The Ulster Orchestra is celebrating 50 years as Northern Ireland’s symphony orchestra and will mark its golden anniversary with 50 pop-up performances in and around Belfast City on Wednesday 28th September.

Passers-by at key city (and some quirky) locations, can expect to be wowed as members of the Orchestra, ranging from soloists, ensembles and the full Orchestra itself, strike up a chord in a number of different locations including business premises, hotels, schools, universities, hospitals, cafes, museums and arts centres. Morning commuters at Belfast City Airport and Europa Bus station will also be privy to the delightful sounds of the Orchestra as they make their onward journey, and a pop-up performance will entertain locals and unsuspecting tourists visiting the Titanic Museum, making it a memorable visit.

The musicians will be scattered throughout Belfast City as they attempt a record-breaking expedition of 50 performances, but will come together in their entirety at 1pm in Victoria Square Shopping Centre and again at 6.30pm in St Anne’s Cathedral for hour long performances, where they will be joined by the Belfast Philharmonic Choir. All events throughout the day are completely free and open to the public.

For 50 years the Ulster Orchestra has been at the forefront of musical life in Northern Ireland. Founded in 1966, the Orchestra first performed the bright and optimistic sound of Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’ to a captive audience in Belfast City Hall. Taking their audience on a journey through the decades, the band of professional, full-time musicians have brought the world’s finest artists to Ulster and have toured the world performing classical music at the highest standard.

Speaking about the golden anniversary celebrations and the 50 pop-up performances, Richard Wigley, Managing Director, Ulster Orchestra said; “We are pulling out all the stops to make our fiftieth birthday season a striking musical celebration for the people of Northern Ireland. The fifty locations of the pop-up performances cover a wide spread of locations and communities across Belfast, which will mark the occasion as one of the most memorable in the history of the Orchestra.

“The musicians of the Orchestra are local people and take great delight in performing for fellow citizens; we’re looking forward to our birthday pop-up performances that will entertain and surprise members of the public, spreading joy and delight as we celebrate our golden year.”

Every year the Ulster Orchestra enriches the local community with more than 60 world-class performances for approximately 48,000 concert goers. However the influence of the Orchestra reaches much further than that, touching the lives of thousands of children and adults through education and outreach programmes. The value the Orchestra places on the community engagement reflects its commitment to becoming an increasingly relevant part of the life of the wider community.

The birthday celebrations will continue through to Friday 30th September, when the Orchestra will host a special, sold-out birthday concert in the Ulster Hall. Under the leadership of conductor, Rafael Payare, the spectacular concert will welcome the return of Northern Ireland’s legendary pianist, Barry Douglas OBE, who will perform Tchaikovsky’s beloved Piano Concerto No.1.

Orchestra fans, music enthusiasts and those simply enjoying the music at the pop-up performances will have the chance to win tickets to one of the Ulster Orchestra’s 50th birthday season concerts by posting their selfies in front of the Orchestra to the Ulster Orchestra Facebook and Twitter page.

For more information on the 50th celebrations and for a full list of the pop-up performances, visit

Celebrating Words at the Aspects Festival Yurt

A Festival Yurt based within the beautiful surroundings of Bangor Castle Walled Garden is home to the Aspects 25 Anniversary Festival weekend programme (23-25 September), and there are a wealth of events celebrating writing and words happening there with something to appeal to everyone.

Ards and North Down Borough Council are pleased to welcome internationally recognised writers Sinéad Moriarty, Glenn Patterson, Colin Bateman and Sinead Morrissey to the Festival Yurt stage.

Aspects has a long reputation of bringing new voices in Irish writing to the Borough. This year, Aspects present another host of writers who look set to become our best-loved writers of the future, from debut novelists Lesley Allen and Tanya Ravenswater, to a selection of new generation poets from the ground-breaking new anthology ‘The Future Makes Me So Very Thirsty’ edited by Sinead Morrissey and Stephen Connolly.

