This Is For You, Da – The Carsons Launch a Star-Studded Tribute to the Legendary Frank

A galaxy of performers and sporting greats will grace the stage of the Grand Opera House Belfast in February in honour of the beloved comedian, the late Frank Carson.  Frank Carson – It’s the Way He Told ‘Em will play at the Grand Opera House Belfast on Thursday 28 February 2013.

The multi-million-selling trio The Priests will be part of the stellar line-up, in a cast-list which includes Joe McElderry, Brian Kennedy, Tom O’Connor, Rose Marie and David Meade.   The show will help two charities dear to Frank Carson’s heart: CLIC Sargent Homes from Home Appeal and the Integrated Education Fund.

A year after the legendary comedian’s passing, friends and fans of Frank Carson will join together in a unique tribute show encompassing laughter, music and reminiscence.    Gloria Hunniford will return to Northern Ireland to host the spectacular, and sports stars such as Barry McGuigan, Dame Mary Peters and Denis Taylor will pay tribute to the legendary funnyman. Comics such as May McFettridge, Gene Fitzpatrick and Jimmy Cricket will ensure that there is plenty of humour on the programme.

Tony Carson says, “We wanted to honour Da’s humour and his humanity and we’ve been working for months on an event which will be a true celebration of his life and his spirit in the city he loved. It’s a tribute to Da’s standing at home and abroad that so many performers  have come  forward wanting to join us and to help two charities which have become  so important to the whole family. I know we are all looking forward to a special evening with something for everyone.”

Special packages including a VIP drinks reception, show tickets and an exclusive after-show party at the Europa Hotel are available through the charities concerned:  the Integrated Education Fund and CLIC Sargent. Public tickets are on sale at the Grand Opera House Box Office:

Here are Jacqueline’s pick of family events taking place this weekend across the North.


Have a late celebration of St Valentine’s Day at Castle Espie by building a nest box for your loving garden birds and get them off to a flying start this year. February is the time of year when most of our garden birds are pairing off and on the look out for nesting sites so let’s all give them a helping hand and make them a nest box. £5 charge per birdbox (covers material costs). Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm. For all our County Down events click HERE.


Love can be blind to all sorts of faults and this Valentines Murder Mystery Night, matters are no different at  Tullylagan Country House Hotel. Take part in their famous murder mystery evening where you are the investigator into a foul and heinous crime that takes place before your very eyes. Have you got what it takes to get to the bottom of this horrid matter?  Enjoy a  sumptuous four  course meal with all the passion, love & intrigue of a Valentine’s murder to solve on Saturday 16th February 2013 at Tullylagan Country House Hotel, all set in the haunting backdrop of our Medieval Banqueting Hall. You will be whisked back in time to help solve a Valentines Murder under the watchful eye of Inspector I C All whilst enjoying a delicious meal filled with all the intrigue, speculation and entertainment of our Valentines “Love You To Death” Murder Mystery Night. The evening will be followed with Live Music in Harry’s Bar & Bistro until 1am. For all our County Tyrone listings click HERE.


Fermanagh Rewrites the History Books.   Discover How at the Drumclay Crannog Open Day at Fermanagh County Museum, Enniskillen Castle Museums on Saturday 16th February. Learn about the archaeological secrets uncovered so far… Meet the experts… “A Unique Opportunity”.  Spaces are limited for talks and guided tours of the site.  Access to the Drumclay Crannog is via an official coach, pick-up point at Fermanagh County Museum at Enniskillen Castle Museums.  Prior Booking Essential. For all our County Fermangh listings click HERE.


Based on the 80s hit movie starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose The Musical explodes onto the Waterside Theatre stage on Friday 15th February, featuring all its classic anthems.  Packed full of electrifying dance routines, this up-beat production is guaranteed to get you up on your feet and dancing in the aisles!  The huge cast of 56 members will swarm the stage with energetic routines combined with fabulous vocal performances, delivering a night to remember. “Dancing is not a crime” – but to miss this production of Footloose would be! For all our County Derry/Londonderry listings click HERE.


Explore all that Ireland’s oldest city has to offer by following the Public Art Trail. Take a wander around the City and enjoy our historic streetscape through engaging with our artworks. For the kids, there is an Angels and Gargoyles Miniature Sculpture Trail. With 22 sculptures hidden in all kinds of curious places amongst Armagh’s historic buildings, architecture and streets, watch the kids fill with excitement as they embark on an adventure to seek out these fascinating characters. For all our County Armagh listings click HERE.


One of the most highly acclaimed folk/bluegrass bands in the UK today, the Southern Tenant Folk Union are on tour from Edinburgh to release their fifth album “Hello Cold Goodbye Sun”.  A seven piece band with banjo, mandolin, fiddle and harmony vocals, they perform with ‘soul & beauty’ on their murder ballads & laments and tear it up with their ‘Hootenanny sawdust-kickers’ and high energy sound.   The band are currently lighting up the folk music scene.  Tickets £9, concessions £7 available from Ballymoney Town Hall. Ballymoney Town Hall, Wednesday 13th February. For all County Antrim listings click HERE.


