Monday, 28 December 2015

The Undertones are back in town!

Last night saw Derry rocking to its very own musical legends, The Undertones. The Derry punk legends Michael Bradley, John O'Neill, Damian O'Neill, Billy Doherty and Paul McLoone brought the home audience to their feet with a classic musical trip down memory lane.
Prior to the gig I was outside watching as everyone arrived. It was a real treat to see young and old arrive together. At one stage I heard a young girl say, 'Grandad I'll wait here for my friend'. What a real family occasion it was turning out to be. There was of course the DM clad folk and the bomber jackets were out in force. Punk was back in town and The Undertones were at the fore!
From the onset at 10pm it was classic after classic and the home crowd were transported back in time. My Perfect Cousin opened the show. Young and old danced, clapped, jumped to the music. A little piece of musical heaven was happening in Derry. Immediately followed by The Girls don't like it and Jump Boys, it was a never ending river of song from the crowd.
I had wondered how this band would sound live (my first time seeing) minus the original Fergal Sharkey but I needn't have worried. Paul McLoone was every bit the star front man and vocally gave it all (albeit with bad throat and ill health). McLoone has taken over where Sharkey left off and excels not only in his vocals but in his sheer showmanship on stage. And on the Derry stage he was no stranger. The crowd loved him. And he loved them!
When the now Derry anthem Teenage Kicks set off, St. Columbs Hall was alive with musical genius. Watching the crowd from behind I could only see a swell of heads and arms punching to the music. The Undertones really were 'back in town' on this night.
On completion of I Don't Wana get over You, the lads left the stage saying the show was over. This audience were not deterred. The Undertones were not getting out of there alive if this was the case. A chant of  'olé' errupted and out walked the guys once more. We wanted more, and they did too! Michael Bradley announced that they had 'poured some Lourdes water down Pauls' throat' and so were ready to go again.
Throughout the night each and every audience member tried to help Paul outrun his bad throat. There was certainly more than just Paul McLoone with sore throats last night as the gig came to an end around 11.30pm. I know mine was certainly hoarse but worth it in every way.
Let's Talk about Girls rounded off the night. It rounded off a memorable night with one of the finest bands ever to come out of not only Derry, but Ireland in general. Punk will live on thanks to the wonderful music of The Undertones. Derry will forever be on the world music map, thanks to The Undertones. And many like myself will have a musical memory forever thanks to last night and The Undertones. Here's to many more of the same over 2016 as the band celebrate their 40th anniversary.
The Undertones were supported last night by local band, The Gatefolds.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Donegal Screenwriting Course

A Donegal based SCREENWRITING COURSE is back by popular demand in 2016. 
Do you dream about writing your own film script? Now's your chance to turn that dream into a reality. The course is being held at the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny starting on Saturday Janurary 16th for 6 weeks (Saturdays). Each week, the said course will run from 1 - 4pm.

Cost of the full course is just €99 or even better value for those coming across the border at just £70.
All levels of writers are welcome and for further details, contact Orla Walsh on 074-9129186, 085-1471631, or pm Orla Walsh on Facebook.
This would be an ideal Christmas present for that creative someone in your life!
Orla Walsh is Director at Northern Lights Film. Northern Lights Film is an acclaimed video production company based in Inishowen, Co. Donegal. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Aladdin helping Alzheimer's Society

Last night at The Millennium Forum in Derry I was not only impressed with the antics and shennanigans on stage with Aladdin, the Christmas Panto 2015 but with the discovery that this years panto is indeed helping those with dementia. Not only was the Forum collecting for The Alzheimer's Society after the production, but there will be a very special showing of a specially adapted version of the panto on Friday 18th December at 7.30pm.
This is a first for theatres in Ireland. The carefully adapted version of the Forum's biggest show of the year will aim to develop a way for those customers who have dementia and their families to enjoy a stress-free trip to the theatre by removing the barriers that exist in the mainstream production.
In consultation with local organisations and the West Yorkshire Playhouse who piloted a similar scheme recently in England, the Millennium Forum plans to modify the standard production of Aladdin to provide a more inclusive and welcoming experience. This means that the auditorium house lights will be adjusted so it is softer than ususal during the performance, sound effects will be reduced, special effects during the performance will be minimized to avoid overwhelming the audience and a 'quiet space' will be offererd for those customers who need to take time away from the performance.
I'm fortunate not to have been prone to this dibilitating illness within my family to date. I hope to continue in this way for some time to come. But I, like many, have known numerous people who have not been so fortunate. Dementia affects so many around us in the modern day. It strips people of the life they knew. And it strips their loved ones of the life they knew also.
Last night I had a tear in my eye on hearing of this connection between this year's panto and The Alzheimer's Society.
So when you visit the panto this year, give what you can to this very worthy cause. Give because it will help someone who is very much less well off that you are. Give because it's Christmas time. And give because it could be 'you'!
For bookings, contact the Box Office on 71264455 or visit For more information on the 'DF' or 'Relaxed Performances', contact Lisa Heaney (

