The Show Must Go On(line)

Right across the Cathedral Quarter, businesses, creative organisations, churches and community groups have been using the internet to stay in touch with their customers and communities.

We think this is a pretty comprehensive run down of all the ways you can enjoy your CQ favourites online, but we’re only too happy to add to this if we’ve missed anything – just get in touch!

Virtual events and livestreaming

Imagine Belfast became the first virtual festival this year, pivoting at lightning speed to bring three days of online events, talks, interviews and screenings. Watch them back here.

Belfast Cathedral has gone online too! They will be streaming services via their Facebook page, but it is possible to watch and listen even without a Facebook account. Check out the News section of their website for details of services and downloadable service sheets. Stay up to date by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Redeemer Central’s congregation are also going to church at home, with Sunday gatherings and drop-ins happening via Zoom. This modern Belfast church actually began in people’s homes, as you can read in our profile of Team Leader David Armstrong.

As well as offering an already-wildly-popular new subscription and delivery service (see below), Mike’s Fancy Cheese are holding virtual beer and cheese nights – keep an eye on the Facebook page for details.

The Spaniard is livestreaming Stay In Sessions every Friday at 9pm on their Facebook – grab a rum cocktail and join the party!

The Black Box have begun taking some of their popular art/club nights online, beginning with Cyberskull on 16th April.
It’s on from 7 to 11pm GMT and you can tune in on @blackboxbelfast on Facebook Live, or on Instagram Live via @theblackboxbelfast or @skullogram. Escape the quarantine drearfest with a night of recorded music and live drawing. DJs Watson & Fitzsimmons will create an aural envelope broadcasting via Spotify, whilst illustrator Duncan Ross strives to capture the consciousness of the moment through the inky medium of illustration. Adventurous clientèle may submit suggestions to Ross for realisation via live chat.

If you’re reading this after the fact, keep an eye on their Facebook page for more live events – but we will do our best to keep this article up to date with any more we spot!

Berts Jazz Bar staff have been recreating some of your favourite classic cocktails at home – check out their Facebook page.

The Sunflower Bar’s Tuesday Sunflower Song Club has also moved on to Facebook Live – 7.30pm every Tuesday night, tune in with a pint or a cuppa, whatever takes your fancy! Keep an eye out for Sunday sessions going up on the page too…

The Ulster Sports Club’s Ginger Pete is bringing his famous quiz online every Thursday for the foreseeable – check the club’s Facebook events for the latest.

Order online

Mike’s Fancy Cheese has responded to the new normal with a subscription box and delivery service. The online shop is open from 7pm every Friday until midnight on Monday for orders. The boxes are filled with cheese, bread, butter and all sorts of MFC goodies and are delivered to your door with a no-contact knock and run!

Thanks to Direct Wine Shipments you can order your favourite delicious tipple direct to your door. Wine Club via Zoom, anyone??

Established Coffee are keeping us pumped with online deliveries and online masterclasses in all things brews and bites (see below).

Mikes Fancy Cheese- keeping it dairy

Dawsons Belfast has closed its doors but you can still buy online from dawsons.co.uk They are urging everyone to stay safe and to “use this time to practice”!

Elliott’s Fancy Dress online shop remains open – perfect to help a quarantine birthday feel a little more fun – or simply to add a splash of colour to that Houseparty meet-up this Friday night! We’ve already seen folk having online 80s parties – why not have a bit of craic with it?

Dawsons Belfast selling out fast
Dawsons Belfast

Gardiner Brothers Jewellers’ online store is open and they are running a number of giveaways to cheer customers up during these dark times – keep an eye on their Facebook page for those! Murray and Co aren’t selling online but are using the time to share some fascinating facts about diamonds and jewellery on their Facebook page every day – give them a follow and learn something!

The Hydroponics online store is open and staff are available via phone, email or online chat.

Jackson Sports is continuing to sell online. Why not get creative – if you’re lucky to have your own garden or outdoor space, try a bit of camping at home!

Jackson Sports- outdoor clothing
Jackson Sports

Make Up Pro Store currently have 15% off all orders in their online shop.

They have also kicked off the #SIMPLYRED challenge on Instagram – if you’re bored at home, create your best red lip look and post the results with the hashtag, tagging @makeupprostore and @paddymcgurganmakeupartist

Make Up Pro Store

MCA Print are accepting orders online and via phone, and artwork can now be uploaded online.

Misstique Belfast are accepting orders online and via phone.

Noblett’s of North Street is accepting online and phone orders, and are also keeping their Facebook page updated with regular livestreams from the shop so customers can browse the range remotely, as well as daily flash sales. They are turning a negative into a positive by encouraging people to use the time at home for ‘Project Isolation Decoration’ and transform their homes!

Norm’s Bikes is offering bike repairs from home – get in touch via Facebook or by calling 07548 527330.

Pizza Punks has announced they will be reopening for a delivery-only service – order now by downloading the Deliveroo app.

If your home entertainment systems are in need of an upgrade, you will be more aware of it now than ever! Richer Sounds’ online shop is open and the team are working from home and happy to advise.

From 4pm on Friday 17th April, you can order your favourites from House of Zen as they offer online and phone food takeaway and delivery. Place your order online or phone it in. Check their Facebook page for all the details.

Mumbai 27 are also offering delivery within the Greater Belfast area, or non-contact collection. Email info@mumbai27.co.uk or phone 9023 3926.

Educational & family fun

We were able to offer our in-depth Google Analytics workshop with Glow Metrics as a webinar and our Lunchtime Learning page contains an online video archive of all our previous Lunchtime Learning sessions.

The Northern Ireland War Memorial has made a whole suite of its learning resources available online to download and print off, to help young ones learn about the Second World War, including pdfs of ration books, wartime recipes, a Spitfire colouring-in sheet, and lots more. Keep an eye on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more ideas and resources.

BX Daily with Belfast Exposed
Belfast Exposed

Belfast Exposed is posting daily Digital Activities featuring downloadable worksheets and challenges for the whole family to enjoy. Give it a go and post yours using the #BXDailyActivity hashtag.

Maverick Belfast has popped some amazing colouring in sheets of their Drag Queens on their Facebook page. Colour in and post your entry for a chance to win a VIP night once Maverick reopens!

Established Coffee is sharing some of their secrets to getting a perfect brew at home, along with some tasty recipes and cook-alongs for anyone missing their pie and drip or other delights – check out their Instagram to join in.

Coppi and Buba’s chefs are cooking up a storm on social media – follow chef-owner Tony O’Neill, chef Jonny Phillips plus the main Coppi and Buba accounts on Instagram for fun and easy follow-along video demonstrations.

Young at Art will be sharing creative ideas on their Facebook page – keep an eye out for those and in the meantime, let them know how much you enjoyed this year’s festival by filling in their feedback survey for a chance to win a CQ restaurant voucher!

