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This is the question being addressed at the inaugural Passive House Association of Ireland Conference, taking place in Belfast on Friday 10th May. The conference, supported by The Royal Society of Ulster Architects and Kingspan Insulation, has been developed to debate, challenge and address how the industry in NI needs to move forward and embrace new ways of tackling fuel poverty.

The 2016 Northern Ireland House Condition survey showed that 22% of households were living in fuel poverty in Northern Ireland; the private rented sector is the worst affected by fuel poverty with most recent figures at 26.3%; and in 2017-18 there were 1,500 excess winter deaths with 30% attributable to living in a cold home. In addition, 68% of households in Northern Ireland are reliant on home heating oil; an unregulated fuel in terms of price and customer protection.

Panellists and attendees will be privy to the latest research and development in the field, and there will be the opportunity for much lively conversation – with focus given to retrofit and new build housing.

The conference will have an esteemed panel of industry experts leading the discussions which includes: Director of Fuel Poverty Coalition NI, Pat Austin; County Architect for Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown County Council, Andrée Dargan; Dr. Shane Colclough from University of Ulster; Green Party NI Leader, Claire Bailey; Caroline Best Project Architect at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive; Managing Director of Mosart & Passive House Academy, Tomas O’Leary; and Chair of PHAB Group and GP Developments, Garrett Quinn.

The conference keynote speaker will be the Housing Development Manager for Exeter City Council, Emma Osmundsen who will be discussing her council’s policy and successes in social housing by implementing low energy, healthy and climate resilient buildings.

Speaking about the upcoming event, Paul McAlister, Chairman of the PHAI, said, “This is a discussion which is long overdue, and we are delighted with the positive response from across the political and civic spectrum to our first ever conference tackling this issue.

“Fuel poverty affects thousands of households in Northern Ireland and decisive action is needed. The main issue is that there is a lack of understanding of the benefits of low energy housing and a perception that it is more costly to implement this approach; which is not correct. We believe that this conference marks an important first step in addressing the problem, and we hope that it will motivate our business and community leaders to embrace and be more open to recognising the potential of ultra-low energy housing.”

Tickets for the conference are currently available via priced at £55pp general admission and £45pp for PHAI members.




Social media: we all use it, whether we love or – let’s be honest – sometimes loathe it. We have been rattling our social media brains to pick out some top tips to help you stay on top of your social media game, ensuring your content is hashtag on fleek!

  1. Authenticity

Focus more on communication than selling: Don’t make your engagement a sales pitch; work on forming relationships with your followers, get to know them and create engaging content that is of interest to them. This means stepping away from constant sales pitches, with a slant towards more social-focused posts, offering opportunities for followers to get involved and give their opinion.

In the moment content: Highly-produced content is influencing us to switch off and engage less. Current focus has moved towards authenticity and giving followers an opportunity to gain unfiltered access. This is helped by a recent surge in the use of ephemeral content across various social media outlets. Think less about the ‘perfect’ 15 seconds you are trying to create and shift your content to be more real life…no one likes over-produced content.

Give creative freedom: Content can very quickly become staged by giving people rules and guidelines to follow. Whether it’s your creative team, or that micro-blogger that you recently managed to get on board – it’s absolutely vital that you give them the freedom and trust to get creative with the content you require. Eagle-eyed followers are finding it easier to spot staged content and this presents a lack of integrity from both the brand and blogger.

  1. Community

Along with authenticity comes community: By creating authentic content and allowing followers to gain insight into the behind-the-scenes of your organisation, you can produce a community as people begin to feel more connected, with you and one another.

In the past, most company social media pages were managed by an invisible identity who acted as the one spokesperson for the company. Now, it’s all about getting to know the faces behind social media pages, which allows followers to relate to the organisation more. Knowing there is a group of like-minded individuals rather than one large company with one voice helps build on that community feel.

Selfie Central: You may have noticed the increase in speaking to the camera on various platforms, but mainly Instagram. Perfect for creating content for stories, this recent adaption from professionally shot informative videos, to more casual face-to-camera pieces show a move into more authentic content. This allows people to feel closer to the organisation as it comes across as more relatable.

These short face-to-camera video clips offer ways for followers to interact and share their opinions, rather than feeling like all communication with the organisation should be formal or corporate.


  1. Loyalty

Some may argue that using social media can impact and retain brand loyalty while others believe the contrary. One way or another, followers are going to come and go, so its about unique, fun and engaging content to make them stay.

