Belfast set to become world class digital city after £13.7 million funding boost

Belfast City Council has described today’s announcement that the city is to receive £13.7 million from the Westminster Government’s Urban Broadband Fund as a catalyst for economic development which will provide a major boost to the infrastructure of the city.

The total investment will be nearly £25 million as the City Council will invest £3 million, as part of its investment programme,  while the private sector will provide a further £8 million towards the Super-connected Cities Programme.

Councillor Deirdre Hargey, chairman of the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said that it has the potential to be the catalyst for foreign investment, new jobs and major improvements in quality of life for citizens with Belfast set to become a world class digital city by 2015.

Only London has received a higher city award than Belfast and is the only city to receive the full award that it bid for.

Councillor Deirdre Hargey, chairman of the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said: “Today’s announcement is the result of an incredible amount of work in a short space of time. It has been a real team effort across the city with a range of partners in the private and public sector and Belfast City Council could not have put this bid together without their support.

“This is one of the most significant announcements for Belfast and the wider regional economy for some time and is a real game-changer as it will provide a world class digital infrastructure that will attract major foreign investment, create jobs, and provide a platform for local business start ups.  It also brings major benefits for communities, residents, tourists and public sector organisations.


Why not take this once in a lifetime opportunity to join Lady Bangor – otherwise known as historian and biographer Sarah Bradford – for afternoon tea at the Aspects Festival on Sunday 30 September 2012 at 3.00pm. Tickets cost £9 (£7 concession).

Lady Bangor will be discussing her new book Elizabeth ll: Her Life In Our Times.  An avid collector, Sarah had such vast archives and stories coaxed from courtiers, friends and royal insiders that she produced this latest book to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  The finished book is the nation’s story told through everything that has happened to the Queen – and everything she has made happen over 60 years of change, turbulence, triumph and sadness.

Sarah Bradford is married to William Ward who, in 1993 became the 8th Viscount of Bangor.  The couple are reported to spend much of the summer months at Castle Ward.

Sarah’s other famous connection is with sister in law Lalla Ward, famous for her role in Doctor Who and who was briefly married to Tom Baker.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee both finishes and starts this year’s Aspects Festival, as we also welcome James Naughtie on Wednesday 26 September, when he will be discussing his New Elizabethans series, currently broadcasting on BBC Radio 4 (event starts at 8.30pm, tickets £11/£9 concession). Attending both events is a great way to consider both Queen Elizabeth herself and the era she has governed over – why not start Aspects by thinking about the key individuals of the New Elizabethan era, and end it by discussing, over afternoon tea, the life of this extraordinary monarch?

Tickets are available at, from the festival Box Office at North Down Museum (028 9127 1200) and from Bangor Tourist Information Office (028 9127 0069).

Shuphoric Goes Live!

Fermanagh shoe and accessory boutique, Shuphoric has just gone live, launching a very slick and stylish online shop for those who possess a passion for fashion.

Boasting an unmatched range of unique, quirky and classy collections, is a one-stop-shop for all your shoes, bags, headpieces and accessory needs, and all at the click of a button!

Considered a modern and fashionable outlet for chic and sophisticated women, stocks top-named brands including Irregular Choice, United Nude, Menbur, Rocket Dog, Poetic Licence, Miss L Fire, Gabriella, Blackmail and more. All of which collectively caters to all markets, from everyday-wear to occasion-wear, Shuphoric footwear is known to turn heads.

Designed specifically with their customers in mind, is simplistic, practical and easily navigated. Furthermore, customers can avail of free delivery to the UK and Ireland and can be sure they’re getting the best prices around with Shuphoric’s Price Match Promise. In other words, should you find the shoes you’re after cheaper elsewhere, will match the price and even knock off another 10% for good measure! If that wasn’t enough, accepts various payment methods such as credit card, PayPal and Amazon, meaning customers are able to browse, shop and pay how they please, all with great ease.

