Enjoy an ‘Easter Extravaganza’ at Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoological Gardens is getting ready for another “eggciting” Easter, with many fun filled activities for all to enjoy!

Whether you’re shaking hands with one of the animal characters, watching the sea lions at feeding time or taking part in Belfast Zoo’s Easter egg hunt, you are sure to have an amazing day out.

This Easter is set to be very exciting for all involved explains Zoo manager, Mark Challis, “Easter is a fabulous time at Belfast Zoo. This Easter is very special indeed as we have already welcomed a number of new arrivals in 2012, including Marjorie the Malayan tapir calf, Georgie the Vicuna calf, Bo and Bert the Eastern bongos and visitors can also visit our 40 ‘holidaying’ gentoo penguins from Edinburgh Zoo.”

This event will run from 6 April to 10 April.  During the Easter period, the zoo is very busy the car park is usually full by 12pm. To check alternative car parking facilities and shuttle bus times, call the zoo on 028 9077 6277 or email info@belfastzoo.co.uk.


Stendhal Festival of Art is back with a bang!

Stendhal Festival of Art is proud to announce the first raft of artists who will be taking to the Stage at Ballymully Cottage Farm on August 17 and 18, 2012.

For tickets and full details, head to www.stendhalfestival.com now.

Staying in line with our ethos of providing a varied and eclectic line-up Stendhal will be promoting more musical genres than you can shake a stick at including Rock, pop, funk, jazz and blues, indie, acoustic, folk, Reggae, country, hip-hop, punk, metal, classical, choral and Bluegrass. We will also have poetry, comedy and theatre on the bill, to add to an excellent selection of music.

On top of this we will have a much fuller family entertainment schedule, our art gallery will return bigger and better and will this year include some state of the art digital installations along with sculpture, canvas paintings by local artists and many more wee artistic adventures in the beautiful surroundings of Karma Valley.

In addition we will once again have a craft market full of wonderfully original nick-knacks, top class food and drink at high street prices, a fun fair, a secret garden area and many more little surprises to be discovered.

We are delighted to announce that Silhouette will be appearing at this year’s event. Fronted by the immensely talented Shauna Tohill, Silhouette have recently been riding a crest of a wave having their song ‘Can’t keep up’ selected to front the current advertising campaign by the Northern Irish Tourist Board.
Shauna herself has also been very busy recently, accompanying Snow Patrol to sing with them during their recent European Tour.
Silhouette are a high energy alternative pop act with catchy tunes and bags of talent and they are sure to go down a storm at Stendhal this year.

The line-up this year includes several stand-out local acts including Limavady’s own Furlo, Alternative Rock act Axis of, Irish Reggae revolutionaries The Barley Mob, the sublime Innishowen Gospel Choir, The Gorgeous Colours, The Steve Experiment, the 20 piece collaboration The Crimson Piper Sonic Orchestra, Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas, Exit Pursued by bear and North Coast Hardcore outfit Lantern For a Gale.
Also taking the stage will be Master and Dog, metal legends Triggerman, Mojo Gogo, Best Boy Grip, Owl Parliament, Wookalily, and gypsy folk outfit Balkan Alien Sound.

Over 20 more acts will be announced in the coming weeks so stay tuned to www.stendhalfestival.com, our Facebook page and Twitter @stendhalireland for details as they emerge.
Tickets for the event will be on sale at Ticketmaster and numerous high street outlets at the start of May priced at £20 for a Saturday day Ticket, £25 for a weekend camping pass and £35 for a family weekend camping pass (2 adults and up to 4 kids under 18).


Tickets for Titanic Lockdown are now on general release – and in great demand – for the Friday and Saturday night gigs.

