Jacqueline shares her pick of what’s on this weekend across NI


SPINNING YARNS is a one-day Festival celebrating the wonderful world of all things associated with wool & linen where we will showcase the colour, creativity and craft associated with these homespun yarns in all their forms.

Find out more HERE


Forest bathing retreat, Killeavy Castle Estate. Rest, reconnect and re-energise during this unique Nurturing Nature retreat, nestled within 350 acres of woodland and a working farm, at the foot of the volcanic mountain Slieve Gullion.

Find out more HERE


The Stormont Hotel Wedding Show takes place on Sunday 3rd September between 1pm and 4pm at the Stormont Hotel and admission is free!

Find out more HERE


The Eats and Beats festival in Newcastle is a celebration of food and music that brings together the best of both worlds. From delicious local cuisine to live performances by some of the hottest acts around, this festival is a must-see event for anyone who loves great food and great music.

Find out more HERE


Lough Erne Pilgrim Way Exhibition.  The Lough Erne Pilgrim Way exhibition is part of a wider programme of events, itineraries, online resources, community engagement, access improvements and conservation initiatives.

Find out more HERE


Dreamscapes, Landscapes, Escapes, The Seamus Heaney Homeplace, Bellaghy.  Featuring Catherine Graham, Kate Newmann, Kathleen McCracken and John T Davies.

Find out more HERE


Dungannon Comedy Festival returns this September for another night of side-splitting laughter with Micky Bartlett, Ciarán Bartlett, William Thompson, Conor Keys and Talal Jomar.

Find out more HERE


10 things to do in Northern Ireland


Here are ten exciting things to do 4-10 September

  1. Armagh Food and Cider Weekend, Armagh, County Armagh, 7-10 September. The Armagh Bramley enjoys protected status, a sign of its uniqueness. This festival celebrates the orchard county and city, coming alive with open air markets, cookery masterclasses, tasting dinners and, of course, orchard and cider tours. One of the highlights is the Bramley Apple Banquet.
  2. Mourne Seafood Cookery School, Kilkeel, County Down, throughout September. Immerse yourself in the ultimate ‘catch to cook’ experience. Based at the Nautilus Centre at Kilkeel Harbour, experience the joy of using the finest locally caught seafood and artisan produce. The ethos is fun, relaxed teaching aimed at inspiring the home cook to extend their skills while highlighting the benefits of eating seafood.
  3. Tree Tours of Lurgan Park, Lurgan, County Armagh, 9 September. Join Paul May on this unique tour to discover the wonderful heritage of this historic park and the native and non-native tree species that inhabit it. Learn how our ancestors used the wood from the various trees and hear the legends and folklore that surround them. Suitable for all ages and abilities. The event is free, but booking is required.
  4. World Illustration Awards Exhibition, Limavady, County Londonderry, 4-10 September. This unique exhibition showcases the industry’s very best, from emerging new talent to well-established illustrators. More than five thousand entries from 77 countries were whittled down to get to what you can see here.
  5. Tour of Ebrington, Derry~Londonderry, County Londonderry 9 September. Join Manus Deery, on a walking tour examining the fortifications of the 19th century Ebrington Square and Star Fort. Learn about past and present plans for the area. The two-hour tour will examine the fortifications of the 19th century fort and the city walls.
  6. Crom Estate, Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, 9 September. Roam the acres of parkland and native broadleaved woodland on the shores of Upper Lough Erne. Explore the ruins of the old castle and see Crom’s famous ancient yew trees for yourself. The area is an important conservation site and makes a great day out.
  7. Art and Soul, Holywood, County Down, 4-10 September. The lush grounds of the Culloden Estate and Spa on the shores of Belfast Lough will be transformed inside and out by 250 artworks by some of the biggest names in international and Irish art. Among those featured are Patrick O’Reilly, Ian Pollock, Giacinto Bosco and Salvador Dali. The exhibition is free and guided tours are available three times daily.
  8. Belfast Maritime Festival, Belfast, County Antrim, 9-10 September. Watch the Titanic Quarter come alive with free entertainment for all to enjoy with live music, interactive demonstrations, street performers and a specially created beach play area. This event, a legacy from the Tall Ships, will host its first Science Street, celebrating all things marine. There’ll be workshops with sustainability as a central theme and underwater robots. Forwater’ of a different kind there’ll be discounted tickets to the Titanic Distillery, food vendors and a Belfast Bazaar showcasing local makers.
  9. Walk & Talk – Omagh’s Built Heritage, Omagh, County Tyrone, 10 September. Join Vincent Brogan on a guided walk around Omagh town, where you will get to see, hear and learn about key aspects of town’s-built heritage. Part of the European Open Doors Day Festival.
  10. Poyntzpass Guided History Walk, Poyntzpass, County Armagh, 9-10 September. This is part of European Heritage Open Days and gives locals and visitors alike the chance to learn more about some of the area’s hidden gems and most interesting historical sites such as the canal and Poyntzpass Railway station.


