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14 Family Friendly Events At SOMA Festival 2018

Held annually in Castlewellan and the surrounding area, the SOMA Festival includes live music events, creative writing workshops, walking tours, and more. Taking place from July 18-22, this year’s festival includes a range of family friendly events to entertain kids big and small.

Festival Director Tiona McSherry said: “Thousands are expected to flock to the district to be entertained by top notch musicians, crafters, and artisans. As well as the amazing entertainment, visitors should take the opportunity to taste the fabulous local cuisine and take in the breath-taking beauty of the area.”

“With families in mind, our programme is full of delights, festival favourites, and exciting new additions. July 2018 promises more music, magic, and madness than ever before for this, the sixth year of the SOMA Festival.”

Here are 14 family friendly events worth checking out:

1. The Singing Tree, July 21, Maginn’s, 11am – 3pm

Following on from the huge success of last year’s Singing Tree event, a fabulous set of singers will lead this beautiful gathering of traditional singing and show of appreciation for an enduring Irish art form. Come along, prick up your ears, and tune up your vocal chords for an unforgettable singing experience. Ticket price includes tea, coffee, and cake.
Tickets: £5

2. Natural Voice Workshop, July 20, The Lodge, 3pm

Voice of Lecale Choir Director and Natural Voice Tutor, Laura Plummer, offers this fun voice workshop, open to all. Come along and enjoy everyone singing together!
Tickets: £5

3. BEATnDRUM, July 20, Lower Square, 9pm

BEATnDRUM brings dancefloor anarchy to the streets of Castlewellan! This tight-knit crew of over 30 performers take to the streets with their audience, encouraging spontaneous and uncontrollable dancing, jigging, and moshing to their funky Afro Brazilian and Cuban rhythms. Tickets: Free

4. SOMA Body n Soul Drum Circle, July 21, The Lodge, 3.45pm

Promoting health and wellness, with a focus on both traditional and contemporary practices, SOMA Body & Soul provides the perfect space for individuals and families to try something new. Make some “in the moment” music with interactive drums and percussion – fun for all the family.
Tickets: Free

5. SOMA Body n Soul Theraputic Art Workshop, July 21 & 22, The Lodge, 11am – 5pm

Lisburn-based Community Artist, Shirley Brown-Camblin, delivers a personal development workshop promoting mindfulness and positive thinking through art and creative play. Suitable for adults and children, everyone can enjoy the workshops, which run continuously throughout Saturday and Sunday. Children aged 12+ will have the chance to make their own piece of Affirmation Art using MDF wood and acrylics.
Tickets: £5

6. SOMA Artisan Market, July 21-22, Upper Square

The SOMA market is back! Celebrating the finest of local produce and crafts, with live entertainment all day, come along to meet the unique creators, makers, designers, producers, musicians, artists, and crafters. Held from 11am to 7pm on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd July.

7. Magnus Vikings, July 21 (11am – 5pm) & July 22 (12pm – 5pm), Lower Square

This July, prepare to experience Castlewellan as never before, as the Lower Square is transported back through the millennia to the mystical time of Ancient Irish myths and legend. Take a stand on the Celtic war chariot, see Manannan Mac Lir’s magical boat, grasp a Celtic shield, watch warriors engage in battle, and explore the living history village while hearing a wise storyteller impart the myths of old Ireland.
Tickets: Free

8. Creative Writing Workshop, July 20, Castlewellan Library, 11am – 12.15pm

This fun children’s workshop, organised by acclaimed children’s author, Paula Matthews, is for 7-11 year olds who will be encouraged and inspired to produce imaginative stories on the Big Summer Read theme of Sea to Shore.
Tickets: £5

9. Writing for the Stage Workshop, July 20, Castlewellan Library, 11am – 3pm

Delivered by Catherine Kelly, a teacher and writer who has produced plays for radio as well as a student performance at the Lyric Theatre, learn about playwriting through a practical session that includes writing, reading and discussion. Consider what makes plays different to other genres and explore key aspects such as story, character, and dialogue. Open to all ages, bring pens and paper!
Tickets: £10

10. Time and Place Creative Writing Workshop, July 20, Castlewellan Library, 11am – 3pm

How do you transport your readers to places and times that feel real, using only words? Join multi-award winning novelist, Sheena Wilkinson, for a lively and interactive workshop that will help you make your words jump off the page and lodge in your reader’s heart.
Tickets: £10

11. Potatoes and Oats in Irish Agriculture, July 20, Maginn’s, 3pm – 4.30pm

Our landscape, culture and history are intimately linked with the production of these two staple food crops. Liam Corry, Curator of National Museums Northern Ireland, will give this absorbing talk about the significance of potatoes and oats in Irish agriculture.
Tickets: Free

12. Children’s Art Workshop, July 22, The Fish Bowl, 4.30pm

This special Art Workshop, curated by Newcastle Comhaltas, offers children the opportunity to create works of art to be included in the Ulster Fleadh parade taking place in Castlewellan on Saturday, 28th July.
Tickets: Free

13. Children’s Drama Workshop, July 21, The Fish Bowl, 12pm – 1.30pm

A drama workshop for kids with music, dance and art, based on An Dream Dearg’s campaign.
Tickets: Free

14. Designing Dragons Children’s Workshop, July 21, The Fish Bowl, 2pm

Join author, Maire Zepf, and illustrator, Andrew Whitson, for a story-making workshop all about dragons. Hear Maire read ‘Rita agus an Dragun’ and watch Andrew draw the dragon from the story, before going on a creative and imaginative journey of your own. Bilingual workshop for children aged 7+.
Tickets: Free

Running from July 18-22 across Castlewellan in Co Down The SOMA Festival is an annual festival full of concerts, workshops, art exhibitions, storytelling, poetry, health & wellbeing fair and various family events across the week.

