WITH the highly anticipated Series 2 of Bridgerton on our screens, the Culloden Estate & Spa is helping fans feel part of the drama.

Guests of the 5-star hotel are being invited to experience the splendour of high society with a scandalously decadent Bridgerton-inspired afternoon tea in the hotel’s stunning setting overlooking Belfast Lough. 

Such a treat seems fitting for a hotel that’s part of the luxury Hastings Hotels group.

Tastebuds will be tickled with a demi-tasse of soup (a small cup to the ordinary person), followed by elegant finger sandwiches, warm buttermilk scones with lashings of clotted cream and a sumptuous array of pastries and cakes – all served in fine bone crockery laid out on a suitably dressed antique table.

Along with the finest selection of speciality teas and coffees, guests have the option of adding a glass of champagne to enhance the experience.

And if you’re feeling specially audacious you can partake in Lady Whistledown’s Gossipy Gimlet cocktail – cleverly disguised in a teacup to avoid any scandal.

Dressing up for such a sanctimonious occasion is optional but will not be frowned upon.

The Bridgerton-inspired afternoon tea costs from £35 per person and is served daily at 1.30pm.

To make a reservation call 028 9042 1066 or for more information go to www.cullodenestateandspa.com

See The Sights of Northern Ireland In Unparalleled Luxury

Trevor Patterson

Exclusive NI Tours new fleet of Range Rovers and XJ Jaguars is offering visitors tours and chauffeur services that transport them in the lap of luxury and deliver special bespoke experiences.

Owner, Trevor Patterson believes that personal service and luxury cars are what makes his company appeal to those who want to see the best of Northern Ireland in style.

“The cars are high-end and that is part of where we set the standard by providing a top quality service,” he explained. “It’s not just like taking a taxi to the Giant’s Causeway for a quick look round or a stop to grab pictures at the Dark Hedges. We provide much more than that.”

Exclusive NI Tours offer a range of bespoke chauffeur driven tour itineraries to locations such as the Causeway Coastal Route featuring the Antrim Glens, the Mountains of Mourne, Derry / Londonderry through to Donegal and Belfast.

Those who want something tailored for their own needs can be accommodated, as can those who want to explore their family roots with genealogy trips available. Chauffeured transfers are offered to and from the airport with the option for guests to take in some sights along the way. Equally, for those guests who are on a tight schedule, direct transfers can be offered, 

With 10 years-experience in delivering high level driving services, Trevor has been able to tailor the Exclusive NI Tours experience to customers with high expectations.

“While we operate at a very professional level, we offer relaxed tours,” he explained. “We are not about to rush our clients. If they want to have an hour or two for afternoon tea at the Ballygally Castle hotel or stop off for a pint of Guinness at The Crosskeys Inn, that’s not a problem.

“It’s all about making sure they have an enjoyable time and exceeding their expectations.”
In developing the business Trevor was keen to make sure he could show off the best of the country.

“I enjoy showing people the best of Northern Ireland, especially the history I’m really interested in that” he said. “That’s my favourite bit of the job, I’m a person who likes to please a guest. I like when someone comes here, and they’ve enjoyed the day and they’ve had a good time.”

And, one thing that always exceeds what they expect, is Northern Ireland itself.

“They love the scenery,” Trevor said. “They find the Glens mystical and very engaging. They go through the nine Glens and then suddenly they’re on the Antrim plateau. It seems to them that it changes very quickly, and they love that diversity.”

With both the XJ Jaguar and the Range Rover there is flexibility, with each having their benefits.

“Americans are very familiar with Range Rovers and with the space and increased visibility they can enjoy a better view,” he said. “In addition if they are being collected, for example from Dublin Airport there Is tonnes of space, even if they have a lot of luggage.

“On other occasions they prefer the Jaguar, such as when they are going to an evening do, or a black tie event.”

In addition Exclusive NI Tours has links with Slemish private airfield so can arrange Flexifly private aircraft hire from London City and other airports. 

“It is the flexibility that we offer in delivering a unique Northern Ireland experience, with security and safety,” Trevor explained. “And, with a maximum of four for each tour we want every client to feel that they are being pampered and to ensure they have no hassle or worries throughout their time with us.

