Belfast set to experience the biggest ever Bounce!

By | Creative Industries, Music, News

Northern Ireland’s annual disabled and deaf arts festival ‘bounces’ into Belfast this month with ten days of entertaining and thought-provoking dance, theatre, visual art, physical theatre, film, cabaret and a range of workshops.

The sixth Bounce Festival opens in great voice on September 27 on the grounds of Belfast City Hall with the ‘Big Bouncy Hummm of Harmony’ – a gloriously positive joining together of three choirs – the award-winning Open Arts Community Choir fresh back from triumph in Latvia the Alzheimer’s Society’ Singing for the Brain and Sing for Life from Cancer Focus and the Crescent Arts Centre.

Chris Ledger, CEO of the Arts and Disability Forum, which runs the annual festival said Bounce! was growing in stature and influence every year so the decision was taken by the trustees to extend it from four days to ten days. This year’s festival will see a packed schedule of performances, exhibitions and, by public demand, more arts workshops.

She said: “In its six years, Bounce! has become an internationally recognised celebration of the work of talented disabled and deaf artists. Bounce! is this island’s most disability accessible annual festival. We have a superb line-up of European, UK and NI disabled artists. We can’t wait to get started!”

Bounce! is supported by the National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said: “Bounce Festival celebrates work by exceptional artists from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, who are deaf or disabled.  Now in its sixth year there are many ways to get involved, with visual arts, theatre, dance and free workshops all on offer. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this wonderful festival and I would encourage everyone to go along.”

Headlining the festival are two keenly anticipated performances by two exceptionally talented female dancers, Northern Ireland’s Helen Hall and Scotland’s Claire Cunningham.

The opening show features the UK premiere of the beautiful ‘Inside the Speaker’ by local dancer and choreographer Helen Hall, who has received a commission from the UK-wide Unlimited scheme with Spirit of 2012.

Helen, who is visually impaired, invites the audience to experience dance and music differently, by entering into the world she inhabits.

Claire Cunningham, the internationally renowned Scottish dancer and choreographer, is making her second appearance at Bounce!. She was the star of the first festival back in 2012. ‘Give me a Reason to Live’ is a powerfully physical, emotional and visually striking work, exploring religious art and the judgment of souls and bodies. This show will close the festival.

Other highlights include:

  • ‘Four Corners’ a lively and exciting piece of inclusive theatre from Blink Dance Theatre on Saturday, September 30. Travelling to NI from England after a sell-out tour, this troupe of dancers some with learning difficulties, weave together a compelling show of dance, live music and storytelling.
  • The festival features two films – Ken Loach’s award-winning ‘I Daniel Blake’ which touches on disability and welfare reform – and the UK premiere of ‘Defiant Lives’ about disability activism, featuring disabled artists from Britain, the US and Australia, including Liz Carr who plays Clarissa in Silent Witness.
  • The UK premiere of local contemporary dance group, Blue Chevy’s ‘Rubik’s Cube Messy Dimensions’ explores mental health issues experienced by young disabled artist Nikki McLaughlin.
  • Luminous Soul and the Open Arts Community Choir will present a celebratory evening of music and dance at the Crescent Arts Centre on 29 September.
  • The UK premiere of ‘Grotesque’ – a visual arts and performance piece by Greek performance artist Katerina Fanouraki, focusing on breaking down stereotypes and challenging social, ethical and sexual conventions.
  • The ‘Big Bouncy Cabaret Party’ with MC and raconteur Julie McNamara will see Caroline Parker using physical theatre skills to present well-known recorded songs such as Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in sign, dance and mime. The night includes sign song guest slots for local deaf divas.
  • This year, ADF has formed a new partnership with Fleming Fulton school and the festival will include ‘The Journey’ an exhibition of selected work from the students, displayed at the Crescent Arts Centre. There is also an exhibition celebrating 25 years of Open Arts, presented at the MAC, Belfast.

This year’s venues include the ADF Gallery, Brian Friel Theatre, Crescent Arts Centre, Spectrum Centre, the MAC and City Hall.

