Rare Seamus Heaney Memorabilia Tops Bill at Charity Auction!

A signed limited edition Christmas card published privately for Seamus Heaney will be going under the hammer later this year to raise money for two local charities.

The auction, which will take place during a Masquerade May Ball on Saturday 3 May in the Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown, is in aid of the Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.

The ‘At the Hillhead’ Millennium Christmas Card was privately printed by Faber & Faber for Seamus Heaney. The card is signed and in mint condition. It is drawing interest from fans and collectors across the island of Ireland and the United States.

Organisers, Jacqueline McGonigle and Emma McCann, who both have personal connections to the charities, are hoping to raise £10,000 from the event that will include sale of the Heaney card, as well as the other items being auctioned and raffled throughout the evening.

Jacqueline McGonigle said, “We chose these charities as both of us have lost a parent to cancer, Emma’s mother in 2000 and my father in 2004. My mother was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008 and the Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group was extremely supportive when I just needed someone to talk to and let me know that I wasn’t on my own, as well as offering practical advice about caring for someone with Dementia.

“We hope this rare card will help us reach our target along with our other auction and raffle prizes which include city breaks, hampers, beauty products, flying lessons, theatre tickets, spa passes, a donation from renowned artist Terry Bradley and much more.”

Daybreak Presenter Rita Fiztgerald who will compere the evening, pictured with the organisers Jacqueline McGonigle and Emma McCann who are aiming to raise £10,000 for the Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group and Cancer Focus.

The event begins at 7pm and comperes are TV presenter Rita Fitzgerald and Willie John O’Donnell. Guests will also be entertained by James Huish and his Band along with some surprise performances during the course of the evening.

Emma McCann, who is the community fundraiser for Cancer Focus in Mid Ulster, said, “All money raised will stay in the mid Ulster area and help the families of people who are affected by these two illnesses. Both of us would like to say thank you for the kindness of our friends and families, and the financial support from five local businesses – Runwood Homes, Russell Shiels Tyres, Ground Espresso Bars, J&K Coaches and Ardboe Coldstore.”

Tickets are limited and can be purchased by contacting Jacqueline on 07833 488553 or Emma on 07731 375022.

The Mid Ulster Dementia Support Group has become a life-line to stressed carers, offering help and support, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on as well as a source of fun and friendship.  As well as providing advice and information on options of care for people living with dementia, the group offers a befriending and outreach support service which includes a best-buddy scheme, where carers who can’t attend on a regular basis can keep in touch by phone or text with the occasional meeting. The group also offers £50 grants to carers, raised through donations and fundraising and is staffed by volunteers who have been, or are still in a caring role.

One of the services provided locally by Cancer Focus is the Family Support Service, which helps families cope with the disruption to ordinary family life and minimises the long term impact on children’s emotional well-being when a mum, dad or close family member has cancer. All Cancer Focus’s services are free. Visit www.cancerfocusni.org for more information.

Keep up to date with the event news on facebook HERE.

If you can’t make the event but would like to make a donation, you can do so via paypal to masquerademayball2014@gmail.com.

The Alternative Wedding Fair is back – bigger and better than ever!

The Quirky Weddings Alternative Wedding Fair returns to Belfast Waterfront bigger and better than ever on Sunday 2 February (12pm – 5pm).

If you’re looking for a little inspiration to make your alternative wedding truly magical and unique then head to Belfast Waterfront to see an eclectic mix of unusual ideas which go far beyond anything you have ever imagined and will add something a little extra special to your day.

Jam-packed with over 120 handpicked exhibitors and an in-house cinema showing the best of bespoke cinematic wedding films, the Alternative Wedding Fair promises to be a truly unmissable event.

You need look no further to create your dream day; the Alternative Wedding Fair showcases the finest selection of unusual venues, creative photographers, stylish bridal and menswear, knock-out cakes and confectionary, hand-made jewellery and accessories and so much more.

No matter what type of wedding theme you are planning, the exhibitors will embrace your unique ideas and help bring your dream day to life. From rockabilly inspired cakes to 1950s hair, get married in a music hall or on a boat, arrive in the General Lee or decorate your dance floor with light up letters…just some of the ideas on offer at the Alternative Wedding Fair.

