Blog : Northern Ireland



To mark Harvest month this October and as part of Northern Ireland’s Year of Food & Drink, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council is giving local schools the opportunity to win all they need to grow their own produce.

With some of the best producers and growers based in the Lisburn & Castlereagh area, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council is keen to encourage the next generation of talented growers and is calling on green-fingered local pupils to submit a poem about the importance of Harvest.

This initiative is intended to broaden children’s understanding of agriculture and to promote healthy eating options with a balanced fruit and vegetable-filled. Growing fruit and vegetables in the garden at your school is a fantastic way to demonstrate the link between the food we eat, the seasons and the land.

Participating schools will have the chance to win a set of allotments, enabling pupils to fully immerse themselves in the harvest season. The prize includes two wooden allotment frames, soil, seeds, guides and a visit from an experienced gardener who will host an educational lesson on planting and tending.

Cllr. Uel Mackin, Chair of Lisburn & Castlereagh’s Economic Development Committee, explained the benefits of instilling this interest at a young age.

“I would encourage all local schools to reach out and get involved in the Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Harvest Competition. The aim is to encourage the younger generation to get involved in, and fully appreciate, the process of growing, harvesting and eating fruit and vegetables.”

“Those involved will reap the benefits of seeing first-hand how their hard work and care can produce an array of fruit and vegetables. It will be exciting process to chart the progress of each allotment and see local school children’s hard work come to fruition,” added Cllr. Uel Mackin.

To be in with the chance of winning this fantastic prize for their school, pupils are requested to submit a poem around the theme of Harvest to a select panel of judges.

To enter, simply submit your harvest-themed poem by Friday, October 21st to LCCC Harvest Competition, C/O Rumour Mill PR, First Floor Cranmore House, 611A Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7GT or email



The Strandtown Traders Association has launched a brand new website ( for the Belmont Road Village area, along with a new proactive marketing approach aimed at promoting the area. This initiative, part-funded by Belfast City Council, is also geared towards increasing visitor numbers and its overall profile.

Coordinated by The Strandtown Traders Association, the new website puts the spotlight on Belmont Road as an area for everything from shopping, services, leisure, community and food. It allows for the group to showcase both the community feel and the quality and number of interesting independent shops. The group will also be more proactive with its marketing through creating new community-focused events and advertising; ensuring everyone keeps up to date with what is going on and ultimately get involved.

Kieran Hill, independent retailer and Strandtown Traders Association representative, said:
(L-R) Barry Heaton Head Chef Canteen Kitchen Cafe; Kieran Hill, Strandtown Traders Assoc. (STA); STA Acting Treasurer David McCrea &Lynsey Bennett, The Secret Day Spaill, independent retailer and Strandtown Traders Association representative, said:

“Belmont Road is strong in independent shops, cafes and restaurants.  Visitors love this and the new brand puts the focus on our variety shops and services.  A lot of cities would envy the Belmont Road Village’s community feel, that its high street isn’t a cookie-cutter row of the same shops, and that it’s a modern area with a lot of history mixed in.

“Our new website and marketing approach for the area is all about letting the rest of the Belfast and further afield know, clearly and confidently, that there’s nowhere like the Belmont Road.

“Too many people miss the Belmont Road on their way to somewhere else.  Or they’re just passing through.  This new identity is for them.  We want them to stop, to know where we are on the map and to head here first.  We want to show them what a special place this is.”

For the past number of years, Belfast City Council has funded the delivery of area-based activities aimed at supporting local neighbourhood-based retail hubs.  Activities to date have primarily focused upon increasing footfall within targeted areas and have been developed by business associations with a specific geographical focus. Strandtown Traders Association was one of seven associations that took part in this most recent project to provide mentoring support in the development of marketing and promotional plans, with the aim to increase awareness and business development for the local area.

Councillor Aileen Graham, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “The Council is committed to supporting our independent retailers and traders associations which are the backbone of our local economy.

“Indeed neighbourhood-based retail plays a vital role in sustaining and creating jobs while also providing valuable local services which improve community cohesion and wellbeing.

“A number of business associations from across Belfast including Strandtown Traders Association have received funding support from Council for a range of promotional and marketing activities this year aimed at increasing footfall and sales within their catchment areas. These include the Christmas period and other seasonal events.