The full programme, with links to ticketing and more in depth information on the artists is available via the Arts & Disability Forum website, Event links can also be found on Facebook @artsanddisabilityforum. Or call by in person to the ADF Gallery on Royal Avenue, tel 028 90239 450 email

Senior bank colleagues to mentor NI charity leaders

By | Corporate, News

One of Northern Ireland’s leading charitable foundations is launching a new mentoring scheme that will pair senior bank colleagues with top charities to help develop the skills of leaders in the third sector.

The Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland found that charities need for support is not just financial, but also in areas of leadership and management.

Brenda McMullan, Halifax Foundation for NI Manager said: “There are colleagues in Halifax who have the skills and experience that many charities need to be successful. These include marketing, financial planning, strategy and leadership”

“The Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland is delighted to be able to tap into the skills of senior bank staff from Halifax to support 19 charities in this new programme.”

“One of the ways help is being offered is through one-to-one mentoring sessions. These sessions can make a huge difference to the charities who are working so hard to improve the lives of people in Northern Ireland,” she added.

The colleagues have committed to delivering one-to-one mentoring meetings every four to six weeks over a 12 month period.

Each mentor has been assigned to an individual charity based on the type of skills that have been identified as requiring development. The mentors will set a range of goals and will receive feedback from the charities during the mentoring period.

Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland is a grant-making Foundation, whose income is derived from Lloyds Banking Group. It supports registered charities, helping people who are disadvantaged and disabled play a fuller role in their communities. In 2016, 313 charities were supported to the tune of £972,353.

Stephen Hughes from St Peters Immaculata Youth Centre in Divis said: “In addition to the funding support we receive from the Halifax Foundation, the support from a local Halifax colleague through the mentoring programme will be of real value. We will be using their business skills to help us with quality management and governance of our projects, which is key to the future sustainability of the essential service we’re offering to the young people in Divis.

Jim McCooe, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for Northern Ireland, said:

“This is a unique opportunity to work in partnership with the Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland to build business and leadership skills among the charity sector. If charitable organisations are running more efficiently, this should benefit the people they are helping on a daily basis.

“At the end of the twelve months we will conduct a review of the programme to assess its impact and see if there’s more we are able to do. We believe that this mentoring scheme will go from strength to strength, and will provide a real support aimed at increasing the sustainability of Northern Ireland’s charity and voluntary sector.”



Time for a Change: NI Youth Forum demands Votes at 16

By | News, Newsroom

Time for a Change: NI Youth Forum demands Votes at 16

Young people aged 16 can marry, pay income tax and join the armed forces and a political party but are still denied the right to democracy.

This was the message as the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) chose International Democracy Day (Friday, September 15) to launch its campaign to change the voting age to 16.

NIYF Chairperson Tara Grace Connolly said: “It is ironic that you can join a political party at 16 but can’t actually vote for it. Young people at this age can get married; pay taxes; have a job; leave school; consent to medical treatment; and start a family but they cannot vote. We believe that at the age of 16 young people are interested and mature enough to decide on the type of society they want.

She added: “The time is right to for change in electoral policy that will benefit us all. Young people could have a positive role to play in getting politics in Northern Ireland out of the rut it is currently in.”

The NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma is fully behind the call for reform and spoke at the Votes for 16 campaign launch at the headquarters of NICVA in Duncairn Gardens.

The Commissioner said: “16 and 17 year olds are being prepared to participate in political and civic society in schools throughout Northern Ireland.  Having a say in the future of our society is the natural extension of this.  Young people want to be part of the decision-making for their future and I can see no reason to deny them the vote.  Therefore I am delighted to be able to support this campaign”

The event included:

Votes at 16 video launch

Engagement with MLAs

Input from young people

A call for campaign partners

Input from the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People

The calls follow an early day motion at Westminster in June when Green Party leader Caroline Lucas with the support of 90 fellow MPs called on the Government to introduce legislation to reduce the voting age for national and local elections and referendums at the earliest opportunity.