For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit https://discovernorthernireland.com/

Offers of the week from Discover Northern Ireland

Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, County Down

Bask in nature at The Old Inn, with Treetop Spa access included in your stay, to ensure you have a tranquil Autumn retreat in cosy Crawfordsburn. Indulge in gourmet dining in The Restaurant and enjoy a relaxed cosy vibe in the 1614 Bar. DB&B from £260 per room. Visit https://www.theoldinn.com for more information.

Valley View Country House, Bushmills, County Antrim

This four-star B and B is close to the Giant’s Causeway, The Dark, hedges and Bushmills Distillery and is a great base for exploring the causeway coast. Enjoy a two-night stay in a self-catering lodge from £160. Visit https://www.valleyviewbushmillsaccommodation.com/ for more information.

Finn Lough, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Enjoy an Elements Spa Escape and choose between a bespoke suite or villa and flow through the Elements Spa Trail, combining therapeutic techniques and the healing power of nature. Escape into Nature and let forest bathing imbue you with calm. From £205 per room per night or £305 with the spa experience. Visit https://www.finnlough.com/  for more information.


Book in advance to avoid disappointment. Subject to availability.

For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit https://discovernorthernireland.com/

Ards and North Down’s Arts and Heritage Autumn Programme is Unveiled!

Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Arts and Heritage Autumn Programme has just been released! The exciting schedule of music, events, exhibitions, classes and workshops, covers the September to December period and will be available online to explore and for bookings on Wednesday 30 August.

Highlights from the Autumn Programme include Aspects Festival which is happening from 27 September – 7 October in Bangor and presents another fantastic programme celebrating Irish writing. Renowned for showcasing well-known authors as well as local and emerging talent, the Festival offers an array events exploring memoir, politics, history and poetry as well as new writing, workshops, discussions and more.

The Enchanted House of Puppetry makes a welcome return to Ards Arts Centre on 29 and 30 October, where lots of friendly puppets will ensure everyone has a truly magical experience. Presented by Ards Puppet Festival, the event will feature shows by Banyan and Clydebuilt Theatre and the Garlic Theatre Company with Snug and Grub Catch a Bug and The Bag That Went Boo! Fun for all the family!

Ards Arts Centre is delighted to welcome back the Creative Peninsula Christmas Fayre for the first time since 2019. On Friday 1 and Saturday 2 December, visitors can enjoy a unique shopping experience as Creative Peninsula Artists and Makers showcase and sell their artwork. The perfect place to find that special Christmas gift.

For those who prefer a more hands on approach or would like to learn a new skill, Ards Arts Centre has a full programme of creative classes where you can try something new and create your own unique art and craft.

Music lovers can look forward to the return of the Music in the Chamber series of events at Bangor Castle and the popular Friday Night Live events at Ards Arts Centre.

North Down Museum have lots of intriguing exhibitions happening over the Autumn period, including a ‘Strangford Horse and Other Tales’ a collection of paintings by artist Xander which will be showing in the museum’s Long Gallery from 3 October to 19 November.

