Ignite your senses at the MAC’s summer Shh Fest

Inspired by magical children’s production, Shh! We Have A Plan, the MAC are hosting a bespoke sensory Shh Festival from 14 – 18 August, encouraging families to embrace the sights, smells and sounds of summer.

Shh! We have a Plan is an enchanting non-verbal theatre production for young audiences based on the hugely popular book by Chris Haughton, published by Walker Books, and presented by the multi-award-winning children’s theatre company, Cahoots NI.

Created and directed by Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney with music by Garth McConaghie, the show follows the journey of three madcap characters on their quest to capture a beautiful bird in a forest. It has gained international success following a US tour and now returns to the MAC this Autumn for more music, magic and puppetry before jetting off to China.

In honour of the show’s return to Belfast, the MAC are hosting a summer Shh Fest packed full of fun activities and workshops from 14 – 18 August. Families are invited to take some much needed ‘Shh’ time and discover sights, smells and sounds of summer in this festival for the senses. Children can enjoy creative workshops, singing classes, a special clue hunt around the MAC and also an amazing sensory garden that children as young as 3yrs can enjoy.

Director of Shh! We have A Plan, Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney said, “We are thrilled to bring this adventure back to Belfast for our young audiences to enjoy. We have created a unique theatre experience that tells the story of an elusive and magical bird. The story looks at how kindness may achieve more than greed and selfishness; and, as the play goes on, the characters learn to love and look after nature.

Shh! We have a Plan is packed with magic, music and puppetry and can be enjoyed by all the family. This special show has just returned from the USA and will close the year in China, so we are very excited to be bringing it back home to Belfast this summer.”

Book tickets for Shh! We Have A Plan or Shh Fest workshops at the MAC at themaclive.com or call Box Office on 028 90235053.  

SHH! We have a plan Copyright © 2014 Chris Haughton. Licensed by Walker Books Ltd., London.

Fiona Stewart, Francis, Reflections and Roses – A Life Imagined

University of Atypical are delighted to present the first solo exhibition by 2019 IDA Award winner, Fiona Stewart.

Drawing on Freudian ideas of the uncanny, Stewart’s work occupies territory that is both familiar and ‘other’. Specifically focusing on the subconscious, her work draws on genetic memory and inherited trauma – bringing the cognitive into the physical – and vice versa. Not necessarily negative, the artist plays with the poignancy of energy transfers; from one being or material or interpretation into another.

Alongside this interest in transference, Stewart has also worked as a Graphic Designer for many years, resulting in a process-oriented, layered approach to what she refers to as paintings. Vibrant colour compositions, glass layers and rugged textures invite the viewer to begin a subtle sense of discovery across each surface, discerning the differences in hue, contrasts and finishes.

Stewart says: ‘experiences and memories alter our molecular structure over time and this exhibition – my first solo presentation with University of Atypical – is a personal representation of that.’

And there’s more at ESAFest19!

The countdown is on for this year’s fantastic EastSide Arts Festival (1-11 August), supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  

This year’s exciting programme is filled with fun and inspiring activities for everyone to enjoy. With so much to do across the 11 days it can be difficult to decide what to do. With this in mind, we have taken the opportunity to round up some of the amazing experiences and activities that are running across this  year’s programme:

Walks, Talks and Tours:
East Belfast is rapidly becoming known for the huge selection of street art appearing on the walls, often replacing some of the more traditional murals in the area.  Lesser Known Murals Tour of East Belfast  is a 90-minute tour, led by tour guide and historian Peter McCabe, which will call at a selection of these, focussing on Titanic, C.S. Lewis and many of the less well-known murals.

Join photographer Carrie Davenport for a crash course to help you Photograph Your Greenway. Following the course enjoy a tour of the beautiful Connswater Community Greenway.

The Big Top @ C.S. Lewis Square:
There’s a wide range of music and cabaret to suit all taste in the Big Top, C.S. Lewis Square; check out Kitt Philippa, Beauty Sleep, Sonja Sleator and Gemma Bradley for a taste of some of the best new music coming out of Northern Ireland, all on one night, then let XSLF take you back to the heyday of the Pound Music Club during its punk years. Join Tumble Circus as they present Rampage – a show that will blow your mind with an hour of hammer- smashing, Belfast-inspired circus!

