Children encouraged to take the Film Buff Challenge!

By | Charities, Creative Industries, Film, News

Northern Ireland’s movie-loving schoolchildren are being encouraged to take up the Film Buff Challenge, a new online educational activity that can be completed in school or at home.

Education charity, Into Film’s latest free educational resource, encourages young people to watch ten short, thought-provoking films and review or respond to them to earn silver, gold or platinum certificates. The Challenge offers ten very short films primary school aged 7–11 and another ten for secondary school pupils aged 11–14.

Sean Kelly of Into Film said the new resource is aimed at helping teachers stimulate young people’s imaginations and improve their  literacy skills by offering a resource that is flexible and easily accessed.

“Film is a powerful teaching resource that stirs young people’s sense of wonder, introduces them to new cultures and different worlds. Because it’s all online, teachers can use the Film Buff Challenge as an educational activity in the classroom or at home if children are self-isolating or if the schools close for a significant period,” he said.

The films include animation, live-action, documentaries, foreign language or world cinema and Black and White and silent movie. There are even youth made films included in the specially curated film list.

Into Film have been putting the finishing touches to the online learning materials and workbooks and children at Cliftonville Integrated Primary School in North Belfast were the first school to get a look and try out this exciting new Challenge in their school film club

Teacher Michelle McAlonan said: “Completing the Film Buff Challenge in school during these uncertain times has given me the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with my new pupils. Their literacy skills were enhanced with pupils being encouraged to share and value the opinions of their peers. As the clips were short it was very easy to manage in a busy classroom. The whole challenge was thoroughly enjoyed by me and the pupils and we are glad to have participated.”

To access the Film Buff Challenge go to:


Ards Business Hub helps new companies emerging from Covid-19 pandemic

By | Business

Ards Business Hub has met the challenge of Covid-19 by providing expert advice to entrepreneurs determined to launch new businesses during the pandemic.

Despite the nationwide lockdown, the Newtownards-based enterprise hub supported 60 clients with virtual delivery of its ‘Go For It’ business support programme.

Chief Executive Nichola Lockhart said: “Our small businesses continue to be the backbone of the local economy and it is their spirit of enterprise and innovation that will help spur an economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic.”

The work of its business advisers during lockdown resulted in the launch of new enterprises, including iFogg Ltd, set up to provide sanitation to small businesses, churches, community centres, sports clubs and gyms.

Company Director Ryan Connolly and his brother Brett began looking at the idea for a new business back in January when the spread of a new strain of coronavirus led to lockdown in the Chinese city of Wuhan. After a period of initial research, he signed up for the Go For It Programme of which Ards Business Hub is a delivery agent.

Ryan said: “During lockdown we had seen China using fog machines to sterilise premises and thought this was a way of making people feel confident about returning to the High Street. After completing the Go For It programme and Covid-19 awareness courses we opened our doors on June 10.”

The brothers have concentrated in building up their client base and are hoping to generate enough work to take on employees to do the cleaning work while they focus on growth.

Opening a new wedding business in the middle of a pandemic might be a risk but Jean Michel and Lisa Pascal, the couple behind Craic ‘N’ Campers have built up a solid base of bookings kicking off with their first wedding on September 25.

Jean Michel and Lisa had to postpone their own wedding which had been due to take place in July. Undeterred they now provide transport for other couples on their big day in their vintage VW Campervan called Gino and a Beetle called Bella. The VW Campervan can also be hired as a Campervan Photo booth.

Jean Michel said: “Starting a business during lockdown isn’t easy but our business adviser from the Go For It Programme was extremely helpful in formulating a strong business plan and explaining the legal aspects of the market.”

Lisa, a professional photographer, said that they were already looking ahead with plans to buy another campervan and VW Beetle.

“Our bookings are so strong for next year that we are looking for other vehicles to meet demand. This will depend on circumstances of course and we are monitoring the Covid-19 situation,” she said.

Another business supported by Ards Business Hub is #Goals, a new coaching and personal development consultancy run by Niamh Crawford-Walker.

Niamh works with millennial women to help them gain clarity in their career goals, unlock their true potential and build a career that fulfils them. She specialises in career coaching for women to help them build up the confidence to start their own businesses.

Before Covid-19 she had been running a series of small casual workshops, but lockdown gave her the incentive to bring all her content together online and create her own business.

She said: “I decided during lockdown that I wanted my future to be helping other young women fulfil their potential. I got in touch with the Go For It programme which enabled me to put together a business plan, learn about financial projections and the administrative side of things. It was helpful to have an advisor show me how to create a solid online business. I began the programme in June and got my logo sorted and website up and running and hosted my first online workshop on September 2.”

For more information about the support offered by Ards Business Hub email or call 028 9181 9787.

Belfast woman appointed as UN Youth Delegate

By | General, News, Newsroom

A young Belfast woman is the first person from Northern Ireland to be appointed as a Youth Delegate to the United Nations.