Belfast’s only boutique festival announced ticket prices and line up details earlier this week at www.titanic-lockdown.com and over the counter tickets sales are already going strong at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Titanic Lockdown, dubbed a boutique music festival for Belfast’s music lovers, will take place at T13 in the Titanic Quarter on the double bank holiday Diamond Jubilee weekend – June the 1st and 2nd 2012.  New Order, making their first appearance in Belfast for 26 years, has been confirmed as the headline act at Titanic Lockdown on Saturday June 2nd 2012, supported by BRIT Award and Mercury Music Prize nominee Anna Calvi, legendary reggae producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Ghostpoet.  Manchester legends Happy Mondays headline the Friday night line up on June 1st 2012 supported by Ghostpoet, Factory Floor and Glasgow based band Errors  – with more bands to be announced.

Hydroponic founder and resident DJ Michael McKeown stated: “We had a phenomenal response to the Titanic Lockdown launch event, with over 4,000 people sampling the festival atmosphere at T13, and demand is already high for the main event on 1st & 2nd June. As Titanic Lockdown is a boutique festival, availability is limited. We would therefore advise people to snap up advance tickets to avoid missing out on what will be one of the most memorable music events of 2012.”

Weekend festival tickets are available for the discounted price of £66 plus booking fee at www.titanic-lockdown.com and all ticketmaster outlets.  Tickets for Friday 1st June are priced at £33 plus booking fee – whilst Saturday 2nd June is priced at £39 plus booking fee.  All tickets are available online from www.titanic-lockdown.com and over the counter from Ticketmaster outlets.  Online transactions are subject to an additional service charge from Ticketmaster, which can be avoided by purchasing over the counter.  Go to www.titanic-lockdown.com to find out more.

To find out more log onto www.titanic-lockdown.com, follow us on twitter @TitanicLockdown (#titaniclockdown) or like us on facebook at Titanic Lockdown

New BBC comedy series ‘Blandings’ at Crom Castle

The cast and crew of the new BBC comedy series ‘Blandings’ descended upon the tranquil setting of Crom Castle earlier this week to start filming.

Photo courtesy of Trevor Armstrong

Blandings, based on the celebrated stories by PG Wodehouse, will star Timothy Spall as the amiable and befuddled Lord Emsworth (Clarence to his friends), with Jennifer Saunders as his indomitable sister Connie.

The series is set in 1929, and will be filmed on location at Crom Castle, Co. Fermanagh with the support of Northern Ireland Screen.

Crom Castle stands on elevated parkland amidst an archipelago of wooded islands and peninsulae in tranquil Upper Lough Erne. Built for the Third Earl of Erne in the 1830s it was designed by the English architect Edward Blore who was responsible for sections of Buckingham Palace, and has been the home to the Crichton family, Earls of Erne for centuries.

The Earl of Erne and staff at Crom Castle are “honored” that Crom has been selected for such a pretigious production. Producers had originally viewed the Castle last June and fell in love with it and its surroundings.

Manager of Crom Castle, Noel Johnston, says “From a tourism point of view this is brilliant for Fermanagh…It takes a lot of money to keep the Castle going so to get something like this is a big boost, not just to us, but to the local area.”

A crew of 100+ have now arrived in Fermanagh and work has begun. With over 40 days scheduled for filming, the crew are staying at Crom but hope to make time to check the local area and all it has to offer. We hope they enjoy our beautiful County!

Malaysian Geopark representatives visit Marble Arch.

Four representatives of the Langkawi Global Geopark in Malaysia visited Fermanagh and Cavan this week to see how the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is managed and operated.

From left: Dr. Kirstin Lemon, Ms Sarah Aziz, Dr Geraldine Chan, Prof.Dr. Ong Puay Liu, Richard Watson, Datin Paduka Dr Halimaton Saadiah Hashim, Prof. Patrick Mc Keever, Martina O`Neill and Michelle Shannon

The Malaysian visitors work for the University Kebangsaan Malaysia – the National University of Malaysia – and visited the Marble Arch Caves Global geopark and the North Pennines Geopark in England as part of their research into preparing a management plan for the Langkawi Global Geopark.

They discussed geopark management issues and procedures relating to tourism, the environment, education and community involvement with members of the Management Team of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and also visited a number of geopark sites.

