Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has the X-Factor

Last night saw the opening of the long-standing hit musical Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Now fifty years running, the shows first performance was on March 1st 1967 in London. Now 50 years later, it is telling the story of Joseph and more and still wooing audiences worldwide. Last night it certainly wooed the Derry audience and had them on their feet like never before.
Having seen this musical a number of times in Derry I really didn't know if I would see much difference this time around. Different Joe, but same show? Yeah? No!
The opening performance last night at Derry's Millennium Forum was bigger, livelier, more colourful, and just something a bit more special. To say it was spectacular seems such an understatement. But it was.

The stage was big and bold. The cast were big and bold. The choir were little and brilliant. Even the audience were big and bold. I have never seen a Derry audience behave as such last night. They were dancing, clapping, cheering throughout and the end spectacle was just memorable in the same audience. Seeing the enjoyment of young and old really made last night something special.

Having had the pleasure to speak with Joesph, Joe McElderry last week, I knew it would be a show to look forward to after all these years. But the ever humble, exceptionally talented McElderry could never have prepared me for what I saw on that Derry stage from 7.30pm.

Lucy Kay, from Britain's Got Talent, really stole the show for me. She excelled in telling us the story of Joseph and his family through song throughout the entirety of the show. Never faltering a note, she allowed us to see how a family can become lost and yet there is always hope. Reconciliation is
always possible. Kay was simply outstanding.

The cast were alive on stage last night. It was clear they each enjoy the show. Huge smiles from the stage matched those from the audience. But there was one just a little bit brighter. One cannot take it away from Joe McElderry. Quite simply he was phenomenal. Joseph has never looked and sounded this good. His portrayal really did tug on the heartstrings, and showed how one really can come home, after a long estrangement. Beneath it all, the lights, the colour, the music, there really is a lovely simple, moral. Family means everything.

I hadn't expected to travel to Cannan, Paris, the Carribean and Egypt when I left home yesterday evening for Derry, but that's exactly how it felt. Culture from far and wide was very much incorprated into the show. And of course there was Elvis. The Elvis-inspired Pharaoh. Ben James-Ellis won the crowd in every way. He had the old ladies rocking in their seats and dancing in their rows. He really did bring a little bit of rock'n'roll to the show. And it worked.

Being a biker chic myself I was of course very impressed when Joseph arrived home from Egypt on a rather cool bike. Very impressive indeed.

I first saw this show in Derry with my young son (approx 7) about 12 years ago. That same young son is going along on Friday night with his now girlfriend. This was his first introduction to musical theater. He has returned again and again. I will be very keen to hear his feedback on Friday night. But I know they will both be blown away with this show yet again. It blew him away as a young boy. Now it's set to blow him away as a young man.

Why is Joseph still so popular after 50 years? It really is timeless. The music is such that everyone and every age can enjoy and appreciate. And this is one show in which the music really does tell the full story. Ben Johnson once said of Shakespeare, "He was not of an age, but for all time." Such it is with this show. I don't doubt it will continue for many years to come and continue to win audiences' hearts at every turn.

Joseph runs at Derry's Millennium Forum until this coming Saturday night. When I say it's a show you really won't regret going to see, trust me. You really will walk away on air. It's that good.

Tickets can be bought at the box office by calling 02871264455 or here at Joseph tickets.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Joe McElderry is Derry bound with JOSEPH, the musical

It's now less than a week to curtains up on JOSEPH,

Bill Kenwright’s ‘Amazing’, ’Superb’, ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Brilliant’ production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sparkling family musical continues on its record breaking tour having sold to date an estimated 15 million tickets.
Retelling the Biblical story of Joseph (Joe McElderry), his eleven brothers and the coat of many colours, this magical musical is full of unforgettable songs including Those Canaan Days, Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door. Joe McElderry was just 18 when he won the sixth series of The X Factor in 2009 and immediately went straight to number one in the UK Singles Charts with his debut single The Climb.
He has since gone on to have three top ten albums, as well as notching up two more reality TV show victories, winning ITV’s Pop Star to Opera Star and Channel 4’s The Jump.

But now he's coming to The Millennium Forum Derry with the superb show that is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Joseph opens in Derry on Tuesday 30th May and runs until Saturday 3rd June.
I first saw this show many years ago at the same venue in Derry. I brought my young son along then to what was to be his first of many musical and theater shows. I loved the show then and I love it now. The young boy who came with me all those years ago is also going along next week (at 19 years of age) with his now girlfriend (Mum not cool enough anymore!!)
It was a delight to speak with Joe McElderry (Joseph) earlier today and find out how he feels about coming to Derry next week as Joseph.
"I'm really looking forward to coming to Derry", Joe told me. "I was there just two years ago with my Evolution tour and look forward to this return next week." Joe told me that he remembers the Derry audiences in 2015 as being 'great' and is certain next week will be the same.  "Derry was a great audience during my tour that year and I'm sure it will be the same with the show next week."
Just why does Joe McElderry believe that Joseph is such a success? Now in it's 50th year, how does it continue to appeal? "It's just a family friendly show. It's a show for everyone. It has comedy, emotion, great music, in fact it has everything. The music is fantastic and it's just great. Everyone just has a genuine love and affection for this show and it transcends time." I certainly do agree, having seen the show a number of times and as Joe said this I immediately thought on Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson and what he said of the great bard: "He was not of an age but for all time." Such it is with this musical too.
With such an array of songs within the show, which is Joe's favourite? "Every song is so different and every song has it's own story. I love them all, but 'Close Every Door' is my big number and I do love that one."
I told Joe about my son planning to go along next week having first seen this show as a young boy. He explained that Joseph is the one show other than Panto that is kids first introduction to theater. I strongly agree with that as this show has instilled a love of theater in my boy. 
Joe told me that there's just four weeks remaining of this show and then his new album 'Saturday Night at the Movies' is released in July. He's immediately off on tour with that then and there really is no rest for this young man. Just how does he cope with such a hectic schedule?
"I tend not to think about it", he says. "I eat well, keep fit, keep moving and just enjoy it." He goes on to explain the difference to his own music touring to that of the musical. "I love all styles of performing but with the solo performance you have a more direct contact with the audience. I love both however and for now I'm really enjoying Joseph."
X-Factor gave this young man a platform for everything he now does. "X-Factor enabled me to experience everything I have to date. It was huge life changing." But is there an ultimate goal for this multi-talented singer/performer? "I've been very fortunate so far. I'm very lucky to have achieved so much. I would like to take my music to other countries and travel the world with it." I don't doubt one as talented as Joe McElderry will indeed travel the world with his music and soon.
But for now Joe will arrive in Derry early next week and perform on the Millennium Forum stage as Joseph. I for one am hugely looking forward to that. 
Tickets can be bought online at Millennium Forum or by calling the Box Office on 02871264455.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

