Glentoran FC Announce Support For Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid’s Latest Awareness And Fundraising Campaign

The East Belfast based football club have announced their involvement in the charity’s campaign which strives to raise awareness of the shocking reality of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland and raise funds to support their vital work in the community

Glentoran FC have endorsed Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid’s latest campaign – the #10KbyMay challenge- and have encouraged their fans to get involved and show support.

The challenge, which was launched at the end of January, seeks to encourage the people of Belfast and Lisburn to take part in a 10K run, walk, or cycle on or around May 1st this year. 

The charity launched the campaign in a bid to raise community spirits and encourage an active lifestyle during Covid-19 lockdowns, whilst also raising awareness of and funds for their vital work with women and children.

The motivation behind the campaign is to inspire communities in Belfast and Lisburn to get involved with supporting Women’s Aid, as well as look after their mental and physical health during Covid-19 lockdowns, a feat which Glentoran jumped at the opportunity to get behind.

They approached the charity shortly after the campaign launched back in January and offered their endorsement and support in what they understood was – and still remains – a demanding time for domestic abuse charities.

On their website, the club have issued the statement: “Glentoran Football Club is delighted to support the excellent work done by the employees and volunteers at Women’s Aid, so we are very happy to formally endorse the 10K by May initiative run by Women’s Aid in Belfast and Lisburn”

Glentoran General Manager Ian Clarke said of the club’s involvement: “We are well aware of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns have had on so many aspects of our society and on our daily lives. We are also aware of news reports indicating the very worrying increase in domestic abuse related offences over the past year. 

“As a club with very strong community roots, Glentoran wishes to support Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid in their vital work protecting victims of domestic abuse across our society and offering practical help to those vulnerable to abuse. We encourage the Glentoran Family and society as a whole play their part, however small, in raising money for this very important cause.”

Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid Chief Executive Kelly Andrews added: “We are very grateful to have the support of Glentoran FC for our #10KbyMay campaign, and truly appreciate their commitment to helping us continue to raise awareness among the general public of the work we do as well as raising funds to support our work.

“In what is a difficult time for everyone, it’s great to see a club which already has a strong sense of community supporting us with our community efforts. We’re excited to continue to work closely with Glentoran for the remainder of this campaign and look forward to having their support in the future.”

Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid and Glentoran FC are encouraging everyone to consider getting involved in the #10KbyMay challenge, whether they want to run, walk or cycle the distance. 

For more information about the campaign you can get in touch via events@belfastwomensaid.org.uk or visit the Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid belfastwomensaid.org.uk.

Car Tech Company Welcomes Tougher Action On Mobile Phone Use In Cars

The Chief Executive of car technology company Bluesona, Mel Morrison, has welcomed the introduction of tougher action on mobile phone use while driving as an important step in improving safety.

Downpatrick-based Bluesona works with insurance companies to provide a system, LoopMatics, that tackles distraction driving caused by mobile phone calls.

“The changes to The Road Traffic Offenders (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Order 2020 are vital,” said Mr Morrison. “They are a clear signal that mobile phone use while driving is the worst type of distraction for a motorist.”

Under the changes approved the fine for using a handheld mobile phone was increased from £60 to £200 and the number of penalty points increased to six. A second offence will lead to the loss of their licence.

Bluesona’s LoopMatics system tracks the driver’s on road behaviour as well as recording their mobile phone use. It is designed to encourage safer driving by providing feedback to the user on their journey and flagging the times when a mobile is used.

“The Statutory Rules introduced by Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, are an important step forward,” said Mr Morrison. “Hopefully they will indicate to all drivers that it is not legal, and not acceptable to use a mobile when behind the wheel.

“And I particularly welcome the fact that all parties backed Ms Mallon’s changes, and spoke so powerfully in the Assembly chamber.”

From 2017 Bluesona has focused on making driving safer, in partnership with insurance companies. Unlike many of the ‘black box’ style devices they developed LoopMatics uses a simple plug-in to track journeys, acceleration, heavy braking and if these coincide with using a mobile.