The group stayed at the Arch House farm guesthouse in Florencecourt, County Fermanagh where they were able to see a successful example of farmhouse tourism and were able to discuss farm conservation techniques with the owners, Rosemary and Geoffrey Armstrong.

Sarah Aziz, one of the Malaysian visitors said “We have been overwhelmed by the warm, friendly greetings we have had from people here in Ireland. We all hope to come back and I will be bringing my family here on holiday later this year.”

Professor Ong Puay Liu said “The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is well known and respected as an excellent example of a successful geopark. We are here because we want to build on our own successes in Langkawi by picking up on the best practice demonstrated by leading geoparks.”

The Langkawi Global Geopark is Malaysia’s first UNESCO Global Geopark and is situated in the beautiful Langkawi islands off the northwest coast of Malaysia close to the border with Thailand. The University Kebangsaan Malaysia actively supports the development of the geopark in Langkawi in conjunction with the Langkawi Development Association, local authorities and the government of the Malaysian State of Kedah.

There are 99 islands in the Langkawi archipelago with a wide range of geology such as sandstone, limestone, granite and marble. The islands are a popular tourist destination for visitors from Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Asia and have a dramatic, rugged landscape that contains a range of striking features including mountains, ridges, waterfalls, caves, inaccessible limestone pinnacles, and golden sandy beaches. Many of the smaller islands rise steeply out of the sea and are covered in dense jungle vegetation.

General Fiasco Album Launch Shows Announced!

General Fiasco
“Unfaithfully Yours” Album Launch Shows

Friday June 15 – The Stiff Kitten, Belfast (18+ Show, 8pm Doors)
Saturday June 16 – Mandela Hall, Belfast (14+ Show, 7pm Doors)

General Fiasco return to Belfast this June for two very special live shows! They play an intimate 18+ show at The Stiff Kitten on Friday June 15th, followed by a 14+ show in Mandela Hall the following night (June 16th) to officially launch their brand new LP “Unfaithfully Yours”, which comes out on Monday June 18th on Dirty Hit Records. Tickets for both shows are priced just £12 + Booking Fee, and go onsale Thursday April 5th at Midday, from www.shine.net, The Stiff Kitten and Ticketmaster Outlets Nationwide.

From Bellaghy, Co.Derry, N.Ireland, General Fiasco are Owen Strathern on bass, brother Enda on guitar, Stephen Leacock on drums and new guitarist / keyboard player Stuart Bell. The band’s debut album ‘Buildings’ released on Infectious Music in 2010 saw the N.Irish band play festivals and dates around the world including Japan, New Zealand & the USA as well as festivals such Reading & Leeds, Glastonbury, Oxegen and T-In the Park. They also played support to Snow Patrol at the biggest concert ever to happen in N.Ireland at Bangor’s Ward Park to 45,000 people.

They toured relentlessly for months, picking up supports with the Enemy, Kids in Glass Houses, One Night Only and Fighting with Wire amongst others and found themselves with a Kerrang! Magazine ‘Best Newcomer’ award nomination too. The band have been writing and recording for most of 2011, but came back with an EP ‘Waves’  from which ‘The Age You Start Losing Friends’ won ‘Best Song’ at the NI Music Awards held as part of the prestigious Belfast Music Week which saw the MTV awards come to town.

‘The Age You Start Losing Friends’ also picked up another Hottest Record in the World on BBC Radio 1 and the following EP ‘Don’t You Ever’ has already picked up plays on BBC Radio 1 and beyond including several local and college radio stations in the USA.

The band has been selected as Future Flames ambassadors for Coca-Cola’s London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. They helped to select the best of British youth to run with the Olympic torch in the lead up to the games. The band will be playing at the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration in Glasgow on 8th June

The band’s 2nd album, ’Unfaithfully Yours’ is due for release in June 2012 on Dirty Hit.

Tickets for both shows are priced just £12 + Booking Fee, and go onsale Thursday April 5th at Midday, from www.shine.net, The Stiff Kitten and Ticketmaster Outlets Nationwide.

www.generalfiasco.co.uk <http://www.generalfiasco.co.uk>
www.shine.net <http://www.shine.net>

Be Heart Healthy and volunteer this April

This April sees the launch of British Heart Foundation (BHF) Northern Ireland’s ‘Be Heart Healthy and Volunteer’ campaign.

