By | Business, General

A high-tech Craigavon company is celebrating a decade of year-on-year growth in advanced security solutions that are now used around the world.

Philip Murdock, who founded Envision Intelligent Solutions ten years ago, attributes its success to its ethos of continually developing innovative new products.

Envision MD Mr Murdock said: “My aim from the beginning was to use ‘tomorrow’s security solutions today’ and this philosophy has driven everything we do. All of our innovative products and services pair netcentric technology solutions with personal service from a highly skilled team.”

“Our philosophy has always been to listen to our customers and react to their needs. For us, the most exciting thing is being able to solve a problem for our clients, to make their businesses more competitive or to improve safety for their workers,” he explained.

Envision has now grown to a workforce of 50 spread across offices in Northern Ireland, England and the US and includes two additional directors – Operations Director Graeme McCandless and Commercial Director Amanda Campbell.

“Our people are the key to our success and are continually offered training and development so that we can evolve as a company. By focusing on our very clear mission, we plan continued growth for the next decade with the launch of several new, innovative products in the coming months,” Commercial Director Amanda Campbell said.

The business was founded in 2011 to provide remote security to its first client, Silverwood Property Developments. Envision removed the static guarding system on site and installed cameras and remote barriers to manage security from a control room built at Envision’s current premises on location in Craigavon.

The company quickly grew and now provides remote security to major car dealerships across the UK, including Bells of Crossgar, Charles Hurst, Lookers and Isaac Agnew.

One of the key moments of growth was the development of its super high-tech Alarm Receiving Centre designed and built in Craigavon.

Phillip Murdock explained: “By constantly upgrading our infrastructure, we were poised to move into the construction sector in 2018 and that lead to huge growth for us. By really understanding and listening to our customers, we were able to develop a contactless facial-recognition turnstile for building site staff during the pandemic.”

The company has also expanded into open-source intelligence services, Security FM services, drones as well as developing its own aircraft to provide aerial surveillance.

Operations Director Graeme McCandless added: “As a company we started our journey by offering remote monitoring and CCTV installation to a single client ten years ago. Now we are in multiple sectors, providing on site and cyber security, with a large staff team in three locations.”

“We’ve worked hard to make sure that we are one step ahead through our knowledge and capability delivered by our dedicated staff teams. By doing this we’ve retained many of our original clients while also developing in new markets. Our dream of providing tomorrow’s security solutions today continues to be the driving force behind everything we do,” he said.

£120,000 ‘financial lifeline’ for d/Deaf and Disabled Artists

By | Creative Industries, Dance, General, Music, News, Theatre

Disabled artists are being offered a “financial lifeline” through a £120,000 grant package to fund new work as the arts sector begins to fully reopen.

The University of Atypical will be awarding a minimum of 60 grants of £2,000 through the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund 3, which is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities, to support D/deaf, disabled and Neurodiverse artists.

Many artists struggled financially and emotionally during the lockdown and this funding will be vital in helping them rebuild their careers, Damien Coyle, CEO of University of Atypical explained.

This jointly funded scheme aims to provide much needed financial support to D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse creative practitioners at a time when their potential to generate income has been seriously impacted by the closure of art galleries, theatres, music venues and other creative outlets due to Covid-19.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council Northern Ireland said: “The re-opening of the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund is welcome news. This funding programme has been designed to support those D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists who were left struggling a result of the pandemic. As the arts sector now safely reopens, this fund provides critically-needed support to individual artists, enabling them to create new work.”

Damien Coyle, CEO of the University of Atypical, commented: “The importance of this funding scheme should not be underestimated.  The outcome of our survey of grant recipients showed there was continuing challenges faced by creative practitioners.  The responses clearly indicated that artists were experiencing wellbeing issues and there is a concern about the risk for their future involvement in the sector.  This lifeline will help those artists restore their creative practice. We thank the Minister, Deirdre Hargey, the Department for Communities, and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for their continued support for D/deaf, disabled and Neurodiverse.”

Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities, said: “I am delighted to formally launch the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund. This is the third round of funding my Department has made available to support D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists during the Covid -19 pandemic. As we emerge from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the fund is designed to support those D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists restore their creative practice and rebuild livelihoods.”

She added: “The fund provides critically-needed support to D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists to continue with their creative practice and offers practical help to meet costs such as materials, mentoring, studio rent, recording studio hire or simply time to produce new work.”

The University of Atypical has designed the D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund to be adaptable and accessible and various options are available to meet the access requirements of applicants.

D/deaf, Disabled and Neurodiverse artists play an essential role in the culture, arts and heritage sector and is a reflective of the diversity and inclusiveness of our society. This funding will assist artists in continuing with this important contribution.

Information, application packs, and advice clinic registration forms are available from the following link: https://universityofatypical.org/ddasf

The Duke of Gloucester visits Usel to commemorate 150th anniversary

By | Business, Environment, News, Newsroom

The Duke of Gloucester has visited the headquarters of Ulster Supported Employment Ltd (Usel) in Cambrai Street in Belfast’s Shankill Road to unveil a commemorative plaque celebrating 150 years of providing employment to people with disabilities.

During the visit The Duke heard how his family has a special place in the hearts of the people of Belfast after his father visited the city at the height of the Blitz in 1941.

