwhelmed by the thousands of outstanding nominations that we have received as part of our Coca-Cola Future Flames campaign this year. It’s been truly inspiring to learn about the many different ways young people are spreading happiness in their local communities, and we’re very excited to now be offering some of these people the once in a lifetime chance to carry the Olympic Flame next summer.”

From Presents to Parties…

Everyone needs a little ‘Sunblest Veda Time’ this Christmas!

As one of the busiest (and often most stressful) times of the year fast approaches, a survey by Sunblest Veda has revealed that almost 55% of people here see themselves as ‘Christmas Caretakers’: with their Christmas presents bought and wrapped since the beginning of September!

At the other end of the spectrum, a surprising 12% are self professed ‘Christmas Castaways’…saying Christmas is a chore and begrudgingly think about the presents on Christmas Eve. In fact the ‘Bah Humbug’ mentality persists as almost one in three people (29%) said they most look forward to Christmas because it is time off work.

Model Catherine Milligan takes some time out from the craziness of Christmas shopping with Sunblest’s Veda Pit Stop to help raise funds for Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children. The Veda Pit Stop will be stationed outside Tesco Royal Avenue until 21st December. For a donation of £3.50, visitors will receive Sunblest Veda toasted with Dromona cheese and a cup of Nambarrie tea, with every penny going directly to Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.

The survey was commissioned by Northern Ireland’s favourite Veda brand Sunblest to lift the lid on the true spirit of Christmas and to remind people that amid the festive furore, everyone deserves some comforting downtime.

Victoria Brown, Allied Bakeries explained: “Almost 68% of women surveyed classified themselves as the Christmas Caretaker…taking on the lion’s share of the organising and planning, while Northern Ireland’s male population is less prepared with only 39% getting involved in the build up and even less (21%) helping out with the cooking.

“It’s fair to say that at this time of year the pressure can build, with so much to do and so many places to be. Christmas is truly about home and the comfort that brings. Taking Sunblest Veda moment is about cutting through the deadlines and the lists to slow down the pace and provide comfort and familiar reassurance: a delicious warming slice of toasted Veda and butter is all it will take to press the pause button on life.”

Personal Life & Business Coach Ann Rodgers said: “Theoretically, Christmas is the month we slow down to reconnect with loved ones, celebrate the year past, and gratefully acknowledge all our blessings. In reality, for many, it is the most stressful month of the year with a little bit of the magic lost in the craziness of the shopping, cooking, wrapping and entertaining…the list goes on.”

To help relive the stress Ann has some top tips to help you enjoy the festive season…

1. Finish your shopping early. One of the big stressors at this time of the year is fighting the crowds at shopping centres along with finding out that the ideal gift is sold out. Aim to get your Christmas shopping done as early in December as possible; you can let everyone else fight the crowds, while you relax at home feeling comfortable and satisfied that you beat the rush.

2. Stick to a budget. We can all get excited when we see the perfect gift for a loved one, but don’t forget that the credit card bill will arrive in January. Have a budget that allows you to balance generosity and good sense.

3. Don’t overdo it The party season brings with it many temptations; late nights, party foods and cocktails. Indulging yourself is allowed but moderation is key. Manage your alcohol intake carefully Don’t drink on an empty stomach, alternate alcohol with water or a soft drink and allow time for you body to recover between parties.

4. Manage family tension. There are few things that can ruin your Christmas day like a family feud, so make sure that you are conscious of the part that you have to play in this. Try to keep conversations away from potentially controversial topics, focus on enjoying your children’s experience, be sensitive towards others and try not to be too sensitive yourself.

There are no guarantees with families and you can’t control how others behave, but making sure that you don’t add fuel to the fire will help you to feel better about the day whilst making Christmas less stressful for those around you.

5. Learn to say no. Some people receive many invitations to parties and events at this time of year and feel compelled to attend all of them. This can be draining after the first few, taking the gloss off what should be a fun time. It’s OK to say no to some events, allowing you to really enjoy the parties that you do attend.

A number of other well known people in Northern Ireland took the survey…

BBC presenter Alan Simpson said; ‘I’m a Christmas Cracker. When it comes to the holidays I definitely love getting everyone together for great time. And as a well known Sunblest Veda lover a slice or three is never far away!

After taking the survey Style Academy Director Tracey Hall said; “I’m a Christmas Cherub through and through. I LOVE this time of year, but because I live on my own I stay in and chill with family over the holidays. I guess the best thing is being off work for a week to re-charge the batteries and also indulging in my favorite treat– Sunblest Veda!

