Tag Archives: belfast

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.

Assisted Dying in Northern Ireland: Where Do We Stand?

Dignity in Dying invited people of all perspectives to discuss assisted dying in the Hilton Hotel ©Dignity in Dying Northern Ireland
Last month’s Dignity in Dying event shone a new light on a topic often overlooked by Stormont. What causes our politicians to cast the debate surrounding assisted dying to the shadows, and how does that impact the people of Northern Ireland? Clare Hogarth investigates:

A discussion on the topic of assisted dying on 30th March was the first of its kind to take place since the cancellation of an event in 2011. The event in the Hilton went further than Dr Philip Nitschke’s banned Safe Exit Workshop six years ago, attracting an audience of all ages to discuss and share their thoughts.

While Nitschke planned a demonstration of the machine used in the euthanasia process, the event organised by Dignity in Dying was a night for “exploring different perspectives”, allowing people from all categories of thought to get involved.

Planned to coincide with the Association of Palliative Medicine’s Supportive and Palliative Care conference, the night revolved around the perspectives of palliative care professionals. Dr Richard Sheffer and Mark Jarman Howe addressed the room with their thoughts on how palliative care can work hand in hand with assisted dying.

It became clear the discussion of assisted dying was not exclusive to any age bracket, to the surprise of some in attendance as the observation “I thought I would be the only person under forty here…apparently not” rattled around the room.

Barbara Rima had planned to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland © Downtown Radio

First up on the panel was retired Queen’s professor Bert Rima, offering perhaps the most personal insight into the effect the current law on assisted dying has on those in need. Mr Rima’s wife Barbara had been suffering from a recurrence of breast cancer and MS, to the point she decided she would rather end her life.

However, under current legislation the closest place to legally allow assisted suicide is Dignitas in Switzerland, meaning Barbara would have to travel to get her wish. By the time the couple had solidified plans, Barbara was too weak to make the trip: Listen to Bert Rima  here.

While Swiss law allows a terminally ill person to administer lethal medication to end their life, the Suicide Act of 1961 means it is illegal in the UK to assist someone in their death. As a result, Barbara had to do this by her own means.

Mr Rima returned home one Sunday afternoon to find his wife had taken poison to end her suffering. He explains that it “was largely because of this event I have got involved in Dignity in Dying”, emphasising the effect the current law has on those suffering and beyond: Listen to Bert Rima here.

The facts

Assisted dying, also known as physician-assisted suicide (PAS), refers to the act of suicide assisted by another person, in most cases a physician. Assisted dying gives the subject control of when, where and by what means they die, with many seeing the use of fatal pills or injections allowing a more peaceful death than other suicidal means.

Jo Brand is one of many celebrity patrons for Dignity in Dying, including Sir Terry Pratchett and Sir Patrick Stewart © Dignity in Dying

There is a significant difference between assisted dying and euthanasia, where in cases of the latter the means of death is administered by the physician as opposed to the subject. In cases of assisted dying, the subject not only must voluntarily express their wish to die and request the means to do so, but must also administer the pills or injection themselves.

There are a number of different safeguards in place where assisted dying is currently legal, as can be seen in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Similar “end-of-life” practice can be seen in California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, known as ‘medical aid in dying’ as opposed to assisted dying.

Bringing it home – what do we know?

A survey of 100 people conducted for the purpose of this investigation indicated that 95% of the Northern Irish population were familiar with the term assisted dying.

When asked about their initial thoughts, 82% agreed with its use, with a majority citing mercy and ending suffering as their reasons for this. Both disagreement and uncertainty were balanced at nine votes each, with the latter justified by the question of where the line would be drawn in granting requests for assisted death.

Where do we stand?

After Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s 2014 bill to the House of Lords failed to progress due to a General Election, Labour MP Rob Marris introduced another to the House of Commons a year later. Based on Falconer’s proposals for assisted dying, Marris’ 2015 bill was the first opportunity the Commons had to vote on the issue since 1997.