“They want the Northern Ireland experience in luxury and we make sure they can explore our heritage, folklore, culture and scenery. Of course, they are never short of dramatic photo opportunities.”

For those with specific interest in genealogy, Trevor has linked up with Natalie Bodle of Roots Revealed. Exclusive NI Tours can curate Natalie’s genealogy research into bespoke, one-of-a-kind tours through their family lineage.

To learn more about Exclusive NI Tours pre-planned tours or enquire about a bespoke tour go to exclusivenitours.com

Garden Show Ireland returns to Antrim Castle Gardens

Garden Show Ireland will return from Friday 29th April until Sunday 1st May with celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin announced as show ambassador

Press Eye Northern Ireland Wednesday 16h March 2022 Photographer Darren Kidd / Press Eye (L-R) Megan mercer (aged 8) and Myla Johnston (aged 7) from King’s Park Primary School in Newtownabbey transform into Antrim Castle Garden’s very own gnomes under the watchful eye of celebrity Gardener Diarmuid Gavin and as they celebrate the launch of Garden Show Ireland 2022. Garden Show Ireland returns to Antrim Castle Gardens, from Friday 29th April until Sunday 1st May. Tickets can be purchased online at gardenshowireland.com with under 16s going free.

Northern Ireland’s leading gardening event, Garden Show Ireland, is set to make a highly anticipated return to Antrim Castle Gardens from Friday 29th April until Sunday 1st May.

Widely regarded as a highlight of the events calendar across Ireland, the 3-day event has consistently attracted almost 30,000 visitors eager to immerse themselves in what is a festival of flowers, food and fun!

Fresh from announcing the return of the event at last year’s One Giant Weekend,  renowned celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin will officially open Garden Show Ireland on Friday 29th April.

Alongside his show ambassador role, Diarmuid will also be involved in the forthcoming Platinum Jubilee celebrations, creating a permanent, bespoke installation within Antrim Castle Gardens intitled the ‘Clockwork Garden’.  The garden, similar in style to Diarmuid’s critically acclaimed ‘garden of pure imagination’ created at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2016, will be the first of its kind to assume permanent residency in any garden across the UK.

Commenting on his involvement and subsequent installation, Diarmuid said:

‘I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Garden Show Ireland and delighted that visitors to the show will be able to catch a glimpse of the Clockwork Garden build in real time! My inspiration for the garden comes from some of the UK’s most imaginative minds, resulting in an active, entertaining and playful space. Every 15 minutes the garden actually comes to life and engages in a short performance which certainly surprises spectators and creates a few smiles! It has been my dream to bring it home to where it belongs and Antrim Castle Gardens is that place.’

‘It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work alongside students from CAFRE in the physical building of this project. These young people are our next generation of horticulturalists, and their enthusiasm and hard work should be both applauded and nurtured.’  

In addition to enjoying a weekend of gardening expertise, ideas and inspiration, visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the Food NI Food Pavilion to observe chef led food demonstrations and sample food from some of Northern Ireland leading artisan food producers.

The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb, commented:

‘Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has been hosting Garden Show Ireland since 2014 and we are very excited to, once again, welcome the event back to Antrim Castle Gardens for 2022. Our gardens are of the most unique and historically intact gardens in the UK and throughout Ireland, therefore the perfect space for Northern Ireland’s premier horticultural event. We are excited to see the Clockwork Garden in action, and its permanent residency in the gardens will be a wonderful tribute to Her Majesty The Queen in the year of her Platinum Jubilee.’

‘As a result of recent world events, individuals have become much more aware of their outdoor space and the need to create a sustainable environment that meets the needs of future generations. On arrival to the show you will actually be greeted by the residents of Scarecrow Avenue, all of whom have been created by our local primary schools using a combination of re-cycled or borrowed materials. Our schools are also being encouraged to create miniature gardens in anything from a bucket to an old boot, either of which can attract, feed or even reproduce your own version of a bird, bee, bug or butterfly!’