Belfast Central Library may be closed but don’t worry – all items on loan will renew automatically during closure and while the doors are shut, you can visit the Libraries NI Digital and download e-books and audiobooks, listen to the Libraries NI podcast, find kids’ home activity ideas, access virtual research services , find virtual arts and culture tours to enjoy, or watch some films from the digital archive. Don’t worry if you’re not a library member yet – you can join online.

Libraries NI
Belfast Central Library

They also have daily storytimes over on their YouTube channel – 11.30am every weekday.

Training Matchmaker continues to be a fantastic resource for the best in online education, whether you are looking for a course, or interested in promoting your own online programmes and workshops.

Ulster University is offering remote learning for its students and also has this handy resource for adjusting to working or studying from home. Meanwhile, the Unique Art Shop based at the University is running online art classes for kids every Saturday at 2pm. Find out more on the Facebook page.

Ulster university- unique design shop
Unique Design Shop

Visual Artists Ireland has moved fast and has a whole itinerary of digital events and webinars for artists and members, including a virtual Visual Artists Cafe, online Artists’ helpdesks, and a range of interesting webinars coming up on topics including digital marketing, arts funding, and writing about your work.

Arts, exhibitions and music

The Oh Yeah Music Centre is trying to fill the gap left by the lack of gigs by curating and sharing some cracking Spotify playlists, including this one celebrating the best of Northern Irish music. They are also sharing museum close-ups, bringing pics and facts from some of the best artefacts in the Oh Yeah’s amazing NI Music Exhibition. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The much-loved monthly storytelling event Ten x 9 has shifted online until it’s able to return to the Black Box. There has always been collected and listenable via the podcast but now for the first time, this will be the only way to listen, and it will feature stories recorded at home. Get involved and submit your own true story.

The Black Box’s art outreach programmes have embraced the use of technology to keep their work going – participants in the Moonbase – Creating Connections programme have been staying in touch online and Black Moon’s DJ Twister has remotely performed a set on 343 Radio during lockdown.

BlackBox Belfast hosting a range of events
BlackBox Belfast

Seedhead Arts have brought their monthly live drawing event at The Black Box online, you can now get Real Sketchy from the comfort of your sofa on the first Thursday of the month when Late Night Art would usually be taking place in Belfast. Keep an eye on the Late Night Art Belfast page as they are scanning the web for any virtual exhibitions and art to share during #LNAB.

In the run-up to April’s Late Night Art, University of Atypical ran a Short Shorts competition for 60-second film shorts – keep an eye on their Facebook page to see if they do the same for the next LNAB.

The MAC partnered with The Royal Court Theatre to showcase the fab Cyprus Avenue #WorldTheatreDay  (18+ recommended).

Craft NI Gallery is shining a spotlight on a maker a day on Facebook.

Craft NI Workshops
Craft NI

The Golden Thread Gallery is currently exploring how to bring their planned gallery exhibition – More Bad News by Dougal McKenzie – to you digitally, so keep an eye on their website and Facebook for more announcements.

Here NI, who support lesbian and bisexual women, is offering a number of online social events, including yoga workshops, coffee hours, creative classes and information sessions. The current schedule is on the calendar on their homepage.

Northern Visions is revisiting some of their best films and programmes on their Facebook channel every day.

Silent Canvas Media is using their Facebook page to shine a light on artists for whom they have created album covers or photography portfolios, and are encouraging their audience to support local music during the lockdown.

With so many of us looking for things to do at home, Source Magazine have made their latest issue free to read online for the entire month of April. The magazine is currently taking submissions for their Graduate Photography Online 2020 and the entry fee includes a free digital subscription to the magazine.

The Ulster Youth Orchestra is using their Facebook page to post links to online classical concerts, as well as highlighting individual members and performers.

Health, Beauty & Wellbeing

Flow Yoga has been taking our health and wellness online with a brilliant schedule for home meditations, flexibility sessions and good to go yoga classes. See all classes and book here.

Bellaire Hair and Beauty is offering online skincare consultations, with products online available for order and delivery. They are also running a video competition on their Facebook page for a lucky winner to bag a salon appointment when the doors open again.

yoga stuido
FLOW Yoga studio

Black Mountain Zen Centre is sharing helpful mindfulness tips on their Facebook page, and have shared a link to an online zendo from the San Franciscan Zen Center which takes place Monday to Friday beginning 12:30 GMT.

PureGym has a selection of free online workout videos and exercise guides, as well as free guides via their app, blog or social media.

Polercise is offering a number of daily online classes – who said keeping fit at home had to be boring? Work it!

 

Don’t forget to follow us online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and tag us if you’re exploring the CQ from your sofa! We’ll be continuing to champion the Cathedral Quarter and its amazing people and organisations, right until the minute they open their doors to us all again. Until then – see you online!

Support the CQ from home

The COVID-19 health crisis has forced most Cathedral Quarter organisations to shut their doors and/or dramatically change how they do things.

The famous streets of the CQ currently lie quiet, but we have gathered together a list of some of the ways you can continue to support your favourite CQ Belfast venues, restaurants, traders, retailers and businesses during this uncertain time.

All pics: Carrie Davenport Photography 

Gift vouchers

Buying a gift voucher now to spend when your favourite restaurant, bar, shop or salon opens their doors again is an easy way to get much-needed cash to businesses while you’re unable to physically spend your money with them.

Many CQ businesses and organisations offer this facility online, so search for your favourite, and maybe drop them a line to see if they can take payments over the phone.

We will be compiling a full list of all CQ businesses offering gift vouchers. If you are, or know of, a Cathedral Quarter Belfast business or organisation offering online/over the phone gift vouchers, please let us know.

Donations and memberships

Many of the CQ’s charities, community groups and grassroots arts organisations and venues face a particularly tough time ahead without support. The Black Box – who as well as being one of our top arts venues, run and facilitate a number of community arts projects both for and by those with learning disabilities – accept donations.

Black Box Membership is another wonderful way to not only support this important cultural institution, but to bag loads of fab perks and freebies and it is just £45 / £35 concession.

You can find many other wonderful arts and community organisations and charities who would be very grateful of your support in our Directory under ‘Arts Culture & Entertainment’ and ‘Community & Non-Profit’. If you are a CQ non-profit who would like us to highlight the ways people can support you right now, please drop us a line.

Shop online

There are loads of CQ shops who already offer fantastic online shopping options, such as Make Up Pro Store, Hex Bomb, Jackson Sports ,  and Eliott’s Fancy Dress to name but a few.

Many other businesses and organisations have pivoted into the online space to sell their goods and services, from food delivery to jewellery to coffee. Check it all out in our article about the many ways the Cathedral Quarter has gone online.

If there are any we have missed, just let us know.

Social media and mailing lists

With most of us indoors, working from home and using the online world for connection and entertainment, the digital space is about to get pretty busy, with a lot of content being produced by people and organisations who have no other way to get their work or their message out there.