Health and well-being is a theme for this year’s festival and Aspects is pleased to present Tara West reading and talking about her forthcoming memoir ‘Happy Dark’ – a beautifully written and intimate account of her battle with depression and one which aims to make the darkness of mental illness visible. Writers, and anyone who may like techniques to deal with performance-related stress, are invited to attend a workshop with which uses mindfulness and CBT to address blocks in creativity and performance. Laughter has it’s place in well-being and Cookstown comedian Owen O’Neill brings his hilarious show ‘Red Noise’ to the Yurt.

The Yurt is also a place where aspiring authors can come for insight and guidance from publishers, and those who are already on the road of publication, during the Resource for Writers day event (Fri 23 Sept). On that evening, poets are invited to bring their poems from page to stage in the Aspects Festival Poetry Slam presented by Poetry NI. Poets who wish to enter just need to register at the start of the night. Please note you have three minutes to compete in.

Followers of sport and Northern Ireland football, won’t want to miss a new documentary of Northern Ireland’s 1958 dream team, introduced by the Director Evan Marshall – and Aspects Festival Yurt also plays host to one of the first performances of Duke Special and Ulaid’s new collaborative work ‘Belfast Suite’.

Patricia Hamilton, Festival Director, said: “The Festival Yurt over Aspects Festival weekend will be fantastic, with comedian Owen O’Neill, Duke Special and Ulaid, Tara West and Glenn Patterson and many more taking part! It’s all about atmosphere and the Yurt seemed to us the ideal venue for this special anniversary year.”

If you are visiting during the weekend (23-25 September), bring the family – there are some lovely family oriented activities happening in Bangor Castle Walled Garden and North Down Museum as well.

Find full details of all Aspects Festival events, and to book, at

Two Sore Legs returns to The Old Courthouse, Antrim

Following phenomenal success last year, Two Sore Legs will make a triumphant return to The Old Courthouse, Antrim on Monday 26 September at 7.30pm.

Set in Belfast in the 1950’s and 60’s Two Sore Legs is a powerful, autobiographical play.  Brenda Murphy’s mother Bridie, a young Butlin’s Redcoat, had 6 children by a married man who lived around the corner with his other family. The play explores the pain, joy and the fall-out from this extraordinary family arrangement.  From the rowdy, fractious relationship Bridie had with her own father to the explosive but hilarious visits of the local Parish Priest, this play drips explicit family emotions.

In an absolute tour de force this is the best performance you’ll see this year as Maria Connolly purrs, struts, weeps and explodes around the stage in equal measure. This story will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

‘One woman’s true story you simply won’t believe.’ Tickets from £12 available at Box Office or

Explore the Fascinating Craft of Papermaking

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is delighted to offer a workshop exploring the fascinating craft of handmade papermaking.

This six week course takes place at The Museum at The Mill, Mossley Mill from Thursday 22 September at 7pm.

The humble paper has a very important part in our lives and was a massive industry in our Borough at a time with paper mills in Randalstown, Antrim and Dunadry.

Crafting is experiencing a massive revival and paper craft in particular is amongst the top five home crafts. Imagine crafting with your own handmade paper and creating beautiful objects and using your own paper for making cards, quilling, decoupage, origami and so much more.

Using traditional methods with equipment, which can be very easily made at home, the course will guide you through the simple processes involved in making beautiful papers of which you will be justifiably proud. You will make paper from rags, recycled pulp, flour sacks and even old denim jeans. You will learn how to emboss, how to colour your paper and on each evening of the workshop, you will make paper to take home with you.

Course Tutor Bill McBride has been making paper for many years and has a dedicated workshop in Antrim.  Through Bill, the craft is making a welcome return and you can be part of this revival.

For further details or to enrol on this course, contact Box Office at Theatre at The Mill on 028 9034 0202 or book online at

Chefs going ‘cocoa’ over Killyleagh Chocolate and Fine Food Fest

As thousands of chocoholics and foodies gear up for the highly-anticipated return of the biennial Hans Sloane Chocolate & Fine Food Festival, outstanding chefs from Northern Ireland and further afield are joining up with festival organisers to ensure that the three-day festival offers a foodie experience not to be missed.