During the discussion on the changes to the Road Traffic Offenders Order Ms Mallon said that she had consulted with the Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee, Justice Minister, Naomi Long, and PSNI Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, and that all backed the increased penalties.

“The illegal use of a mobile phone while driving is a selfish disregard for the law,” the SDLP MLA said bringing forward her proposals in the chamber. “It poses a serious threat to not just the driver who made the selfish choice but to many other innocent road users. The consequences can be devastating.”

Mr Morrison said that he was conscious when developing LoopMatics it was clear there needed to be more than just a nudge to the way mobile phone use is thought about.

“There needs to be a change of attitude, and a change in behaviour,” he said. “It needs to be based on it becoming the norm to stop using phones when behind the wheel.

“And, I congratulate the Assembly parties and members on passing the changes with no opposition. Too often we forget the role of MLAs in introducing safety measures.”

Under the changes newly qualified drivers who commit the offence will also be banned on their first offence as a result of the increase in penalty points.

Chair of the Assembly Infrastructure Committee, Michelle McIlveen, said: “As we are all aware, the technical advancements in phones have made the device an indispensable addition to our lives.

“However, it is the urge to check messages and respond to the sound of a notification that makes them so dangerous whilst driving.”

The DUP member also said that the committee would support the planned review of mobile phone offences to be carried out in line with the English and Welsh Department for Transport review.

Sinn Féin’s Cathal Boylan reflected on the impact of fatal road accidents.

“It is often said that a single death on a road is one too many,” he said. “We must improve road safety in any way that we can.

“We all know how families and, indeed, communities are affected by a death. It is incumbent on us to try our best to introduce as many measures as possible.”

Ulster Unionist, Roy Beggs, said: “The use of mobile phones has become more and more common. Many people are almost addicted to them. They forget the risks that are involved in being distracted when driving, even by considering the use of such a phone.”

Andrew Muir of the Alliance Party echoed the seriousness of the issue.

“Fifty-six people died on our roads in Northern Ireland last year,” he said. “Nine in 10 road deaths and serious injuries are caused by human error. That is why we must come down hard on those being reckless with the safety of others.”

Mr Morrison said that safety was the ultimate aim of Bluesona and LoopMatics, through its ability to show drivers, in an easy to use interface the habits, especially in terms of mobile phone use that needs to change.

Bluesona is based in Downpatrick and has a centre in Letterkenny. They offer their LoopMatics software to customers through various insurance companies.

Find out more at bluesona.co.uk

Culture Night Belfast Presents Showcase Event with Out to Lunch Festival 2021

 Writer Stephen Connolly and Culture Night Belfast director Susan Picken. Stephen will be performing for the Culture Night Belfast Showcase for the Out To Lunch festival in association with The Office of the Executive Office in Brussels and Arts Council NI.

Northern Ireland’s talent will be highlighted to the world as Culture Night Belfast continues to support local artists in collaboration with Out To Lunch Festival supported by The Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels and Arts Council NI.

‘A Taste of Belfast and Brussels’ will be broadcast as part of the Out To Lunch festival and features musicians Anthony Toner, Ursula Burns and Ciara O’Neill and poet Stephen Connolly.

Pre-recorded at Rosemary Street Church before Christmas, the event will be broadcast at 1pm on Tuesday, January 19 2021.

Susan Picken, Director of the Cathedral Quarter Trust and Culture Night Belfast said: “2020 has been a very challenging year for Culture Night Belfast but it was wonderful to end it on a high, working with some brilliant artists as well as with Out to Lunch, The Office of the Executive Office in Brussels and Arts Council NI.

“We’re really delighted with the showcase that will be broadcast this month. It’s a great taster of the talents of Anthony, Ursula, Stephen and Ciara and a reminder of just how uplifting and important the work of our artists and performers is. And made even more special by the setting of the beautiful Rosemary Street Church.”

