Night Music at The MAC

I’ve been a little bit boring recently. There, I’ve said it. I could put it down to lousy winter weather, too much work or too little money, but frankly I’ve been choosing the sofa over the socialising lately, thus having significantly less to contribute to a blog which essentially revolves around getting out and about.

A temporary glitch, I’m sure.

However, do not lose all faith in me yet. A few weeks ago I attended an evening of “Night Music”, a monthly event advertised as formal music in an informal setting, which was simply wonderful. I wanted to share it with you as soon as I arrived home, but life got in the way as it has a habit of doing, so I’m making a point of telling you now so you can go and enjoy the next performance in early March!

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As many of you are I’m sure aware, recent budget cuts have hit Northern Ireland’s Arts scene arguably the hardest of all, which is a real shame as it’s something which a lot of people, myself included, are very proud of and keen to support. The trending campaign #13pforthearts at the end of last year highlighted the extremity of the situation, with the sector being allocated just 13p per head of population per week. Shameful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that in times of need we must prioritise on fundamental cornerstones such as healthcare and education, but I can’t help thinking there could have been a more fair decision reached in terms of sustaining our country’s arts and culture sector?

That being said, I was very glad to pick up a flyer for Night Music at the MAC (one of my favourite art venues in Belfast), the first of a set of monthly events for some of our most talented musicians to showcase their musical style. February’s musicians were called The Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble (quite apt considering the weather outside) and are a contemporary music group from Belfast. I was too consumed in the moment to record them on the night, but for those of you who are interested, here’s a short clip of what they do best…

Growing up I played the piano and the flute and so I know only too well the level of skill and determination required to perform as flawlessly as this group did. The evening pulled in a healthy crowd and it was obvious to see the rest of the room appreciated the 90 minute performance as much as I did. With a glass of red wine in hand, it was the perfect way to spend a rainy Wednesday evening in February.

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It feels quite fitting that I should leave you with the words of Andrew Lloyd Webber. But first, definitely check out Night Music’s next event on Wednesday 4th March, and say hello if you see me there! More details can be found by following @Night_Music_  on Twitter!

“Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light,

And listen to the music of the night.”

Kathy x

Segway NI: Belfast’s best guided tour!

I’m a sucker for city tours. In each city I visit, one of the first things I like to do is jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to give myself a feel for the place, the people and the history of the area. My own city is steeped in culture and interesting facts, and so when I played host at the beginning of the month to two friends from England, I did some researching online. I soon found something a little alternative to give them a proper taste of Belfast city – Segway NI.

Image Courtesy of Segway NI

Image Courtesy of Segway NI

For those of you unfamiliar with a Segway it’s defined as a two wheeled electric vehicle. What’s different about it is it’s powered by new technology which detects and uses centre of mass to control its movement. Drivers shift their weight forward to go forward and backwards to reverse – clever, eh?!

The idea was perfect for the girls’ first trip to Belfast. Vanessa, Katie and I arrived, grabbed some fetching high-vis jackets and helmets, and set off (a bit shakily at first!) for an afternoon’s outdoor exploring. Of course, we were given some time to familiarise ourselves with operating the Segways first – and you’d be surprised how easy it is!

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The 2 hour tour costs £30 per person and takes visitors around the entire Titanic Quarter in Belfast which includes Titanic Belfast, the SS Nomadic ship, the slipways, the Titanic Docks and Pumphouse, the Harland and Wolff Cranes and Titanic Film Studios, where HBO are currently filming Season 5 Game of Thrones. Our tour leader fantastic; very knowledgeable about the area and very patient with those of us who took a little longer to find our feet  sorry, wheels…

Not me of course, I was a natural… eventually!

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A big thing that impressed me was their high level of customer service. Unfortunately, one of the girls missed her flight in the morning and would have been unable to make the scheduled tour time. Segway NI were extremely accommodating and quickly changed our booking to a later time free of charge and without any difficulties (thanks again, guys!).

Here’s a quick little video taken by us during the tour. Segway NI really helped to make the trip very memorable for Katie and Vanessa- and as for me, I’m already talking my work colleagues into booking the off road tour!

Be sure to check out Segway NI on Facebook, Twitter, Tripadvisor and their website for details on their upcoming tours!

Kathy x

The Tale of the Ancient Lights: Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

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When I hear the word ‘festival’ my eyes light up like a kid at Christmas. At 24, I’m already a bit of a festival veteran; music, books, art, beer, food, you name it, I’ll most likely be in the thick of it. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been really looking forward to this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival which opened on Thursday night and continues on to Sunday 11th May. Starting small and now in its 15th year, the festival has grown from strength to strength and judging by this year’s line up is set to be bigger and better than ever. From music to comedy to literature and theatre, it provides a cultural platform in Belfast for local, global and future talent to dazzle in the city’s bustling yet most intimate spaces.

In an unusual stroke of luck, I managed to score some last minute tickets last night to one of CQAF’s events through entering a competition on their Facebook page. (Thanks for the free entry, guys!)

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The Tale of the Ancient Lights is described as a 45 minute performance piece by RIUCHI which “combines circus, dance and magic on a modern journey through an ancient Asian legend”. I know, you’re thinking what on earth does that mean? Well, so was I to be honest, but as it was being held in one of my favourite new spaces in Belfast (The MAC) and I had free tickets and it was a bank holiday weekend, intrigue got the better of me and I thought, why not?! 

No photography was allowed during the performance, but here’s a short taster of what I experienced:

RUICHI’s performance was completely as advertised: magical, mesmerizing and inspiring, as evident from the sea of smiling faces flooding out of the dark room after the show.  It’s difficult to explain what exactly I saw, but it seemed that the point of the performance was more about inspiring feelings and imagination than about ‘entertaining’. The clever use of fluid movement, lights and sound (rather than words) worked impressively to tell this mythical story through a less conventional medium, and had the entire audience captivated from beginning to end. Being an English graduate, using perception and attempting to read between the lines is somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to me, and the performance sent my imagination into delightful overdrive, providing a lot of interesting conversation for some post-show drinks in The Dirty Onion… which then led on to some beers and beats in The Parlour Bar.

I’m planning to attend some more events at this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (see here for the list of events/venues) but for now here’s to another random yet crazy good evening back in Belfast – and to Mondays off work!

Lots of Love, K.

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