Follow your favourite traders, venues and organisations on social media and make sure to enable notifications so that you know when they post. Interact with and share their posts to help them reach more people. This will not only help them get vital messages out there, but help them build their online audiences which will stand them in good stead once it’s ‘business as usual’ again.

Check their websites and sign up to their mailing lists. This will keep you in the loop with any news, offers and alternative ways to enjoy what they offer and again helps to build their audience ahead of reopening in future.

Holly Wilson from Belfast Cathedral

Don’t ask for refunds

Obviously this comes with a large caveat of “if that’s possible for you” because we know many people face uncertain futures and cashflow situations right now. That said, if it’s feasible and the organisation allows you the option, consider donating the ticket price of any cancelled events to the venue or performer.

If you have any holidays or tourism bookings, consider rescheduling rather than cancelling and allowing companies to hold on to deposits and pre-payments.

Streaming, CDs, merch, online tip jars and social support

Many of the musical acts and performers who rely on a busy, thriving Cathedral Quarter for gigs are now exploring alternative ways to get their art, music and shows to you digitally. We’ve seen gigs, workshops and lessons all being offered online.

Follow your favourites on social media, hit ‘love’ or ‘wow’ on their posts rather than just liking (this can help them reach more people) and make sure to leave supportive comments and tag any friends who might enjoy their music or art. If you can, buy CDs, books, artwork and merch from them online and find out if they have a Patreon or a PayPal ‘tip jar’.

Check Eventbrite and Facebook Events to see if any of the acts you usually enjoy in the CQ are hosting online events or broadcasts.

Please get in touch if there is anything you think should be added to this article – email heather@cathedralquarterbelfast.com

What’s On This Week: 9 – 12 March 2020

So many things to do in Belfast this week it was hard to pick just five favourites!

But we managed it! If you want even more, just check out the full What’s On event listings.

Making Queer and Class Connections

Monday 9th March, 7pm @ The Black Box

We’re excited to announce that over the coming months, Outburst Arts will be starting a brand new programme of screenings, talks, workshops and happenings exploring some of the queer ideas that underpin queer arts, film, pop culture and theory. First up…

U.S. writer and educator Matt Brim is doing some vital work at the moment around queer learning and how our class backgrounds impact on that. His new book “Poor Queer Studies: Confronting Elitism in the Universities” (Duke University Press) is out in April, and we’re delighted that Matt will join us in Belfast to share some of his ideas. “Poor Queer Studies” shows how some of the most exciting new ideas in queer theory are happening outside of elite schools and universities, in places where queer theory and working class knowledge meet.

“The stories of our queer + class lives are important to tell, but they’re often hard to piece together. In this talk and discussion, we will explore queerness in relation to the material conditions and class structures of our lives—at work and school, in our communities, as raced and gendered bodies. What cross-class queer politics and theories can we build from the ground up when we share our queer + class narratives?”

Matt’s talk will be introduced by Jamie Hagen, who is on strike from Queen’s University Centre for Gender in Politics. Outburst supports the striking workers and students impacted by the struggle for fairer conditions in Universities.

This is a free event but booking is essential, as there is limited space. Please follow the ticketing link to book your place.

Image credit: Eoin Dara

Image description: Graffiti on a brick wall (in Belfast) reading REJECT CAPITALISM, KISS YOUR MATES; Queers will inherit this earth

Coppi at The Academy – Tuesday 10th of March

Tuesday 10th March, Academy Restaurant

Ulster University’s Academy Restaurant offers food from the hospitality professionals of tomorrow. On Tuesday they will be working with one of the CQ’s most popular dining spots, Coppi. The bespoke menu which includes some amazing Italian cuisine can be accompanied by some of their Italian wines supplied by JN Wine.

A special evening not to be missed, so make your reservation now on 02895367332 or email us on academyrestaurant@ulster.ac.uk.

Lunchtime Learning

Wednesday 11th March, 12.30pm @ The Black Box

This session will provide an introduction to Google Analytics for those business owners or marketers who have Google Analytics installed on their site but aren’t sure how to read the numbers or use the data.

We will also cover the top 5 things to ensure your account is set-up correctly and look at the top products that connect into Google Analytics to facilitate better reaping of customer insights.

***This event is free for businesses and organisations who are Cathedral Quarter BID members.Paid tickets are available for non CQ BID members. If you’re not sure or have any questions, drop a line to info@destinationcq.com

Tickets are limited, so please book to avoid disappointment.***

Belfast Children’s Festival

Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th March

The last two days of another hugely successful Belfast Children’s Festival, and some of the best really has been saved for last! Virtually ThereThe Colour of Sound and Songs and The Soil exhibitions continue at The MAC and are free to view. The
Physical Performance and Modern Mime Workshop and The Right Twig Showcase have sold out but at time of writing, there are still tickets available for Babaithe Cultúir, Creating Work for Young Audiences, Hermit and Family Comedy Club on Tuesday, and Mini Midweek Magic and Tetris on Wednesday.

First World War Collections

Thursday 12th March, 7pm @ NI War Memorial

Alan Freeburn (Collections Officer) from the Northern Ireland War Memorial will talk about the museums First World War collections.

This talk will be proceeded by the Annual General Meeting of the Antrim and Down Branch of the Western Front Association.

This is a FREE event, however booking is required. 

 

We are @cqbelfast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – follow us for more news and features from the heart of Belfast’s creative quarter and make sure to tag us and use the #CQBelfast hashtag if you’re exploring the Cathedral Quarter this week!

International Women’s Day events

From protests and political gathering to lighthearted events, the Cathedral Quarter Belfast comes alive this weekend for International Women’s Day 2020.

Friday 6 March

International Women’s Day at The MAC

The MAC, 10am – 8pm

A programme of events part of city-wide IWD 2020 activities.

This year the MAC are thinking about how we can nourish ourselves, mentally and physically. With that in mind, they’re offering a series of day and evening events that provide space for reflection, connection and crafting.

Explore their programme to find out more about each event.

From 10am until 4pm, An Droichead will be providing crèche facilities for babies and children in the Family Room. To sign up for a session, simply email Jen White (MAC Creative Programmes Manager). Babies are also welcome to attend events with their carers and there will be changing facilities available in the event space, as well as on the ground floor.

Afternoon Tea and Crafts for International Women’s Day

Here NI, 2 – 4pm

Drop in to Here NI to make a placard or badge to bring along to the International Women’s Day Rally the following day, Saturday 7th March. Or just have a cuppa and a chat about our services and campaigns.

They’ll provide the materials and buns, you bring the ideas!

Please note this event is for women only.

Reclaiming International Women’s Day

Ramada by Wyndham, 7 – 8pm

This is a public meeting organised by The Communist Party, all are welcome. Speakers are:

Sandra Trotter: Clara Zetkin – Our Heritage

Jennifer McCarey: Women and Solidarity: The Red Clydeside and Belfast 1919

Chairperson: Dr Jenny Farrell.

