El Takes ‘Pole’ Position In Belfast

If you were out and about on Culture Night, you’ll probably have come across El Fegan and her colleagues going ‘up the pole’ entertaining everyone.

El has been offering pole dancing, pole athletics and other fun activities from her Polercise premises in Belfast’s Donegall Street for almost fifteen years. Her studio is located in the former premises of Clark’s Dance Studio and El admits that when she first opened, she expected a bit of opposition!

“Looking back now, I think I was just a bit nervous,” she said. “Given the reputation of the US ‘pole dancing’, I expected to see banners and protests right outside the door, but there was nothing and it all worked out well. I think Northern Ireland – and Belfast in particular – has moved on now.”

For those, who don’t know, pole exercise is the hottest and most fun exercise trend right now, with participants able to have fun and get healthy at the same time. 

El first came across pole fitness during a trip to Australia.

“I saw this article in a magazine and I was really intrigued,” she explained. “I immediately thought ‘hey, I could do that. I remember going and asking about the classes. For about three weeks I sneaked off to classes but didn’t tell my boyfriend at the time.”

El quickly got the pole ‘bug’ and decided to pursue a career in the activity. But first she had to overcome a bit of a blip!

“When I came home in October 2004″ said El.

“I set up a pole in my brother’s house because I didn’t want to speak to my parents about it. I didn’t think they would understand because, at that time, pole still had a seedy sort of image, so I sneaked over to my brother’s house for a while to practise. Pole was, however, becoming more prominent in England and was getting press coverage, so I would leave magazines open for my mum to pick up on it so that she would understand it wasn’t seedy, but a great way of getting stronger, both physically and mentally.”

Since those early days El has pioneered the benefits of pole for all ages – particularly for girls. 

“We’ve actually had girls come in and tell us that pole has changed their lives,” she said. “Through pole, they develop their body confidence and self-confidence, and this can help them in their relationships. Some have come from an abusive relationship and they are able to get the strength to just go and move on from there. And, that, for me, is probably the best, the biggest thing that we get out of it.”

El’s classes are now a major attraction for all types of people. From mothers and daughters to younger children, her classes are a mix of people who are there for fun and for the health benefits.

There’s even a growing number of men joining in!

“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “This year has been good for stag parties and we’ve had a couple of stags who have come in to do pole and had a really great time.”

Those who take part in the Polercise classes some in all shapes and sizes.

“We get small girls who have absolutely no upper body strength, and they’re not able to lift their own body,” she explained. “And then, we’ll get stronger, bigger, girls who can just climb up that pole, no bother. It’s just all about being able to lift your own bodyweight, and work from there.

“We have people who are gymnastic, people who come from absolutely no background and love the sexy side of it, and love putting the hands on. We’re not a school that’s going to go ‘No, you’re not allowed to wear high heels, you’re not allowed to do that’.”

In addition to classes, Polercise also offers fun events for parties.

“We offer any kind of themed dance party, like the whole Burlesque, cheerleading, Grease, Dirty Dancing and the like,” El said. “This year is going to be the hustlers, so we’re going to be offering strip tease workshops. We’ve already run a few of those, and they went down a storm. While the classes involve a full-on body workout, the parties are a bit more fun. Everyone comes in and we play a few party games, followed by a champagne reception.”

El’s increasingly prominent place in the pole fitness world moved on to an international level recently when she was a judge in the world sports fitness championships, which were held in China in October and she was heavily involved in the recent pole competition, which was held in Belfast in October. 

“The competition definitely showcased the range of people who have become involved in pole,” El said. “We ended up with more than 50 competitors in six categories – from juniors to seniors and veterans. We’d everybody from eleven year olds to one participant, who was is nearly 70!”

If you’re intrigued about pole fitness, but not sure whether it’s for you, El suggests a beginners’ class where you learn the basics.

“Everyone starts out as a beginner,” she explained. “Initially we focus on the basics like technique and building your strength. Come and try it and see if it’s for you.”

To find out more, or to book a session please visit: https://www.polerciseni.com/

Quirky Theatre With An Eco Twist Comes To Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter

A local theatre company is giving circus and theatre lovers the chance to experience something very different this year.

Three’s Theatre Company in conjunction Tumble Circus will be taking over the big top in Writer’s Square with their Rewilding Christmas Cabaret show from December 19-22.

Featuring bio-degradeable drag queens, organic cotton-clad burlesque dancers and acrobats the show has a commitment to being environmentally-friendly on top of delivering some unique fun to their audience.