Cate Conway and Saima Akram are the driving force behind the ingenious idea of ‘Quirky Weddings’ which offers today’s couples a modern twist on traditional weddings.

Come along and discover something truly unique to make your wedding stand out from the rest and match your personality! You can’t afford to miss it.
Tickets are £6 and are available at the door. Children under 13 are free and first 500 visitors get in for half price!

For more information and to view the list of exhibitors visit www.quirkyweddings.co.uk for updates or follow Quirky Weddings on Facebook and Twitter.


For more information on the Alternative Wedding Fair contact Cate Conway on 07888762470 or email: tietheknot@quirkyweddings.co.uk


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 3 – 9).

  • Sunday Snowdrops, Springhill, Co. Londonderry, February 2 & 9.  As winter melts away, take a self-guided walk through Springhill’s glorious display of snowdrops.

  • Hansel and Gretel, Grand Opera House, Belfast, February 5 – 8.  Meet Hansel, Gretel and a bewitching ballerina who is not at all as she seems.  Deliciously surreal, mouth-wateringly inventive and with more than a sprinkle of festive magic – do you dare to go down to the woods this winter on an enchanted journey.

  • Under the Boardwalk, Millennium Forum, Co. Londonderry, February 6.  Join Gillie Leroy Jones and his band in this two hour celebration of fifty years of hits from legendary group, The Drifters.  Featuring a string of greatest hits including Saturday Night At The Movies, Kissing In The Back Row and, of course, Under The Boardwalk. 

  • Philadelphia, Here I Come, Lyric Theatre, Belfast, February 6 – March 8.  Philadelphia, Here I Come established Brian Friel as one of the greatest Irish playwrights of his generation. The play captures perfectly the Irish sense of belonging and also longing for someplace else, no less relevant today.    
  • Guide in the Hide, Castle Espie Wildfowl & Wetlands Centre, Comber, Co. Down, first three Sundays in February and March.  Castle Espie Bird Watching Club will be in the Brent hide to share their expert bird knowledge with visitors and help them identify different wildfowl and waders that come to our shores.
  • An Evening of Nostalgia with Johnny McEvoy, Market Place Theatre, Co. Armagh, February 7.  Johnny McEvoy has always been highly acclaimed for his excellent shows and his concert is eagerly awaited by his legion of fans.  This nostalgic evening will feature Johnny’s hit songs.
  • Cupid’s Cabaret, The Burnavon, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, February 7 & 8.  The month of love is upon us. Why not spend an evening in the company of Carol Doey and friends, as they perform their burlesque routines and sketches all in the name of love for an unforgettable cabaret evening.

  • Other Voices Music Trail, various venues in the City of Derry, February 7 – 9.  60 of the best bands and singer-songwriters from all over Ireland and the UK will perform in the city’s venues, bars, cafes and cultural venues throughout the weekend for free.
  • Ballymena Festival of Music, Speech and Dance, The Braid Arts Centre, Ballymena, Co. Antrim, February 7 – March 15.  This festival provides an opportunity for performers at all stages of music, speech, drama and dance.  There will be two gala nights: the instrumental festival night and the vocal and prize winner gala.
  • School of Highland Dance Competition, Church Hall, Maguiresbridge, Co. Fermanagh, February 8.  Don’t miss the annual highland dance competition which attracts dancers from all over Ireland and Scotland.

Jacqueline’s Pick of What’s On This Weekend.


Join the WWT to celebrate World Wetlands Day on the 1st and 2nd February, an international celebration of wetlands. Meet amphibians and insects, take part in wetland themed activities.  Drop in and take part in a fun introduction into what wetlands do for us followed by a whirlwind tour of the wetlands at Castle Espie running at 12pm and 2pm each day.


Join in the celebrations for Burns Night at The Burnavon Theatre Cookstown on Friday 31st January.  Compere for the evening, the BBC’s ‘A Kist o’ Words’ presenter Wilson Burgess, will introduce dance and musical performances, recitals and yarns.  Then to top it off dance leaders Ken and Linda McLean will invite you on to the floor for a lively ceilidh to music provided by Risin’ Stour.


Burns Night Supper on Saturday 1st February at 7.30pm in the Westville Hotel. Music on the night is by Ben Sands of  Sands Family Band from Rostrevor and dinner will include Haggis and all the trimmings! 


