The Market Place Theatre in Armagh is bringing classical music back where it belongs; live on stage, with a thrilling line-up of the best of our local musical talent.

Join Ulster Touring Opera on Wednesday 16 February for ‘A Night At The Opera’. BBC Radio Ulster Classical Connections presenter John Toal, hosts a stellar quartet of singers, including award-winning mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin and rising star Amy Ní Fhearraigh, performing a programme of much-loved opera arias, duets and ensembles.

Renowned pianist Ruth McGinley will perform music by opera’s greatest composers including Mozart, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi.

The evening will also feature the world premiere of an exciting new piece by Brian Irvine, commissioned by Ulster Touring Opera. Don’t miss this opportunity to join us for a night of celebration and surprises though the magic of opera! Tickets are priced £17.50 and £15 (concession).

Belfast-born Michael McHale has established himself as one of Ireland’s leading pianists and has developed a busy international career as a solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. He returns to The Market Place on Thursday 17 February, with a programme which will include Beethoven’s Sonata no.8 in C minor op.13 ‘Pathetique’ and Sonata no.14 in C# minor op.27 no.2 ‘Moonlight’, Linda Buckley’s Solas na Géalai, and a new commission from rising NI composer Áine Mallon: Raindrop Prelude.

A multi award-winning musician, Michael has performed as a soloist with the Minnesota, Hallé, Moscow Symphony and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras, City of London Sinfonia, London Mozart Players and all five of the major Irish orchestras. Tickets for this performance are priced £15 and £12.50 (concession).

Tickets can be booked through the Box Office on [028] 3752 1821, or online at


Festival of music and light comes to the Walled City

The historic Walled City of Derry will come to life in February with an immersive music and light festival called, ‘Illuminate’. Taking place over two weekends, 17th to the 20th and 24th to the 27th of February, visitors can expect a breath-taking display of music, drama and art installations telling the incredible stories of a legendary place. Illuminate is a free, evening event, wheelchair and pram friendly; the fully accessible route is the perfect activity for all the family. For more information on Illuminate, click on or call Visit Derry on + 44 (0) 28 7137 7577. Pictured at the launch of Illuminate is one of the colourful characters that visitors can expect to see, ‘Viking’. For more information on Illuminate, click on or call Visit Derry on + 44 (0) 28 7137 7577.

The historic Walled City of Derry will come to life in February with an immersive music and light festival called, ‘Illuminate’. 

Illuminate will brighten up the dark winter nights with a trail of live projection shows across the city’s most iconic buildings, turning them into spectacular pieces of art.

Illuminate will run over two weekends, 17th to the 20th and 24th to the 27th of February, and visitors can expect a breath-taking display of music, drama and art installations telling the incredible stories of a legendary place, explained Odhran Dunne, Visit Derry.

Odhran said: “Illuminate is a new festival that’s going to be an atmospheric spectacular featuring state-of-the-art projections which tell the unique story of Derry along a 1.5km route.  Adults and children will be transfixed by the live illumination experiences as the story unfolds on their walk around the 400-year-old walls. It’s an experience like no other this February and not to be missed.”

The magical trail of live projection shows will transform familiar buildings and fortifications into huge night-time audio-visual animations that play for a few minutes as visitors walk past.

“Attendees will be treated to captivating displays created by local lighting and visual production company, Visual Spectrum”, said Odhran. “Plus, a full programme of entertainment, performances, music and drama that will re-imagine public spaces across the city, showcasing our diverse arts and cultural offering.”

The trail charts five eras in the city’s history from early settlement on a wooded island in the River Foyle right up to the vibrant city of today, continued Odhran: “People will relive, in epic fashion, some of the dramatic scenes from the Siege of Derry 1689, learn of the city’s more recent history and how the city has been reimagined.  There are six key locations to look out for, including the wonderful 400-year-old walls, the original Walled city gates, the iconic Guildhall and St. Columb’s Cathedral.”

