More than forty years after he recorded his first album, ‘Golden Vanity’, in 1976, Martin Simpson is known as a guitarist of formidable talent.

Equally at home playing English traditional folk, American folk and blues and his own compositions, he is consistently named as one of the very finest fingerstyle guitar players in the world.

He is listed in Gibson Guitars’ Top 30 Acoustic Guitarists of all time, and Acoustic Guitar readers voted him number 12 guitarist in the world in 2005.

Universally acclaimed as one of the finest ever acoustic and slide guitar players, and a fine banjo-picker to boot, his solo shows bear witness to an artist at the very top of his game. Whether interpreting material from tradition or singing his own potent self-penned songs, Simpson is a remarkable storyteller: captivating and profoundly moving.

Martin Simpson will perform for one night only on Friday 3 March at 8.00pm. Tickets are priced £16 and can be booked online at or through the Box Office on 03300 561 025.

All aboard me hearties – the Raft Race be forty!

The original conception for Raft Race Weekend was for it to be a way of having fun on the beach whilst raising some money for the Lifeboat – and little has changed as that’s exactly what the Raft Race committee are planning for this year on 27th and 28th May.  As with that first Raft Race the main theme is to seek out the most unusual raft (which in 1982 was won by the Quinquireme of Nineveh which was crewed with “galley slaves, a skeleton, a shark and an albatross!”

(a Google search reveals, “Quinquireme of Nineveh” is a great opening to a poem – a galley with five banks of oars travelling between Nineveh, the ancient city on the Tigris, and Ophir, a mysterious place, possibly on the African shore of the Red Sea.”  Who knew!!)

Further details of this fun filled weekend will follow but we can reveal the event has two main sponsors this year.  The wonderful Ramore Complex are “back on board” – no pun intended – and the committee are delighted to welcome to the team Exorna Kitchens and Bedrooms.  Head Honcho of Exorna has expressed his delight and said, “we’re already enthusiasts of the event and we’re also encouraging our suppliers to become involved”.

Whilst the Raft Race proper takes place on the Saturday we can also reveal that two popular items from back in the day are being revisited with both the Waiters’ Race and a Pantomime Horse Race scheduled for the Sunday.  Make no mistake, there’s a plethora of crazy and quirky events lined up for an action packed 40th weekend of celebrations and attempting to keep the whole thing together without the use of a safety net or a cattle prod is their irrepressible Compere Brian Moore.  “We’ve all had a few rough years so it’s great to see this iconic event back and I’m looking forward to a packed Portrush with all the unique fun the Raft Race Weekend brings.  It’s the ideal family event and raises so much needed funding for the RNLI”.

Raft Race Committee Chairperson Trevor Abernethy has been delighted with the early response to this year’s event and says, “we’ve been taken aback by the number of early entries and with the website now live we’re confident that the 40th celebrations are going to see a record attendance”

To enter your raft go to



Belfast preparing for return of St Patrick’s Day celebrations

Belfast is gearing up to host this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations with an extended festival that will include a trad trail, free concert and colourful carnival pageant.

The new look programme, which will build on the success of last year’s approach, will see Custom House Square host a free concert on Thursday 16 March, organised by The Duncairn Arts Centre.

Headlined by award-winning singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan, the family-friendly, alcohol-free event will also see performances by trad supergroup Jiggy who mix Irish traditional music, world rhythms and cutting-edge dance grooves, ethnic dance group Shamrock Bhangra and internationally acclaimed folk singer David Keenan.

There will be free face painting, circus performers, and balloon artists and buskers to keep little ones entertained, as well as a selection of food vendors on site.

And on St Patrick’s Day (17 March) the annual parade organised by Beat Carnival will snake its way through the city centre – a colourful pageant of costumes, music, dance, circus and theatrical performances.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Tina Black said: “I am so looking forward to everything that’s in store for St Patrick’s Day this year; the city is going to be buzzing. As a UNESCO City of Music, not surprisingly music will be at the heart of our celebrations; with musicians from across the island of Ireland taking part in Féile’s trad trail in venues across the city. And our St Patrick’s Eve concert looks set to be a fantastic evening and one that all the family can enjoy.

“I’m really excited about leading the St Patrick’s Day parade and seeing the city come alive with colour and performances. The parade is always a huge hit with hundreds of people lining the route and soaking up the atmosphere. I would encourage everyone to come and join in the fun and be part of this vibrant celebration of our city.”