Claire Faulkner, Event Director of Garden Show Ireland, added:

‘Since its inception in 2004, Garden Show Ireland has grown significantly, in both profile and attendance. With the shift towards holidaying at home and generally spending more time in our gardens and on home improvements, we have no doubt that this year’s event will be our biggest yet.

It’s wonderful that after a difficult few years we are able to host a 3-day celebration of this calibre, made even more special with the talented Diarmuid Gavin opening the show! Visitors will be spoiled for choice, with green fingered experts on hand to guide them through all their gardening quandaries, whether that be the creation of a climate friendly garden or the addition of an organic vegetable patch to an outdoor space. With everything from a live jazz band and stilt walkers to crazy golf and dog shows in our dedicated ‘Doggie Zone,’ Garden Show Ireland certainly has something for the entire family…including your pets!’

Garden Show Ireland runs from Friday 29th April until Sunday 1st May. A courtesy shuttle bus will operate from The Junction between 10.15am and 6.15pm each day. There will be a plant and produce creche available for visitors who want to store their garden purchases while they browse, and these purchases will be allowed on board the shuttle.

Tickets for Garden Show Ireland cost £10 and can be purchased online at gardenshowireland.com. Children under 16 go free.

The Hotel That’s At The Gateway To The Glens

The Curran Court Hotel has been a major feature of Larne for more than fifty years. Speak to anyone in Larne and they’ll talk fondly of the Curran Court; such is its special place in the hearts of the local community. 

Owner and Director, Brian McRandal, purchased the hotel in 2017 and he believes that the Curran Court has something to offer everyone.

“I really believe that the Curran Court Hotel is the perfect – and most practical – spot for locals and tourists alike,” he said. “Not only is it ideal for those coming off the Stranraer or Liverpool ferries, who need a room for the night, but it has increasingly become the ‘go to’ place for the local community to have a great night out and a tasty meal to boot!”

The hotel’s location means that it is the ideal location for a tour of Northern Ireland, since it’s not only a mere 25 minutes from Belfast, but it also opens up the way to the nine glens of Antrim; making it the perfect spot to begin a trip along Northern Ireland’s world-famous Causeway Coastal Route – a road journey, which will enable you to immerse yourself in the exhilarating outdoors and enjoy the serenity of being ‘unplugged’. 

“In addition to our perfect location,” Brian continued, “we pride ourselves on our ability to offer ‘affordable luxury’ thanks to our long–serving, knowledgeable and well-known staff, who are dedicated to providing a first-class customer service and who are willing to go that extra mile to make your stay as superb as possible.

“Our hotel’s 32 modern and spacious guest rooms include twin, double, accessible and superior rooms, so, even if you’re on your own, you’ll have the benefit of having either a twin or double room all to yourself!  We also offer great value dine and stay packages and these have proved particularly popular.’

The Curran Court Hotel’s restaurant is renowned for its well-selected menu, which is awash with fresh, local ingredients, including Glenarm shorthorn beef. To add to the lip-smacking quality of the ingredients, everything at the Curran Court Hotel is cooked from scratch, so you know that everything you’re eating is straight off the grill.

Since taking over the hotel, Brian has made sweeping changes to both the premises layout and the menu, but he continues to forge ahead with additional innovative developments. 

Sales & Marketing Manager Glenn Mann said: “During the lockdowns of the last year, we continued to improve what the Curran Court could offer existing and potential new customers.  Last summer, we opened a new spacious and rustic outdoor dining area, which seats eighty and comes complete with awnings and overhead heaters so it’s suitable for all year round use.

“This spring we have carried out extensive renovations inside the hotel to create a beautiful new public bar, offering a relaxed and casual dining experience, that perfectly feeds into our outdoor area. The 2 areas combine to become Katy Jane’s Bar & Beer Garden. It’s named after my mother and mother-in-law, to encompass the family and friends feel that we wanted to create. We have also developed a new bar menu to suit all tastes, which includes small plates that are ideal for sharing.  We feel that it will be the ideal place to meet up and spend time with friends and family that we missed so much during lock down. Not forgetting the Katy Jane’s Library, which is an ideal spot to relax, meet friends and enjoy a coffee and snack from their Lite Bites menu.