The Illuminate programme also includes a series of energetic music gigs in intimate spaces, in partnership with Music Capital, showcasing established and emerging artists to bring audiences a truly memorable experience.

Odhran said: “Headline music performances include Neil Cowley, who returns following his stint as the Musician in Residence for Derry’s UK City of Culture, Irish contemporary folk music band, Kila and Donegal sisters, The Henry Girls.”

Ryan Vail, Visual Spectrum, said: “The festival will see the biggest projection show illuminating the Story of Derry to ever come to the City. Using the newest technologies such as lidar, Visual Spectrum will transform the most iconic buildings in the city. The various sites will animate the city’s history in a way that’s never been done before. Viewers will experience a range of different styles of projection and projection mapping at this festival.”

A trip to Derry~Londonderry wouldn’t be complete without sampling the delicious food and drink, warm hospitality, exciting things to do and places to explore.

Odhran added: “The City has more than its fair share of fantastic restaurants and cafes, craic filled bars and hotels, a bustling street food scene, and hidden gems, like the Derry Craft Village to explore. We have award-winning craft beers brewed at Walled City Brewery, Redgate Ciders and Northbound Brewery and some of the best local food and drink producers around.

“The Siege Museum and Museum of Free Derry tell visitors about our fascinating history as do the sociable walking and foodie tours. For active visitors there are pursuits like an exhilarating Foyle Venture Cruise and Far + Wild foodie cycle tour. Or get the most from your stay with a Visit Derry Pass that gives access to ten attractions and activities across the city”, concluded Odhran.

Illuminate is a free, evening event, wheelchair and pram friendly; this fully accessible route is the perfect activity for all the family. There is a schedule of ticketed concerts in the Guildhall, St Augustine’s Church and other venues.  Hotel accommodation starts from £45per person sharing, so turn your February trip into a weekend escape.

For more information on Illuminate, click on or call Visit Derry on + 44 (0) 28 7137 7577.

45 Funded Places on offer at HGV Training and Employment Academy

(L-R): Lord Mayor Glenn Barr, Garry Cairns from Henderson Group, Patricia McEvoy from People 1st, Chair of Economic Development & Regeneration Committee Councillor Declan McAlinden, and Enterprise Development Manager Sarah-Jane Macdonald launching the new ABC HGV Training and Employment Academy which will fully fund 45 HGV training positions and guarantee an interview with a local employer.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council announces the first Labour Market Partnership project with the launch of a brand new Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) HGV Training and Employment Academy, which will deliver fully-funded training for 45 applicants to qualify as HGV drivers and guarantee an interview with a local employer with HGV vacancies.

The ABC HGV Training and Employment Academy will fully fund 45 eligible individuals to gain a HGV licence (Class 1 or Class 2) and a guaranteed interview, on successful HGV licensing. Applications are open until 5pm Monday 31 January 2022.

The programme has been designed to respond to specific local needs by closing the gap between local employer needs and the chronic skilled labour shortage in the HGV sector. Funding has been provided by the Department for Communities through the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership.

Minister Hargey welcomed the announcement of the HGV Training Academy being launched by Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council in partnership with the Department for Communities.

“I am delighted that my Department has been able to fund this much-needed programme, providing critical support to an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic. The Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership training programme will help people improve their employability skills and provide opportunities to fill significant vacancies during a difficult period for the North’s haulage industry.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Alderman Glenn Barr said:

“The ABC HGV Training Academy is an excellent opportunity to participate in a fully-funded training programme and an interview with a local employer with current HGV vacancies.

“Interest in this programme is expected to be very high so I’d encourage anyone who is thinking about it to check the eligibility criteria and apply early. I’d also encourage local businesses who have any HGV vacancies to get in touch as a key part of the programme is matching applicants to your specific needs.”

Applicants to the ABC HGV Training and Employment Academy must be resident in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough; aged over 21; willing to undertake a medical examination; hold a valid UK Driving Licence. They must also fulfil at least ONE of the following criteria: currently unemployed; under-employed; employed but at risk of redundancy; or employed and interested in upskilling or reskilling.