The Green Party are the only Party to have a policy on assisted dying © Green Party NI

The bill was defeated 330 to 118, with 13 out of 14 Northern Irish MP’s voting against, while the other failed to attend.

This political rejection of the issue could almost be seen as complete detachment in Northern Ireland. Assisted dying is essentially non-existent in Stormont and can only be seen in the Green Party’s manifesto. Boyd Sleator, Operations Co-ordinator for Northern Ireland Humanists and advocate for assisted dying, does not see any Party including it on their to-do list for a long time: Listen to Boyd Sleator here

A medical perspective

The medical perspective on assisted dying is incredibly significant, with the role of prescribing and attending doctors crucial to the process.

The British Medical Association (BMA) “oppose assisted dying in all its forms”, giving particular emphasis on the high quality palliative care available and their concern for the pressure it would put on vulnerable people.

Another concern is the “slippery slope” of safeguarding assisted dying, with fears that passing time would see “…the law being extended beyond the limits originally envisaged at its inception.”

Dr Idris Baker, a consultant in palliative care at Morriston Hospital in Wales, shares the same stance.

Dr Baker opposes any changes to the current law © BBC

“A change in the law isn’t needed, would send the wrong  signals about life, and would make it harder to do what’s really needed for the dying.”

He echoes the BMA’s fears for the vulnerable, about which he debated in Belfast against Baroness Warnock: “…a few years ago she said that it was noble for someone to volunteer to shorten their life and so not be a burden.  What’s noble is for the rest of us to redouble our efforts to make sure that no one feels worthless.”

Dr Baker says it is his experiences with his patients that make him so passionate about tackling the gaps palliative care may have, not ending life: “You should see the way people reframe their hopes to realign them with a changed reality.  It is without doubt the most humbling thing I have seen in my career and I see it time after time, day after day.  So part of my job is to support people in trying to do that.”

The counterargument

After his wife’s death, Bert Rima has become a steadfast campaigner for Dignity in Dying. When asked about the arguments by those who oppose changes to the law, he had much to say on their effect in reality: Listen to Bert Rima here.

Boyd Sleator refutes the same arguments, with particular rejection of the theory assisted dying will place pressure on those in vulnerable positions: Listen to Boyd Sleator here.

While he acknowledges safeguarding assisted dying would have its difficulties, Boyd explains “by reviewing and revising the process we can constantly update and improve, and that is what we should always be looking at doing.”

Boyd makes the stance of Northern Ireland Humanists clear, in that they are not advocates of assisted dying, but advocates of choice: Listen to Boyd Sleator here.

People like Mark Jarman Howe, part of the panel at Dignity in Dying’s event, make it clear the stance on assisted dying in the medical world is not so black and white.

Dr Richard Scheffer, Bert Rima and Mark Jarman Howe shared their perspectives on assisted dying © Clare Hogarth

 “If we value how end of life and hospice care focus on the individual’s wishes, then why would we not want to extend that to the how and the when, not just the where?” asks CEO of Essex Hospice Mark Jarman Howe

Howe is not alone in the medical world. Dr Richard Sheffer, with 20 years experience in both palliative and hospice care, refutes that palliative care and assisted dying are mutually exclusive, but a team.

Where palliative care cannot relieve suffering, he believes we cannot ignore the need for assisted dying to step in: Listen to Dr Richard Sheffer here.

Where do we go from here?

Both Bert Rima and Boyd Sleator doubt there will be much movement on assisted dying in Northern Ireland for a long time.

However, while the politicians continue with other matters, the people of Northern Ireland continue to live, learn and have their say. When asked if they would vote to allow assisted dying in Northern Ireland, only 9% of survey respondents voted no. Of the 91% that voted yes, 25% said it depended on the circumstance and safeguards that were put in place.

In the current political climate, with an Executive struggling to be formed, it is clear assisted dying is at the bottom of an extensive to-do list, if at all.

Meanwhile, the people of Northern Ireland continue to discuss and debate, and Dignity in Dying’s campaign will persist until they see movement.



