Premature Babies Supported & Santa Sorted!

Many babies have celebrated their first Christmas due to the fabulous support available from TinyLife, Northern Ireland’s only premature baby charity. Now TinyLife are holding a jumbo Santa event with a difference, to raise vital funds to help future premature babies celebrate their first Christmases’.

A two-centre bumper festive event has been planned, which includes a Snowstorm Christmas Colour Run in Lurgan Park on Sunday 10 December and a train ride to visit Santa in his wooded-cabin at Peatlands Park (Exit 13 M1 at Loughgall). 9/10 and 16/17 December. Both events have the same cover charge £10 Adult and £5 child.

The festive experience brings something for everyone of all ages, as the colour run offers up a festive drenching by Santa’s elves, a visit to the man in red, snow glasses for every participant and a medal for all finishers; while the Peatlands event package has reserved a special train service to chug along the Park’s narrow-gauge railway to see Santa, which includes a gift, a free make and take craft and refreshments as part of the ticket price.

A bundle-booking system is available if both events are reserved. The Lurgan Park Colour Run remains at full price, but for every ticket purchased for the run (adult/child matched) tickets for the Peatlands event will be eligible for a 10% refund.

For visitors preferring to make the takeaway Christmas craft, a pay on the day charge of £4 is applicable. A timed ticketing system is in place to keep Santa’s nerves intact! Visitors are asked to book where possible online and to arrive 15 minutes before the visit.

Peatlands Park Warden, Martin Hampton said, “Our train is always a huge draw throughout the year bringing visitors face to face with nature. Christmas is a wonderful time for children and families, so it is especially poignant that we can take this opportunity to support the work of such a worthwhile charity, who help transform lives every day. As our train turns into the magical Peatlands Santa Express, we would encourage visitors to hop aboard and escape to the great outdoors while supporting TinyLife – a double feel-good factor!”

Over 1900 babies are born too soon (six babies every day), too small or too sick in Northern Ireland. Some arrive as early as 24 weeks, weighing as little as 1lb/454 grams, the same weight as half a bag of sugar! At this understandably very stressful time for parents, TinyLife is there to provide practical advice, emotional support and to give a helping hand to families who have a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit, with their network of Family Support Officers in every neonatal unit across Northern Ireland, ensuring parents receive optimum support in hospital, at home and within the community, all ably supported by a dedicated team of active volunteers.

Nicola Orlick from Newmills, County Tyrone, is mum to 5-year-old Jacob and more recently gave birth to twins, Emma and Matthew, born on 21 August 2015, at 4lb 10 and 5lb 1oz respectively said, “TinyLife was the only charity that could help me. I had a really good job as a senior manager before the twins were. My husband works 12-hour shifts which include weekends, so although we were delighted with the news that we were expecting twins, the reality of the situation soon hit home.”

“With family members working throughout the day, I tried various charities to find a volunteer but to no avail. They I found out about TinyLife and my world changed.  Janice my local TinyLife Support Officer advised me on the many practicalities, including much-needed financial advice as having given up my job I realised that reduced income was yet another pressure I had to deal with.”

“Former nurse, TinyLife Family Support volunteer, Sylvia is without hesitation on my part, is my rock. From the day and hour, she stepped through the front door, she has become not just a volunteer but family. My twins know her as aunty Sylvia. I was at my wits’ end, depressed, lonely and at one point, fearing for my sanity, too frightened and ashamed to reach out for help. For other families in this situation, my advice is to contact TinyLife today. Don’t wait a second longer. Help is at hand. I haven’t looked back since. TinyLife is a local charity for local people. All fundraising money goes directly back to help premature babies and their families. That’s why I’m supporting the Peatlands Park Santa visit event.”

For more information on fundraising, volunteering or this and forthcoming events, visit, buy tickets at or connect on Facebook and Twitter.


Christmas Carol Concert  


Come and explore the magic of Christmas in the Antrim Forum on Saturday 9 December at 3.30pm.


The annual Christmas Carol Service, hosted by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, will be compered by Claire McCollum.

The Education Authority Youth Concert Band will add musical magic to the voices of the children from primary schools throughout the Borough, capturing the true spirit of Christmas through readings and song.

Admission is free however there will be a door collection with all proceeds donated to the Mayor’s nominated charities: Tiny Life, Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice and Sandes.