If you are interested in joining the ABC HGV Training and Employment Academy as a candidate, or if you represent a local employer in the ABC Borough and would like to tell us about your specific transport and logistics recruitment needs and offer an interview to a qualified candidate, get in touch by contacting:<> or calling 028 3834 7000. More information including full eligibility criteria can be found at<>.

Various courses will be available commencing early February 2022 comprising: a one-day theory lesson; 25 hours online training; theory test; five-day practical lesson (including test) over one week. Following successful completion of the theory and practical tests, participants will attend a one-day employability session; one-to-one mentoring including help with updating your CV and preparing for interview, after which they will be invited to attend interview(s). Applicants must be available to attend all sessions. All training will be carried out in the Craigavon area.

The ABC HGV Training and Employment Academy is part of the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Labour Market Partnership (LMP), a joint public/private sector initiative which aims to ensure that a quality skills provision is driven by demand for skills in the economy, leading to reduced unemployment. Other LMP programmes will be announced throughout the year across various employment sectors.

Belfast Company Launches Training Webinar Series To Support Businesses With Their Marketing

Adobe stock image

When it comes to marketing your business, product or service most small businesses will depend on digital channels such as their website, social media and other platforms such as Google My Business.

According to Social Media Examiner 96% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy whilst HubSpot reveals 48% of companies in general will leverage blogging in their content marketing strategy.

In order to truly maximise the opportunities available online to market and promote your business it’s important to have a robust digital and content marketing strategy and plan.

According to Google 59% of shoppers say they’ll research a product before making an in-store or online purchase.

Belfast based multi-disciplinary marketing and communications agency Excalibur Press has launched a new webinar training series aimed at helping businesses create a social media content strategy and improve their blogging and content marketing as well as giving top tips and tricks to creating effective communications for promoting your product online.

Delivered by trainer and content strategist Tina Calder, the sessions will run every Friday over the next four weeks. They will include How To Supercharge Your Blogging & Content Marketing (January 28), Set Up Your Social Media Content Strategy & Plan (February 4), Creating Killer Comms & Content To Sell Your Product Online (February 11) and Everything You Need To know To Create Your Brand Story (February 18).

Speaking of the sessions Tina said: “Micro, small and medium businesses more than ever before need support and assistance with their marketing. 

“For many of those businesses that spend is a luxury and often the first to go when things get tough.

“There’s no question the last few years have taken their toll on business owners and the fight to survive and thrive has become a crowded space.”

Tina explained the 90 minute sessions are specifically designed to “offer business owners practical and actionable support that will help them streamline, maximise and optimise their marketing activity.”

She added: “Throughout the sessions I will be revealing all the tools, systems and processes we use at Excalibur Press to create good quality content and marketing tactics for our clients as well as lift the lid on the secrets other professionals don’t want you to know.

“These sessions will help businesses reduce their stress levels when it comes to creating a social media content strategy, improving their blogging and content marketing as well as creating effective communications for promoting their product online and honing their marketing messages and brand story.

To book on to How To Supercharge Your Blogging & Content Marketing (January 28), Set Up Your Social Media Content Strategy & Plan (February 4), Creating Killer Comms & Content To Sell Your Product Online (February 11) or Everything You Need To know To Create Your Brand Story (February 18) go to 

Dished Up Deli Delivers Romance To Your Door This Valentines

Philip Davison of Dished Up Deli

Give the gift of food this Valentines with a sweet treat from Belfast’s homemade food delivery service, Dished Up Deli, with their ‘Love In A Box’ Valentines range.

Made to order and delivered straight to your door, the collection includes a decadent chocolate brownie box and a belgian chocolate geometric heart filled with a choice of rose water sponge or chocolate brownie. 

Founder of the food delivery company which was started over the first lockdown, Philip Davison, believed there is an emphasis on buying personalised and thoughtful gifts this year due to Brexit’s influence on Northern Ireland.