NIYF has been lobbying to lower the voting age for the past seven years and were present at Stormont on November 6, 2012 to see a majority in the Assembly vote in favour of the change.

Back in 2012 a joint Green Party/Sinn Fein motion to extend the voting age was carried in the Assembly 51 votes to 29, with the DUP and TUV opposing it. But the vote was academic as the Assembly does not have the power to change it. This can only be achieved by Westminster.

In the intervening years members of the Forum have become frustrated by the lack of progress, arguing strongly hat young people are interested in the issues that affect them and rest of society and should not be excluded from the democratic process.

The Secretary of State, James Brokenshire has stated that there are no plans to lower the voting age at this time. Turnouts at the Scottish referendum and the most recent General Election showed young people’s desire to engage in elections but the political will to change the voting age is not there at present.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recently recommended that consultations should be carried out with children on the voting age in each of the devolved administrations of the UK.

Comedian set to ‘delight’ with NI tour of one-woman show

By | Creative Industries, Music

With her tear streaked mascara, rats nest of hair, Teresa Livingstone totters on stage on her vertigo-inducing stilettos and delivers a powerful and hilarious tirade about the plight of the thirtysomething single lady.

Teresa, one of Northern Ireland’s most exciting new comedians will be taking her one-woman show on the road this autumn after a sell-out performance at the Black Box in Belfast.

Her show, Delighted, features witty songs about smug posh women, diet clubs, men in bars, being single and much more.

Teresa’s comedy career has taken off in the last year with performances on two series of BBC NI sketch show Late Licence, opening the Blame Game Anniversary show at the Waterfront Hall and also performing in Brussels on Culture Night at the invitation of the Arts Council for Northern Ireland. She also developed a new character – a feisty make-up lady who gets a little too up close and personal.

Kicking off in September she will perform nine dates from Belfast to Derry, Armagh to Strabane giving audiences the chance to enjoy her unique brand of craic.

In her show, Teresa totters on stage, a girl dishevelled after a long night out, hair in a state, make up down her face. Her character, which she describes as a darker shade of herself, is a woman on the verge.

“My character is a thirtysomething woman who has just had it and she’s not going to take anymore. She’s had too many smug women making her feel that her life is rubbish, too many bad nights out with unsolicited advances and too many knock backs in her career. So she’s going to sing about it,” Teresa explains.

With a piano, a gin and the voice of a woman who has reached the point of no return, Teresa is ready to share her ‘delight’ at how life just isn’t going so well. With hilarious songs like “Cake and Wine” and “Nice Ladies”, no one escapes Teresa’s commentary.

Teresa is a skilled musician who began playing piano at the age of four and studied music at university before working as a music teacher in an all-boys school in West Belfast. She spent her evenings playing piano and singing in hotel bars. She came to a point in her life where she knew everything had to change and she decided teaching wasn’t for her.

It was then that she discovered comedy improv through the Crescent Arts centre and loved the silliness and finding the funny side of the smallest things. She joined the improv group Wonder Frog.

Inspired by the comedy charm of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and the quirky songs of New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords, Teresa began writing her well-observed songs about everyday life in Northern Ireland.

“My first song was ‘That Would Be A No’ which is about sleazy men in bars. I performed it at an open mic night and won a case of cider. That was motivation to keep going,” she said.

“The humour in my songs seems to resonate with both men and women. The songs aren’t all girly and they aren’t anti-men. In fact, I actually give off a lot more about women! The new show will look at everything from managing stress to using Facebook to the difference between men and women on a night out,” she added.

To find out more about Teresa, check out

Tour dates:

Sat 16th Sept Marketplace Theatre, Armagh

Sat 23rd Sept Baby Grand at GOH, Belfast

Fri  29th Sept Island Arts Centre, Lisburn

Sat 30th Sept The Courtyard Theatre, Ballyearl

Fri    6th Oct   The Alley Theatre, Strabane

Fri  13th Oct   Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick

Sat 28th Oct   Ranfurly House, Dungannon

Sat  25th Nov The Playhouse Derry

Sun 10th Dec The Lyric Theatre, Belfast