Unique Dance Event:

Check out NI’s first-of-its-kind weekend of all things dance with Project Dance NI. Two days, 40 workshops and seminars with some of the dance industry’s top professionals, teaching all styles of dance from Ballet to Breaking, for every age and ability. On Friday 2nd August drop into C.S. Lewis Square for JAMZ NI: a fun day of street dance battles and the UDO World Championships!  

Children and Families

Cool stuff for families, also in the Big Top, includes The Irish Video Game Orchestra who create music for video games, TV and film. For kids learning instruments, why not join the professional musicians in their rehearsal before the gig and learn some of the music? Through clowning and fun, Pink & Blue explores what it’s like to be a boy or a girl and what it means to be who you really want to be.  Join Bollywood Baba for a family rave, Bollywood style with lots of colour, props and amazing music, led by a team of brilliant Bollywood dancers.  For really little ones, check out Baby Daddy, a show for babies aged 6-18 months, featuring an all-male cast.  Three actor-musicians perform to a maximum of 8 babies (and their grown-ups) in a specially designed sensory theatre space.  Spaces limited so book now!

Queer Céilí at the Marty Forsythe
is an exciting production from Kabosh that explores the turbulent events of the 1983 National Union of Students Lesbian and Gay Conference, held at Queens University Belfast. The play is set against the soundscape of 1983, the escalating Troubles, vocal and violent opposition to homosexuality and a thriving punk scene.

Songs of the Shipyard by Peacock Angell draws the audience into the world of working-class Northern Irish shipyard poet and dramatist Thomas Carnduff, performing original musical settings of his poems interwoven with fascinating biographical excerpts from early-20th century Belfast. This event is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend Sam McCready who was a lifelong supporter of east Belfast and friend to the festival.

Stronger in Numbers by HEX HUE marks a clean break for Belfast vocalist, composer and musician Katie Richardson. Bearing the imprint of Scando-pop and percussive electronica every bit as much as 60’s girl bands and introspective indie, it offers up harmony-driven, bold, technicolour alt-pop that locks its gaze on the horizon to see better, brighter days.

Join Belfast Blues guitar legend Ronnie Greer with his Almost Big Band. Expect distinctive guitar playing, incorporating Chicago blues with sophisticated jazz, featuring Ken Haddock and with support from award-winning performance poet Alice McCullough.

Something a little bit different

East Belfast Yoga and artists from Vault Artist Studios collaborate to bring you a very special festival yoga practice at Yoga in the Park. The practice will be supported by a musician and visual artist from east Belfast’s largest arts collective and will take place in the new covered Pavilion in Victoria Park. Completely unrehearsed, the artists will respond to the yoga and the yoga flow will respond in return. Accessible to yogis of all levels, the teachers come from Yoga Quarter, a yoga studio based in Ballyhackamore. Mats provided. 

Join local Crime Fiction Ulster Noir writers Simon Maltman & Gerard Brennan for an evening of readings, chat and music. They will discuss crime writing from east Belfast and beyond, amid the boom in Irish Crime Fiction. Expect some readings, a bit of banter and a few crime related songs!

Elly Omondi will explore The Legacy of Dr Armattoe, his pioneering contribution as a West African immigrant in Ireland in the 1940’s; his work as a locum doctor in Belfast, as a GP in Derry-Londonderry, and his lasting work on anthropology as a science.

For the full festival programme visit www.eastsidearts.net and follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #ESAFest19.

Paperboy exhibition at Lyric celebrates cultural icons of the 1970s

British Youth Music Theatre (BYMT), the team behind the smash-hit musical adaption of Tony Macaulay’s international best seller Paperboy, has teamed up with National Museums NI on a very special pop up exhibition at the Lyric.