“I’ve seen a definite rise in consumer demand for personalised gifts instead of the typical off the shelf items especially due to Brexit, we are now shopping more locally and supporting local businesses like myself who have the capacity to offer customisable gifts,” he said.

Philip has also created an at home Valentines meal menu for those wanting to bring the restaurant to their living rooms this year.

The luxury four course ‘Heat at Home’ meal for two features a colourful chorizo salad, mouthwatering slow cooked beef, fresh meringues and a cheese board with crackers and chutneys.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on hospitality, Philip recognised the demand to create an at-home dining experience for couples to still celebrate the most romantic day of the year.

“There has been an increase in people renovating their homes over lockdown and creating a nicer environment to relax and enjoy a romantic meal in.

“This year due to Covid, restaurants will also be working at less capacity so trying to secure a  booking over the Valentines weekend will be much more competitive”.

After sharing images of food he made throughout lockdown, hospitality management graduate Philip decided to make the leap and complete requests from family and friends.

Since then, his business has expanded to offering rotating weekly menus, savoury and sweet snacks which are based around quality homemade cooking paired with innovation to match the needs of the seasons.

“Over the several lockdowns I shared pictures of some creation on Facebook and got slightly hounded,” he explained.

 “I finally got a call saying would you make that dinner for me and my friend and that is how Dished up Deli was born.” 

Orders received by 6pm on Wednesday 9 February will be delivered on Friday 11 February between 5-8pm.

For more information visit or social media @dishedupdeli.


Comedian William Caulfield is back on The Market Place Theatre stage with the latest of his ‘Our Jimmy’ shows featuring the beloved Ulster characters first created by the late James Young.

Far from being dated, William has transported them right up to date and we meet them in newly written sketches and songs in the present day.

All the usual characters are there, Derek, Lily O’Condriac, Emily Beattie, Willie Simpson, Billy Hulk, the wee Schoolboy, the shipyard worker and Orange Lil. Wondering what they are up to in the present day? Come and find out!

As well as new sketches, some of the iconic and poignant monologues still feature. William will be joined by two of Northern Ireland’s talented actors, Orla Mullan and Keith Lynch.

Book now – sure it will be a quare geg!

‘Our Jimmy – Past & Present’ will be on stage on Friday 28 January at 8pm. Tickets are priced £21, and can be booked through the Box Office on [028] 3752 1821, or online at

Enjoy a Valentine’s Day treat with Sam Amidon gig at Flowerfield Arts Centre

Flowerfield Arts Centre is celebrating the return of live indoor music by giving away free tickets to a special performance by American folk artist Sam Amidon.

The gig in Portstewart on Sunday 6th March at 3pm is one of only two dates the artist will perform in Northern Ireland as part of his 2022 tour, which takes in venues across the USA and Europe so it’s an exciting opportunity for local music lovers.

Lucky winners will be selected at random on Monday 14th February 2022 to receive a pair of tickets – a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day and an opportunity for the Arts Centre to show its appreciation to its supporters.

A singer, fiddler, banjo player and guitarist originally hailing from Vermont in the US, Sam has released six solo albums on the Nonesuch and Bedroom Community labels, most recently 2017’s The Following Mountain.

His material often consists of adventurous reworkings of traditional American ballads, hymns, and work songs, with the New York Times writing that he, ‘transforms all of the songs, changing their colours and loading them with trapdoors’.

The albums have been deeply collaborative in nature, inviting contributions from musicians such as composer Nico Muhly, guitarist Bill Frisell, and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. 

Sam has also recorded or performed as a guest artist with musicians such as Bon Iver, Emmylou Harris, Tune-Yards, Pekka Kuusisto, and his wife Beth Orton. He has also appeared as a soloist performing with ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the Aurora Orchestra, among others. 

The son of Peter Amidon and Mary Alice Amidon, both well-established folk musicians who raised him on a diet of old Irish and Appalachian folk, Sam has released a string of acclaimed albums, ranging in theme from interpretations of traditional Irish fiddle pieces to old-time melodies and tales from traditional American folk history.