To celebrate the exciting launch of their online shop, are offering customers 10% off their first purchase with the use of discount code: SHU1B. To avail of this offer, simply click ‘Got a Discount Code?’ during the checkout process and follow the instructions.

So, what are you waiting for? Make your newest one-click fashion trick!

Shop online at and also visit and


It’s just four days (and counting) until the biggest, most inclusive and dazzlingly diverse cultural showcase to be held anywhere in Northern Ireland kicks off in Belfast.

Culture Night Belfast will illuminate the four corners of the Cathedral Quarter, stretching into the four corners of the city itself, in an evening of exploration and adventure.

Music, theatre, comedy, cathedral recitals, journalists for free speech, rock gigs, group drumming, children’s workshops, electronic performances, giant sculptures, street parties, exhibitions, tasters, tours, magic performers, interactive murals, family friendly performances, barbershop opera, outdoor wrestling, debates, lectures, quizzes, trails, video installations, flying saucers, DJ and street skills, archaeology from the air, caravan jams in car parks, giant projections, stand-up in double decker buses, stories, readings, digital arts, mini-festivals in Minis, flash mob meditation, an interactive transatlantic dining experience and a love and peace parade is just a sample of the 250-plus happenings, events and occurrences that are taking place across one city in one evening on 21st September.

And there’s free buses all night to transport Culture Nighters of all shoe sizes, tastes and temperaments to the west and east of the city and back again into the central hub to join up Belfast in one giant civic celebration.

Culture Night Manager Adam Turkington said: “The response to the fourth Culture Night Belfast has been out of this world. It’s all kind of snowballed into a giant evening right across the city where everything happens all at once! So many amazing artists, performers and organisations have offered their services free of charge and it demonstrates just what a dazzling wealth of talent and creativity we have within our city limits. It’s something that I’m hugely proud of and everybody who comes down on 21st September, will witness first hand what an astounding ‘city of culture’ Belfast truly is.”

He added: “We’re very excited about the scale and quality of Culture Night 2012, and we’re looking forward to seeing people of all ages getting out and sampling Belfast night life as they’ve never seen it before.”

Over 25,000 people are expected to take part in Culture Night 2012, and organisers have endeavoured to ensure that something will be happening in every available space and place throughout the city centre, throughout the evening.

Our Pick of What’s On in NI this week/weekend!


Footloose – The 1984 all dancing musical movie classic will be shown on a big screen in Dromore Town Park on Friday 21 September 2012.  Both young and old of Banbridge District are guaranteed to love this toe tapping, feel-good film. Come and watch the rebellious dance moves of Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer and John Lithgow as they shake up their sleepy American town, as the screen comes alive at this free event organised by Banbridge District Council. So get your dancing shoes ready it’s time to lose your blues and cut footloose!


On Friday 21st September 2012 more than 29 towns, cities, counties and islands across the island of Ireland will take part in Culture Night 2012. One day and one evening of free culture for people of all ages and interests. Strabane are getting involved with poetry readings, live music, art workshops, dance and  open mic night.


Belle Isle Cookery School is delighted to announce an exclusive ‘Evening with Jenny Bristow’ on Thursday 20th Sept 2012. The cookery demonstration will take place in the Grand Hall of Belle Isle castle, where Jenny will prepare some of her autumn favourites, using produce from the walled garden at the cookery school. The cookery demonstration evening will start at 7.30pm, where everyone will be greeted with a glass of wine and a copy of all the recipes. There will be an opportunity to taste all of the dishes at the end, as well as a chance to ask Jenny for any extra tips in the kitchen.


Sharpen your pencils, grab your schoolbag and come along to the Roe Valley Arts Centre’s school themed storytelling and crafts session in Limavady TIC this Saturday 22nd September to celebrate the new school term! Hear some of our favourite school stories and enjoy making a surprise to bring to school on Monday! For age group 3-8 years old.