Tara Grace Connolly will assist the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a year that Ireland has been elected to the UN Security Council.

The 22-year-old law graduate, who has just completed her Masters’ degree in International Relations at Queen’s University, said it was a great honour to be selected.

“It’s a real privilege to be the first person from the north to be picked for this role. I got the confirmation at the beginning of September and had to keep the secret for three weeks until it was formally announced by the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.”

Tara Grace and her fellow delegate, Conn McCarrick from Dublin, will spend the year working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission to the UN to represent the views of young people.

Simon Coveney, speaking after a virtual meeting with the two young delegates said that during their term, they would be working on issues affecting young people in co-operation with fellow youth delegates from around the world.

He added: “Their contribution, whether virtual or in person, will be vital over the coming year in ensuring that young people are represented in Ireland’s engagement at the UN. As Ireland prepares to take its seat on the UN Security Council in January 2012, they will also play an important role in building awareness of the work of the UN and the role Ireland plays on the global stage.”

Originally from West Belfast, Tara Grace has been working on human rights and youth participation since the tender age of nine.

She said: “I wrote a letter to Al Gore when I was nine complaining about climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps and have been working on issues that affect young people ever since.”

Tara served as chairperson of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum and the Belfast Youth Forum and is a graduate of the Washington Ireland Program Class of 2017. She spent two months in Washington DC working in the Northern Ireland Bureau.

Chris Quinn, Director of the NI Youth Forum, said the organisation was so proud of Tara Grace and grateful for her commitment over the past eight years.

He added: “During this time, she championed speaking truth to power and taking a lead on campaigning for social justice and equality. Young people from the island of Ireland are sure to benefit as I am sure that she will reinforce this message directly to the UN.”

She co-founded the youth anti-Brexit campaign ‘Our Future Our Choice Northern Ireland’, addressing a million people at the March for a People’s Vote rally in London in October 2019.

“That was a surreal experience. It was on my birthday and the crowd sang Happy Birthday to me,” she added.

Tara Grace has presented at the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child in Geneva as a peer advocate with the Children’s Law Centre and is a member of the US Embassy Dublin Young Leaders Council.

She was named Belfast’s Celebrated Citizen in 2015 and was awarded the 2016 Voice of Young People Award. She has also been active in campaign work with Trócaire, Friends of the Earth and the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) and has been active in Queen’s University’s Students’ Union and debating society.

She is looking forward to a busy year ahead: “A lot of our work will be around peace and security and sustainable development. I am representing the whole island, but I will be giving a northern perspective on things, redefining what it means to be a young person in Ireland.”


Ground-breaking course helps women to campaign against social injustice

By | General, News, Newsroom

A ground-breaking course is giving women the confidence to take on the authorities and fight for the rights of disadvantaged people.

The Community Campaigners Course run by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA) offers free online training to women to provide them with the tools to campaign for better services for their communities.

Women’s rights campaigner Kellie Turtle who devised the course said: “”I’ve met so many women with issues they care about and they just need a basic toolkit of ideas, strategies and tips to really make a difference. We’re looking for people who are ready to be part of a community of people creating positive change.”

Orla Fitzsimons who runs the Parents for Action CIC social enterprise and Independent Family Advocacy Service for parent carers, has benefited from the course and urged fellow activists to take part in the online sessions to make sure their voices are heard.

As a result of attending the course Ms Fitzsimons is launching the Parent Pride campaign to challenge the Education Authority and address the failings in special educational needs systems, identified in the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People’s Report ‘Too Little Too Late’, published in April 2020. This included a failure to help children with special needs return to their special and mainstream schools safely, following lockdown

She added: “The campaign we are launching to highlight this failure would not be happening without this course. Children with special needs were sent back to school without medical or mental health assessments. We were given no advice on how to integrate them back to school safely and many like my son couldn’t tolerate it and are now back at home.”

The course, which consists of four half day sessions, covers critical thinking, communication skills, strategic planning and how to use human rights and equality law to strengthen a campaign. They will start on Zoom in October, November and December.

Deirdre Quinn, the WRDA course co-ordinator, said the aim of the Belfast City Council-funded course was to get more women into leadership roles in their local communities.

She said: “There are many women who are passionate about issues and wish to become activists to improve the quality of life in their areas but need the confidence and practical skills to get the powers-that-be to sit up and take notice. Because of Covid-19 we have had to move our training online, but this means we will be able to reach more of those determined women.”

Participants do not need prior education or training, just an interest in developing their campaigning skills for the good of the community. Anyone wishing to take part must be from the Belfast City Council area. Those successfully taking part will acquire a Level Three Open College Network (OCN) NI in Community Campaigning and Lobbying.

WRDA Director Anne McVicker said: “This course is all about empowering women to get resources at a local community level. They are often best placed to identify the needs of their community in all sorts of areas such as perinatal mental health care, helping elderly people suffering from isolation and support for carers looking after family members with dementia.”

If you wish to take part, send a paragraph explaining why you are interested to