There’s still time to get your hands on tickets for Ballywillan Drama Group’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar at the Waterside Theatre Coleraine. An action packed, fast moving and gripping must-see for all theatre enthusiasts! Don’t miss out, book your tickets today before it’s too late! Runs until Saturday 1st February.


Recreate a Van Gogh picture – starry night or sunflowers at the Market Place Theatre this Saturday. Using the quick wet felting technique of joining fibres with just soap, bubble wrap and circular movements, children will have fun building up the layers of wool fibres to recreate a masterpiece but this time in felt! Once dry children can take home and put in their own frame.  All materials supplied.  Dress for mess!

The ever-fabulous FROCK AROUND THE CLOCK Vintage & Handmade Fair will be back at Malone House, Belfast on Sunday 2nd February 2014 for a Valentine’s extravaganza of gorgeous vintage and handmade treasures, nostalgia and fun. 45 fabulous vintage sellers and Irish designers will be showcasing vintage, handmade and upcycled fashion, jewellery, furniture, homewares and collectables plus sweet treats, photography, music and more!


The Quirky Weddings Alternative Wedding Fair is back at the Waterfront Hall on Sunday February 2nd from 12-5pm.   Don’t miss this fair if you’re looking for something a little different. With over  120 excellent exhibitors in a laid back, fun atmosphere this is a wedding fair not to be missed!

For more details on these and other events across Northern Ireland, news and competitions see www.whatsonni.com, follow us @whatsonni and like us at fb.com/www.whatsonni and remember to add your  events FREE OF CHARGE at www.whatsonni.


From the producers of ‘A Viennese Strauss Gala’, the sumptuous fully costumed show, ‘Magical Mozart By Candlelight’, will immerse The Market Place Theatre in the wonderful music and the classical baroque world of one of the world’s greatest romantic composers – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

With beautiful settings, costumes and lighting, and of course candles, the European Baroque Ensemble and singers transport you back to the sumptuous past. An evening of classical music and song, which includes excerpts from Mozart’s Operas including ‘The Magic Flute’, ‘The Marriage Of Figaro’, ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’, and many more beautifully sung moments from his world famous operas. Also the European Spirit Ensemble will perform some of his most memorable pieces of Mozart’s magical music. An evening of Mozart masterpieces!

‘Magical Mozart By Candlelight’ will be performed at The Market Place Theatre in Armagh on Thursday 13th February at 8pm. Tickets are priced £16, and can be booked by contacting the Box Office on [028] 3752 1821, or online at www.marketplacearmagh.com

And to keep up-to-date with the latest news at the Market Place Theatre, you can follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/marketplacearmagh) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/mptarmagh) where you will find all the latest information, special offers and video previews.


The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) has put together a list of 10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland over the next week (January 27 – February 2).

  • Jesus Christ Superstar, Riverside Theatre, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, until February 1.  Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s stirring musical is an emotional rollercoaster as it tells the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Robert Mizzell, The Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre, Co. Armagh, January 29.  Country singer Robert Mizzell has made his home in Ireland for over a decade and he is now one of the top country artists in Ireland.  Enjoy this energy filled show brimming with country music.
  • Cake Decorating Course, Belle Isle Cookery School, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, January 31.  Learn how to make your cakes beautiful whether you are a complete beginner or you want to improve your skills. 
  • Ulster Orchestra: Composers and War – 150 Years in Vienna, Ulster Hall, Belfast, January 31.  Nowhere bears more eloquent witness to the troubled history of Europe than Vienna, its music as much as anything else.  You will hear Beethoven’s famous ‘Pastoral’ symphony, Britten’s arrangement of the Minuet from Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and Richard Strauss’ late Oboe Concerto. 
  • Be Wild about Wildlife, Murlough National Nature Reserve, Dundrum, Co. Down, February 1.  Discover the wildflower and waders of Dundrum Inner Bay and marvel at their epic journeys.  A great day out for bird watching beginners.   