His albums draw on old work songs, ballads, hymns, and other sonic artefacts from the past, reimagining them in bold, creative new ways to breathe new life into them and recontextualising them alongside original compositions.

To be in with the opportunity to be on the guestlist for this one-off gig please register your details at

For further details contact Flowerfield Arts Centre on 028 7083 1400.

The Big Friendly Giant (BFG) is coming to Newtownabbey

The Big Friendly Giant (BFG) in Pictures exhibition, is coming to the Flax Gallery, Theatre at The Mill, Newtownabbey, from Thursday 3 – Friday 25 February. The exhibition features 40 reproductions for Roald Dahl’s much-loved story, ‘The BFG’ including illustrations not used when the book was first published in 1982. The exhibition charts the development of one of the most iconic characters in children’s literature and offers a glimpse of a BFG that might have been. These are exhibited alongside reproductions of the final illustrations for the book, providing a fascinating insight into the collaboration between author and illustrator Quentin Blake.

The exhibition is free of charge and will open during the following hours;

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 9am-5pm
  • Wednesday: 9am-8pm
  • Saturday: 10am -4pm
  • Sunday: 10am-2pm

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Billy Webb said “I am pleased that the Flax Gallery at Theatre at The Mill is hosting this remarkable exhibition. This is a great opportunity for the public to visit a display of such calibre. BFG is known worldwide and I am thrilled that we have this on display in our Borough.”

The BFG is a children’s book which tells the story of a friendship between 10-year-old orphan Sophie and a friendly Giant.

NI Firm To Deliver Government’s Help To Grow Digital Programme

(left to right)  Daniel Cairo Chief Operating Officer of Zym, Peter Eakin Chief Operating Officer of  Zymplify, Michael Carlin founder and CEO of Zymplify Group and Debbie Rymer Chief Marketing Officer of the Zymplify Group

Northern Ireland company, Zymplify, has been appointed as a preferred supplier to deliver Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s digital growth plan for small and medium sized businesses, helping them to learn new skills, reach new customers and boost profits.

The Portstewart-based company has been approved to provide three innovative digital solutions to empower users to enhance their marketing and sales performance. 

After a rigorous application process, Zymplify was one of a small number of UK vendors to be awarded the contract to deliver the scheme through which eligible businesses will be able to get a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved digital software including Zymplify Starter Package,  Zym Lite and Zym Pro.

Michael Carlin, chief executive of the Zymplify Group said the team were delighted to be chosen to support SMEs on the scheme.

He added: “From day one, our goal at Zymplify has been to help real business owners use digital technology to grow their business – a vision that is mirrored by Help to Grow Digital.

“Like the Chancellor, we believe that small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy. We are a small business ourselves and created Zym and Zymplify for people like us – real business owners who want to save time, save money and grow.

“Just like the scheme we offer SMEs more than just the software. We have developed an ecosystem of three core elements – a planning framework to help users map their sales and marketing strategy, an Academy to help them master digital skills and the platform to execute, manage and measure their digital campaigns. 

“I believe that it is this approach that helped us become one of the few suppliers selected to deliver this fantastic programme.”

Zym is a complete marketing software solution ideal for small and medium sized businesses. With a continuously expanding selection of innovative tools, unlike other solutions, the Zym platform lets users take full control of every aspect of their digital marketing journey, from finding new customers to ongoing marketing communications and detailed reporting all in one place.

More suited for medium size enterprises and B2B organisations with sales and marketing teams the Zymplify platform combines marketing automation, lead generation, sales prospecting and accurate real time reporting within a single platform.

As the first ever precision sales and marketing platform on the market, the unique software allows users to create, execute and report on sales and marketing campaigns at scale. It is the only solution on the market that provides users with qualified prospects who are actively looking for their products or services; while putting users in control of connecting with their target audience and closing sales at speed.

Zymplify Group chief marketing officer, Debbie Rymer explained: “Through the Help to Go Digital Programme, business owners will be able to catch up with the technological needs of their business and access discounted prices for tech platforms. Through Zymplify and Zym, eligible businesses will also be able to access daily live classes, digital marketing training advice and guidance to help their business save money, grow and scale fast.