“This new website by Strandtown Traders Association is another key project now which will put the Belmont Road on the map by showcasing the area as a fantastic place to shop, eat-out or simply visit!”

The Belmont Road is also gearing up to showcase its very first fashion show in September, followed by its first ever food tour of the area in October to mark Belfast Restaurant Week. More information on these events can be found of the new website and via their social media channels.

To check out the new website please log on to For more information on Belfast City Council’s support for local businesses, visit the council website at



BM2Relishing the chance to explore new markets, Irish family food company Ballymaloe Foods, producer of the award winning Ballymaloe Original Relish, has launched into Northern Ireland. Through securing a partnership with Valeo Foods as its province-wide distributor the company has since secured supply to participating SPAR, EUROSPAR, VIVO & VIVOEXTRA, SUPERVALU, CENTRA & MACE, Dunnes and Independents.

Speaking on the transition into Northern Ireland, Maxine Hyde, Sales & Marketing Manager for Ballymaloe Foods, says:

“Now, more than ever, seemed the most fitting time to expand the Ballymaloe Foods range into Northern Ireland. As a family business through and through – developed and grown over three generations – we are ecstatic to be working alongside Valeo Foods, and look forward to showcasing our products to the Northern Irish market over the coming months.”

“In recent years, while the popularity of Ballymaloe products has grown, availability has always been an issue. But, through our new supplier partnerships, Ballymaloe Foods has the opportunity to match the supply with demand.” Maxine added.

Joanne Beattie, Brand Manager at Valeo Foods adds: “We are delighted to be working with the team at Ballymaloe Foods and looking forward to introducing this fantastic product to the NI market. With its strong heritage and track record for producing great tasting products, we have no doubt it will be a great hit with consumers.”

Ballymaloe Original Relish, has been the recipient of numerous industry awards over recent years including the McKennas’ Guides Award (2015), gold in the Great Taste Awards (2015) and numerous Georgina Campbell Awards, the longest running hospitality awards in Ireland.

Ballymaloe Foods will be introducing an initial five products from its growing range into the Northern Ireland market. The retail range includes Ballymaloe Original Relish (210g) and Ballymaloe Jalapeno Pepper Relish (195g).

Ballymaloe Foods’ offering in Northern Ireland will also include wholesale catering sizes suitable for a diverse range of cuisines; Ballymaloe Original Relish (3kg and 5kg) and Ballymaloe Jalapeno Relish (2.75kg).

Established in 1990 by Yasmin Hyde, daughter of Myrtle and Ivan Allen of Ballymaloe House, the recipe for Ballymaloe Original Relish that proudly stocks supermarket shelves throughout the Republic of Ireland has remained unchanged since the 1930s when Myrtle Allen was left with a plethora of tomatoes following husband Ivan’s struggles to sell them to merchants at local markets.

The official launch, organised by Rumour Mill PR, for Ballymaloe Foods took place on Friday 5th August at the James Street South Cookery School where celebrity chef and graduate of the Ballymaloe Cookery School Rachel Allen hosted a cookery masterclass.

For more information on the Ballymaloe range, visit




Leading Belfast arts venue, the MAC has announced a significant new appointment to its team. Simon Magill, joins the MAC’s as Creative Director, tasked with supporting the venue’s drive to be a landmark of cultural excellence.

Simon’s new role will be central to the MAC’s vision and aspirations both regionally and internationally.  He will work with local artists and creative sector, as well as seeking out the best artists, performers and production companies from around the world.

Whilst the MAC has been bringing world leading productions and exhibitions to Belfast already, Simon’s remit will be to expand upon this and further the MAC’s reputation as the dynamic hub for cultural and artistic excellence.

Over the last four years, since the MAC opened, the venue has brought some leading names to Belfast such as Royal Court, Andy Warhol and Eddie Izzard. In addition, the venue has experienced growing visitor numbers and has worked with some 3,500 artists and companies many of whom have collaborated with the MAC on their journey to success.

Welcoming the new appointment, Chief Executive of the MAC, Anne McReynolds says:

“We are delighted that Simon Magill will be taking up the post of Creative Director at the MAC. Already a major figure in the arts scene, Simon is an inspirational and widely respected figure who has been a committed champion of Northern Ireland’s creativity through his many roles with the Waterfront, Tinderbox, co-founder of Prime Cut Productions and The Lyric. His appointment offers an exciting new direction for the MAC and its audiences who have already enjoyed what we have staged since 2012.