Loyalty has become key when engaging on social media. With countless different social accounts for various businesses and organisations out there to follow, it’s easy for your followers to opt out and find new favourites. The focus is on offering real and authentic content, which helps your followers to feel a sense of community. This helps form a loyal connection to the brand or organisation.

Loyal influencers: Influencers are quickly becoming a great way to boost your brand awareness, but with so many great options to choose from, who is going to best represent your brand? It’s important to ensure that representors can remain loyal to the brand that they are working with. Don’t contact every influencer you spot, research them, find out if they fit your brand image and decide if you are a good fit together! It’s important to have representors who truly embody your brand and will be excited to champion your organisation.

Micro-Influencers: Micro-influencers are becoming first choice to many digital focused brands, as they exemplify a committed and authentic obligation to present their followers with good content and brands. It’s also a good opportunity for brands to target a certain niche – for example ‘mummy bloggers’ or ‘eco-focused families’ as there are many micro-influencers that have a loyal following from certain people groups.


At Rumour Mill Creative Communications, we work with various clients and influencers, who have successfully helped maintain and grow brand awareness. Having such positive relationships with influencers from across all sectors including fashion, food and business, we are confident we will pick the best people to represent your organisation. We want your brand to reflect your mission and help achieve your business goal. Let’s have a chat to see how we can help.



Mid Ulster stylists, Barbers of BT45/Barbers of BT80 and Salon 45, are celebrating after being named as the only salon chosen to represent Northern Ireland at the L’Oréal Colour Trophy grand final in London this June, in three categories. The first time this has ever been achieved, making history.

The L’Oréal Colour Trophy is the longest running live hairdressing competition in the world – having started in 1954 – and it has hosted thousands of the industry’s most prestigious talents over the years. Competitors are given just 30 minutes in front of a live audience to style a model of their choice before the models are required to partake in a catwalk. The competition is blind, and judges have no idea which model is attached to which salon.

The accolade was awarded to Barbers of BT45/Barbers of BT80 and Salon 45 after competing in the Northern Ireland regional semi-finals at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. Ten entries from across the province were whittled down to just three, and the judges were so impressed with the barbers efforts that all three positions were awarded to the Mid Ulster outfit.

Owner and lead stylist, Chris Graham has said of the occasion: “We’re absolutely overjoyed by the news that we will be representing Northern Ireland in London. We proved time and time again that talent and vision can thrive outside of the cities, and that Mid Ulster is a haven of inspiring stylists.

“Our stylists Cathal McCormack, Megan Ludlow and Kala Boyle have done an exceptional job at the regional semi-finals and our ambition now is to go to England and take the big prize home with us. Northern Ireland has a rich tradition of innovation when it comes to beauty and style and we want to continue on in that vein.”

The Grand Final of the L’Oréal Colour Trophy will take place on the 3rd of June at Battersea Park in London where Barbers of BT45/Barbers of BT80 and Salon 45 will be competing against other regional winners from across the U.K. including London, the South of England, the East of England, the West of England, the North East, the North West, Scotland, and Wales.



Six by Nico Belfast has today announced its latest theme and it’s set to take you right back to your youth.

In the latest offering, ‘Childhood’, Chef Nico Simeone has created a menu filled with fun, laughter and reminisce; recreating dishes inspired by memories of our childhood, to create an unforgettable dining experience. Guests will be invited to take a trip down memory lane at Six by Nico Belfast, located in the bustling Cathedral Quarter.

The conceptual six-course tasting menu restaurant has already taken the city by storm having only opened its doors a month ago. During launch week in March 2019, there were over 5,000 pre-opening reservations made for ‘The Chippie’ menu, indicating that this novel dining experience was something people in the city where craving. The eagerly anticipated second menu to land in Belfast is set to be a hit as it has previously been a firm favourite at sistering restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

‘Childhood’s’ new six course tasting menu includes: Mac’n’Cheese – Compressed grape, cauliflower couscous, caper & raisin; Egg & Soldier – Duck egg, Pecorino, Black Garlic Emulsion, Asparagus Salad; Pancakes & Bacon – Pork Belly, Compressed Apple, Chickpea Pancake, Maple Mayonnaise; Fish Finger – Confit Salmon, Kohlrabi, Buttermilk & Dill Dressing; Duck Duck Goose – Duck Beast & Leg Bonbon, Spiced Date, Heritage Carrot; and Cereal milk – Pannacotta, Honey Gelee, Peanut Clusters & Strawberry.