Since 2012, the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels has worked with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to present a Culture Night showcase of the best of Northern Irish arts and culture, bringing a host of musicians, writers and performers to Brussels and introducing their work to an appreciative international audience.

Over the years the programme has featured acclaimed Northern Irish talent including Joshua Burnside and Grainne Holland and the event has now become a highlight of the Brussels cultural calendar.

For obvious reasons, the 2020 edition has had to be reimagined for the post-COVID world and, as the online version of the event featuring some of the artists who have taken part in previous years.

Singer-songwriter Anthony Toner is a gifted guitarist and one of Northern Ireland’s most popular live acts, with a wonderfully warm and lyrical style.

Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and comedienne Ursula Burns has been smashing the stereo-typical image of the harp for 25 years by performing and touring the world with her music through Song writing, Theatre, Circus and Comedy. Having played everywhere from the Albert Hall to the boot of her Tardis Imaginarium,

Stephen Connolly is a writer and publisher who runs The Lifeboat Press. He edited New Poets from the North of Ireland with Sinéad Morrissey for Blackstaff Press and his poems have appeared in Poetry (Chicago) and Poetry Ireland Review. He is currently writing a book about running.

Local songwriter Ciara O’Neill has received international attention and acclaim over the last six years working with some of the greats in Nashville

This year Ciara has already recorded a socially distanced performance for a short film created with Tourism Ireland and Distant Sky. She will release a new EP early 2021 and is working on her third album.

To book your free ticket go to >> https://cqaf.com/a-taste-of-belfast-and-brussels 

Special Needs Funding Gap Worsens Anxiety As Parents Are Forced To Pay For Private Assessments

Meta Auden of Spectra Sensory Clothing Photo – Francine Montgomery | Excalibur Press

Government targets to have children to have an assessment and statement of special needs within 34 weeks could be at risk unless another £30m of funding is made available, according to evidence given to Department of Education officials.

Ricky Irwin was giving evidence to the Assembly Committee for Education in the wake of a scathing report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) which said that 85% of children wait more than the statutory 26 weeks for an assessment and statement.

Meta Auden, founder of Spectra Sensory Clothing, said parents are being forced to pay out hundreds.

“One of my customers has private health care but it does not cover the autism spectrum, so she is going for a diagnosis to a private clinic where the cost is nearly £400.00,” she said.

“There are not many who can afford this and considering that 85% of young adults with autism are unlikely to be in work compared to the rest of the young adult population the private route is not feasible.”

The evidence to the Assembly committee comes two weeks after health minister Robin Swann revealed that 603 have been waiting for more than a year for assessment.

The NIAO report said that the wait for children to have the assessment completed is nearly as bad, with an average of 45 weeks on the list.

New rules and a code of practice states that the limit for an Education Authority to complete the assessment and statement of special needs will be cut from 26 to 22 weeks.

“This means that the children are struggling at school, as no help without diagnosis,” said Meta. “The problem for many of our customers and in support groups, is the length of time before a diagnosis.

“Most parents know before a diagnosis that their child is on the spectrum, but also some for whom a diagnosis brings relief and understanding of their child’s behaviour.”

In his evidence to the committee for education Mr Irwin said that there is some worry that the extra monies needed may not be available.

“The financial environment next year will be extremely challenging,” he said. “We haven’t got any confirmation at this stage around the £30m pressure.”

Funding for Special Educational Needs covers support in special schools, children in mainstream with SEN and statements, SEN transport and support services for SEN through the Education Authority.

Meta Auden said that often it is not always clear what support is needed even once a child receives an assessment.

“There is not a one size fits all, each child will have different needs and the longer they go undiagnosed the more their education will suffer,” she explained. “I also feel that many do not understand the pressure parents are facing on a daily basis just getting their child out to school, only for the child not to receive any help when there.

