Northern Ireland up for three UK youth film awards

By | Creative Industries, Film, General

Northern Ireland has three nominations in this year’s UK-wide star-studded Into Film Awards which take place in Leicester Square on March 18, hosted by top comic actor and author David Walliams.

The Into Film Awards discover and honour the most talented and innovative young filmmakers, reviewers and Into Film Clubs, as well as recognising the dedication of educators who use film as an education tool.

Nominees include 19-year-old Mercer MacWilliam Hughes from Lisburn who is competing for the Best Film (16-19) for ‘Bob’s Your Uncle’ about a bickering brother and sister who embark on a treasure hunt left to them by their late uncle in his will.

Mercer said: “I feel incredibly privileged to have been nominated and to able to share this story that means so much to me with an audience of young people who might be able to relate to some of the issues that I worked through in Bob’s Your Uncle. “

Drelincourt Primary School from Armagh is one of three schools in the running for Film Club of the Year (11 and under). The club, which is run by the P3 children, will be going to London as part of a 16 strong party of pupils and staff. The tiny rural school with its current enrolment of 20 pupils includes 80% of EAL (English as an Additional Language) children from a variety of countries including Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Bulgaria, Poland and of course Northern Ireland.

Club leader Sharon Walker and principal Eileen Trew said: “We are absolutely thrilled beyond words to be nominated for Film Club of the year. Drelincourt is a small school with young children and we are so proud of all they can do.  This nomination validates their outstanding achievements and I think is a real encouragement that even little schools can do big things through film.”

One of the club members, Chloe added: “I am so excited about our club being nominated because the P3’s work really hard to make a great film club for the P1 and P2’s.”

Another small rural school, St John’s Primary School at Dernaflaw, Dungiven, has been nominated for the Best Film (11 and Under) for ‘Change Starts With Us’ a film about bullying. The film was made by the P6 class of 12 pupils.

Teacher Gary Lynch said: “I am absolutely thrilled for my class to have gained such an achievement as they are a wonderful group to teach and have worked very hard together in creating their video. The children and staff are buzzing with excitement as we are taking the huge trip to London for the Into Film Awards with the possibility of meeting celebrities from the film industry.”

Cliona (9) added: “We were thrilled when we discovered the brilliant news that we were in the final three within our category. To win would be amazing! However even if we don’t win, we feel like we are already winners anyway as we have gotten this far in the competition.”

David Walliams, who attended the awards last year as a guest presenter, takes up the reins to host this year’s ceremony after being inspired by the wealth of young talent.

 “I love the Into Film Awards because it gives the opportunity to young people, from all kinds of backgrounds, to be a part of the film industry. As an actor, these young people are the future, and you want them to give you a job one day!  Anything that encourages creativity is important, we have an amazing film industry in this country which is often ignored by politicians and we need to support it. Into Film is an amazing charity,” he said.

The Into Film Awards, now in its seventh year, celebrates young people’s creativity in film, showcasing and highlighting the wealth of tomorrow’s creative talent.  Young people from across the UK whose short films and reviews have been nominated will be recognised at the star-studded ceremony, which has previously been attended by some of the biggest stars in the industry including Daniel Craig, Eddie Redmayne, Lily James, Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, Charles Dance, Ruth Wilson, Bill Nighy, Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman and Naomie Harris.

The Into Film Awards are a key highlight in the year-round educational activity offered by charity Into Film, which provides educational resources and exclusive activities to schools and colleges in the UK.  The Awards are championed by Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, who is an Into Film Trustee, and the charity counts Eddie Redmayne, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Naomie Harris and Michael Sheen among its longstanding ambassadors.

 The Into Film Awards are sponsored by the UK film industry and supported by the BFI with National Lottery funding.

For more information about the Into Film Awards:

NI Youth Forum holds emergency meeting to discuss teen suicide crisis

By | News, Newsroom

The Northern Ireland Youth Forum has held an emergency meeting to discuss the growing teenage suicide and mental health crisis.

The meeting was called as NIYF Director Chris Quinn described the Christmas and New Year period as the worst he had witnessed in his years working in the voluntary sector.

He said: “We are all in this room because we care. This isn’t about pointing the finger it’s about working together to address this crisis.”

Among those attending the meeting were politicians, representatives of statutory and voluntary bodies, young people and family members directly affected by recent events.

The political representatives included West Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Orlaithi Flynn; North Belfast Green Party Councillor Malachy O’Hara, North Belfast SDLP Councillor Paul McCusker, Strangford Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt, North Down Green Party MLA Rachel Woods and East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle.

Also attending was Colette Cole, mother of North Belfast man Deaglan Cole, who died on January 5 after a long battle with drug addiction. Mrs Cole has called on the Health Minister Robin Swann to act now to address the mental health crisis.

NIYF Vice Chair, Oisín-Tomás ó Raghallaigh said everyone had a responsibility to address the issue of suicide: “I don’t think we can shy away from the fact that we collectively aren’t doing enough. We want people to come together to explore the barriers to young people getting help.”

Natalie Corbett, a Participation Development Worker with NIYF, shared her recent experiences  spending time in casualty with one distraught young person desperately trying to access services.

She added: “It’s our job to signpost young people to appropriate mental health services. What do we do when those services aren’t equipped to deal with young people in need?

The young person I have spoken about said to me the other day, ‘they say it’s ok to not be ok but nobody listens to you when you aren’t’.”

