It’s back! Your last UK chance to see multi award-winner COAL!

THERE’S one last chance to see Gary Clarke’s award-winning hit contemporary dance drama COAL this spring as the production hailed by the nation’s critics goes on one last UK tour before heading off to new acclaim in Europe.

The show which brings to life the drama, tragedy and the unbreakable spirit of a working class community fighting for its future has been praised by the critics as “urgent and heroic” and “emotional dynamite” – MAC, Belfast, on March 21 and 22.

The Gary Clarke Company was  named Best Independent Company at the prestigious Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, with COAL also the winner of the UK Theatre Award for Achievement in Dance.

COAL commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike and reflects award winning choreographer and dancer Gary Clarke’s own experience of growing up in the midst of the 1984/85 industrial dispute as a child of the Yorkshire coalfields, where some of the most brutal and bloody confrontations of the bitter year-long dispute took place.

It is based on years of personal research by Gary,  including extensive interviews with Anne Scargill – former wife of NUM president Arthur Scargill – and Betty Cook, the founders of Women Against Pit Closures.

He also spent time with Chris Skidmore of the National Union of Mineworkers, Bruce Wilson, author of Yorkshire’s Flying Pickets, Barnsley historian and author Brian Elliott and Paul Winter of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

And now the show which was given four stars by The Times and hailed as ‘both humane and powerfully dramatic’ by The Guardian  is back with a string of dates across the country for Spring 2018, including a return to the venue where the extraordinary journey began – Cast in Doncaster!

Starting at the Marlowe in Canterbury in February, the production will then go on to Cast in Doncaster, Eden Court in Inverness, The Byre Theatre in St Andrews, The MAC in Belfast and Brighton Dome Concert Hall.

COAL is then scheduled to make its European debut in May, with plans for more international dates in the latter part of 2018.

And at the same time director Gary Clarke will be developing Wasteland in 2018, the long-waited and eagerly anticipated sequel to COAL, due to premiere and tour UK wide from Spring 2019 – more details to follow.

COAL is a direct response to my upbringing in the working class mining village of Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire. It’s about trying to capture a time in British history that is too easily forgotten. It is an attempt at keeping the memories of the mining industry alive, an industry that I believe shaped the fabric of our society and how we live our lives today. These communities are at the heart of COAL.”  Gary Clarke 2015.

COAL features 16 performers – seven professional contemporary dancers including TC Howard (acclaimed for her work with Vincent Dance Theatre and Wendy Houstoun), a live on stage brass quintet and four local community women, both specially recruited at every venue.

The unforgettable voice the Prime Minister at the heart of the dispute is provided by Steve Nallon, still best known for his many performances as Margaret Thatcher in long-running cult TV hit Spitting Image and here providing an uncanny evocation of the Conservative leader as he recreates her exact words from the time of the strike.

Performers are pushed to physical and emotional extremes, with an evocative score of live brass classics arranged by MD Steven Roberts, a thunderous soundscape by Noise Artist Daniel Thomas and Siobhan McKeown’s shocking short film capturing devastating scenes of the strike in an immersive, accessible and affecting audience experience.

Dramaturgy is by Lou Cope (well known for her work with award winning performers like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui), with costumes and set by nationally acclaimed designer Ryan Dawson Laight and award nominated lighting by Charles Webber.

COAL combines Gary Clarke’s vivid visual performance style and splintering physical language as it marks the 30th anniversary of the turbulent end of the Miners’ Strike.

What the critics have said:

“An absorbing, immediate slice of history…robust, urgent and heroic…” The Times

“Unquestionably beautiful.” British Theatre Guide


Coal is contemporary dance that moves grown men to tears…emotional dynamite.” East Midlands Theatre


“Powerful and moving…a thrilling piece.” The Sheffield Star


“A compelling look at the behaviour of real people under political and personal pressure.”


“A profound and highly relevant contribution to remembering this painful, life changing period in our history.” The Big Issue


“Absorbingly powerful and affecting….” The Herald (Glasgow)


“There is an authenticity to COAL few could match…” The Scotsman


“A profound and highly relevant contribution to remembering this painful, life changing period in our history.” Art Scene in Wales

COAL is co-commissioned by DanceXchange, Cast Doncaster, The Place, Dance City, Dance4 with Nottingham Playhouse, The Civic Barnsley and Yorkshire Dance with additional funds from The National Lottery through Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Individual Giving through kick-starter and support from The Northern  School of Contemporary Dance, the National Mining Museum of England and Scotland and The NUM.

