A homegrown talent on the rise

“Sofar Sounds”, founded in 2010 is a global, grass roots network of musicians, hosts and guests.

Their aim is to bring the magic back to live music by curating secret, intimate gigs in unique spaces.

From living rooms to churches, clothes shops to upmarket furniture showrooms, the goal is to create performance spaces where the audience lives in the moment and listens closely to the music.

We caught up with Derry born, Roisin Donald, known in the music industry as “Roe”, after her Sofar Sounds gig in a barber shop in Belfast.

To see the interview in full, click the link below.

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Vital renovations for Foyle Search and Rescue base

 

The Foyle Search and Rescue base has undergone vital renovations over the past number of months.

The group, who are based in Prehen, Derry, are as busy as ever, and have as many as 70 volunteers carrying out regular checks in the fast-flowing river Foyle.

The group continues to carry out various search and rescue missions in their battle to keep people safe from the dangerous Foyle waters.

Derry’s three bridges have been suicide blackspots for many years. The Foyle Bridge stands at 130 feet tall and is the largest suspension bridge on the island of Ireland, with many having jumped from the bridge over the years.

Head of Media Communications for Foyle Search and Rescue, Pat Carlin, has praised the generosity of the public, whose donations have made upgrades to their headquarters in the Waterside possible.

 

Beauty and the Beast film review

By Katie Dickie

 

Beauty and the Beast have recently been relaunched to our cinema screens, with the 2017 version a live action film, compared to the 1991 animation.

Director, Bill Condon, employs the latest technology in visual effects, computer generated imagery. Using 3D computer graphics to create scenes or special effects throughout the film.

When a handsome prince, played by Dan Stevens is transformed into a Beast by an enchantress who warns, “Beauty is found within,” she also places a curse on his servants.

Emma Watson plays Belle, the bookish beauty and heroine. Our first introduction shows her strolling around her home village of Villeneuve, in France, singing, “I want more than this provincial life.”

Gaston, a former soldier in the French army, seeks to marry Belle and is played by Luke Stevens. Will he succeed?

Lefou played by Josh Gad is Gaston’s side- kick and displays subtle affection towards him throughout the film.

Kevin Kline plays Belles father Maurice, a music- box maker. After picking a rose in the grounds of the castle, he is taken captive by the Beast.

Belle becomes a prisoner in exchange for her father going free. Will Belle soften the Beast’s heart?

If she falls in love with him the curse will be lifted on the Beast and his servants. Will this happen before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose?

Is Belle suffering from ‘Stockholm syndrome’? (Where a captive shares feelings of trust or affection toward their captor). Emma Watson has strongly disputed such claims, in recent interviews. I feel the relationship between Belle and the Beast is a matter for your own interpretation.

During a ballroom scene at the end, there is a brief ‘gay encounter’ with Lefou and another gentleman. This storyline has attracted much publicity, however young children would not pick up on this.

Beauty and the Beast is an excellent film, live action gave the film a good pace and depth, something that animation alone could not achieve. Cast performances were all superb.

The soundtrack, which has added three new songs, aided performance and helped convey background storylines.

Sarah Greenwood, production designer, added decadence to the sets and improved viewers understanding of the time period.

A parental guidance (PG) rating has been given to the film, as it contains some violent scenes, but should not unsettle a child aged eight or older.

Click on the links below for alternative reviews.

http://variety.com/2017/film/news/beauty-and-the-beast-reviews-critics-1202001749/

http://www.empireonline.com/movies/beauty-beast-2/review/

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/beauty-and-the-beast-2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From lost to found…..a journey of 1100 miles

It’s Sunday evening, you and your hangover are just about on speaking terms, and as such, there’s really only one thing for it….light the fire, pour a liberal glass of “hair of the dog” and settle down with a movie to distract from the knowledge that Monday morning is fast approaching.

And so ensues the great debate that happens in every living room, in every house, between every couple at this crucial stage in the weekend…….What movie should we watch? Action? Fantasy? Comedy? For me, Sunday evenings and a film “based on true events” fit together perfectly like love and marriage. As the song so beautiful puts it, “ya can’t have one without the other!!”