Heather Patterson - Comms and Fundraising office volunteer from Donaghadee, Co. Down.

Volunteers play a vital role in the work of your heart charity and their dedication helps save and improve the lives of those affected by heart disease locally.

Volunteering can do wonders for a sense of wellbeing. People who volunteer report an experience known as the ‘helpers high’. This is a rush of euphoria, similar to the one experienced after physical activity and, once the initial rush is over, people are left with a lasting sense of calm. This feeling can return hours or even days later when volunteers think about what they have done.

For anyone recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, volunteering is a good way of slowly getting back into activity before returning to work and BHF Northern Ireland will have a role to suit everyone.

In Northern Ireland there are many local volunteer opportunities available. Your heart charity has lots of different roles to suit the time people can give, from a few hours in a local BHF Northern Ireland Shop to putting on a fundraising event to raise some money for the charity. But don’t take our word for it; meet Heather Patterson, our Comms and Fundraising office volunteer from Donaghadee, Co. Down.

BHF Northern Ireland’s Fundraising Volunteer Manager, Gary Wilson says: “Our volunteers give a contribution of time that accounts for £40m of our overall income every year. But their impact goes far beyond money. Without their support we simply wouldn’t be able to do the life-saving work that helps thousands of people living with heart and circulatory disease each year.”

To find out more about volunteering with BHF Northern Ireland contact Gary Wilson, Fundraising Volunteer Manager on 028 6863 3113 or email wilsong@bhf.org.uk or visit bhf.org.uk/volunteer or pop into your local BHF Northern Ireland Shop.


Passengers on this year’s Easter Eggspress Steam Trains will be able to experience the thrill of steam travel from the Titanic era. For the first time ever, this experience is available on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday.

The steam locomotive at the head of the Easter Eggspress is a beautifully restored classic. Built in 1879, the locomotive spent much of its working life in Cork and it is very likely it hauled goods and freight to the Titanic when it docked in Cobh in 1912. Over 133 years old, the Easter Steam Train, will be whisking passengers on an eggciting eggscursion from Belfast Central to Whitehead Excursion Station and back.
The trips are aimed at families, providing nostalgia for adults and great fun for children, with a free Easter egg for every ticket holding child.

RPSI Operations Officer Mervyn Darragh said: “These are some of our favourite trains to operate – children react so well to the sight, sound and smell of a steam train on Northern Ireland’s railway lines. And the grown-ups relish the opportunity to relive the halcyon days of steam. The trains operate along the Belfast Lough shore with great views of where Titanic was launched. With a Titanic era steam locomotive at the front it’s a really tangible link with that time.

“It is important to us to expose Northern Ireland’s railway heritage to as many people as possible, especially the young. We are proud to be working closely with NI Railways to ensure more and more people are able to experience nostalgic travel, like this Easter Eggspress train and encourage people to book early to avoid disappointment!”

The round trip from Belfast Central Station to Whitehead Excursion Station and back takes just under 2 hours and takes passengers out of the city and along the shore of Belfast Lough. The journey offers passengers scenic seascapes as it hugs the coastline. Whitehead Excursion Station is the base for the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland and, whilst the steam locomotive takes water and runs-around to the other end of the train for the journey back to Belfast, passengers can watch from the platform and enjoy the RPSI’s souvenir shop.
In reaction to popular demand last year, this year there will be four return steam trains split over the 2 days. Each day, the first train leaves from Belfast Central at 11:15am, the second train leaves from Belfast Central at 1:40pm.
Tickets cost a standard fare of only £11.00 (adults and children). All ticket holding children will receive an Easter Egg on the train.
Tickets are available from: The Belfast Welcome Centre, Donegall Place, Belfast (telephone 028 9024 6609) and online from the RPSI website at www.steamtrainsireland.com


Looking for something to do this Easter?

