New brand for Hill Street dining as Grill gives way to Cali-styled seafood eaterie
A new seafood restaurant is set to open its doors in Belfast’s iconic Hill Street later this week.
Prawnagraphic will open its doors in the historic Cathedral Quarter on May 27, as the new brand from Made In Belfast owner, Emma Bricknell, offering a fun, fresh, sexy seafood menu, all within a California-styled restaurant.
Like many in the hospitality sector Emma took the opportunity to re-think what direction she was going to take and Prawnagraphic is setting a new standard with the new brand.
“Think po boys, prawn toast to lobster rolls, with dirty sides and light vegan based desserts,” she explained.
“We are doing for a Californian vibe in the colours, but like many restaurants and designs right now it’s on a budget and we are trying to keep it light and bright.
“Gerald McQuillan is the Head Chef and John Smyth the Senior Sous Chef and together then have come up with a menu that is fast, fun and fabulous from freedom farming and fresh sustainable seafood.”
Changing the name in Hill Street is not the only thing that will be getting a refresh as the Made in Belfast brand is set to disappear from the City Hall and Talbot Street restaurants with new concepts being developed and plans for a burger bar and a Mexican themed restaurant.
“I’m really excited about some of our new concepts”, said Emma.
“Being able to creatively input into the business again has helped me mentally cope with the stresses and strains Covid has put this industry under.
“I really want to bring a cool, funky burger bar to the city and maybe a hip Mexican. Those new brands are currently in development, but it won’t be long before we’ll be able to reveal them.”
The decision to stagger the new restaurants was forced upon Emma as the strain of the closures as a result of Covid-19.
“We had no choice but to restructure the business,” she explained, adding: “Many staff didn’t tell us they were moving on until the last minute leaving us with three restaurants and not enough staff to open. I had to make a hard decision, which of the restaurants would open and how.
“I’m confident our current plan for reopening the three restaurants in stages is the best economic decision for the company.”
Emma reassured customers that all vouchers will be honoured for any of the new brands, and someone will contact all customers who have made bookings for any of the restaurants about to change. The planned development south Belfast restaurant has been temporarily put on hold.
However, she believes that with the reopening of hospitality there is hope.
“It may have been an incredibly tough year both for me personally and the business but we’re fighting back.”
Queen + Adam Lambert have today announced an extra UK show is being added to the band’s twice-postponed Rhapsody UK & European tour, now set for 2022, as well as additional dates in mainland Europe.
In the UK, where the band is already set to play a pair of shows each in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow and a 10-day run at London’s O2 Arena, the band will now open their 10-week tour with a newly added show at The SSE Arena, Belfast on Saturday 28 May 2022.
Extending the mainland Europe leg of its highly anticipated tour, the band will also play newly set shows in Italy, Sweden, Norway, and winding the tour up with a new final show in Finland on 24 July 2022.
Extra Europe dates are:
Italy: Bologna, Unipol Arena Sunday 10 July
Sweden: Stockholm, Avicii Arena Wednesday 20 July
Norway: Oslo,Telenor Arena Thursday 21 July
Finland: Helsinki, Hartwall Arena Sunday 24 July
In all, Queen + Adam Lambert will now perform 34 shows across their Rhapsody UK & Europe 2022 tour.
2022 ARENA DATES ANNOUNCED FOR NORTH AMERICA, UNITED KINGDOM AND EUROPE.
Following the release of her latest single ‘Your Power,’ and ahead of the July 30 release of her forthcoming album ‘Happier Than Ever,’ Darkroom/Interscope Records artist Billie Eilish has announced the first leg of her Happier Than Ever, The World Tour, set to commence in February 2022.
Starting February 3 in New Orleans, the 32-date North American arena run will be making stops across North America, before heading across the Atlantic for an 18-date arena tour across Europe and the United Kingdom, starting June 3. Remaining tickets will on-sale Friday, May 28, 12pm local in the U.S and Canada, and 10am local in the United Kingdom and Europe. To ensure tickets get in to the hands of fans, the tour has partnered with Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform in North America. Fans can register now through Sunday, May 23 at 11:59pm PT HEREfor the Verified Fan presale. Registered fans who receive a code will have access to purchase tickets before the general public on Wednesday, May 26 at 12pm local time through 10pm local time.