For more information and details of the full festival line-up go to or follow #SOMAFest18 on social media.

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Travel & Tourism

Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent Crowned at 2021 Balmoral Show

The Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent at the 2021 Balmoral Show was won by Caroline Martin from Tempo and Robert Wallace from Ballynahinch. Flower Wall kindly provided by the Blossom Lane Co, Hillsborough.

The Most Appropriately Dressed competition returned this year to the Balmoral Show and once again it proved to be a hit with visitors, with a record number of entries.

Taking place on Saturday 25th September, Cool FM’s Melissa Riddell had the difficult task of judging the Most Appropriately Dressed Lady and Gent. A range of fabulous prizes were on offer, with the overall winners of each category receiving a stylish country outfit provided by title competition sponsor Dubarry of Ireland as well as a luxury two night stay with B&B and one evening meal provided by Ireland’s Blue Book.

This year’s Most Appropriately Dressed Lady was won by Caroline Martin from Tempo while Robert Wallace from Ballynahinch was crowned the Most Appropriately Dressed Gent. Runner-up winners were Ellen Deery from Dundalk and Alan Martin from Hertfordshire.

On the day, the Flower Wall was kindly provided by the Blossom Lane Co, Hillsborough.

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Travel & Tourism

Tourism NI Equips Industry for Incentive Travel Excellence

Front (l to r): Kim Smart, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Hannah Watson, Larchfield Estate, Michael Dalton, SITE Ireland Chapter, Joanne Taylor, Tourism NI, Charlene Lourens-Griffiths, Visit Derry, Naomi Wilson, Clayton Hotel Belfast and Caitriona Lavery, Hastings Hotels. Back (l to r): Caroline Wilson, Taste & Tour, Ashleigh Hamilton, Killeavey Castle, Jennifer Michael, National Trust Giant's Causeway, Jamese McCloy, Glenshane Country Farm, Terry Kelly, Killeavey Castle, Kellie-Anne Small, Hilton Hotel Belfast, Judy Hutton, Linen Mill Studios, Jonathan Campbell, Titanic Belfast and Stephanie Sheerin, Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast.

Tourism NI and The Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Ireland have joined forces to deliver an educational initiative to support the tourism industry here as it continues to recover and rebuild, and with the aim of securing business from high value tourism markets.

The Certified Incentive Specialist qualification from SITE is the first stage of a programme of activity designed to further develop the incentive tourism industry in Northern Ireland, provide networking and destination awareness opportunities, as well as equip businesses with the knowledge to deliver motivational travel experiences for future clients.

Participants included Glenshane Country Farm, Titanic Belfast, Larchfield Estate, Hilton Hotel Belfast, Linen Mill Studios, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, National Trust Giant’s Causeway, Taste & Tour, Clayton Hotel Belfast, Visit Derry, Hastings Hotels, Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast and Killeavey Castle.

The partnership agreement between Tourism NI and SITE Ireland first launched in 2020 and has been extended to 2022 due to demand.

Eimear Callaghan, Business Solutions Manager at Tourism NI commented:

“We are pleased to announce the continuation of our valued partnership with SITE Ireland. This is a very challenging time for the tourism industry and our relationship with SITE offers opportunities on a global platform to promote Northern Ireland as a world class Incentive Travel destination to international clients looking for new programmes from the island of Ireland. Incentive Travel is focused on amazing experiences and through Northern Ireland Embrace a Giant Spirit, we have a range of immersive experiences well suited to this market.”

She added: “At Tourism NI, we continue to work with a range of key strategic stakeholders to position Northern Ireland as a destination of choice for MICE (Meetings, Incentive, Conferences and Exhibitions). This business is lucrative, with the average MICE delegate worth on average three times that of the leisure visitor.

“I congratulate the 15 industry representatives who successfully completed their CIS certification, and we look forward to delivering further opportunities for our industry together with SITE Ireland.”

Front (l to r): Michael Dalton, SITE Ireland Chapter, Charlene Lourens-Griffiths, Visit Derry, Joanne Taylor, Tourism NI and Caitriona Lavery, Hastings Hotels. Middle (l to r): Caroline Wilson, Taste & Tour, Naomi Wilson, Clayton Hotel Belfast, Hannah Watson, Larchfield Estate, Ashleigh Hamilton, Killeavey Castle, Kim Smart, Hillsborough Castle and Stephanie Sheerin, Fitzwilliam Hotel. Back (l to r): Jamese McCloy, Glenshane Country Farm, Terry Kelly, Killeavey Castle, Judy Hutton, Linen Mill Studios, Jennifer Michael, National Trust Giant’s Causeway, Jonathan Campbell, Titanic Belfast and Kellie-Anne Small, Hilton Hotel Belfast.

Michael Dalton, Immediate Past President, SITE Ireland, added:

“SITE Ireland is extremely grateful for the commitment of Tourism Northern Ireland to the professional development of the industry in the Incentive Sector. The Incentive Travel Industry is very niche and can be hard to grasp. The Certified Incentive Specialist Course provides all the knowledge anyone working in this sector should possess.

“It is the most lucrative segment and highest spend of all Business Tourism. Great to now have 30 Certified Incentive Specialists in Northern Ireland. This is sure to provide clients with the confidence of a destination that delivers exceptional incentive experiences, understands the value of incentive travel and is 100% incentive ready.”

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