IWD Period Party

Ulster Sports Club, 7.30 – 10.30pm

IWD Period Party with The Hormone Health Coach, Maria Rafferty for a night of talking all things Periods and everything in between!

The Homeless Period are back again with a second PERIOD PARTY to celebrate International Women’s Day and all things periods! They are delighted that the amazing Hormone Health Coach, Maria Rafferty will join them to deliver her informative and very necessary talk on everything we should know (but don’t know) about that bloody time of the month.

There’s also a big phat period quiz, a giant uterus costume, GRL PWR tunes, period themed biscuits and cupcakes, HPB goodie bags, a vulva making competition, and lots of other fun games with prizes to be won! BUT above all, they offer a safe space to engage in empowering discussions on every weird and wonderful thing about periods, vulvas and everything in between.

Recommended dress code: Pink or/and Red

International Women’s Day at The Merchant

Merchant Hotel, 6pm

An evening celebrating the accomplishments of women; please note ticket sales have now closed for this event.

Saturday 7 March

Rights in Sight – IWD Rally 2020

Writer’s Square, 11am

Reclaim the Agenda say everyone is welcome for their “Rights in Sight” International Women’s Day Rally, at Writers Square with circus performers, party bags, face painting, women’s drumming band – those hearty Ukes will be strumming away.

Bring your banner, your friend, your grandparents, your dog, yourself and let’s get marching, singing and dancing as we celebrate our achievements and promote our campaigns.

Unite the Union are asking members ask members to meet at St. Annes Cathedral steps from 10.30am to join the March which leaves Writers Square at 11.00am.

GRSNI Presents: The Big IWD Gig!

Oh Yeah Music Centre, 7.30pm – midnight

“GRSNI Presents” is the new gig series from the Girls Rock! chapter in NI and they launch their first gig of 2020 with an International Women’s Day special!

Performances from Sasha Samara, Alumna, Problem Patterns, Gender Chores and a special DJ set from Sister Ghost & Heart Shaped.

Doors 7pm
Tickets: General admission £7 / £5 unwaged/student

Proceeds go toward future GRSNI camps and classes.

Sunday 8 March (IWD)

Women of the Cathedral Tour

Belfast Cathedral, 1pm

COme along to the Cathedral to learn more about the amazing women, past and present, who contributed to the maintenance, funding, design, and architecture of the Cathedral.

The trail is included in your admission price and if you quote “Belfast Children’s Festival” on entry, you get 20% off.

Wookalily At The Sunflower

The Sunflower Public House, 3 – 6pm

Wookalily are back in the Sunflower Pub to release their new single ‘WHISKEY AND WINE’ for International Women’s Day.

3:00pm DOORS
3:15pm Si
3:45pm Accomplice Moon
4:15pm Bläk Byrd
4:45pm WOOKALILY
6:00pm END

Five women, ten instruments. Wookalily present ambitious folk music. Daring to dissolve musical and generic boundaries. Irreverently intertwining the disciplines of blues, rock, punk and more to create a unique and singular musical menagerie that must be witnessed to be truly experienced. Audiences will be left spinning with transcendent melodies and floating on ethereal vocals. It is a music that transports you to an ‘other’ place, somewhere between forever and the fleeting immediacy of now.

Women in Whiskey

Babel Belfast, 8pm

As part of International Women’s Day, Bushmills and The Sexton Irish whiskeys are taking over Babel with a night celebrating the female bartending talent of Belfast.

Special guest bartenders will be showcasing the diversity of Irish whiskey with a carefully curated menu of classic cocktails and modern twists.

Learn all about these fantastic local brands from those that know it best with Bushmills brand ambassador Lauren McMullan and The Sexton master blender Alex Thomas.

Entry is free and guests will receive a Black Bush Old Fashioned on arrival with special offers on cocktails throughout the night, a dedicated “tasting room”, live DJ and tasty treats – a night not to be missed!

 

Please let us know if we missed any amazing IWD events in the CQ and we will add them in here – email features@cathedralquarternelfast.com. Remember to tag us and use the #CQBelfast hashtag if you are out and about in the Cathedral Quarter this weekend.

OK? festival for mental health launches

Tickets have gone on sale today for a music and arts festival in the Cathedral Quarter to support mental health and suicide prevention.

OK? Takes place on Saturday 28th March 2020 at 6pm in The Telegraph Building and has been organised by NI band And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) with help from friends in the local music scene.

The OK? Line-up so far includes ASIWYFA, Soak, General Fiasco, Joshua Burnside, Pillow Queens, New Pagans, Catalan!, Junk Drawer, Jordan Adetunji, Careerist, Cherym, Problem Patterns and Gnarkats with David Holmes and Phil Kieran playing the after-party.

Tickets are available at www.shine.net and Ticketmaster outlets.

As well as fundraising for PIPS, AWARE NI and Help Musicians, the event is also intended to act as a gathering of community and a reminder to keep asking one other – “Are you OK?”.

OK? went from conception to launch in just two weeks, thanks to the phenomenal response that ASIWYFA received when they approached friends and colleagues within the local music industry with the idea.

ASIWYFA guitarist and vocalist Rory Friers explains: “We started by hitting up our friends and our favourite artists and it’s amazing – you think it would take a bit of convincing to get some of these incredible people to come and give their time for free, but it’s one of those subject matters that everyone is really passionate about and nobody even thought for a second about saying no.

“When we saw how many people were signing up to play, that’s when we started to feel like we had something that was bigger than the sum of its parts; something that will hopefully resonate and become one of those moments of alchemy where something special happens. We were very lucky to know a lot of these artists and be introduced to the ones we didn’t know and we’re just so grateful to them all.”


As Rory says, there are few – if any – of us who haven’t been affected in some way by mental health issues and/or suicide.

According to the Northern Ireland Assembly Research and Information Service, people in Northern Ireland experience “20-25% higher levels of mental health illness when compared to the rest of the UK, and around 1 in 5 adults are reported to have a diagnosable mental health condition at any given time. There are significantly higher levels of depression than in the rest of the UK, higher antidepressant prescription rates, and higher incidences of self-harm.

Rory says: “There isn’t a solution for it at the minute and I’m no expert – we’re just asking ‘what can we do’ to try and elevate the conversation, to try to shout about it a bit louder, and to help people who are being personally affected or are suffering.

“It was instinctual that we wanted to do something that brought people together and make some noise for a subject we felt strongly about and to raise a bit of money too.”

“We’re just a band, four guys who have played music all our lives and this is what we felt we wanted to do to feel like we are doing something; to give us a focus. It’s something that needs to be talked about and dealt with to a greater extent.”

It is just over ten years since the city’s music community came together for Belfast4Haiti – an ambitious multi-stage gig across the Limelight’s venues on Ormeau Avenue which raised money for those affected by the Haiti earthquake.