The theme of this year’s parade is ‘Voices of Belfast’ and it will celebrate Belfast’s vibrant musical heritage including folk, disco, punk and electronic. The parade will leave City Hall at 1.30pm on Friday 17 March, through Chichester Street, Victoria Street, High Street, Castle Place, Donegall Place and back to City Hall.

David Boyd, Beat Carnival Director said: “We’re working on a ‘Voices of Belfast’ cavalcade to present colourful pictures of our rich musical life. Sounds of ancient horns will lead the parade, followed by lively trad from our folk and percussion community. Of course we need some disco for dancing on the street and there’ll also be a punk choir. Ending the parade, our DJ will be mixing it up on the techno float with dance club beats and Asian grooves, and there’ll be the skirl of pipes and drums in the air as we welcome over 150 world-wide members of the Lions Clubs International to our city. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic spectacle with lots to see and hear.”

Ray Giffen, Creative Director of the Duncairn added: “The Duncairn team is delighted to be invited back to curate this special St Patrick’s event for the city. We look forward to another inclusive, family-focused celebration of our artists, music, communities and diversity.”

Féile’s Trad Trail will take place from March 10-19 in venues across Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter and city centre.

Kevin Gamble, Director at Féile an Phobail said: “Féile an Phobail is delighted to once again be involved in supporting the animation of the city in the lead up to and during St Patricks Day. The Féile Trad trail will bring an eclectic mix of Irish music sessions to venues and spaces right across the city, showcasing the very best of local Irish traditional musicians and highlighting the rich Irish cultural heritage of traditional music in Belfast.”

St George’s Market is also getting in on the craic this year with a St Patrick’s Day themed market on Friday 17 March with live traditional Irish music performances from members of Ards Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann; and 2 Royal Avenue will host a free concert by Celtic Storm on Saturday 18 March.

Meanwhile community groups from across the city are participating in an oral history project delivered by MayWe Events which will culminate in an oral histories showcase at 2 Royal Avenue during March.

Tickets for the free concert at Custom House Square on Thursday 16 March will be available via Visit Belfast’s website from Monday 6 March at 10am.

For more info on the full programme of St Patrick’s Day events including ticketing info, visit

Prestigious Marines Band to Perform Free Concert

Join us on Friday 17 March at 12noon as we welcome The Band of HM Royal Marines, Scotland to Civic Square, Mossley Mill.

The Band last visited the Borough in 2018 when they performed at Antrim Castle Gardens as part of the Council’s Summer Sunday Music Programme.

In their distinguishing white helmets, Royal Marines Bands are celebrated for the quality of their music, visual grandeur and precision drill. On the concert platform they enjoy a similar reputation ensuring their continuing popularity with their audiences. The Band’s repertoire includes popular classics, Big Band, stimulating contemporary works and entertaining solo features. The Corps of Drums bring movement, colour and the tradition of the ceremonial occasions integral to the Royal Marines.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alderman Stephen Ross commented, “I am delighted the Council is hosting The Band of HM Royal Marines, who I have no doubt will put on a sensational performance. This is a great opportunity to plan something different for all of the family over the Bank Holiday and what’s better, tickets are free.”

The Band is currently under the direction of Captain Tom Griffin RM who assumed command in July 2020. The performance will last for 30 minutes and limited tickets are available free of charge. For more information or to book tickets visit


Story of housing crisis to be told in a new NI Opera led by young people

 Nobody/Somebody is a powerful performance inspired by the Take Back the City campaign to build homes on the Department for Communities controlled Mackies site in west Belfast.

Marissa McMahon of Take Back the City

A new opera that illustrates a real-life campaign led by young people experiencing the housing crisis, will have its world premiere this Friday during the Belfast Children’s Festival with a fully staged production in Elmwood Hall, Belfast, which runs from 3 to 5 March.

Nobody/Somebody, composed by Neil Martin and playwright Fionnuala (Finn) Kennedy is a collaboration between NI Opera and the Take Back the City campaign, supported by local human rights NGO, Participation and the Practice of Rights.

The Opera follows the journeys of three young people and their inspirational campaign to engage politicians and councillors to build more social housing on the Mackies site – land owned by the government. The site is in one of the areas of greatest poverty and housing stress in Northern Ireland and has controversially been rezoned by Belfast City Council, limiting its potential to help address the housing crisis. The Opera tells the story of campaigners who won’t take no for an answer and have engaged the support of international architects to develop new plans for the site.

