Tag Archives: derry

BACK IN BLACK 

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.

Are we really saving money in our local councils?

The 1st April 2015 saw a major reform of the local government in Northern Ireland. The Local Government Reform brought together the existing, 26 councils of Northern Ireland, merging them together to form 11 new super councils. This move was designed to render the local government more economic and efficient. However, from looking at the pay roll of councillors now sitting on the new super councils this would not appear to be the case.

Strabane District Council has undergone the reform, along with the rest of Northern Ireland on April 1st and merged with Derry City Council to become Derry City and Strabane District Council. Some powers and responsibilities have been devolved from the Northern Ireland Executive. The 11 super councils have undertaken the responsibility of local planning functions, off-street parking and local economic development. These responsibilities have been devolved with the credit that local councils know what their own area needs and what economic and planning developments would suit the area and best serve the people.

Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Kelpie at a recent meeting in Castlederg, explained that, 620 staff were employed by the previous Derry City Council and 220 by Strabane District Council, totalling 840 staff. The public were lead to believe that there would be reductions in staffing but Mr Kelpie went on further to expand: “With the challenges that we have locally, I would estimate that we would need between three and a half to four thousand people to do what we’re trying to achieve.” This counteracts one of the missions of the super councils and suggests that the force with which they wish to attack issues in the community, along with improving life in the local government for the businesses and people of the area, this volume of personnel would be required.

It is also noteworthy that councillors under the new reform, are being given a £5,000 pay rise, much to the dismay of many people in the local community. Strabane councillors were previously being paid £9,835 per annum under the Strabane District Council ruling. Now, under the new reform councillors have a set wage of £14,200. Therefore the estimated economic saving in the reducing of councillor numbers is surely counteracted by the increase in councillor pay. If the super councils are attempting to save money by combining resources and as a result, redundancies being issued to staff of the previous set-up, why is an increase in wages coming to the fore?

Furthermore, councillors who chair a committee within the council are entitled to an additional £8,050 per annum justified as a ‘Special Responsibility Allowance’. This controversial increase in wages is challenged alternatively by Councillor Patsy Kelly, SDLP. He voiced his concerns that despite the increase in wages it is still insufficient to cover the amount of hours councillors spend at meetings and attending constituency issues. He concluded by saying that councillors are working below minimum wage per hour.

On the other hand, Jarlath McNulty, former councillor of Strabane District Council, now a community worker said: “There are many people working every single day from our community who would like to have a secure job for four years and receive a starting income of £14,200 a year”. The question still stands as to whether the new council arrangements will truly deliver on improved efficiency and economics.

The new mayor of the Derry City and Strabane District Council, Elisha McCallion set unemployment as top of her priorities in taking up her role. The most recent unemployment rate (Dec. 14 – April 15) for Derry/Londonderry and Strabane currently runs at 6%, an increase of 0.2% from the previous quarter. A re-direction of funds to address unemployment issues would be deemed preferable to increasing councillor salaries.

ElishaMcCallion-sm
Elisha McCallion as new mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council

 

Another cost passed onto the people of Northern Ireland under the Local Government Reform is the increase in rate bills. Although the council will benefit from the reform, it is evident that it all comes at a cost to the people of Northern Ireland.

The following councillors make up the new Derry City and Strabane District Council –

Untitled

You can find out more about the new reform of councils on Ni Direct.

 

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

 

Northern Ireland Rail speeding towards a bright future.

Courtesy of Translink and NIR
Coleraine Bus and Rail Station, courtesy of Translink and NIR

Just as the train line between Londonderry and Coleraine is set to re-open on the 24th March, one week ahead of schedule, Mr Mal McGreevy updated Coleraine Borough Council on Translink’s recent achievements.

The Derry-Coleraine track has been closed for major engineering works since July 2012. Since then Mr McGreevy reported that services between Coleraine and Belfast have increased by 70% with a service running every hour since January 6th when the new timetables were introduced.

He said there has been, “tremendous growth in terms of people who are using the transport” with a 10-15% increase in the amount of people using the rail services. Mr McGreevy said he was “Grateful for the custom”.

On Translink’s website, Catherine Mason, Translink Group Chief Executive issued a statement saying, “We are delighted to be reopening this line in time for the Easter holiday period and hope many people will take the opportunity to travel on this very scenic part of our network.”

Mayor Samuel Cole, who described the train journey along the Derry line as “beautiful”, thanked and congratulated Translink on their achievements and welcomed the re-opening of the Derry-Coleraine line.

Councillor David McClarty said the service had been “totally resurrected… [I am] looking forward to the reopening of the line and everyone should be supporting Translink.”

The current cost of maintaining the service is £25-30 million per year. Mr McGreevy told the council there is the potential to expand the Belfast to Coleraine service. He said one way of doing this would be to possibly increase the amount of cars from the current 3-4 up to 6, which would be capable of carrying more people. The current 3 car trains have the capability to hold 216 passengers. Mr McGreevy rounded off his update by urging the council to encourage people to invest in Translink.

Invest NI: “A complete failure”

Has Invest NI met its targets? Paul Mullin reports

Liam Gallagher from the Derry trades union council has called Invest Northern Ireland’s strategy for the North West a “complete failure.” It comes just a week after a report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) revealed that Invest NI – the north’s economic development agency – spent less than a quarter of the department’s money in the North West in the last ten years.

Mr Gallagher went on to voice his concerns not just over the figures but how the money that has been given to the North West has been misused. He said: “We allowed a manufacturing base in the North West to simply disappear. Invest NI did nothing absolutely nothing in terms of investment to help maintain the textile industry or help it diversify new markets. We simply accepted that manufacturing was old hat, yesterday’s news and that the way forward was the financial services sector.”