The issues are little more close to home this time, and it’s hoped the festival can act, not just as a vital fundraiser for three important charities, but also as a catalyst for a wider conversation around our mental health crisis.

Co-Organiser Helen Sloan says – “This event is a necessary coming together, through one of art’s great unifiers – music, to reinforce a sense of community and let everyone know there are available support networks for those in need.”

Lesley Wright, Community Fundraiser in AWARE NI says the organisation are delighted to be involved in OK?: “We are so pleased to see the musical community coming together in support of mental health in Northern Ireland. We would like to thank all involved in organising the event for choosing to support AWARE. Any funds raised will help us to continue to support people living with depression in Northern Ireland.”

Although the music line-up is a veritable who’s who of contemporary music in Northern Ireland, there will be lots more going on besides the gigs, as Helen explains: “There will be so much more on the night, including some exciting comperes. We have some local artists making original artwork for limited edition prints based around the event. Those will be available to buy to further support the charities, along with some other bespoke one-off merchandise at the venue.

Rory explains “It’s actually only been two weeks since we had the idea for this, so the event is kind of growing as we go!”

If you fancy volunteering or have an idea for using your creative skills to be involved in this amazing day, get in touch with the team by emailing okfestivalbelfast@gmail.com

What’s On This Week: 2 – 5 March 2020

This new week brings a new month, but just like the last it brings plenty to do in Belfast!

From business to design to art – something for everyone! This is our top five of all the Cathedral Quarter Belfast events this week, but you can find loads more in our What’s On Guide.

Women Carers Music Project

Monday 2nd March, 2pm @ The Black Box.

The Black Box has been invited as a partner organisation by the Oh Yeah Music Centre to deliver a relaxed and interactive music-based project for women and female-identifying carers.

The project is free to attend, no music experience is necessary just an interest in meeting new people and exploring ways of connecting through music! The project will be led by you as members of the group supported by experienced musicians and facilitators.

The project began on Monday 27th January 2-4pm and takes place once a week for twelve weeks. You do not have to attend all sessions so don’t worry if you have missed one you can still join in!

Each session will be structured like this: First half-hour: Tea/Coffee and an opportunity to chat with the rest of the group, then a one hour relaxed Music Workshop which will take on a number of themes/topics/styles determined by the group’s interests and then another half hour for tea/coffee and more opportunity for chat at the end.

Session One: ‘Introduction to Music and Music Making’ with Seonaid Murray.

We will discuss our favourite types of Music – feel free to bring any of your favourite albums with you for a ‘Desert Island Discs’ style session!

Session Two: ‘Dance and Movement’ with Charmaine McMeekin.

Charmaine is one of our most popular facilitators. She always brings a lot of fun, great tunes and creative freedom to her sessions!

Session Three: Tessa Ann from The Sound Healing Spa.

Tessa will bring along ‘singing bowls’ and relaxation techniques to this calming and soothing ‘sound bath’

Sessions Four – Twelve will be developed from the interests of the group

If you want to bring the person you care for with you, there will be a multi-sensory workshop with adults 18+ with learning disabilities taking place alongside the session in the room next door. If you are unable to attend because of your caring responsibilities please get in contact with us to see what we can arrange to enable you to take part.

If you are interested in finding out more, registering for the project, or want to ask any questions, please email Seonaid at outreach@blackboxbelfast.com or give them a call! 02890244400.

Brilliant Corners

All week @ Black Box

Belfast’s only jazz festival continues this week with some incredible shows happening in the Black Box.

On Tuesday Kenosha Kid brings their indie-rock influenced brand of jazz to the Black Box. On Wednesday, the Linley Hamilton Quintet launches their album, before Fuzzy Logic, supported by When The Dust Settles, takes to the stage on Thursday.

Check out brilliantcornersbelfast.com and get your tickets quick. The all-shows tickets is still amazing value at just £50!

Auto CAD classes

Wednesday 4th March, 11.15am @ Ulster University, York Street

Guest lecturer and CAD Technician Michael O’Hare continues with AutoCAD® classes specifically aimed at Architecture Students but open to any student from Ulster University.

AutoCAD® is computer-aided design (CAD) software that architects, engineers and construction professionals rely on to create precise 2D and 3D drawings.

Users can:

  • Draft and edit 2D geometry and 3D models with solids, surfaces and mesh objects
  • Annotate drawings with text, dimensions, leaders and tables
  • Customise with add-on apps and APIs

Room: BA-03-26
Fee: £2 per person

Lunchtime Learning

Wednesday 4th March, 12.30pm @ The Black Box

In this session you’ll learn why (despite being everyone’s least favourite online marketing channel) Twitter is key to your social media strategy.

You’ll learn how to find your voice on Twitter and how to craft a strategy that’s true to your brand. This session is for anyone who knows their brand has a great story to tell but just needs to find the words.

It will teach you how to be reactive and intuitive online and how to build a meaningful, long-lasting relationship with your audience.

This event is free for businesses and organisations who are Cathedral Quarter BID members.

Paid tickets are available for non CQ BID members. If you’re not sure or have any questions, drop a line to info@destinationcq.com Tickets are limited, so please book to avoid disappointment.

Late Night Art

Thursday 5th March, 5pm + @ Various Venues

A brand new month means a brand new Late Night Art – on the first Thursday of every month, galleries and arts venues across the city open up or open late in order to allow more of us to enjoy it – and all for free.

Golden Thread Gallery has two exhibitions launching – Abridged 0 – 59: Persephone and More Bad News by Dougal McKenzie. A Broken Sky Revisited by Jack Pakenham RUA opens in Sea Holly at 2pm, and just across the road, at 6pm Nathalie Caleyron Donnelly’s exhibition opens in the Black Box. Pulitzer Prize winning Northern Irish photographer Cathal McNaughton’s exhibition documenting the plight of the Rohingya people opens in Belfast Exposed at 6pm.

Real Sketchy is on from 9pm – a few beers and some free-form drawing in The Black Box, what better way to round off your arty night in the CQ?

 

Remember if you’re out and about in the Cathedral Quarter this week, we would love to share in the fun! We are @cqbelfast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – tag us and use the #CQBelfast hashtag.

What’s On This Week: 24 – 27 February 2020

Looking for things to do in Belfast this week? Look no further!

It’s an arts extravaganza, with a sprinkling of marketing, as we bring you a comedy open mic, an arts forum, a digital ads masterclass, a jazz festival and a mass crafting session in the name of peace.

Get involved and remember to check out our full listings for what’s happening at the weekend too.

Belfast Visual Arts Forum Meeting

Tuesday 25th February, 12pm @ Belfast Exposed

Visual Arts In Crisis – Who Cares?

The next Belfast Visual Arts Forum will focus on the current crisis in Visual Arts, with organisations having already closed and many others currently in very precarious positions. With current funding levels and insecure short term leases, the visual arts are at a crisis point.

