Contribution Of OG Cancer Team Invaluable In Patient Journey

As the incidence of oesophageal-gastric cancers continues to rise, the contribution of the healthcare professionals, who take charge of patients’ care has never been more vital.

Louise Collins is one of three oesophageal-gastric (OG) Clinical Nurse Specialists based at the City Hospital in Belfast. Louise and her colleagues, Karen Graham and Maureen Toner, look after anyone in the Belfast Trust, who is diagnosed with OG cancer. 

“Once a patient is diagnosed with OG cancer,” Louise said, “we pick them up through multi-disciplinary meetings, emails from consultants who have diagnosed them and outpatient clinics. We try and make contact with them as close to diagnosis as we can and support them through the whole pathway of their care. 

 “Once we’re in contact with them, we act as key workers by phoning them, or seeing them at clinic or on the ward if they’re admitted. Some people may already be experiencing symptoms and will require admission for nutrition. We see them in a variety of settings – new patient clinics, obviously during chemotherapy, during radiotherapy or during the time they’re admitted for surgery. We also provide a telephone follow-up service where, when people are discharged, we contact them for a period of time and then, after that, they can contact us as well if they have any questions or concerns. 

 “We work with people at all stages of the cancer journey.   We are Macmillan nurses but many people presume that Macmillan are for end of life and they worry, so we tend to introduce ourselves as OG nurse specialists and then, later on, we tell them we’re Macmillan. 

 “Once we pick people up, we follow them through to ensure they get all the tests and investigations that they need. We link in with their consultants, make sure that things are requested and then we follow through to make sure all of the tests are followed up and that they’re their case is discussed at the multi-disciplinary meetings. A lot of our work involves reassuring patients that we know about them and ensure that things move as quickly as possible. There has been a new initiative in the Belfast Trust that, once someone has their endoscopy and the consultant sees a cancer, there are a series of steps that they have to take.  The consultant orders the relevant tests at the time and emails us and the MDM co-ordinator.  We follow up to ensure the tests are done in a timely fashion and link in with the OG MDM coordinator to ensure their case is discussed. That was a new initiative established a couple of years ago.

 “While there are three of us in the Belfast Trust, there are also OGCNSs in the local Trusts and they will pick up people at, for example, Altnagelvin or Craigavon. It’s really about giving patients advice and information and supporting them.

“Some patients will have issues with their nutrition, such as difficulty with swallowing, vomiting or lack of appetite and we will be involved in helping with those symptoms. We link in with the dietitian who will work along with us. It’s really about providing information and symptom management.”

 As with most cancers, Louise is very aware of how important it is to get the message across that people should act quickly when they notice any unfamiliar symptoms or feelings.

“It’s vitally important people get symptoms checked as early as possible,” she continued. “Unfortunately, with OG cancer, the majority of people aren’t diagnosed until they have symptoms where the cancer is a bit more advanced, for example locally in the stomach or the oesophagus. But once it gets to a certain stage, it can go into the lymph nodes and then spread throughout the body, so early diagnosis really is the key. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome. 

 “One of the problems with OG cancer is late presentation and, by that stage, the cancer is more advanced, which then reduces the long-term outcomes for those patients.”

As with many healthcare issues, the current COVID pandemic has caused more problems for patients: a fact of which Louise and her colleagues are more than aware. 

“There’s no doubt that COVID has just made the situation worse. Local Cancer Nurse Specialists would point out that people are presenting a bit later and with more severe symptoms, so the worry is their survival rates aren’t as good. I think over the next year we’ll probably see that being the case, but I think a lot of people don’t like to go to their GP at the moment. I would recommend, however, that if symptoms persist, then people definitely need to go and see their GP.”

 Louise is only too aware that, because the symptoms of OG cancer tend to be vague, people are less likely to act on them at an early stage.