PANTO Auditions Derry

It's time to come audition for the forthcoming Derry panto 2017 - Jack and the Beanstalk!

Calling all budding actors and singers!  If you’ve ever fancied treading the boards in a professional theatrical production, make your way to the Millennium Forum on Saturday 10th June from 12.30pm to 2.30pm when the North West’s premier theatre will be holding auditions for yet another fabulous Christmas Panto, ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’.

Directed by Jonathan Burgess, with choreography by Venessa Chapman and Alan Wright as Musical Director, ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ at the Forum boasts the best in local talent in the biggest show of the Autumn/Winter programme of events.

A number of lead cast roles including the King and Queen (playing an age of 35+) are up for grabs at the auditions.  If it’s simply singing and dancing that’s your thing, then there are also a number of adult ‘General Ensemble’ parts to be won (age 17+).  All roles require excellent singing, acting and dancing ability.

David McLaughlin, Chief Executive of the Millennium Forum and show producer for the past fourteen years, encourages everyone with a desire to perform to audition:

“The Millennium Forum has developed a reputation for producing fantastic Christmas pantomimes that are fun for all the family.  ‘Cinderella’ last year was hugely successful, having performed to a massive audience of almost 30,000!  The auditions for this year’s Christmas Panto provide a great opportunity to act, sing or dance in the biggest show of the season for all budding professional or amateur performers.  Who knows – it could be the first step to a career in acting for some talented individual.  We have already seen Gerard McCarthy (Jack in ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ 2002) move onto great success with Channel 4’s ‘Hollyoaks’, our ‘Aladdin’ from 2009 and ‘Peter Pan’ from 2004, Conleth Kane, is also doing exceptionally well; he has recently enjoyed success on London’s West End following an appearance in the hit television programmes, Casualty and RTE’s search for FAME THE MUSICAL stars; Orla Mullan who played our ‘Fairy Godmother’ a number of times, has enjoyed success in the recent hit television series, ‘The Fall’; our ‘Peter Pan’ from 2013 and 2015’s Aladdin, Mikey J Heath has recently starred as ‘Tom Thumb’ in the West End touring production of the hit musical, ‘Barnum’ and local actor, Dylan Reid, landed the part of ‘Andrej’ in the musical, ‘Once’.”

Auditions for ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ will be held in the Millennium Forum on Saturday 10th June from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. Anyone interested should contact Lisa Lynch on 028 (048 from the Republic) 71 264426 between 9.30am – 4pm (Mon-Fri only) or email to arrange an audition time. Please note, you must arrange an audition in advance.

Oh yes it is...Oh no it isn't......


