NI Company with major stake in the Glamping Market

By | Corporate, Creative Industries, General, News, Newsroom

A Northern Ireland company has created ten jobs as it bids to become a major new force in the tourist industry providing high-end glamping pods at unspoilt locations throughout Ireland and Scotland.

Having vastly expanded their aluminium pod manufacturing, Intupod has just moved from its incubator space in the Innovation Factory (IF), on the Springfield Road in West Belfast, into a 20,000 square foot factory in Carryduff Business Park.

Intupod’s graduation from Innovation Factory demonstrates one of IF’s key objectives, to nurture start-up companies by enabling them to expand, generate employment opportunities and enhance their position within the Northern Ireland economy.

In the past two years, Intupod has attracted circa. £1.5m investment and has fundamentally re-shaped its business model.

The idea for the construction of the pods came as a reaction to the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Peter Farquharson, founder of Habitat for Humanity in Northern Ireland, began researching the building of monolithic domes using rubble from the earthquake site.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that international diplomacy would scupper their efforts, so in 2016 he and Commercial Director David Maxwell began to look at new uses for their pod design.

Having spent £350,000 on research and development, they hit on the idea of creating the company Intupod, specialising in building accommodation pods for the British and Irish tourism and leisure market. With the support of Invest Northern Ireland they hit the ground running, manufacturing and selling a number of pods to landowners in Donegal and Scotland.

In 2017 the business model changed significantly. With help from investors, including Cordovan Capital, they moved to a recurring revenue model. By going into partnership with landowners Intupod gained access to some of the most remote and beautiful sites on these islands. This model is allowing farmers and rural landowners to create new revenue streams, and still allows Peter and David to continue to grow their business.

Peter said: “Our investors are strategic and hands on in the right way. We were very fortunate as they were able to bring their strategic and financial expertise to the company.”

“So far, we have engaged with over 40 land owners, with ten projects in the planning process. We expect our first sites to be deployed early next year.”

David said: “The Innovation Factory allowed us to grow. It was a great space with great facilities and staff who would do anything for you. We took elements of the Innovation Factory environment and transferred it to our new premises, to give our guys a great place to work.

He added: “We have a first class team, a great space and our supply chain is second to none. We are ready to go.”

Majella Barkley, Innovation Director at the Innovation Factory, said: “One of our chief aims is to provide the right environment for small businesses to grow and create employment. We are delighted that the support we provided has helped Intupod move into new premises that will see them go from strength to strength.”

Innovation Factory is owned by Belfast City Council and operated on their behalf by Oxford Innovation. The £9.1m business hub was funded by Belfast City Council and Invest NI with support from the European Regional Development Fund.

Customers include a range of start-ups and growing businesses in a variety of sectors including digital services, creative industries, business services, financial services and research and development.

For more information on the Innovation Factory visit: www.innovationfactoryni.com

University of Atypical celebrates Arts and Access

By | Comedy, Creative Industries, News, Newsroom

The high quality work of disabled and deaf artists and of arts venues working to improve disabled and deaf access has been celebrated and recognised at a ceremony in Belfast.

The University of Atypical, formerly known as the Arts and Disability Forum, hosted a celebration of artists’ talent and venue commitment at the Atypical Gallery in Royal Avenue.

Thirteen of Northern Ireland’s leading disabled artists have received individual Disabled/Deaf Artists Awards (iDA) awards totalling £17,000 to develop their work. The majority of those artists were part of the celebration, with playwright Shannon Yee speaking about her experience of iDA and poet, Alice McCullough performing a poem to illustrate the effect of her iDA award.

As well as focusing on artistic talent, the event also presented Arts and Disability Equality Charter awards to venues that have worked to improve access and facilities for disabled and deaf people in all areas of their work.

Strule Arts Centre was again credited with the Excellence award, having worked closely with Omagh Access Group to enable deaf and disabled people to participate freely in the arts. Gerry Knight spoke about the venue’s hard work.