And every other colour under the sun now. Vinyl is back and it could well be here to stay. With Record Store Day just around the corner thousands of eager vinyl collectors will be waiting outside record shops all across U.K in the hope of bagging themselves one of the prized, rare, limited edition pressings, released exclusively for Record Store Day.

The point of the event is to get people to visit their local, independent record store, and to promote the comeback of vinyl records. With 2017 being the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, there could well be some very special and sought after releases indeed.

Some of the records rumored to be released for the event include;

Alice In Chains – What The Hell Have I/Get Born Again [2×7”] (gatefold, limited to 4000, indie-retail exclusive) 7″,

Buddy Guy – Sick With Love / She Got It Together [10”] (two brand new songs, limited to 1500, indie-retail exclusive) 10″,

Motorhead – Clean Your Clock [2LP] (Picture Disc, limited to 1500, indie-retail exclusive) LP, and Toto – Africa [12”] (Picture Disc, die cut, limited to 2500, indie-retail exclusive) 12″.

Not only does the event draw crowds of genuine collectors who want the release for themselves, but it also draws in people who want to buy the rare pressing because they know they can quickly turn a profit by selling them online.

Vinyl Records are becoming increasingly popular with sales overtaking downloads in December 2016.

2016 saw vinyl sales at their highest in 25 years. According to the Entertainment Retailers Association, in one week alone in December vinyl sales actually made £2.4m and overtook downloads which made £2.1m.

Many people think the reason download sales are declining could be due to the increase in popularity of streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora. With these services, you don’t actually own the music, rather you pay your subscription to the service and the music is then ‘rented’ to you.

Spotify offers a family package for £14.99 per month which allows up to six different user accounts. This means that between six people, you can have the service for £2.50 per month so it’s easy to see why people are moving towards services such as this. However, a lot of people still want to own their music and a hard copy of it too. This is one of the reasons that vinyl records have seen a revival over the past decade.

This isn’t the first time vinyl has made a comeback however. The first vinyl revival was largely due to teenage bedroom DJs in the 90s, who wanted to play in the top night clubs in Ibiza. They would buy their turntables and mixers and then all the latest records to use in their own mixes. This came to an end however, with the popularity of digital music on the rise. DJs were able to take their whole record collection with them without having to carry boxes of heavy vinyl around with them. Go to any night club today and you’ll most likely see a DJ using little more than a laptop and a mixer. Vinyl sets are more of a gimmick these days, played in more ‘alternative’ clubs or on ‘Old School’ nights.

What is the appeal of vinyl? 

Whether it’s a trendy youngster who is following the latest craze, a housewife who wants something to spin while she does the cleaning, or a middle aged man trying to rebuild his collection that the wife made him get rid of when we all thought vinyl was dead and buried, it seems that vinyl could be here be stay this time.

Just what is it everybody seems to love about vinyl though? Maybe it’s the ritual of browsing through the pile of records, taking it out of its sleeve and placing it on the turntable. Maybe it’s the initial sound of the needle dropping or the smell of old records. It could be the perfect imperfections in an old record that give it a sense of character.  Maybe it’s just about nostalgia for many people.

To find out more, I spoke to Connor Booth, an avid vinyl collector who has been adding to his collection for the past 7 or 8 years. He has traveled all over the country buying, selling and swapping records and audio equipment.

I then wanted to get some more opinions, so I took to social media to see just what it is about vinyl that means it won’t go away.

I asked the question, “Vinyl Collectors:- What is it about vinyl that you like so much compared to other formats?”

Some responses from Facebook included;

I then asked the same question on the ‘Metal Amino’ app. This is an app where you can interact with other users and talk about music.

A user by the name of Steven said, “To me vinyl has a raw sound to it compared to CD’s, the artwork is much bigger, the boxsets are usually filled with more goodies than most CD boxsets and you usually get a poster with the vinyl too.”

Another user by the name ‘Br00tal’ replied to this comment saying, “Don’t forget that almost all vinyl records now come with a free code for digital download too, so now you can have two formats!”

“Nostalgia, better packaging, good investment and the sound quality is superior to digital formats” said user, ‘GreyMatterSplatter’.