Friday, 12 May 2017

Wedding of Fiona and Lee

It is exactly one week ago that I was at the wedding of Fiona and Lee. Two people I know not very well. But two people whom I'm very proud to have been on the wedding guest list of. You see, I used to be Fiona's childminder, many many years ago...well not that many, just 23+!!!! Yes, even I've lost count!!
My husband and I left Shannon in Co. Clare in December 1992. We had got married earlier that year and decided to head home to Donegal to spend time with our parents (we had a little boy of 18 months). Family was, and still is, very important to me, and I wanted my little boy to spend time with his grandparents. I often thought of Shannon, Fiona and her family, and contemplated moving back there a number of times.  It was our first 'home' and it will always be special to us.
Fiona was around 3 years old (I think) at the time we left.
We left Shannon (with tears) and our our new life back home began. That seems a lifetime ago now. But now, my family is one of 5. Three grown sons and just one left at home. Donegal has been good to us, but Shannon is always in my heart.
A number of years ago I connected with Fiona's big sis, Eibhlin, on Facebook. It was so lovely to be back in touch with the little blonde girl I was so very fond of during my time in Shannon. We met for coffee in Derry a number of years ago, and it really felt like I'd known her all my life. I had also connected with Fiona on Facebook and had watched her growing into a beautiful young lady. I knew she was a hairdresser and that she had met a young man called Lee. Then I followed her as she became a mother to the beautiful Sophia. As Sophia grew and Fiona posted photos of her, I could only see the little girl (Fiona) that I used to mind. It was uncanny.
Last August my husband and I travelled to Cork to visit my husbands family. We decided on our return journey to visit Shannon for a night. I contacted Fiona and arranged to meet with her, her fiancé Lee and their now 3 children (Sophia, Seanie and Dáire). We arrived in Shannon, and later that day Fiona and her family came to meet us. I hadn't seen this girl since she was a toddler.
When we met that evening, it really did feel special. It was as if I was meeting a piece of my extended family. All 5 of them were equally special. And little Sophia just stole my heart (reminding me so much of her mother, and yet being her own wee self).
Lee was a lovely young man, and it was clear this couple were very much in love. Later that night, Lee, Fiona and Fiona's parents (Eugene and Cathy) came along to the hotel bar for a few drinks with us. That really was a trip down memory lane. Fiona's parents were so very good to me and my
husband all those years ago, and we have never forgotten it. Words will never explain or describe what they did for me when my eldest son was born. I'll never be able to thank them for their generosity and kindness back then.
However the flying visit came to an end. It was special in so many ways. Leaving Shannon the following day was very emotional for me. I visited the chapel in which I was married, and I visited the houses in which we lived. One of those was my first home with my husband and our young son. That will always make Shannon special. We arranged to keep in touch with Fiona and definitely meet up in the future.
Earlier this year I got a wedding invitation in the post. It was from Fiona and Lee. I was bowled over. I was chuffed to bits. I felt honoured. I immediately went online  and booked the wedding hotel for the night of the wedding. My husband and I were going. This was one wedding I wasn't going to miss.
Last Friday morning we travelled to Shannon once more. At around 1pm we pulled into the hotel carpark. I was immediately awash with emotion. It felt like we had come home. Everything looked familiar.
At 5pm that evening we met with the wedding party and from there on the night was memorable from start to finish. The beautiful bride and groom arrived shortly after and a most wonderful and beautiful wedding evening/night followed. A fabulous meal, super speeches and then pretty cool music all followed. We sat at a table with folks we didn't know. And yet from the outset I knew faces. I know 'him' from somewhere'. 'Her' face is familiar. As the night wore on, we did indeed know those faces. They were faces we had known all those years ago when we lived in Shannon. And as we got chatting, I really did feel I had come home. And one special young lady was introduced to us. She is Mags. And Mags is by far the best dancer I have ever seen on the dance floor.
Fiona and Lee were the most humble of hosts on their wedding day. I watched as they both moved among their guests and spoke to EVERY ONE of them. They took time to have photos taken with everyone. And nothing was a bother to them.
Someone asked me during the week, "how did the Shannon wedding go?" I simply replied, "one of the loveliest I have ever been at. I knew very few people and yet I had the most amazing day." Every word was true.
Although Fiona was a stunning bride, her daughter Sophia stole the day for me. She is just the little girl I remember her mother being all those years ago. Sophia doesn't know me, and yet every time I stopped to talk with her, she humbly obliged. A true star, just like her mother.
A whole week has passed and still I'm thinking on last Friday and all that it meant to me. Fiona allowed me to go back to the town where I first made a home with my now husband. To the town where my (our) eldest son was born. The town where I made very special friends in. The town which will always hold a little piece of my heart. Fiona, I can never thank you enough.
So as this Friday comes to a close, I am reminiscing on one week ago. I'm reminiscing on 25+ years ago. The time my wee family started out. And how wonderful to know that Fiona and her family are still very much part of mine.
Here's wishing Fiona, her lovely husband Lee, and their 3 beautiful children, the happiest of lives today, tomorrow and for all time. Lots of love to you all.
From me, to you: "Live well, Laugh often, Love always." I know you will do all three.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Donegal - coolest place on the Planet