Culture Night 2012 is coming to Armagh on Friday 21st September. Over 15 venues are opening their doors for over 50 FREE cultural events to provide a night of free entertainment and showcase some cultural gems.  Why not come along and enjoy some free performances, events, talks and tours.  Some of the events on the night include: Variety Showcase, Exhibitions, Workshops, Living History, Music, Storytelling,  Art & Crafts, Demonstrations, Dancing, Food Sampling, Walking Trails and much more……


Vintage fever will be taking Lisburn by storm on 22nd September when Northern Ireland’s favourite fashion and lifestyle event, the fabulous Frock Around The Clock Vintage Fair, will be visiting the City for the first time. Boasting a line up of around 40 Irish vintage dealers and creative designers offering a fantastic array of vintage and handmade fashion, jewellery, furniture, homewares, collectables, sweet treats and much more – it’s the hottest shopping destination to find the coolest stuff on the planet for your wardrobe and home.  Relax and revive in the pop-up tearoom run by The Tea Boutique NI, with scrumptious delights of afternoon tea served on pretty vintage china with a dollop of good old fashioned service on the side.  This Frock Around The Clock event will run from 11am to 5pm on Saturday 22nd September 2012 at Castle House (opposite Castle Gardens) on Castle Street Lisburn. FREE ADMISSION!

New programme for budding food and craft entrepreneurs in Belfast!

St George`s Market will once again open its doors to new businesses who want to start-up their own food or craft industries.

Claire Magowan who runs The Lily Pink Bakery was a participant of Belfast City Council’s pilot Market Start-Up Programme which was open to budding entrepreneurs who wanted to start up their own food or craft industries in the city. The programme is open for recruitment once again for 20 places commencing this October and running until March. For information on taking part in the programme, you can visit the council website or you can contact the council directly on 028 9027 0229.

Belfast City Council`s Market Start-Up Programme was piloted earlier this year and its success has led to another wave of the initiative – starting this October.

Nine new businesses were offered stalls at the city’s historic market for two Sundays in March to test trade their products. The range of goods introduced by the businesses varied from vintage jewellery and clothes to cupcakes and buns, jams and chutneys, plush teddies and fresh fruit products.

Now the programme is to be launched again and is open to 20 budding entrepreneurs in the Belfast City Council area. Free of charge, it will consist of workshops with an introduction to market trading; one-to-one mentoring; help with product development and support with a business plan.

The participants will get a chance to test trade their products at St George’s Market, take part in a special Meet The Buyer event and visit other international food and craft trade events.

Claire Magowan who runs The Lily Pink Bakery which specialises in buttercream cupcakes and layer cakes was a previous participant and lauded the programme.

“From the first meeting on the Market Start-Up Programme, I knew that running my own cake business was what I wanted to do and with the help of Belfast City Council, I would be able to achieve it. Through the programme, we got to visit local businesses that were happy to share their advice on a range of topics – everything from dealing with customers and the importance of originality right to more practical issues such as sourcing packaging and financing. We were also taught how to write a business plan – which was an invaluable help to me,” she said.

“At the end of the programme, we were each given a stall at St George’s Sunday Market to trial our products. I had spent the previous month trialling recipes for cupcakes to ensure that my cakes not only looked but tasted wonderful. Both weeks at St George`s were a complete success and I sold out of all stock. Following this success, I decided to trade as a casual trader at St George`s every Sunday and my stall has now been made permanent. Running The Lily Pink Bakery is now my full time job.”

Alderman Christopher Stalford, Chairman of Belfast City Council`s Development Committee, said: “The council is committed to supporting new and existing retailers. The Market Start-Up Programme will give new artisan food and craft producers a chance to test trade their products at St George`s Market and note the benefits of doing so and building a new business.”

To apply for the programme, you can visit the council website at or you can contact Belfast City Council’s Economic Development Unit directly on 028 9027 0229.