‘Lony’ agrees with the previous comments but adds, “I also enjoy the crackling sound my record player makes sometimes.”

‘Derek Wayne Buckner’ says, “It’s more collectable. It’s bigger. It sounds different. It can’t be pirated easily or copied. I feel like you get more of a product for the money. The artwork and stuff included is bigger and seems nicer.”

‘GreyMatterSplatter’ mentioned that vinyl is a good investment. This is actually a very good point. If you buy your music digitally, then it’s yours, but you can’t sell it. (Not legally anyway.) However if you buy vinyl records, you can usually sell them on for close to what you paid for it if it’s a new release. Of course some records also go up in value if they are limited edition. This also means that if you buy a record and you decide you don’t really like it, you can simply sell it on or swap it for a different one.

Independent Shops 

Track Records is an independent record store in Ballymena

There are quite a few independent record shops opening up across the country now. This is almost hard to believe as just a few years ago, big chain stores were closing down. In February 2013, HMV announced that they would be closing 66 stores throughout the UK. 9 of these stores were in Northern Ireland including one in Ballymena where a small independent shop is now open. This was a time where it was thought to be the death of physical media. Everything was being downloaded; not just music but also films, games and even books and magazines.

Track Records started out life when Joe Rocks was working for free in a café which also sold vintage clothes.  Some vinyl was then brought in to sell alongside the clothes and there seemed to be quite a demand for it. Joe, along with a 5-a-side friend then opened a small stall at a market on Saturdays selling vinyl. This led to the birth of Track Records which has changed location 3 times but has been in business for the past 5 years – quite an achievement for a small independent shop in a town where so many other businesses are having to close their doors.


I went along to Track Records, to speak with the owner, Joe Rocks about the vinyl revival and the impact Record Store Day has on small, independent record shops.


Owner, Joe Rocks is also a singer/songwriter

So whether it’s the big artwork and inserts, the little crackles you get from the needle, or just simply the collectability of it, it would seem that vinyl certainly has a place in our hearts and it may be here for the long run this time.


World Record Store day is happening on 22nd April and participating stores in Northern Ireland are; Head – Belfast, Sick Records – Belfast, Armagh Music – Armagh, Cool Discs Music – Londonderry.
But don’t forget to look in other independent stores too- you may find a great bargain or hidden gem!

For a full list of official releases check out RSD’s website here.

Ham Sandwich Rocks Belfast


Irish indie rock band Ham Sandwich made their first appearance at The Belfast Empire Music Hall on Saturday 16th April and showed audiences they’re far more than a funny name.

The band who hail from Kells, Co. Meath formed in 2003 and consist of Niamh Farrell (lead vocals), Podge McNamee (vocals, guitar), Brian Darcy (guitar), David McEnroe (bass), Ollie Murphy (drums).

I first came across them on a sweltering hot day in July 2013 when they supported Mumford & Sons at their concert in Phoenix Park and was instantly drawn to their high-energy stage presence, interesting indie rock style, and not to mention the rare sight of a female at its fore front.

They have released three studio albums since their formation – Carry the Meek (2008), White Fox (2010), and most recently Stories from the Surface (2015), which reached No.1 in the Irish album charts. All of their albums were released on the band’s own independent label – Route 109A Records.

The band stands out from a visual perspective because of its petite pixie-like vocalist Niamh Farrell, with her powerful yet sweet vocals and commanding presence. She certainly proved on Saturday’s gig that she can hold her own while sharing a stage with seven big bearded men.

Watching them onstage reminded me of the female-fronted bands that were heavily prevalent in the 90’s, such as the Pixies, Letters to Cleo, The Cardigans, No Doubt, and the Cranberries (to name but a few) all featuring powerful charismatic women in bands where all the other members are male. The genre of rock music is definitely lacking its power queens so seeing a female commanding the room with haunting vocals is certainly refreshing.