With the addition of Downpatrick’s Finnebrogue Artisan this year as the festival’s overall sponsor, Finnebrogue consultant development chef Chris Burt will lead the charge with an innovative line-up of chocolate and locally-focused food activities to span the entire weekend.

Kicking off with the Hans Sloane Chocolate Ball on Friday 23rd September, Chef Burt will join up with legendary Northern Ireland chef Simon Dougan of Yellow Door to present a meal that will have guests buzzing for years to come.  Utilising the finest of hyper-local produce including Finnebrogue venison and sausages, locally farmed vegetables, eggs and butter, and even reindeer moss foraged personally by Chef Burt from the Finnebrogue Estate, this dinner will highlight the wide range of world-class ingredients available from across Northern Ireland.

“As Finnebrogue’s consultant development chef, I have the pleasure of working with locally-produced Northern Ireland ingredients every day, and am delighted to be able to develop and serve an innovative, forward-thinking menu for guests at this year’s Hans Sloane Chocolate Ball utilising these outstanding ingredients,” said Chef Burt.  “I’m delighted to be teaming up with Simon Dougan to create a menu that will encourage guests to think outside the box and approach these local ingredients in a new way.”

As a dramatic end to the evening, Chefs Burt and Dougan are brainstorming a show-stopping dessert which will act as homage to Sir Hans Sloane – the Killyleagh-born physician, naturalist and collector credited with bringing the recipe for drinking chocolate back to Europe –and turn heads as the extraordinary chocolate dessert is unveiled to guests.

The festival will continue on Saturday and Sunday, 24th and 25th September. Guests at Killyleagh Castle can enjoy live cooking demos led by Chef Burt alongside leading local chefs including Chefs Danny Millar, Balloo Inns; Roy Abraham, The Smuggler’s Table; and Fernando Correa, Quails at the Gallery, among others hosted by Food NI.  Incorporating locally-grown and sourced produce paired with chocolate elements and even a chocolate stout from local Mourne Mountains Brewery, these chefs will bring home the theme of local cooking with a touch of chocolate in honour of Sir Hans.

“We’re really looking forward to this year’s live cooking demos, which have been supported by Food NI as part of Tourism Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink,” said Meave Davison of the festival’s organising committee.  “Finnebrogue Artisan Chef Chris Burt will show off his knowledge of foraging local produce and his unique approach to creating dishes with a wow-factor, while some of the area’s most popular chefs, hosted by Food NI, will support the ‘local’ element of the festival by incorporating chocolate into popular savoury and sweet which will be shared with guests.”

“In addition to the live kitchen demos on Saturday and Sunday, 24th and 25th September, guests will also enjoy tasting freshly-made dishes and treats from over 30 local artisan producers including Great Taste Award winners S.D. Bells, Deli Muru, Abernethy, La Coquine, Glastry Farm Ice Cream, Finnebrogue, Krazi Baker and Mash Direct, among many others,” added Meave.

Aine Kearney, Director of Business Support and Events Tourism NI commented, “Tourism Northern Ireland is a proud sponsor of the Finnebrogue Artisan Hans Sloane Chocolate & Fine Food Festival, in line with the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink initiative, the festival is showcasing our unique chocolate offering.

“The festival schedule has something for everyone from the Chocolate Ball to the family fun days and we hope this will encourage thousands of foodies from Northern Ireland and beyond to enjoy some of our great indigenous foods.”

Founded in 2010 to celebrate Killyleagh’s most famous son, Sir Hans Sloane, who was born in the village in 1660 and later credited for bringing the recipe for drinking chocolate to Europe from Jamaica, the biennial festival has grown from strength to strength and is now regarded as one of the leading events of its type in the UK and Ireland and a highlight of the summer calendar for food lovers across the country.

