Youth Club for Older People opens in West Belfast

By | General, News, Newsroom

A new intergenerational centre of excellence described as the ‘future of older people’s services’ has been opened in Belfast following the refurbishment of a derelict building on the Falls Road.

The project which was delivered by Springfield Charitable Association (SCA), includes a ‘Youth Club for Older People’ as well as access to advice services and support for people living with dementia.

Alongside creating a vital new resource for older people, the space is also intended to help revitalise life in the area claiming back an abandoned building and creating better connections for older people within the wider community.

The project was supported by a range of funders including The National Lottery Community Fund with a grant of over £350,000, the Department for Communities, the Wolfson Foundation and the Alpha Fund.

Terry McNeill from Springfield Charitable Association said: “The aim of the project is to improve the health and quality of life of older people by encouraging a more active lifestyle and healthy diet through a drop-in centre that also provides a safe place to socialise.

“This is a move away from reactive care to a more preventative approach to care provision. Also within the building we will house an advice centre service that will provide the perfect location to match our advisors’ excellent skills.

Terry added: “We have consulted with almost 1000 people in the area to find out what they want and need. This state of the art facility reflects that consultation and uses the latest design standards and best practice including support for those with dementia. We believe this centre represents the future of older people’s services in the city.”

Michael Hughes Space & Place Programme co-ordinator said: “This facility is a fantastic example of how much can be achieved when a group understands the needs of its local community, and brings together a range of funders to help it realise a vision for their area.

“The Space & Place Programme aims to help communities transform underused, neglected or difficult spaces and this project will certainly help enhance the quality of life of people of all ages but in particular the lives of older people in the community through the creation of this imaginative and vital new space.”

Julie Harrison, The National Lottery Community Fund NI Chair said:  “We believe this wonderful new space, which has been made possible thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, will make a real difference to the lives of many local  people by providing a space for them to come together and improve the area that they live in.”


NI play about teen suicide to be performed in New York

By | General, Newsroom, Theatre

A powerful Northern Ireland play about the devastating impact of teen suicide will have its US premiere at a major theatre festival in New York from January 21-28.

Blinkered, written by Patricia Byrne of Sole Purpose Productions in Derry will be performed at the 1st Irish Festival in New York, a festival showcasing high quality new work.

The production, which examines the impact of mental health and suicide among young people, was first shown in Derry in 2016, touring local schools and later had a very successful seven week tour of theatre venues around Ireland in 2017.

As a result of this success they were invited by the organisers of the 1st Irish Festival to bring the play to New York, performing in the boroughs.

Sole Purpose Productions will be working in partnership with the city’s Department of Education, the New York Irish Centre and Solace House Suicide Prevention Centre.

Patricia explained that they were invited to the festival after speaking to a number of interested organisations in New York in June last year:

“Among the people I met was Jane McCarter, Arts and Cultural Director of the New York Irish Centre, who used to work in The Derry Playhouse. She was interested in showing Blinkered and also with us doing some work around mental health with Solace House Suicide Prevention Centre.

“Solace House, formerly known as Pieta House, was set up in Dublin and established a base in New York two years ago. They do a lot of work around suicide prevention with the Irish Diaspora.”

Blinkered tells the story of Ryan, a young man dealing with feelings of isolation, frustration and loneliness and his overwhelming thoughts of taking his own life. When he is alone in his room he speaks to the audience, delivering a heart-breaking monologue of a young man on the brink.

The play is directed by Shauna Kelpie, and performed by a stellar cast including Patrick McBrearty (Colleen Bawn, Lyric), Cathy Brennan Bradley (Peni’s From Heaven, Supanova Productions), Gemma Walker (The Makeyuppers) and Marty Maguire (Ardnaglass on the Air, C21 Theatre Company).

The Origin Theatre 1st Irish Festival has been going for ten years and features important work by Irish artists North and South. Blinkered will be shown at a number of locations around the city between January 21-29. The project to bring the play to the US is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Professional Arts Abroad Programme and Culture Ireland.