“Our main restaurant is also now able to offer an à la carte dining experience to more than 100 customers!”

Brian wants the Curran Court to have a different feel to it, going forward. “Previously, for example, there was nowhere for people to come in and sit for a coffee. Now we have a few Chesterfield sofas and high-backed chairs. We also have a library section with big armchairs where visitors can take afternoon tea served in fine China – complete with linen tablecloths – so there’s a complete shift in atmosphere. It’s like being transported back to a period in time when life was more relaxed and more ‘polished’.

“To wash your gastronomically-delicious food down, the Curran Court Hotel has an extensive drinks’ menu that includes classic cocktails, a wide selection of gins, rums and flavoured vodkas. Or, if the mood takes you, you can even round off the evening with one of the hotel’s special frozen dessert cocktails! Lip-smacking and luscious!

Great food….great prices….great service. What more could you want from a hotel that’s the gateway to one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions?

To book a stay or obtain more information on dining experiences visit currancourthotel.co.uk 


Dozens of prehistoric toy brick dinosaurs will arrive at Armagh Observatory & Planetarium this summer, showcasing over 20 species for a Jurassic scale display. This is the first time the Brickosaurs! Evolution will be showcased in Northern Ireland this June and tickets are now on sale.

The towering 3-D brick dinosaurs are made using more than 2 million toy bricks and an interactive expedition will be on display at the Planetarium, making it a perfect place to visit this summer to excite families and dinosaur enthusiasts alike.

Presented and built by Brick Live, the Brickosaurs exhibition has been touring across the UK and its next stop is Armagh Observatory & Planetarium this summer.

Visitors will have the chance to go back in time and come face to face with pre-historic creatures such as the seven-metre long Spinosaurus, a nodding Heterodontosaurus and a huge Mosasaur emerging from the water.

There will be plenty of photo opportunities too, including a sit-in Carnotaurus, a giant dino egg, and the chance to get up close to nine adorable baby dinosaurs.

Ria Mee, Senior Education Officer, from Armagh Observatory & Planetarium said: “The display is something totally different for us and we are delighted to host such a fantastic event. We haven’t had an exhibition of this scale before, and we are excited to welcome guests this summer for an immersive and educational adventure.”

Brickosaurs is a spectacular experience for the whole family. To witness the scale and the detail that has been lovingly crafted into these models is something that never fails to amaze.”- Christina Anthony, director, BRICKLIVE

The exhibition will be available to visit from Saturday 11th June – Sunday 31st July 2022.

Tickets are on sale now. Book online today at armagh.space. Pre-booking is essential and exhibition entry is free with any dome show purchase. Separate exhibition area tickets are available for anyone not choosing a dome show.  

Copywrite © Brick Live Group Limited. All rights reserved. Brick Live Group Limited is an independent producer of BRICKLIVE and is not associated with The LEGO Group. LEGO® is a trademark of LEGO Juris A/S.

Breaking The Industrial Cycle With Slow Food

Where do you go to get your groceries? If your first thought was your local supermarket, you are not alone. Shopping in large grocery stores became the norm for many of us, and we rely on these outlets more than we realise. They are convenient, filled to the brim with seemingly every product you could imagine and have a price point that fits most pockets.

From afar it seems like the perfect solution, but we all witnessed what happened in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic turned life on its head and among many others, highlighted the fragility of our food economy and the part supermarkets play in it. 

The University of Oxford describes our food system as “a complex set of interconnected practices and relationships that ultimately deliver food from farms, processing facilities, factories, warehouses, and retailers, to the dinner table.” 

The industrial food system is built for scale and efficiency with an aim to maximise production, reduce cost, and function much like factories.

Although many supermarkets and producers are taking steps to include the origins of their products on their labels, there is still not enough transparency around where our food actually comes from. This industrialised structure offers customers accessibility to a wider range of products at more affordable prices but has economic and environmental impacts that many are not aware of.