This week’s pick, “Wild”, Nick Hornby’s 2014 adaptation of Cheryl Strayeds’ New York Times number 1 best-selling memoir, “Wild: A journey from lost to found.”

So, what’s it all about? Cheryl, played by Reese Witherspoon, embarks upon a gruelling 1100 mile solo hike through the wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail. Following her mother’s death to cancer, Cheryl is unable to process her grief and spirals into self-destruction. A heroin habit and many sexual encounters with strangers cement the toxic relationship she is developing with herself. She is acutely aware that, in order to break the cycle which she now identifies as everyday life, she must stop using these coping mechanisms to numb the pain of her mothers passing. In short, she needs to be able to  feel again.

Throughout this transformative journey, feel she does. Of course there’s the physical side that one would expect from a trek such as this. From the numerous raw and bleeding grazes etched into the skin of her ever shrinking frame to the loose toenails that need to be ripped from their nail bed in one swift movement in order to continue hiking. But there is also an intense emotional journey.

During the trek, flashes of Cheryl’s back story become interlaced with the present day to allow a greater understanding of what has happened in her life to shape her as the complex individual she has become.

I’m not going to offer any spoilers. Does she succeed or does she decide to pack up and return to her previous life? You’ll have to watch to find out.

I will leave you with this, during the journey she meets a fellow hiker who asks her if she ever gets lonely trekking solo. Her response, “I’m lonelier in my real life than I am out here.” And so, some food for thought, in a world so full of other people perhaps it is in isolation, that a true sense of physical and mental freedom can be found or perhaps not? You decide.

 

Crash and Burn Review

Recently, Formula One has become a hotbed for filmmakers, whether that be a documentary or a biopic of the sport’s most successful stars and the biggest rivalries that helped turn it into the global sensation that it is today.

However, Crash and Burn tells a tale far removed from the glitz, glamour and success that Formula One is associated with. BBC Northern Ireland’s documentary a tale of a Dundalk man from who came from nothing, and whose eventual fall from the pinnacle of motorsport was nearly as rapid as the road that brought him there.

Like me, even the most ardent Formula One fan may struggle to recall the name Tommy Byrne, and I take great pride in being able to recall every single Formula One champion from memory.

After all, Byrne only entered five races in 1982. He failed to qualifying for three and the two he did manage to wrestle his way onto the start grid, the unreliable Theodore car failed to finish on either occasion.

Byrne’s story is a tale about a man who fought against the odds to reach the top, but fate intervened and his name vanished into the history books. As the title for his book, which preceded the documentary, states, “Tommy Byrne: The Greatest Formula One Driver You Never Saw.”

Byrne and Van Dieman Racing team mate Ayrton Senna and Byrne both demolished the opposition throughout the junior racing categories.

One went on to win three Formula One world titles, the other ended his career racing for a drug cartel owner in Mexico.

You almost have to watch it to believe it.

It’s the unknown and unexpected nature of his career, the feeling of rooting for the underdog, that makes Crash and Burn such an intriguing watch.

In the recent successful films Senna and Rush, the story line is well documented, the viewer knows what is coming up next.

Crash and Burn doesn’t give a happy ending. At one point, it looks like Byrne is destined for stardom and suddenly he’s working at an advanced driving school in Florida.

And the film doesn’t hide it. It doesn’t pretend to be a success story. It’s his spectacular fall is that draws you in.

It’s an important documenatry. It’s not only a piece on a local underdog that was close to making his mark on the big stage and fighting against the establishment, but it’s also a film for the many drivers who didn’t make it, they’re in good company.

In Byrne’s own words, “It hasn’t been a terrible life. I just missed out on 100 million dollars, that’s all.”

Andersonstown Leisure Centre to close on 29 May for council revamp

The centre was first developed in 1979.

Andersonstown Leisure Centre is to close its doors on May 29 so that refurbishment works can begin.