Raise Your Hands As REEF Are Added To The Harmony Live 18 Festival Bill

90’s faves bringing their groove to County Down​

ROCKERS Reef will kickstart Harmony Live 18 in Holywood, County Down, on Friday June 1 as part of a three-day packed weekend of music and much more.

The four-piece, most famous for their iconic Place Your Hands will join Boomtown Rats at the award-nominated festival, with further top named acts to be announced.

The three-day event, which is set to pack out the Co Down town, will run from June 1-3 at the Festival Marquee in the Holywood Rugby Club grounds.

Previously known as the Holywood Harmony Festival, Harmony Live 18 will see big-name acts take to the stage at the main marquee as well as supporting events across several venues in the town.

Last year the festival welcomed over 15,000 people into the town and organisers are expecting to top that figure this year having doubled the size of their marquee to accommodate The Boomtown Rats and Reef.

Festival director Mari Jackson said: “Harmony Live 18 is set to be bigger, better and more fun with music that will reverberate across the county.

“We’re delighted that Reef are joining The Boomtown Rats in another great coup for the festival committee and I know everyone who is in the marquee on June 1 will have their hands in the air for this tremendous live band.”

Mari said Harmony Live 18 is more than just a music event “it’s a weekend that welcomes involvement from throughout the community” she explained, adding: “Putting Holywood firmly on the map as an exciting music and tourist destination the Harmony Live 18 supports the local economy, working with service providers, vendors and contractors in the area and improving the footfall into the town and businesses throughout the weekend.

“We’re very proud of the achievements so far.  In 2016 we were nominated and shortlisted for Best Tourism Event at the North Down Business Awards and this year we’ve undergone a complete festival rebrand thanks to local company Andy Rice Creative (ARC).”

Tickets for The Boomtown Rats and Reef at Harmony Live 18 are available from,  Garry’s Barber Shop and Homebird in Holywood.

Connect with the festival on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Free film screenings for school

Flowerfield Arts Centre and Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre will celebrate International Women’s Day with two free film screenings for schools.

In partnership with INTO Film, ‘A Silent Voice’ will take place on Thursday 8th March at Flowerfield Arts Centre. Described as an intricate account of teenage politics, this stunning Japanese animation explores tough themes of bullying and peer pressure. Perfect for secondary school audiences, the story also explores themes of friendship, courage and compassion in young people. The performance takes place at 10am and is rated certificate 12.

Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre will screen ‘Ethel and Ernest’ on Friday 9th March at 10am for school children aged 7+. This wonderful animation is adapted from a novel by The Snowman creator Raymond Briggs. Telling the story of his parents’ relationship from the 1920s to the 1970s, it follows their experience of two World Wars and beyond as they witness incredible shifts in society. Rated PG, the film provides a fascinating, warm and funny insight into the 20th century.  Limited tickets are remaining for this screening.

For further information or to book places for your school group, please telephone Flowerfield Arts Centre on 028 7083 1400 or Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre on 028 7776 0650. You can also visit or

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


Have you got what it takes to put your powers of sleuthing to the ultimate test? Then “The Point of Murder”, a brand new 1940’s Country House themed Murder Mystery Weekend at The Lough & Key Hotel Warrenpoint is where you should be this weekend! This two day immersive Murder Mystery weekend will transport you back to war time Ireland for an experience not to be missed.  From the moment you arrive on the Saturday afternoon, to your departure on Sunday after the final lunch, mystery, intrigue and top notch entertainment will be the order of the day.


Join Armagh City Hotel for an amazing Girls Night Out this Friday at the Something Blue Fashion Event! See the latest styles from leading boutiques Creative Ideas Bridal, Shauna Fay Designs, Crystal, Mary Curry, The Dressing Room & Paynters Menswear, showcased on the catwalk. The evening will be compered by Denise Curran Styling & Events. All proceeds will go to Sands NI (Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Support) to help fund a Bereavement Suite in Craigavon & Daisy Hill Hospitals.  Tickets available from all participating boutiques & online.


Colin Murphy is coming to Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen for his Bald Ambition Tour on 23rd February 2018. Known for his role as resident panellist on the BBC Northern Ireland comedy show, The Blame Game, Colin will be making the humdrum fun with support from Mary Flannigan.


The Hothouse Flowers are a jam band with their own homemade jam spread into all corners of the bread!  Despite the band’s lengthy career, which is now heading into its forth decade, there is a sense of unfinished business.  There are still songs to be written and emotions to share, whether it’s in a tiny club, an arena or in a festival field, there is a sense that the best is yet to come.  See them perform live this Saturday 24th February at the Alley Theatre Strabane.