Playing a mix of old singles and new releases, Ham Sandwich showcased their distinctive version of indie rock. Their singles “Ants”, “The Naturist”, and “Models” are always great crowd pleasers; but they introduced their newer music with songs “Apollo”, “Fandingo”, and “Illuminate” from the new album. These are songs I hadn’t heard and was really impressed with the new material.

The audience also got a treat when the band covered Donna Summer’s 1977 hit “I Feel Love” which suited Farrell’s vocal style perfectly and gave the audience the feeling of being in a funky 70’s disco – but without the tack & cheese!

I was a fan before this gig and Ham Sandwich definitely did not disappoint.image

To see more of Ham Sandwich please click below:




Chris Henry makes his return to a roaring crowd

Chris Henry was the star of the show on Friday night as he made his return to the field. After suffering a mini stroke back in November, it was debatable as to whether he would ever make his return in an Ulster jersey. So in the 58th minute as cheers rang through the Kingspan Stadium, Henry ran onto home ground in an emotional and memorable return to a winning Ulster team.

Chris Henry making his return to the Ulster squad on Friday night
Chris Henry making his return to the Ulster squad on Friday night

The Ulster boys got off to a flying start with Craig Kilroy scoring the first try of the game in the 3rd minute and a conversion giving them a 7 point lead. Ruan Pienaar scored a penalty in the 14th minute followed by Louis Ludik scoring a try. Another penalty for No.9, Pienaar changed the score 18-nill to Ulster in the 30th minute. The first threat came from the Cardiff Blues in the 33rd minute with a foul against Ulster.

The first half of play was halted from 25mins due to injuries. Ulster’s Stuart Olding was stretchered off just four minutes into play with a knee injury. Rhys Pachell, a Cardiff Blue player was later stretchered off with a head injury, for which Nick Williams was handed a yellow card to the dismay of the Cardiff side.

However, the second half got off to a flying start with Cardiff closing the point gap to just four points in the 62nd minute, with a score of 21-17 to Ulster. Ruan Pienaar continued on his winning strike by scoring a penalty before being replaced. Cardiff held onto the ball well in the 67th and 68th minute before another highlight of the game which came from Louis Ludik in the 72nd minute with a magical try as he breezed through Cardiff Blue’s defence.

The final point in the game came from Paul Marshall and was converted by Ian Humphreys taking the final score to 36-17 for a bonus point victory. Ulster succeeded in gaining another five points and in the Guinness Pro12 league. Ulster now take on Connacht on Saturday 11th April.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 16.56.27
Guinness Pro 12 league table


‘Dancing on the Ceiling’, ‘All Night Long’

Last night Lionel Richie took the Odyssey by storm. After three years, he made his return to Northern Irish soil. Opening with All Around the World, Lionel took the audience on a journey, transcending the generations making up the buzzing audience.

At one point in the show he described how there are three types of fans. The Commodore fans, the Lionel fans, accompanied by, Stuck on You. And finally, the generation which was brought along by their mothers. This is the generation in which I fell into on the night.

At first, the thought of going to a Lionel Richie concert, stumped me, I only knew a handful of songs but did I enjoy it despite this? Of course. His on-stage persona got everyone on their feet from the camaraderie with the audience and his energetic performance it all added to his live presence, which made for a truly enjoyable evening.

Last night my ears were tainted with reminisces of how many times  “we danced to that song” or unfortunately, “cried to that song” from my mum and godmother who have been friends for 40 years. It was obvious that the older generation lived their lives through his music as there was a song suited to every emotion.

Lionel Richie was himself, very aware of the different stages in the life of his fans that he touched: “when I was in love, you were in love. When I was sad, you were sad and when I was angry, you were angry”. The comical sentiment that he exuded leant a great element to his performance. Spanning from his hits, Three Times a Lady to Hello and Dancing on the Ceiling. The latter, was a veritable crowd pleaser; everyone got on their feet and sang their hearts out, almost drowning out Lionel’s own voice.

Writing this piece I can feel the excitement brewing inside me again as I remember last night. For a man who has been preforming for many a year, there was no sign of age slowing him down as he ran across the stage encouraging audience participation, just to note, not much encouragement was needed.