The centre was first established in 1979

Plans for the new centre were revealed in March as part of Belfast City Council’s £105m Leisure Transformation Programme . The programme aims to promote the Andersonstown facilities as the centre for water-based family fun.

The new centre is due to open in the summer 2019 with users advised to use other council leisure facilities in the meantime.

£25million was invested into the project, which will provide a family fun water centre and dry leisure facilities.

The ‘water’ plans include three slides: Masterblaster, Flatline Loop and body slide

However staff at the Leisure Centre have said they are angry at the lack of information they have received regarding the future of their jobs when the centre closes.

Deborah Boyle has worked as a receptionist in the centre from when it was first built in 1979.

She claims that staff have been given an “unfair choice” and that some still do not know if they will be given employment in other council leisure centres. Mrs Boyle says:

“They’ve offered us a redundancy package which is pathetic. It’s pittance.

I’ve worked here for nearly 40 years, loads of us have been here since the beginning.

It’s an unfair choice, either take the redundancy or wait around and hope there’s room for you somewhere else.”

The renovation follows the opening of the state-of-the-art Olympia Leisure Centre located on Boucher Road, Belfast.

Now simply named ‘The Olympia’ the centre is managed by the GLL ‘Better’ brand which has worked in partnership with Belfast city council to operate leisure centres since 2015.

The proposed plans for exterior of the centre

“Just not good enough”

People Before Profit Councillor Matthew Collins says that both staff and the community haven’t been given sufficient opportunity to voice their concerns. Mr Collins claims:

“I’ve spoken to the community and staff members who are not happy with the development plans.

Consultation was minimal from the start and it is just not good enough that some staff have been left confused when the closure is so soon.”

Swimming instructor Brendan Mulholland has been running swimming lessons for children for over 20 years in Andersonstown.

Brendan will be taking lessons in Whiterock until the building is finished and understands the need for renovation, but disagrees with the design plans of the new centre. He says:

“I’m trying to teach young people how to swim competitively and they’re making this place into a kiddies fun centre.

The council don’t care they just want to get as many people as possible through the doors”

  • The agreed facilities are:
  • large family fun focused area of leisure water
  • 25m six lane pool with 50 spectator seats
  • Learner Pool
  • Confidence water for small children and toddlers
  • 140 station fitness suite
  • Exercise studios
  • Spin studio
  • Cafe
  • Multipurpose room
  • Range of outdoor provision such as five-a-side pitches

“It definitely needs modernised.”

Regular gym user Clare Bannon says that new facilities are needed. Clare says:

“The rooms aren’t very well ventilated and the spin studio and gym can get so warm that you’re sweating before you’ve started working out! It definitely needs modernised.”

Ventilation, changing rooms and dry areas are to be improved upon under the new plans.

Ground Floor plans for the refurbished centre

A Belfast City Council spokesman has stated:

“Having developed initial designs for the new facility, we carried out a community consultation in September 2016.

Based on the feedback from this consultation the designs for the new centre were further refined.

We carried out a further period of consultation and recognise the importance of engaging staff to ensure they are aware of plans going forward.”

The new Andersonstown Leisure Centre is due to open in summer 2019.

Review: ‘Get Out’

“Black is back!”

Meeting a partners parents for the first time is usually a somewhat uncomfortable experience, and in “Get Out” the situation is no different.

Awkward dad jokes, an overtly competitive sibling and a mother who specialises in hypnosis. Yes, it’s your traditional ‘meet the parents’ set-up.

DANIEL KALUUYA as Chris Washington

The directorial debut from Jordan Peele (MADtv, Key & Peele) presents the audience with a film balancing precisely on the line between psychological thriller and dark comedy.

At several points in this film you will experience the urge to laugh, although whether your giggle is the result of humour or horror you are never quite sure.

When African-American photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is invited by his Caucasian girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her family, race is an issue from the beginning.

The insistence that her father would have voted for Obama “a third time” is later reinforced by the man himself, as Bradley Whitford embodies the role of friendly/desperate Mr Armitage with a conviction that is winningly cringe worthy.