The Museum is also delighted to welcome back the Made in AND: Pop-Up Christmas Shop. From 22 November to 7 January, the Museum’s galleries will be filled with beautiful hand-made products from local artists and makers, available for visitors to browse and purchase.

Speaking about the Guide, Arts and Heritage Manager Emily Crawford said: “We have a jam-packed programme for you this autumn/winter with lots of live music, exhibitions, festival events and seasonal activity to get you into the festive spirit. If a hands-on approach is what you’re after we have a brand-new term of creative classes and workshops to encourage your creativity. We look forward to welcoming you to Ards Arts Centre and North Down Museum soon.”

View the full Autumn programme and book tickets at: www.andculture.org.uk

Printed copies of the Autumn Arts and Heritage guide are available from Ards Arts Centre and North Down Museum.

Newcastle Gears Up for Live Music and a World of Cuisine at Eats and Beats

Newcastle has all the ingredients you need for a fantastic weekend at the Eats and Beats free food and music festival on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September.

With two music stages, local and Northern Irish food producers, and an abundance of food vendors, it will be jam-packed with live music and a world of cuisine.

Eats and Beats is a two-day free food and music festival which is expected to once again draw a large crowd to Newcastle.

Festival goers can enjoy delicious fare and drinks at the Producers Pavilion (sponsored by Lexus Belfast) with over 20 local and Northern Irish artisan food producers to sample from and buy.

Music lovers can then dance their way around two music stages, which will offer free live performances on the Homegrown and World Stages over the two days.

There will be a wonderful line-up of cookery demonstrations dishing up a delicious serving of tasty treats over the festival weekend. Visitors can enjoy a delightful local menu selection from the likes of award-winning chef Paul Cunningham of Scopers and Mourne Larder fame.

Killeavy Castle Estate, Mourne Food Adventures and Castlescreen Farm will also be on hand to inspire us with their culinary creations. For those who enjoy a tipple or two the Cocktail Demo from Avoca Hotel will be right up your street. Or whet your appetite with some local craft beers, gin, and whiskey from the likes of Whitewater Brewery, Killowen Distillery and Two Stacks Irish Whiskey. And the Food Village has over 30 food vendors offering local and world cuisine, all supported by a sustainability teepee.

Visitors will be entertained by an incredible array of performances offering an eclectic mix of styles and genres that is sure to create a big festival vibe across the seaside town. Live music at the Homegrown stage in Donard Park starts each day from 11am — be sure to check the various artists set times at: https://www.visitmournemountains.co.uk/whats-on/giant-adventures/eats-and-beats-festival-newcastle

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Valerie Harte said, “Newry, Mourne and Down is becoming well known for its quality food and drink and it has long had a strong track record for producing talented and successful musicians. The Eats and Beats festival will be an excellent opportunity to sample our award-winning food, great drinks, chart-topping music, but above all else, a fantastic time with friends and family.”

Councillor Harte continued, “We are especially proud this year that the landscape underpinning our Giant Adventures is part of the recently designated Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Geopark. All roads lead to Newcastle on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September as the Eats and Beats festival finishes off the Council’s summer events programme on a high.”

Jonathon Lavery, Sales Manager at Lexus Belfast, said, “Lexus Belfast is delighted to be sponsoring the Producers Pavilion at the 2023 Eats and Beats Festival. As a brand, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and striving towards a sustainable future. Our aim is to help design the future by delivering Lexus Electrified vehicles and we are glad to be partnering up with the Eats and Beats Festival, who have sustainability and supporting local businesses at the forefront of the event.”

On the Homegrown stage in Donard Park its two day line-up will be hosted by QRadio presenter, comedian and DJ Ryan Hand.  The festival weekend will see incredible music from the likes of The Answer, Ryan McMullan, Lemonade Shoelace, Ria Maguire, and Belfast’s very own Brian Kennedy who is sure to add to the festival atmosphere.