“With no help, these children are being let down and their full potential not being realised.

The waiting lists are not going away, they will grow as more children will be diagnosed this year with autism than with cancer or Downs.”

Chairman of the Education Committee, Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, said that without funding there is no likelihood for change.

“The new regulations and code of practice can introduce new time limits and new deadlines but if the resources aren’t in place are they going to address the abject failure to assess and respond to special educational needs of children in a timely way?” he said.

The Northern Ireland Audit Office said that the Educational Authority procedures may not be “fit for purpose”. This came after an internal audit by the EA said that there were many failings. There is another internal investigation underway.

Meta Auden said that it has been an ongoing problem for so many years.

“I was lucky when my daughter was younger to have an assessment and a great classroom assistant,” she said. “However, too many parents are waiting too long and ultimately this causes problems and is, frankly, a disgrace.

“Of course we need the investigations to show the way to improve the situation, but we also need the funding and the will to make changes.”

At present one in five of Northern Ireland pupils has special educational needs, more than 67,000 pupils.

Find out more about Spectra Sensory’s range of sensory clothing and autism aids at spectrasensoryclothing.co.uk

YouTube Star Adam B Shows Support For Bullied Derry Teen

When Northern Ireland YouTube sensation Adam B learned that a local teenager was being bullied at school he leapt into action with a birthday gift of £5,000 worth of tech equipment to help him make more and better videos.

Adam B, aka Adam Beales, reached out to 14-year-old Stewart O’Doherty after reading a tweet from Stewart’s sister Molly about what he was enduring in school.

The 21-year-old YouTube star who has amassed more than 3 million subscribers to his channel said he could relate to what the young man was going through.

“I went through a very similar position to Stewart,” Adam explained. 

“I know exactly what he’s going through. And the main message in making the video and giving the gifts will be to highlight bullying and the huge negative effects it has on kids.”

Stewart started his channel about a year ago but really began making regular YouTube content during lockdown, and when he returned to school the online bullying followed the Derry teen.

“When we went back to school in September, the physical bullying started,” said Stewart. 

“At first it started with sly comments, but then it grew to people physically throwing stuff at me.

“I didn’t give up on the idea of YouTubing, but I didn’t upload much because of what was happening.”

Stewart’s plight came out when he told his 18-year-old sister Molly.

“When Stewart told me I was absolutely livid,” she said. I was so annoyed with myself because I hadn’t been able to do anything to help but it was only because I didn’t know.

“Stewart just loved doing his YouTube channel – it was just silly wee things like challenges and that type of thing. He just enjoyed it. He wasn’t doing any harm and it certainly was no reason for him to be bullied.”

Molly tweeted about the bullying and caught the attention of Blue Peter presenter Adam B.

“The tweet has gone viral with huge support from other content creators like myself,” explained Adam. 

“However, what Stewart didn’t know is that I would be surprising him on his birthday with a video message.”

As Stewart chatted to his YouTube idol on FaceTime he was told to look outside where Adam was waiting with the tech package of gifts.

“I gave Stewart a laptop, cameras, mics, speakers, GoPros, tripods, a segway, airpods, smart watch, headphones, computer mouse, a camera gimbal plus a few other gadgets to help him on his YouTube journey,” said Adam. 

“I wanted to give him these gadgets so that he could have a kickstart on YouTube and something to show the bullies that he doesn’t need to listen to them.”

And, Stewart is now even more determined to keep making content.

“There are no words for me to say what I want to Adam. He’ll never know what he’s done for me,” he said. 

“He’s given me back my confidence and I know now that I can pursue – and fulfil – my dream.”

However, he also had a word for his bullies.

“I’d like to thank the people who bullied me,” said Stewart.

“I’d like to say to them, ‘Thank you’, because, without them, I would never have been able to meet my idol, Adam B.

“I’d also like to tell them that bullying someone for doing what they love to do doesn’t make you a better person.”