“I think with some of our patients they’ll may have had an episode where their food sticking months earlier, but it only happened once. Once that happens, people will adapt their diet and eat more soft foods without actually thinking there’s anything wrong. Or they think they’ve got a hernia. It’s about getting that message out there – if people do notice that they have difficulty swallowing or have unexplained weight loss, then they need to act straight away. Anything that constitutes a change in habits or a change in their bodies needs investigated.”

 Historically, OG cancer has been seen as an ‘older person’s disease’ but as Louise and her colleagues fully appreciate, this is not always the case.

“We do know that it is generally a cancer that occurs in the older age groups, but we also have an increasing number of younger people – particularly people in their fifties – now being affected, even though the average age is supposed to be around late sixties. Also younger people need to be aware so that if they see symptoms in their parents or grandparents, they can encourage them to do something about it.

 “I think the main stage we see people at is when the cancer has started to affect their eating. They either can’t eat or the food sticks and that puts them off eating the rest of their meal. 

“On occasion they may not be able to get food down and that will make them regurgitate their food, so they’re not eating as much and, as a result, will lose weight. People with stomach cancer may feel full very early or they’ve got reflux or indigestion and that puts them off their food, so they’re eating less.

 “Anyone who has presented at their GP surgery with such symptoms and the symptoms haven’t improved, needs to go back to the GP within a couple of weeks and let them know nothing has changed. Sometimes people can see different GPs at different appointments, so it’s vitally important that they relay to each GP what has happened before…..join the dots if you like. It’s really just about pushing and saying ‘I need something done about this’. The OG Cancer NI campaign is giving everyone the opportunity to talk about a disease that hasn’t been in the spotlight before and it’s time that this cancer and its symptoms were highlighted so that more people can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage.”

7 Beer Gardens To Visit This Summer In Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter

With the weather in Northern Ireland heating up, what better time to get out in the city and enjoy the many beer gardens that Belfast has to offer. 

From burgers and pints to cocktails and charcuterie there is really something to suit all tastes available in the Cathedral Quarter. 

Here are 7 Beer Gardens in the Cathedral Quarter to check out this summer: 

1. The Thirsty Goat

As one of Belfast’s newest offerings in the Cathedral Quarter, The Thirsty Goat boasts a spacious outdoor seating area, right at the entrance of Hill Street. 

Offering everything from a perfectly pulled pint to local gin serves, there’s certainly something to suit all tastes.

To find out more go to or follow them on Facebook or Instagram

2. The Dirty Onion

If you’re looking for a beer garden that has it all then The Dirty Onion is the place to go offering pints and chicken, what more could you want? Serving up their famous Yardbird chicken and sides alongside an extensive drinks menu, The Dirty Onion has quickly become a firm favourite of the Cathedral Quarters visitors. 

Offering a wide selection of craft beer options and the option to bring your four legged friend, it provides the perfect spot for chilled weekend drinks.

To find out more go to or follow them on Facebook or Instagram

3. The Dark Horse Courtyard  

If you want to soak up the rich arts scene of the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast’s best kept secret, look no further than The Dark Horse Courtyard. 

Centering around an oak tree the courtyard features a gallery of custom street art inspired by Belfast’s rich history, including the words of Seamus Heaney cut into stone. 

With exclusive access only through the Dark Horse the courtyard provides the perfect escape to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of the city.

To find out more go to or follow them on Facebook 

4. The National Grande Cafe 

The National’s new beer garden offers paired backed cocktails and casual dining. 

With a signature menu of ‘Summer Swalls’ including a ‘Froze’ – a Frozen Rose Cocktail or a Classic Pimms Cup. 

Having teamed up with the ever popular ‘Coq Burger’ visitors won’t go hungry with a garden menu of burgers and sides available until 8pm everyday. 

To find out more go to or follow them on Facebook or Instagram

5. The Sunflower

The Sunflower has quickly become a favourite amongst Belfast punters. 

Serving signature woodfired pizza and a large selection of beers and ciders it’s the perfect place to waste a summer day. Priding themselves on being dog friendly the Sunflower even offers bowls and treats for your furry friends. 