The seven-time GRAMMY Award winning artist and songwriter has also confirmed she will be continuing her work with sustainability partner REVERB for her Happier Than Ever, The World Tour, with the fan-facing Billie Eilish Action Village at each show which will focus on climate action and climate justice, hosting and supporting BIPOC and women-led environmental organizations as well as a comprehensive program via REVERB’s forthcoming Music Climate Revolution campaign. In addition to reducing the tour’s environmental footprint, the initiative will support projects that directly and measurably eliminate greenhouse gases. These collective efforts will make the tour Climate Positive; eliminating significantly more emissions than the tour creates.
2021 has already been quite the year for 19-year-old Eilish whose latest single ‘Your Power’ debuted at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, logging more than 150 Million streams in the first two weeks of release. Earlier this year, she took home two additional GRAMMY Awards; Record of the Year for “everything i wanted,” and Best Song Written For Visual Media for her James Bond song “No Time To Die.” In February, her groundbreaking documentary film, ‘The World’s A Little Blurry’ — directed by R.J. Cutler — saw its Apple TV+ global release and received critical praise worldwide. Earlier this month, Billie Eilish made her book debut with BILLIE EILISH, a stunning visual narrative journey through her life. Published by Grand Central Publishing (GCP), the book features hundreds of never-before-seen photos, and captures the essence of Billie inside and out, offering readers personal glimpses into her childhood, her life on tour, and more. Get your copy HERE.
After prolonged closures due to Coronavirus restrictions, North Down Museum in Bangor and Ards Arts Centre in Newtownards will reopen their doors to the public on Tuesday 25 May.
North Down Museum staff have been working hard behind the scenes to produce two new exhibitions for visitors to enjoy. Both exhibitions mark Northern Ireland’s Centenary year and are part of Ards and North Down Borough Council’s NI100 programme of activities.
‘NI100: Our Borough, Our People’ which can be viewed in the museum’s Community Gallery until Monday 30 August, explores local people who have made a national or international impact in their field over the past 100 years. Ards and North Down is home to a wealth of talent and this exhibition celebrates the achievements of individuals across eight different categories: – Arts, Entertainment, Leaders, Literature, Music, Science & Industry, Sports and Wartime.
‘NI Centenary: Local Leadership, National Impact’ which is open in the museum’s Long Gallery, examines the history of how Northern Ireland was established and puts it into the local context of the time.
The exhibition highlights many local people who were at the forefront of the unionist movement at the time, including Comber native, John Miller Andrews, who played a pivotal role in the opposition of Home Rule, establishing Northern Ireland and sitting in its first Government cabinet. This exhibition will run until Sunday 1 August.
Another welcome addition to the museum is the installation of a Laird’s Boat in the museum’s coffee shop. The beautifully restored boat which has been acquired by the Council now hangs from the ceiling of Coffee Cure where it will remain a permanent fixture for visitors to view.
Ards Arts Centre will host; ‘Fragments of Memory’ by Millie Moore in its Sunburst Gallery. The exhibition of paintings and charcoal drawings were made in response to reflections and memories of the artist’s daily walks. Last year, Millie visited and walked some ancient bogs in central Ireland and was reminded of Seamus Heaney’s observations and descriptive words on found bog bodies. In particular, she is interested in investigating what is hidden or sometimes revealed within the depths of a bogland.
Speaking about the re-openings, The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings, said: “I am delighted to see North Down Museum and Ards Arts Centre reopening to visitors. I would encourage everyone to come and visit these venues and explore the arts and heritage experiences that they have on offer. The Museum’s NI100 exhibitions are fascinating and are a fantastic addition to our Centenary programme, well done to the staff who have worked on curating them.”
Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Arts and Heritage Manager, Emily Crawford also commented: “Arts, culture and heritage are so important for our creativity and sense of wellbeing and we cannot wait to welcome visitors back to North Down Museum and Ards Arts Centre. A series of one-off creative workshops will be taking place at Ards Arts Centre from early June to give visitors an opportunity to try their hand at a number of art and craft activities. Participants can try lessons in illustration, guitar playing, drawing and painting amongst others. With lots to see and do this summer, there’s plenty of opportunity to engage in arts and heritage.”
