Causeway Coast adventure

I had a great Easter break this year by driving just over an hour away from Belfast and onto Northern Ireland’s dramatic north coast.

I had been a few times before but never really ventured to explore the area fully, mostly due to me being a fairly reluctant driver back then.

However, I must say getting to Ballycastle and driving the Causeway coastal routes is so easy, everything is well sign-posted and pretty simple to find.

Me and my partner Ryan looked for pet-friendly accommodation, which can be a difficult process as disappointingly there isn’t that much out there. However we found Paddy’s Barn on Airbnb, which is about four miles outside of Ballycastle town. It was a lovely small cottage and Amelia was very impressed with it.


After unpacking we decided to check out Ballintoy Harbour, which is a beautiful hidden fishing harbour at the end of a steep winding road. It has also been used as a filming location for Game of Thrones, which I’m admit I’ve never watched, but I was reliably informed that it looks pretty much the same apart from the cottage which now serves as a café.

In the evening I decided to go back to one institution I already knew about. Morton’s Fish and Chips, an unassuming little shop in the car park at Ballycastle Harbour, beside the Rathlin Ferry Terminal.

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Songstress’ time to shine in first solo gig

After years performing on the sidelines, Draperstown songstress Celine Murphy will take centre stage when launches her solo career in her first gig at Glasgowbury’s Cornstore.

Featured in Mid Ulster Mail and Derry Post September 2015

After years performing on the sidelines, Draperstown songstress Celine Murphy will take centre stage when launches her solo career in her first gig at Glasgowbury’s Cornstore next month [SEPTEMBER].

The 26-year-old trained classical pianist has always had a passion for music, she is constantly songwriting and has featured previously in Derry singer Paddy Nash’s band, as well as other folk bands.

But as she explained, it took a while before she decided to put her work out there as a solo artist.

“This is the first time I’ve decided to start sharing my own music,” she said.

“I had been writing but hadn’t been playing it for anyone except my own enjoyment. I had a passion for it for years and then I just decided to go for it.

“I have loads of material, it’s about promoting that and getting it out for people to hear it. I never joined social media until last month, I always had an aversion to social media, it was a kind of a running joke with my friends and family.

“I suppose it’s just a balance, not all singer-songwriters are all outgoing extroverts, it’s just about being comfortable and saying ‘this is me’.”

Last month she released ‘Kind to Me’, recorded by Lisburn producer,  Michael Mormecha of Mojo Fury fame.

“I went to start recording with Mike but with the view to having other singers, I thought I really want to get my music out there and maybe what I could do is explore recording other artists, other singers, and that’s why I went down and met Mike.

“But It just didn’t feel right, I just kept coming back to the conclusion that I needed to do it myself. I wanted to do it myself and I just needed to take that wee leap of faith.”

The song is a hauntingly sad song with a beautiful mix of piano and strings and Celine’s perfect vocals. Her sound has progressed through her classical training with influences of pop, Irish and folk.

“I don’t know how important it is to put a name on it either, I suppose it just comes from a really natural progression over many many years, people say they don’t know where to put it and that’s a good thing,” Celine added.

“My music started from a really young age, I actually have a twin sister, called Angela and Angela and I, we both started learning music at the same age, only she learned the violin and I learned piano.

“I think throughout my teen years, that was probably where my sound developed, finding my own style and playing piano and Angela playing violin and I started to really love that string and piano sound with vocal harmonies.”

Celine said she is in the unique position of having a lot of material to choose from as she has spent so much time songwriting.

She said: “I can tell you there are songs that aren’t quite as sad as that, there are songs that are more up tempo, but they are really personal stories and all of them are based on my own life experiences. They are all really honest.”

The video for Kind to Me was put together at the Glasgowbury Cornstore hub, by filmmaker Tiarnan Larkin and dancer Caitríona Groogan, both from Draperstown.

“Paddy and Stella [Glasgow] got a video meeting together for us all, there was going to be some of the students from the Cornstore there learning and watching it being made,seeing how it was done to open it up as a learning opportunity for young people,” Celine explained.

“I went on to do the video with the dancer Caitríona, that was a total dream for me. I always had in my minds eye that it would have a female dancer but you don’t think that you’ll be able to get a dancer and make such a beautiful video with your first single.

“She was so beautiful and her dance was so incredible. I just got really lucky that three of us bonded so well together and Caitríona got the emotion of that song, she got it straight away.”

It was only fitting then that Celine’s first solo billing would be at a gig in Glasgowbury’s Cornstore Loft.

“It’s such an amazing venue and the work that goes on there, the people that I met there and what they were able to do, it is incredible,” she continued.

“We’re really lucky, I don’t know if I lived in a different town and it’s such a small place, I wouldn’t have the same opportunities necessarily.”