For more information on the Christmas Carol Concert please T. 028 9034 0073 or

10 things to do in Northern Ireland has stacks of fun things to do across NI, from family days out to gigs and cultural events. Here are 10 exciting things taking place next week (4-10 December).


  1. Christmas Evenings at Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Co. Down, 1-15 December. Leave the hustle and bustle of the high street behind and step back in time into the candlelit Ballycultra village to experience a traditional Christmas from 100 years ago at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Includes Christmas carolling, traditional Christmas fayre, make your own Christmas decoration and much more.
  2. Coca-Cola’s Christmas Truck Tour 2017, Belfast, 6 December. Holidays are coming back to Northern Ireland as the famous Coca-Cola Christmas Truck pulls into town. Arriving at 2pm to the SSE Arena, the public will have an opportunity to take a souvenir photo with the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck.
  3. Nelson Reis Presents Mark Knight, Co. Tyrone, 9 December. Glenavon House, Cookstown invites you to a new dance music event of House Techno. DJ & Producer Nelson Reis will support Mark Knight, Boss of Toolroom Records, Grammy-nominated and second highest-selling Beatport artist of all-time.
  4. Magical Christmas at Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh, 9-17 December. Visit Santa and Mrs Claus in their festive home as they prepare for the busy Christmas season. Each child receives a present and grown-ups can enjoy warming mulled wine and mince pies. To book visit
  5. Flowerworks Adult Workshop, Co. Down, 9 December. Choose either a morning or afternoon session at the Old Town Hall, Banbridge, to kick-start the Christmas season. Learn to make a seasonal statement piece for your door or mantle using foliage, berries and accessories. Romaine Hodgen leads the class, where you will take home a display that you won’t find in the shops. To book call 028 4062 0232.
  6. The Magical Christmas Vintage & Handmade Fair, Belfast, 10 December. Frock Around The Clock will return to beautiful Belfast Castle for The Magical Christmas Vintage and Handmade Fair. The fair will feature over 50 fantastic stalls of vintage, handcrafted and upcycled fashion, furniture, homewares and collectables, textiles and decor, jewellery, sweet treats, toys, art, craft, gifts, artisan food, Christmas crafts and decor and much more.
  7. Snowtube with Santa, Co. Armagh, 9-10 December. Not only is snowtubing great fun, it can help your children fit and healthy. Santa will be visiting Craigavon Watersports Centre, along with the alpine lodge café serving festive favourites, from mince pies to mulled wine. Suitable for ages 4-12 years old, spaces limited. To book call 028 3832 6606.
  8. Eilidh Patterson Band, Derry~Londonderry, 8 December. Eilidh Patterson’s an accomplished finger-style guitarist, seamlessly blends folk and bluegrass with her crystalline voice, and is one of Northern Ireland’s best-loved songwriters. Join Eilidh at this candlelit, cabaret style event with free seating at the Roe Valley Arts & Cultural Centre. To book call 028 7776 0650.
  9. Christmas Craft Workshops, Derry~Londonderry, 2-9 December. The Tower Museum will be offering visitors the chance to revisit the ghosts of Christmas past throughout December by hosting three special workshops focusing on Christmas crafts through the decades. At each of the workshops participants will have the opportunity to create Victorian style decorations and cards which they can take home to give to friends and loved ones. To book call 028 7137 2411.
  10. Christmas Lights Switch On, Co. Antrim, 7 December. Santa has a very busy schedule as he stops off in Ballycastle to help turn on the Christmas lights. Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has organised a fantastic calendar of events to celebrate his arrival including live music and carol singing. Santa will also be bringing along his mobile grotto and each child of primary school age and under will receive a small pre-Christmas gift to mark the occasion.


For more information on these events or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit


Northern Ireland boasts a unique collection of irresistible places to stay including beautiful B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and great value self-catering properties.


Discover NI has selected the best offers of the week to help you plan a short break.



Winter Break, The Briers Country House, Co. Down from £100 per room per night.

Nestled in the heart of South Down, this three-star country house provides an excellent base at the foot of the Mourne Mountains whilst still being within easy reach of Newcastle and the many activities the area has to offer. Book three nights in a standard room and get upgraded to a deluxe room with a free bottle of wine. To book call 028 4372 4347. Offer available until 21 December.