The Finnebrogue Artisan Hans Sloane Chocolate & Fine Food Festival kindly acknowledges the support of Tourism Northern Ireland, Newry Mourne & Down District Council, and Food NI in the staging of this year’s event as well as the support of sponsors Bryan Somers Travel, Jeep, Killyleagh Development Association, Mash Direct, Roskyle, and S.D. Bell’s.

Ticket prices vary, based on events running throughout the Festival. For further information on all events taking place and to book tickets visit or follow the Killyleagh Chocolate Festival on Twitter @KillyleaghChoc or

Lord Mayor Dives in for Festival Family Show

Yes – it’s the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Brian Kingston!

He’s getting ready for the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival’s underwater-themed family spectacular show, Mù on 16 October, hosted by Belfast City Council in Ormeau Park.

The show from French producers Transe Express, will feature a cast of colourfully-costumed acrobatic sea creatures, suspended from a huge telescopic crane, with lights, sound, music and special effects.  Tickets have just been released for this free event but must be booked in advance. Visit for booking and info.

Free Film Fun with Finding Nemo

There’s something fishy going on in Solitude Park on Friday 7 October 2016 at 7pm when Nemo, Marlin and Dory make a splash on the big screen with a free outdoor screening of the family favourite Finding Nemo.

This animated aquatic adventure follows the comedic and eventful journeys of the fretful Marlin and his young son Nemo, who are separated from each other in the Great Barrier Reef when Nemo is unexpectedly taken by a fish collecting scuba diver and thrust into a tank in a dentist’s office overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Buoyed by the companionship of a friendly but forgetful fish named Dory, the overly cautious Marlin embarks on a treacherous trek and finds himself the unlikely hero of an epic journey to rescue his son. Meanwhile, the young Nemo hatches a few daring plans of his own to return home safely.

Will Marlin safely find his way to Sydney?  Will Nemo resist the clutches of Darla the dentist’s dastardly niece? To find out don’t be like Dory and put a reminder in your diary for Friday 7 October at 7pm in Solitude Park!

To add to the cinema experience local food outlet Captain Cooks will be offering a host of hot and tasty treats throughout the event.  Other refreshments available include ice-cream, pop-corn, sweets, soft drinks, tea and coffee.  So pack a comfy cushion and a cosy blanket and settle down to enjoy a free movie night under the stars at Solitude Park.

For further information contact Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on T: 028 4066 0609 or go to the council website at or find us on Facebook at

Straight from the Field to Comber Farmers’ Market Celebrating ‘Harvest’

This October the 6th, the popular monthly Comber Farmers’ Market is joining the ‘Harvest’ month celebrations as part of the NI Year of Food and Drink, taking the opportunity to showcase the very essence of the artisan event.

Everything on offer Comber Farmers’ Market is connected to the land, the products available at the market are all reliant on local yield.

The meat from Forthill Farm, Kennedy Bacon and Broughgammon Farm is grass fed; the wheat used for baking by the Krazi Baker, Farm House Treats, Mange Tout Deli and Go Yeast comes from Northern Ireland flour mills and the fruit and vegetables from Horner’s Farm Shop and Helen’s Bay Walled Garden are harvested from local soil.

Locally grown Winter bedding plants and perennials will be available from McCutcheon Landscapes and the market Producer of the Month, the Uncommon Garden Company.

With free range eggs, fresh fish, chutneys and jams, chocolate and so much more on offer the market gives visitors the perfect chance to support local producers and to really taste the difference.

So whether you are a market regular or if you have never been before, you are invited and encouraged to head down to St Mary’s Church car park of Comber Square and support local producers at Comber Farmers’ Market.

More information on Comber Farmers’ Market can be found at and features and competitions run regularly on the markets’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

BBC presenter Simon King headlines Steinbeck Celebration

BBC presenter, writer and wildlife advocate Simon King will headline this year’s Steinbeck Celebration at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Roe Valley Arts & Cultural Centre in Limavady.