Seamus Mullen, Head of the Public Health Agency, said it was vital that young people were fully aware of the services available to them.

He said that peer engagement was really important: “It’s about trying to find new ways of getting the message out there. It is vital that young people are talking to other young people about the range of services they can access.”

Government provides £2.4m to support NI’s first smart micro grid energy project

By | Business, Corporate, General, News, Newsroom

The £7.5m Girona project has received £2.4m in Government funding to bring the first ever ‘smart grid’ to Northern Ireland, offering business and domestic customers cleaner and cheaper energy.

Poweron Technologies Limited, incubated at Innovation Factory in West Belfast, is being supported, along with GES Group in Ballymena, by the Government’s Innovate UK scheme to help fund a project that will transform the way energy is generated and consumed.

Eddie McGoldrick, Director of Poweron, trading as The Electric Storage Company said:

“We want to make the energy market more democratic, consumers feel they have no choice when it comes to the big energy companies.

These innovations are an easy, inexpensive way to bring smart energy solutions like solar panels and battery storage into consumers daily lives. The ‘micro-grid’ isn’t just good for the environment because it uses more renewables, contributing to the Net Zero target, it will also see a reduction in energy bills”

 David Moore, Chief Executive Officer of GES Group said:

 “Providing more flexible energy solutions holds big benefits for businesses. Reducing their environmental impact not to mention their energy bills is often a key objective for companies, but investing in the technology needed to do so is often expensive. Our innovative system of financing the technology means they too can reap the rewards without large outlays.”

By combining Northern Ireland’s expertise in power engineering, fintech and big data, with the government investment, the aim is to ‘scale up’, repeating the smart approach across Ireland and GB.

Belfast Harbour is currently being utilised as a testbed for the Northern Ireland micro-grid and Trevor Anderson, Director of Infrastructure & Business Transformation at Belfast Harbour said “We welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with Girona in developing this technology and are fully supportive of the plans for a micro-grid to grow and expand within a large-scale test environment.  This aligns with our ambitions to be the best regional port in the world and to embed SMART and sustainable technology across our business”

NIE Networks has been supporting the ‘Micro Grid’ project through exploring the impact the technologies will have on the electricity distribution network in Northern Ireland.  Ian Bailie, Network Development Manager for NIE Networks said:

We are delighted to see the Micro Grid project receive further support and it’s been a privilege to have played such a critical role from the start in such an innovative project. Our Future Networks team has been assessing the impacts the deployed technologies will have on the electricity network and analyzing that data to shape how the final technology will operate. This project will enable domestic customers to have a meaningful impact on the network and transform the future of energy generation and consumption in Northern Ireland.”

International Women’s Day organisers have ‘Rights in Sight’

By | Festivals, General, News, Newsroom

The organisers of this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations in Northern Ireland are setting their sights on equal treatment for all.

 ‘Rights in Sight’ is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day Rally on March 7 with thousands of people gathering to celebrate women’s achievements including recent changes that have improved equality legislation.

These include the legalisation of Same Sex Marriage and the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland, two issues the Women’s Movement have been demanding for many years.

The rally will have its usual family-friendly, carnival atmosphere, with samba drummers, ukulele players, circus performers and participants in period Suffragette costumes as they march from Writer’s Square to Belfast City Hall to hear speeches from leading members of the women’s movement.

“The International Women’s Day rally is an event to celebrate together but it’s also time for us to continue to press for parity with our sisters in Great Britain and Ireland. Here in Northern Ireland we are using outdated laws and we call on the Assembly to bring us in line with the rest of the UK to use legislation that is relevant today,” said Danielle Roberts, co-chair of Reclaim the Agenda.

“We need Government to make new laws and to develop strategies on childcare and gender equality. We need them to implement legislation properly rather than looking for loopholes and massaging figures,” she added.

Northern Ireland has the worst incidence of domestic abuse in the UK, yet has no legislation tackling stalking, up-skirting and coercive control. To coincide with International Women’s Day a motion is going before Belfast City Council highlighting sexual harassment and violence against women.

The restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly has seen movement in the area of domestic abuse with Justice Minister Naomi Long promising new laws on stalking and making abusive behaviour in domestic and close family relationships a criminal offence.

These measures have been welcomed by women’s groups but they have vowed continue to maintain the pressure until new laws that address inequality are on the statute books.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Daniel Baker, said: “I’m delighted to get alongside Reclaim the Agenda to raise awareness of the International Women’s Day rally which will take place on Saturday March 7 and to highlight the programme of events running in Belfast throughout the month. I would encourage everyone to come along, especially on March 7, as we celebrate women’s accomplishments and highlight what still needs to be achieved to create an equal society for all regardless of sex or gender in our city.”

The International Women’s Day programme in Northern Ireland includes a full month of activities, events, workshops, talks and gigs.

Highlights include:

  • Lunchtime lecture – Women on the front line of climate change
  • Lunchtime lecture – Fighting Austerity or Embedding Poverty
  • Panel discussion with QUB Gender Network – Feminist Abolition & The Harms of Criminalisation
  • Belfast Ravens host a Women’s Football Match in 3G pitches on Ormeau Park

For more information about this year’s International Women’s Day across Northern Ireland go to the International Women’s Day Northern Ireland and Reclaim the Agenda Facebook pages.