Where Music and Sport Collide

‘Go The Distance – Round 2’ takes place in Theatre at The Mill on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 April 2017 at 7.45pm.

Dame Mary Peters meets children from Fairview Primary School in Ballycastle who are going to be taking part in the ‘Go The Distance’ concert in the Theatre at the Mill on the 6th and 7th April in aid of the Mary Peters Trust. Also pictured are musical director Ashley Fulton, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Ald John Scott and Fairview Principal Paula Matthews.
After the success of ‘Go The Distance’ last year in Lisburn Theatre at the Mill are hosting ‘Round 2’ od this musical extravaganza, where the worlds of sport and music collide.
Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrisons

This musical concert is produced by Ashley Fulton and features young talented singers, performers and sports personalities from across Northern Ireland, with all proceeds from this concert going to The Mary Peters Trust.

Dame Mary Peters said, “Last year Go The Distance raised £10,000 for my charity and because it was such a success we are back this year in Theatre At The Mill.

Come and hear a wonderful mix of beautiful inspiring music performed by many talented young performers.  This year the concert will feature the exceptional Adoro, school choirs including the Friends’ Singers, Lisburn and Fairview Primary School, Ballyclare, The Music Studio Ensemble, St Agnes’ Choral Society, LTG & Shelley Lowry School of Speech & Drama and G&L Dance Academy”

Dame Mary Peters continued “All these wonderful performers are generously donating their time, talent and helping in my ‘Race to a Million’ which will fund the sports stars of the future, so please book your tickets today and join this wonderful event and help me and my charity ‘Go The Distance’.” Tickets priced at £14 & £12 (Concession) available from Box Office T: 028 9034 0202 or online www.theatreatthemill.com

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor John Scott commented “I am delighted to host this event at Theatre at The Mill. I am looking forward to welcoming this array of talent to our Borough and would urge the local community to show their support for our future sports stars”.

After the success of Go The Distance last year in Lisburn, Theatre at the Mill are supporting ‘Round 2’ of this musical extravaganza, where the worlds of ‘sport and music collide’. Audiences will be transported on a musical journey through many genres of music including; musical theatre (Some Enchanted Evening), popular classics (Bohemian Rhapsody) and iconic songs inspired by sport (World in Union).

This is an event not to be missed, so join us and Go The Distance – Round 2!

Offers of the Week!

Northern Ireland boasts a unique collection of irresistible places to stay including quirky B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and hidden gem properties for an ideal short break and Discover NI has selected the best offers of the week for you to choose from.

  • May Weekend Special, Marine Hotel Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, from £129 per couple.
    The three-star Marine Hotel is situated only a stone’s throw away from one of the North Coast’s golden beaches set in a prime location overlooking the picturesque marina and harbour and a short walk from Bonamargy Friary in the friendly seaside town of Ballycastle. Enjoy an overnight weekend stay with full breakfast and a two-course evening meal from £129 per couple. Enjoy a trip to Bushmills Distillery using a discount voucher available from reception and take in the world famous sights along the Causeway Coast. Subject to availability. Valid 5 – 27 May. To book call (028) 207 62222.
  • Spa and Stay for Two, Silverbirch Hotel, Co. Tyrone, from £165pps.
    Found in the bustling market town of Omagh, the three-star Silverbirch Hotel is ideal for business trips, family vacations and romantic breaks away showcasing classic interiors in modern, elegant surroundings. Enjoy a two-night stay with full Irish breakfast each morning, bottle of prosecco in your room on arrival, a three-course evening meal in the Barreta Bar & Grill on the evening of your choice as well as a thirty-minute Lavender Health Spa experience. Valid 8 – 10 May. Subject to availability. To book call (028) 82 242520.
  • Family Easter Break, Malone Lodge Hotel, Belfast, from £139 per night.
    The award-winning four-star Malone Lodge Hotel and Apartments combine luxurious hotel bedrooms and suites. Recently reopened after major refurbishment, The Malone Lodge is one of Belfast’s finest townhouse hotels only ten minutes from Belfast City Centre. Indulge in two nights’ accommodation in either a family room or two bedroom apartment with full Irish breakfast each morning, Easter activity pack and egg for the kids and a family fun day Sunday lunch with face painting and balloon modelling. Valid 14 – 17 April. Subject to availability. To book call (028) 90 38 8000


For further information log on to www.discovernorthernireland.com/offers.