Known for his quirky dishes and original flavour combinations, Chef Nico Simeone’s latest menu, ‘Childhood’ will instantly transport guests back to the memories of their grandmother’s kitchen, their fond school canteen days or their first overseas holiday as a family.Chef Nico Simeone said, “Reliving those fond childhood memories is exactly what we aim to do for all our guests with our ‘Childhood’ tasting menu. There are some foods that no matter how many years have passed, they will embody youth. Almost everyone has childhood memories of family meals, ranging from holiday gatherings to the ordinary breakfasts, packed lunches, and home cooked dinners. We want to evoke those memories and help re-create those reminiscent foods and flavours but in an unforgettable way.”Nico added, “It is fascinating to discover what memories stay with you and when it comes to food, nothing evokes stronger feelings of nostalgia as your childhood.”

Diners can book a table now for ’Childhood’. Open from midday, Tuesday to Sunday at the Belfast restaurant on Waring Street.  Each six-course menu will be available from noon to night. The menu is priced at £28 per person with the option to enjoy an expertly selected wine and specialist drinks pairing for an additional £25. There is a vegetarian alternative available for every course, as well as childhood theme inspired snack sides.

To make a reservation and to book now, visit‘Childhood’ will run from Tuesday 16th April – Sunday May 26th 2019.



An impressive 380% growth, new territories acquired and the creation of over 20 jobs marks an incredible 10 years for property expert Michael Chandler and wife Laura.

The last decade has been an unpredictable one for the Northern Irish property market. Prices have fluctuated, new trends introduced, and many areas across the province have experienced major rejuvenation.

During all this, Michael Chandler has worked hard to establish himself and the agency as one of Northern Ireland’s most well-respected and forward-thinking property agents challenging the perceived model of estate agency. This has resulted in achieving an impressive 380% client base growth, expansion into new territories, East Belfast, South Belfast and all over County Down; plus, the introduction of a mortgage and insurance division.

Identifying an opportunity for growth during the worst of the economic downturn, when property values fell by as much as 40%, Michael and his team helped to steer vendors and landlords through the storm; as well as advancing the business.

Now with the property market making a recovery to pre-2007 levels, Northern Ireland has demonstrated remarkable resilience and has been reported as the ‘best performing’ region in the UK. Michael Chandler Estate Agents based on the Ormeau Road, has been at the forefront of this recovery.

Managing Director, Michael Chandler, says his company’s approach to estate agency “very proactive” and has emphasised a change in mood from the dour predictions of ten years ago. He said: “When I launched Michael Chandler Estate Agents a decade ago, I had two young children with two more to come. I wanted to ensure I had a well-respected and trusted business to ensure their future was bright as possible, and by setting out to improve the opinion people have of Estate Agents seemed like the perfect place to start.

“We have come a long way since then, and I’m proud to say that Michael Chandler Estate Agents is flourishing! Through winning scores of endorsements from customers and expert peers, it goes to show the dedication of the staff in making my initial vision a reality, and I feel so grateful to be the captain of this particular ship.”

Northern Ireland’s property market is experiencing something of a boom now, and Michael Chandler Estate Agents is confident it will stay ahead of the curve.

Michael adds: “Going forward we have a positive outlook to the property market in Northern Ireland. We also have plans in place to expand the team, services and territories with additional investment into the Michael Chandler brand.  I strongly believe that our approach is unique, and we will keep looking at ways to push the boundaries, simplify the process of buying and selling and ensure that we continue to strive for excellence.”



This month marks a new chapter for the MAC, Belfast’s leading cultural venue, as it officially opens its all-new café/bar to be operated independently, as part of its current four-step corporate strategy. This latest development has also enabled the creation of 19 additional hospitality roles within the business.

Previously managed by third-party contractors, this is the first time since the MAC’s inception in 2012 that the café/bar area will provide a direct revenue stream for the organisation and will be managed by its newly appointed hospitality team, including Head Chef, Terry Quinn and Owen Ferguson as Café/Bar and Hospitality Manager.