Anyone looking for something different will find it at the World Stage in Donard Park, hosted by Ripton Lindsay. Here you can lose yourself in the vibes of Basork – Balkan Alien Sound and the unmissable sounds of the Streetwise Circus Samba Band. The Reverend Doc & The Flying Squad and Mirenda Rosenberg will also take to the World Stage over the two-day event.


For visitors travelling to Newcastle, a Park and Ride will operate from the Northfield site on the A50 Castlewellan Road on both days.  Public toilets and Accessoloo will be located across the site.

Stay tuned to the Visit Mourne Social Media pages where the full festival line-up, carparking and other important festival information will be available throughout the weekend. Further information on where to stay, eat, and things to do during your stay can be found at visitmournemountains.co.uk.

Hillsborough Ready To Drink Cocktail Brand Smashes £450,000 Crowdfunding Target In Just 24 Hours

A Hillsborough drinks brand has smashed a £450,000 crowdfunding investment target in less than a day.

Not just that the company, Wavey Ice, is celebrating tripling its sales in the last 12 months as consumers embrace their unique range of vibrant beverages.

The ready-to-drink business which has raised over £500,000 with 79 investors is hoping to hit a £600,000 target by next week.

Wavey Ice produces a fun, vibrant range of alcoholic, non-alcoholic cocktails and nostalgic boozy Ice pops and say they’re on a “mission to redefine the ready-to-drink experience by crafting irresistible pops and cocktails that capture the essence of playfulness and creativity”.

The funding is being raised using the equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs which is enabling the company to invest in product development and introduce its drinks to more people as customer demand continues to grow both in the UK and internationally.

The pandemic sparked a trend for ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails as younger drinkers sought more fruity, colourful and playful alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to suit their lifestyles. The RTD sector continues to outperform the spirits category with its sales value growing 8.1% to £866m in 2022* and with 61% of people aged 18-34 enjoying a RTD alcoholic drink in 2022, the opportunity to innovate and grow the Wavey Ice brand is clear.

Wavey Ice launched in London in 2014 and was one of the first on the scene creating boozy retro ice Pops. The business was acquired in 2022 and is now run by managing director and head of production, Laura Davis and a team of four.

Laura Davis, managing director and head of production at Wavey Ice said: “We’re over-the-moon to have smashed our crowdfunding target so quickly! This overwhelming support demonstrates what we already knew that our playful, nostalgic ice Pops and RTD cocktails are a smash with consumers.”

“During lockdown we gifted the Pops to our family and friends as a way of connecting, having a laugh and delivering fun energy to each other. One of the most popular gifts was mixed boxes of Wavey Ice Pops which are an adult twist on childhood favourites that give off a nostalgic summer vibe. We jumped on the opportunity to buy the business as we knew it had a lot of potential, and it’s been a canny move as we’ve tripled sales. 

“We’ve invested in NPD and developed Sips, ready-to-drink alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, which have been massively popular and stand-out sellers. Our crowdfunding campaign will help us bring our vibrant products to new markets and make waves in the industry.”

The business has had huge success collaborating with celebrities and influencers such as Olympic diver, Tom Daley, by supplying drinks to The Voice UK team and creatively leveraging social platforms like TikTok and Instagram. It has built a loyal following by connecting with its audience of young people who respect its authentic and playful personality. 

Laura Davis adds: “Ultimately, our goal is to be a brand that inspires joy, creates unforgettable moments, and becomes a household name known for its exceptional products and sustainable practices. As we embark on this exciting journey, we invite our customers, investors, and partners to join us in shaping the future of Wavey Ice together.”

Wavey Ice recently launched a seven-strong RTD range called Sips, which are single serve pre-mixed alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktail pouches. They are the perfect no-hassle party addition, simply chill, shake and Sip, or freeze them for an instant boozy slushie.