It’s Freak Out Friday this Friday at Carrowmena Activity Centre Limavady, offering outdoor activities for crazy prices for the last Sunday the month.  Climbing Wall, Leap Of Faith & Archery Price – £10pp at 11.00 am & 2.00pm.  Enjoy a morning of Adventure Sports with Leaping from Heights, Tackling the 28ft Climbing Wall & Shoot Golds in the Archery Range. Your Instructor will guide you through the morning events.


Ever fancied building your own castle?  Then join in the fun at Carrickfergus Castle Museum this Saturday 24th February from 2.00pm to 4.00pm  to create a colourful cardboard castle, fit for royalty.  This is the perfect opportunity for your little ones to use their imagination, it’s super practical and always lots of fun!  Suitable for ages 1-5 and admission is free!


Peace Proms returns to the stage of the SSE Arena Belfast at 3.00pm on Sunday 25th February 2018 and promises to be a huge celebration of youth, music, energy and sheer talent on an epic scale.  Peace Proms is an outstanding production, suitable for all the family – young and old! The critically acclaimed Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland will perform with the Belfast Children’s Peace Choir which is made up of 3,500 Primary School children from all over Northern Ireland.


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.

New Play Park in Antrim Lough Shore Park

If you have visited Antrim Lough Shore Park recently you may have noticed some building work taking place.

Exciting plans are underway to develop a nautical themed play park, including a wheelchair accessible boat.

Speaking at the sod-cutting, the Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Hamill commented, “I am pleased to see this exciting new project taking shape as the Council is investing £250,000.  The new play park will make this beautiful park even more fun for everyone as well as complementing the future plans to develop a new Gateway Visitor Centre at Antrim Lough Shore Park.”

Some elements of the new play park have been designed by school pupils from across the Borough.  Their creative ideas should be open in time for the summer holidays, as the work is expected to last for approximately 16 weeks.  Please keep an eye on social media and our website for details of when the new play park is open and ready for use.

For more information, please T. 028 9446 3113 ext. 31376 or E.

Ireland Chair of Poetry to deliver poetry workshops at Seamus Heaney HomePlace

As well as the brighter days, spring sees the welcome return of the Irish Writers Centre to Mid Ulster as award-winning poet and Ireland Chair of Poetry, Erin Halliday hosts a six-week poetry workshop at Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy.

In honour of the Irish Writers Centre’s remit to support writers throughout the island of Ireland they are now offering access to their courses in Belfast and Derry focusing on editing, blog writing, creative non-fiction, poetry and the novel.

The course starting this month at Seamus Heaney HomePlace will be taken by Erin Halliday, Ireland Chair of Poetry bursary awardee and featured poet in New Poets from the North of Ireland (Blackstaff). She published her first collection Pharmakon (Templar) in 2015. An Arts Council of Northern Ireland ACES award has funded the completion of her forthcoming second collection.

Erin’s course will begin on Tuesday 27 February at 7pm and will run for six weeks, one evening per week, throughout the spring.  The course is aimed at emerging or advanced poets who are interested in receiving critique of their work and Erin will provide constructive workshop-based analysis throughout.

Speaking what would be available to emerging poets and peers during the course workshops, Erin said, ‘Your voice, form, your poetic preoccupations, condensing meaning into words, and how you consider these aspects of poetry in your editing process; these are questions we’ll consider over the course of this series of workshops.’

Spaces on the six week course, costing £60, can be booked directly through the Irish Writers Centre at or for further information contact Bernadette Greenan, Education Programmer, Irish Writers Centre (telephone +353 (0)1 872 1302)



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.


Gilbert & George Package with The MAC & the Merchant Hotel, Belfast from £144 per person.

Join world famous artists Gilbert & George for afternoon tea and conversation at the five-star Merchant Hotel followed by an overnight stay and breakfast. Package includes a ticket to Afternoon Tea with Gilbert & George, overnight accommodation including breakfast and free car parking. To book call 9023 5053. Offer available 11 April.

Spring Couples Offer, Da Vinci’s Hotel, Derry~Londonderry  from £109 per person.

Enjoy a two-night break in the four-star Da Vinci’s Hotel with breakfast and a two-course evening meal. Located a 15 minutes’ walk from Derry’s historic City Walls and is the ideal base to explore Portrush and the Giants Causeway. To book call 7127 9111. Offer available until 31 March.

Seamus Heaney Sunday Special, Glenavon House Hotel, Co. Tyrone from £62 per person. 