Lionel Richie’s personality shown through each performance and the sincere gratitude he has for the support of his fans throughout the years was tangible.

Lionel still has a few dates left on his tour so get your tickets on Ticketmaster, quick.

Frampton pummels the weak Cazares as ticket prices soar ‘Higher and Higher’

Carl Frampton’s fight on Friday 4th April lasted four minutes and twenty two seconds. The clear mismatch, his ‘toughest fight to date’, was a sign of the ever more important role money plays in the world of boxing.  But for Connor Timmins, who was sitting beside me, the £60 ticket was ‘worth every penny’, and I’d agree.

Frampton’s massive appeal within Northern Ireland means he is constantly compared to Barry McGuigan.  It’s fitting, therefore, that he is managed by the ‘Clones Cyclone’, who has been quick to talk up the 27-year-old.  “I think he will be better than me…he’s a future world champion”, McGuigan recently told the Daily Express.  Critics would ask why then, did he put him up against the washed-up Mexican, Hugo Cazares?  The bookies had Frampton at one to fourteen to win the contest; it was never going to be the ‘Thriller in Manila’.

Throughout the early evening, the majority of seats were empty.  Most fans were at the bar drinking flat beer, I must admit I was with them, albeit keeping a close eye on the undercard – the star of which was the Shankill’s Marco McCullough who faced Elemir Rafael from Slovakia.  The last-minute stand-in Rafael was absolutely dreadful.  It was the biggest mismatch since a penguin was thrown into the lion’s den up in Belfast Zoo.  A third round TKO ended Rafael, whose feet were flatter than the Odyssey Arena beer.

The Odyssey Arena filling up before for main event
The Odyssey Arena filling up before for main event

A short time later the main event began.  Cazares came to the ring first, his music drowned out by the booing of the hostile crowd.  He was followed by Frampton, who came out to Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher’.  The crowd sang every word of the perfectly fitting song.  The atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

In the end the fight was less than historic.  After a first round of sizing each other up, Frampton came out strong in the second.  There followed a bizarre incident in which Cazares suffered a dead leg and proceeded to prance around the ring like a demented ballerina, trying to shake it off.  With 1.38 left on the clock, Frampton caught the Mexican with a hard left hook that sent him onto the canvas, game over.

Ultimately, the fans didn’t care whether the fight was two, seven or twelve rounds.  They wanted to see a win, and this more than compensated for the over-inflated ticket price.  World-class sportsmen are rare in Northern Ireland, so they are cherished here more than anywhere else. If Barry McGuigan can convince world champion Leo Santa Cruz to give Carl Frampton a title shot in Belfast, no ticket price will be too high.


The Belfast Giants will take a 5-2 lead into the second leg of the Challenge Cup final after a 5-2 win over the Nottingham Panthers on Friday night.

In front of a packed Odyssey Arena home crowd, it was the Giants who stamped their mark on the game in the first period.  Two special team goals were finished off by Craig Peacock at 7:14 and 19.11.

An action-packed second period started much like the first, with the hosts extending their advantage with Jeffrey Swzez on target at 22:43. However, the visitors responded less than a minute later with Robert Farmer scoring at 23:53.

A quick response from the Giants just seconds later saw Colin Shields extend the lead at 24:07. The hosts then made it 5-1 at 28.25 with a goal from Darryl Lloyd.

The final goal of the contest arrived straight from the face off as the Panthers got what looks like a consolation as Jonathan Weaver was on target at 28:31.

The final period ended goalless with neither side able to add to their tally. Tempers flared in the late stages of the game but the gloves remained on. Greg Jacina of the Panthers however received a 2 plus 10 penalty at 59:06 for checking to the head as frustration set in for the visitors.

Nottingham, who have won the Challenge Cup for the past four seasons will have it all to do in the return leg after an unconvincing display against the Elite League Champions.

The Giants, meanwhile can firmly start believing of a clean sweep of trophies this season. Having already clinched the league title by some margin, they now aim to complete a Challenge Cup triumph before embarking on an end-of-season play-off challenge.