Ruffed lemurs are red, peacocks are blue, come and enjoy Valentine’s Day at Belfast Zoo. If you are looking for the ‘PURR-fect’ date this Valentine’s Day, why not take part in our guided tour around the zoo to learn more about animals in love!  Tickets cost £13 per adult and this includes zoo admission. Tickets must be bought beforehand. Saturday 16th February. For all our Belfast listings click HERE.

For more details on these and other events across Northern Ireland, news and competitions see, follow us @whatsonni and like us at Add your  events FREE OF CHARGE at www.whatsonni.

10 Things to do in Northern Ireland Next Week.

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) has put together a list of 10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland over the next week (February 11 – 17).

  • Andy Warhol, The Mac, Belfast, February 8 – April 28.  Over the course of a 30 year long career, Andy Warhol transformed contemporary art and this will be the first significant exhibition of Andy Warhol’s work in Northern Ireland.
  • Chinese Culture Week, citywide, Co. Londonderry, February 9 – 16.  The Chinese community is NI’s largest and oldest minority ethnic group with over 13,000 Chinese people living here today.  Chinese New Year is the biggest celebration in the Chinese calendar and for the UK City of Culture 2013, there will be a week-long celebration across the city to mark Chinese New Year, The Year of The Snake.
  • Brian Friel – Freedom of the City, Millennium Forum, Co. Londonderry, February 11 – 12.  First produced in 1973, The Freedom of the City is Brian Friel’s most overtly political play.  Set in Derry in 1970, in the aftermath of a Civil Rights meeting, it conjures the events of Bloody Sunday.
  • Young Artists, The Courtyard Theatre, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, February 12.  An evening of light classical music performed by some of Northern Ireland’s most talented young musicians including Andrew Douglas on the flute, Eva Richards on the cello and Zak Hassan playing the Violin and piano.
  • Literary Lunchtimes – Poetry Picnic Love Sucks, Ulster Hall, Belfast, February 13.  Get out over lunchtime and explore the other side of Valentine’s Day with live music from Ursula Burns, poems by Scott Jamison and new theatre from Nicholas Boyle.
  • Swingabella Sweetheart’s Tea Dance, Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, Co. Down, February 15.  Swingabella is a close-harmony vocal trio bringing back the sassy sound of the 30’s, and 40’s – the Swing era. Nothing conjures up the image of that era quite like the jaunty Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree and the ever-popular In The Mood coquettishly sung by three ‘broads’ in victory rolls and T-bar shoes.
  • The Flying Dutchman, Grand Opera House, Belfast, February 15 – 17.  One stormy night a Norwegian sea captain encounters the Flying Dutchman – a ghostly captain doomed to sail the seas for all eternity.  The two men strike a deal, but when things do not go according to plan, other lives are pulled into the resulting maelstrom, brought by NI Opera.
  • Owl Box Building for Landowners, Slieve Gullion Courtyard, Newry, Co. Armagh, February 16.  Celebrate National Nest Box by encouraging birds in your garden to come home to roost.  If you own some land in the Ring of Gullion and are interested in owls or birds in general then come along and build your own owl nesting box.
  • Valentines Murder Mystery Night, Tullylagan Country House Hotel, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, February 16.  Love can be blind to all sorts of faults and this Valentines you can take part in an investigation into a foul and heinous crime that takes place before your very eyes.  Have you got what it takes to get to the bottom of this horrid matter?
  • Calendar Girls, Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, February 16.  When Annie’s husband John dies of leukaemia, she and best friend Chris resolve to raise money for a new settee in the local hospital waiting room. They manage to coax friends to pose nude with them for an ‘alternative’ calendar and they had no idea of the media sensation they would create.

Here are Jacqueline’s pick of family events taking place this weekend across the North.


The Web Theatre is the venue for A Mid Summer Night’s Dream on Wednesday 6th February. This acclaimed one-man (17 parts) show production of Shakespeare’s famous play has been performed by Tony Howes as part of the RSC face-to-face educational programme. Tony trained at the National Youth Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic and was nominated for an Olivier Award for his part in a West End musical. He has appeared in numerous TV & Film roles , Emmerdale, Doctors, Midsomer Murders etc. After the performance Tony will return to the stage for a Q & A session.  To view all events in County Down click HERE.


From the company that brought you such outstanding productions as My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Les Miserables, Me and My Girl, The Crucible and many more.  The renowned Hazel Wand Theatre Schools brings you a feast of song, dance and drama from a variety of musicals. Come along to the Strule Arts Centre and enjoy an evening in the company of Omagh’s talented young people on Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th February.  To view all County Tyrone events click HERE.


The Buttermarket Craft & Design Courtyard comprises of seventeen art and craft units, a coffee shop and a gift shop, housed in the restored early 19th century dairy market. The Buttermarket’s unique position in the heart of Enniskillen makes it the central focus for the thriving craft industry in Fermanagh. The buildings have been beautifully renovated and house such diverse crafts as pottery, fly-tying, ceramics, handmade jewellery, textiles, picture framing and original art. Soak up the relaxed atmosphere of the Buttermarket surrounded by a feast of contemporary and inspirational gifts, from the shops, studios and galleries of some of Ireland’s top crafts people and artists. Treat yourself to some homemade Fayre at Rebecca’s Coffee Shop and browse through the treasure house of gifts in Boston Quay.  Open 10am – 5.30pm, Monday – Saturday all year round. To view all County Fermanagh events click HERE.