Industrial agriculture is notorious for using a range of fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides in their processes to maximise output, some of which stays present in the soil long after the crops are harvested. The products are then processed in factories, stabilised with preservatives and packaged in plastic, all occurring before they are loaded onto long haul freights, planes, lorries to arrive in distribution centres and eventually to supermarket shelves. 

BBC Good Food reported that “DEFRA estimates that moving food is responsible for 25 per cent of all miles covered by heavy goods traffic in the UK. Transporting food within, to and around the UK produces 19 million tonnes of CO2 annually – equivalent to around 5.5 million typical cars.”

The length of the supply chains involved in industrial food systems result in a fragile structure as any slight disruption throughout the intricate process can halt the supply chain at any time. 

However, this industrial food system is not the only one available to our economy. While our modern supermarkets heavily rely on large-scale agriculture, large scale production and precise, uninterrupted international food trade and fast turnaround times, the alternative slow food system focuses on a more resilient structure.

As the resilient alternative to this industrial cycle that many in the industry are championing, Slow Food is focused on returning to the traditional methods and celebrating all things local.

The not for profit grassroots organisation, Slow Food was set up in Italy in the late 1980s in a bid to promote traditional food preparation methods and locally sourced ingredients, going against the arrival of the American fast-food chain McDonald’s in Rome. The eco-gastronomic organisation now has around 100,000 members in over 150 countries. 

Recognising and raising awareness of the negative impact the industrial food system had on society, the economy and the environment, the organisation ignited a Slow Food movement: a new way of conscious consumerism that takes seasonality, locality and tradition into account.

A slow, or resilient food system can take on many forms, starting with us as individuals making a conscious effort to engage with producers, venues and outlets that are aligned with the slow food values, to foraging, growing our own produce and going to local farmers’ markets.

Any involvement in the movement can make a significant difference in local communities and build a more sustainable, resilient and eco-friendly food system.

As the first accredited Slow Food destination in Northern Ireland, the Causeway Coast and Glens have been spearheading the move toward this resilient system and together with Taste Causeway, the collaborative network of local food and drink businesses.

From exciting slow food events to highlighting producers and awarding them with Slow Food accreditation, Taste Causeway and Slow Food NI are putting local suppliers and venues at the forefront of consumers’ minds, one business at a time.

Taste Causeway is delivering Slow Food Causeway with funding from Tourism NI in partnership with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. 

For more information go to https://slowfood.tastecauseway.com/ or follow the hashtags #SlowFoodCauseway and #TasteCauseway

Experience Ards and North Down in 2022!

If you fancy making memories with family and friends this year, discover what Ards and North Down has to offer with a selection of fantastic experiences that allow you to explore fascinating places, enjoy delicious food and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Borough! 

Launching the Experience Ards and North Down programme for 2022 – Jill Hunter and Rua, Tracey Jeffery (Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen), Christine Casey (Kiri Cottage) and Iain McCarthy (SUP Hub NI). Image: Graham Baalham-Curry.

From April through to the end of the year, a fabulous selection of experiences will be available in Ards and North Down. ‘Spring’ into action this April with the Castle Park Minibeasts Kiddies Walk (13 April). Or if you fancy something a little bit different this Easter Sunday, why not try an Easter Egg Hunt on water with the Easter SUP Experience (17 April) at Ballyholme Beach. 

If you ‘knead’ some time for yourself, try the Kneading Yoga Experience (20 April) in the beautiful surroundings of Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen where a one-hour yoga session will be followed by some delightful homemade breads and delicious cake. Alternatively, the Weaving with Nature Experience (22 April) lets you learn basic weaving skills in the stunning Kiri Cottage, using materials you’ve foraged for in the heart of Ards Peninsula. 

Looking beyond April, more experiences will be on offer including a High Tea at Sea (7 May) speedboat experience, Garden Escape (14 May), Art in the Garden (20 May) watercolour workshop and a Bat Walk and Talk (26 May) in Crawfordsburn Country Park. 

As we enter the summer months, many more experiences will be available with plenty to satisfy those who are fond of water. The SUPaoke Experience (3 June) combines paddleboarding with some fun karaoke in the middle of Belfast Lough, or spend some quality time with your family and make great memories by taking a guided kayak tour for Family Time on the Water (5 June)

If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on dry land, why not celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and take a guided walking tour of Bangor with the Jubilee Jaunt Back in Time (5 June) where you will uncover the town’s Royal connections. 