Giants fans can dare to dream of adding to what has been a sensational season for their side. Young fan, Andy McNally said, “It was a brilliant game. A fantastic display both attacking and defensively”. He added, “They have set themselves up well to go on and win the trophy with a three-goal advantage.”

The second leg takes place in Nottingham on Tuesday 25th March, with face-off at 7.30pm.


Review- Give My Head Peace Live!

Local politicians beware! The Hole in the Wall Gang are back with their annual ‘Give My Head Peace Live’ tour for 2014.

After another sell-out show in 2013, the gang hope for greater success this year with 11 live shows all over the country, from Belfast to Banbridge and this year it’s as funnier as ever before.

The show is led by Ulster’s most dysfunctional family and a genius performance by the province’s famous clergyman, Pastor Begbie, played by the great Paddy Jenkins.

All of your favourite characters return with the show featuring Da (Tim McGarry), Ma (Olivia Nash), Dympna (Alexandra Ford) and Cal (Damon Quinn).

The storyline includes all the latest satire with flegs, Haas, Garth Brooks, On-the-Runs and Paisley all featured.

Billy the Peeler (Michael McDowell) pretends to be deaf hoping for a big claim, Uncle Andy (Martin Reid) and Pastor Begbie plan to stand in May’s local elections and Da applies for the job of the new Chief Constable.

As well as with top-class stand-up comedy from Tim McGarry, laughter is simply guaranteed.

Give My Head Peace guarantees a laugh out loud night out which piles great humour on our politicians and on ‘our wee country’. GMHP Live is coming to a theatre near you…

Give My Head Peace Live 2014- Tour Schedule

Thurs 6 March: Island Hall, Lisburn

Fri 7 March & Sat 8 March: The Burnavon, Cookstown

Wed 12 March & Thurs 13 March: Riverside Theatre, Coleraine

Sat 15 March: Strule Arts Centre, Omagh

Sun 16 March: Market Place, Armagh

Mon 17 March: The Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen

Tues 18 March: Market Place, Armagh

Wed 19 March: The Braid, Ballymena

Fri 21 March: Iveagh Movie Studios Theatre, Banbridge

Sat 22 March: Millennium Forum, Derry

Tues 25 March – Sun 30 March: Grand Opera House, Belfast


The new Cathedral Quarter

By Niamh Ferguson

Yesterday saw the opening of the MAC theatre in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The Metropolitan Arts Centre, or MAC, contains two theatres and three art galleries as well as a rehearsal space and dance studio. This new complex will bring a lot to the area but will it enhance or detract from the smaller clubs and performance spaces within this tightly knit and long-established artistic pocket of the city?

I spoke to Graeme Watson, founder of Big Laughs, Belfast. He said: “I think the MAC, and particularly the incredible plaza around it, St Anne’s Square, will make the Cathedral Quarter one of the most exciting and hopefully buzzing parts of Belfast.”

With so many state of the art facilities in one building at the heart of the artistic Cathedral Quarter, some have concerns that it may push out smaller independent venues in the area, or turn out to be a flop itself. However, with a wide range of events scheduled until the end of the year, the MAC looks set to bring a diverse selection of art and entertainment to Belfast, some hoping that it will benefit all the surrounding bars, venues, and restaurants.

Graeme runs comedy nights in and around the area, particularly in the Black Box. I asked him whether he thought the MAC would detract from the smaller performance spaces in the area but he said:  “The MAC feels like a much more formal venue, a very middle class arts space, while I think the Black Box has its roots in a more bohemian, alternative and counter-culture kind of arts scene. I think they can both co-exist happily.”

Some famous faces have already been booked to perform in the MAC. Diarmuid Corr (BBC’s Sketchy) is set to appear in June under the Big Laughs’ name. Graeme hopes this will be great for his company as well as the theatre.  “I’m excited that the Diarmuid Corr show will be the first stand-up comedy gig in the MAC as well. That feels special, especially as I’m sure the MAC will probably be a hot tourist attraction for the next 30 years.”