He said that the money has not been spread wisely across the North West and has resulted in the North West being one of the worst affected by the recession. This is backed up by figures released from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) which stated that the claimant count in Northern Ireland was the second highest amongst the twelve UK regions. This is backed even further by a House of Commons study which looked at all 650 parliamentary constituencies and ranked them in terms of unemployment. The Foyle area came third in a league table of UK constituencies worst affected by unemployment.

Mr Gallagher echoed these sentiments: “The reality is that in a population of 107,000 you have an eligible work force of 40,000, of those 24,000 are listed as economically inactive and there are currently 8,600 on the live register. So that gives you an indication of the scale of the problem right now.”

He went onto add that there are less than 3,000 jobs left in the manufacturing industry in Derry, with about in the region of 2,500 financial services jobs, apart from that there is a large part time force working in the retail sector and what he calls a “disproportionate” number of people in public, health and education sectors.

Following the NIAO report many prominent figures in Derry spoke out against Invest NI, including Derry SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood who said: “The report shows proof of devolved government’s failure in terms of jobs in the North West.”

The NIAO report states that just 24% of Invest NI’s overall financial assistance came to the North West since 2002. Other notable figures in the report show that as little as 25.6% of total foreign direct investment (FDI) jobs were in the west of Northern Ireland.

Eastwood went onto say that the report shows Invest Ni’s “long term failure in promoting regional equality in terms of job creation.” He says that the executive leadership now have “to commit to radically change the performance of Invest NI.”

Liam Gallagher thinks that a major source of the problem is what Invest Ni are investing in. “There has been quite a lot of work put into ‘the one plan’ in the North West, were all of the stakeholders, unions, businesses and education sector come together and produced a good analysis of what is required in the North West in terms of high quality jobs. It seems to me that this is where Invest NI should be tying into in terms of research and development.”

The ‘One Plan’ is an ambitious guideline for the regeneration of Derry and was drafted following a huge consultation process across the city. The plan hopes to see an additional £500m in wages and profits in Derry’s economy.  The plan sets out the roles of the public, private and community and voluntary sectors in delivering 12,900 jobs needed to ensure the city is the economic hub of the North West over the next ten years.

The plan describes how the city will be transformed by fundamentally changing the way it does business, and being creative in how organisations and individuals resource and manage themselves.

Mr Gallagher also stressed the importance of getting a solid manufacturing base up and running in the North West again as he said: “You have to have a manufacturing base for your balance of trade, you need to be exporting and growing things. So we need to move away from the financial sector and the heavy reliance on the public sector and start finding markets and find something we can actually export.”

The One Plan is backed throughout the city and although it is seen as ambitious it is seen as achievable. Another scheme, which complements the One Plan, has been set in motion to help combat the economic downturn in the city also. A five point plan has been put in place to try and save Derry City Centre.

Central to the plan is to create a city centre enterprise zone to give independent retailers a helping hand. On the proviso that the executive grants the status, it would mean that businesses in Derry city centre could avail of rates holidays, faster planning decisions and capital allowances to promote new retail and business developments. The other four proposals include the creation of a comprehensive retail development strategy for the city centre; the adoption of a ‘town centre’ first planning policy when considering out of town retail applications; the launching of a shop independent campaign and to increase the amount of affordable parking facilities and public transport in the city centre.

There are more that 130 vacant shops in the city centre, 50 of which have been recent closures. This combined with applications for nine out of town superstores means concern for local business people. It adds weight to the claims made by Mr Gallagher and Colum Eastwood that Invest NI’s strategy in the North West has been a failure and it’s an argument that will continue to run between those in the North West and the decision makers in Stormont.

http://www.investni.com/

http://www.councillor.info/derry/ceastwood/0/Default.aspx

http://www.ictu.ie/about/affiliates/tradescouncils/

New Mental Health Support Group in Derry

 

Paul Mullins reports

A Derry City based charity, which helps those battling mental illness, has announced the creation of a new support group to help those dealing with the affliction.

Aware Defeat Depression has announced that the new support group will help those caring for people affected by depression or bipolar disorder. This includes sufferers, relatives and friends.

Allison Smyth from the Charity said that the aim of the groups is to “bring together people with similar problems in the hope that you can support and be supported by them and that you will learn more about your own illness and the best way how to cope with it.”

The support group offers advice and a listening ear to those living with mental illness. The group is led by trained facilitators, mostly from people who have suffered from depression themselves or someone close to them has.

Aware have also appealed to anyone who may be willing to volunteer to work with the charity to get in contact as they currently have a variety of positions available. The opportunities range from being a facilitator of a support group, to working for the helpline or general admin duties. The charity has said that if the position applied for is one of those offering a service then applicants will need to go meet the criteria, go through training and will require a police check. Though for fundraising and admin positions this is not required.

Aware has twenty support groups for people with depression and their families and carers across the whole of Northern Ireland. Aware have announced there will be two support groups in Derry. A spokesperson said: “The impact of depression can be enormous, surveys show that 40% of those who care for an afflicted loved one, are themselves sufficiently distressed and in need of help.”

The new support group will meet every Wednesday starting from 11th April at the Aware Defeat Depression Offices, 56 Strand Road, Derry. For more information and how to apply to volunteer with the charity log on to http://www.aware-ni.org.uk/

Other useful links for those suffering or caring for someone with depression.

http://www.samaritans.org/

http://www.mind.org.uk/