Sips have been developed by in-house mixologists and are ready-to-drink, hassle free and delicious. There are currently five alcoholic flavours – Trippy Tropical Rum Punch, Easy Espresso Martini, Perky Pornstar Martini, Slutty Strawberry Daiquiri and OG Orange & Vodka – and two recent non-alcoholic additions – Virgin Mango Pineapple Mojito and Virgin Sex on the Beach. With plans for adding even more tantalising flavours to the line-up! 

Its iconic Pops range is one of the OGs in the frozen alcoholic treat market and was launched in 2014. The range of three nostalgic ice Pops; Kola & Spiced Rum, Watermelon & Vodka and Black Grape & White Rum are made with premium alcohol and all pack and flavourful punch.

The Wavey Ice crowdfunding campaign launched to the public at the start of August through equity crowdfunding company, Seedrs.

There are a range of investor perks for different levels of support including 10% discount for three months for a £25 investment, a year of discounts, ownership and an exclusive Wavey Ice t-shirt for £100 investment and there are five exclusive perks for £10,000 investors which include one-year supply of Sips and Pops (260 each), a cool-box, an opportunity to create a bespoke cocktail with its R&D team, along with a lifetime discount and full ownership.

For more information on the Wavey Ice Seedrs crowdfunding campaign to go seedrs.com/wavey-ice 


The two largest Irish sculptures to ever come to the art market are currently on display at international art and sculpture fair, Art and Soul at the Culloden Estate & Spa.

Larger than Life, from Patrick O’Reilly’s bear series, stands at an impressive 4m and is the largest single bronze sculpture by an Irish artist.

Oliver Gormley (L), of Gormleys, and Howard Hastings, chairman of Hastings Hotels, with Patrick O’Reilly’s Larger than Life, the largest single-piece Irish sculpture to ever come to the art market, which will feature at Ireland’s biggest art and sculpture event, Art and Soul, hosted by Gormleys at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast from August 19 – Sept 10. Image by Press Eye.

It is joined by Wind and Sea by Paddy Campbell, which reaches 4.3m. The pieces have a combined value of almost £800,000 and weigh around 2 tonnes each.

Art and Soul, curated by Gormleys, is the largest ever sculpture exhibition to take place on the island of Ireland and runs until September 10.

The free event will feature a major outdoor exhibition of 80 large sculptures and installations set throughout 12 acres of landscaped grounds.

More than 280 works by international artists alongside a host of artists from Northern Ireland including Stephen Johnston, Jane Rainey, Stephen Forbes and Ian Cumberland and leading Irish sculptors Patrick O’Reilly, Ian Pollock, Bob Quinn, Sandra Bell, Eamonn Ceannt, John Fitzgerald, Anthony Scott and Orla De Brí, are on display.

It also includes exhibitions by renowned Irish artists Martin Mooney, Maser, Peter Monaghan, Gordon Harris and Stephen Forbes.

The hotel’s interior is displaying 100 artworks by some of the world’s best-known artists, including Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, Damien Hirst, Salvador Dali and Banksy.

“We are delighted to return this fair to the Culloden, where it first began,” said Oliver Gormley of Gormleys.

“It gives art lovers a unique opportunity to view these incredible works in the beautiful surroundings of the estate.”

All works will be for sale, with prices ranging from £1,000 to £425,000. Art and Soul 2023 will mark ten years of Gormleys events at the five-star Culloden.

“We have been hosting this internationally acclaimed event for over a decade, in partnership with Gormleys Fine Art, and are delighted to once again exhibit some of the most impressive pieces from world-renowned artists – as well as a host of local talent,” said Howard Hastings, chairman of Hastings Hotels.

“This edition of Art and Soul is a true exhibition of brilliance with works by celebrated artists.

Once again, we are supporting local artists across Northern Ireland too – and I’m proud to shine a light on the talent we have right on our doorstep, enabling them to share centre stage with some of the world’s most celebrated artists.”

To celebrate the event, the Culloden Estate and Spa is offering deals on breaks and dining, including an Art and Soul ‘Sip and See’ package from £390 per night for two, including accommodation, breakfast, champagne and canapés in the Bollinger champagne garden.