Through song and emotive lyrics performed by Ulster Youth Orchestra, as well as some satire, the new Opera aims to provoke a conversation around the subject of how elected representatives and officials are making decisions regarding public resources.

Playwright Finn Kennedy said: “This is a story about young people living in hostels and with housing stress who are campaigning to build more social housing on a perfectly suitable site. It details their exchanges with councillors and politicians on that journey in what is a brilliant example of how young people are leading change and exercising their voices in difficult situations.”

Marissa McMahon of Take Back the City hopes the opera will expose the seriousness of the housing needs of the next generation to elected representatives who have the power to act today. She said: “Imagine growing up in a hostel or watching your parents living with the stress of paying extortionate rent to a landlord who has the power to make you homeless on a whim.

Imagine a lifetime on a waiting list for a house that is never built. Imagine being homeless and ignored while hotels and office blocks pop up all around you. Then, imagine your story is brought to life in the form of an opera where it can’t be ignored!

“This opera commission is so important and timely as we all respond to the worsening housing crisis in our country.”

In August 2022, a third controversial vote was held about the Mackies site where a majority of Belfast City councillors (12-1) voted in favour of rezoning the lion’s share of the site for cycle lane and urban greenway. Approval was made despite data, obtained using a freedom of information request, showing there are 2,068 FDA (full duty applicants — those who have passed all four tests for homelessness and have not yet been given a permanent social tenancy) homeless households in the West Belfast area alone, which is a 49% increase since 2019.

Nobody/Somebody will run from March 3-5 at the Elmwood Hall as part of the Belfast Children’s Festival. Tickets cost £10 and can be booked at

For more information visit

2 for 1 ticket offer at Portico to say thank you to Lottery Players!

To say thank you for the £30m raised for good causes every week by players, National Lottery-funded venues are offering free entry, discounts, and special offers throughout National Lottery Open Week 18 – 26 March 2023.

The Portico of Ards in Portaferry, which owes its restoration to Heritage Lottery Funds, has a special 2 for 1 offer on tickets to an upcoming concert during National Lottery Open Week.

Matilda Lloyd (trumpet) and Richard Gowers (organ)

Sunday 12 March 3pm

Hailed as ​​“remarkable” by the Daily Telegraph, Matilda Lloyd is a fast-rising young artist with exceptional poise and musicality. She captivates audiences and critics alike with her artistry and communication, with her “flawless sound and virtuosic technique” bringing a unique flair to every performance.​​​ Matilda will be accompanied by Richard Gowers on organ.

Richard has appeared as a recitalist across Europe, the USA and Australia. His 2018 disc of Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur was a Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’. In 2022 he performed the Saint-Saëns ‘Organ’ Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.

The pair will perform a packed programme including pieces by Bach, Vierne, Hakim, Giazotto, Purcell and Damase.

Portico’s Chair said, “We’re delighted to be taking part in The National Lottery Open Week this year. We’ve been fortunate to receive National Lottery funding for the restoration of this amazing venue as well as towards concerts such as this one from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. So, this is our way of saying thank you to everyone who has bought a National Lottery ticket, helped us on our journey and made a vital contribution to supporting good causes. We’re delighted to invite everyone to hear the trumpet and organ in our fabulous acoustics!”

To view all venues and offers that are available throughout The National Lottery Open Week, visit

To find out more about Portico or the 2 for 1 offer please visit

New accessible family theatre performance coming to Flowerfield Arts Centre

Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart will host two performances of a new accessible family theatre show by Replay Theatre Company during March.

Prism, written by Gary Crossan and directed by Andrew Stanford, will take the audience on a journey through a retro sci-fi multiverse, packed full of pulsating synth, glorious video design and vibrant lighting effects (don’t worry, no strobes!).

Perfect for young stargazers (7+ years old) and nostalgic adults alike, accessibility is at the core of this show, and audience members who have a physical disability or other accessibility needs can enjoy a full theatre experience with captioning at every performance, pre-recorded audio description of key visual moments delivered as part of the sound design, and BSL interpretation provision.

The performances will take place on Wednesday 22nd March at 7:30pm (BSL-interpreted, visual descriptions and captioned) and on Thursday 23rd March at 11am (visual descriptions and captioned).