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Aladdin: Derry Panto 2015

I still can't believe that it really is 'that' time of year again. My festive season kicked off in style earlier tonight as I arrived at Derry's Millennium Forum for this years panto production. Aladdin, Widow Twankey, Princess Jasmine, Wishee Washee, The Genie and more were all there and larger than life on the Derry stage.
Tonight I was accompained by my cousin and her two children, aged 7 and 9. The little 7 year old had never been to a pantomime and was eagerly awaiting 'curtain up'. She told me she had read the book so knew what to expect. Boy was she surprised throughout the night!
At approximately 7.30pm it was indeed time for 'curtain up'. For the next three hours (including a 15 minute interval) it was laughs, claps and cheers from young and old.
I'm sure over 70% of the audience were indeed children but the inner child in every adult was very much present also (well it was in myself and my cousin!)
There was of course the base story of Aladdin but with so much more intertwined throughout the performance. I think seeing through a childs eyes is always best. Little Áine (7) was beside me. She laughed from start to finish and was mesmerised with Aladdin flying to Egypt. She just couldn't understand how he could fly on the mat. To see her believe this magic and the lady in the box magic during the performance, was magical to me.
Gerard McCabe as always, excelled in his performance as Wishee Washee. One could clearly see how much he was enjoying being on stage equally as much as we were enjoying watching. Mikey Jay Heath as Aladdin gave an equally brilliant performance. On occasion he and Gerard just couldn't help but laugh. Which of course added to our own laughter. And being easy on the eye always helps!!
Catriona McFeely portrayed the character of Princess Jasmine to perfection and her costumes were exquisite (I want that orange dress!). Keith Lynch (Abanazar), James Lecky (Emperor) and Gary Crossan (PC Pong) entertained in each role brilliantly. Of course the voice of The Genie (Ruairi McSorley) stole the show at times.
And on his 10th anniversary William Caulfield (Widow Twankey) was as ever a larger than life presence on the Derry stage. On donning the wig, dresses and make-up he really does take on a whole new life. And one we couldn't possibly change if one wanted to. Mind you I did feel sorry for the lady whose handbag he went through...twankey heavens it wasn't mine....he may have got a shock at the rubbish within!
Tonight I, alongside the Derry audience went to old Peking. We met the evil Abanazar who sought the magic lamp. We watched Aladdin save the day. But throughout it all we watched an amazing cast perform a wonderful Christmas panto. From the music of Ed Sheeran (Evergreen) to Kiss (Crazy Nights), this production had it all. There were kids jokes, there were adult jokes, there was something for everyone. And there was good old fashioned romance!
There was a perfect combination of fun amid wonderful singing and dance performances. The production showcased the abundance of talent that is in the city of Derry
But surely the song of the night has got to be 'The 12 Days of Christmas'. I'll never listen to the popular tune in the same way again. There will now always be '6 boxer shorts, 5 Toilet Rolls, 4 pairs of trousers, 3 string vests, 2 football tops and a bra that could only hold 3'....there was of course snotty hankies, smelly socks and more but the first day of Christmas will forever be etched with 'a bra that could only hold 3.' The laughter tears really were running down my cheeks.
If this is what William Caulfield can give us on this his 10th anniversary I can't wait to see what he gives us over the next 10 years! Earlier today Caulfield told me that he'll be doing Panto until his health prevents such....I can't imagine one without him in it now.
Tonight was summed up for me by the wonder in my little cousins eyes. She experienced real magic tonight. And because she experienced that magic, I did too.
The Derry panto, Aladdin runs at Derry's Millennium Forum until January 3rd. Book your tickets now and don't miss the show of the season. Call the Box Office on 71264455 or book online at

Dame Caulfield is back in Derry. It's Panto time!