To find out more go to  or follow them on Facebook

6. The Second Fiddle

Belfast’s newest beer garden on Waring Street offers al fresco dining and pints from 12pm each day. 

In lieu of live entertainment the bar is also offering free Bodhran Irish drum lessons, the bar has a strong focus on local artists and their upcoming ‘Handed Down’ sessions will feature traditional music reworked by local artists. 

To find out more follow them on Facebook 

7. The Maverick

Whilst not strictly known for its beer garden, Maverick’s new outdoor area offers the perfect opportunity to relax in the sun. 

Serving their signature Gorge Boards (a charcuterie board packed with a selection of seasonal, cheese, meat and chutney) and Jugs and Kisses cocktails, The Maverick provides the perfect weekend retreat. 

With regular drag shows, guests are sure to be entertained during the visit.

To find out more go to or Follow Them on Facebook or Instagram 

To find out more about what’s happening in Belfast Cathedral Quarter check out the Destination CQ website at

By Hannah Chambers, Excalibur Press

Tourism NI Chief Executive Outlines Main Themes of the Tourism Recovery Plan

Tourism NI recently held its first ever virtual Tourism Conference at Belfast’s ICC. Chief Executive John McGrillen outlines the main themes of the Tourism Recovery Action Plan, launched with the Department for the Economy, which was a key topic of the conference. 

By John McGrillen, Chief Executive Tourism NI

We are now half way through 2021 and have spent the last sixteen months dealing with global events that have affected every facet of our lives.

Today with the successful roll out of the vaccine programme, the lifting of restrictions and the opening up of the Common Travel Area I am hopeful that by the end of 2022 the tourism industry in Northern Ireland could be back to 80% of the activity and employment levels of 2019 and see a full recovery by the end of 2024.   

Since 2013 tourism has grown by 46% to achieve an unprecedented £1bn in revenue in 2019, of which £731m were export earnings.

The tourism, travel and hospitality sectors employed approximately 70,000 people in 2019, with 12,800 new jobs created since 2013. This was double the growth in jobs experienced in other sectors of the economy over the same period. These jobs were generated in every part of Northern Ireland with over two thirds of jobs located outside Belfast.

Tourism provides passengers for our public transport and supports sea and air routes; it generates revenue to support our culture and heritage assets and can contribute to the protection of our natural environment; it provides revenue for central and local government and promotes a positive image of Northern Ireland overseas, supporting foreign direct investment.

A wide range of tourism interventions have been introduced over the last sixteen months and in May the Tourism Recovery Steering Group, headed by former Economy Minister Diane Dodds, produced an Action Plan that resulted in more much needed and timely support. 

The Plan has eight themes. Under Business Continuity a new KickStart programme will help businesses restructure, innovate and enhance their productivity. We will also support businesses to maintain and enhance their marketing activity to increase sales. 

We will be providing support to councils to enhance visitor experiences and develop new offerings. There will be a particular focus on food and drink experiences as part of this approach. We will also support with market testing and feasibility studies for future projects, and we intend to continue with our abatement of accommodation certification charges until March 2022.

The second area, Creating Consumer Confidence, will see the continued roll out of  the “We’re Good to Go” charter mark to allow the industry to demonstrate that safety is a priority, and that they are committed to the application of COVID safety guidelines. 

The third theme, Stimulating Consumer Demand, will ensure that Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland are adequately resourced to generate demand. In the immediate term the focus will be on the domestic, GB and Republic of Ireland markets, with an extension of our cooperative marketing fund.

As an island destination, sea and air access are critical to the tourism infrastructure so Safeguarding Connectivity is the fourth theme, with an immediate priority to re-establish GB routes. I therefore welcome Economy Minister Paul Frew’s announcement of a £4.5million initiative to support air connectivity between Northern Ireland and GB which has also been warmly welcomed by the directors of our three airports. 

The Action Plan also supports the industry’s request that the NI Executive continues to lobby for a suspension of short haul Air Passenger Duty (APD). APD has a disproportionate impact on Northern Ireland and has the potential to have a negative impact on recovery.