Spend Sunday exploring Seamus Heaney HomePlace before checking into the three-star Glenavon House Hotel, situated on the outskirts of Cookstown. Overlooking the Ballinderry River and set in nine acres of its own mature grounds, this luxurious hotel offers a wide range of high standard facilities, whilst the hotel’s central location within the province makes it an ideal base. Package includes bed and breakfast, a four-course dinner in The Cellar restaurant, full use of the leisure facilities and an entrance ticket to Seamus Heaney Homeplace. To book call 8676 4949. Offer available until 31 March.


All offers are subject to availability.  For further information visit

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 this week (19-25 February 2018)


  1. Titanic Taster Photography Tour: Lenses, Light & Magnification, Belfast, 24 February.  Become a Titanic inspired photographer for the day, learning all about the science behind photography while having the opportunity to explore Titanic Quarter’s industrial and maritime heritage.
  2. Born2Run Castlewellan 5/10K Race, Castlewellan, 24 February. The Castlewellan 5K/10K is final race in this year’s Belfast Telegraph Run Forest Run Series. The atmosphere will be buzzing at this last race when everyone who has completed six out of eight races will receive their free Forest Finisher t-shirt. The race starts and finishes in the shadow of Castlewellan Castle.
  3. The Bjorn Identity at Portico, Co. Down, 24 February. Abba tribute band, The Bjorn Identity return to Portico where their last show had the audience literally dancing in the aisles to their singalong favourite songs. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy this evening of great entertainment in these unique surroundings.
  4. The Man Who Fell to Pieces, Coleraine, 20 February.  This unique play performing at the Riverside Theatre is a story about John who is falling apart, literally. He spends days holding himself together with tape and cling film and other DIY tools.
  5. Flash Harry- Celebrating the Magic of Queen, Lisburn, 23 February. From the small beginnings of five Queen fans getting together for a one off gig, Flash Harry have gone from strength to strength. They will have you rocking in the aisles of Lagan Valley Island, and singing along to some of the greatest songs ever written. To book tickets visit
  6. Peter Corry – Call of the Celts, Coleraine, 23 February. An evening of some of the finest music from Ireland and Scotland comes to the Riverside Theatre. This show will take you on a musical journey through some of the all-time favourite Celtic classics performed by one of the great voices to come out of Ireland.
  7. Giancarlo Castro’s Trumpet Concerto, Belfast, 23 February. An evening with one of the most exciting rising musicians – Venezuelan trumpeter Francisco “Pacho” Flores who has been achieving worldwide recognition as a soloist, captivating audiences with his energy and the bell-like beauty of his tone. See a concerto world premiere as he performs at the Ulster Hall.
  8. The 4 Of Us, Lisburn, 24 February. Formed and fronted by Newry-born brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy, The 4 Of Us has a strong musical identity which has produced original and award-winning recordings. This concert will see the brothers in an up-tempo acoustic setting – expect some beautiful songs, stunning interplay and great stories from the road. To book visit
  9. Murder Mystery Night at Belfast Castle, Belfast, 24 February. This event involves dinner with all of your group as teams of detectives. You must attempt to solve a deadly whodunit by answering three simple questions: who committed the crime, how and why? To book call 028 9077 6925.
  10. Katherine Ryan, Belfast, 25 February. From Live at the Apollo and Jimmy Carr’s Your Face or Mine? see Katherine Ryan’s brand new comedy show Glitter Room at the Ulster Hall. To book tickets visit

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

“Get your Tractor wheels on the road to break a record & help raise over £100,000 for charity.”

PROJECT TRACTOR & the BIG Country Breakfast with Richie Remo.


Maghera based Specialist Joinery Group, have set their sights on beating an Irish Record for having over 750 tractors on a charity run, a record which is currently held at 715 and was set in Armagh in November 2017.

PROJECT TRACTOR & the BIG Country Breakfast on Saturday 10th March is the second of a series of community focused fundraising events held by the company to celebrate 30 years in business.

To mark this milestone, the staff aim to raise over £100,000 for ten designated charities carefully selected by the team. Those benefitting include; Steps, Alzheimer’s, Our Lady of Lourdes Pilgrimage. Chest Heart & Stroke, Cystic Fibrosis, Marie Curie, Children’s Cancer Unit, NI Children’s Hospice, Kings College Hospital, London and Sands.

Festivities at Specialist HQ on 10th March will commence at 9.00am, with a bumper Charity Breakfast. Country star Richie Remo will provide the headline act for a strong bill of entertainment throughout the morning. Arbutus Catering, by Barry & Amanda Dallat will provide all tasty event catering.