William Caulfield is indeed back on the Derry stage for this years Christmas Panto at The Millennium Forum. Not only is Dame Caulfield back in his larger than life dresses, make-up and wig, but this year he is celebrating 10 years at the famous Derry Panto. 
Chief Executive of the Millennium Forum and Producer of the 
pantomime, David McLaughlin, siad: 
"We are delighted to welcome William back this year for what will surely be another memorable panto season. For the past ten years, he has been at the centre of the biggest show in the city's arts calendar and has played numerous roles including Buttons, Silly Billy, Captain Hook as well as many unforgettable Dames. He is a great hit with local audiences and we hope to see him grace our stage for many more pantos to come."
I was fortunate to catch up with Caulfield earlier today, prior to my attending the Panto tonight.
It was early on this Wednesday morning but his enthusiasm for the show even at this hour never faltered. "We've done 5 shows this year to date and now we're in full stride" he told me. 
I asked Caulfield what it is about Panto that he so clearly loves: "I just love doing Panto. Throughout the rest of the year I'm on my own when on stage. This can be a lonely time. I enjoy it but you drive to the show alone and you're on stage alone. Here at Panto season there's such a great comradeship with myself and the cast. Plus of course I'm not carrying the stage alone." He added, "Panto shortens the Christmas season for me. There is such a long build up to the festivities and I get to work right up to Christmas. Then I get Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day off and it's back to work again."
William Caulfield oozes passion for the Panto stage and admits to never getting nervous. "There's no point in me getting nervous" he tells me. "It's the front 5 rows of the audience that should be nervous! I do get apprehensive in that I hope I do my job well, but no, no nerves."
I must admit that last year was my first time seeing Caulfield in Panto. I made a promise to myself after that show that I wouldn't be missing it again for many years to come.
I asked William to describe his stage character for me. He laughs and describes 'her' as "absolutely nowt like me! William Caulfield is quite shy. Once the dress, the make-up and the wig goes on, I become a larger than life character. I become an entirely different person. The character arrives and then the voice comes."
Caulfield says that he loves Panto so much that if he ever won the Lotto, "no-one would know. I'd just carry on doing this as I love it."
So can we look forward to seeing himself on stage for another 10 years in Derry? "Only health or even death will stop me!" Just what the audience wants to hear. 
Dame Widow Twankey will be larger than life in the Millennium Forum's panto, Aladdin all over the Christmas season. All that's left for me to hope for is that I'm not in the front 5 rows tonight.
'Oh No I'm NOT. Oh Yes You ARE!'

Aladdin performs at the Millennium Forum until Sunday January 3rd. Book your ticket to see William Caulfield in his 10th Derry panto by calling the Box Office on 71264455 or visit now!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Dirty Dancing is Derry bound!

When I think back to the 1980's there's only one film that never leaves my mind: Dirty Dancing was the highlight. "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" are words that never date. Patrick Swayze as Johnny was my hero. We all wanted a man who would stand up for us. Johnny was he! A few years ago I saw the West End production of Dirty Dancing in Glasgow's West End. It was outstanding. I've been waiting patiently for it to come to Derry, never expecting it to do so. Earlier today I heard that my waiting was about to end. Dirty Dancing is coming to Derry. It's a bit of a wait but it's coming. Mid February 2017 is going to be one exciting time at The Millennium Forum in Derry.

The West End hit musical, Dirty Dancing, arrives in the city for the very first time from Mon 13th to Sat 18th Feb 2017.  The classic story of Baby and Johnny, featuring the hit songs 'Hungry Eyes', ‘Hey! Baby’, ‘Do You Love Me?’ and the heart stopping ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’, bursts onto the Millennium Forum stage following two blockbuster West End runs and two hit UK tours. Tickets go on sale from the Box Office on Fri 4th Dec.

Full of passion and romance, heart-pounding music and sensationally sexy dancing, the record-breaking musical is even better than before in this all new production created by an innovative new creative team; directed by Federico Bellone, Artistic Director of Milan’s Teatro Nazionale, choreographed by Gillian Bruce and with design re-imagined by top Italian set designer Roberto Cometti. The production premiered in Milan in July 2015, subsequently packing out the 15,000 seat Roman Arena in Verona, and will play a season in Rome this autumn before embarking on a major Italian tour. To mark the tenth anniversary of the original stage show, a new Australian tour was launched last year, and to date has sold a record 416,000 tickets since October 2014.

Since its Australian debut in 2004, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, has become a worldwide phenomenon, with productions staged in New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and throughout Europe, consistently breaking box office records. After sell-out seasons in Paris and Vienna the show continues to tour in France and German speaking territories. It’s also currently wowing audiences in Italy, with each individual production using local French, German, and Italian speaking companies; the French tour alone has played to 500,000 people since it launched in January.

It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year- old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing. On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, she shows little interest in the resort activities, and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles across an all-night dance party at the staff quarters. Mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor. Her life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off, and two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.

Dirty Dancing –The Classic Story On Stage originally opened at London’s Aldwych Theatre in 2006 with a record-breaking advance of £15 million, making it the fastest ever selling show in West End theatre history. The production became the longest running show in the history of the Aldwych Theatre and played to over 2 million people during its triumphant 5 year run.

The first ever UK tour of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, which launched in 2011, took an unprecedented £42,000,000 at theatres across the country. In 2013, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage returned to the West End and played at the Piccadilly Theatre in London until 23 February 2014, prior to launching a second UK and Ireland tour.

Produced by Karl Sydow, Joye Entertainment and Paul Elliott, in association with Lionsgate and Magic Hour Productions, and written by Eleanor Bergstein, script writer of the phenomenally successful 1987 film, the production features the much-loved characters and original dialogue from the iconic film, with exciting extra scenes added in.

Dirty Dancing performs at the Millennium Forum from Mon 13th to Sat 18th Feb 2017.  Tickets go on sale from the Box Office on Fri 4th Dec.  Telephone 71 264455 or visit for bookings.