The exhibition, which will run alongside the BYMT production of Paperboy (1-4 August), features artefacts from 1970s donated by the Belfast public. Items include; The Hood figurine the main villain in Thunderbirds who appeared in many guises while trying to acquire the technology used by International Rescue and Flashy Flickers picture gun which enabled children to project films of their favourite television and cartoon characters.

Set in 1975, Paperboy tells the true story of young Tony Macaulay growing up in West Belfast. The book was adapted for stage by stand-up comedian Andrew Doyle and music for the production was composed by platinum-selling Belfast artist Duke Special. It depicts fondly remembered moments such as the Lord Mayor’s Parade, The Bay City Rollers gig at The Ulster Hall in 1975 as well as references to popular culture of that time.

Checking out some of the items in the Paperboy exhibition at Lyric were, Tony Macaulay and Karen Logan from  National Museums NI.

Creative Peninsula starts this week

Creative Peninsula – Northern Ireland’s premier celebration of Art and Craft will begin with a showcase of the boroughs most talented artists and makers at Creative Peninsula in the Square this Friday (2 August 2019).

For one day only Conway Square in Newtownards will be transformed into a creative hub with more than 30 artists and makers displaying and selling their work and talking about what inspires them.  Free demonstrations including glass engraving, wood turning, painting, felting, printing, drawing, ceramics and much more will run throughout the day. So why not come along and join them in our celebration of creativity!

Taking place throughout August, the thriving celebration, which is now in its 18th year, offers a range of free and bookable opportunities for people of all ages and levels of experience to see, learn about and even ‘try their hand’ at some of the many art and craft forms that are practiced in the local area.  

Other highlights include;

Alfresco Afternoons, Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 August, 12noon – 4pm (free) – be inspired with our Alfresco Art programme featuring afternoon demonstrations. The beautiful location of the Courtyard at North Down Museum is the backdrop for two afternoons of hand-crafted wood and art and craft demonstrations in many mediums.

Drink and Draw, Thursday 8 August, 7pm-9.30pm (£5) – true to its name, this is an art class for both seasoned scribblers and clueless beginners – but in an unconventional setting with a glass of your favourite tipple. 

Ards Arts Centre Workshops, Saturday 3 – Saturday 10 August (cost varies) – a series of engaging and interactive workshops designed to explore the processes used to create unique pieces of arts and craft.

Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Bill Keery, said:

“With one of the largest concentrations of artists and craftspeople living and working in Northern Ireland, Ards and North Down is home to a thriving creative industry. The Creative Peninsula gives visitors the unique opportunity to see some of the very best of local arts and crafts, and to meet and engage with the makers behind the pieces.”

The 2019 Creative Peninsula brochure is available to download at visitardsandnorthdown.com/creative-peninsula with tickets for bookable events also available from this website. 

You can pick up a programme and find out more information on all the events on offer from Ards Arts Centre, North Down Museum or any of the local visitor information centres (Ards, Bangor, Groomsport and Portaferry) or contact the Council directly on 0300 013 3333. 

Family Fun Day at Springhill, Moneymore

Enjoy a great day out at Springhill’s Family Fun Day on 11 August from 11am – 4pm. Springhill House, which is cared for by the National Trust, is located in Moneymore just ten minutes from Cookstown and Magherafelt town centres.

Clueso for kids at Springhill. Picture by Bernie Brown

Your day will be filled with activity and laughter as you create precious family memories at Springhill. Experience a family friendly house tour, enjoy all the fun of the mini fairground, and take a selfie with one of the friendly animals from Phil’s Farm. At scheduled times throughout the day there will be old school sports day races…..for the young and old at heart! A full timetable of events will be available on the day. All this, on top of our Summer of Sport offering already in place, where the whole family can challenge themselves in the adventure trail and Nature Ninja area. Or maybe you fancy having a game of football, volleyball, tennis or table tennis….the choice is yours.

In the midst of all this activity, if you need to take time out and relax for a moment, our two second hand book shops host quiet escapes to browse a wide selection of texts. Our experienced volunteers are happy to help source those hidden literary gems.