  • Wetland Wildlife Weekend, Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Comber, Co. Down, February 1 – 2.  Join us to celebrate World Wetlands Day, an international celebration of wetlands on February 2.  Meet amphibians and insects, take part in wetland themed activities and enjoy lots of wetland related fun.
  • Snowdrop Walks, The Argory, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, February 1 – 23.  Come along and see the wonderful show of snowdrops on display.  After a self-guided walk through the blankets that cover the estate, enjoy warm refreshments in the Courtyard Coffee Shop.  Snowdrop plants will also be available to buy.
  • Celtic Soul, Black Box, Belfast, February 1.  This seven piece ensemble will perform renditions of Van Morrison’s classic hits and album tracks including Bright Side of the Road, Have I Told you Lately, Days Like This, Gloria and Brown Eyed Girl.
  • Valentine’s Vintage Fair, Malone House, Belfast, February 2.  The ever-fabulous Frock Around the Clock Vintage fair will be hosting its Valentine extravaganza of gorgeous vintage and handmade treasures.  45 fabulous vintage sellers and Irish designers will be showcasing fashion, jewellery, home wares, collectables, music and much more.

  • The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe, The Old Courthouse, Market Square, Co. Antrim, February 2 – 28.   Monroe as we’ve never seen her before; alone in her bedroom, in dressing gown and no slippers, no glitz, no glamour, no masks.  This stark confessional offers a radical interpretation of this Hollywood legend and leads us, in real time, to the very moment of her death.

Jacqueline from whatsonni.com shares her pick of What’s On this weekend across NI.


Meet the Quackers tours at WWT Castle Espie every Saturday and Sunday until the end of May.  What whistles and doesn’t quack?  With a knowledgeable and entertaining guide as your friend for the day discover the exciting world of the largest collection of rare and exotic geese, ducks and swans in Ireland.


Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2014 this Sunday at Gortin Glen Forest.  Drop in and enjoy the free family fun, record local birds in the Forest Bird Watch, Make a super duper bird feeder, create your own little garden bird and chance the Gortin Glen Angry Bird Trail to win some wildlife goodies!!


Carrybridge Lakeside Lodge are hosting a Burns Night Supper on  Saturday 25th January. Music by Enniskillen Pipe Band. Supper at 8.00pm. Tickets only £5 per person.


The Everglades Hotel Wedding Fayre, presented by Perfect Bliss Wedding Events, takes place this Sunday 26th January from 2pm-5pm.  Admission is free. Over 45 Wedding Suppliers in attendance…Wedding Band Showcase on the day from Michael Mc Gill Entertainments.


You are cordially invited to join Farmer Joe in celebrating his birthday on Friday 24th January at the Armagh City Hotel.    It sure will be a great night’s craic with cake, party games, best decorated wellie competition and much more, with music by Colorado Fever.  Tickets are priced at £10 and currently on sale from hotel reception with all proceeds in aid of Southern Area Hospice Services. So dust down your Sunday best and polish up those willies, it’s time to party!

It’s pure slapstick comedy at the Courtyard Theatre this Saturday with the Bart Players’ production of Family Fever.  Alec’s daughter Myra goes into early labour, his neighbour needs help to pick a negligee for his wife and a wily mouse is on the loose.  A host of misunderstandings and comical characters will have you are laughing in the aisles.


Calling all wrestling fans past and present! Ever wanted to see your favourite classic matches on a giant cinema screen? Well now is your chance!  On Saturday, January 25th, at 7:30pm at Strand Cinema, Holywood Road in East Belfast wrestling returns to the big screen!  After the success of the July 2013 and October 2013 events, WrestleFest is back for another chance to see your favourite wrestling stars in some of their most famous matches and moments on the big screen!   Presenting ther ROYAL RUMBLE special and it’s all happening on the night before this year’s WWE Royal Rumble pay per view.  This is the perfect addition to any Belfast wrestling fans Rumble weekend!!


First Minister The Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MLA have shown their support to hundreds of local athletes that are preparing to compete at this year’s Special Olympics All-Ireland Games in Limerick.

The First Minister and deputy First Minister met with local gymnast and Special Olympics athlete, Jonathan McCartney, aged 10, his mother, Sue McCartney and representatives from sports charity, Special Olympics Ulster, as 244 local athletes prepare for the Games, which take place 12-15 June 2014.

To mark the official launch of Team Ulster, ministers, MLAs and NI Assembly staff will be joined by Special Olympics Ulster athletes, volunteers and supporters at Parliament Buildings on Monday 27th January to cycle, run and walk a cumulative 500 miles – representing the return journey Ulster athletes will make to the 2014 Special Olympics Limerick Games.