*All offers are subject to availability.

10 Exciting Things to do in NI Next Week!

Tourism NI has put together a list of 10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland (April 3 – April 9).


  • Jekyll and Hyde, Grand Opera House, Belfast until April 8th. A classic tale of good and evil, ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ brings a new life to Robert Louis Stevenson’s story of romance and inner turmoil in this sensational musical adaptation based on ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.A theatrical phenomenon, Jekyll and Hyde is set to be a show to remember, don’t miss your chance to see this epic musical on stage at the Grand Opera House.
  • Comber Farmer’s Market, Co. Down, April 6. Featuring over twenty-four regular traders selling artisan food and plants such as breads, cheese, vegetables, baked goods and confectionary, the Comber Farmer’s Market is held on the first Thursday of every month. The market itself was recently awarded the ‘NI Best Local Market’ at the NI Year of Food and Drink Awards.
  • Easter Bouncemania, Score Football Club, Coleraine, Derry~Londonderry, April 8 – 9. With over thirty inflatables spread over three halls for kids to bounce, slid and climb on to their hearts content, Bouncemania is a wonderland of fun and adventure. As well as hours of bouncing fun, kids will also get a visit from the Easter Bunny who will be delivering treats.
  • Boyzlife, La Mon Hotel & Country Club, Belfast, April 4 – 5. Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy, a part of the multi-platinum, record breaking bands, Westlife and Boyzone, have joined forces to create Boyzlife. After the resounding success of the sold out October 2016 tour, Boyzlife are going back on the road across the UK in April 2017.
  • Ards International Guitar Festival, Co. Down, April 5 – 9. The Ards International Guitar Festival is back with a bang in April 2017 with a fresh new programme of guitar inspired gigs, free fringe events, guitar clinics with industry professionals and an exhibition celebrating the work of music photographer Carrie Davenport! Expect a jam packed line-up of blues, folk, rock, bluegrass and classical for guitar aficiandos across the borough.
  • Geo Detectives and Fossil Fun, Marble Arch Caves, Co. Fermanagh, April 8. Become a Geo Detective and enjoy hands-on fun by making your own fossils, take part in a fossil hunt and learn a bit more about the fantastic fossils that make up the rocks beneath our feet at one of the 120 UNESCO sites in the world – all for free!
  • Brass Band League, Alley Arts & Conference Centre, Co. Tyrone, April 8. The tightly fought world of brass band contesting returns to The Alley when the Brass Band League present their ever popular Spring Festival. With up to 20 brass bands from all over Ireland taking to the stage, audiences will be treated to performances of major works and light entertainment repertoire.
  • A Night at the Musicals, Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre, Co. Armagh, April 4. The talented local performers of Armagh and the surrounding areas will be showcasing the very best musical and dramatic theatre led by an excellent artistic team. From ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to ‘West Side Story’, ‘Avenue Q’ to ‘Wicked’; young performers will be presenting the best of the West End all in one evening. Go along and be captivated by their repertoire, skill and passion for the stag.
  • Andy Cooney: On the Eighth Day, Ballymoney Town Hall, Co. Antrim, April 6. If you love American country music, then you’ll love On the Eighth Day tour. The tour features Andy Cooney, star of the New York Carnegie Hall. Andy, christened Irish America’s favourite son by the New York Times is well renowned all over the world for his hit records including The Irish Wedding Song. Joining Andy & his band is Nashville Country star Dee Reilly who is no stranger to country music with a wide range of hits.
  • A View of the Cross: Concert for Palm Sunday, St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Co. Armagh, April 9. Cappella Caeciliana, one of Northern Ireland’s leading choirs, is delighted to be joined by guest conductor Eamonn Dougan (Associate Conductor of The Sixteen). The choir will present a special concert of music for Palm Sunday and Holy Week, in the magnificent setting of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. The programme includes the Irish premiere of Stabat Mater by Alissa Firsova (in the presence of the composer) and Miserere by James MacMillan.