An afternoon tea among the artwork, Fancies with Fine Art, and an Art and Soul tasting menu in the Culloden’s fine dining restaurant Vespers are also offered by the five star estate.

During the event, there will be a programme of artists’ talks and daily guided tours.

Art and Soul is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council and will be open to the public daily from 11am–7pm.

More information and accommodation offers can be found at www.cullodenestateandspa.com/art-and-soul


The Market Place Theatre in Armagh is kicking off its Autumn ’23 season with a superb range of entertainment, including two very different musical performances.

‘Here Come The Girls’ will feature eleven amazing diva tributes in one great show! Celebrating some of the finest female artists of all time, and featuring Cher, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Shania Twain, Annie Lennox, Gloria Estefan, Blondie, Katy Perry, Adele, Abba and Bananarama!

All of your favourite songs from your favourite female artists spanning five decades, in one spectacular, fun, fast paced, energetic show! ‘Here Come The Girls’ will be staged on Friday 8 September. Tickets are priced £22.50 each.

On the same evening, trio TRÚ will take to the stage. TRÚ draw their inspiration from the mythological trio of poet-musicians who were revered throughout the Celtic world. Michael Mormecha [percussion/vox], Zachary Trouton [guitars/vox] and Dónal Kearney [flute/vox] come from different musical backgrounds.

The three are children of the Peace Agreement in post-conflict Northern Ireland. From their British-Ukrainian, Ulster-Scots and Irish heritage, they have inherited an unusual and fruitful ethos based on respect and exploration.

Despite their individuality and an eclectic repertoire of influences from Clannad to Nine Inch Nails via Joni Mitchell and The Beatles, the trio’s collective chemistry is enchanting audiences with powerful storytelling and noteworthy songcraft.

These are stories told with a contemporary voice. There is nothing traditional about TRÚ except the songs themselves. Tickets for TRÚ can be booked for £15 each at www.visitarmagh.com/marketplacetheatre or through the Box Office on 03300 561 025.

10 things to do in Northern Ireland

Here are ten exciting things to do 28 August- 3 September

  1. HotBox Field Trip, Limavady, County Londonderry, 28 August. Destress and unwind in this wood fired hot tub or sweat it out in the Finnish sauna. This pop up, usually on Benone Strand, is taking to a tranquil new woodland setting at Drumagosker. After braving the heat take the plunge in icy showers, before relaxing in front of the fire pit with warming mugs of tea.
  2. Eats and Beats Festival, Newcastle, County Down, 2-3 September. This festival is a must for foodies and music lovers. A celebration of delicious local cuisine alongside great live performances by some of the hottest acts around. Eats and Beats draws thousands of visitors each year who come to sample the incredible food and soak up the festive atmosphere all set against the fabulous backdrop of the majestic Mournes.
  3. Tide and Turf Portavogie, Portavogie, County Down, 2 September. Set along the harbour and fish market this free family event showcases local produce with a special emphasis on the renowned seafood and beef. Pick up a snack from the many food stalls or be inspired by chef Paula McIntyre on how to cook up a storm in your own kitchen! Children can try the pedal boats or sand crafts and there’s live music from The String Ninjas and Bangor band the Florentinas who are making big waves on the local scene.
  4. Guided Tours of the Archbishop’s Palace, Armagh, County Armagh, 3 September. Take the chance to see behind the doors of what was the home of the Church of Ireland’s Primate’s from the 1700’s until 1970’s. This hour-long tour will guide you around this wonderful neo classical listed building.
  5. After the Rain, Derry ~ Londonderry, County Londonderry 26 August. The French circus Collective, Compagnie XY, accompanied by a 50 plus strong local ensemble of acrobats, local musicians and choirs will be in Guildhall Square. This specially commissioned event celebrates the resilience of the people and communities of the city 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement.
  6. Fermanagh Fun Farm, Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, 28 August. A fun day out for little children with the chance to meet 150 rescued and adopted animals. This social enterprise offers the opportunity to handle and feed some of the pets. A great day for hand on family memories with donkey and pony walking and grooming, a soft play area and indoor play barn.
  7. Downpatrick Racecourse, Downpatrick, County Down, 28 August. It’s Ladies Day at this historic course which has been hosting horses and riders for 150 years. Enjoy a fun day out of racing and fashion followed by live music. The turnstiles will open two hours before the first race.
  8. An Creagán, Omagh, County Tyrone, 25-27 August. Enjoy fantastic cycling and walking trails, all nestled in an area of outstanding natural beauty at the foot of the specular Sperrins. Catering for all tastes, there’s a wild wood for children and a forest walk and boardwalk for bigger kids. If history is your thing, there’s a reconstructed Bronze Age dwelling. Explore the community garden and refuel and relax after your exertions in the coffee shop, complete with an open fire, and pick up cool gifts in the craft shop.
  9. Spinning Yarns Festival, Newtownabbey, County Antrim, 2 September. Mossley Mill has a packed programme of workshops and stalls celebrating all things woolly. There’ll be traders from across Northern Ireland offering afternoon teas, artisan craft and gift stalls and much more.
  10. Belfast International Tattoo, Belfast, County Antrim, 1-2 September. Per head of the population there are more marching bands here than anywhere else in the world. This event is routed in the history, music, and dance traditions of the Ulster Scots. Pipe bands from across the globe will amass at the SSE Arena with the Majesticks Drum Corps and the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra among those taking part in this musical spectacle.