Participants taking part in Special Olympics Ulster’s ‘Stormont Challenge’ will have their choice of treadmill or exercise bike in Room 115 at Parliament Buildings – sponsored by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). The event will allow people to drop in throughout the day between 10am and 4pm to make their contribution to the overall mileage target of 500 miles.

Commenting on the initiative, the First Minister Peter Robinson said: “We are pleased to support Special Olympics Ulster, a valuable community organisation that provides year round sports training to people with intellectual disabilities, in the launch of Team Ulster for the 2014 Special Olympics Limerick Games. We wish the athletes and volunteers best wishes for their preparations and every success for the Games in June.”

The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added: “Our Special Olympics athletes are great ambassadors and we would encourage members of the public to get behind Team Ulster as they prepare for their journey to Limerick in June by showing their support in any way they can.”

The 2014 Special Olympics Limerick Games will take place over four days from Thursday 12 June to Sunday 15 June 2014. In what will be one of the largest and most prestigious sporting events to take place in Ireland this year, 1,500 Special Olympics athletes from throughout the island of Ireland will travel to Limerick. They will be accompanied by 500 coaches and official delegates as well as a contingent of over 3,000 family members. The Games will be supported by a team of 3,000 volunteers who will be recruited over the coming months.

The Limerick Games represent the third year in the four-year Special Olympics competition cycle, with the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games taking place next year in Los Angeles.

Locally, the Special Olympics programme is delivered through sports charity, Special Olympics Ulster, supporting over 2,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities in 98 clubs throughout the region.

Commenting ahead of the launch of Team Ulster, Shaun Cassidy, regional director, Special Olympics Ulster said:

For many of our athletes in the Ulster region, the 2014 Limerick Games will be the first time they will have competed on a national level. Reaching this level of competition is a real achievement for our strong delegation of Ulster athletes.

“We would like to thank the First Minister and deputy First Minister for their valued support – our Stormont Challenge is poised to be a great launch event for Team Ulster as our athletes begin their journey to the Limerick Games, where they will represent Northern Ireland on a national stage.

“Members of the public wishing to support Team Ulster on the road to the 2014 Limerick Games can make a donation online at www.specialolympics.ie/ulster – every donation, however small, will make a huge difference to the lives of local athletes with intellectual disabilities.”

For further information on how to get involved with the Special Olympics Ulster Stormont Challenge, to make a donation, or to find out how you can volunteer, visit www.specialolympics.ie/ulster or call 028 9023 9023. Special Olympics Ulster is funded by Sport NI.

Love Is In the Air, Vintage Style

Northern Ireland’s favourite vintage shopping event, the fabulous Frock Around The Clock Vintage & Handmade Fair, will be making its first appearance of the year at Malone House in Belfast on Sunday 2nd February with an extravaganza of vintage glamour and unique gifts just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The event will showcase over 45 handpicked, high quality vintage dealers and creative designers specialising in vintage, handmade and upcycled fashion, jewellery, furniture, homewares, collectables, dolls and bears, art, scrumptious sweet treats, photography and much more. With all this under one roof it will be easy to find your loved one a unique gift that they will treasure forever, and if you’re not romantically inclined, or you’re against the whole Valentine’s affair, then there are tons of treats to show yourself a little love too!

Creative Director Becky Moore says ‘Our February fair is always a favourite with visitors – a glittering spot on the horizon of a long and dreary January. Its the perfect time to treat yourself with your first pay cheque of the year, find unique Valentine’s gifts for your loved one, or even early Mother’s Day presents that will show Mum just how much you appreciate her. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner we wanted to show our customers some love too, so we have not one, but two fabulous prizes in our event competition this time. All visitors on 2nd February will be able to enter our free prize draw for the chance to win either a gorgeous statement pillbox hat from milliner Sophie Dinsmore of Lower Than The Angels, or a framed photograph of the Belfast Cranes from Photography By Marc Lawson.’