In the show, inter-dimensional travellers, Dawn and Dusk, are stuck in an empty void dimension for far too long.  When Dusk devises a radical solution to their problem it hurls them into our dimension and has catastrophic consequences for their onboard guide and best friend, known as Prism.

Tickets cost £5 per person with a family ticket available for £18, which admits four.

Bookings can be made at or call the Reception team on 028 7083 1400.

Explore more of the great outdoors with The Causeway Coast and Glens Walking Festival

The Causeway Coast and Glens Walking Festival returns from March 31st to April 2nd with a range of inspiring guided walks through the area’s dramatic landscapes.


We’re inviting everyone to join us through forest, mountain and coastal paths to learn more about the stunning surroundings which make the area so unique and appreciate the beauty of the destination.

Explaining more, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Ivor Wallace, said: “The Causeway Coast and Glens Walking festival is a great opportunity for our residents and visitors to get out and get active while exploring the beauty of our trails and paths.

“This year’s programme includes popular walking routes along with some lesser-known paths, which makes it a great showcase of the very special sites which are to be found here.”

Destination Manager Kerrie McGonigle added: “The Causeway Coast and Glens Walking Festival is growing in popularity, and it is establishing itself within the walks calendar as a ‘must do’.

“We know that walking routes attract people to visit and offering an event like this enables us to highlight the range of spectacular walks within Causeway Coast and Glens. This motivates people to come here, and in turn has a positive knock-on effect for the area.

“We’re very pleased to be working with local activity provider, Far and Wild, who will lead each of the walks, and ensure that all participants enjoy this fantastic opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of the destination.”

The Causeway Coast and Glens Walking Festival will begin on March 31st with a moderate walk starting in Glenariff Forest Park. It will take in a section of the Dungonnell Way following forest trails and surveying breath-taking landscape.  Dramatic waterfalls along the 15k route will fascinate the walker as they learn about the geomorphology and natural history of the Glens and the post-industrial legacy of mid-19th century iron ore mining.

Day two (April 1st) will take you on a 16km hike on the Causeway Coast Way from Portballintrae to Ballintoy, part of the International Appalachian Trail. The coastal cliff path from Portballintrae to Ballintoy is a well-known iconic and dramatic cliff and beach walk, with several notable stopping places along the coastline. Encompassing themes of mythology, world-class geology, marine biology, Mesolithic civilisation and European history (Spanish Armada), it promises to be an engaging and varied walk.

The final walk is a 9km hike at Mullaghaneaney taking place on April 2nd. It follows a circular route from the valley to the summit and back in the central Sperrins region, with walkers enjoying views to Banagher Glen and the Glenelly Valley. The human settlement story, from neolithic settlement to the early Christian ecclesiastical presence and the impact of the Plantation on subsistence farming, are all themes explored on this walk.

All walks are suitable for everyone with a good general fitness. Children over 12 years are welcome as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Distances and the nature of the terrain should be noted by parents.

Transport via minibus will be provided from the end of each walk back to the registration point.

Waterproofs are required and hiking boots or sturdy footwear are recommended.

The nature of the landscape determines that unfortunately dogs cannot be accommodated on these walks.

Each walk costs £10 per person, including refreshments, and bookings can be made at

Our pick of what’s on this weekend across NI


The Rapparees perform live on stage at the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn this weekend. Twenty years of The Rapparees touring, performing and producing folk music.

Find out more HERE


The Armagh Observatory and Planetarium Legendary Telescopes Tour this weekend will take you on a journey through the Armagh Observatory to see its historic telescopes.

Find out more HERE


The Commitments, Grand Opera House Belfast. It is 35 years since The Commitments first burst from the pages of Roddy Doyle’s best-selling novel.

Find out more HERE


Ireland’s number one Springsteen tribute is back… Get ready to rock! Springsteen – A Tribute perform live this weekend at the Portico of Ards.

Find out more HERE


Think Deep – Marble Arch Caves.  The day begins as you are joined by a Marble Arch Caves guide who will take you on a journey on our Rain, Rivers and Resurgence tour. You’ll then be joined by Dr. Paul Wilson from the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland and travel to a local river site approximately 5-min drive from the MAC Visitor Centre.

Find out more HERE


The Steinbeck FestivalAmerican Blues singer Mirenda Rosenberg and band, Roe Valley Arts Centre, Limavady.