Find out what it takes to look after Castle Espie with the Ranger for a Day Experience (18 June) or if you prefer to go for a walk with your furry friend and enjoy a gin cocktail, Paws for Gin (19 June) is definitely worth a look. 

With many more Experiences in Ards and North Down available over the coming months, there will be plenty of things to do during all seasons of 2022! 

Experiences must be pre-booked so book early to avoid disappointment. For more information, including ticket prices, terms and conditions, and a full list of available Experiences, go to visitardsandnorthdown.com/experienceAND.

6 Tips For Customers Who Want To Embrace Slow Food

Since November 2021, the topic of Slow Food has been on everyone’s lips thanks to the Slow Food Causeway campaign which launched in November 2021. 

For the past four months, both producers and businesses alike have been busy putting on an exciting range of events, dining experiences, tours and special menus celebrating the unique Slow Food and drink culture of the Causeway Coast and helping spread the grassroots movement around Northern Ireland to accomplish a much more delicious and sustainable future.As locals open up to a new and exciting world of all things Slow through the campaign,  there are plenty of other ways that you can follow to keep embracing the Slow Food conversation.  

1. Check out food deliveries in your local area 

Slow Food can start at home. With many Taste Causeway and Slow Food Causeway approved businesses offering a delivery service, it has never been easier to source high quality, local produce straight to the dinner plates of homes across the province. 

Slow Food Northern Ireland Director Paula McIntyre was delighted to discover that during the Coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, a lot of the popular eateries along the North Coast were still delivering their goods.

“A lot of our Taste Causeway people were delivering. I got a delivery of Lacada Ale, a delivery from Corndale Farm, Warke’s Deli, Ursa Minor bread and Glenballyeamon  Eggs” she said.

2. Be open to trying new things

One of the main ethos of Slow Food is being open to trying new produce and uncovering new food favourites, particularly from your local area. 

Paula recommends that when eating out or buying produce, you think carefully and consider the origin of the items.

The popular fish restaurant in Portstewart, Native Seafood and Scran, has been challenging traditional buying behaviour for fish and seafood, selling and cooking only locally caught fish. 

“Native Seafood and Scran  opened just before the pandemic and have sold so much  native seafood since then. Before this, people were buying salmon, which is not slow food by any stretch of the imagination.” Paula said.

3. Ask questions

Embracing the Slow Food movement also requires you to be more curious and have the confidence to challenge producers and businesses in your local area. 

Paula warns to be mindful when reading menus advertising ‘local sea bass’, “Restaurants will put on menus ‘local sea bass’ but in our waters, it’s illegal to fish commercially so you need to call them out.”

When you directly engage with producers or restaurant staff, you can safely enjoy the food knowing that the beef is from down the road, the fish has come off the boat around the corner which plays a big difference to the experience of the food.

“If you’re looking at the menu and it doesn’t say where the steaks come from, just ask.”

4. Visit your local farmers market

The Slow Food movement emphasises buying from vendors based in your community or area instead of solely relying on big chain supermarkets. 

It’s a good habit to check the labels of your food to confirm it was made by a local producer or grown by a local farmer. 

Contact farmers in your area and buy from them directly so you have access to fresh, local food. Get to know your local farmers so you know the history of your food and how it is grown.

Paula believes that buying local produce can help you rediscover new ways of cooking, “People can get back into rediscovering veg like cabbage and different varieties of potato.”

“The possibilities are endless with what you can do with them.”

5. Cook at home from scratch

Following the Slow Food movement involves making an effort to cook your own meals at home on a daily basis. 

Whilst this can be overwhelming if you live a busy lifestyle, you can try to create a meal plan and buy local ingredients at the beginning of the week so you have them already in your cupboards.

Every little helps and by preparing meals at home with fresh ingredients, you have the power to make the Slow Food choice and cook with as many ingredients as you can where you know exactly where it comes from. 