Enhancing the Competitiveness of the Region is the fifth theme and will highlight the investment required to provide greater access to our natural assets, while ensuring that they are managed sustainably for future generations. 

The City and Growth Deals present a unique opportunity for major investment in tourism infrastructure and will build on the success of the Signature Projects a decade ago. 

By Enhancing the Capability of Businesses, the next theme of the Action Plan, we intend to support with adopting digital technologies to improve business processes and productivity, bolster online presence and revolutionise access to digital marketing platforms.  

Under the theme of Enhancing the Skills of the Workforce we will be working closely with colleagues in the Department of Communities through the JobStart Programme to create new jobs and match job opportunities to prospective young employees. Through the Hospitality and Tourism Skills (HATS) network we will seek to ensure that sector wide skills requirements and career progression paths are effectively communicated and supported.

The final theme of the Tourism Recovery Action Plan is Creating a Supportive Policy Environment and here we seek to develop a new tourism strategy to maximise Northern Ireland’s tourism potential with a unified focus on sustainability and regeneration. Working collaboratively to deliver more sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes will be critical to ensuring Northern Ireland’s reputation as a world class tourism destination. 

Successful delivery of the Action Plan will require us all to work together in partnership, from government departments and tourism agencies to local councils, representative bodies and most importantly the industry.

I am confident that the priorities within the Action Plan will support the recovery of our tourism industry to meet the needs of future visitors, create sustainable employment and make a positive contribution to local communities right across Northern Ireland  


Northern Ireland’s largest cultural diversity festival, the 15th Belfast Mela, sponsored by Sensata Technologies will take place across the city this year starting on Monday 23 August and running until Sunday 29 August.

A wonderful line-up of music, dance, cookery, visual art, theatre and wellbeing from around the world is planned, led by artists and performers who have made Northern Ireland their home.

U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Paul Reilly will host a spectacular FREE ‘Mini Mela’ celebration on Saturday 28 August transforming the city centre into a global village with a pop-up programme of music, dance and art, as current Covid restrictions would make a return to Botanic Gardens for the traditional Mela format unworkable until 2022.

However, all week starting from Monday 23August, ArtsEkta, organisers of the Belfast Mela will be bringing the magic of Mela to outdoor spaces and venues across the city – North, South, East and West as well as the city centre with events to celebrate cultural diversity. Highlights include a Silk Road Supper Club eveningcelebrating food and traditions of our newer communities; a Caribbean Carnival night; the first Global Ceili of its’ kind in the city fusing together Irish trad, Indian and Chinese dance; a spectacular Luminate large scale outdoor lighting event in CS Lewis Square; Taste the World at St George’s Market; as well as lunchtime tasting tours; a beautiful evening of Sufi Music at St Anne’s Cathedral and Wonder Walks, an immersive family storytelling experience.

A spectacular FREE outdoor cinema event is also being planned with showings of Danny Boyle classic Slumdog Millionaire fused together with live Bollywood dance from ArtsEkta’s South Asian Dance Academy and an Indian Summer BBQ on the 28 and 29 August.

Nisha Tandon OBE, Founder of the Belfast Mela and Director, ArtsEkta said:

“Seven is a very special number for this year’s Belfast Mela Festival, with the seven continents and the seven seas we decided to put on seven days of Mela to reflect Northern Ireland’s growing diverse communities from all over the world.

“Following our successful Virtual Mela at Home last year which attracted an audience of over a quarter of million people worldwide, we are optimistic that given the current vaccine roll out in Northern Ireland we will be able to put on a series of wonderful events across the city this August.

“While it will not be possible again this year to hold the large-scale event at Botanic Gardens which normally attracts in excess of 30,000 people, we want to make sure the joy and positivity for which the Belfast Mela is renowned reaches as many people as possible while respecting current public health guidance as we emerge from the pandemic cautiously.