“I have worked as a mentor on numerous business support programmes over the years and am also the CIM Academy Course Director for Digital Marketing Techniques so have seen first-hand the positive impact good marketing and digital technology can have on a business.

“That’s why we have developed our learning Academy to provide our users with the knowledge, skills and support they need to maximise their voucher and grow their business with the support of the Help to Grow Digital scheme.”

Last year Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that through the Government funded scheme businesses will receive expert technology advice and discounted software, as it aims to spark innovation as the UK maps out its recovery out of the pandemic.

Mr Sunak said: “Our brilliant SMEs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and generating prosperity – so it’s vital they can access the tools they need to succeed

“Help to Grow will ensure they are embracing the latest technology and management training, fuelling our Plan for Jobs by boosting productivity in all corners of the UK.”

The programme offers a new online platform where business owners can get free advice on technology that will help businesses to save time, reduce costs, and reach more customers.

Any eligible SMEs will be able to get vouchers offering up to 50% off the purchase of new productivity enhancing software worth up to £5,000 each for the period of one year.

Businesses interested in Zym or Zymplify will be given the opportunity to “try before they use their voucher”.

“We are committed to helping UK SMEs maximise the scheme. Anyone considering using either the Zymplify or Zym platforms won’t be pressured into redeeming their voucher without seeing our software in action first” said Debbie, adding: “we want to help them choose the right product for their business and their employees. That’s why they can take either or both products for a free 14 day test drive before making their selection. We hope that by providing the free trial and the live classes we help them to invest wisely.”

For more information on how to sign up and take your business to the next level go to 

‘Happy Days’ online guide to North West’s best experiences goes live

A new website listing arts and cultural events in the North West has been launched to provide a one-stop guide to the best family fun experiences in Derry, Strabane and Donegal.

The website, which covers the entire spectrum of arts and culture events and experiences across the region, is a joint initiative by Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council.  The initiative, which is primarily aimed at engaging more families with arts and culture, is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and is part of the ongoing, cross border, North West Audience Development Project, supported by the North West Strategic Development Fund.

The comprehensive ‘What’s On’ guide involves partnerships with hundreds of cultural partners across the North West. These include visitor centres, theatres, arts centres, entertainment venues, festival organisers and experience providers offering great family days out, ranging from unique and exciting instead adventures to more relaxing cultural activities. The initiative also fosters and encourages public engagement and participation with cultural partners through social media channels.

Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Jack Murray, said: “Our region offers among the best family-orientated arts and culture experiences available anywhere and gives everyone the opportunity to quickly find and explore the information needed to plan their perfect family day out.

“The Happy Days initiative is yet another example of the strong partnership approach that exists between our two local authorities and will play an important role in engaging many more families with our rich arts and culture scene.”

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, said the new initiative is designed to “simplify the planning of great family days out in the North West”.

“I’m delighted to launch this initiative which gives people instant access to the many fantastic arts and cultural events and experiences our region has to offer – all in a single online hub. The North West has a very rich calendar of arts and cultural events, boasts a great many wonderful destinations and offers some of the most fun-filled experiences on these islands.

“ brings all of these and more together in an online listing that makes discovering, planning, and enjoying family days out simple and convenient for all.”

Sharon Meenan, Arts and Culture Officer at Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Challenge Fund, this initiative is part of the NW Audience Development Plan and is designed to enable everyone to easily access information about arts and culture in the North West.

“By providing all the practical information on one website, it’s easier for families to find out about cultural activities near them, connect with like-minded people online and plan their special days out across the Derry-Londonderry, Strabane, and Donegal areas.

“Whether it’s dancing, crafts, heritage, festivals, literature, theatre, visual arts, sport or learning activities you’re after; Happy Days offers a one-stop guide to what’s on, where and at what time. It also details all of the amazing spaces on our doorstep and highlights access-friendly spaces so you can plan great days out for everyone.”