Born and bred in Donegal, I'm certainly not going to argue with the recent accolade attributed to my home county here in Ireland - Donegal is the coolest place on the planet to visit. In my youth I will admit to really not noticing just how beautiful my home surroundings really were.
I was born in the small village of Quigleys Point, in North West Donegal. Living in Carrowkeel, just a mile from the River Foyle I genuinely didn't appreciate the view from my parents kitchen window of the river below and the hills of Derry. Behind us were the hills of Donegal (Inishowen!). But of course as a child and teenager I didn't notice either, or rather I simply passed no remarks on either.
When I got married 25 years ago and finally settled in the neighbouring village of Muff I slowly began to take in my surroundings. Having lived in London, New York, Co. Clare and finally coming home, I saw daily how beautiful my homeland really was.
As my three sons grew up, we would take Sunday drives around Inishowen and then further afield around County Donegal in general. We would make up a picnic in the morning and then just drive. It was during this time that I would be totally blown away by some country lane, a stunning beach, the winding mountain roads, the soaring mountains ahead. Donegal was beautiful from North to South, from East to West. This home county of mine really did have it all.
As locals we always saw how our beautiful county was often overlooked from tourism perspectives in favour of Kerry, Dublin and such. In many ways our wee county was indeed the 'forgotten county'.
It's all thanks to the National Geographic Traveller UK in December 2016 that this county is now very much discovered and at the fore of geographical beauty. “It’s a warm-hearted place, but wilderness always feels just a stone’s throw away,” said National Geographic Traveller’s UK editor, Pat Riddell. “And it is wilderness, world-class wilderness. We think it’s due a big year.”
Donegal was very privilidged last year to welcome the cast of Star Wars to Malin Head and Inishowen for their filming of the new film. I was very honoured to meet and chat with non other than Mark Hammond during his visit here.  Mark was very kind to speak with locals and take time out with them. I was rather grateful for that as I made many friends and family members jealous with my photo proving my said meet and greet with the legend. 
So just what is it that makes our county the 'coolest place on earth to visit'? Of course there's the outstanding scenic beauty. There's many historic and mythological sites. There's fine dining and there's always a great pint of guinness to be had in the bars. There's also the music. We are home to the amazing Clannad, Altan, The Henry Girls and so much more. These musicians ensure Donegal is always noted and at the fore. But at the helm of it all there's the people. There really is none like them. A warm, friendly greeting is always in place. No welcome is every a trouble. No stranger is ever turned away. Friendliness oozes from every local, from everyone you meet. 
I often drive around the coast here at home and it's so lovely to meet people walking and wave as you pass by. Total strangers salute total strangers. Walking along local streets, everyone says 'hello'. That's just Donegal.
I recently met and interviewed three young brothers from Donegal who are making their mark on the world music scene, The Byrne Brothers are all in primary school and recently returned from a month playing in the US. On meeting them that day it reaffirmed my faith in our young people. These kids are so very rooted in their home county and it's clear how much they love returning home after touring abroad. Children really are at our core. To see them appreciate home, means so much.
I'm very fortunate in the work that I do meeting many musicians from around the world, and it's always a delight to welcome them to Donegal and encourage them to visit the county and explore our amazing sights.
Living in the little village of Muff now, I am grateful each day for the community I live among. With our new coffee shop, The Workshop Coffee Co.  we have the perfect spot to stop off for lunch or a quick cuppa before exploring the surrounding area. Or if it's a wee tipple you're after, we have the delightful traditional bar The Squealing Pig. Every village you pass through will have that something special. 
Donegal is often just the county at the top left of Ireland whom no one really knows much about. It's not until you visit us, meet us, and experience life with us, that you get to see just what an outstanding piece of heaven we really do live in.
So next time you are wondering where to visit on your holidays, just book a wee trip to Donegal. You really won't regret it. We'll all be on hand to welcome you with a smile. And rest assured, if you visit us once, you will most definitely return.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Poetry Day Ireland with The WRITE STUFF Kids Club

What better way to celebrate Poetry Day Ireland 2017 with The WRITE STUFF Kids Club than with
a selection of poems written by the children themselves. Over the past week, a number of children at the Muff and Greencastle groups have been writing 'Memory' poems and 'List' poems in celebration of our National Poetry Day. We have Heaney, Yeats, Kavanagh, Boland and more. But now we have many budding poets here in our wee club in Donegal.
Some of the children's work is included below:

Susie (aged 8)
I remember, I remember
The day I got my cat.
I put a blanket on her head,
She wore it like a hat

Áine (aged 8)
I remember when I went to Portugal
It was amazing
Someone jumped in the pool,
It was really cool.

Sophie (aged 6)
I remember, I remember
It was Christmas Day.
I got lots of books,
Now I read in every way.

I remember, I remember
When I went to the hospital
To meet my new baby cousin
The day when she was born.

I remember when
I accidentally  slammed the door
On Peadar's finger
He had to go to hospital

I remember, I remember
The time I was with my friend
We went to the cinema
And enjoyed SING through to the end.

I remember, I remember
When our house was getting built.
I climbed up a pile of gravel
And I got stuck.
Dad came up and got me
He brought me down and saved me.

I remember, I remember
When I was a cat
It was Halloween
And I sat on the mat.

Once I went to the beach
But I didn't take a peach.
I did not bring a table or a stable
I did take a bucket and a spade
Then I went home
Without a bone.

I remember, I remember
The day I met the dog
My cousin was all jolly
Cos her dog's name was Holly.

I remember, I remember
The Halloween that I sat
It felt so very cool
There on the mat.

I remember, I remember
I had a cat
It looks quite fat
The cat's quite goofy
And it looks poofy.

I remember, I remember
It was last November
A lovely day and it was my birthday
My friends and I ran all about
They they had to go home,
Oh what a night.

I remember, I remember
I had three little fish
The swam around in a little dish
My three little fish.

I remember, I remember
The cat that wears a hat
And sits n a mat
With his friend called Pat.

I remember, I remember
When I went to America
I got called out of the pool
I was floating on water
So cool.

I remember, I remember
I had two cats
They had four kittens three times
And they loved hearing rhymes.
One cat was named Pat
Who sat in my hat
And then I splited in two!

I remember, I remember
One day Mummy made some buns.
They were yummy
In my tummy
I remember, I remember
After the buns
We went to the park
And had a lot of fun.

I remember, I remember
When I saw Emma
For the first time
When the time went chime.

I remember, I remember
The first day with
Grainne McCool.
It was mad and crazy,
But also kinda cool!

The bark of a dog
The oink of a pig
The meow of a cat
A moo is a cow
A hoot of an owl.

I remember, I remember
The day I went to Dunlewy
Lots of fun in the park
Stayed there until dark.

The roar of a dragon
Meow says the cat
Bark, bark, there goes a dog
Ba, ba, I love lambs
Neigh, is that a horse?

I remember, I remember
It was Christmas night
There was completely no light
I could hear the reindeer
Ready for their flight.
I loved that Christmas night.

The hiss of a snake
The woof of a dog
The growl of a wolf
The oink of a pig
The hoot of an owl
The purr of a cat.

I remember, I remember
Her bright sparkling eyes
The little doggy Flash
In bed happily she lies.

I remember, I remember
When my cousin was born
I don't know much, but
I know Connie had rectangle glasses!

I remember, I remember
The day I went on a horse
The Sea Scouts were all there
That horse had lots of hair.