Bringing years of culinary experience to the MAC, Head Chef Terry will be launching a completely new menu to refresh the café bar offer. From the introduction of breakfast serving from 8.30am, to a new children’s menu and pre-theatre sharing platters, there will be something for the broad range of visitors that the MAC attracts. Plus, the MAC has launched a new wine list supplied by Direct Wine Shipments and launched a new smartphone interval drinks order system so that theatre goers can place their interval order with the greatest of ease, avoiding the usual queue.

The new café/bar also complements the MAC’s other commercial activities, such as the roll out of its innovative Luminaire Club, that transforms the theatre space into an intimate jazz-club experience complete with table service. This new experience gives the MAC the added flexibility to create event-specific promotions such as a Mother’s Day Brunch on the 31st March. Owen is confident that the he can build upon the visitor experience by further moving the MAC’s hospitality offering beyond the traditional theatre-style service.

Anne McReynolds, MAC Chief Executive said: “Taking our café bar in-house is a big move for us, not least in doubling the size of our current staff team, but it presents a huge opportunity for the organisation.  From a customer care point of view, we want to get closer to our customers – offering them eating and drinking experiences that better complement their whole MAC experience – whilst also making sure that the first person you meet in the MAC is a welcoming and informed member of our team, which is very important to us.

“Some people might ask, why now? Not many people may know that the MAC is a charity and just like every other charity, we must work hard to raise the money needed to survive and grow in the long term. This is a very positive and significant step for the MAC, as we are acutely aware that we need to keep making strides towards a sustainable model that not only involves public funding but continues to maximise the ways in which we can increase self-generated income.”

The MAC’s café/bar is open daily from 8.30am until late. Breakfast is served from 8:30am – 12 noon, and last orders for lunch are at 4pm. The bar is open late on show nights and from 30 March, the MAC will also be serving its new pre-theatre sharing plates to enjoy before the show.

For more information and to view the new menus please visit:



This season’s offering at the MAC is already getting people talking, as John Godber’s hit play Bouncers comes to town for a three-week extended run. The show is a co-production between the MAC and Big Telly; starting on Saturday 30 March.

Set over the course of one night in a 1980s Belfast nightclub, giving it a distinctive Northern Irish flavour, Bouncers is a darkly funny play about the characters and shenanigans of an 80’s Belfast disco, as seen through the eyes of the club’s doormen.

Quick-witted and at times close to the bone, this rollercoaster of a play features four of Belfast’s finest comedic actors – Ciaran Nolan, Conor Grimes, Martin Maguire and Chris Robinson – who play all the parts. All the familiar characters from a typical night on the tiles make an appearance, from the cheesy DJ, to the kebab-shop proprietor and, of course, the foul-mouthed bouncers themselves.

As always with the MAC, you can expect something a little different, as all the action takes place within the exclusive Luminaire Club, transforming the theatre space into an intimate jazz-club experience complete with table service.

The MAC’s Creative Director, Simon Magill said: “Bouncers has been described as one of the funniest plays written in the last 40 years, but with the creative direction of Big Telly’s Zoe Seaton and experienced cast members like Conor Grimes, Ciaran Nolan, Marty Maguire and Chris Robinson, this promises to be a no-holds barred theatre experience.

It’s a play that is unapologetically provocative, remaining true to John Godber’s original script. However, we’ve relocated the action to a Belfast nightclub, with an evocative 80’s soundtrack that many people will relate to.

You’ll be immersed in the 80s vibe and enjoy the extra special experience of our Luminaire Club, where we’ve played with the flexibility of our theatre space creating something very special for audiences. With this intimate club setting serving as a backdrop, this fast-paced, rollercoaster of a show will have you laughing one minute, then questioning if attitudes have really changed since 80s Belfast.

The show will run from Saturday 30th March until Saturday 20th April, but with tickets set to sell out fast, book now to avoid disappointment! Avail of discount prices of up to 25% when you book multiple events in advance. This also applies to premium cabaret tickets which will allow for the full nightclub experience!



Apprentice star Grainne McCoy is gearing up for the launch of Northern Ireland’s first Makeup & Beauty Awards on Sunday 7 April. Nominations from the public have been received with the aim to recognise and applaud a new class of quality talent in Northern Ireland, celebrating the success and exemplary work within this thriving creative industry.

The Makeup & Beauty Awards wants to shed light on those creatives who work tirelessly behind the scenes, honouring the work of those in the forgotten sectors, including makeup artistry, beauticians, online influencers, nail technicians and much more.