6. Make meals a social event with others 

The Slow Food Movement focuses on slowing down when it comes to eating and sharing meals with others. 

So by getting in the habit of having weekly meals with your family or friends, where you all sit down at the table, connect and make conversation with another.

Taste Causeway is delivering Slow Food Causeway with funding from Tourism NI in partnership with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. 

For more information go to tastecauseway.com/slow-food-causeway or follow the hashtags #SlowFoodCauseway and #TasteCauseway

People With Passion Fit Perfectly In Hospitality And Tourism Sector

Major Industry recruitment campaign critical part of a strategy to address staffing issues and skills shortages

Northern Ireland’s hospitality and tourism industry has been one of the economic success stories, but even before the pandemic skills shortages were hitting the sector, an issue amplified by Brexit and lockdowns resulting in a staffing crisis.

Employer-led network the Hospitality & Tourism Skills network (HATS) has partnered with Tourism NI to spearhead a multi-channel advertising campaign to combat the crisis and promote the breadth of exciting opportunities that the industry has to offer potential job seekers.

Roisin McKee, director of the HATS network is clear there’s a need to restore confidence in the sector so that it is recognised as a stable and vaible option for fulfilling careers

“To help the sector recover, we urgently need to support businesses to fill current vacancies and to raise the profile of positions with good employers and inspire people to consider a career in the industry.”

There are incredible opportunities for people to join this industry yet there are still people who have misconceptions about the types of jobs available and the required skills.  Employers are looking for people with personality and passion”

The industry recruitment campaign aligns employers’ needs, a portal for job applicants, as well as a best practice charter.

Running until the end of March 2022, the campaign features a series of quirky eye-catching job descriptions across billboards, outdoor advertising and social media to attract attention and highlight the dynamic and fast-paced roles available, helping to attract new recruits.

“We have an ambition to be able to attract, develop and retain the future talent that the industry needs,” Roisin explained. 

We want to champion people at the heart of the industry and change the narrative – to be seen as an exciting industry offering quality jobs”

“And at the same time, focus on retaining the people that are already in the  industry.”

Whilst recruitment challenges are not new to the sector, the combination of  skills shortages pre-Covid with the pandemic lockdowns and the impact of Brexit have exacerbated the problem.

“You’ve had that start-stop nature of lockdown and the uncertainty and that forced people to give up on the sector,” said Roisin. 

“People’s priorities have changed and we’ve also seen a lot of overseas workers that the sector is reliant on to help fill vacancies have returned home. The impact has limited their businesses’ ability to be able to operate at full capacity.”

As the hospitality and tourism sector begins to look forward there are key roles that are hard to recruit for, including kitchen staff, food and beverage roles, housekeeping and mid-management.

Roisin believes the new campaign will help address some of the issues but recognises that the industry has wider opportunities.

“We as consumers mostly experience customer facing roles,” she explained.

“However, a career in the industry is not limited  to the reception, bar or the restaurant. There’s a wealth of diverse roles back of house and in supporting roles such as finance, HR, marketing and the wider visitor experience.

“Self-employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are also a huge pull for many entering the sector.  We have people who follow their passion in areas such as craft beers and whiskey for example, and open up distilleries.”

For employers the campaign provides a chance to reach out.

“The campaign on its own isn’t enough.  Businesses have a key role to play in showcasing their  vacancies whether they’re part time, full time, entry level or management,” Roisin explained. 

“And they can do that for free via Careerscope, the campaign job portal run by Springboard. “The opportunities will then be promoted to the job seekers that are being targeted by the campaign.  We encourage businesses where possible to promote the flexibility and training offered in the roles  to encourage more applications.”

Roisin said that with the challenges to attract and retain staff companies are looking at what they can offer.

“Many employers were already making great strides to actually address working practices, the culture, terms and conditions, pay and so on.

“There are many things that employers are doing.

“They are looking at addressing  pay, improving work/life balance, offering perks and incentives, whether that be discounts on products and experiences or health insurance benefits.

“They recognise that they want to recognise and reward staff and set out progression and development opportunities too.”