Mrs Armitage’s (Catherine Keeper) contemplative assessment of Chris is no more comforting, particularly when we see her command of the two (black) servants using little more than the clink of a spoon on her teacup.

Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keeper as the creepy Mr and Mrs Armitage

It soon becomes clear that the warning “Don’t go to a white girl’s parents’ house!”  delivered by Chris’ best friend, and provider of comic relief, Rod (LilRel Howry) is more ominous than first thought.

Bleak comedy soon gives way to spine-chilling mystery as Chris is paraded as the star attraction of a garden party where wealthy, white people prod his muscles and patronisingly insist “Black is back!” with an intensity which transcends mere curiosity.

The casting of Daniel Kaluuya may have been controversial when revealed, but it is the Brits former non-entity in Hollywood combined with Peele’s chaotically choreographed writing which makes this film stand out.

The casting of a more prominent actor would surely not have cemented us so securely in a film where the progression of the sinister is so rapid.

The unpredictability of the script, the haunting, string-filled soundtrack and a cinematography where symbolism is subtly emphasised all combine to create a thriller where the audience cannot guess what is going to happen next. It is satisfying for those sick of the predictability of thriller films, yet to label it as “crowd-pleasing” could not be further from the truth.

“Get Out” is a triumph of cinema, a socially relevant but unique concept which reveals more messages with every viewing.

The audience teeters uneasily between the realms of farce and fear as we are presented with a world which is assuredly unrealistic, yet at the same time disconcertingly familiar.

Northern Ireland and the EU Referendum – What next?

With the first anniversary of the EU Referendum on the horizon, it could be argued that the vote to leave the European Union has generated many more questions than answers.

The fate of the United Kingdom appears to have been sealed after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 back in March, which officially opened the two-year divorce negotiations with the EU.

Article 50’s triggering puts an end to the UK’s 44-year association with Europe.

The Prime Minister then proceeded to call a snap general election for 8 June, and is set to battle it out with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the right to lead the UK out of their EU membership over the next two years.

Regardless of who ends up with the keys to 10 Downing Street, numerous significant issues will need to be addressed to avoid a so-called “hard” Brexit.

One of the most important of these issues concerns the impact that Brexit will have on the island of Ireland, and particularly the questions surrounding the Common Travel Area.

A hard border has not been seen between the Republic and Northern Ireland since before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, but that is what could materialise following Brexit negotiations.

Most of the Northern Irish electorate voted to remain in the EU, much like voters in Scotland. However, a significant surge in leave votes in England and Wales meant that the leave campaign obtained an overall majority, regardless of the results in the devolved nations.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

The result of the referendum has been met with widespread anger and ridicule in Northern Ireland. Most of the main parties such as Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Alliance Party all campaigned for a remain outcome, with only the Democratic Unionist Party lobbying for a leave vote in the North.

The SDLP, among others, say that the result is unjust since 56% of Northern Ireland voted in favour of remaining in the EU, and they have called for the Northern Ireland Executive to ‘ensure that the will of the people of Northern Ireland is accurately represented in relation to the European Union.’

Shauna Cusack is a SDLP councillor for the Foyle constituency, and she is adamant that the remain majority in Northern Ireland should be given every opportunity to protect their EU membership, as the consequences may be severe outside the block.

She said: “We have not given our consent to change the constitutional make-up of the North, therefore our membership of Europe should not be altered.

“We here already suffer from the greatest levels of historical, social and economic deprivation and are last on the list when it comes to investment backed and funded by Westminster.

“The ever-reducing Block Grant combined with the austerity of Welfare Reform does not make for a prosperous or bright future.

“EU funding has often been our lifeline. It has provided a plethora of capital and social projects here in the North and has changed both landscapes, communities and even lives. What therefore will fill the gap when this is gone?”

Cllr Cusack was also deeply concerned by the potential of a hard border being erected, and the consequences this may have on those living and working on both sides of the divide.

She asked: “What happens our invisible border on this island? Given our immediate proximity, how will this affect our ability to work, live and claim state assistance in any area of this island, which many in this city and district do?”