The Belfast Visual Arts Forum will focus on this crisis and will seek to look at what solutions there are – short, medium and long term. We will invite politicians and funders to hear directly from the sector about this, and how it will impact on the wider public across Belfast and Northern Ireland.

One Thousand Paper Cranes

Wednesday 26th February, 3pm @ Ulster University, York Street

The crane has long been a symbol of hope and longevity, and an international symbol of peace. There is also an old Japanese belief that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will see their wish come true.

The organisers’ ultimate wish is a hate-free Northern Ireland. And a hate-free world. A peaceful, prosperous and reconciled society at ease with itself. So, please join in and help to make 1000 paper cranes!

Join the One Thousand Paper Cranes workshop to:

  • Learn the art of Japanese paper folding
  • Learn about the incredible story behind One Thousand Paper Cranes
  • Learn about diversity and peacebuilding
  • Help to make 1000 paper cranes and see our wish come true

This event is organised by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building in partnership with Ulster University and Craic NI with support from the Community Relations Council.

Lunchtime Learning

Wednesday 26th February, 12.30pm @ Black Box

CQ BID’s Lunchtime Learning workshops are hour-long sessions providing practical and easy to implement digital marketing tips.

How to get started with Facebook Ads: what to do before you even touch ads manager and then how to get the most bang from your buck when you do.

Suitable for beginners who have only boosted a few posts before and also people just getting started with ads on the platform.

Gil has spent over 15 years in sales, marketing and business management roles since graduating from Lancaster University with a BSc Hons Degree in Marketing and has over 5 years’ experience running Facebook Ads, which he has specialised in since setting up his consultancy Run DMG in 2017.

This event is free for businesses and organisations who are Cathedral Quarter BID members.

Paid tickets are available for non CQ BID members. If you’re not sure or have any questions, drop a line to info@destinationcq.com

Tickets are limited, so please book to avoid disappointment.

Brilliant Corners

Thursday 27th February – 7th March

Belfast’s only jazz festival is back for its eighth outing, and there are tonnes of amazing gigs happening in the Cathedral Quarter as usual.

Expect 10 days of the very best local, national and international talent, filling the city with music. There will be familiar names and brand-new stars. There will be sounds from Berlin, New Orleans, mid-Ulster and outer space.
The festival has grown this year with an extra couple of concerts, post-gig jam sessions at The Sunflower, and the films are back too.

The ridiculously good value full-festival-ticket is back as well, giving access to 12 ticketed gigs for just £50 – or you can pay per concert. Organisers have a simple mission: “Hear as much as you can, go to things you may not normally go to, and say things like ‘I had no idea I would enjoy that so much!’ ”

Best of 3 Comedy Open Mic Night

Thursday 27th February, 8pm @ Ulster Sports Club (Committee Room)

Cathedral Quarter Comedy Club in association with Ulster Sports Club brings you the Best of 3 Comedy Open Mic, where each act has a strict 3 minutes to entertain the audience in a bid to be crowned the audience’s favourite act of the night. It’s free in too!

Hosted by ROBBIE McSHANE with a special guest closing set every month.

This month’s guest headliner: Ronan Linskey

Line-up:
Leonie McDonagh
Ross Mitchell
Sara Jade Davidson
Johnny Bow
Roy Wilson
Ian Thomson
Richard J. Comedian
Daniel-Sean Huisman
Cathaoir O Hagan
Liam Watson

Meet Your Church Leader

David Armstrong is Team Leader (the equivalent of Lead Pastor/Minister) at Redeemer Central.

From the outside, the church at 101 Donegall Street looks modest and unassuming, but inside lies not only a seriously beautiful building but a congregation with unconventional origins and a very modern approach to worship and to community-building.

David is one of the founding members of Redeemer, which began life eleven years ago in a living room, as he explains: “It was February 2009 when the first core group of people gathered; it started as a group of people who gathered to discuss the question of what it might look like to begin a new expression of the church in Belfast.”

After gathering in members’ homes for nearly a year, the church arrived in the Cathedral Quarter for the first time, meeting in the Oh Yeah Music Centre on Wednesday nights for Bible teachings and further discussions around expressing their faith and examining their values.

The group continued to grow and eventually moved to Sunday morning gatherings at the Oh Yeah. David laughs fondly at the memory of coming in to “sticky floors” following Saturday night gigs and revelry and says, “We loved that space.”

As the new community continued to grow apace, they soon outgrew the Oh Yeah and became somewhat “nomadic” David says.

“We gathered anywhere and everywhere, moving from the Crescent Arts Centre to the Queen’s University Students’ Union and different music venues around the city.

“We were at Crawfordsburn baptising people in the sea and the minister of Donegall Congregational Church, the Reverend Tom Boyle came along that day. He came up to me and some of the other team members and said ‘I heard you might be looking for a building to gather in – I’ve got one for you.’”

The building in question was the church at 101 Donegall Street. Rev Boyle’s congregation was ageing, and numbers were dwindling, but while the church was coming to an end, they were keen that the building continued to be used to serve the community. Finding a new, growing congregation keen to put down roots in Belfast was the ultimate stroke of serendipity.

“We were super excited about it,” David continues, “I live in Belfast but had never been in the building or, to be honest, paid attention that it was there but I know that area quite well. I was intrigued to see it – the facade is flush with the street and you can easily miss it. So we discovered this beautiful space that since 2012 we have called home.”

In learning about the history of the Donegall Street Church, David and his Redeemer co-founders discovered a philanthropic ethos at the heart of the previous community’s Christian values which resonated strongly with their own views of what church could mean in 21st century Belfast.

The Rev. William O’Hanlon published Walks Among The Poor, a series of letters to a “Belfast journal” decrying the conditions experienced by Belfast’s poor, and calling for improvements in sanitation, education and washing facilities.

“It seems that, at Redeemer Central, we gather in a space where the previous church – who were there for 150 years – saw real value in playing their part in helping the poor, so we are exploring how we play our part in that.

“Since we moved in, we’ve been figuring out to be good neighbours and make Donegall Street and the Cathedral Quarter a part of our home and parish and somewhere we can contribute.”

One of the ways in which they have opened the building up to the wider community is with their monthly community cinema. “One of our members Daniel Saunders came across this organisation called Open Cinema which is an award-winning community network of cinemas. He found out you could join and set up a cinema for people who are in the margins of society and maybe don’t have access to cinema.”

Open Cinema centres upon the idea of cinemas and film clubs as a means of creating and supporting communities for vulnerable or marginalised people. With many of Redeemer’s members being creatives, it made sense for them to open their doors in this way. It began with a cinema for the homeless, and currently the church facilitates a monthly Family Matinee. It’s free to attend, open to all, and is popular with Belfast’s asylum seeker and refugee population.