That same determination was what spurred Adam on when he was the victim of bullying at school.

“I started doing YouTube in 2012 periodically until 2015 when I devoted a lot of my time to it.

“Being in an all-boy school, back when there were no big Northern Irish YouTubers to look up to – it was very difficult to stay on that path.

“It was difficult to keep believing when everyone else was talking about you, making fun, calling you names as you walked past them in school corridors. It was horrible and I wish it on no one. Therefore, Stewart’s case hit a nerve. I know exactly what he is going through.”

It got so bad that Adam was close to quitting YouTube.

“I was very close to giving up so many times when I was at school,” he said.

“Being told by both pupils and even teachers to stop YouTube – it was a very stressful environment.

“It was an environment where I asked myself multiple times, ‘is it even worth it?’, ‘is it worth the hassle?’ 

“But I am very glad I didn’t give them the satisfaction because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had listened to them.”

Since then Adam has been garnering more and more YouTube subscribers, as well as more than 500,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok with his witty pranks and sketches, yet he still remembers the acts of the bullies.

“Sometimes they text me,” he said. 

“I often got random texts from people who relentlessly ashamed me for doing YouTube – and now they’re the ones texting me, congratulating me.

“Anyone who made fun of me or made me feel insecure for doing something I loved, I would say to them ‘why”, ‘what did they get from it’, ‘Are you happy’.

“I would ask these questions because I am still baffled as to why people feel the need to mentally/physically/emotionally attack others for something that doesn’t even affect them. It boggles my brain and it’s a thing that needs stamped out. No one should ever tolerate bullying. No one.”

And, he has a message for the people bullying Stewart.

“Don’t underestimate anyone,” he said. “The people you bully could very well be the people you need a job from in the future.”

He went on with a message for everyone who has a dream.

“Believe in yourself. If I can do it, then you can do it. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
For those who have a dream of becoming a YouTube star he said support from friends and family can make a huge difference.

“Encourage them. Encourage, encourage, encourage! It massively helps when the only thing they’re used to is negativity.”

If you or someone you know is being bullied don’t be afraid to talk to an adult or contact Childline.org.uk on 0800 1111. For more information about how you can tackle bullying adults can go to endbullying.org.uk

NI Festival of Writing To Broadcast This Friday On NVTV & Across Social Media

Transformational coach and blogger Deborah King at NVTV filming her interview for the Northern Ireland Festival of Writing 2020 Photo: Grace Parry – Excalibur Press

The Northern Ireland Festival of Writing will be broadcasting over six hours of content throughout the day and night on NVTV this Friday, November 28.

Following on from the successful inaugural event in 2019 the festival has launched an online programme of content that will once again encourage and support writers who want to start or develop their skills.

Over the next 3 weeks the free online content will include interviews with local writers and content creators, panel events, workshops and masterclasses.

As well as that the festival will be broadcasting a series of interviews with local writers from a wide variety of writing genres on NVTV and across via a range of Facebook and YouTube channels.

Director of the festival, James Murphy, said that the festival intends to become even more successful in encouraging local talent.

“While we cannot repeat last year we have worked hard to make sure we have a rich programme that aims to help develop participant’s confidence,” he said. 

“We hope that what we have planned will educate, empower and improve literacy and communications skills.”

The 2020 programme will include in-depth interviews with local, national and international writers; a range of practical writing and creative writing workshops, online book club and reading recommendations; panel discussions; and, an online writing retreat.

Festival directors publicist and journalist Tina Calder and author James Murphy will be interviewing a range of well known Northern Ireland writers including comedians Tim McGarry and Nuala McKeever, musicians Janet Devlin and Ciaran McElhinney, performance poets Elizabeth McGeown and Michael Wilson, authors William Clegg and Bernie Allen, transformation coach Deborah King, journalist and author Malachi O’Doherty and journalist and blogger Alan Meban to name a few.