New partnerships and an all-star lineup to contribute to ‘A Parallel Universe’ at Sunflowerfest 2017

A committed and excited fan base of festival-goers are on their toes this week as Northern Ireland’s only 3-day festival of music and art makes its first official lineup announcement.

Sunflowerfest: A Parallel Universe will run from 28th – 30th July 2017 on Tubby’s Farm, Hillsborough.

Irish comedy-rap duo Rubberbandits are scheduled to take their cult status to the main stage alongside acclaimed Derry-born singer-songwriter Ryan Vail’s new live AV show, which has been well-received at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas. Fan-favourites King Kong Company will also make a welcome return to headline the main stage.

Other additions to the bill will include Electric Swing Circus, a unique blend of 20s swing and modern electro, Golden Age-channeling MCs Too Many T’s, endearing, festival-worthy folk from Beans on Toast and the contagious humour of Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer. The festival maintains its strong links with music communities abroad by welcoming new Dublin noisemakers Farah Elle and Damola, and Glasgow pop-rockers Single By Sunday. Disco masters Le Galaxie as well as local-favourites Malojian and Reading & Leed’s regulars R51 will also bring their explosive sound back to the packed-out ‘festival for all’ at Sunflowerfest.

A local hub for all genres of music, the festival’s dedicated ‘ElectroMoot’ venue for dance and electronica will see a headline set from OR:LA alongside JIKA JIKA!, Ponyhawke and Brién at the controls with many more to be announced. To the delight of Sunflowerfest vegerans, the famous ‘Silent Disco’ will also make a welcomed return.

Speaking on the origins of the festival Sunflowerfest organiser, Vanessa Magowan described how the festival was borne out of their own sons’ musical pursuits at young ages.  The husband and wife duo have developed the festival to be a family-friendly force in the local music and arts community.  “Sunflowerfest began as a small-scale fundraiser to help our son raise money for a school project,” said Vanessa.  “Over the years, the festival continued to grow until we made the decision to open to a wider public and host it on our picturesque farm in Hillsborough.”

An exciting new partnership will also be launched at this year’s festival with local-favourite eatery Boojum joining forces to feed hungry festival-goers, families and artists.  Additionally, following the success of last year’s Year of Food and Drink venue, Sunflowerfest plans to this year bring a huge range of treats, cooking demonstrations and tastings showcasing the best in Northern Irish food and drink.

An emphasis on ‘world-building’

Previous years of the hugely successful festival have seen the enchanting natural beauty of Tubby’s Farm transformed into a steampunk haven and an ancient Viking settlement, among other unique themes. This year’s theme of A Parallel Universe places a focus on futurism. Organisers and designers are collaborating to create a festival experience that will guide the Sunflowerfest-faithful through space and time, a unique combination of art and science. Speaking on what can be expected at this year’s festival, festival organiser Michael Magowan described how their world-building ambitions are ‘rooted’ in positive community engagement. “Since 2002, over 7000 native trees including beech, birch, ash, alder, willow, hazel, and oak have been planted on-site,” said Michael. “The festival’s electronic music venue ‘The Moot’ and the festivals picturesque Pond Stage were crafted 5-years ago from a lorry load of renewable pine logs from the forest at Jonesborough, near Castlewellan.

“We strive to foster a sense of community and connection both during the festival and at Tubby’s Farm generally. While visiting the festival, people from all walks of life can enjoy yoga, meditation, interactive and educational workshops as well as inspirational talks from individuals who share creative and environmental interests. We’re proud to share our home in the countryside – a collective, beautiful, piece of heaven on earth. We are just the caretakers for the generations to come.

Sunflowerfest is built on principles of permaculture and sustainability, and each year an army of volunteers is assembled to ensure that the farm is prepared for the thousands of expected guests as well as looking after the land during the festival weekend.

Tickets for Sunflowerfest start at just £74.95 (includes 2 children, aged 15 and under) and £64.95 for students – now available online at www.sunflowerfest.co.uk. Additional bands, artists, and activities will be announced via Sunflowerfest’s website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Enrol today for the JH Academy of Theatre Arts!