‘Red Hand Luke’ actor, Dan Gordon will close this year’s Aspects Festival on Sunday 30th September at 7.00pm in The Parish of Bangor Abbey Halls, and tickets cost £11/£9.

Dan is no stranger to the stages of Northern Ireland and has worked on a variety of productions as actor, director and playwright. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Red Hand Luke in the BBC Northern Ireland sitcom Give My Head Peace, and has also played the lead in Marie Jones’ monodrama A Night In November in London and in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

Dan’s most recent piece of theatre, The Boat Factory is based on his own experience of growing up around the East Belfast shipyard and is set in the days when the Harland and Wolff Shipyard was the leading shipbuilding firm in the world. The play is the story of a 16 year old boy starting his first job in the shipyard, and the lessons he learns about humanity against the background of that Belfast icon. Dan has been touring and performing the show across Europe, including taking the play to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer to great acclaim.

Dan Gordon’s Lucky Bag is a one man show that brings together extracts from the scripts, stories and songs he has been involved with throughout his career, including excerpts from The Boat Factory.

Tickets can be purchased online at, at North Down Museum (028 9127 1200) and Bangor Tourist Information Centre (028 9127 0069).


The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) has put together a list of 12 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland over the next week (September 17 – 23).

For all events in ni2012 click on, visit your local tourist information centre or log onto

  • Celebrity Chef Jenny Bristow at Belle Isle Castle, Belle Isle Estate, Co. Fermanagh, September 20.  An exclusive evening with Jenny Bristow in the Grand Hall of Belle Isle Castle.  Jenny will prepare some of her autumn favourites using produce from the walled garden at the cookery school.
  • Culture Night, various locations across Belfast, September 21.  The city’s biggest, most cultural and inclusive cultural celebration will see the streets of Belfast transformed into a magical evening of exploration and adventure with everything from performances to tours taking place.
  • Cultural Night Armagh, various venues, September 21.  Over 15 venues will open their doors with over 50 free cultural events taking place including performances, events, talks and tours.
  • Sunset on the Summit, Slieve Donard Mountain, Newcastle, Co. Down, September 22.  Hike up Slieve Donard with a fully trained guide just in time to see the sunset and enjoy the extensive views from the summit while helping raise funds for charity.
  • Shiver Me Timbers – Jim Lad, Slieve Gullion Courtyard, Newry, Co. Down, September 22.  Come along with your swords, maps, eye patches and parrots in search of treasure in the deep, magical forest with games and activities for all.
  • Show Stopping Spectacular, Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, September 22.  A unique one off show featuring the big musical numbers from the West End and Broadway including Oklahoma, Jesus Christ Superstar, Guys and Dolls and Fiddler on the Roof.
  • 37th Annual Vintage Vehicle Rally, Gosford Forest Park, Markethill, Co. Armagh, September 22.  Enjoy a full day of family fun, vintage vehicles and demonstrations.
  • Fungi Guided Walk, Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, Castlerock, Co. Londonderry, September 22.  Join the warden to explore the estate’s habitats and discover why fungi, bugs and beasties are so important to the world’s ecosystem.   
  • Autumn Book Fair, The Argory, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, September 23.  Browse through the hundreds of second hand books in the courtyard before enjoying an invigorating walk among the autumn colours around the estate.   
  • Family Adventure Day, Castle Ward, Co. Down, September 23.  Enjoy a range of activities to entertain all the family including canoeing, archery and orienteering.  Suitable for age 4 years plus.
  • The Story of Belfast, Belfast Barge, Titanic Quarter, until September 30.  An exhibition that traces the story of Belfast from prehistoric times through medieval times, the Plantation, the granting of the town charter in 1613 and right into the early 1900s.
  • Art in the Age of Steam, Enniskillen Castle Museums, Co. Fermanagh, until October 7.  This art exhibition will take visitors on a nostalgic journey back to the golden age of railway travel and bring to life a period when colour photography was in its infancy.      