From Zoom to in-studio interviews Tina said they wanted to show the breadth of talent throughout Northern Ireland.

She added: “What we wanted to achieve with these interviews was to inspire other writers by hearing stories from those who have achieved a range of success in their chosen writing field. It was important to us that we were able to show that the writing industry was more than just writing novels and poetry.

“There are some really incredible stories of people’s journey to success and I love the fact that each person has a different one to tell.”

Local community television channel NVTV joined forces with the festival in order to make it more accessible to people across the country.

Simon Wood, Chairperson at NVTV said: “Northern Visions is excited to be a partner in the Northern Ireland Festival of Writing this year. One of the pleasures for many of us during these challenging times, especially during lockdown, has been being able to get lost in a book and become acquainted with books we have forgotten we actually own.

“What’s so interesting about the Festival of Writing is that it is writing in all its forms so this is a real voyage of discovery.” 

Fans of the festival can see the main NVTV broadcast on Friday November 27 broadcasting on Freeview 7 (greater Belfast) and Virgin Media 159 (across Northern Ireland).

The festival will also be streaming sessions on Facebook and running a series of online workshop sessions as well as a range of other interactive events over the coming weeks.

“With the support of all including our festival partners NVTV, Oranga Creative, BAM magazine, The Secret Bookshelf and my own company Excalibur Press we will make this year’s festival a roaring success and look forward to having a further programme planned for the time when safer social gatherings can take place” said festival co-founder Tina Calder.

To help support the festival the Crowd Funder page can be found here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-northern-ireland-festival-of-writing

To find out more at http://festivalofwriting.org 

603 Adults Waiting More Than A Year For Autism Diagnosis

Meta Auden of Spectra Sensory Clothing Photo – Francine Montgomery

The Health Minister, Robin Swann, has revealed that more than 603 adults are waiting for over a year for autism diagnosis.

Mr Swann was answering an Assembly Written Question from South Down SDLP MLA, Colin McGrath, who also revealed that in total 1,101 were currently waiting for assessment.

The Minister also said that a planned review of adult autism services planned to begin in April of this year had been delayed as a result of the Covid-19 crisis but will be asking the Executive to bring forward an interim review early in 2021.

In terms of the current totals the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust alone has 346 people waiting in excess of 52 weeks for assessment, with only the Northern Trust not having anyone waiting beyond a year.

The written answer detailed how long were people waiting across four week intervals, as counted as of August 2020. Almost 200 have been waiting between 26-39 weeks.

Of the other trusts South Eastern Trust had 83 waiting for assessment more than a year, the Southern Trust 124 and the Western Trust 50.

Meta Auden, founder of Spectra Sensory Clothing reacted to the statistics: “The waiting times for an autism diagnosis are totally unacceptable and cause great distress for many.

“In the case of adults, they seem to be forgotten, and it has to be remembered that children with autism grow up to become adults with autism.”

Mr Swann was also asked for his plans to reduce the waiting times.

“People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have access to a range of core HSC services,” he explained in his answer. “Support may be provided via GP and Primary Care in the first instance or referral onto services such as psychology or psychiatry, depending on assessed need.

“Access to other community services where relating to Mental Health or Learning Disability support are also available where appropriate, as are services provided through the community/voluntary sector.”

With regards to waiting times he said: “I am however fully aware of the rising demand for adult autism services within our health and social care sector and of the growing need for the standardisation of provision of services across the regional Trusts.

“This is why my Department has been liaising with the Health and Social Care Board and with the Public Health Agency to commence a review of adult autism services.

“Work on this review was due to commence in April of this year, but due to pressures on the system as a result of COVID-19, plans to commence this work had to be paused.”

He went on: “However, mindful of the challenges which COVID 19 has presented to families and people with autism, I have recently written to my Executive Colleagues to advise them of my intention to publish an interim autism strategy early in 2021 which will ultimately inform the development of a fully co-produced strategy later in 2021.