For more information on what’s on or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit https://discovernorthernireland.com/


“AI Is An Inevitable Tool That Businesses Should Be Integrating Into Their Marketing Strategy” Says Content Expert

The hype of AI isn’t going away and neither is the idea that it can “revolutionise” your marketing, especially if you’re the type of business that’s struggling to keep up with the demands practically and financially.

Whilst it’s absolutely true that, used properly, AI can provide you with a vital resource which can reduce time spent on creating content it can also, however, have a negative impact on your business if used badly.

Comms strategist and director of Excalibur Press Tina Calder said companies who ignore AI could find themselves on the “back foot” at a later date.

However, she warns that agencies like hers must also be using the tools responsibly and ethically.

“Earlier this year at Excalibur Press we realised AI wasn’t going away and tools like ChatGPT were going to continue to dominate the minds of not just many of our clients but also our staff and interns”, she said.

“With that in mind we immediately put in place a constantly updated AI Usage Policy and AI Best Practice Guidelines. 

“We operate on the basis that working with AI must be ethical and professional, therefore, if we use AI for a client we inform that client. After all, ultimately the choice must be theirs as to whether they will accept content that has some form of input from AI platforms such as ChatGPT. 

“Whilst the use of AI is not prohibited within Excalibur Press its use is strictly limited to being a research resource.”

Approach with care

The benefits of AI have been lauded across the communications world with many small businesses and marketing teams hailing it as a “saviour” and “the answer to their prayers”.

With that said, Tina said it’s important for people to spend time understanding how to use the tools effectively and efficiently.

She explained: “Whilst my scepticism of AI copywriting tools in particular has waned and I now train in-house teams to use it effectively, it’s absolutely vital that those who use it understand it can never really replace human expertise, experience and analytical thought.

“Like Canva, Hootsuite, Hubspot and many more tools that sit in our marketing stack your AI tools should be exactly that, a tool that helps you work more efficiently.”

Among the sticking points for Tina are things such as nuance and vernacular, detail, analysis, accuracy and true marketing copywriting.

“There’s absolutely no doubt having tools like ChatGPT in your marketing stack can help you level up your game. It’s essential to ensure that you understand the limitations in comparison to your own brain” she said.

“In my experience AI tools simply can’t get the right nuance and vernacular that I personally would use when writing. It doesn’t really have an attitude. Yes, it can mimic an attitude and a style of writing but it’s a bit dad dancing at a disco or a mum using the aubergine emoji to mean an aubergine. It was just a bit ‘off’.