“We’re trying to find a way to not only show a movie but provide a genuine place of community. We’d love to see it grow and become a community event where families can maybe volunteer, or even make films, maybe we can even signpost to other services.

“We’re keeping an open mind and seeing where it goes organically but it would be interesting to see whether there would be room to reboot the cinema for the homeless, or offer screenings for the international student community once the new Ulster University building is up and running.”

Creative expression is very much at the heart of Redeemer, in both its community outreach efforts and its worship.

Inspired by the Duncairn Centre on Belfast’s Antrim Road, David says there is a vision at Redeemer “to make the building more accessible to communities”, whether that’s through events, or facilitating services such as counselling, training, education or English classes.

With some of the beautiful old building’s facilities in need of upgrading, the church is keen to forge connections with any organisations and businesses who might be able to help secure funding, as well as those who would be interested in partnering and collaborating on community projects.

Although the building is still a “work in progress” it’s a stunning venue and has successfully hosted some fantastic events and gigs (and continues to do so). They had a series of quarterly gigs called the 101 Sessions, which saw Martha Wainwright perform. They partnered with No Alibis book store to bring Ian Rankin to Redeemer for a reading. And of course, it has been one of Culture Night Belfast’s most atmospheric venues for the past few years, with many much-loved local names playing gigs on stage, including Joshua Burnside, Hannah McPhillimy and Emerald Armada.

Photographer Stephen Wilson, a member of Redeemer, collaborated with St Patrick’s on Donegall Street to create an exhibition called Same Difference whereby each church hosted an exhibition of photographs of the other.

“It explored the two different expressions of ‘church’ and presented the idea that there’s more in common than you might think; the idea of being good neighbours and having a shared vision for the street and breaking down barriers.”

As well as leading a dedicated seven-strong leadership team who support this vision for the church and its neighbourhood, David also serves as Director of the Redeemer charity and sits on the Staffing board.

“I also look after a lot of the pastoral care in church life. A lot of the time that means I’m in Established having a coffee and catching up with people! I also focus on trying to make friends in the CQ and be a good neighbour, connect with businesses in the area, networking and so on.”

The key elements of his work centre around organising, curating, and facilitating the services and preaching and teaching on Sundays. As he explains, music is very much at the heart of how he leads worship in Redeemer.

“We have about 20 musicians in the church in different bands that play on Sundays and lead our worship. We’ve written our own songs and we’re trying to do that more and more; to give some original expression to our worship on Sundays. It’s a lively, upbeat, reflective, modern worship style. We try to encourage creativity in the church and we’re blessed with some really good musicians.”

David’s background is in music ministry and his original role within Redeemer was as Worship Pastor, which involved leading the musical worship in church services.

“Through different leadership transitions, I have found myself in this lead role. I still lead the worship team; play the guitar, sing songs, although it’s not my full job now.

“Music has always been an interest of mine. I spent a year interning in a church on the North Coast, so I invested a year in worship ministry there.”

David was heavily involved in music within his family church growing up in Newtownards but also developed a passion for design, studying multimedia design at Queen’s University and initially entering the world of work as a self-employed graphic designer.

“I went through a period of time of illness and a difficult time where I questioned my faith and the importance of church and through friends, I connected with Redeemer and found people asking the same questions, who had room for doubts and questioning faith and examining it to see where it can be relevant to our lives in the 21st century. I transitioned from working as a graphic designer to working part-time for the church and eventually went full time in 2014.”

Although Redeemer is at the heart of his life, David does find time away from church life to enjoy time off with his wife watching movies, travelling and walking their new puppy Fergie, a boisterous and much-loved addition to their household!

As important as this downtime is, he is glad that he and his church feel so at home within the Cathedral Quarter. As the hub of Belfast’s creative community, he believes there is no better place for them to settle and they are keen to deepen their roots here.

“We have members of our church involved in the area, running businesses, so we’re always in conversation with them about how we can play our part in the area and what’s needed. My colleague Matt has also been building relationships with charities who work with asylum seekers and refugees to make them aware of Open Cinema and any other help we can offer.

“We love the Cathedral Quarter and consider it our parish and it’s important for us to play our part. There are wonderful things going on in the Cathedral Quarter, there are other wonderful churches as well as charities and businesses doing great work and we consider ourselves privileged to be part of it. We love the energy and vibe of Belfast and if we can continue to play a part in that, it’ll be a real joy to us.”

If you would like to volunteer for Open Cinema, find out more about Redeemer Central, or start a conversation about partnerships and collaborations, get in touch here. Find out how you can use the church as an event venue here.

What’s On This Week: 17 – 20 February

Another week is upon us and there is plenty to see and do in Belfast!

From food festivals to scientific wonder to business enlightenment to music – it’s all in CQ Belfast this week. Check out our full listings to see everything that’s coming up!

Belfast Restaurant Week 2020

Starts 17th February

Belfast’s foodies came out in their droves to both of 2019’s successful Belfast Restaurant Weeks, so by popular demand it is back for 2020 from 17 – 23 February.

Collaborating with the Belfast One BID, the Cathedral Quarter BID is delighted to present seven days of fantastic food offers, demos, and special events. Enjoy lunch from 12 noon to 2pm Monday to Friday, priced at £10 per person an

d dinner from 5pm to 7pm Monday to Thursday, priced at £15 per person.

Special events in the CQ include a six-course Tasting Menu in The Great Room at The Merchant and a Moroccan Banquet at Buba and of course, the ever-popular Big Belfast Brunch returns too. Find out more and check out the menus at belfastrestaurantweek.org

NI Science Festival

On all week

The sixth annual NI Science Festival continues this week and dominates the events schedule in the Cathedral Quarter this week, with eight different events between Monday and Thursday.

Highlights include the Mensa Magnificent Monday Quiz in The Black Box and the Science and Engineering of Superheroes in Ulster University. Check nisciencefestival.com for the full programme and see all of the CQ’s Science Festival events at cqbelfast.com

Across The Threshold

Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th February, 8pm @ The Dark Horse

This short pop-up production by Big Telly Theatre Company is inspired by two of Seamus Heaney’s poems, Kinship and Bogland. The scripts originally hit the stage nearly 12 years ago as part of a larger production called Bog People and Big Telly have decided to bring them on a short, site-specific tour of unusual venues across Northern Ireland.

The Dark Horse was selected as the ideal Belfast venue due to its characterful interior, as well as proprietor Willie Jack’s deep love of Seamus Heaney’s work, and poetry and literature in general.

Read more about why he is the “perfect host” for the show, and get your tickets for Tuesday or Wednesday for just £8.

Lunchtime Learning: Growing your Instagram without spending a fortune

Wednesday 19th February, 12.30pm @ The Black Box

Established Coffee is one of Belfast’s best-known coffee shops. Its combination of great coffee and cool interiors has been a hit in the Cathedral Quarter with locals and tourists.