Our celebrated allotments will be open for you to have a wander and pick up some useful tips from our friendly walled garden community whilst they tender their crops.

There will also be the opportunity to peruse local crafts and products by Saffron Essential Oils, Elemental Earth, Spirit, and Felt Art by KD.

Feeling peckish? Enjoy the new seasonal light lunch options in the Barn Café. Live music from R&R will create the fun atmosphere in the Laundry Yard and there’s face painting too!

Springhill shop offers a wide variety of gifts, including local crafts, and unique items for your garden…and if you need a sun hat or an ice-cream they have them too!

Take a little piece of Springhill home to your own garden from an impressive display of bedding plants and shrubs, cultivated by our gardener Warren, whose rose display in the Dutch Garden is another ‘must see’ at this event.

A dynamic group of friendly staff are looking forward to welcoming you all to Springhill on Sunday 11 August for Springhill’s Family Fun Day, 11am-4pm.

Normal admission applies. National Trust Members and under 5’s free.

Exciting line-up of international competitors announced for this year’s City of Derry International Choir Festival, 23-27 October

Following the success of the first six editions, the City of Derry International Choir Festival is back with a bang this autumn from 23-27 October, announcing an impressive and diverse line-up of participating choirs from across Europe and South America.

Organisers look forward to welcoming more than 50 choirs to the city to take part in competitions, concerts, performances and workshops across the 5-day event.

This year’s festival will also include a jam-packed schedule of non-competitive performances by more than 40 local choirs and singing groups as part of the Every Voice Community Programme, in partnership with Derry choir Allegri, resulting in a total of nearly 100 participating choirs.

The highlight of the weekend will be the International Competition, to be held on Saturday 26 October in St. Columb’s Hall. Eight choirs, representing eight countries, will compete for the prestigious “Oak Tree of Derry” trophy and a cash prize of £2,000.

The competitors are:

1.     Coral Brasília, Brazil

2.     Voices of Hope, England

3.     New Dublin Voices, Ireland

4.     Coro Giovanile Regionale del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy

5.     St. Zlata Meglenska Female Chamber Choir, North Macedonia

6.     Solheimkoret, Norway

7.     Coro Feminino CVS, Portugal

8.     Cordydd, Wales

Adjudicating all competitions will be a panel of distinguished choral directors with a wealth of experience as international jurors. The festival welcomes the return of Josep Vila I Casañas, one of the best-known choral conductors in Catalonia and Spain, for his third year leading the team as Chair of the adjudicating panel. 

Artistic Director of the festival, Dónal Doherty, commented on this year’s line-up, “We’re delighted to announce yet another exciting and outstanding line-up of choirs for this year’s festival. Derry’s growing reputation as the City of Song continues to serve as a magnet to some of the very best choirs in the world. The five-day festival will once again bring the whole of the North West alive for all music lovers –  Portrush for the golf, Derry for the singing!”

Tickets for all festival events go on sale from the Millennium Forum Box office in August. For further information and updates visit www.derrychoirfest.com.

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


History comes to life at Dundrum Castle this Saturday at the Living History event.  Meet the Norman Knights and their Household as they wield their swords and tell you a little about their lives 700 years ago.


Navan Fort’s celebration of the Celtic festival of Lughnasa returns this Saturday.  Join the clan as they prepare to honour the Celtic Sun God, Lugh, culminating with the fire ceremony finale!


Visit Devenish Island this Summer.  The Devenish Island Ferry Service operates daily during July and August from Trory jetty on an hourly basis . The ferry can accommodate up to 12 people, and is accessible for persons of limited mobility.


Join children’s favourite Tom Sweeney for a fun filled hour of songs and stories for the Tots and their Teddy Bears this Saturday at the Alley Theatre Strabane.  It’s a sunshine party-time and don’t forget to bring Teddy!  


This Sunday 4th August is Star Wars Family Fun Day at the Jungle, Moneymore!  Available from 11am to 4pm with both kids activities and adult adventures to be had, there is something for everyone at Northern Ireland’s leading Outdoor Adventure Centre.