For more information about Sole Purpose Productions visit Information about the Origin Theatre 1st Irish Theatre Festival is on

Young disabled ambassadors head to Brussels to promote Northern Ireland

By | Creative Industries, Dance, News, Newsroom

Five young people with learning disabilities headed to Brussels on Friday (January 18) after being selected as Northern Ireland ambassadors in a prestigious EU project co-ordinated by the University of Atypical

The team of five joined their counterparts from Belgium, Croatia, Finland and England in the Yes We Are In project, exploring life, arts and culture in the different countries.

Facilitated by David Calvert, Artistic Director of Kids in Control, the group will explore similarities and differences between their lives in Belfast and those of disabled ambassadors from the other countries. Nigel Lockhart, Nikki McLaughlin, Nicholas Moore, James Morgan and Sean Patterson have been selected to represent Northern Ireland.

The young ambassadors will have the chance to show off their home in June when the entire delegation comes to Belfast to see what life is like here.

Chris Ledger, CEO of University of Atypical said the aim of the project was to build new friendships and grow digital skills while supporting experimentation to devise and co-produce live artistic performances with younger people with learning disabilities.

“We’re excited to be part of a project which provides an opportunity for these talented young people to experience new cultures and grow their appreciation of the arts. It is a great coup for Northern Ireland’s Arts and Disability sector.

The five young ambassadors were seen off by Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey who  said: “It looks like an exciting and fun project and I look forward to seeing the results back in the city and welcoming visitors from the project in June this year. My charter promotes a Belfast for All, a Belfast which is open and accessible, respecting everyone’s rights and encouraging everyone to live the best life possible. “Yes We Are In” is doing exactly that.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “As principal funder of the University of Atypical, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is pleased to see disabled young people from here taking part in this terrific opportunity with their European peers. The University of Atypical carries out tremendous work with disabled people from across the region and we are delighted to see this work recognised with the new source of EU funding. Congratulations!”

For more information about the work of University of Atypical, visit

Innovative new interactive medical exhibition zone MED-Lab opens at W5

By | Corporate, General, News, Newsroom

MED-lab, a new interactive medical exhibition zone, has been officially launched at W5 as part of a major multi-million pound refurbishment of Northern Ireland’s world class interactive Science and Discovery centre.

Visitors can step into MED-Lab and explore the medical marvel that is the human body.

MED-Lab takes visitors of all ages on an extraordinary and fun journey of discovery into the human body. Visitors will be able to learn about the amazing systems that keep our bodies alive and working and using advanced imaging technologies, see inside the body.

This exciting new attraction has been developed in association with the Almac Group and funded with support from the Inspiring Science Fund, a collaborative initiative between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Wellcome. It aims to enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) knowledge and understanding among the next generation of budding scientists through interactive learning.

MED-Lab looks at what can go wrong with our bodies and enables visitors to get hands on with some intriguing interactive exhibits, learning how the scientists at Almac, discover and create life-saving medicinal drugs.

Eric Porter Chair of the Odyssey Trust said: “Enhancing education and scientific knowledge, MED-Lab is an innovative and intriguing investigation into our most prized possession – our body! We are delighted to unveil the first of eight new innovative zones in W5, which we know will be hugely popular with our visitors.”

Alan Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of the Almac Group said: “It is such a privilege to be partners in such an exciting project. Almac is dedicated to advancing knowledge and interest in STEM subjects and sharing our rich history and work carried out in the drug development cycle for pharmaceutical and biotech sectors globally. We are hoping that through MED-Lab thousands of our young people will be inspired to seek out careers in science and medicine.”

MED-Lab is now open to W5 visitors inviting them on an interactive and fun learning journey through the human body, with some amazing reveals such as a human bone can be four times stronger than concrete and that there are more than 100,000 Kilometres of blood vessels in the human body.

It is phase one of a refurbishment which will maintain W5’s position as a world class science and discover centre attracting tourists and people of all ages from Northern Ireland. The project has been financed by a £4.5m capital investment package, with £3m awarded through the Inspiring Science Fund and a further £1.5m invested by the Odyssey Trust.

To find out more about MED-Lab and W5 visit