These children are all aged between 6 - 12. What a very fitting tribute for today, National Poetry Day 2017 here in Ireland. Very proud of each and every one of these children.


Friday, 7 April 2017

George Ezra is coming to Derry

‘TOP SECRET Tour’ to include Forum date
The Millennium Forum has announced that hugely popular singer/songwriter, George Ezra will bring his ‘TOP SECRET Tour’ to the cityside venue next month.   The ‘Budapest’ singer will perform on Saturday27th May and tickets go on sale at 9am on Friday 7th April from and are priced £24.00 (standing) and £26.00 (seated) - booking fees may apply.
The ‘Top Secret Tour’ sees George make his Forum debut in a jaunt around Ireland which kicks off in Belfast before travelling to Dublin and Limerick.
He will debut brand new songs for the first time across gigs at intimate venues. Pre-sale begins 9am, 5 April(sign up by 12pm, 4 April for access via  General sale from 9am, 7 April. Visit  &  for full ticket information.

“There is no need for me to point out the fact that I’ve been fairly quiet over the last year,” says George. “But I’d like to reassure you all that I’ve been beavering away at what will one day be my second record. It took a second to work out what it was that I wanted to write about, and then how to approach the writing and recording process.”
“I don’t want to give too much away regarding the record, but I do want to invite you all to join me on my first tour back. This tour will be like no other that I have done before for many reasons, but mostly because it will be the first time that a lot of brand new songs are played live. There will be a few new band members and we will be working out what the best set list is and what the best way to present the songs will be. We will focus less on smoke and mirrors and more on building the best show that we possibly can. We will of course be playing all of the classic George Ezra singalong numbers too!”
“COME AND JOIN US! But don’t let the cat out of the bag, this tour is top secret...”
George Ezra will perform at the Millennium Forum on Saturday 27th May.  Tickets go on sale at 9am onFriday 7th April from


Craft Beer Club Ireland

It's always great to discover a new business. It's even better to discover it's a local business! Today I did just this. And it involves BEER. Now that can't be bad.
Craft Beer Club Ireland is a local club based right here in Inishowen and is aiming to provide clients with new and exciting beers brewed here on the island of Ireland from numerous local microbreweries.

The club is offering a selection of packages which in turn sends a selection of the said beers to its clients (you) to enjoy, discover, savour and share among friends. A perfect way to celebrate that special occasion.
Craft Beer Club Ireland started as a group of friends who were passionate about having good craic and good beer.  We would scour Ireland trying to find beers that we hadn’t tried before to share between us and in recent years have been spoiled with the number of microbreweries popping up all over the country.
Our shared passion for seeing local ingredients and local breweries producing small batches of quality beer led us to develop the idea of this club, so we could share these exclusive beers with like-minded people who want something a bit more than the stuff that fills the supermarket shelves.  At Craft Beer Club Ireland we do the leg work for you and specially select the beers for you so you don’t have to.
 We will send you a parcel once a month with delicious locally produced craft beer and a newsletter featuring the story behind the beer, the Master Brewers who make it, information about the brewery, their other products and where to get more! There are many many exciting new beers out there - all with unique names, ingredients and flavours - all just waiting to be discovered!
Craft Beer Club aims to be Ireland's most popular craft beer discovery club. They want to support local brewers by building a community of Craft Beer lovers across the country. They aim to be known for providing a quality experience and service to all who avail of the service. 
All you have to do is sing up online, order some beer, and next thing you know, it will be on your doorstep....magic!
To find out more about this great new facility and how you can become part of it, visit now, and you too can be part of the most up and coming business in the North West. 


Thursday, 30 March 2017

My 'Memory Cushion' of May.

Earlier today I visited a friend of mine for a quick coffee before work. She had a gift for me which I wasn't expecting. A cushion! Not any old cushion but one that she made herself in recent days. You see this friend lost her mother in January.
Her mother was also a friend of mine. Someone I've known all of my life and someone I had the pleasure to call 'friend' for the past 20+ years. May died in January this year, on her 97th birthday. She is, was, and most likely will be, the oldest friend I'm ever likely to have.
I can call her my friend because she invited me for tea, she told me stories, she baked me bread, and she scolded me loads. Everything a true friend does.
I have many fond memories of May but my favourite is of one Easter Sunday approximately 10 years ago (maybe a little less). We all had Easter Sunday lunch together. Easter Sunday is a very special day for my family as our extended family all meet up and spend the afternoon and evening together annually. A very special, and very treasured occasion.
On this Easter Sunday prior to my annual family gathering, I had lunch with May and her family. That lunch was spent talking about Easter many years ago. Easter when May was a little girl. May told me that day all about what she and her brothers got up to on Easter Sunday and about their Easter fire and Easter egg hunts.
What struck me most that day was the fond memories May had, memories she treasured of her time as a little girl with her brothers. Her family. She instilled in me even more importance of my much loved tradition at Easter.
I am very fortunate to have gone to meet and stay with one of those brothers since that Easter Sunday. I holidayed with May's wee brother Vincent in Scotland. And the time I spent with him was spent listening to stories of he and May and their other siblings as children. The love between them all was endless and it oozed from them.
So this cushion which Annmarie gave me today, is no ordinary cushion. It's a little piece of May which I will keep and treasure forever. This cushion has a little piece of May's headscarf, her skirt and her blouse. And there's even a button from her cardigan on it. A little piece of May is with  me forever. And that is something very special. Just as May was someone very special.
Some gifts really are priceless. My cushion is one such gift.
Annmarie has made a selection of these cushions for herself and her family and friends. These enable all of us to keep May with us forever. She's not just in our memories now. She's on my sofa too.