The event, entitled ‘Steinbeck Celebration: The Human Heart and the Land’, will run from October 7th – October 19th.

Simon’s passion for the natural world is well known to television viewers worldwide through his work as a presenter and award-winning cameraman.

He has played an instrumental role in some of the best known award-winning natural history television programmes of recent years, including Springwatch, Big Cat Diary, Planet Earth, Blue Planet and the Life series. More recently he has worked on the Disney production, African Cats.

Having recently published his first book entitled NatureWatch, Simon will delight audience members of all ages by providing an intimate evening of stories and insights into the natural world on Saturday, October 8th at 6pm.

Prior to this, the world renowned musician and producer Donal Lunny promises a night to remember. He takes to the stage with two other virtuoso musicians Padraig Rynne and Sylvain Barou, all the way from Brittany, on Friday October 7th at 8pm. Known as the Donal Lunny Triad, their breath-taking live sets dive into Irish traditional music via Brittany, Eastern Europe and world folk music. As well as founding legendary bands including The Bothy Band and Planxty, Donal has also produced records for artists including Kate Bush, Elvis Costello and Paul Brady to name a few.

Poet Jean Bleakney reads from her newly launched Selected Poems on Saturday, October 8th at 3pm. Wicklow-based poet Jane Clarke, who recently published her first collection The River, and won the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award, hosts a reading on Wednesday, October 19th at 6.30pm.

Historian Alister McReynolds provides a fascinating free talk, ‘John Steinbeck: Homeward Bound’ on Thursday, October 13th at 7.30pm. It explores the famous writer’s local family roots and this influence on his writing.

Two award-winning cinematic adaptations of Steinbeck novels, Of Mice and Men, starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, and the acclaimed East of Eden, starring James Dean in his first major film role, screen on Thursday, October 13th at 2pm and Saturday, October 15th at 2pm respectively.

Limavady Writers’ Group host a Causeway Writers’ Evening on Tuesday, October 11th from 7pm. All are welcome to attend as members read selected works.

A range of workshops also feature in this year’s celebration. North Coast based writer Bernie McGill hosts a two-part creative writing workshop on Monday, October 10th and 17th from 7pm-9pm. Former environmental campaigner and published poet Emma Must hosts ‘From Leaf to Line’, a nature walk and poetry writing workshop at Roe Valley Country Park on Saturday, October 8th from 10am-2pm.

Artist Gail Mahon teaches a two-part Environmental Ceramic and Drawing workshop exploring our local natural and urban landscape on Saturday, October 8th and October 15th from 2pm – 4.30pm. Local photographer Rachel Cassidy hosts a Parent and Child photography workshop exploring local scenic locations on Saturday, October 15th from 10am-2pm.

To book, contact the Arts Centre team on 028 7776 0650, or for further information and full programme listings, visit

Sizing Up Our Diets for Health

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is encouraging residents to measure their diets against healthy eating guidelines as part of the Council’s innovative Community Diet and Nutrition Education Programme (CDNEP).

Dr Janice McConnell, pictured with library assistant Aidan Pettigrew at the recent Health Fair at Greystone Library.

The Programme, which runs as part of the Council’s wider Public Health Nutrition (PHN) agenda, provides professional dietary advice with the overall aim of educating people on what makes a healthy diet.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Public Health Nutritionist, Dr Janice McConnell commented, “What we eat is very important to our health and wellbeing, however, eating healthily is also about managing how much we eat of particular foods and how regularly we eat them.  This is important because dietary patterns in Northern Ireland continue to fall short of healthy eating recommendations.” Janice continued “Changing dietary habits is therefore crucial for the long-term health of our population and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is committed to supporting both individuals and enabling  populations in making healthier choices”.

The PHN agenda has been developed based on evidence and identified need in our Borough and is designed to increase awareness, bring about changes in lifestyle and restructure the environment to make healthier choices the easier choice for everyone.

For more information on public health nutrition services and interventions contact Dr Janice McConnell on E. or

T. 028 9034 0174.