“In this single, arguably most life changing political decision of our generation we must ensure that Westminster, for once, respects, protects and prioritises the will of the people here.”

As well as the effects of Brexit mentioned by Cllr Cusack, the demographic that will arguably be hit hardest by the decision to leave is the younger generation.

Youngsters who had grand plans to work within another EU country will find it much more difficult to obtain the legal documents necessary following Brexit negotiations, which may go some way to explaining the sudden upsurge in applications for Irish passports in recent months.

It also remains to be seen how EU citizens studying in the UK will be affected when divorce proceedings are finalised.

Students protest at Westminster, London.

Ulster University Students’ Union President, Colum Mackey, believes that Brexit will have a negative impact on the student bodies in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and feels that the overall student experience will suffer drastically.

He said: “The European Union has a terrific relationship with the university, and through EU funding of schemes such as ERASMUS, students are given the opportunity to study abroad in EU nations. This way they can experience unique cultures and make lifelong friendships without losing the overall student experience.

“In the wake of the EU Referendum, I am deeply concerned that schemes such as ERASMUS will not be running for much longer. We may be left relying on funding from the UK government, which is unrealistic given the constant rise in tuition fees year on year.

“There are also many students from EU nations, most notably the Republic of Ireland, who are undergoing their studies here in Northern Ireland and the UK, and it is uncertain at this stage how they will inevitably be affected by the vote.”

When Brexit negotiations finally begin in earnest, those residing in Northern Ireland will be desperate to ensure that the country is not overlooked by the powers that be in Westminster.

Theresa May has previously promised that maintaining the Common Travel Area is an absolute priority for the party, and anything less than an open border could spell logistical chaos in Ireland.

The only question that can be answered with any certainty at this early stage is that the UK will be leaving the European Union – the condition that one of the world’s largest economies will be in when all is said and done is anyone’s guess.

‘Logan’ Review: The final chapter of Wolverine’s story slices and dices all before it

Hugh Jackman in Logan. Photograph: Gamespot

Fans of the X-Men series have been clamouring for a gritty, ultra-realistic and brazenly violent Wolverine movie for many years, and even more so recently considering the success of fellow Fox property Deadpool. In Logan, which is touted to be Hugh Jackman’s last turn as the adamantium-clawed mutant, Fox and director James Mangold have achieved everything they set out to accomplish, and then some.

It is 2029, and mutants have become virtually extinct, with the few that remain seemingly in hiding from their human oppressors. A greying, bearded and dishevelled Logan is living in a rugged outpost near the Mexican border where his primary function is to care for a mentally debilitating Professor Xavier – with the legendary Patrick Stewart reprising his role as the iconic mind-reader for the final time. The Professor requires a lot of medication to restrain his substantial telepathic powers, which Logan pays for through his side job as a limo driver. It is somewhat disturbing to see these archetypal mutants in such a miserable state – it certainly makes a change from Xavier’s lavish X-Mansion in upstate New York.

One of the main story arcs in the film begins when Logan encounters Laura, a powerful young mutant portrayed by actress Dafne Keen who shines in a breakout performance. The girl is hunted by the methodical and frightening half-man, half-cyborg Donald Pierce, with Boyd Holbrook of Narcos fame putting in a superb display of charisma and nefariousness, and he will stop at nothing to bring Laura back to his Mutant Experimentation Centre. At first glance you could be forgiven for wondering why Laura is such an asset to the evil Pierce – but all will become clear around a quarter of the way through as her relationship with Logan develops.

Hugh Jackman has appeared in the X-Men series since its big screen debut in 2000, but for the first time, Wolverine feels mortal. You get the sense that every unsheathing of his trademark claws and blood-soaked battle may be his last, which separates Logan from modern day superhero movies where everyone appears to have an air of invincibility. It is a dark, emotional tale but at the same time an uplifting one. It is the perfect send-off for everyone’s favourite slicer and dicer. You can cast aside many of your superhero tropes and clichés for this one, as James Mangold tears up the rulebook and starts from scratch.