The JH Academy of Theatre Arts, in affiliation with The American Musical Theatre Academy, (AMTA) London and New York is now enroling.

All our locations have now been announced.  Places are on a first come first served basis. Apply via the website for a membership prospectus pack at www.jhacademy.co.uk/membership

There are  2 scholarships available in each location.

Bangor is our specialist training college location from 10 – 5pm.
All other locations are performance based centres from 10 – 1pm.
All JH Little Academy classes are 45 minute sessions. starting from 10am


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


The Woodland Trust invites families to discover the hidden gems of Kilcooley Wood in Bangor, in the countdown to Easter, this Friday 1st April.  Complete a self-guided trail through this fabulous woodland.  Young nature detectives, having completed the woodland adventure, will each be rewarded with a tasty Easter treat.


Tinderbox Theatre Company is proud to present ‘Famla’ by acclaimed writer John McCann, at the Market Place Theatre on Saturday 1st April.   Haunting, hilarious and heart-breaking, Famla dares to challenge the stories we tell ourselves to hide the truth of who we really are.  Directed by Patrick J O’ Reilly with incredible performances by Tara Lynne O’ Neill, Rhodri Lewis and Hayley McQuillan, Famla is a theatrical feast not to be missed.  Recommended for age 16+ as contains some adult language.


Music in Fermanagh presents Musici Ireland – Flute, Viola and Harp at the Ardhowen Theatre this Wednesday evening. Musici Ireland is one of our leading chamber groups and this will be a wonderful concert for those beginning to experience classical music. Three immensely talented ladies, Vourneen Ryan, Dianne Marshall and Beth McNinch will play works by Debussy and Ravel and some of John Buckley’s arrangements of traditional Irish music.


Trevor Smith and his ‘Friends in Low Places’ are putting on a very special show at the Strule Arts Centre this Friday 31st March. Friends in Low Places brings you the magic of Garth Brooks and all of his greatest hits such as ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’, ‘Friends in Low Places’,  ‘The Dance’, Baton Rouge’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘Unanswered Prayers’ This show is a must see for any Brook’s fan and is the next best thing to the man himself.


Smart Mums Market, Magherafelt Parish Centre this Sunday 2nd April,  is an indoor market for buyers and sellers of baby and children’s nearly-new clothes, shoes, toys and equipment for 0-10 years; including buggies, bikes, cots, nursery furniture, large indoor and outdoor toys, maternity gear and everything else that comes with raising children. It is a quality market for gently-used items. Items must be in good condition, fully functional to be displayed.


This Saturday, celebrate 111 years since the official opening of Larne Carnegie Free Library. Built in 1905, this historic building, which now houses Larne Museum & Arts Centre, opened its doors to the public in 1906 as the Carnegie Free Library, following financial assistance from the American millionaire and philanthropist Mr Andrew Carnegie. The building was officially opened on 2nd April 1906 by Colonel J M McCalmont, M.P. There will be walkabouts (12-2), Edwardian costume for adults and kids to dress up, arts and crafts, Edwardian games to play, craft demonstrations, living history, storytelling, and information on local history.


Titanic Belfast are celebrating their fifth birthday on 31st March and are marking the occasion in style with a weekend of family fun!  Join the birthday bonanza celebrations from 31st March – 2nd April! Let your kids be a trailblazer and follow the story of the Titanic, from her conception in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and tragic end and complete our 5th Birthday Challenge Trail in partnership with Tatyo High Fives.  See history in a new way with living history characters throughout the Titanic Experience and on board SS Nomadic, enjoy our kids game zone, face painting and meet the Titanic mascots – plus be in with a chance to win at every corner with spot prizes galore! There has never been a better time for families to visit!

­For more details on these events and to add your events free go to whatsonni.com. Follow us on twitter @whatsonNI and on facebook at fb.com/www.whatsonni.com for news, competitions and what’s on near you.