To ensure the safety of visitors and staff, a one-way system will be in operation at both venues and visitors will be encouraged to sanitise their hands at the provided sanitisation stations. Group sizes should be kept to a minimum and everyone will be encouraged to respect social distancing and wear a face covering when inside the buildings.
Both North Down Museum and Ards Arts Centre have been awarded the ‘We’re Good to Go’ mark, the UK-wide industry standard, managed locally by Tourism Northern Ireland, which signifies that tourism and hospitality businesses have implemented the appropriate procedures and health and safety measures, in line with government and industry guidelines, to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.
North Down Museum’s opening hours are: Tuesday – Saturday; 10am – 4pm and Sunday; 12noon – 4pm. Coffee Cure, the museum’s coffee shop will also open on the same date and will operate under the following opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 9am – 4pm and Sunday: 10m – 4pm.
Ards Arts Centre will be open: Tuesday -Friday; 10am – 4pm, Saturday: 10am – 1pm and late night Wednesday and Thursday 6.30 – 9.30pm.
One year ago as we went into lockdown, it was hard to imagine that, a full year later, video calling would continue to be one of the only ways to get ‘face to face’ with our audiences.
However, here we are, and although we long for the days when we can meet in person again, mingle before an event kicks off and enjoy a few refreshments together, we will be waving at our webcams for just a little while longer.
Here are my 10 key ways that presenting on Zoom is different to speaking on stage, and a little on how you can master this ‘new normal’:
Although the commute to your ‘stage’ is undoubtedly shorter for a Zoom presentation, paying close attention to how you set up is key.
It is essential to ensure you have a great wifi connection, your space is quiet and without disruption and you have adequate lighting available.
2. Body Language
Or rather, your facial expression, as that’s really all you have to work with on Zoom.
When you are on stage, you can make use of your body language to engage your audience and support your message, however, in the Zoom room, you only have a small rectangle on the screen, and most people are focused on your slides anyway. This means it’s important to be intentional with your facial expression.
3. No Stage
Perhaps the most obvious thing missing from a Zoom presentation is the stage itself, and what this means for your presence in the room. You won’t have space to move around and you can’t invite guests to join you on stage.
In fact, it’s best if you can find a way to stay as still as possible, as moving or swaying too much may distract your audience.
Whether you are on Zoom or on a real stage, pausing for effect or to pace your content is equally impactful.
Although you may be worried that your audience think you have lost connection, it’s more important that you give meaning to your content through strategic pauses, and that you stop for a breath here and there.
On Zoom, less of you is visible however that doesn’t mean that appearance isn’t important.
You should ensure that you are wearing plain clothes without patterns as these could interfere with your camera, and that your backdrop is tidy and professional.
When you take to the stage, you can use your body language and movement to establish gravitas.
However, when you are on Zoom, it’s important to project your voice and use a tone which enthuses your audience and connects them with your message.
Once again, pay attention to what your audience can see. Sit up straight in your chair with your shoulders back. Focusing on your posture won’t only impact your audience, but it will allow you to feel confident about your presentation as well.
8. Excitement, Enthusiasm & Passion
If you are excited about your message, passionate about your cause and enthusiastic about sharing with your audience, your presentation will be infectious.
This is just as important on Zoom as it allows your audience to gain a real insight into the importance of what you are saying.
Presenting on Zoom is much more accessible than presenting on stage. However, this doesn’t mean that preparation isn’t vital.
Take time to prepare and practice your key messages and call to action before your presentation and make sure to time yourself.
Finally, perhaps the most important difference between presenting on stage and presenting on Zoom is the content.
Rather than talking at length about your topic, it’s important to focus on giving your audience smaller, bite-size chunks as they will have more distractions at home, so this will be more actionable for them.