Journalist and actor Ivan Little also took the survey saying; “Christmas is a funny time of year for me – I love getting the family together but I don’t get what all the fuss is about. I tend to take a back seat when it comes to the mayhem of present buying and cooking so it was no surprise when the Sunblest survey revealed that I’m a Christmas Castaway!

The Veda Pit Stop will be stationed outside Tesco Royal Avenue until 21st December. For a donation of £3.50, visitors will receive Sunblest Veda toasted with Dromona cheese and a cup of Nambarrie tea, with every penny going directly to Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.


Bringing local artists and artisans together with a bohemian vibe under one roof for one week.

Belfast, County Antrim, 17th-23rd December.

This Christmas week That Vintage Vibe will bring you back in time, vintage products, arts and artisans together for an entirely unique and different Christmas shopping experience, with the dulcet tones of Louis Armstrong and other classic crooners seeping out onto the snowy surrounding streets the Red Barn Gallery will be cosying up and getting down vintage style.

We are delighted to announce that the Red Barn Gallery will be the venue for this event and with free entry it is a must for a wee relaxing break from the mobs of crazy Christmas shoppers. We are also happy to say that in attendance will be all local business and craftspeople. There will be two exhibitions by the renowned and widely respected Belfast photographer FRANKIE QUINN and an exhibition by the highly regarded writer and illustrator FRANKIE MORGAN

For sale there will be Unique, Upcycled and reworked vintage clothing by Shanti Vintage, Vintage clothing from Jean Jean Genie and Best Vintage. Beautiful handbags and accessories from Vintage Bag Co. and Serendipity Gifts Co., Handmade and vintage jewellery from Band of Joy, Beadylicious, Picture House Vintage and It’s the Little Things. Vintage and retro style home ware from Little Vintage Home and Retro Homestyle. Crafty little bits will be providing paper crafts and cards. Last, but certainly not least ‘Up do’s’ for a fiver, from Fussy Galore hair extraordinaire!

This is Thant Vintage Vibes first event and we would really appreciate some support if this turns out to be a worthwhile project we will try to expand and do once a week with more pop up shops and different themes, always keeping the cool vintage vibe and relaxing shopping experience. Always offering individuality, art and fair prices, we will continue to support local artists, craftspeople and businesses.

Extra Christmas opening days for Markets

St George’s Market will be open for six extra days in December, in the run up to Christmas.

The market will open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays (10am – 4pm) on 12, 13 and 14 December and 19, 20 and 21 December.

It will open as normal on Friday, Saturday and Sundays, including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Smithfield Market also will be open from 1pm – 6pm on each Sunday from now until Christmas, and until 9pm on Tuesday 20 and Thursday 22 December. Smithfield will be closed on Monday 26 December but otherwise open as normal over the holiday period.

For more information, visit


Dublin’s best kept secret The Riot Tapes have just announced details of their debut Northern Irish show.

The indie six piece are heading North in December to play an exclusive and intimate gig in Sandino’s Cafe Bar, Derry on Friday 9th December 2011.

Formed in late 2009, The Riot Tapes are: Chris O’Brien, Elaine Doyle, Tim Clarke, Robert Crosbie, Graham Dunne and Charles Byrne.

The band released the single ‘Photograph’ in Ireland in April 2011 and it went straight in at number five on the Irish download charts. The Riot Tapes have since become a live favourite in Dublin, headlining and packing venues like Whelan’s, The Workman’s Club and The Grand Social.

Speaking from Dublin, Chris O’Brien said: “This is our first trip up North which is made extra special by the fact that there’s a lot of support for the band in Derry and Belfast! We are extremely excited about taking this show, which we’ve spent the last year trying to perfect, on the road; making new fans and playing to lots of new people. We are lucky that we have fans from Northern Ireland who have been asking us to do this for a while and we can’t wait to see their reaction to us as a live band.”

This year The Riot Tapes went into the studio to begin work on their much anticipated debut studio album which is due for release early next year.

In October the band featured heavily on The Apprentice. ‘Photograph’ was also used for the advertising for the series on national television. The Riot Tapes even made an appearance during one of the episodes when the teams were given a task to find the best in Irish music – The Riot Tapes were even chosen by both teams!

‘Photograph’ has been receiving lots of radio air play nationwide since its release and the band are a must see live act.

The Riot Tapes play an exclusive and intimate gig at Sandino’s Back Room, Derry on December 9th 2011. Admission is a mere £3 and doors open at 8pm.