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 Giro D’Italia comes to Northern Ireland!

Like a large fuschia pink paint pot falling from the sky the Giro D’Italia has spilled its excitement over Northern Ireland recently covering our iconic buildings, landmarks and local businesses. Even our people and livestock have been infected!

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Second only to the Tour de France, the Giro D’Italia is one of the world’s most famous cycling races and this year has chosen to begin its journey in Northern Ireland, bringing with it a huge opportunity to showcase our famous sights and stunning coastline to audiences from over 175 countries worldwide. The prestigious three week long race commenced this weekend and will remain here until Sunday May 11 where it will end its Irish tour in Dublin, before returning to Italian soil for the remainder of the stages and the big finish in the city of Trieste on June 1st. 

It’s great to see something of this magnitude choosing Belfast as its welcoming host city and the enthusiasm of the people and local businesses has been unparalleled (heck, even the mayor has dyed his hair pink!). The city, of course has had more than its fair share of turbulence over the years but has been working hard and come confidently out the other side ready to take its place in the spotlight as one of Europe’s most vibrant and cultural hotspots.

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Thursday night marked the opening of the Giro D’Italia with a presentation ceremony at City Hall, Belfast where the riders were officially welcomed by Northern Ireland and this year’s coveted Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) was unveiled. The carnival-esque atmosphere refused to be dampened by a rainy Thursday evening and was greatly appreciated by the riders who commented on the wonderful hospitality and support they had received from Northern Ireland, spurring them on for the tough race ahead.

Tickets for the event were in high demand with only 6,000 given out, but luckily I managed to score one at the last minute to enjoy the grand celebrations (and share them with you, of course!)

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Stage 1 of the race took place on Friday afternoon around Belfast City, with Svein Tuft winning the primary stage. Stage 2 began from the Titanic Quarter, Belfast on Saturday morning and covered 219km of Northern Ireland’s Northern coastline, cycling through towns and villages all laden thick with pink supporters. I travelled home this weekend to visit my parents, and even our small village were out early to show support for the teams as they whizzed through!

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‘Giro Fever’ really is everywhere this weekend so grab that pink umbrella and get involved in showing the world our great little country, and the great people who make it! Stage 3 of the race will take place tomorrow starting in Armagh city and heading south before its Irish finale in Dublin later in the evening. This really is a once in a lifetime event, so catch it while you can!

For more information on the Giro including routes, maps and live coverage of the event itself see Discover Northern Ireland or follow live on Twitter at @DiscoverNI.

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Best of luck to all the cyclists (especially Team Grand Shimano who I am confidently backing this year!),

Until next time, ciao!
K.