If you would like to find out more about what you can do as a business leader or owner to keep on top of your game and not let challenges or situations change your direction contact Bernie Allen at bernieallen.com or by emailing Berniespowerhouseacademy@gmail.com Bernie Allen’s book How To Succeed In Business & Life is out now published by Excalibur Press and available from excaliburpress.co.uk and bernieallen.com
New healthy snack company, Benergy, has a mission statement Food Impacts Mood, as they deliver a range of healthy snack options including breakfast pots that are all plant-based.
Available online, in selected gyms and shops, Benergy’s founders Ben Cochrane and Jessica Thompson, looked at their own lifestyles for two years and realised they needed to change their diet as the first step to become healthier.
For Ben, his work as a chef, 60 plus hour working weeks and his eating habits was leading him on a downward health spiral, when lockdown intervened.
“I wasn’t eating breakfast, which is arguably the most important meal of the day,” he explained.
“If I did have something to eat in the morning, it was usually a sandwich meal deal, which lacked the level of nutrition which I needed given the hours that I worked.
“I also drank a lot of energy drinks on busy shifts. While they would give me an initial boost, they’d also give me sugar crashes, particularly during service. This made me tired and lethargic.”
With the change in his diet helping with health, the decision to launch Benergy was a logical step.
The Benergy range contains a great selection of breakfast pots to start the day off well, and a fabulous mix of treats to keep people going in between meals.
“I now realise that breakfast provides you with the necessary fuel to start your day,” Ben said.
“That’s why I created these breakfast pots, to give people a ‘grab and go’ pot, which would provide them with a nutritious and delicious start to their day, regardless of time constraints.
“They’re a macro-friendly breakfast: a mixture of oats, fruits and nuts that’s nutritionally balanced, so they’ll give you all the necessary fuel to get you through the day.”
For co-founder Jessica the link between good, healthy food and mental health is clear, after struggling with it.
“Your mental health is not something to be taken lightly,” said Jessica.
“Neglecting your mind can have a disastrous impact on every aspect of your life and on those of others in your life as well.
“I realised that my mind and body were in a really bad place. I couldn’t understand why one day I’d feel great, and the next I’d feel terrible.”
Jessica is clear that Benergy is more than good food.
“We’re not simply a nutrition company,” Jessica added. “We’re all about educating people about food that will benefit people both physically and, most importantly, mentally, because that’s where good health really begins.”
“Our products are all plant-based, gluten and dairy free, which is very unique as vegan is the world’s fastest growing food market in the world today. We don’t just want to cater for one dietary requirement, we want to combine them all.
Benergy’s range includes protein balls, healthy doppelgangers of the favourite blondies, brownies and truffles, and our new breakfast pots that have proved to be our biggest hit yet Jessica explained that the link between healthy eating and mental wellbeing is being backed up by science.
“Research undertaken by MIND in people suffering from depression showed that after they ate a banana they felt better,” she said.
“This is because bananas contain tryptophan: a type of protein that the body turns into serotonin, which makes you relax and generally feel happier through an elevated mood.”
A brand new Mini Land Rover Experience, which lets kids take control of the driving seat, is gearing up to open at Glenarm Castle on 1st July.
Supported by Charles Hurst Land Rover as the headline sponsor, complementing its current national “Outspiration” campaign, with additional support from NFU Mutual, the adventure will provide families with a safe, fun drive on the first off-road Mini Land Rover adventure course in Northern Ireland.
Kids from 3-11yrs can take over the wheel of one of 5 Mini Land Rover cars; featuring steering wheel, a starter key, accelerator, lights, a direction switch with accompanying adults having access to a hand held fob which will remotely switch off the car.
Reaching a top speed of potentially 5mph, kids will drive on a specifically designed outdoor course with a range of ‘challenges’ along the way. The experience lasts 45 minutes which includes a 15 minute safety briefing.
The Mini Land Rover Experience is part of a £500k investment, announced earlier this year, to significantly enhance the Glenarm Castle visitor experience. This includes sea view holiday pods, a Heritage Centre, Museum, Woodland Walk, E-Bike Hire, a Castle Shop and The Milk Parlour featuring ice cream using milk from N.Ireland’s only remaining Shorthorn dairy herd. The investment has also helped to create up to 20 full and part time jobs.