“We had a very strong field of applicants for the role, but in our discussions throughout the recruitment process Simon’s passion for the MAC and vision for its future made him stand out as the perfect candidate to build on our success and write the next chapter of the MAC’s creative story.”

On his appointment Simon Magill says: “I’m thrilled and flattered that the board has shown confidence in my vision. The MAC is a truly versatile creative space and in a short period of time, has firmly established itself within the local, national and international arts scene. With its vast spectrum of performances, exhibitions and educational programmes, I very much look forward to working with the team to enhance the organisation’s existing achievements.

“I hope to expand upon the creative development approach, introducing new initiatives that cultivate the passion and endeavour of local artists whilst also bringing the best of the world to our stages and galleries. I want to ensure the MAC continues to keep the customer at the heart of our programme and corporate activities.”

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The hottest and most exciting food competition on the entire island has just been launched. The inaugural Irish Curry Awards in association with Cobra Beer and Yelp! are now open for entry.

An estimated 500 curry houses operate successfully between Ballyferriter in Kerry and Ballycastle in Antrim. Standards have risen to such heights in recent years that they are now regular features in national food and restaurant award schemes across Ireland.

The awards scheme is the brain-child of Belfast-based restaurateur Ali Askir. The owner of SAFA says the time has come to create a specialist Asian awards scheme to recognise the contribution made to Ireland’s food scene by hundreds of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and other Asian chefs, restaurant workers and managers.

“Asian food is now as popular and as widespread as the full Irish, the Ulster Fry and Irish stew,” says Mr Askir.
“Curry houses employ thousands of people right across Ireland and play a significant role in the local economies of communities everywhere. I believe the time has come to formally recognise this contribution and what better way to do this than through the Irish Curry Awards?”

Philip Morgan, National Account Executive for Molson Coors, distributor of Cobra in Northern Ireland says quality beer goes hand in hand with quality curry.

Cobra Beers are created using unique recipes and production processes to give them their distinctive character and smoothness. The Cobra beer range has been composed to delight smooth beer enthusiasts and is the holder of 88 Gold Medals by Monde Selection; is the most awarded beer in the World! This makes Cobra beer’s link with the Irish Curry Awards a perfect fit as we expand in the Irish markets north and south. Our focus is to showcase our great Cobra beer via the Indian restaurant sector and this is a great way to help achieve that” says Morgan.

Stevie McIntyre from Yelp! says the listings site has a strong tradition of involvement with the restaurant sector.
“We recently ran the successful Yelp! Burger Off in Belfast and to be working with the Irish Curry Awards is something very exciting for us, particularly as they are such a feature of our towns and villages right across Ireland,” says Mr McIntyre.

The Irish Curry awards will consist of six categories including Best Chef, Best Young Chef, Best Restaurant, Best Front of House, Best Takeaway and Best Newcomer.

You can nominate your favourite restaurant on the website

A quota of votes will then be calculated at the close of entries to create a shortlist of restaurants county by county. A panel of expert judges including food writers and editors from broadcast and leading newspapers will select the winners.

An awards ceremony will be held in Belfast on October 24th. Mr Askir, who has ruled himself out of the competition, is urging people across the Republic of Ireland in Northern Ireland to vote as soon as possible.

All profits will go to The Children’s Heartbeat Trust. Please enjoy Cobra responsibly. Visit or for the facts.

NI’s Only Mainland Puffin Colony Arrive at  The Gobbins for the New Season

NI’s Only Mainland Puffin Colony Arrive at The Gobbins for the New Season

A dash of vibrant colour has returned to the shores of Northern Ireland recently and we’re not referring to the brief, yet welcomed, outbreaks of sunshine and warmth we have been experiencing. The Gobbins, a dramatic cliff path walk located on the magnificent Causeway Coastal Route in Islandmagee, is home to Northern Ireland’s only mainland colony of Puffins.

Receiving a welcomed return to our shores for breeding season, the brightly-coloured bird colony dig burrows into the Islandmagee cliffs to lay their eggs and are expected to stay put until mid-August.

These delightful little birds, which are slightly smaller than a pigeon, are some of the hardiest birds that breed on our shores.  Fledging the nest between 38-45 days after being abandoned by their parents, the chicks have to take a leap of faith from their nests burrowed high into the cliff face and into the sea below.