MC Leonie McDonagh, drag acts Rosa Tralee and Victor McFlict’r, singer Emer T Maguire, and comedy burlesque act Nuala Rude will entertain guests in a very “sustainable if risqué manner” said organiser Anna Leckey.

She added: “The show also includes circus acts including juggling, acrobatics and aerial skills – and not a plastic straw in sight.

“You can even get a delicious Curated Kitchen hot vegan street food meal in 100% biodegradable containers.”  

Be aware – this is an adults-only performance and there are limited shows so book early so you are not left ‘green’ with envy.

The Rewilding Christmas Cabaret is being supported by Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District.

CQ BID Manager Gareth Neill said: “The Eco Cabaret is just one way we’ll be working with Anna going forward.  We’ll be welcoming Anna as one of our Lunchtime Learning speakers in the new year to discuss sustainability and eco-matters with businesses in the Cathedral Quarter.

“As a BID we are keen to ensure that businesses are kept up to speed with opportunities to contribute to becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly; it’s not just about the big corporates, small business can make an incredibly valuable contribution to the sustainability supply chain without it costing their bottom line. Consumers are more and more savvy to the ethics and agenda of an organisation they buy from or work with, thus we feel that upskilling and educating businesses in the BID will be really valuable.”

Tickets for the Rewilding Winter Cabaret taking place from December 19-22 are available from WeGotTickets at wegotickets.com, priced from £27.50 including booking fee.  Doors open 8pm, show starts 8.30pm.


Move over John Lewis, there’s a new star this Christmas.

Hastings Hotels has launched its heart-warming 2019 festive campaign, ‘The Doorman and the Duck’.

This beautiful tale begins on a dark, stormy night when the little duckling gets separated from his family and finds a warm welcome at one of Belfast’s most famous landmarks, the Europa Hotel where he rescued by the kind doorman.

The story goes on to see the duckling being looked after by the doorman in the Europa Hotel where he explores, cheekily plays the piano and treats himself to some afternoon tea in the Piano Lounge.

The little duckling makes himself at home in one of the luxurious guestrooms for the night before the friendly doorman helps reunite him with his family.

Julie Hastings, Marketing Director of Hastings Hotels said: “The duck has been central to Hastings Hotels for almost 30 years and we are delighted to bring him to life this year for our Christmas Campaign. The new ad represents the true sentimentality of the festive season and we hope people will fall in love with ‘The Doorman and the Duck’ just as much as we have.” 

To celebrate ‘The Doorman and the Duck’, Hastings Hotels has launched a fabulous Black Friday Extravaganza.  Northern Ireland’s leading collection of hotels is treating everyone to a bottle of wine or bubbles per transaction, when you spend £100 or more on Hastings Hotels Gift Cards.

The November offer of a £10 voucher for every £100 you spend on a Hastings Hotels Gift Card also still applies!

To take advantage of this fabulous offer, go to www.hastingshotels.com or call the Gift Hotline on 028 9047 1066. This offer is available online until tomorrow at 23:59 and by calling the hotline between 8am – 8pm today and tomorrow.

Gabrielle Rise Again Tour 2020

Celebrating 20 Years of the Number 1 Album Rise

Ulster Hall, Belfast: Sunday 29 November

Tickets on sale Saturday at 9am

One of the UK’s most successful singer-songwriters, Gabrielle will bring the Rise Again Tour 2020 to the Ulster Hall next November.

Gabrielle returned to the top of her game with her 2018 album ‘Under My Skin’. The album debuted at #7 on the Official Album Chart and represented her highest-charting studio set since ‘Rise’ spent three weeks at #1 eighteen years earlier.

Having successfully proven herself all over again, Gabrielle is now set to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the smash hit ‘Rise’ album with the confirmation of the ‘Rise Again Tour 2020’. The tour will see Gabrielle playing  songs from the album, along with other iconic hits and fan favourites.

“I’m so excited about going on the road and celebrating 20 years of the ‘Rise’ album being released. I’m looking forward to performing songs from ‘Rise’ alongside lots of my other favourites and of course I could never end a show without playing ‘Dreams’, its going to be a big party full of good vibes and memories” says Gabrielle.

Released late in 1999, ‘Rise’ shot back into the charts when its title-track spent two weeks at #1 the following February. The album then spent three weeks at #1 during an eleven-week run in the Top 10, before again returning to the Top 10 in the summers of 2000 and 2001. The album was eventually certified 4 x Platinum in recognition of more than 1.2 million sales.