Comedy Night in Bangor Owen O’Neill at the Abbey!

Sheep strangling, erotic love poetry, dancing with Mick Jagger. Stories so hilarious they could only be ripped from the pages of Owen O’Neill’s life….

Northern Ireland’s own Owen O’Neill has established himself as a comedian, writer, actor and stand-up performer worldwide. This year we welcome him to the comedy line up at Aspects where he will perform his comedy and poetry set ‘Volcano Dancing’ on Friday 28 September 2012 at 9.00pm. Tickets cost £11 (£9 concession).

Most of Owen’s material is drawn from his own life – anecdotes, many of which might only be considered mildly amusing if, for example, they happened to you. However, in Owen’s hands the simplest of story builds and builds to a hilarious crescendo due to his honesty, perceptive observations and storytelling skill. To quote The Scotsman; ‘To call what he does ‘stand-up’ doesn’t do him justice. This is genuine comedy from the gut, a true original.’

But poetry and comedy, though? The word poetry is a scary word for some people; they see a man in a tweed suit droning on about the sea and lost love. However in Owen’s show Volcano Dancing he will hit you in the face with it, he’ll break your heart with it and he’ll make you laugh with it.

His poetry has been described by the Glasgow Herald as “explosive and tender.” The Independent said he had “the comic turn of phrase of Roddy Doyle and the darkness of Patrick McCabe.” His Grandmother said he shouldn’t use so many bad words and should go back to church – you can’t please everyone.

In Volcano Dancing he will also tell some true stories about himself and his family that will have you on the edge of your seat. Mick Jagger might make an appearance, but maybe against his will, and Owen may even tell you about the time he was interrogated by an IRA man with a stammer.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see this powerful comic and poet tell stories of a life still being lived and written about – get your tickets while you still can!

Tickets are available from the festival Box Office at North Down Museum (028 9127 1200) and from Bangor Tourist Information Office (028 9127 0069).


Fans of Radio 4’s Book Club and Today programmes will have the opportunity to hear veteran broadcaster James Naughtie discuss his most recent documentary series The New Elizabethans when he headlines the opening night of this year’s Aspects Festival on Wednesday, 26thSeptember 2012 at 8.30pm (tickets £11 / £9 concession).

The New Elizabethans which has been created for the Diamond Jubilee year considers the period of The Queen’s reign thus far and profiles 60 key people whose achievements have helped define this era and are likely to stand the test of time. Those profiled run from Edmund Hillary to Vivienne Westwood, from Billy Connolly to Margaret Thatcher. Northern Irish figures feature prominently in the list, including George Best, John Hume and David Trimble and leading astronomer Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

James’ journalistic career has seen him travel the world, most notably to the United States where he has covered every Presidential election and garnered a wealth of US political trivia, though he is perhaps most infamously known on the Today programme as the presenter who had a rather unfortunate mispronunciation slip over the name of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt!

This is a fascinating opportunity to look at our recent history in a different way, led by a man whose guiding principle is that journalism is “…about telling stories straightforwardly, as interestingly as you can, and as accurately as you can manage.”

Other authors and events at Aspects include Colin Bateman’s Crime Night, this year featuring Colin Brookmyre, Bernard MacLaverty, Chief Football Writer for the Guardian, Kevin McCarra, poetry and comedy from Owen O’Neill, Glenn Patterson, our Young Aspects Headline Guest Derek Landy (author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series), David Park, Gerald Dawe and an evening devoted to Flann O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman, featuring narration by Stephen Rea and music by Colin Reid.

Author Bernard O’Donoghue has described the Aspects Irish Literature Festival as “one of the great gatherings”, so what are you waiting for? Head to Bangor and we’ll see you at the festival!

Tickets are available at, from the festival Box Office at North Down Museum (028 9127 1200) and from Bangor Tourist Information Office (028 9127 0069).