“It is intended that the work to review adult autism services will be undertaken as an action  within this strategy. Like its predecessor, this interim strategy contains cross-departmental actions recognising that adults with autism require a wide range of support across for example health, education, housing, and employment.”

Meta Auden said that lengthy waiting times for diagnosis are across all ages:

“One of the frequently asked questions on the forums here is ‘is there anywhere else, where I can get my child diagnosed’?” she said. Until diagnosis they cannot access many HSC services. 

“This means that the children are struggling at school, as no help without diagnosis.”

There has meant, according to the Spectra Sensory founder, many are having to pay.

“One customer has private health care but it does not cover the autism spectrum, so she is going for a diagnosis to a private clinic where the cost is nearly £400.00.

“There are not many who can afford this and considering that 85% of young adults with autism are unlikely to be in work compared to the rest of the young adult population the private route is not feasible.”

She added that, whilst her company caters for children, the range goes far beyond that.“We cater for all ages, our largest size maybe a 17/18, but they are large enough for many adults and indeed many adults also wear our t-shirts and shirts.”

Takeaway Association Warns 2,000 Jobs At Risk In Sector Following Latest Lockdown & Calls For Financial Packages To Be Expedited

Young woman preparing takeaway organic food inside restaurant during Coronavirus outbreak time – Worker inside kitchen cooking food for online delivery service – Focus on hands

The Northern Ireland Takeaway Association has warned that up to 2,000 jobs are at risk in the sector with the announcement of the latest raft of lockdown measures.

Director, Michael Henderson said that without immediate financial aid up to 25% of takeaways will close.

“With the latest restrictions now set to cut well into December the entire sector is at grave risk,” he said. 

“Without financial support for the takeaway sector we believe around a quarter of all takeaways in Northern Ireland will close resulting in a loss of over 2,000 jobs.

“Already we have seen a huge reduction in trade with the closure of hospitality with reduced numbers of walk-ins. This has resulted in a loss of 30% of the average trading.”

Mr Henderson said the restrictions in trading will also have a massive impact.

He added: “The arbitrary decision to not allow deliveries after 11pm has also had a devastating effect.

“This has produced an average loss of 40% with no explanation from the executive on why this was put in place even though the rest of UK and ROI currently have no restrictions on deliveries even at the highest level of lockdown.

“The 11pm restrictions means takeaways have to get all orders out on time to customers with a high standard of food quality; they would be limited to taking last orders around 9:45pm. s most takeaways within Northern Ireland do not open until 5pm this would only give businesses only 4hours and 45mins of trade time.”

Mr Henderson said that takeaways in Northern Ireland are having to deal with losing around 70% of average trade while being expected to pay all bills and staff wages with no financial support from the executive. 

“We believe our sector has been forgotten and left hung out to dry but our Executive.”

The NI Takeaway Association that the competition for trade has become more intense.

“Restaurants have now started, understandably, operating as takeaways which makes the market even more saturated.”

Restrictions on deliveries are to be reinstated on November 20 after the current easing from today. The NI Takeaway Association will be liaising with members to keep them up to date on the constantly changing situation.

Members looking for further information on this and other related subjects members can contact Michael Henderson direct on 07425846533 or michael@nitakeawayassociation.co.ukTo become a member go to >> https://www.nitakeawayassociation.co.uk/members-area

NI Festival of Writing Goes Online With 2020 Winter Programme

James Murphy, director of the Northern Ireland Festival of Writing & Simon Wood, Chairperson at NVTV launch the 2020 festival Pic by Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press.

Following on from the successful inaugural event in 2019 the NI Festival of Writing is launching an online programme of content to once again encourage and support writers who want to start or develop their skills.

Throughout November and December the free online content will include interviews with local writers and content creators, panel events, workshops and masterclasses.

Director of the festival, James Murphy, said that the festival intends to become even more successful in encouraging local talent.