Looking forward to welcoming families to Glenarm Castle’s Mini Land Rover Experience, Adrian Morrow, Glenarm Castle Managing Director, said:
“ We are very excited to offer the Mini Land Rover Experience as part of our visitor experience investment, sponsored by Charles Hurst Land Rover and supported by NFU Mutual, at Glenarm Castle. We have taken great care to ensure that families have a fantastic, safe and enjoyable adventure. Kids will enjoy taking control of the wheel of the mini Land Rover cars and tackling the ‘challenges’ on our specifically designed outdoor course. With many people choosing to holiday at home this summer, we are expecting the experience to be in high demand. We would encourage anyone hoping to bring their family to enjoy the Mini Land Rover Experience to book in advance to avoid disappointment.”
Alan Thompson, Head of Business at Charles Hurst Land Rover, said:
“It’s been a really difficult time for children, parents and families across Northern Ireland over the last year, so Charles Hurst Land Rover is delighted to be the headline sponsor for Glenarm Castle’s Mini Land Rover Experience to provide this fun, exciting and unique outdoor adventure experience for all the family this summer. At Land Rover Belfast, we are passionate about the great outdoors and all the adventure that comes with it, so this partnership is a fantastic way to bring our ‘Outspiration’ campaign to life for families across Northern Ireland at a time when we have all spent so much time indoors. If you’re looking for the ultimate family-friendly outdoors experience this summer, look no further than Glenarm Castle’s Mini Land Rover experience.”
Ian Kernohan from NFU Mutual East Antrim Agency said:
“ It’s great to see such a fun, exciting and dynamic attraction coming to Northern Ireland and there is no better setting for it than at Glenarm Estate. NFU Mutual is delighted to support this unique attraction and no doubt it will be a huge success, bringing much needed enjoyment to local kids as we come out of lockdown and back to normality.”
Booking for Glenarm Castle’s Mini Land Rover Experienceis now open. The experience costs £20 for 45 mins. Pre booking is advised. For further information and for booking details visit wwww.glenarmcastle.com. Follow Glenarm Castle @GlenarmCastle on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Human resources and recruitment consultancy People HQ has said that now is the time to begin restructuring businesses, as the pandemic has provided an opportunity to consider what changes are needed going forward.
Greg Quinn of People HQ said that when looking at restructuring it is important to seek proper professional support.
“The current business environment means that business needs to plan ahead, make decisions and ensure their strategy and actions are taking advantage of every opportunity available,” he explained.
“Both employers and employees become nervous, even anxious, when change is needed. Yet that need not be the case when it is done in a clearly managed, transparent process, with attention to detail.”
Greg said that there were many reasons to undergo restructuring such as change in strategy, cutting costs or making the business more efficient but all must be approached in a manner that ensures the wellbeing of staff and continuity of business.
“There are several clear steps needed in a restructuring project, and that begins with communications”, he said.
“Communicating with your leadership team and your employees during the restructuring process is essential. By being clear with your team means they won’t feel jarred or blindsided and will allow your team to approach the restructuring as a positive as opposed to something which may threaten them.”
The People HQ boss has more than a quarter of a century experience and said that existing organisational structures have a profound influence on starting restructuring.
“Organisational structure has a profound influence on getting the job done given that it dictates all things from working relationships, to the scope of your teams’ jobs to how they share resources,” he explained.
“When you set out to restructure your organisation, it is essential that you intentionally structure your organisation in a way which serves the company mission and vision and the business strategy.”
Greg said that at the start of the change process it is important to look at the various tasks and workflows within each job.
“This will allow you to compare your current workflow structure to the new one and determine which tasks are still necessary and which ones need to evolve or perhaps can be emitted entirely,” he said.
“This is an important step in the process allowing you to streamline workflows and ensure that each and every role is adding maximum value.”
The process, Greg explained, can lead to changes in staff.
“Unfortunately you may find there are some job roles that are no longer needed, while needing new skills in other roles” he said.
“Re-training is an option as well as recruitment. It is worth noting that you should follow a compliant and appropriate redundancy process at this stage which is in line with employment law.”