Music In The Chamber – The Darkling Air : Isobel Anderson

On Thursday, 20 April, The Darkling Air will be joined by Isobel Anderson and The Arco String Quartet for a very special concert in The Chamber, Bangor Castle.

When songwriter and vocalist Rachel McCarthy (Farriers) met composer and producer Michael Keeney (Foy Vance, Duke Special) while mixing a record in Donegal some years ago, a future collaboration was inevitable.

A simple notion to write some songs together in late 2015 quickly and organically grew into The Darkling Air.

They will be joined by Arco String Quartet who have worked closely with Rachel and Michael for many years and play on the album.

Expect ambient soundscapes and haunting vocals underpinned by guitar, piano and strings.

Isobel Anderson is a Belfast-based musician and sound artist, originally from Brighton in East Sussex. To date, Isobel has self-released and produced three studio albums and has a PhD in Sound Art. Her music has over 15 million plays on Spotify, and has been played on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC 6 Music and The Guardian’s Music Podcast. Isobel features on two of Passenger’s albums, and has released a collaboration EP with violinist Ruby Colley titled The Sussex Sessions.

“I love this record… Real effortless simplicity. Dark path is a great album.” Jamie Cullum, BBC Radio 2

This will be their last show for a short while, as they are embarking on a short break so don’t miss out!

Tickets are on sale now at www.ardsarts.com. Price £12 including refreshments


Portico to feature on Channel 4

On Thursday night at 8pm Portico’s restoration will feature amongst that of seven other properties on Channel 4’s “Great British Buildings: Restoration of the Year” programme.

Presenters Kevin McCloud and Anna Keay showcase the most incredible restorations of historic buildings from around the UK. From palaces to watermills, department stores to music halls, they unfold nine centuries of history told through treasured places that have been brought back from the brink. These are bold interventions demanding great craft skills, enormous dedication and budgets that run into millions.

This second episode, on Thursday 30th March, explores several wonderful buildings of the nineteenth century, in the Victorian category of the competition.  Anna Keay and her team spent a week filming at Portico and at Northern Ireland’s two other entries: Mount Stewart and Sion Mills stables in Co Tyrone.  Portico is a grade A listed Greek Revival temple and widely held to be one of the best examples of its type in Great Britain and Ireland.  The restoration included everything from the ridge tiles to the subfloors and the result is a stunning landmark in Portaferry and a great credit to the foresight of those people who built the church in the mid 19th century as well as to those who recently restored it.

Prtico’s restoration was driven by the Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church (FPPC) who raised the £1.5m necessary for that project.  The primary funder was the Heritage Lottery Fund but 24 other charities made significant contributions and a very successful crowd funding campaign raised over £70,000.  Last May HRH The Prince of Wales reopened the building which is now an arts and heritage centre.  In the last 10 months Portico has held over 65 events.  Later this year from 26th – 29th May they will host their annual four day music festival “Festiv’Ards” featuring superb classical music ranging from organ concerts through clarinet, string quartet, piano, vocal and cello recitals (further information at www.porticoards.com).

Ian McDonnell, chair of FPPC Portico’s restoration said “Portico has already won several prizes and many accolades and is a wonderful example and lead for those who own a listed building and aren’t quite sure how to rescue it.  To have the work that we’ve done recognized in this way on national television is a great compliment to the many people involved in the project, in particular Bill Maxwell our conservation architect”.

At the end of the episode Kevin and Anna hear which building the Judges from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have shortlisted to be in the running for the ultimate accolade of ‘Restoration of the Year’.

Put all your eggs in one Borough this year!

This year’s Easter activities in Ards & North Down will be bigger and better than ever! Celebrations will stretch right across the weekend.

World Number 2 Adam Raga will appear in Bangor as part of the Springtime Carnival event on Easter Monday.

Starting on Good Friday in Newtownards a colourful carnival parade will celebrate the awakening of Spring with budding flowers, Spring street art, fires and fairies Look out for mythical and magical creatures, a giant farmer and his animals and fantastic live music!