Usel Chairman, William Leathem, introducing His Royal Highness, said that The Duke of Gloucester’s father, who was also Earl of Ulster, had visited nearby Percy Street, which had been devastated by bombing raids 70 years ago.

“Since then, the Gloucester family have had a close relationship with the people of Belfast,” he added.

The Duke, The Queen’s first cousin, was greeted at the Cambrai Street complex by, the Chairman of Usel, William Leathem; Chief Executive, Bill Atkinson; the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Fionnuala Jay O’Boyle and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Dr Alan Logan.

His Royal Highness was taken on a tour of the factory floor, chatting informally with staff about the various operations run by the company – bedding manufacturing, recycling, and industrial sewing departments.

During the tour, The Duke heard about the Circular Economy, the process of rescuing old products from landfill sites to create brand new products. He also met the company’s design and product manager, Andrew Bingham who demonstrated how they produce bags and PPE equipment for the emergency services.

The Duke chatted to Usel’s longest serving employee Brian Douglas, who has worked at the company for 44 years and two of its most recent employees, Beth Hagan, a server at one of the company’s Ability Cafes and Jordan Hall, who works in the admin department.

Brian said he joined Usel at its previous premises in Lawnbrook Avenue when he left school at 16. He worked in the sewing department making bags and other products. “I really like working here. I have been here for 44 years which shows it’s a great place to work,” he added

Jordan joined the company in June after completing a course in Digital Media Production at Belfast Met. After working in the recycling department, he moved into the office as a document handler. He also uses his digital design skills to make posters for the company. “It’s fantastic learning new skills and the people are so friendly. I have met some great friends here. It is a very friendly environment,” he said.

William Leathem said the main aim of the day had been to recognise the hard work of Usel staff: “We were delighted that His Royal Highness spent time and met staff in each of the departments. Without our staff and clients Usel wouldn’t exist,” he added.

Costume designer to the stars shares skills with NI students

By | Creative Industries, Film, General

A Northern Ireland film and television costume designer, who has worked with some of the most exciting actors in the world, is sharing her skills with a totally new audience as she joins Into Film’s ScreenWorks training programme for young people.

Susan Scott has spent more than 20 years creating stunning costumes for actors including Daniel Day Lewis, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Anna Friel, Sean Bean, Jessie Buckley, Ben Hardy and Guy Pearce to name a few.

The ScreenWorks programme, delivered by Into Film and funded by Northern Ireland Screen, has brought together screen industry professionals from a range of fields to help young people better understand career options.

Richard Williams, CEO of Northern Ireland Screen, said: “Skills development is key to the growth of the screen industries in Northern Ireland. ScreenWorks is designed to give hands-on experience to young people who want to find their way into the industry. The range of programmes will provide participants with increased awareness and understanding of the variety of roles available and help them choose education pathways that could help fulfil their ambitions.”

As the project returns to in-person workshops in their new training rooms in Belfast, Susan will join the highly experienced professionals delivering career training for 14–19-year-olds who are considering jobs in the fast-growing screen industries. The workshops cover a wide range of topics from film editing to location management to motion graphics and games design.

ScreenWorks Delivery Co-ordinator Sean Boyle explained: “Over the past 18 months we have been delivering training online and have worked with 3,500 young people in Northern Ireland. We are delighted to restart face to face sessions in our new purpose-designed training rooms as this allows a more detailed level of training to support students considering their job prospects in the industry.”

Costume Designer Susan said she wished there had been a programme like this when she was a student in Lisburn. She learned to sew when she was 10 and after finishing school, she studied fashion and textiles at Ulster University before going to work with a clothing company in Limerick. She gained great experience but realised she didn’t really like the factory environment and began researching career options.

“In the late 1990s the screen industry was growing in Dublin and I got my first break with Emmy award winning designer Joan Bergin. I worked as assistant designer on films like The Devil’s Own, Dancing at Lughnasa, Some Mother’s Son, The Boxer and Sweeney Todd. It gave me the opportunity to work with the best Irish and international actors, directors and cameramen,” she said.

She moved home to Northern Ireland 18 years ago where her reputation in the industry continued to grow. She’s designed for Paloma Faith and David Walliams in period drama Blandings, Anna Friel on Marcella series three and recently Paddy Kielty on Ballywalter and Dougray Scott on Crime.

For the Costume Design workshop for ScreenWorks she will be telling the young people about costume research and storyboarding, breaking down scripts, budgeting, and breaking down a costume – the process of purposely ageing a piece of clothing so it looks older. She will give practical insight to a typical day setting up and giving them a project to design a costume based on a film script as well as exhibiting costumes from different projects that she has designed.

“I will be advising them to really hone their skills and find something that they’re good at because there’s such a huge range of talent needed on a film set,” she said.

The job has another important perk – Susan is lucky to bring her little sausage dog- cross Ripley on set with her.

She said: “When she was just a pup, I was asked to quickly help on Game of Thrones when someone was ill. But I’d only just got Ripley and couldn’t leave her at home, so she came with me to work, she’d often get walked by Richard Madden or get cuddles with Charles Dance. She’s named after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien and it was amazing when she met John Hurt on the set of ‘The Journey.”

ScreenWorks starts in October. To find out more about all programmes being offered go to www.intofilm.org/screenworks