Enniskillen Castle and the Millennium Forum received Arts & Disability Equality Charter plaques to commemorate reaching Charter status, and the Ardhowen Theatre was presented with a certificate as evidence of its commitment to working towards Charter status.

The awards were presented by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey. The Lord Mayor praised the great work taking place to advance the cause of disability arts in Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland.

She added: “I’m delighted to be part of these celebrations, highlighting the fantastic work being done to advance disability arts in Belfast and beyond. It showcases our cultural diversity and highlights the importance of building inclusion within our city. Congratulations to all of the award winners.”

Artists receiving the iDA grants work in a range of disciplines, including visual arts, music, multi-media, poetry, comedy, theatre and dance.

The iDA scheme is managed by the University of Atypical and funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with funds designed to help artists establish their careers in the arts. Some of the past recipients of iDA have built international reputations with the help of these grants. The big difference between this and other types of funding is that artists are supported right through the process, from the initial idea to project delivery.

University of Atypical CEO Chris Ledger said: “Northern Ireland’s Arts and Disability work is respected and admired not just in the UK and Ireland but on an international level. The University of Atypical is run by disabled people, whose dedication to promoting artistic excellence and working towards cultural equity contributes to the growing reputation of the work carried out here.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “Congratulations to all of today’s award recipients.  The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to have been able to support both the iDA Awards and the Arts & Disability Equality Charter Awards over the years and we look forward to continuing to work with the University of Atypical to encourage the involvement of disabled and deaf artists in the arts.”

Those present also looked forward to this year’s Bounce Arts Festival Weekender, which this year will run from September 13-16 September, presenting an entertaining and thought-provoking mix of skilled work by disabled and deaf artists from the UK and RoI.

For more information about the work of the University of Atypical, visit: https://universityofatypical.org/

Halifax Foundation funds 12 charities in major new mental health initiative

By | Corporate, General, Newsroom

The Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland has given out almost £113,000 in grants to 12 charities working hard to improve the mental health of people in Northern Ireland.

The Foundation’s ‘Our Community in Mind’ mental health initiative received 177 applications from charities and whittled it down to 12 organisations working in key areas such as suicide and self-harm, binge eating, young people’s issues, prisoners and post-natal and ante natal depression.

As well as giving £112,847 in grants to ‘Our Community in Mind’, the Foundation today also announced that it was donating more than £265,000 to 73 charities, which means that it has allocated a total of £530,000 in community grants to 135 charities since the start of this year.

Brenda McMullan, Executive Director of the Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland, said the Community in Mind initiative was a response to the demand for better mental health services in Northern Ireland.

She said: “Mental health charities in Northern Ireland do a fantastic job supporting our severely stretched Health Service. Over the years, the number of organisations in this area applying to us for funding has increased dramatically so we decided to launch our ‘Community in Mind’ initiative.

“The Foundation has been overwhelmed by the number of applications and by the high quality of applications for funding. In the end, we had to choose 12 very high quality applicants doing fantastic work tackling the scourge of mental health problems in the community.”

The organisations who have been awarded a total of £112,847 are:

  • Act Initiative from West Belfast, £9,850 towards a mental health hub for young people in the Shankill area.
  • Eating Disorders Association NI (South Belfast and NI wide) £8,000 towards a website update to include binge eating support.
  • Educational Shakespeare Company from South Belfast £10,000 towards a film-making programme for patient prisoners in Shannon, Knockbracken.
  • GROW NI from North Belfast £6,100 towards a dedicated area in the Waterworks to improve mental health.
  • Jigsaw Community Counselling from North Belfast £10,000 to provide counselling to families suffering mental ill health.
  • Life Change Changes Lives, Downpatrick £9,956 to provide counselling and rehab aftercare for those leaving hospital following mental health treatment.
  • MYMY from Newcastle £8,941 for a counselling and resilience programme for those suffering mental ill health.
  • North West Play Resource Centre, Derry £10,000 towards choir costs for those suffering with mental health problems.
  • Sole Purpose, Derry and North Belfast £10,000 towards a theatre production of ‘Blinkered’ addressing suicide and mental ill health.
  • St Peter’s Immaculata, West Belfast £10,000 towards Auricular Acupuncture for young people to improve their mental health.
  • Support2gether, Omagh, Clogher and Lisnaskea £10,000 towards support for women suffering antenatal and postnatal depression.
  • Zest Healing the Hurt, Derry and the West £10,000 for an emotional health programme delivered in schools including understanding suicide and self-harm.