‘Rise’ featured five of Gabrielle’s biggest hits: the title track (#1), ‘Out Of Reach’ (#4),  ‘When A Woman’ (#6), ‘Sunshine’ (#9) and ‘Should I Stay’ (#13).

Through the first chapter of her career – from her emergence in 1993 through to 2007 – Gabrielle was a near constant presence in the UK charts. She landed two #1 singles, a further eight Top 10 hits and five Top 10 albums, including the #1 hit ‘Rise’. Gabrielle has spent a combined total of over four years on the Top 40 of the Official Album and Singles Charts, exceeding 5 million sales in the process. In addition, she was part of the BBC’s all-star version of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’.

Highlights of her numerous awards include the prestigious Ivor Novello for Outstanding Song Collection; two BRIT Awards for British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artist; and both Best Album (‘Rise’) and Best Single (‘Give Me A Little More Time’) at the MOBO Awards.

This summer has seen Gabrielle build on the success of ‘Under My Skin’ by playing a near sold-out UK Headline Tour, BBC’s Proms In The Park (40,000), Blenheim Palace with Gladys Knight, Kingsholm Stadium with Nile Rogers as well as a summer full of festival dates.

Tickets on sale Saturday at 9am

In person at the Ulster Hall Box Office

By Telephone: 028 9033 4455
Book On Line: www.waterfront.co.uk

In person: From 100 Ticketmaster Outlets Nationwide 
By Telephone (24 Hour): Northern Ireland – 0844 277 44 55
Book On Line: www.ticketmaster.ie 

Members of the public urged to get involved with ‘The Great Nurdle Hunt’ across Causeway Coast and Glens

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has joined forces with Fidra, a Scottish based environmental group, to launch ‘The Great Nurdle Hunt’ around our iconic beaches and coastline. 

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Councillor Sean Bateson, pictured at Ballycastle Beach with Environmental Resources Officer Janice Dunlop, is calling on members of the public to take part in ‘The Great Nurdle Hunt’ around our iconic beaches and coastline as part of the Council’s #LitterSmart initiative.

Fidra shines a light on environmental issues, working with the public, industry and governments to deliver pragmatic, evidence-based solutions for a healthy environment and sustainable societies. Fidra developed The Great Nurdle Hunt, a citizen science project to encourage people in coastal areas to look for and record ‘nurdles’. 

Nurdles are small plastic pellets which, when melted together, are used by industry to make nearly all our plastic products.  They end up in the ocean, dispersed by currents and wind and are washed up on beaches across the globe.  We want to see if they are present on our coastline and then record the information as part of a global citizen science project.

Nurdles attract other pollutants and can be mistaken for food by sea birds and other marine animals.  One fulmar found in the North Sea had 273 nurdles in its stomach! 

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Councillor Sean Bateson said: “It’s really important we build up a picture of nurdles along our coastline as part of our other ongoing litter activity under our LitterSmart banner.  We are excited to be part of the worldwide Nurdle Hunt movement and are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Fidra on this initiative.  Plastics have a significant impact on the overall health of our marine and coastal environments and there are a host of opportunities for everyone to get involved in making this place we call home better.’

Jasper Hamlet from Fidra commented: ‘We are delighted to have the support of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and hope that many people can take part in The Great Nurdle Hunt along this beautiful part of the Northern Irish coastline. Taking part in The Great Nurdle Hunt is fun, easy and contributes vital data to our worldwide picture of nurdle pollution. All you need to do is head to a beach, look for nurdles and let us know how you get on by submitting your data on our website. The information we gather from nurdle hunters adds to the evidence of this form of pollution and supports our case calling for immediate action to prevent further loss of plastic pellets.’

Council is appealing for volunteers to help carry out this vital research.  Support will be provided so if you’re interested please contact:

recycle@causewaycoastandglens.gov.uk or ring 028 2766 0248.

For more information on The Great Nurdle Hunt, please go to www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/

Top Rod Stewart Tribute Confirms Belfast Empire Show This December

Shake off the Christmas turkey, grab your handbags and don your gladrags as the Rod Stewart tribute is set for a special show on December 27 as Lee Hedley brings Tonight’s The Night to Belfast’s Empire for all fans of Rod The Mod.

The rocking, high energy show will see Lee bring to life the man and his music, with a tour de force show that has earned rave reviews.