As the HATS network was founded by a group of core leading employers from the sector from across both hospitality and tourism the employer component is vital explained Roisin. 

“Leading employers  recognised that the attraction and retention of talent was something that the industry needed to get involved in  to address  the situation.

“They’ve come together as part of the HATS network  to put a plan in place to actually look at the activities and the solutions  to be able to tackle these challenges. This campaign is just one of those solutions that has been taken forward.”

“To demonstrate that the industry is offering quality job experiences we’re also asking recruiting employers to sign up to implementing ‘Our Hospitality & Tourism Commitment’ in their business – a voluntary code of working practices developed in partnership with leading employers which covers critical areas such as working hours and learning and development.   

“Whilst employer-led, the overarching objectives of the HATS network to address attraction, retention and employee engagement also involve everyone else with a stake in the sector.

“It’s critical to have that cohort of employers but also the trade partners and delivery partners from government and education,” said Roisin.

“All of them have committed to coming together to  see where we can impact positively on the sector’s issues around skills challenges.”

The ambition of the HATS network also goes beyond the immediate recruitment issues and looks to the longer term.

“There’s wider activity going on in terms of sign-posting training support and putting a spotlight on the career development pathways,” said Roisin. 

“There are many opportunities for people to come into the industry, whether that’s through entry-level academy programmes and progressing on to apprenticeships and other programmes.

“From the HATS network perspective, we see  the industry recruitment campaign as being a catalyst to create a better  awareness of our industry, helping to bring people in.

“We want to be able to progress people on a career pathway. Whether that’s moving vertically or horizontally in the industry to progress their careers.”

The HATS network, which was set up in December 2019,  brings together a diverse mix of employers from across the hospitality and tourism sector alongside industry associations and key delivery partners from government and education in order to collectively address issues around sector image, attractiveness and skills development into and within the sector.

The HATS network project is supported by Invest Northern Ireland under its Collaborative Growth Programme.

Employers can upload their vacancies for free at https://careerscope.uk.net/employer-sign-up

Jobseekers can check out jobs available at https://careerscope.uk.net/jobs/NI

Celeste Barber Announces Belfast Show

Celeste Barber: Fine, Thanks.

Ulster Hall, Belfast: Sunday 18 September

Ticket on Sale NOW

www.ulsterhall.co.uk & www.ticketmaster.ie

Celeste Barber comes to the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Sunday 18 September 2022.

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10am, including 50 Meet & Greet Packages, which will include the best seats in the house plus a socially distanced photo opportunity with Celeste and a signed poster.

Hailed as the “Australian Queen of Comedy”, Celeste’s original celebrity parody Instagram account has attracted over 8.1 million followers.  

In 2019 she released her best-selling book Challenge Accepted and she was also seen on the 2019 Showtime Special of the same name.    In 2020, she won the AACTA (The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards) for Favorite Comedy Performer of the Decade and in 2021, took out a Webby Special Achievement award.

Celeste won the ‘Funniest Lady on Instagram’ Award 2017 on WhoHaha.com; a digital platform co-founded by actor, director, producer, Elizabeth Banks which showcases women in comedy around the world.

In 2019 she was included in Variety Magazine ‘Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch’ and she hosted the 5th Annual Daily Front Row Awards  at the Beverly Hills hotel where the  best in fashion in Hollywood are honored. 

She is currently shooting her Netflix Comedy Wellmania, a new comedic drama series based on the novel Wellmania: Misadventures in the Search for Wellness. The show centers around human tornado Liv (Barber) and a major health crisis where she is forced to rethink her ‘live fast die young’ attitude. Throwing herself body-first into a wellness journey, she tries everything from the benign to the bizarre in an attempt to get well quickly, and reclaim her old life.

In the summer of 2019-20, Australia that was ravaged by extreme bushfires and Barber raised 51 million dollars to support the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Brigades Donation Fund.  Her fundraiser drew global attention and broke records, and help fund much-needed upgrades and providing high-tech equipment to ensure fires are better prepared for the next bushfire season.

Barber currently resides in Australia. 

Tickets on sale NOW: www.ulsterhall.co.uk & www.ticketmaster.ie