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!

20150204_211129

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.

20150204_211124

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

The Tale of the Ancient Lights: Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

CQAF

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!)

Untitled-1

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.

IMG-20140505-WA0002

 

 

 

 

Whiskey in the Jar: Bushmills Distillery, Co. Antrim.

Last year I spent just under a week in LA whilst journeying through the United States. The city of angels, the city of dreams and the city, it seems, of certified success. I remember stopping at traffic lights one evening on Hollywood Boulevard, staring out of the taxi window into a mesmerizing sky of shining lights and thinking how far I was from everything I knew. And right at that moment  what was staring back at me, quite unbelievably, was a warm reminder of home.

bushmills ad

Aaron Paul and his friends were beckoning me from the billboard to share some Bushmills Whiskey with them. In that moment I couldn’t have been prouder of my little Northern Ireland and, after tweeting my excitement (naturally), I resolved there and then to make a point of visiting the Old Bushmills Distillery when I returned back home.

(Note: If you don’t know who Aaron Paul is you must stop what you’re doing right this second and start watching Breaking Bad. You will thank me later.)

Over the weekend, I fulfilled my promise and took a tour of the famous Old Bushmills Distillery on Ireland’s North coast. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed on site so any pictures shown here are courtesy of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board at www.discovernorthernireland.com.

image

The distillery has been in operation since 1608, making it the oldest building of its type in Ireland. It has survived fires, Prohibition and two World Wars, and today continues to remain a constant in the lives of people from all over the world. Pretty impressive, indeed. Ownership has unsurprisingly changed hands over the centuries and currently lies with Diageo, one of the world’s premium drinks businesses, who has nurtured Bushmills to successfully establish themselves as a global brand.

Over time the distillery has developed its range which now includes Bushmills, Black Bush, Bushmills 10 year Malt, 16 year Malt and 21 year Malt. Yet, whilst these expand its principles continue to remain the same: triple-distilled malt whiskey made solely from barley, local water and yeast. 

The tour was very informative and gave great insight into the historic values of the organization and the sheer volume of production it runs today. Accompanied by a local tour guide and long serving staff member (which gave things a very personal touch) we were invited to view the areas where the main processes take place, and take in the aroma of the warm, sweet barley as it turns to alcohol during fermentation.

Bushmills-live_Whiskey_Car-4

A complimentary glass of whiskey was provided upon completion of the tour, much to the delight of my fellow tour group who had ventured from as far as the USA to visit the home of their favourite tipple! For me however, I’ve never been a whiskey drinker, yet had thoroughly convinced myself during the tour that my tastes would have changed over the past few years. The first sip proved that this was not the case. Wonderful tour but I’m sorry, give me a glass of red wine any day!

And the fun doesn’t stop there…

In 2012, Bushmills Live was born; the first mini-music festival held in the Old Bushmills Distillery which celebrates “handmade whiskey and handmade music.” Having lived away for the past few years I have not yet had the chance to attend this event, but I love to support local music talent and if the video below is anything to go by, I’ll be booking my 2014 ticket as soon as I can!

I’ll leave you to watch this short video (which includes some great views from inside the building), but remember you can learn more about Bushmills Whiskey on their very cool interactive website at www.bushmills.com including their history, products and information on tour bookings etc.

Lots of love, K.