Leaving Cert ENGLISH Revision workshops

The WRITE STUFF is hosting a number of Leaving Cert ENGLISH (higher level and ordinary level) Revision workshops over the coming weeks (Easter holidays). These workshops will help give you an in-depth understanding of the texts on the English course and also help with writing skills.
Workshops are scheduled for April 8th at Warrenview Manor, Muff and April 20th at St. John Bosco's Community Center in Donegal Town, and then a Hamlet workshop at Warrenview Manor, Muff on Friday 21st.
These will all benefit your understanding of the set texts and poems. Why not come along and avail of this Revsion during Easter 2017.
Other workshops can be arranged at different locations.
For further details, contact Grainne on 0863148541 or E:
Booking is essential for all workshops as places are limited.
Check out The WRITE STUFF for details and costs of all workshops.


The Workshop Coffee Co.

Muff is a small village in North West Inishowen and is a little treasure trove at that. Nestled just outside Derry city it really is the gateway to Inishowen en route from the city. Many people have been passing through it for years, but since last summer, more and more people are stopping over here just for a cup of coffee, bite of breakfast, lunch, and more. Thanks to the arrival of Inishowen's trendiest, most welcoming coffee shop, The Workshop Coffee Co.
Having opened during Muff Festival 2016, it really has become a coffee lovers favourite ever since. Living here in the village, it saves myself so much time travelling and indeed expense. Being a blogger and freelance writer I find myself spending lots of time in coffee shops meeting, interviewing and in free time, just hanging out with friends. Now I'm able to do all that in my own home village.
I've had friends from London, Birmingham, Dublin, Galway, and more nearby, all come along to enjoy our new facility in Muff. I've worked in here, I've lunched in here, and I regularly just coffee in here.
I've even had Joleen from the Henry Girls there for an interview with Irish Music Magazine. No doubt I'll be taking many more along to enjoy the fabulous coffee surroundings at The Workshop Coffee Co. in the coming weeks, months and indeed years to come.
If you're passing through the village any time soon, do take time for that coffee break and see just what this wonderful establishment has to offer. You really won't be disappointed.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Linger at An Grianan Theater

Saturday night normally means a trip to the local and home again. Nothing unusual or untoward on my average Saturday night. Last night was very much one with a difference. Theater is normally a week night visit for me, but this occasion allowed it to be a weekend one. Linger from Ériu, is the critically acclaimed contemporary Irish dance work from former principal of Riverdance, Breandán de Gallai. de Gallaí and Nick O'Connell, really did put Saturday night in Letterkenny into a whole new zone. One which had the audience entranced in their seats and taking in every breath from the two male dancers on stage.
I couldn't take my eyes of the dancers for even a second. One just couldn't miss a move, a step, even a breath. It was so captivating.  de Gallaí and O'Connell are two male dancers at opposite ends of their dancing careers and yet last night, they were very much two male dancers in their prime. This immersive work explored identity, sexuality and ageing, all unfolding through a rich tapestry of music, movement, live drawing, photograph and film. This offered a visceral aesthetic, the mercurial movements of youth juxtaposed with the more considered gestures of the less young. This performance made us all reflect on the passage of time and who we are at different stages during that passage.
de Gallaí told me a few weeks ago that this show, "is therapy. We both went through the same issues and in this we delve into a very hurt place to generate feelings and emotions. This theatrical piece tells the story of two men going on an odyssey."
Last night everyone in the audience were on that odyssey. I alongside everyone else in the auditorium were reading experiences from our own lives as we watched this spectacle unfold. Emotions were high at every turn.
This was possibly the first time I've sat through a show in many years where one really could have heard a pin drop. Such was the focus of every audience member on the stage.
The themes of this show really are universal and everyone will take something different from it. We all try to be someone we're not to please others at some time in life. With Linger we learn the importance of becoming our authentic self.
The dancing last night was something I've never seen before. It was such a mix and yet so utterly powerful psychologically. It's an Irish dance at heart and yet so very contemporary. Musically there was jazz, classic, traditional to tango. It really did have it all. And yet the focus never left these two male bodies as they used the entirety of the Letterkenny stage. Every muscle, every ripple in their bodies was captured. The eye was never allowed to leave.
Last night I went on an emotional roller-coaster. There were so many sad times, but the overall message was hope. There will always be hope, but there really shouldn't always be such sadness. Through dance, de Gallaí has introduced us to a little piece of him. To a little piece of identity history. To a little piece of what his world has been/is, like. Linger really is an exploration of themes one never expected to see through dance.
de Gallaí and O'Connell excelled on the stage last night. A very deserved standing ovation was awarded. This is theater at its best. This is Irish theater at its best.
Loved it from start to finish.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Arbutus at Encore: Millennium Forum

Having been to the theater last night to see the delightful Wonderland, I returned to the same venue this lunchtime. But not to see a production on stage, but to taste some delightful food on the plate.
Arbutus at Encore is the new restaurant at the Millennium Forum. Formerly Encore at the Forum, the new multi-cuisine setting is offering lunch, dinner, coffee and drinks.
I had a lunch meeting there earlier today and I was long overdue trying this menu. I wasn't disappointed. It has a wide selection of starters, lite bites, main courses and just generally something for everyone. All at affordable prices too.
I went for an old favourite, chicken gougons and vegetables. Gougons can be tricky and at times, tiny. These were everything but. Chunky pieces of chicken and served with a delicious selection of veg. It really did hit the spot and set me up for the remainder of the working day.
Arbutus at Encore provides a lovely serene setting to have a quite lunch and you can browse the theater advertisements and perhaps find a show coming soon just for you. There really is a wide range to choose from.
Next time you're in town for a lunch, why not make it a Theater one and check out the new, exciting menu at Arbutus at Encore.
Lunch is served daily 12-3pm Weds - Saturday
Evening Menu
2 courses & glass of wine only £20
Available for all shows.
Private Room available for christenings, first communions & private dining.
Tel: 02871 372492

I certainly enjoyed mine. You might just do likewise.