Expect a packed house of Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Rollers grooving along to the likes of Proud Mary, Don’t Want to Talk About It and, of course Maggie May.

Lee said that performing a tribute to Rod was special for him and audiences.

“Rod Stewart has such a legacy demonstrating that music can really move you,” he said. “It’s the measure of the man that at the marriage of a couple that was delayed because of the Thomas Cook collapse he turned up at the wedding to sing Have I Told You Lately.

“Generations have loved his music. Rod has inspired me throughout my career and I hope the audience at the Empire will love every second.”

Lee’s show in Waterford’s Theatre Royal was reviewed by the Munster Express saying: “Hedley had the moves, the chutzpah, the raspy Rod Stewart voice, and he got the audience going”

Lee Hedley is one of Northern Ireland’s leading performers with The Lee Hedley Blues Band, bringing his blend of classic rock, blues and jazz to venues across the country and playing festivals such as The Belfast Blues Festival, as well as touring in the US, Europe and even in Libya.

“I want to bring the excitement and joy of shows by Sir Rod Stewart to Belfast,” Lee said.

“There are so many tunes that have become iconic and are loved by so many that it is a privilege and delight to not only sing them, but to see the response from the crowd.”

“With Rod currently in remission from prostate cancer he remains as ever committed to recording with last year’s ‘Blood Red Roses’ charting and packed with memorable tunes. I hope to bring that energy and joy to the Empire for what will be a special post-Christmas show.”

Rod might sing – and Lee will too on the 27 – Some Guys Have All The Luck but your luck will be in when you see Tonight’s The Night.

As well s Lee and the seven-piece band, the Empire show will also have DJ Will Reynolds playing ‘Classic Gold Roadshow’ tunes.

Tickets, priced £15, are on sale now via Visitbelfast.com.

St Anne’s Cathedral Set To Come Alive In Aid Of The Black Santa Charity

Christmas visitors to the Cathedral Quarter this year be able shop for unique seasonal gifts while being entertained and supporting those less fortunate.

St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast will open its doors to a stunning Art and Craft Bazaar this Christmas in aid of the Black Santa Charity.

The Black Santa Night Time Bazaar runs from 5pm to 10.30pm on Saturday December 14.

Set to be a magical night, the event will see more than 100 stalls of the best art and crafts, vintage and food.

A woodland walk through the crypt will lead to a stunning stretch tent packed with artisan food vendors and Live DJs

The Jazz Bus is making its first appearance this Christmas, where you can sip a craft beer, cocktail or a hot drink and listen to stunning live jazz. There will be music from local seasonal choirs with special guests and the best DJs in the city.

The bazaar is a fully family-friendly evening with lots of surprises.

Organiser Caroline Baker of Little Fox Events says there will be something for everyone – and that’s no exaggeration.

“From entertainment, music, drink and food, to the best artisan and craft items available, there will be plenty to see and do and buy.

“As well as helping the Black Santa charity appeal, you will also be supporting small, local, independent businesses and keeping the carbon footprints down!”

“So, get into the festive spirit and make it a date to come down to Belfast Cathedral and join in the fun.”

The event is supported by the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District initiative and Belfast Music City Council.

CQ BID manager Gareth Neill says it’s an exciting new development for the Quarter over the Christmas season.

He said: “Everyone involved in the BID is looking forward to the bazaar which is the latest offering in the area.

“It involves small local business, entertainers and musicians, artisan foodmakers, crafters and best of all, while people are shopping and having fun, they can donate and support those less fortunate at this festive time of year – what’s not to like?

We hope people will come out in their droves to support the bazaar, and the Black Santa charity, as people have been doing loyally here for many years.”

Be our guest this Christmas at Armagh’s Market Place Theatre

It looks like being a record-breaking year at The Market Place Theatre in Armagh, as tickets for the annual pantomime spectacular, ‘Beauty And The Beast’, look set to sell-out for most performances.

The venue’s reputation for staging the most fun-filled and family-friendly festive productions will no doubt have led to the ‘House Full’ sign being a regular feature over the coming weeks. 

‘Beauty And The Beast’ is the greatest love story ever told, but told in a way you’ll never have seen the like of before! Audiences can expect an action-packed show bursting with magic, music and plenty of mayhem!

Dreaming of a happier life, the beautiful Belle finds herself transported to a spellbound castle and held captive by a hideous beast. Can she see beyond the monster and fall in love with her captor before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose? Or will the Beast’s selfishness cost him the world he once knew and the hand of the girl that has melted his heart?