“Therefore, we are planning a week-long programme this Summer, with exciting events being organised in a variety of venues and public places in different parts of the city which everyone can enjoy in a safe and responsible way. Audiences can look forward to a spectacular return of Mela at Botanic Gardens in 2022.”

Tickets for selected Belfast Mela events are available to book via Full details of the complete Belfast Mela 2021 programme will be announced in early August.

The Belfast Mela is principally funded by Belfast City Council with support from Arts Council for NI; Tourism NI, Community Relations Council; National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Lottery Community Fund, Public Health Agency and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. The title sponsor is Sensata Technologies and Media Partners are UTV and U105.

Take time to rediscover the simple pleasures of summer!

With holidays abroad off the cards for many this summer the National Trust is encouraging everyone to get back to basics and enjoy a summer filled with simple, sensory pleasures.

Blowing dandelions at Mount Stewart credit National Trust/Christopher Heaney

The unmistakable smell of freshly cut grass, the reassuring sight of blue and sunny skies, the first glimpse of the sea, the tickle of grass between your toes. Nothing comes close to summer at home. And it’s finally here. National Trust gardens and parkland are popping with colour, woodlands are alive with chirping birds, meadows are swaying in the breeze and lakes are glistening – ready for exploring.

What’s more, a number of National Trust places will be encouraging everyone to experience these simple, sensory pleasures with their summer activity programme ‘Get Set, Go’.

Thanks to funding from Sport England, visitors will be able to have a go at over 20 different activities such as ‘go barefoot’, ‘make a splash’, ‘work together’– to stretch those lockdown legs – to explore and get outdoors together – and to connect with nature.

A range of downloadable activities will also be available online, for everyone to enjoy – with simple ideas for making the most of summer in the garden, the local park or even (whisper it), for rainy days spent indoors.

The conservation charity is also inviting people to participate in a special six-week series of sensory #NTchallenge(s) across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to build on the established #NTchallenge on Instagram. Weekly challenges kick-off on the 23 July with themes including scents of summer, sounds of summer, taste of summer and more.

Here’s the National Trust’s pick of the best places to enjoy this summer

Mount Stewart, County Down

Take a dive into forest bathing, hunt for hidden digital treasures with geocaching or try your hand at archery. Make a bee line for the Magic Ink Pot, a natural play area themed around magical journeys and mythical creatures; or see what strange and exotic animals you can find in the ark in the Italian Garden. Pick up your Get Set, Go pack from the courtyard outside Visitor Reception and chose your own adventure.

Pre-booking recommended visit

Castle Ward, County Down

Choose to go barefoot in the wildflower meadow, hit the target while buzzing along with the bees, Get Set Go in a potato sack race, catch your breath during a yoga pose, or find your way through the estate with a natural sensory trail.

Pre-booking not required, visit

The Argory, County Armagh

Challenge friends and family at Blackwater Bootcamp. How high can you jump? How much can you lift? Enjoy schoolyard skipping and tennis on the lawn; compose a nature tune in the giant arbour sound boot; try your hand at some Argory Art or help the next generation of cyclists learn to ride on the new free-to-hire balance bikes.

Explore the house at your own pace on a self-guided tour and take on the sporting challenge to see how many tennis balls you spot along the way. Book your self-guided tour ticket at Visitor Reception on arrival.

Pre-booking not required. Visit

Castle Coole, Florence Court and Crom, County Fermanagh

Grab a Get Set, Go card at Castle Coole, Crom or Florence Court and create your own adventure as you explore the activities at each place. You can make a splash at Crom, add some bounce at Castle Coole, or follow the path at Florence Court, all whilst noticing nature at each of these special places.

For a quieter adventure, enjoy the wellness walk at Castle Coole or the sensory walk at Crom and enjoy the peace and tranquillity with your family.

Pre-booking not required visit

Rowallane Garden, County Antrim

Download the Plant Hunter activity pack and embark on a journey through history as you meet some of the daring plant hunters that first discovered the plants and trees waiting to be found in the garden. Along the way, venture into Explore & Play, a natural playground filled with challenges based on the plant hunter’s passport. See if you can survive the swamp, find the tallest trees and get active in nature. Don’t forget to pick up a Get Set, Go card to inspire your summer adventure. ‘Find your way’ to explore new paths and discover different natural textures, or ‘feel the beat’ to tune in to the sounds and rhythms of nature.