Pioneering the vintage way since 2008, it comes as no surprise that Frock Around The Clock has put the fun and glamour back into shopping. The effort that visitors make in getting really dressed up for the occasion, and the degree of originality and individuality seen in how they put an outfit together, is an indication of just how seamlessly vintage has merged with mainstream fashion in Northern Ireland. The Sugahfix.com Style Spotter is always in attendance to capture stylish ladies on camera so the prestigious event’s customers regularly appear on the pages of Northern Ireland’s leading online fashion guide!

Now in its 6th year of delighting customers from all over Ireland, Frock Around The Clock still remains dedicated to sourcing the best in vintage dealers and fresh creative talent, so in addition to many of the old favourites there will also be a number of fresh faces to be seen at the 2nd February event, providing a spectacular variety of unique, quality and interesting things to see and buy. Whether you are in search of a stunning frock, authentic vintage treasures, beautifully handcrafted designs, or delicious edible goodies, this event has it all!

The impressive exhibitor list will include Lower Than The Angels, creators of distinctive, bespoke millinery inspired by vintage chic and Hollywood glamour, Norma Jean Vintage, who will be running a sale on original vintage wedding dresses, Strictly Vintage, connoisseurs of high end vintage designer jewellery, Emili-Jean Vintage, dedicated to sourcing amazing and authentic vintage wear,  Tiny Tower Vintage, specialists in vintage china, linens, eiderdowns and collectible books, Ardmore Cottage Interiors & Gifts selling soft furnishings, clocks, pictures and lamps, FiftyFive65, creators of vintage reproduction dresses for modern gals, Vintage Aggy and Molly, showcasing exquisite handmade dolls created from antique haberdashery, Emily Loves Vintage offering beautiful, limited-edition eclectic jewellery, and Rosy Glow who will be selling handcrafted lampshades and hand painted glassware.

The Frock Around The Clock Valentine’s Vintage & Handmade Fair will take place from 12-5pm on Sunday 2nd February 2014 at Malone House, Barnett Demesne, Malone Road, Belfast BT9 5PB.  Admission costs only £3, which includes entry into the exclusive competition. More information on the event and the exhibitor list can be found at frockaroundtheclockvintagefairs.com and facebook.com/frockaroundtheclockvintagefairs.

iFactory Programme has the scent of success

iFactory – a 36 month EU funded programme designed to provide bespoke innovation support to SMEs across Northern Ireland and the border counties – will culminate in a celebration conference and awards ceremony featuring fragrance entrepreneur Jo Malone as keynote speaker in the City Hotel, Derry-Londonderry on January 29.

It will be the first time the successful businesswoman, who has been an innovator within the beauty and lifestyle industry for 20 years, has attended a speaking engagement in Northern Ireland.

Led by North West Regional College and managed by the Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Centre (NORIBIC), the £1.65 million iFactory programme was funded through the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) and has supported 150 small businesses.

Dr Bernard Toal, Chief Executive of NORIBIC, explains: “Small and micro businesses across the INTERREG IVA region have huge potential for growth but are often hampered by obstacles which the iFactory believes can be overcome with the application of innovation.

“By embracing innovation as an integral and key component of a business’ products, processes and services we have shown iFactory participants how to shorten their improvement journey and move closer to realising their growth potential.

“We are delighted to welcome Jo Malone as headline speaker, given both her personal success in building a worldwide brand and also her extensive experience in helping small businesses realise their dreams of trading on the high street.”

Fifteen partners have worked together to deliver the programme including all of Northern Ireland’s further education colleges, Letterkenny and Sligo Industries of Technology, NORIBIC and West BIC, and five county enterprise boards in the border counties. Each partner contributed their expertise to the mentoring pool which was accessed by participants in one-to-one sessions and web based information through i-learning seminars and conferences.

Lorraine McCourt, Director with the SEUPB, added: “This project has acted as an invaluable catalyst for real innovation development amongst a significant number of locally based SMEs, on a cross border basis.

“By providing the support, expertise and resources these firms need to improve their business offering the iFactory programme has helped them to become more competitive within the global marketplace.  I look forward to sharing the experiences and celebrating the success of the participating businesses on January 29.”

The iFactory Celebration Conference and Awards will comprise a showcase of a selection of participating companies and addresses from keynote speakers followed by dinner and the presentation of five iFactory Innovation awards recognising Innovation in Growth, Export, New Service Development, New Product Development and Innovation Continuum.