She is supporting breakthrough Irish singer-songwriters Ciaran Lavery and Marc O’Reilly in their double headliner gig on Saturday 19 September.

“The artists I’m on with look absolutely amazing, I can’t believe it,” Celine exclaimed.

“I love performing so when I’m playing my music or when I’m singing I’m at my absolute happiest so I don’t feel nerves in that way.

“There’s no point wanting to do something and then just saying ‘oh god’ and not allowing yourself to enjoy it.”

“It’s just a privilege to be playing in front of people who want to hear your music.”

It will be a test for the young woman, who hasn’t aired her songs publicly before.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s great, these songs that I’m playing, I’m playing them for the first time live, so I actually have no idea what people’s reaction will be to them,” Celine added.

“I’ve just been playing in my own kitchen for years and I’ve loved it but it’s not that different if you love what you do.”

Ciaran Lavery & Marc O’Reilly with support from Celine Murphy,  Saturday 19 September, in Glasgowbury’s Cornstore.

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Growlers @ Whelan’s, Dublin Wednesday 15 July 2015

Pics courtesy of Caroline Kelly

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August 11, 2015 · 11:15 am

Nick Oliveri brings his ‘death acoustic’ to Belfast

Nick Oliveri – Voodoo, Belfast Tuesday 14 July 2015

A mid-week acoustic set is not as tame as it sounds when you’re going to see Nick Oliveri.

The Californian played Voodoo, Belfast on Tuesday night, bringing a raw and honest performance that was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard with an acoustic guitar.

It was a gig that was all rock’n’roll with the pomp removed. Oliveri prefers things on his on terms, with just him, a microphone and a guitar, he explains his style, being that there is ‘death metal, death punk, but this is death acoustic’.

He has a booming voice, able to sing softly and harmoniously one minute and then graspy screams the next. He keeps a whiskey by his side to help his voice, his technique for keep his throat healthy, he laughs, he doesn’t finish a set and wrap his neck up in a towel.

He treated fans to a number of hits from the numerous bands he has been in over the years, Kyuss, Dwarves and Queens of the Stone Age tracks that he wrote, including Another Love Song and Gonna Leave You and Autopilot, which he explains is dedicated to a good friend who died from a heroin overdose.

On his fifth night in a row of a 36-date European tour, he showed no signs of fatigue or disinterest. Quite the opposite, he is eager to play for the crowd and regales them with tales of from a colourful life, to say the least. He credits his ex-wife as being good for nothing, apart from a few songs.

He comments on playing concerts where the barrier starts 20 feet away from the stage, telling the crowd that it’s their stage before inviting them up so they could sing ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’, while Oliveri whispers ‘cocaine’ into the microphone.

He hangs around to chat to fans and sign posters afterwards before eventually hitting the road for the next gig the very next night in Glasgow.

Nicotine..Valium..Nick Oliveri

A video posted by Lou (@llou_rouge) on Jul 14, 2015 at 1:49pm PDT

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Still small but massive

Archived from UTV blog 2013-07-30

When Mid Ulster festival organiser Paddy Glasgow offers the advice “the maddest idea might just work” – he is speaking from experience.

When it began in 2000, Glasgowbury was small affair, held in local bars in Draperstown, but ended up on a massive scale, attracting thousands of music lovers to the mountainside site and doubling the population of the local town.

And speaking as a local, it was exciting to have a major event that was owned, organised and hosted in the countryside, where nothing on the same scale usually happens.

Memorable performances have included the likes of Red Organ Serpent Sound, Duke Special, The Undertones and Henry McCullough as well as emerging new talent including acts like the now established And So I Watch You From Afar, Fighting With Wire, The Answer, Axis Of, General Fiasco and The Wonder Villains.

It may have surprised some that after 13 years and countless performances from the best in homegrown musical talent, Glasgowbury festival bid farewell to its annual home at Eagle’s Rock almost a fortnight ago.

The festival expanded to a two-day event for the first and last time this year, with headliners And So I Watch You From Afar, The Japanese Popstars and The Answer helping to wrap up the annual showcase.

“People always used to think international was the way to go. Now look at the advertisements for the Tourist Board, the mad boy with the mad hair from the country was f***ing right.”

“We may be small but we believe we made a massive difference in our own area. For musicians, by musicians, that is the one thing that is at the heart of it,” Paddy explained.

“It wasn’t about where you’re from, what’s your background, what language you speak. It was about the music. It was about the cultural gathering of people, like-minded individuals that wanted to put on something.

“When we started off, it wasn’t just about the music, it was about everything, it was about access for the people who wanted to be stage managers, people who wanted to do lighting, corporate box office, teching, infrastructure.”

In the aftermath of the last ever festival, he hasn’t even paused to reflect, as he has far too many other plans.

His new focus is establishing an expanded creative hub in the community and he has started work in Draperstown’s Cornstore.