“In properly informed copywriting the devil is in the detail. It’s why you pay for research, expertise and experience and anything I’ve managed to get out of the AI was simply surface level knowledge. It has always required my time and effort to mould into the right piece.

When it comes to real human analysis, no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t get real analysis out of the tool. That human thought process that brings context and humanity to what’s being written. 

“Much has been written about the limitations of AI and its knowledge bank. I had a significant number of incidences where it gave me irrelevant, incorrect and inaccurate information and examples. Even just asking it about myself and my career I found it was way off, and, in one case, completely reported information that was totally wrong. It also often makes suggestions that are out of date, ill informed and things that would be rather embarrassing if one of my writers turned in the content to me.”

There is hope for AI

Despite the lack of abilities the current machine learning models have, AI is an ever changing technology and will continue to grow and get better as we, humans, get better at teaching it.

Tina explained that businesses shouldn’t be deciding whether to embrace it or not but rather how they should be embracing it.

“It’s not all bad news. There’s certainly a right time and a right place for using tools like ChatGPT and, in my mind, it’s the same principle that I apply to Canva.

“If the person using the tool is professional, knowledgeable and experienced enough they will have great success using the tool to optimise their workflow, speed up their brainstorming and research and, ultimately, assist them in delivering their expertise in a speedier manner.

“However, what it is not, is a replacement for this professionalism, knowledge and experience. We have found that no matter how much you train it, no matter how much information you feed the system an AI tool cannot currently deep dive into our client’s business, their customer mindset and the style in which the content needs to be delivered whilst considering the psychology of the customer journey, geographic and cultural considerations and – ultimately – the style the client likes to see their content presented in.”

How do you use it efficiently?

According to Tina embracing AI is “not optional”. 

She said: “AI is many things to many people but ultimately if you see it in the way we do at Excalibur Press you can better understand its functional use and benefit.

“It’s the intern you really want – if you brief it well enough, give it the right background and teach it enough information then AI copywriting tools can deliver you work that is definitely as good as a graduate intern. Whilst not always perfect, it’s much easier for us to edit and work with something that’s already on the page.

“It can be the mentor you wish you had – sometimes you just want someone to ask questions to, check on past trends, ask about traditional tactics and strategies and learn from a brain full of knowledge. You don’t necessarily want this person to do the job for you, just be a sounding board that you can ask questions to that you may not want to be seen asking in the office.

“It’s a good desktop research tool – sometimes when you just need some quick information organised in a certain fashion so that you can see/read it all at once and quickly, AI can be your saviour. It’s always important for you to back up the research yourself to ensure it’s correct but it’s a great speedy resource for “on the go” information.

“It can become someone to brainstorm with – many people just don’t have the luxury of colleagues to be able to brainstorm ideas with, to figure things out and throw around some ideas to see what pops up. AI is great for this, it’s a brilliant space to brainstorm in a way where you’re leading the charge and you can quickly change the course of the brainstorm without offending anyone if it isn’t going the way you want it to.”

It would seem that in order to make AI work for you it’s important to figure out what you want it to help you with. 

“So many people just jump in, open a new tab and say ‘create me 10 social media posts for a hairdresser,’ said Tina, adding: “And what comes back is bland, generic content that doesn’t reflect the brand at all.

“Think of ChatGPT and other AI copywriting tools as another member of staff. Consider what you want them to do, what you need out of it and how much time you have to commit to ensuring they are well briefed and that you have set time aside to edit, amend and review their content.”

Throughout the month of September Tina will be delivering a number of free training sessions around ChatGPT including Zoom @ Noon for Social Enterprise NI on September 12, TechConnect in Dublin on September 14 and in a free webinar on September 28. For more information go to excaliburpress.co.uk/events


If you would like to find out more about Excalibur Press’ training and content services which includes content creation, ChatGPT training, copywriting, social media management and website development contact Tina Calder on tina@excaliburpress.co.uk or go to excaliburpress.co.uk