“While we cannot repeat last year we have worked hard to make sure we have a rich programme that aims to help develop participant’s confidence,” he said. 

“We hope that what we have planned will educate, empower and improve literacy and communications skills.”

The 2020 NI Festival of Writing which has been developed in partnership with Belfast City Council, has launched a Crowdfunding campaign.

“Whilst the events will be free, in order to increase the number and variety of events held throughout the remainder of the year, Belfast City Council have kindly offered to match-fund us to a maximum of £5,000 if we undertake a crowdfunding campaign,” James explained. 

“We have designed a range of opportunities from donations from as little as £5 through to sponsorship opportunities from £100. We have currently raised just over £1,000 and we hope to double that by the end of the crowdfunder this week.

“We know that what we will be providing will make a real impact on participant’s lives through participation, learning and even the opportunity to showcase their work.”

The 2020 programme will include in-depth interviews with local, national and international writers; a range of practical writing and creative writing workshops, online book club and reading recommendations; panel discussions; and, a regular online writing retreat.

This year the festival has joined forces with local public service television channel NVTV to make the festival more accessible to people across the country.

Simon Wood, Chairperson at NVTV said: “Northern Visions is excited to be a partner in the Northern Ireland Festival of Writing this year. One of the pleasures for many of us during these challenging times, especially during lockdown, has been being able to get lost in a book and become acquainted with books we have forgotten we actually own.

“What’s so interesting about the Festival of Writing is that it is writing in all its forms so this is a real voyage of discovery.” 

Fans of the festival can see the main NVTV broadcast on Friday November 27 broadcasting on Freeview 7 (greater Belfast) and Virgin Media 159 (across Northern Ireland).

The festival will also be streaming sessions on Facebook and running a series of online workshop sessions as well as a range of other interactive events throughout November and December.

“In addition we will launch NI Festival of Writing’s very own podcast as well as interactive advice sessions with writers, agents and publishers,” said Festival co-founder Tina Calder.

“With the support of all including our festival partners NVTV, Oranga Creative, BAM magazine, The Secret Bookshelf and my own company Excalibur Press we will make this a success and look forward to having a further programme planned for the time when safer social gatherings can take place.”

To help support the festival the Crowd Funder page can be found here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-northern-ireland-festival-of-writingTo find out more at http://festivalofwriting.org

The Life Of An RUC Officer Told In New Book Crime, Comedy And Combat

Ex RUC officer and author William Clegg releases his book Crime, Comedy & Combat.

After serving for 21 years in the RUC William Clegg today releases his story of life in the frontline as a serving officer in his début book, Crime, Comedy and Combat.

From his earliest memories, through to joining the force in 1978 in Enniskillen William’s heartfelt telling of his and his colleagues experiences during some of the darkest days in Northern Ireland’s history.

William regards himself as privileged to have worked in and survived the challenges inherent in high risk, hostile, urban and rural environments throughout the province.

Now living in Indonesia he said the book was a way to explain his experiences.

“It is an anthology for people of all ages of how life changed for a young person prior to, during and subsequent to joining the RUC,” he explained. It is about how ‘we’ were during that bleak period, how we coped at that time and how the incidents and emotions resonate to this day.

“I feel that anyone, whether security services or others, will have a feel of true events, episodes, characters and emotions personally experienced by me.

Tina Calder of publishers Excalibur Press said that it was a privilege to bring William’s tale to the public.

“As we now live in relatively peaceful times we forget the horrors that were part of daily life,” she said. “William has been able to encapsulate the experiences of so many RUC officers who had the daily job of a police officer dealing with crime, whilst also under constant threat.

“No matter your allegiances this is the human story of that time, told compassionately.”

In Crime, Comedy & Combat William tells his story for people of all ages, how a young person’s life changed during the Troubles, joining the RUC, and the incidents and emotions that coloured his life.

Crime, Comedy and Combat, published by Excalibur Press is available from Amazon and excaliburpress.co.uk