Winter Wonderland Weekender, Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges, Co. Fermanagh from £135 per person sharing

The four-star Killyhevlin Hotel is idyllically set on the shores of scenic Lough Erne, bordered by private grounds and gardens, yet only one kilometre from the historic town of Enniskillen. Enjoy a two-night weekend stay with a fully cooked breakfast each morning, a four-course dinner on one evening and use of the Killyhevlin Health Club. To book call 028 6632 3481. Offer available until 31 March.


Santa’s Calling at the Hedges, The Hedges Hotel, Co. Antrim from £149 per room per night.

Experience festive fun for all the family at this ideally located hotel, just a stone’s throw from the Dark Hedges. Stay overnight at the three-star Hedges Hotel and receive a personal phone call from Santa to your room, followed by breakfast with Buddy the elf. Includes a selection of DVDs, a complimentary dinner voucher, and a visit to the Festive Fairy Trail. Based on two adults and two children sharing. To book call 028 2075 1209. Offer available until 26 December.


All offers are subject to availability.  For further information visit

Titanic Belfast Gives the Gift of Joy to Those Living with Dementia

Local families, whose lives have been impacted by dementia, had the chance to enjoy some festive cheer at the exclusive launch of Titanic Belfast’s Magical Christmas Experience.

Matthew and Alisa Curry enjoy the launch of Titanic Belfast’s Magical Christmas Experience which was held in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society.

Families were invited by the Alzheimer’s Society to the World’s Leading Visitor Attraction to see Father Christmas arrive and launch the Magical Christmas Experience. Aware that Christmas can often be a challenging time for families living with dementia, with heightened emotions and feelings of isolation, the event enabled families to kick off the festive season together.

The families had the chance to step through the Old Curiosity Shop to enter into the Elves’ Workshop, join Mrs Claus at her cosy kitchen, hear Christmas tales, enjoy festive games, badge making, look up their names in the naughty or nice list and meet Father Christmas.

Mingling with a host of well-known Northern Ireland faces from the entertainment industry, the families were first to preview this year’s event.

Titanic Belfast’s Director of Operations Judith Owens, commented: “Christmas is a truly magical time of year and our Experience is all about embracing festive cheer and creating unique memories. With over 20,000 individuals and families living with Dementia in Northern Ireland and one in three children knowing someone living with Dementia, we are delighted to be able to support the Alzheimer’s Society to give the gift the joy to its very deserving service users this festive season.”

Bernadine McCrory, Northern Ireland Director at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We are so grateful to Titanic Belfast for inviting our families to be involved in the Magical Christmas Experience. Some of the best Christmas gifts can’t be wrapped, and hosting a Dementia Friendly event so that families can enjoy Christmas together is a present that will not just build new memories for future generations, but will also allow families to remember and reminisce about Christmases gone by.

“With someone developing dementia every three minutes and no cure in sight, the need to unite in the fight against dementia has never been more pressing , so this Christmas Alzheimer’s Society is celebrating the thousands of people who have united against dementia this year by fundraising, campaigning and volunteering for Alzheimer’s Society, and we are pleased to see some of our amazing volunteers with personal experience of dementia in their family here enjoying the magic of Christmas at Titanic Belfast.”

If you are hosting a family member living with dementia this Christmas, here are a few tips to help you make the day special for everyone:

  • Put your decorations up early and slowly
    Introduce Christmas decorations gradually, over the course of a few days or even a week, so that it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s usual setting.
  • Spread out family visits

A large number of guests can be noisy and overwhelming, so spread out visits over the festive period.

  • Create a quiet room

If things do get busy, designate one room in your house a ‘quiet room’ where one can relax without loud noise and consider scheduling periods of rest throughout the day.

  • Keep the routine

Try to keep meals at the same time and in familiar surroundings so your loved one can relax. Be mindful of food, although people tend to over indulge during the festive season, a full plate can be quite daunting so try not to overload your loved one’s plate.

  • Play some familiar Christmas music or reminisce over old photos

This can help your loved one relax and will add a nice touch to the festivities. Or why not try one of Alzheimer’s Society’s Carols by Candlelight taking place from 3rd – 21st December across Northern Ireland.

Titanic Belfast’s Magical Christmas Experience runs until 23 December. To book, visit


As the countdown to the festive season begins, Belfast’s 5* Merchant Hotel has Christmas all wrapped up.