Beauty And The Beast will be sure to make you laugh, cry and fall in love with a host of hilarious and hairy characters. Who – or what – is the creature that walks the long corridors of the enchanted home? And will he ever find love?

‘Beauty And The Beast’ promises an unforgettably festive experience coupled with The Market Place Theatre’s renowned reputation for high quality, professional pantomimes that are up there with the best.

Performances will run from Saturday 30 November, right up to Sunday 22 December, at a variety of times to suit all ages! Ticket prices range from £11 to £16. Hurry to secure your tickets – it would be beastly if you missed out!

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.

Creative Peninsula Christmas Fayre for that Special Christmas Gift

The annual Creative Peninsula Christmas Fayre is taking place in Ards Arts Centre, Conway Square, Newtownards on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 November.

Knitted products by Wee Yarn Design, one of the craft makers who will be taking part in the Creative Peninsula Christmas Fayre at Ards Arts Centre on 29 and 30 November.

An array of local craft makers and artists will once again provide an opportunity to purchase a range of unique, local, handcrafted products.

The festive Fayre, now in its seventh year, is organised by Ards and North Down Borough Council and will feature 28 craft makers and artists in the galleries of the Arts Centre. Come along and enjoy complimentary refreshments and browse the stalls for that inspirational gift. Free gift wrapping will be available. Admission is free.

There will also be festive live music by pianists Lisa Dawson on Friday and Ruth McCavery on Saturday from 12-2pm on both days.

Speaking about the Fayre, Emily Crawford, Arts and Heritage Manager with Ards and North Down Borough Council said: “Ards Arts Centre is delighted to once again host the annual Creative Peninsula Art and Craft Fayre. The event brings together some of the finest artist and makers in our Borough, with beautifully curated stalls to meet all your festive shopping needs.

You’ll find quirky handmade prints, an array of beautiful ceramics, jewellery in silver and ceramic, fabulous and affordable fine art and intricate papercraft to name just a few. With complimentary refreshments, gift wrapping and festive music, don’t miss this atmospheric opportunity to support your local artists and makers with a handmade treat for you or a loved one!”

Christmas baubles by Victoria Bentham, one of the artists who will be at the Creative Peninsula Christmas Fayre at Ards Arts Centre on 29 and 30 November.

The Fayre runs from 10am – 5pm on Friday 29 and 10am – 4.30pm on Saturday 30 November.

Visitors to Saturday’s Fayre can also enjoy the Festive Market and Newtownards Christmas Lights Switch on taking place on High Street and Conway Square from 10am – 6pm.

For further information, please visit:


East Belfast Sure Start Families Enjoy A Magical Christmas Experience at Titanic Belfast

Local Sure Start families had the chance to enjoy some festive cheer at the exclusive launch of Titanic Belfast’s A Magical Christmas Experience.

Evelyn Erhabor and her children Amy, Danielle and Isiah from Sure Start, are pictured with one of Titanic Belfast’s Magical Christmas Experience’s elves.

15 families were invited by East Belfast’s Sure Start to see Father Christmas arrive and launch A Magical Christmas Experience. They were the first 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 on the naughty or nice list and meet Father Christmas himself.

Sure Start is a programme that works with families with children under the age of four in the 25% most disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland.  It aims to improve health, social development and the ability to learn by promoting parents’ involvement.

Aware that Christmas can often be a difficult time, the event enabled these families to celebrate the joy of the festive season together, which the charity is passionate about. The charity is encouraging families to use Christmas as “anytime is chatting time” this year. By smiling, talking, laughing, singing and sharing stories parents can help their development.

Sure Start East Belfast coordinator, Tracey Wilson, said: “Christmas can be a difficult time and we are so grateful to Titanic Belfast for giving our Peer Support and Young Mums’ families a break from the stress of the festive season through this unique event. The festive season can be a wonderful time for families to be together and create some lovely memories, like this event did. It is also the perfect opportunity to talk to your child, sing songs and read stories, which will not only help them learn to talk and concentrate but also make friends, so this Christmas, we are encouraging everyone to make anytime chatting time.”

Titanic Belfast’s Chief Executive, Judith Owens, commented: “Christmas is a truly magical time of year and our Experience is all about embracing festive cheer and creating unique memories. We are really pleased to host local families from Sure Start together and hope we have added something special to the lives of these very deserving families!”

Titanic Belfast’s Magical Christmas Experience runs until 23 December, to book, visit www.titanicbelfast.com.