The conclusion of the change is a time to make sure businesses have strategies in place for re-engagement
“Restructuring your organisation is not only a challenging time for you and your business, but it can be an unsettling experience for your employees.” Greg said.
“It is important that you take them with you in the process and that you plan for re engagement of them following the process.
“It is a good idea to get an insight into your employee attitudes and sentiments at the time, perhaps by way of an engagement survey, which will allow you to plan for engagement once the process is completed.”
People HQ offices recently opened new offices with a £30,000+ investment, and means that Greg and his team will be able to provide their holistic HR and recruitment service across Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.
Get outdoors for some fresh air this summer and discover some of the beauty that Ards and North Down has to offer through a selection of walking tours and experiences!
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, Ards and North Down Borough Council is working with local providers to help you treat your mind, body and soul. There are 13 different walking tours on offer, including a brand new ‘Waggy Tail’ dog friendly tour of Scrabo Hill in July, plus nature trails for kids, and a host of experiences that include paddleboarding, yoga and much more!
The walking tours start with the Groomsport Evening Bird Watching and Nature Trail (14 June) with fascinating bird expert, Dot Blakely, who will teach you all about the natural habitat of the birds and animals while you enjoy a stroll along the coastline.
The Bangor Castle Walled Garden Tour (16 June & 7 July) is always a popular option, with tour guide Dylan Freeburn offering an insight into the beautiful garden’s history as well as the vast array of plants, fruits and vegetables which are grown there.
Those who want to learn more about our local history can select a variety of guided historical tours in Newtownards (4 July), Portaferry (25 July), Donaghadee (1 Aug), Kearney (15 Aug) or Bangor (24 Aug).
You can find out how some of history’s most notable civilisations shaped Newtownards, learn about Portaferry’s maritime heritage, celebrate Donaghadee Harbour’s 200th birthday with a visit to the harbour and lifeboat station, discover the fascinating historical fishing village of Kearney, and learn why Bangor was once known as the ‘Vale of Angels’.
Taking place throughout the summer months, there is a selection of nature trail tours for kids in Bangor, Groomsport and Portaferry, where they can learn about mini beasts, birds and other animals. (All children must be accompanied by an adult; no ticket necessary for adults.)
If you want to treat you pet pooch to something different, the new Waggy Tail Walk and Picnic (31 July) offers a dog friendly tour of Scrabo Hill. Every dog will receive a bandana, and owners can enjoy a delicious picnic box as they take in the scenic view at the top of Scrabo Hill.
A host of unique experiences are available from May through to September. There is something to suit everyone, from paddleboarding to yoga experiences, Viking adventures and wetland wellness, canoe and cake, and even an opportunity to join an expert gardening team in Castle Espie where you can learn how to ‘grow your own’ and take care of your garden in an environmentally friendly way.
Demand is high and a number of experiences are already sold out. However, limited tickets are still available for May’s Dawn SUP and Island Yoga Experience (30 May), where you will paddleboard across the waters of Strangford Lough to an island, enjoy a yoga experience, and treat yourself to a light breakfast before returning to shore.
In June, you can enjoy a kayaking experience on Strangford Lough with Paddle the Port (18 June), or Grow and Graze (24 June) at Castle Espie with an expert gardening team. If you like paddling and singing, then SUP-aoke (25 June) will provide a fun paddleboard session from Bangor Marina to a floating platform in Belfast Lough where you can climb aboard, sing a song and enjoy the craic!
All providers will operate the experiences with COVID-19 measures in line with current government guidance.
For more information, including the full list of experiences, ticket prices and booking, go to visitardsandnorthdown.com.
In Northern Ireland there are more than 400 people diagnosed with oesophageal or gastric cancers every year, and as charity OG Cancer NI undertakes its annual awareness campaign to make sure people are aware of the symptoms Chair, Helen Setterfield has a personal reason behind her involvement.
The above figure was pre-Covid, and due to the pandemic, it is expected that there will be a drop in diagnoses, so Helen feels that people need to be aware of the symptoms.