In Conway Square 12pm-5pm there will be the finest street theatre including interactive 3D art workshops, Bruce Airhead and his six-foot balloon, and junk orchestral duo Bang On. The Spectacular Spring Carnival will leave at 3pm, details of the route can be found on www.visitardsandnorthdown.com

On Easter Sunday, there will be plenty to do at Cockle Row between 2-4pm with Easter crafts, Plant and Play garden workshop, archery, traditional music and Tales of the Wild Animal Roadshow

Easter Monday in Bangor at 3pm the superb Springtime Carnival will leave Bangor Castle and travel through the town for all to marvel!

Also on Easter Monday Moto Trail NI Motorcycle club will be holding the biggest Bangor Trial bike display ever in the McKee Clock Arena with an eye opening daredevil course. This year’s trial bike rider highlight will be multi-award winner and current World number 2 Adam ‘The Destroyer’ Raga. Adam is no stranger to Bangor having made his arena debut at the tender age of 16. The event will start at 12 o’clock with two qualifying heats of breath-taking stunts and manoeuvres before the final at 4pm. This show is not to be missed!

The 7 times World Champion will also be running a Trials School while he is here, for further information log on to www.trialstar.co.uk

Lots more family fun will take place from 12pm-5pm with a free Land train on the promenade and an array of street art and live cartoon drawings at Project 24. Everybody gets the chance to take part in these amazing art pieces, you won’t be able to resist stopping to take part, or popping back to see how things are going the order of the day. The North Down Museum will have a fabulous Easter Trial. Tickets £1. Follow clues throughout the museum in order to solve the puzzle and get your Easter egg. Afterwards make Easter crafts to take home. A great time for all the family!

So spring into springtime with these fantastic events throughout the borough this Easter weekend!

For further information, check www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk

Ards International Guitar Festival – Don’t Miss Out!

With The Ards International Guitar Festival just around the corner, Newtownards is gearing up for the full programme of events which will see the town come alive with the sounds of classical, blues, folk, jazz, bluegrass and even some rock from some of the best guitar talent around.

The Ards and North Down Borough Council festival, runs from 5 – 9 April and features something for everyone with many of the events already sold out.

On Thursday 6 April, The Festival is delighted to host Will McNichol & Luke Selby with special guests The Joseph Leighton Trio in a very special evening at Ards Arts Centre. Will Nichol has won numerous awards for his playing and composition and is a Fellow of Trinity College London and a former winner of Guitarist Magazine’s Acoustic Guitarist of the Year. Luke Selby is a sought-after session drummer who has studied with some of the finest musicians in his field, supported by emerging talent Joseph Leighton, this celebration of young guitar talent will be an evening not to be missed.

The world renowned musician Jon Gomm will take to the stage in The Queen’s Hall on Friday 7 April. The UK based guitarist who combines draw-dropping guitar skills and artistic soul to craft compositions will be supported by Becky Langan and Amrit Sond, two remarkable percussive fingerstyle guitarists, making this gig a real treat for music lovers – bound to be a festival highlight!

On Sunday 9 April, The Queen’s Hall plays host to Songbirds On Sunday, a special concert by Sarah McQuaid, one of Europe’s hardest working and most talented fingerstyle guitarists. With special guests Eilidh Patterson and Brigid O’Neill, this will be an evening of beautiful voices and magical guitar sounds bringing together and celebrating female folk and acoustic talent.

Other highlights this year include the jazz guitarist Hugh Buckley in conversation and in session with Ronnie Greer. This relaxed afternoon of music and chat will feature the acclaimed Dublin-based guitarist Hugh in conversation with jazz guitar legend Ronnie and will also feature a number of performances by Hugh and Ronnie, solo and together. This event is taking place in Ards Arts Centre on Saturday 8 April.  If you fancy Sunday brunch with a difference, then the Classic Album Brunch event on Sunday 9 April might be the thing for you! Award-winning broadcaster Ralph McClean discusses the life and work of Jimi Hendrix, accompanied by clips of Jimi’s landmark guitar solo, songs and performances.

Ards International Guitar Festival is a must for the music enthusiast.  For ticket details or to view the full programme please visit the website www.ardsguitarfestival.co.uk  or alternatively call Ards Arts Centre on 028 9181 0803