After this momentous leap in their young lives, the chicks then disperse throughout the North Sea and Eastern Atlantic; some may even reach the Grand Banks located off Newfoundland or the Mediterranean. Here they will remain for 4-5 years to mature before returning to The Gobbins to take their place in the approximately 60-strong colony.

The Gobbins is the only attraction in mainland Northern Ireland where visitors flock to avail of this unique opportunity and catch a glimpse of the dazzling Puffin which typically nests in burrows on offshore islands or the crevices of out-of-sight coastal cliffs.

Speaking of the Puffins’ highly anticipated return, George McGrand, resident Tour Guide at The Gobbins, said:

“It’s tremendous to once again have the wonderfully coloured Puffins return to The Gobbins cliff path after such a long winter wait. The first Puffin to return was sighted on April 15th which was right on the expected arrival date. It’s now June and we are delighted to see that the full colony has now returned. Now we wait patiently with bated breath to catch a glimpse of the first chicks of the breeding season which are expected later this month.”

A location immersed with rich biodiversity, The Gobbins is an area of special scientific interest attracting many breeding sea birds for its high cliffs, abundance of concealed ledges perched safely above rising tides and bounteous population of fish for feeding.

To celebrate biodiversity of The Gobbins, in particular, the vibrant colony of Puffins that make the return journey to the site year after year, The Gobbins’ Visitor Centre will soon be introducing its latest team member, and playful mascot, Paddy the Puffin. Along with the resident team, Paddy the Puffin will be on hand to ensure visitors to the unique tourist attraction have a memorable, and educational, experience.

For more information on the biodiversity of The Gobbins or to book a tour, contact the Visitor Centre on 028 9337 2318 or visit



Hollah Preserving offers a growing selection of tantalisingly peculiar condiments toying with the taste buds of Northern Ireland. It is the entrepreneurial spark of Paula Latuske and Trudy Hodkinson, two stay at home mum from Moira, County Down, and is one of only 20 companies in Northern Ireland to be accepted onto Invest NI’s growth and export initiative, the Propel Programme.

Taking a hiatus from the hustle and bustle of corporate life to focus on their young, growing families, the women were keen to make their triumphant return to employment – but on their own terms.

The two neighbours channelled their energies, and newly found free time, into developing a recognisable and relatable brand of chutneys, relishes and sauces to market in their local area.

Initially setting up shop in their kitchens, the duo was quickly met by high demand for their range of quirky condiments, all containing Hollah Preserving’s signature chilli kick.

In October 2014 Hollah Preserving Limited officially opened for business and to date have secured in excess of 70 retail stockists, over 20 bars, restaurants and cafes, and established crucial distribution channels with Henderson’s Foodservice and Musgrave NI, where the Hollah range will be available through Supervalu stores. The businesswomen have since expanded the production of their range with the help of a local manufacturer.

Speaking of the business’ humble beginnings, Paula Latuske, Hollah Preserving Co-founder, said:

“It’s strange to think it all began one morning as myself and Trudy waved goodbye to our girls as they were heading to school. We then had some free time and we both wanted to get back into meaningful employment. We had a passion for exploring new tastes and decided to channel this into making our own homemade range of condiments. Hollah Preserving has grown year on year ever since.”

Hollah Preserving’s inventive product range includes ‘Bucky BBQ Sauce’, a sauce infused with Buckfast Tonic Wine, ‘Chilli Strawberry & Prosecco’ and ‘Vodka & Cranberry’ chutney.

Trudy Hodkinson, Hollah Preserving Co-founder and neighbour to business partner Paula, added:

“Being accepted onto the Invest NI Propel Programme is a huge boost for us. The £20K investment, ten months of dedicated mentoring and business support will help us increase exports of the Hollah range. To coincide NI’s Year of Food and Drink we have been collaborating with other local businesses, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and have recently begun supplying Fortnum and Mason in London.”

Run by Invest NI, Propel is a programme for those entrepreneurs who have the greatest potential to start up and scale an export focused company, that is innovative and has the potential to become a significant exporter and employer.

The businesswomen have since been accepted on to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s Food & Drink Programme. Developed with business growth in mind, the programme provides eligible businesses based in the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council areas with tailored mentoring and business support from a dedicated team within the food and drink sector.

For more information on the Hollah Preserving product range, visit