“The current lockdowns and an urgent need to protect the health service has affected the number of people contacting their doctor,” she said. “However you should not hesitate to make the call if you experience persistent heartburn that doesn’t go away, trouble swallowing, regurgitation or hiccups that persist.”
Helen’s symptoms began when she had difficulty swallowing.
“Something was sticking down there and I knew it wasn’t right,” she explained. “I went to my GP and she sent me straight away for an endoscope. I went every year for the scope – I hated it – but I am so glad that I went. After the regular scope in 2003 the doctor said “everything looks okay, make your appointment for next year”. However, the Wednesday of the next week I got a call to say there was plenty to worry about. I had more scopes. I came home one evening and there was a message on the phone from my GP to say to phone the hospital on Monday morning.
Of course I knew right away, and I was in complete shock, so I phoned the ward 4A and the doctor I had been dealing with answered the phone…
He told me to come into the hospital right away and they would admit me. I had a week and a half of tests and had the operation two weeks later on December 18.
I was so glad I was being monitored with a scope every year as apparently my tumour was aggressive and I was lucky to be caught early. I am concerned as at present testing is only carried out every two years and there is some concern, due to the pressure on medics, that in the future it could be every three years.
“Recent figures show that there has been a drop in the number of referrals to GPs of patients showing symptoms in 2020 compared to previous years so we want to make sure that we reverse that trend,” she said. “Early diagnosis leads to a much better chance of survival from this cancer which has only a 20% survival rate of five or more years, according to the NI Cancer Registry 2018.”
OG Cancer NI was founded in 2018 and provides telephone support to newly diagnosed patients, information stands in the hospital, wellbeing meetings providing peer to peer and professional advice and support and funding for local research or equipment projects which will improve patient wellbeing and treatment.
“We work with GPs to raise awareness so when patients present with the symptoms of Oesophageal and Gastric cancers they take the appropriate action,” said Helen. “The current lockdowns and urgent need to protect the health service has affected the number of people contacting their doctors, but if you are experiencing symptoms you must not hesitate, and if needs be you should be persistent.
“Consult your doctor if you experience persistent or recurring Indigestion, food sticking in your throat, difficulty swallowing, heartburn or acid reflux, hiccups that won’t go away, or unexplained weight loss.”
The OG Cancer NI ‘Catch It Early’ campaign, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and OG Cancer, strives not only to increase the awareness of the signs of oesophago-gastric cancers in the public but also throughout the medical and caring professions.
Testing for Barrett’s oesophagus, which can be a precursor to oesophageal cancer, has stopped at present and those in the Cancer Services are very worried, said Helen.
“Part of the issue is that If somebody goes to see the doctor there’s no screening for these cancers at the moment,” she explained. “The National Screening Committee which advises the UK government looked at this last year and decided there was no effective way of screening for oesophageal and gastric cancer except for the invasive scopes. In terms of this cancer, there’s no screening as there is for breast cancer and other cancers.”
Work is currently underway to address this issue, but it has also been hit with problems of Covid-19.
“There are researchers at Queen’s University who are carrying out research at the minute,” said Helen. “They are investigating blood samples and trying to identify markers in the blood. OG Cancer NI provided them with a specialist freezer. However, the freezer that we gave them is being used to store vaccines at the minute, so the blood samples were removed to another location’
Helen also believes that there is an urgent need for a new diagnostic tool to be introduced in Northern Ireland . It is called Cytosponge and tests for Barrett’s oesophagus.
“It’s a cheap and simple test that can be done in a GP surgery instead of a referral to hospital for an endoscopy,” Helen explained. “It isn’t in use in Northern Ireland yet. They use it in Canada and it’s very successful. Scotland is now using it and some areas of England used it successfully during the pandemic. We hope that it can be introduced in N.I. as soon as possible.”
When Helen had her surgery she had a lengthy period of recovery, but she has a message.
“Eventually I returned to work full time. I completed the Macmillan Cancer Support Certificate and want to help others who find themselves in a similar position. I have a good life. I enjoy playing golf, albeit badly, holidays, family and friends.
“There is life after Oesophageal Cancer.”
For further information go to ogcancerni.com, follow #OGCancerNI, call 07568 157450 or make an appointment to see your local GP today.