Northern Ireland set to lose ‘instrumental’ European Funding

Due to the uncertain relationship the UK will have with Europe once Brexit takes hold, Northern Ireland council areas are set to lose valuable European funding by 2022.

Derry City Strabane District Council Area (DCSDC) runs one of the many European Socially funded (ESF) programmes across Northern Ireland, called ‘Kick Start to Work’. These programmes are aimed at combating poverty and enhancing social inclusion by reducing economic inactivity, and increasing the skills base of current or future participants of the workplace.

Currently, Derry City Strabane District Council Area has no provisions in place for when the funding ceases. This is a worrying factor for both council workers and members of the public who avail of their unemployment services.

Nicky Gilleece, Kickstart’s Mentoring Officer, said: ‘An incidental benefit of ESF funding is the support network it has created for its participants through the professional mentoring given. This personal service can never be duplicated by Government bodies and will be missed as much as the financial aspect of ESF.’

ESF is the most important factor, financially, for DCSDC Area’s ability to reach out and help the public move forward into the workplace.  40% of the funding comes from ESF which is the largest contributing factor, a further 25% of the funds are from government and council provides 35% match funding.

Derry City Council’s Skills Manager, Tina Gillespie, said ‘Financially over £5m per annum is brought in through ESF. It pays for training which an unemployed / economically inactive person could not pay for or avail of without ESF.’

Without this funding Council Areas would struggle to provide the top quality services currently offered.

In 2015 Derry and Strabane were top of the unemployment rates with 7.4%, followed by Belfast’s 5.2%. They have also consistently been above the NI average unemployment rates for over 10 years. With such frightening figures, it is vital that DCSDC continue working to improve their economic activity.

 

DCSDC Area’s ‘Kick Start to Work’ program offers free and confidential support with employment and training. They assist with job searching, writing CVs, completing job applications, preparing for interviews, and getting into the right training course.

Nicky works directly with the clients and notices the positive economic and emotional benefits the program has.

She said: ‘With a rate into employment of over 30%, Kickstart have assisted hundreds of people with accessing employment opportunities they would not have thought possible.‘

Prior to Kickstart there was no facility for local people to access free, vital and simple services that Kickstart provides and without the program DCSDC Area will have a large void for those in need of economic assistance.

Nicky said: ‘Kickstart’s assistance has been financial, emotional, practical and instrumental to the clients.’

 

While ESF has been a  benefit to DCSDC Area, it is not without its issues. Unemployment rates are still dangerously high and they have scored consistently as one of the most economically deprived council areas across Northern Ireland.

Tina said: ‘Overall, elements of the programme have been very successful but, on the whole, when you look statistically at the targets groups above the percentages have not changed. This is an indictment of both the delivery partners in ESF and the economy itself.’

 

Regardless of statistics, European Socially Funded programmes provide beneficial work; both in helping those unemployed get into the work place and on a personal level.

The training sector will contract as removal of ESF funding and will significantly reduce the provision of training, mentoring and support in the DCSDC area. There will also be unemployment in this sector with regards to staff involved in programmes such as Kickstart.

Nicky said: ‘The bottom line is that opportunities for employment will be lost as these will be taken up by candidates who can afford to train themselves.’

Kickstart’s Outreach Table

 

Tina said: ‘The removal of ESF will remove the comfort blanket that participants have had which increased their independence. This is negative and detrimental. People do not want to avail of the statutory services and provision available as it is linked to government, they feel more at ease with provision from non-government groups.’

At present there is no foreseeable replacement for ESF, but Tina Gillespie ensures that each Council has a strategic plan in place for future growth.  This will address the supply and demand elements of employment and will aim to bring supply and demand to an equilibrium, that is, train for sectors which are growing.

DCSDC Job Growth Forecast

 

She concluded, saying: ‘These plans need to be pushed forward with a smarter use of what money is available and a tighter control and monitoring of this money. There needs to be a focus on pulling funding in from America and monopolising on social enterprises’

With just 5 years till European Social Funding ceases in 2022, it is imperative that Northern Ireland Council Areas accumulate their resources and establish a better, stronger scheme to ensure that employability and skills do not slip, but grow.