But it’s also a monster on Instagram. Established has organically grown its following beyond the magical 10,000 number of followers and is currently over 24,000.

Hear from Mark Ashbridge how they got there and what impact it has on the business.

This event is free for businesses and organisations who are Cathedral Quarter BID members.

Paid tickets are available for non CQ BID members. If you’re not sure or have any questions, drop a line to info@destinationcq.com

Illustrated Bookmaking with Josephine McCormick

Wednesday 19th February, 6pm @ Belfast Print Workshop

This new course will provide you with the tools and skills to create an illustrated and handbound book. Printmaker and bookbinder Josephine McCormick will guide you step-by-step through the process of making your very own book with pages and covers that are uniquely illustrated using traditional print processes of mono-print, drypoint and chine-collé.

The first two weeks will focus on producing your designs on high-quality printing paper which will be used in weeks three and four to create soft-backed (non-adhesive) books in both star and single section book formats. Participants will leave with the knowledge of how to create books at home.

4 Week Course starting, Wednesday February 19th. 6pm – 9pm daily.

Class sizes are limited and only payment secures your place; if online booking is not for you please don’t worry – you can still book and pay for classes by cash or cheque in person at the workshop, contact BPW prior to visiting, by email to: events@bpw.org.uk or telephone 02890 231 323.

 

As always, remember to tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if you’re out and about in the CQ, and use the #CQBelfast hashtag so we can see and share what you’re up to!

Meet Your Club Manager

This week we meet Beannchor Operations Manager Tim Herron, the man who keeps things running smoothly behind the scenes at Beannchor, including the Ulster Sports Club. The quirky venue is approaching the first anniversary of its big relaunch, and it’s already established itself as one of the Cathedral Quarter’s favourite venues.

These days, not many people can say they’ve worked for the same company for 20 years – but Tim Herron is one of those people. He began his career in hospitality at the tender age of 13 as a bar back in the Boom Boom Rooms in Bangor, later known as Cafe Ceol, owned by The Beannchor Group.

The group is well known for running many of the Cathedral Quarter’s favourite establishments including of course The Merchant Hotel, Berts Jazz Bar and The Cloth Ear, as well as Bullitt Hotel, The Dirty Onion, Yardbird, The National and most recently, Ulster Sports Club.

Tim became supervisor in the Bangor bar soon after leaving school and has worked his way up in the group ever since, as he explains: “Fortunately management opportunities kept coming my way, ranging from places like Tatu, The Merchant, Cloth Ear, Cuckoo and the Dirty Onion.

“Covering such a range of venues in many different roles over the years helped me gain enough experience and progress to more senior management and I have been in my current role for over a year now. I have to say, it has been enjoyable and a role that was certainly necessary in the company, given our continued development and expansion.”

One of his key projects over the past year has been overseeing the relaunch of The Ulster Sports Club on High Street. The former social club had been open since the 1970s and closed in January 2019.

It was acquired by Beannchor and, rather than transforming the place into an entirely new nightspot, the group decided to take a punt on the enduring public appetite for nostalgia and kept everything – the original decor and even the name remained the same when it reopened in May 2019.

And boy, has it worked. What Tim affectionately describes as “Phoenix Nights on steroids” has really resonated with the Belfast audience. Tim says, “It’s a retro venue with bags of character, great staff and a ‘free-house’ draught offering. It’s been refreshing being able to offer a wide range of draught beers few others have and working with local breweries. Our monthly Beer Club and tap-takeover have been particularly popular.”

“Our vision was to bring something that Belfast hadn’t seen before and we felt there was a gap in the market. It is a multi-functional bar and event space with four rooms, beer garden and food offering.

“We wanted to respect what it was before, but take it in a new direction, attracting a wide range of clientele and a wide range of music acts and performers. Some of the gigs we have put on already have been incredible. This can range from live gigs, full-on raves, poetry nights, bingo or comedy. A very mixed bag but it works.”

Although it’s still in its first year, the venue has already gained a reputation for its music offering, with respected local and international names responding to the same irresistible pull that brings sell-out audiences to this intimate little 70s throwback.

The popular monthly Songbook sessions

Tim’s own love of music has been a driver in this respect. “I’m passionate about music and it’s exciting working in a venue that showcases original music only – you won’t find cover bands here.

“We have been working with some top promoters and getting in some amazing acts. Awesome Tapes from Africa, Jah Wobble and Crazy P have been stand-out live gigs but there have already been too many to list. Looking forward to Mercury-nominated ‘Black Midi’ [this Saturday 15 February] which has sold out – Strange Victory Records have been lining up some great acts with us.

“Working with local musicians has also been key, showcasing some great up and coming acts. Songbook, our monthly local music showcase, produces some of the best live music I’ve seen in Belfast – a must-visit.

“Collaborating with some of the most innovative and progressive club promoters in the city has also been exciting for us. Twitch, Breezeblock, AVA and Korova are just a few examples of guys at the top of their game, bringing in top international DJ’s, covering a wide range of music ranging from house, techno, garage, drum’n’bass and grime.

“I’ve always followed club music since I was a kid so whilst it’s been rewarding seeing our club nights become successful, it’s personally been enjoyable for me, especially with that killer sound system we have.”

Tim says it was important for the venue to be more than just a boozing spot, and that’s why Beannchor feel the Cathedral Quarter location is such a good fit for the vision they had.

He explains: “The CQ attracts a crowd into their music, art and culture and we feel we offer those things but with a bit of character and nostalgia. We are quickly establishing a reputation for good live gigs and there aren’t many in the area doing what we do.

“Working with the likes of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Culture Night Belfast has also been a pleasure and it’s been clear there’s been an appetite for a venue like this in the area. We are just slightly off the beaten track and off-radar, but close enough for people to have a nosey.”

One of its most colourful collaborations has been with the Cathedral Quarter BID who supported the transformation of Ulster Sports Club’s outdoor space. They commissioned a small team of local street artists who used their skills to successfully turn grey walls into a funky and original beer garden.

These little splashes of design and personality define the USC, and Tim pays tribute to his creative team. “Creatively, it can be difficult standing out from the crowd but that is probably where we are strongest. Our graphic designer, Michael Murray is second to none in terms of his creative input and social media wit. He has certainly been pivotal to our brand development, sense of humour and social interaction. The overall reaction to our brand and style has been so positive and massively engaging.”

“Already I can see how much this place means to people, either culturally, musically or just a place where people can feel comfortable and be themselves. We haven’t pigeon-holed ourselves into a one-dimensional venue doing the same thing every week and thank God we did that. I think Belfast was ready for somewhere like this, without limitations or condescension, but plenty of craic, decent pints and good tunes.”

Keep an eye on the Ulster Sports Club Facebook page and on the CQ listings for all the upcoming gigs and events. Make sure to tag us on social media and use the #CQBelfast hashtag if you’re at a gig or enjoying a pint in the USC!

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