The Heart of the Glens Festival in Cushendall in the Glens of Antrim runs from 3rd to 11th August with a fun packed programme of over 100 events.  Main events include the famous Lurig Challenge Run, food fest night, adult treasure hunt, fancy dress night and the Vintage Family Fun Day.


The University of Atypical gallery, presents the debut solo exhibition by emerging Mid-Ulster, visual artist, Fiona Stewart.  Francis, reflections & roses – A life magnified,  launches on Thursday 1st August 2019, 5-8pm,  and  will remain open until 23rd August.

For further 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 for news, competitions and what’s on near you.  

Jacqueline McGonigle

7 Hills Blue Fest at the Market Place Theatre

The ‘Pat McManus Band’ returns to the Market Place Theatre on Thursday 8 August, as part of the iconic 7 Hills Blues Fest taking place in Armagh.

The Pat McManus Band are a powerful three-piece blues|rock trio, headed up by the former ‘Mamas Boys’ and ‘Celtus’ guitarist | violinist virtuoso Pat McManus. Pat is today considered to be one of the last remaining individual guitar heroes of a generation of Irish guitarists. ‘Mama’s Boys’ were one of the greatest rock bands to come out of Northern Ireland.

This year the band is celebrating Pat’s 40th year as a professional musician with the release of the acoustic retrospective album ‘Rewind’, which includes songs from Pat’s wide-ranging career.

Then on Friday night, veteran Blues guitarist, Rab McCullough, takes to the stage.  He has shared the stage with other Rock and Blues legends including Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Rab inspires generations with his electrifying live shows, always thrilling crowds with unstoppable energy and conviction.  Admission to these two events is free, and entry will be on a first-come, first served basis.

Then on Saturday 10 August, the Oscar winning film ‘Ray’ will be screened at The Market Place. This epic film tells the story of Ray Charles, the legendary blues, soul and jazz musician, who despite losing his sight as a youngster, grew up to become a Grammy award-winning icon and one of the most popular musicians of the twentieth century.

Tickets are available from the Theatre Box Office on [028] 3752 1821, or online at www.visitarmagh.com/marketplacetheatre. To keep up-to-date with the latest news at the Market Place Theatre, you can follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/marketplacearmagh) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/mptarmagh) where you will find all the latest information, special offers and video previews.

Offers of the week!

Northern Ireland boasts an irresistible collection of 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.

·         Elvis Tribute Overnight Package, Wellington Park Hotel, Belfast from £69.50 per person sharing

The ideal place to stay when you come to Belfast, this three-star, family-run hotel is located in the fashionable Malone Road area. The Wellington Park Hotel offers a personalised service and is famous for a casual and relaxed atmosphere with value for money. The Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens and many great restaurants are just steps away. Tom Gilson is a sensational Elvis tribute and will have you singing and dancing all night to Elvis’ greatest hits as he performs his tribute show in the Wellington Park Hotel. This offer includes overnight accommodation with a full Irish breakfast the next morning and tickets to the incredible Elvis Presley tribute show. To book call 028 9038 1111. Offer available on 17 August 2019. 

·         Summer Stopover, Everglades Hotel, Derry~Londonderry  from £55 per person sharing

Located only a five-minute drive from the bustling, historic and dynamic city centre of Derry~Londonderry, the four-star Everglades Hotel is ideally located for exploring and experiencing everything the city has to offer. Offer includes luxurious overnight accommodation, complimentary house cocktail or mocktail and a full Irish breakfast the next morning. To book call 028 7132 1066. Offer available until 31 August 2019. 

·         Lakeland Walking And Castle Exploring in Fermanagh, Mahons Hotel, Co. Fermanagh from £159 per person sharing

Mahon’s is a traditional family run three-star hotel, situated in the heart of Irvinestown and only a short trip away from Enniskillen and Omagh. Being located in the heartland of Fermanagh and its beautiful lake district means beautiful country walks, water sports and of course shopping. Offer includes two night’s B&B accommodation, dinner and picnics. Two wonderful guided walks are also included. To book call 028 6862 1656. Offer available until 30 November 2019.