Find out more HERE


Omagh & Fintona Methodist Circuit are delighted to again present Gospel Fest Goes West. This will be the 8th GFGW and will be another great night of Gospel music at the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh.

Find out more HERE



10 things to do in Northern Ireland 

Here are ten exciting things to do 27 February – 5 March 2023


  1. Music on the Mountain, Meigh, County Armagh, 4 March. It’s toe tapping time at Slieve Gullion if you’re mad for trad. Enjoy a fine line up of local talent for you to enjoy. Local folk group Fáinne will wow you with their energy and an unforgettable set. They are supported by talented musicians, singers and dancers from local Traditional Arts Partnership and The Carroll School of Harp’s Sonas Harp ensemble.
  2. The Titanic Experience Reimagined, Belfast, Reopening 4 March. Titanic Belfast will reopen on Saturday 4th March with four exciting new themed galleries. The reimagined Titanic Experience introduces The Pursuit of Dreams as a new theme and will use immersive technology combined with the authentic Titanic Story in its refreshed spaces called Never Again; Ballard’s Quest; The Ship of Dreams and The Lasting Legacy. The world-leading visitor attraction has now revealed details of one of the centrepieces of the new experience – an illuminated 7.6m long scale model of RMS Titanic. The new model will be illuminated and suspended from the ceiling. It will fully rotate, taking approximately 90 seconds to complete, promising to provide a true wow factor for visitors.
  3. Dawn Chorus Paddle – Celebration Of World Wildlife Day, Lisnarick, County Fermanagh, 4 March. Explore the history of the Lower Lough by kayak and taste the beauty of life on the water, with Blue Green Yonder. Celebrate World Wildlife Day by immersing yourself into nature and surrounding yourself with songbird and the glimpse of life on the water. This paddle will be in and around the wooded islands close to Rossigh Jetty. Bring your flask and snack, relax and listen to the crescendo of bird song. Booking essential via
  4. World Wildlife Day Nature Detectives, Lisnarick, County Fermanagh, 4 March. Join Geopark Guide and woodland expert Ian for a safari around the forests and woodland of Old Castle Archdale Forest. Please wear suitable footwear and warm waterproof clothing but also factor in sunny weather. This event is non-refundable. If you need to cancel, please contact the provider 24 hours in advance of the event time.
  5. Cranfield Alpacas Field Walks, Kilkeel, County Down, 4 March (more dates available). Their 60-minute Alpaca field walks are perfect for families with children of all ages. Take one of their gorgeous Alpacas for a walk around the paddocks and their field with stunning views of the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough. After working up an appetite, the Alpacas love to be hand fed by you and your family.
  6. A Celebration of Coinage at Ulster Museum, Belfast, 4 March. To celebrate their 60th anniversary, the Numismatics Society of Ireland (Northern Branch) are hosting a lecture on the last two and half thousand years of coinage. You’ll hear from expert speakers, as well as a series of short highlights of other areas of numismatic interest.
  7. ‘Nostalgia in the Afternoon’ – From Gorgon to the New Yorker Exhibition, Magherafelt, County Londonderry, 1 – 21 March. Magherafelt Library, working in partnership with Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, is excited to announce an exhibition showcasing a collection of Seamus Heaney archived materials curated over more than four decades by Mr Pat Brennan.
  8. Ulster Orchestra, Cookstown, County Tyrone, 3 March. The Ulster Orchestra is delighted to return to The Burnavon for an eclectic evening of music, from Mozart to Jessie Montgomery, and features the Orchestra’s own Principal Trumpet Tom Fountain as soloist for Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto.
  9. Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, County Down. Check website for dates and tickets. Down Arts Centre is a vibrant creative space/cultural hub that facilitates the development of creativity and provides a diverse range of live events, including theatre, music, comedy, workshops and classes. There are tons of great experiences to enjoy this month.
  10. Walled City Markets, Derry~Londonderry, 4 March (more dates available). We’re excited to welcome back the Walled City Market on the first Saturday of the month. Join traders in Guildhall Square for a unique shopping experience. The Guildhall Square welcomes the very best of artisan traders, offering visitors a family friendly shopping experience with a wide selection of speciality foods and handcrafted products. Tickle your taste buds with homemade jams, chutneys & sauces, artisan breads & cakes, a range of organic meats, and some sweet treats. With children’s entertainment and live music. Weather dependent.

Booking is essential for most activities. 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