Starlight Express comes to the Millennium Forum 5th to 9th February. Light years ahead of the rest, this futuristic tale about love and hope in the face of adversity promises to take you on the ride of a lifetime – with two hours of speed, spectacle, energy and turbo charged excitement, combined with an electrifying sound track, dazzling sets and costumes, some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most memorable musical hits and extraordinary nonstop roller-choreography by TV’s favourite dance show judge Arlene Phillips. To view all County DerryLondonderry events click HERE.


One of the biggest Talent Shows Northern Ireland has seen in recent times, the Armagh City Hotel’s ‘Search For A Star’ takes place every Friday night until 19th April.  The talent  is immense and each heat of the competition promises to be a spectacular show.  The competition offers local talent the opportunity of a lifetime. Local television and radio personality Malachi Cush will be presenting the Show throughout the twelve weeks of the competition. To view all County Armagh events click HERE.


The Courtyard Theatre Picture House presents The Jungle Book on Sunday 10th February – a perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon with the family.   See young Mowgli journey through the jungle under the watchful eye of Bagheera, Baloo the Bear and a host of other jungle animals in this timeless family favourite. To view all County Antrim events click HERE.


Join the Belfast Barge for their new monthly event: Kids Second Saturdays.  Every second Saturday of the month, kids (ages 3-10) are invited to come and take over the barge. The day is filled with hands-on activities, storytelling and kid-friendly tours of the maritime museum. Each month we will feature a new theme and February’s Theme is the Wildlife of the Lagan.  Entry: £4 per child, £2 per adult.  Booking is not essential.  11am-4pm (Last entry at 3).  Storytelling at 12pm & 2pm. To view all Belfast events click HERE.

For more details on these and other events across Northern Ireland, news and competitions follow us @whatsonni and like us at Add your  events FREE OF CHARGE at

Test Drive the Arts NI Celebrates 3rd Birthday

Test Drive the Arts NI reaches another important milestone with its 3rd birthday this Saturday, the 9th of February, and Audiences NI has 15745 reasons to celebrate this flagship arts development project.

Alfie Taggart joins Test Drive the Arts to share his 3rd birthday with this successful Audience Development Project on 9 February 2013 and is joined by Karen Hassan (currently on stage at the Lyric Theatre in Mixed Marriage) and Paul Boyd from Comedy of Errors (opening at Theatre at the Mill on 19th February). Representing Audiences NI is Victoria Taggart. Test Drive the Arts NI enables anyone in Northern Ireland to get complimentary tickets to some of the best arts show and events across the province on Photography by Nigel Williamson

Since its launch Test Drive the Arts NI has seen 15745 new attenders be issued tickets for arts event across Northern Ireland

The website enables anyone in Northern Ireland who has never been to live theatre or performing arts events to get complimentary tickets to some of the best shows and events across the province.  Test Drive the Arts NI was designed to help organisations increase their audiences by offering the tickets, from unsold capacity. The result is that the Test Driver experiences the very best of what the arts has to offer and is encouraged to return as a paying customer to another event.

It is a simple process.  All the Test Driver needs to do is pick a show, apply on-line and wait for their tickets.  As long as the applicant is over 18 and hasn’t attended the venue in the last three years they can look forward to sampling the very best that the Northern Ireland arts scene has to offer. Test Drive the Arts NI also continues to provide best value to its subscribers with exclusive special offers on a monthly basis for theatre, film, dance, music and much more.

There are currently 86 arts organisations taking part, including venues such as An Droichead, Belfast Waterfront, Grand Opera House, Lyric Theatre, Strule Arts Centre, Millennium Forum and the Theatre at the Mill. Local theatre companies such as Bruiser and Kabosh are also on board, while the Cinemagic, Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, Cathedral Quarter Out to Lunch and Belfast Children’s Festival are just some of the festivals represented.

Audience members who have successfully received tickets through Test Drive the Arts NI have the following to say:

“Fantastic opportunity to attend events you might not otherwise attend. Great experience, would recommend.”

“What a fantastic idea! I was really impressed with how simple it was. All that’s left to be said is a big thank you for a wonderful day out and we will be seeing you again very soon!”

“Definitely a good way to be reintroduced to the Arts.  Loved it.  Thanks for the opportunity.”

You can watch a selection of Test Drivers talk about their experiences at

Chief Executive of Audiences NI, Steven Hadley, says “We are very excited to see Test Drive the Arts NI reach its third birthday and to be providing this opportunity to access the arts to the people of Northern Ireland. The project is a great way for anyone who hasn’t tried the wide range of arts performances available in the province to get involved.”

There are at present a wide range of events online on and those interested can register for regular updates on shows being added to the site.  Potential applicants can look out for regular updates on the Test Drive the Arts NI Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages also.  Audiences NI encourage everyone to challenge themselves to experience a new art form and take a Test Drive of one of Northern Ireland’s many excellent arts productions.