Pre-booking recommended, visit

Learn Jewellery Making On The Inspirational Causeway Coastal Route

Heather McFadden of Gobbins Crafts Photo by Kaja Choma / Excalibur Press on behalf of the Storify My Business programme for Mid & East Antrim Council. More info contact Tina Calder, Excalibur Press, 07305354209,

With more than 30 years-experience making jewellery and teaching others, Heather McFadden’s Gobbins Crafts offers the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill.

Gobbins Crafts gives visitors the chance to learn to make their own bespoke pieces with Heather, in an intimate setting on the Causeway Coastal Route.

Heather, 62, has developed a unique experience where people with no experience can learn the skills and techniques professionals use when making jewellery.

“I developed Gobbins Crafts classes to help people discover the joy that can be had from making your own pieces,” explained Heather. 

“Those that attend the classes receive individual guidance every step of the way to create their own beautiful piece of jewellery made from sustainably sourced silver.”

Heather has extensive experience at not only making bespoke pieces, such as wedding and engagement rings, but also teaching at Belfast Metropolitan College and advising City and Guilds on developing goldsmithing courses.

“I wanted to create classes that are intimate to allow everyone to move at their own pace and make sure I can explain and demonstrate the techniques needed,” said Heather. “We have had all ages and abilities and I’m pleased to say that as well as having fun many have wanted to learn more at my weekly classes for those who wish to develop their skills further.”

In the scenic setting of Islandmagee, shaped by sea and stone in County Antrim, Heather teaches each intimate class of up to four people from her personal studio where they will have their own set of equipment and will be able to see Heather’s own work in progress, as well as completed items.

“In our most popular silversmithing workshop, each session will see guests shown the basics of jewellery making and go on to create their own set of stacking rings, knot rings or pendant,” said Heather, adding: “They will be shown how to take silver sheet and wire and cut, shape and solder it into their own unique piece of jewellery to take away as a tangible memory of the time spent.”

Heather’s experience in teaching means that each participant is taken through the experience at their own pace throughout the three hour session, allowing them to embrace the spirit of the experience.

Gobbins Crafts also offers shorter classes for tourists, taster classes, weekend half day classes and a four-week short evening course is available.

“I have found that the simple joy of creation is something uniquely satisfying for everyone that has attended,” said Heather. “And, while most of the participants have an interest in some form of crafting, we have even had hen parties attend for that different experience.”

Bookings can be made by contacting Heather via

John Hewitt Summer School returns with Best from Local Artists

Award-winning Artist Frances McKenna opens ‘Perceptions’, a new exhibition of oil paintings at the Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre in Armagh on Monday 26 July.

Born near Navan Fort in Armagh in 1970, Frances McKenna graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art from the University of Ulster. Throughout her art career, Frances has achieved many awards for her work, including first prize in the Bass Ireland Award. Her major collectors include UTV, The Irish News, Northern Ireland Civil Service, Bass Ireland, Oifig an Taoiseach and Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, as well as many private collections. In addition, Frances has exhibited her work in various group and solo shows in galleries across Ireland.

Frances’s current paintings are her emotional and nostalgic response for her love of Donegal and her home in Armagh. Her work captures the atmosphere and energy of the moment. ‘Perceptions’ will include vibrant oil paintings and a collection of some of Frances’s limited edition giclee prints.

Frances says, “Today my paintings are about portraying life’s beautiful energy, I want to move my viewer, to lift their spirits. I want them to be pulled into the painting and feel uplifted. It is my hope that the viewer of my work can get lost in my paintings, with a sense of joy. To walk and lose oneself among the wild flowers in a vast open space of sunshine, to feel the wind in their face, listen to the sounds of the oceans, taste the sea salt in the air & the smells of Irish turf burning fires. To live among colour of every description. A little piece of heaven on earth.”