For more information about the work of the Foundation go to www.halifaxfoundationni.org

Summer fun at Folktown returns with Festival of Fools event

By | Creative Industries, Festivals, Food for thought, General, News, Newsroom

Summer fun at Folktown returns with Festival of Fools event

Belfast’s only outdoor artisan market returns on May 5 and 6 as part of the annual Festival of Fools.

Folktown Market in Bank Square launches its new summer season with an artisan market featuring a range of mouthwatering food stalls, fresh fruit and veg and craft stalls.

On offer will be local artisan cheeses, fresh bakery projects, a range of street food and natural handmade cosmetics.

Copies of the eagerly anticipated Folktown Heritage Booklet, a publication giving the history of one of Belfast’s oldest districts will be on sale. Demand for the booklet has been very high and it will be fresh off the presses for Saturday.

Sophie Rasmussen Director of Folktown Community Interest Company said this weekend would highlight the changes being planned for the Folktown area which is emerging into an exciting new cultural quarter in Belfast.

“This area is changing rapidly, with the building of a new boutique hotel in Bank Square, the completion of new student accommodation in King Street and the creation of a new masterplan for the Inner North West area from Belfast City Council and other statutory bodies.

“We have a number of events planned over the Summer that will highlight the liveliness, creativity and rich culture of an area that had long suffered from underinvestment but is now being transformed. “

On Sunday, a film crew from Sophie’s home country Denmark will be filming for one of the country’s top foodie programmes and she is hoping this will help to attract more Scandinavian visitors to the city.

The other events planned for Bank Square include a Midsummer Night Market on June 23 from 3-9pm including street food and entertainment and a summer artisan market on August 25.

Once again the major Culture Night event (21 Sept) will take place in Folktown for the 5th year running. This is proving to be one of the major events in the city’s calendar.

The Folktown Initiative now running for ten years has been building on the rich culture of folk and roots music in the Folktown area. It has hosted many international folk artists in recent years. Last year saw the Orchestre des Refugies et Amis perform in an amazing finale at Culture Night.

Folktown CIC is working on an exciting line-up for this year. The street market and music event which keeps going from strength to strength each year will be extended across the area including the little used Marquis Street which runs from the side of Madden’s Public House into Castle Street.

Sophie added: “There a number of fantastic events planned around Culture Night so keep checking our Facebook and Twitter pages for details.”

Mark O’Donnell, Belfast Regeneration Director at the Department for  Communities which has provided support for the Folktown initiative said:

“The Department for Communities welcomes the return of the Folktown Market to its open space at Bank Square as part of the annual Festival of Fools.  The Market has helped to animate the Square and bring increased footfall to the area and we are working with and supporting the Folktown Community Interest Company to accommodate other exciting events on the Square over the coming months.

“The Department also anticipates the completion of a new boutique hotel on its development site at Bank Street later in the year and this will be another major step forward towards the delivery of its regeneration plans for the area.”

Belfast City Council’s Inner North West Masterplan, which is part of the Belfast City Centre Regeneration and Investment Strategy, will guide future development of the area which includes Folktown.

The aim is to create a new city centre mixed neighbourhood that will include residential, commercial, retail and leisure development that takes into account the rich heritage of the area.

The masterplan recognises that the Inner North West is an emerging quarter strategically located close to Royal Avenue and Cathedral Quarter, the new Ulster University and the improved transport hub at Great Victoria Street and has identified its potential to link all of these parts of the city together.

For more information about Folktown Initiative and its events and markets go to www.folktownbelfast.com