The Merchant’s luxurious Christmas celebrations have kicked off with a superb selection of seasonal experiences to share with loved ones this year, including festive menus, winter drinks and pampering spa treatments. The Merchant has an array of gifts and experiences to suit a range of budgets. In addition to The Merchant’s popular gift cards, for the first time, a range of exclusive experiences are now available to purchase as online e-vouchers, taking the hassle out of Christmas shopping. For savvy shoppers looking to grab a little luxury for less, The Merchant’s winter sale is now on, with an array of irresistible offers for the New Year. To find out more, visit Picture by Pete Laverty.

The Merchant’s iconic Christmas tree, now standing tall in all its festive finery amidst the splendour of The Great Room Restaurant, is already drawing crowds. The impressive 25ft tree, which took over six hours to erect, has been inspired by the classic nativity scene with a midnight blue and gold colour scheme and has been embellished with 150 metres of fairy lights and over 300 baubles.
Rachael Lindsay from Blue Moon Design, who developed the theme for this year’s tree, said; “The inspiration for The Merchant’s Christmas décor goes right back to the classic nativity scene.  I based it on the skies above Bethlehem with midnight blue and gold used as the main colours.  Enhanced by the idea of the treasure from the three kings, the look is quite rich with traces of the exotic east and lots of jewels.

“Some details of the décor that you might see throughout the hotel, and on the spectacular tree in The Great Room, include golden palm trees, star bursts, jewelled pineapples, peacock feather baubles, oversized filigree baubles and golden orbs.”

Right across the hotel, The Merchant’s luxurious Christmas celebrations have kicked off with a superb selection of seasonal activities to share with loved ones this year, including festive menus, winter drinks, and pampering spa treatments for the party season.

From Friday 1st December, guests can enjoy a special festive afternoon tea in the elegance of The Great Room.  Served on a three-tiered silver stand, this year’s festive tea will include turkey, chestnut stuffing and cranberry sauce finger sandwiches, traditional Christmas cake and seasonal macarons, alongside scones with clotted cream and delicious patisseries and live music from 12.30pm to 4.20pm daily throughout December.

For those searching for a Christmas gift that will make a big impression without breaking the bank, The Merchant has an array of gifts and experiences to suit a range of budgets. In addition to the hotel’s popular gift cards, for the first time, a range of exclusive Merchant experiences are now available to purchase as online e-vouchers, taking the hassle out of Christmas shopping.  The experiences include luxurious overnight stays, spa treatments and a nine-course tasting menu with wine pairings.

For savvy shoppers looking to grab a little luxury for less, The Merchant’s winter sale is now on, with an array of irresistible offers for the New Year, including dinner, bed and breakfast overnight packages from £99 per person sharing, to treat yourself or your loved one.

To find out more or to book your Merchant Christmas experience or to purchase gifts, visit

Jacqueline shares her pick of what’s on this weekend across NI


Enjoy afternoon tea at the Culloden Hotel with songs and carols performed by Bangor Ladies Choir, in aid of Waakissa charity this Sunday 3rd December. Doors open at 1.00pm with the show beginning at 1.30pm and afternoon tea  served at 2.30pm.   This is going to be a fabulous Christmassy event with stalls to purchase a few Christmas gifts, and a raffle with some amazing prizes.


The Market Place Theatre is delighted to announce this year’s Christmas spectacular, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, which runs from 2nd to 24th December. This full-scale traditional pantomime will combine wonderful music, song and dance, colourful costumes, memorable characters, and loads of audience participation, in a lively and sparkling Christmas adventure.


This Friday 3rd December, Music in Fermanagh presents Katherine Hunka (violin) and Finghin Collins (piano) who will be performing Beethoven’s violin sonata No. 4 in A minor Op. 23, Ian Wilson’s ‘from the book of longing”, Leos Janacek’s sonata for violin and piano and Brahms’ violin sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78. Tickets available from the Ardhowen Theatre Tel: 028 6632 5440.


Looking for gift inspiration? Look no further than The Hub Cookstown’s Christmas Market taking place this Saturday 2nd December.. Among a raft of special festive stalls you’ll find foodie gifts, hand-crafted presents and much more. The Hub Choir will create a festive ambience with their carol singing and you can enjoy a cup of mulled apple juice along with some M&S festive food samples. Admission is free!


A gigantic beanstalk, Daisy the cow, magic beans, a goose that lays golden eggs and the nastiest of giants – it’s panto time again at the Millennium Forum! Telling the story of peasant boy Jack and his attempts to please his impoverished mother and win the hand of Princess Jill, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK remains one of the best-loved pantomimes of all time. Packed with great song and dance routines, hilarious comedy, dazzling scenes and magical special effects, Jack and the Beanstalk is fun for all the family from 4-94! Runs from 1st to 31st December daily.