Why not come along to Bangor this Easter Monday, 9th April, for a day packed full with free family fun. Bangor’s seafront will have something to appeal to everyone from 12.00 – 6.00 pm.

The Queen of Diamond's Courtiers, Timmy Hannington and Kathryn Boyle getting ready to take part in Bangor’s Diamond Masquerade themed Easter Parade, this Easter Monday, April 9th. The parade will leave the Leisure Centre at 3pm and make its way around the town, an extravaganza not to be missed!

Starting at the McKee Clock arena, over 150 of Ireland’s top modified cars will be displayed all day.  The organisers boldly promise to offer ‘cars more luxurious than a Bentley, faster than a Ferrari and with more toys than a Mercedes’.

Taking a stroll down The Promenade, you can try your hand at Laserquest, check out Ecomantella’s Animal Roadshow or take the kids to visit Phil’s Mobile Farm, showcasing farm animals and domestic pets from the weird to the wonderful!  For the bird enthusiasts, a Falconry Display will be taking place featuring a selection of beautiful birds of prey.

Finish your walk at the newly redeveloped Pickie Funpark which reopens on Easter Monday. The park includes a total refurbishment of existing features and new exciting activities including, an 18 hole maritime themed mini golf course, a children’s electric cars and splash pads. The legendary Pickie Puffer steam train will also be given new puff with an enhanced route and the iconic Pickie Swans will be given a new lease of life in a brand new lagoon.

At 3.00 pm over 200 children and young people from St Malachy’s Primary School, St Columbanus College, St Comgalls Primary School, Barre 2 Soul, Rathgael Gymnastics, St Gall’s Brownies and Guides, North Down Scouts and Bangor Air Training Corps will be taking to the streets as part of the spectacular Diamond Masquerade themed Parade. This year, The Parade will be led by the The Mayor of North Down, Councillor James McKerrow who will be travelling in an electric blue Beaufort car. The Parade’s route will start at the Leisure Centre onto Main Street, along Quay Street, turning into High Street and making its way back up Main Street to the Leisure Centre – an extravaganza not to be missed!

Over on The Eisenhower Pier, The HMS Bangor will throw down her gangway on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday and members of the public are invited to go onboard and see what life is like onboard a real military ship. We are thrilled to have HMS Bangor back in the town after its recent deployment to Libya and the ship’s new Captain, Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Matt Moore is delighted to be here on his first visit to Bangor.

Also taking place over the Easter Weekend, Bangor & Holywood Town Centre Management in partnership with North Down Borough Council will be hosting an Easter Speciality Fair in the Sunken Gardens. The event will take place on Easter Saturday from 11am – 4pm and Easter Sunday from 1pm – 5pm.  An array of local crafts and speciality foods will be available.

So come on down to Bangor with your family and friends this Easter for lots of family fun!

For further information check www.northdowntourism.com


An egg-stra special Easter is planned at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum this year.

From Sunday 8th to Tuesday 10th April, visitors of all ages can take part in egg-rolling down Bleach Green, a special Easter-themed treasure hunt, street games and swing boats for children and adults. Children can also have a go at creating their own Easter art and there is an Easter Bonnet competition each afternoon.

Special magic shows have been planned in the Parochial Hall and in the Rail Gallery as well as rabbit shows and traditional musical performances. Visitors can also venture to the Rural Area and meet the new additions to the museum including lambs and chicks.

Visitor Services Manager Ruth Turkington said the museum has planned an entertaining programme to mark the Easter holidays: “This is a wonderful time of year at the museum. The farmyard is buzzing with new arrivals, the daffodils are blooming and we are encouraging the public to come and celebrate Easter at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum.

“We have a packed programme of activities to keep all ages happy and entertained. Of course, as well as plenty of things to do, our visitors can simply relax, enjoy living history at its best and we’ll ensure there’s some traditional soda bread to sample – just hot off the griddle!”, she said.

For further information about Easter events at the museum, opening hours and pricing go to www.nmni.com.