Perceptions will be on display from 26 July until 4 September at The Market Place Theatre. The exhibition features as part of the prestigious John Hewitt International Summer School. An official exhibition launch by invitation only will take place on Saturday 31 July from 2.00pm – 4.30pm.

To keep up-to-date with the latest news at the Market Place Theatre, you can follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter ( where you will find all the latest information, special offers and video previews.

Spanner in Works Theatre Company presents What If?

The story of one mother’s loss.

The Shankill Road, Belfast 1993. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in October a bomb explodes in Frizzell’s fish shop, killing nine people and one of the bombers.

Then it hit me – my Leanne was under all them bricks  …

A mother’s instinct is to protect her child.  Who can protect their child from evil? I couldn’t.

Written and directed by Patricia Downey.

“A piece of work that will resonate with all people, regardless of class, colour or creed” – Audience Member

‘What If’ was performed on the Shankill in October 2018 during the 25th anniversary of the Shankill bombing, it had a profound impact on those that saw it.

Since then it has been the desire of those in the Shankill community who organised Shankill25 that the play should be seen by a wider audience. The proposals for the venues in October 2019 fulfil that commitment.’

Patricia Downey has over 20 years experience as a writer, director and workshop facilitator.  She is co-founder and artistic director of Spanner in the Works Theatre Company.

Spanner in the Works Theatre Company is known for its distinctive and challenging productions.  Drawing inspiration from the communities it works with, it interrogates contemporary issues in accessible and provocative ways.

10 Arts & Culture Events Happening In The Cathedral Quarter This Month

Home to Belfast’s most innovative and cultural spaces, the Cathedral Quarter is host to a whole host of festivals, art exhibitions and cultural events.

With restrictions beginning to ease, now is the perfect time to explore this historic part of the city again.

Here are 10 arts and culture events happening in CQ this July::

1. Mediating Signals

Available until 10th July, you can visit ’Mediating Signals’, the offline exhibition in Flax Art Studios showcasing works of Belfast-related artists. Mediating Signals is in is a two-part instalment made up of: Tracing Algo-rhythm and Assigning Ambiguity.

To learn more about the event go to

2, 3, 4. Photography Exhibitions at Belfast Exposed

AEON by Marcel Rickly

Gallery 1 presents ‘AEON’, the solo exhibition by Swiss photographer Marcel Rickli represents how radioactive waste repositories will affect humanity for generations to come.

A Lightness of Touch

In Gallery 2, you can admire ‘A Lightness of Touch’ showcasing the work of MFA Photography graduates from Ulster University. Their art is far-reaching and diverse, with the overarching theme of capturing their subject with a lightness of touch.

Street View: Yan Wang Preston

Yan Wang Preston’s Street view offers visitors a chance to explore an instalment of the artist previous works He- River Together, Mother River and Forest.

To see all running events at Belfast Exposed, go to 

5. Belfast Print Workshop – Fibre: A New Online Exhibition

From the comfort of your own home, you can explore Fibre- The New Online Exhibition by Belfast Print Workshop. 

Fibre for printmakers is a subject matter transference, it is what ties their works together and gives the final piece its uniqueness. The instalment focuses on the relationship between fibre, the most fundamental elements of two-dimensional artmaking and print.

To find out more about the exhibition and Belfast Print Workshop, go to

6, 7, 8. Thought-provoking exhibits at The MAC

Ambera Wellmann – UnTurning

You can visit the first exhibition in the UK & Ireland by Canadian-born and New York-based painter Ambera Wellmann in the Upper Gallery. In ‘UnTurning’, Wellmann’s paintings negotiate the devastation of the present, one in which the cultural logic of heteronormativity and capitalism are naturalised in the human psyche. 