Hosted by Grainne, along with legendary Belfast Drag Queen Lady Portia, the awards will be taking place in the iconic Titanic Building, Belfast. The decadent black-tie awards will include a red-carpet champagne reception, formal dinner, awards ceremony and afterparty with an appearance from the popular Sugartown Road Band.

Grainne explained her motivation for the awards ceremony saying: “We’ve had huge growth across Ireland in recent years, and there just isn’t enough opportunity for them to be recognised and acknowledged. There’s an abundance of talented creatives not being recognised in the NI Makeup and Beauty Community and I wanted to shine a light on those people.

“The Makeup and Beauty industry is at its peak now. Professional work is often celebrated, but without recognition in the form awards. This is something that I am passionate about transforming – we need to ensure these artists and creatives are celebrated, just like those in other industries would be.”

Finalists have now been announced and feature a range of categories including Bridal Makeup Artist of the Year, Online Influencer of The Year – Makeup & Beauty, Theatrical & Media Makeup Artist of The Year and Makeup & Beauty Business Person Of The Year.

Tickets the Makeup & Beauty Awards 2019 are now available at



Belfast train enthusiast Matthew Wilson has won “Young Volunteer of the Year” at the annual ceremony of the Heritage Railway Association.  Matthew who is 23 years old, is a volunteer at Whitehead Railway Museum. Despite being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (autism), he never lets this get in his way.

Matthew has become a well-respected team member and he is regularly complimented by Museum guests and colleagues for his ability to conduct enjoyable guided tours at Whitehead Railway Museum as well as being a friendly and charismatic steward.

The recently introduced Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer of the Year prize is to give nationwide recognition to a young person who is taking on the responsibility for driving various schemes within railway preservation forward.

Lord Faulkner, the HRA President, who sponsored the award, commented it was vital that the wider railway heritage movement cherished its young volunteers. He said: “Many of those enthusiasts who founded the railway preservation movement are now past retirement age and it is important that we look to the future and harness the talents of the next generation. There was vast competition for this award from some of the leading railways in Britain but I am pleased to say that Matthew was a worthy winner.”

Speaking on his success Matthew said: “I am delighted to have received the award but this would not have happened without the support, encouragement and leadership of the team at Whitehead.”

Matthew’s dad David and mum Ellen who accompanied him to the awards evening in Birmingham on Saturday said: “Matthew does not let this disability prevent him from pursuing his love of steam trains. He is a proud volunteer at Whitehead Railway Museum and gets considerable enjoyment and satisfaction from carrying out his duties as a tour guide.”

General Manager of Whitehead Railway Museum, Siobhan Dillon said, “We are delighted to have Matthew as part of our team. We have guests visit us from around the world who often compliment Matthew’s enthusiasm for steam trains. We are very proud of his successes and to be recognised at National level is extra special. Congratulations Matthew!”



Renowned Scottish-Italian chef, Nico Simeone, is set to introduce his Glasgow and Edinburgh dining concept ‘Six by Nico’ to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

‘Six by Nico’ Belfast will be the third addition to the growing restaurant portfolio, taking Nico’s conceptual restaurant idea out of Scotland for the first time and placing it in the bustling Cathedral Quarter.

With the opening, comes exciting new job prospects and there are plans in place to create 40 news jobs in the local area.

Chef Nico Simeone said, “We are very excited to bring an unforgettable culinary experience to Belfast. I have visited the city and I grew up with an understanding of the strong Ulster Scots connection. Belfast is the perfect location for our next venture and I couldn’t think of a better location than the vibrant food and drinks scene of the Cathedral Quarter. We are really looking forward to collaborating with local businesses and have people from the city join our team.”

The £500,000 investment will bring the introduction of a pioneering revolving culinary hub as every six weeks, Nico and his team will re-invent the wheel – serving a brand new six-course tasting menu, each one themed upon a different place, memory or idea. Drawing inspiration from both at home and abroad, Nico and his team will combine different ingredients, flavours, and dishes, to bring memories and stories creating a brand-new dining experience every 6 weeks.

The creative and ever-evolving six course set menu, is priced at £28 per person which has gone down a storm in the Glasgow and Edinburgh food scene and Six By Nico believe this will be a great price point for diners in the city.

Six by Nico will open its doors on Waring Street in March 2019, becoming the latest addition to the city’s burgeoning restaurant and bar scene. From creative menu concepts to outstanding food and service, the venue will aim to become an immediate hit with the people of Belfast.