Little Miss Muffett’s Christmas Caper, Carrickfergus Town Hall, 2nd to 5th December. The eternal appeal of this classic nursery rhyme makes this a golden opportunity to present this production from the North’s premiere producer of Christmas plays, Centre Stage Theatre Company, with their usual values of clean family entertainment, funny and immediate scripts, simple effects, live music, memorable tunes and strong performances.  To book, call Carrickfergus Visitor Information Centre on 028 9335 8222.


The Cash for Kids Santa Dash Belfast City is back for 2017 and Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice is delighted to be one of the local beneficiary charities.  This year’s Santa Dash in on Sunday 3rd December, beginning at Writers Square, Belfast at 10.00am.  You and your family could sign up for the original 2.5km Santa Dash led by Santa in his sleigh or step up to the challenge of running in the brand new 5km timed route to earn your very own Santa Dash medal.  All money raised through registrations and sponsorship for Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice will go towards providing specialist care for children with life-limiting illnesses.

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

Bookings are now open for a magical new children’s workshop in Coleraine.

‘The Little Snow Globe’, located in the Diamond, is an exciting addition to the town’s Christmas countdown.

Young people aged from 5 – 11 will have the opportunity to make their own special Christmas decorations at the Winter Wonderland themed workshops ran by Lorna Kyle from local craft company Just Jemima. 

The initiative has been organised by Coleraine Town Team, with support from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

Town Team Chairperson Ian Donaghey: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Council and Just Jemima to spread a little bit of Christmas magic in Coleraine. The workshops are already proving popular, and I would encourage people to make their bookings well in advance to ensure they don’t miss out.”

‘The Little Snow Globe’ will be open on four consecutive Saturdays beginning this weekend on November 25th until December 16th with a different theme every week.

A new class will begin on the hour every hour and last for 45minutes. Bookings can be made online at where you will also find full details and information about special drop in sessions.

Antrim’s Christmas Market in the Square

On Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 December Market Square, Antrim will be filled with Christmas spirit.

Toby Pine Cone launches this year’s Christmas Market with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor

An artisan food, drink and craft market is taking place from 12noon to 10pm on Saturday and 12pm to 6pm on Sunday. The free family event is being organised by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and everyone is welcome.

Antrim’s Market in the Square is back with some festive fever. A little bit of the North Pole will be coming to the historical Barbican gate and Toby Pine Cone is hoping to see you all.  There will be plenty of artisan food and craft stalls, so come down to pick up that last minute gift before Christmas. Top of the Town will be at the bottom of the town with live music and tribute acts.  Bring the whole family along for a great festive weekend.

Free car parking will be available for this event at Central Car Park. Parking is also available at Railway Street and Castle Street, however charges will apply. For more information about the event please contact Karen Uprichard on 028 9446 3113 ext 31344 or visit


Explore the history of the Little Black Dress at North Down Museum

In every woman’s wardrobe, the little black dress is a fashion icon. From Queen Victoria to Audrey Hepburn, the LBD has been a fashion staple for women through the ages.

A dress from the Little Black Dress exhibition at North Down Museum. This black velvet Edwardian evening gown, was owned by Emily Ann Rebeck from Kildare who died in 1914. The exhibition opens on November 29 and runs until February 25.
North Down Museum’s Little Black Dress exhibition is opening on 29 November and will explore this fashion favourite and how it has evolved through history.

Come along and see a variety of shapes and styles from the decades of the 20th century from flappers to mini-dresses alongside pieces on loan from local women as well as Down County Museum.

On display will be a dress that belonged to Emily Ann Rebeck from Kildare who died in 1914. The gorgeous black velvet Edwardian evening gown is fully-lined, fastens at the front with hooks and eyes and has a train at the back.

Earlier in the year, the Museum made a call to women across Ards and North Down to lend their own little black dresses.  There was a fantastic response and the exhibition includes these local garments, each with their own story attached.

Speaking about the exhibition, North Down Museum’s Manager Heather McGuicken said: “This is a fun exhibition just in time to get you ready for the Christmas party season!  We have dresses from across the decades showing the rise of the little black dress from an item worn for mourning purposes only to the staple item that every woman has in her wardrobe’.

The Little Black Dress Exhibition opens on 29 November and runs until 18 March – admission is free. For more information visit