Wonderland really is wonderful and more

Frank Wildhorn's Wonderland opened on the Derry stage last night at the Millennium Forum. A modern adaptation of Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this musical really does take you on a very personal journey.
This contemporary retelling of the story presents single Mum Alice unhappy in the contemporary world. It's her 40th birthday and she receives a letter from her ex-husband that he is to be remarried. On the same day she gets fired from her job. A White Rabbit appears to her and her daughter Ellie. Their neighbour Jack is also in the scene and then they all go off with the Rabbit. In Wonderland Alice, Ellie and Jack meet up with the Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, Dormouse, March Hare and the Queen of Hearts.
The tale of Wonderland, and indeed the tale of all our lives then unfolds through music and more.
Prior to going to the show last night myself and a friend went for a glass of wine to a local bar. There we were discussing life in general and how it's up to us to take charge of our lives and make them the best that we can. We were going quite deep into conversation about the importance at our age regarding being happy with ourselves and 'who' we are. Life doesn't last forever and so it's of utmost importance to believe in ourselves and do what makes us happy here and now.
As we sat together throughout Wonderland, without saying a word, we were both getting goosebumps unknown to the other. We both were experiencing very real emotions and tears were near. As the show ended I really did feel like crying. As my friend said to me, "I really want to cry", I realised this had indeed affected her to the extent it had me.
Wonderland takes us on a musical journey from which no one is left out. It's a journey we all travel in life. The journey to be ourselves: to be 'me'. Alice is unhappy in her life. She was forced to live a life to suit other people and put the real 'her' in a pocket. She lived her life to please others and ended up not pleasing herself and alone and unhappy. I'm sure not one person in the auditorium last night has not, or does not know someone who has done just this in life.
Through the music and the song, Alice and the cast of Wonderland take us on a journey of language which encourages us to believe in the power of magic and in the power of change. We all have the power to change who we are and what we want to be. It's believing in our ability to do just that which is difficult. Alice and friends showed us all last night that it really is possible to be who you really are. Alice had to go through the 'looking glass' to find her self-belief.
Michelle Pentecost excelled last night in her role as Alice. The Wicked cast member really did have the Derry audience enthralled. Naomi Morris was simply outstanding as Ellie. My favourite song of Ellies had to be 'home'. Home really is where we feel comfortable and content. Stephen Webb as Jack taught us the true meaning of being a 'hero'. It's not the big things in life that make you heroic, it's the little things. As for the Mad Hatter Natalie McQueen, words fail me. Entertaining, funny, brilliant, fabulous outfit, she rocked. Loved her from start to finish.
The only downside of last night was that Wendi Petters, the Queen of Hearts wasn't more on the stage. Peters voice reached pitches I never knew existed. She never faltered in her singing (and that was singing) but Wendi, I want those shoes!!
The White Rabbit, Dave Willetts, Dormouse, Cat and all the gang were equally outstanding last night. For an opening night this really was a flawless performance.
Each and every character in Wonderland had a moral message for us all. Each and every song in Wonderland had wonderful advice for us all. Each and every element of Wonderland just blew me away.
I read a few reviews of this show prior to last nights performance and some were rather mediocre. One said it lacked substance. Another that it lacked great music. I've no idea where these folk were from, or if they even saw this show. This show is a hive of magic, music, song, language, and of course it has the happy ever after love story.
As I traveled home last night I really was on an emotional high (and yes I really did only have that one wine early in the night). I was still experiencing goosebumps as I got in home. I was still emotional as I went to bed.
Perhaps it's my line of work, continually encouraging children to believe in themselves and in who they are. I encourage them to believe in what they think and to always trust their own thoughts. My wee kids club The WRITE STUFF Kids Club is all about creative writing and reading but at it's core is the fundamental belief in the 'self'. Wonderland showcased it all last night.
Wonderland will take you on a magical journey and show you that it really is possible to be the real you.
The song titles alone are inspirational: I will Prevail; I am my own Invention; Once more I can see; Together......
Everyone needs to go though the Looking Glass in life. Finding your looking glass should be top of your list. My Looking Glass was university 10 years ago. It was then that I really found the real me. It was then that I really found what I wanted to do. It was then that I started to believe in 'me'. What's your Looking Glass? Go through it soon before life passes you by. Alice did, so should you.
The New York Times said of this show: An Inspirational Musical. My overall thoughts: Inspirational with every word, this is the best show I've ever seen on the Derry stage.

Wonderland is showing at Millennium Forum Derry until this Saturday night. This really is mindblowing. Go see it.