If Glasgowbury festival’s legacy was about homegrown music then the next stage is about inspiring the next generation.

Paddy tells me it will be a place where the continued promotion of local talent and expansion of new educational and creative enterprises will thrive.

“This is a pure grassroots up thing, this the community getting behind what we’re doing, it’s a workspace,” he explains.

“Lots of young people come to me, and they want to do their own films, they want to start photography, they want to do documentaries, or crafts.”

In the background he has always been running similar schemes, with the Rural Key workshops involving the likes of Shauna Tohill from Silhouette.

“Who would have thought that you would have a local girl from Magherafelt, having a song on a NI TV ad,” he comments.

“We’re hoping it will be a place where people can come in and ignite that self-employment, and won’t be scared and have that rural attitude of ‘I don’t know, I couldn’t do that’.”

In concluding the festival chapter, he credits volunteers and support from local people in particular as the key to the running of the event for more than a decade.

“There’s people there who have really good jobs, taking a week off work to help.

“Whenever I would say, ‘What are you doing? You could be lying in the sun’ – they would say, ‘I am so proud that people are coming into our area.’

“One of the things that hit me were the words of And So I Watch You From Afar, said after their set on Friday night. It was humbling.

“They said ‘Glasgowbury gave us the belief on a main stage, a massive stage, that we could take on other stages internationally’.”

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” he finally admits. “I think it will hit me when we have our party at the end, whenever I gather together all the people that set it up every year.

“I think the whole emotional connection, maybe I won’t do that, because it’s not over. As far as I’m concerned, Glasgowbury’s ended, the festival has ended but small but massive and all the organising that went into Glasgowbury – it’s only just begun.”

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Culture Night Belfast 2013


Photo by Chris Laughlin

Culture Night has proved to be one of the best nights to experience some of the best entertainment in the city for free.

I had the opportunity to head to the event for the first time this year and had tried to plan what I wanted to see.

But there was so much happening, it was really better to just go where the night took you.

When I arrived at city hall there was a samba band already warming up and the weather was even mild despite a recent wintery snap.

Walking round the Cathedral Quarter, there was a genuine buzz which was contagious as a vibrant mix of people including families descended upon the area to enjoy the night.

Wrestling at Rosemary Street.

A wrestling ring erected at Rosemary Street was host to a battle royale, to the delight of one tiny blonde girl who was reveling in the semi-orchestrated violence.

Heading towards the Oh Yeah Centre, we came across Street Countdown. Based on an infamous episode of the IT Crowd, this version came with makeshift sign, lively host and crowds providing the countdown ‘bong’.

Richard Whiteley (lest we forget) at Street Countdown.

Richard Whiteley (lest we forget) at Street Countdown.

Then in Writer’s Square, in one area there was dancing and singing, and in another the fast and furious girls of Belfast Roller Derby who were providing an outside demonstration of the contact sport. The track was cordoned off with metal gates and they seemed like caged animals spinning round – and it was exciting to witness.

After that it was a Johnny Cash tribute at the gorgeous Dark Horse Bar, which attracted a huge crowd for the man in black.

An impressive light installation was found at the DSNT event along with some pumping techno, and upon leaving we found ourselves in, of all things, a jazz funeral complete with lead mourner in white suit with matching white hair. They were grieving for democracy.

We joined in the procession until we got to Keats & Chapman bookstore, where surrealist stand-up Paul Currie was doing a one-hour show that turned into nearly two hours for free.

We arrived in time to see a man take offence to one of his sketches, which involved trying to feed the audience milk from an ironing board. You probably had to be there, but rest assured, it was very funny.

Paul Currie's Sticky Bivouac show on North Street.

Paul Currie’s Sticky Bivouac show on North Street.

But of course there were so many other things that I just didn’t manage to catch, but that’s probably part of the night’s magic.

Speaking to others afterwards, everyone who went had their own unique experience and tales from wherever Culture Night took them, all of which sounded like great adventures.


Photo by Chris Laughlin

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Belfast Banshees vs Dublin Roller Girls

FOR their first inter-league bout, Belfast Roller Derby did not set themselves an easy challenge.

The team headed down to Dublin’s National Basketball Arena on Saturday 4 February to take on the Dublin City Rollergirls on Saturday and it was going to be a David and Goliath scenario.

The Dublin team were on top form, many of their players were fresh from representing Ireland at the first ever Roller Derby World Cup in Canada – and they proved to be aggressive and agile competitors, especially offence from BA Blockus and Kitty Cadaver as well as lightning speed efforts from jammers Jessica Rammit and Kim McKazi.
And the points quickly reflected that, Dublin built up a quick 100 point lead that kept climbing, but it wasn’t a painful bout to watch, it was inspiring.

Gutter Snipe tries for a takedown (Pic by Chris Craig)

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