Jaap Pieters – The Eye of Amsterdam

In the Sunken Gallery, you can view Dutch filmmaker and artist Jaap Pieters’ The Eye of Amsterdam Exhibition. The exhibit features footage made by using minimal equipment and hardly any manipulations. Instead, he restricted himself to creating short, 3-minute reels and produced numerous films on the small-gauge “amateur” medium over four decades.

Maya Balcioglu

The Tall Gallery is home to Maya Balcioglu’s exhibit, which consists of large scale works on paper, latex and fabric completed over 15 years. It showcases drawings from between 2006-10, latex works from 2019-20, and her most recent fabric works.

For more information about the individual exhibits, visit 

9. Across and In-Between – Susan Lacy

Golden Thread Gallery presents you with ‘Across and In-Between’,  a creative collaboration between Suzanne Lacy and Cian Smyth with Helen Sharp and several communities.

This project amplifies the voices and experiences of border residents during Brexit negotiations through words, imagery, sound and performance, providing them with an opportunity to reclaim the landscape around them.

The exhibit is shown across the entirety of The Golden Thread Gallery.  For an in-depth review go

10. Paddy McCann – Friary 

Fenderesky Gallery is showing the works of Paddy McCann in the exhibit, titled ‘Friary’. The new paintings are available to view until the end of July by appointment.

For contact information and gallery opening hours, go to:

To find out more about what’s happening in Belfast Cathedral Quarter check out the Destination CQ website at

 By Alexandra Feher, Excalibur Press

Sails & Sounds Festival, Portaferry 8-12 July

A Five Day Festival of Sailing,  water activities, environmental, Drama Plays, crafts, food foraging and lots more a Festival for everyone based in Portaferry and on the shores of Strangford Lough Co. Down

Portaferry is preparing for a five-day Festival with covid restrictions in place they have adapted the programme which will include celebrating their heritage Sailing event The Narrows Series launching with the spectacular Bar Buoy Race with over 100 boats participating.  The festival which will be the biggest maritime event to come to Ards Peninsula  since the very popular ‘Galway Hooker Festival’ of many years ago.  The event is being hosted again this year by Portaferry Sailing Club and is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council will centre around the lough on the Shore Front.  The Events will spread out from the Club to all parts of the town ensuring plenty of family fun for everyone. 

The Club is running the festival we are expecting boats from all over the lough and North Down, Scotland, Isle of Man & ROI and farther afield.   The boats will gather on Thursday and racing will begin on Friday through to Monday for competitive racing with ticketed taster sessions kayaking/boat rafting and coastal rowing to allow locals and visitors to get up close and witness the spectacular boats in action

The festival highlight is a unique opportunity for the public to engage on the water and to cruise the lough on the beautiful boat “Cuan Shore” and for Game of Thrones fans an opportunity sail past the original filming ground of “Winterfell” not forgetting 2 Game of Thrones doors one in Strangford and one in Portaferry.  The new environmental boat “Citizen Sea” will be visiting and an opportunity to explore and sails on this beautiful ship

New event this year is two fantastic plays by Belfast production company Spanner in The Works performing “WHAT IF” & “BUTTERCUP” we also have family adventure day, food foraging/cooking demonstration, craft workshops, guided walking tours in Portaferry and Kearney Village. 

To compliment the Sailing, there will be local food outlets promoting local produce The visiting public can avail of free activities PAST maritime and heritage museum

Heritage & ferry door trail, family fun treasure map trial, Nugent’s Wood national trust woodlands walk  restaurants, coffee shops, hotel and fast food outlets are also gearing up for the Festival with special food menus to keep locals and visitors replenished.

The Festival this year due to covid restrictions and guidelines are limited in what can be delivered in comparison to other years, although different there are quite few new additional activities for everyone to sign up and try Eventbrite

Look out for details of all events, locations and times to be published and distributed all over the province in the near future.  The festival program can be found on our exclusive website or follow us on facebook & twitter – ( for updates and festival information on where to buy tickets.

This promises to be one of the highlights of the summer and will involve many volunteers and local business owners who will go out of their way to extend a welcome to all visitors whether they come by land or by sea.