Friday, 17 March 2017

At home in Biddy's on St. Patrick's Day

It really was just like being at home earlier today as I ventured along to Biddy's O'Barnes on Barnesmore Gap, near Donegal Town. It's a road I travel frequently and continually say I must stop off in Biddys, but alas it wasn't until today that I finally made the trip. So a little work was involved, but that's irrelevant when one considers the welcome one got on arrival at the pub.
Now owned by Aaron Slevin and Texas born wife Megan, this really is a little haven to visit.
Famous for it's Stag and Hen party stopovers, this bar is so much more. With a simple menu of soup and a roll, a selection of sandwiches and snacks, it's just like Granny's parlour used to be - warm fire's a burning, kettle on the boil, and a story always ready to be told. Such is Biddy's O'Barnes bar. Today they also had shamrock cookies home made for the kids and bacon and cabbage for the adults. These little touches didn't go unnoticed.
Megan welcomed both myself and husband today and I even got the 'grand tour' of the building. And yes, I fell in love with the quaintness, quirkiness and homeliness of it.
The pint of Guinness was pretty awesome too. And on St. Patrick's Day it somehow tasted just perfect!
Biddy's is filled with stories. Each nook and cranny has a story all by itself. Whilst walking about with Megan earlier today, I met a number of local folk: some staff, some just neighbours who pop in. And everyone had something lovely to tell me. One young man was even explaining why a 'three legged stool' is more balancing that a 'four legged stool'. And it made sense. Even on St. Patrick's Day, there's something new to be learned.
Biddy's O'Barnes was the first pub in Donegal to get it's licence in 1903, and indeed one of the first to get such in Ireland.

Although owned by the O'Callaghan family from the 1800's right through until 1990, it is now in the most capable hands of The Slevins. This young couple have been at the helm now since November 2015 and are very much at home here.
Megan and Aaron have a friendly welcome for everyone who comes through the door. As I spent two hours there this afternoon, I was in awe at how in that short time, they welcomed a large group on way to Bundoran for the weekend, a hen party and then a wedding party. Nothing was too much for these two folk and their staff. The staff and the Slevins are clearly one big happy family. It oozes from them that they are not only a business but very much a family at heart. Everyone who visits becomes part of that family. It was just another day at the 'Inn' and although it was raining heavy outside, it really was shining in Biddy's.
As I left Biddy's O'Barnes this afternoon, it was with  a much lighter step: I had finally visited the pub I had been planning to for most of 20 years. But today I was glad I left it this long. Today I met the modern day owners. The couple who are destined to keep the character, the quirkiness of this special place, and yet somehow it is also very much in the contemporary world.
Although a little off the Wild Atlantic Way drive, it is in fact on the road that provides a shortcut to Inishowen should you want to take a little detour en route. Nestled between Croaghconnelagh and Croaghonagh mountains, this really is an idyllic spot for a 'pit stop' for lunch, afternoon snack, or even a pint or two.
Next time you're on the road through Barnesmore Gap, take an hour and pop into Biddy's. You really won't regret it. I'm already looking forward to my next visit, and it certainly won't be too long before I return.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Children's Writing for St. Patrick's Day 2017

Children from The WRITE STUFF Kids Club in Buncrana composed a series of stories this evening at Tullyarvan Mill for St. Patrick's Day. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading them just as much as I did.

Laura Lavery (9)
The Day I met a Leprechaun
It was Sunday and I was in my school yard playing catch with a ball when I saw a rainbow and the ball suddenly dropped out of my hand and I ran, and ran. And ran. But I got there finally. But then I saw a green flash running past me. I thought of all the green things. Oh, but then I thought of a
leprechaun. I knew it was a leprechaun because it was just past St. Patrick's Day. It then came out from behind a tree. It said nothing. But then it did a dance. And so I carried on.
The End.

Anna O'Donnell (9)
The Day I found a four leaf clover
One day I was walking in the park. I looked down and what did I see? A four leafed clover! I picked it up and put it in my pocket and started to walk home.
On my way home I went into a shop to get the bread Mum wanted. Just then the shopkeeper said, "you get a free ice-cream because you are my one millionth customer." "This clover is lucky", I said and I took the ice-cream, bought the bread and said "goodbye."
When I was nearly home I saw a teddy on the ground. He was so cute so I took him home. I'm going to keep this clover on me forever I thought.
When I got home Mum said I could bake a cake. A chocolate cake. So I did. 30 minutes later the cake was baked and it was delicious.
And the luck just kept going on for ever and ever.
The end.

Doireann Healey (10)
The Day I found a four leaf clover
"Lily!" Sarah whined "I'm hungry!" Lily jogged across the kitchen, tipping many pots and pans along the way. The girl paused, and stared at her lime-coloured apron. It was covered in baby food and many other things Lily didn't dare think about. The words "Lily's childminding service" were faded and barely visible.
"Right", Lily panted, opening the back door. The green house lay in the distance, the sun shining on the glass. As she slouched through the garden, a single object caught her eye. It was a four leaf clover, and it was blowing in the wind. Lily slowly made her way towards the plant, her hand trembling.
How was this possible? The ground of the garden was made of sand, because Lily thought that it would be a good idea to let the kids play. But all they want to do is watch TV.
"Wow.." The girl gently picked the clover, completely forgetting about lunch. Lily strolled inside again.
As soon as she slid open the door, Sarah screamed and kicked in her high-chair. "Men!" she wailed. "Outside door."
The girl sprinted to the front door, confused. Two professional looking men stood there, holding a giant ticket. it read €100,000 and had that little star on top. My heart stopped. And it was all because of that four leaf clover.
The End.

I'm sure you will surely agree what wonderful pieces of work these really are. The children has approximately 30 minutes to pen their stories earlier this evening and genius they all were.

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2017 from all at The WRITE STUFF Kids Club. 💚