Entry for Children is free and they will be entertained by an adventure playground and a selection activities.

Wheels on the road

The cavalcade of Tractors will roll out from Specialist HQ at 1.00pm sharp, to travel the 30 mile Anniversary Route via Maghera, Tobermore, Draperstown, Desertmartin, Magherafelt, Castledawson, Bellaghy, Gulladuff & then finally return to Specialist HQ.

We are calling all Tractor enthusiasts to join this very special charity tractor cavalcade to attempt to break the current Irish record for these brilliant charities. The group emphasis that everyone who participates on the day is working for charity and this event is made even more special by the number of brilliant causes that funds are being raised for.

Whilst there will be facilities for Tractors to register and pay on the day, drivers and passengers are encouraged to register in advance and avoid queuing and to allow for a coordinated record breaking attempt.

Set to be a fun filled event for all the family, as we have limited spaces available please book early to avoid disappointment!

Tickets to the big country breakfast are available online only.

For further event details visit

Dementia Friendly Outreach Tennis at CIYM

Dementia NI members have been working with CIYMS Tennis Club, Belfast to develop Dementia Friendly Tennis Sessions. These sessions are aimed at people with dementia, however, carers and loved ones are also welcome to participate.

CIYMS Tennis formed an outreach department in Autumn 2017 to reach out to the entire local community, and in particular those who might not have thought tennis was for them, or even possible.

CIYMS Outreach Manager, Jane McComb explains how it all began,

“Belfast City Council provided funding to help us set up a stock of rackets and balls. Members were also very generous with donations. This means that participants only need a pair of trainers to come and participate.

We have been able to run two new groups this year and offer Blind/VI tennis on Tuesdays and Dementia Friendly on Wednesdays. We have a fantastic team of volunteers who are able to offer 1 to 1 assistance with these groups.

Our Dementia Friendly session started up after we contacted Ashleigh at Dementia NI, and we invited a few members to come and visit us at the club to talk about their needs and see if we could work on a tennis programme together. A workshop on Dementia Awareness was held at CI, and we have been enjoying our Wednesdays together with an ever-expanding group of those living with dementia and their carers. We are indebted to Belfast City Council for funding this group for this term.”

Dementia NI member, Allison Batchelor encourages others to get involved,

“The Dementia Friendly tennis was an opportunity for me to do something completely different. It was proof that I was still able to learn and to develop new skills even after my diagnosis. I enjoy the gentle exercise and the social side with being given the chance to meet new people. The volunteers have learnt more about dementia and how they can help support people like me remain within the community. To me this gives me hope that another group of people see that those living with dementia are still trying to remain active and included within society.

I would encourage others to get involved, the tennis is for everybody at any level, the volunteers are very accommodating and will adapt to suit each individual’s personal needs.”

Ashleigh Davis, Dementia NI Empowerment Officer shares the benefits Dementia Friendly tennis has brought to the charity’s members,

“Studies show that leading a physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of people with dementia. Exercise can be beneficial for both physical health and mental health, therefore improving the quality of life for people living with the condition.

People with dementia are users of local services and Dementia NI members play a vital role in influencing how to make Dementia Friendly communities.

Our members are involved in many Dementia friendly initiatives throughout Northern Ireland, including here in East Belfast. Members regularly advise community groups, sports associations, shops, and organisations on how they can make their facilities or service more appropriate for people with dementia to access. Dementia friendly tennis is a wonderful example of how the views and opinions of people with dementia have been utilised into creating an environment where people with dementia feel socially included and integrated within the community.

We are currently working closely with CIYMS tennis to develop a model that can be utilised and rolled out by other tennis organisations throughout Northern Ireland. Dementia NI is delighted to be involved in the development of dementia friendly tennis sessions and welcome others inspired by these wonderful achievements to contact us to learn more about how to make their organisations more inclusive for people living with dementia.”

CIYMS Outreach Manager, Jane concludes,

“We know that tennis has many health benefits, for both our mental and physical wellbeing, and have already found that even the sceptical or reluctant, will end up having a lovely morning hitting some balls, and then we always have the important cup of tea in the clubhouse afterwards! We hope to be able to continue these two groups and to integrate our new friends into our club. We will also continue to reach out to the local community to offer tennis for everyone.”

For more information on Dementia Friendly tennis, please contact Jane McComb, CIYMS Outreach Manager on 07833 721 865 or email to learn how to become involved.