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Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

Council ‘Serves Up’ Grant Funding for Local Portadown Café

With grant funding over £8,000 from council’s Covid-19 Revitalisation and Recovery Grant Scheme, Portadown café Unch has been able to purchase new furniture and equipment to help maintain a Covid secure environment for their staff and customers as well as increase their capacity and introduce a new operating model.

Portadown sandwich and coffee house, Unch, gets a boost of over £8,000 funding from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough (ABC) Council’s Covid-19 Revitalisation and Recovery Grant Scheme.

Led by ABC Council, in conjunction with the Department for Communities and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the grant scheme launched last summer and offered local businesses the opportunity to apply for financial assistance of up to £20,000 to address some of the operational challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Securing the grant in October 2020, the Portadown eatery purchased new tables, chairs, an outdoor awning and café barriers as well as sanitiser stations, a laptop and printer – not only helping the business maintain a Covid secure environment for employees and customers but also enhancing their capacity to serve customers and introduce a new suitable operating model.

With their new laptop and printer, Unch has developed a new online ordering system, including contactless ordering and payment for food and drink; their new furniture has enabled them to utilise both indoor and outdoor space, increasing their capacity to cater for customers in a Covid safe, comfortable and welcoming environment.

“I am delighted to see the tangible benefits council’s Covid-19 Revitalisation and Recovery Grant Scheme is making to the borough’s business community,” commented Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Glenn Barr.

He continued: “Adding real value to Unch, the introduction of these new Covid secure measures and equipment goes a long way in helping the business adjust and adapt to the needs of their customers while continuing to operate within the current guidelines – ultimately supporting their long term survival and growth.”

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said:

“My Department introduced the Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Programme to support the recovery of our towns and city centres post pandemic. Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has received over £2.2 million through this programme.

“I am delighted to see that these grants are supporting local businesses, helping to breathe life back into our towns and city centres and ultimately keep them safe, alive and prosperous.”

Based on the Portadown high street and at the Carn Industrial Estate, Unch offers a range of sandwiches and drinks, accommodating both sit and take away options.

Joanne Gillespie from Unch said:

“The health and wellbeing of our staff and customers is paramount to us at Unch. Having received the funding through council’s Covid-19 Revitalisation and Recovery Grant Scheme we’ve been able to continue trading and working in a safe and welcoming environment.”

Receiving 1,000 applications, the Covid-19 Revitalisation and Recovery Grant Scheme has invested over £1.1 million into local rural and urban businesses to date – awarding 125 grants to help fund projects and equipment to support safe trading and social distancing requirements.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Praises Careers Inspiration Event For Year 9 Pupils

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Paul Greenfield attended the 4C UR Future LIVE event in South Lake Leisure Centre on June 13, 2022.

The organisers of the event, 4C UR Future, is an industry-led social enterprise that aims to empower young people to make better informed decisions about their education pathway and future careers.

Five schools from around the borough attended the LIVE event, giving students from Banbridge Academy, Banbridge High School, Brownlow Integrated College, St John the Baptist College and St Ronan’s College a chance to experience the interactive game zones.

Founded by engineer and business leader Rose Mary Stalker, 4C UR Future works with over 80 local employers to create an exciting, action-packed day that enables students to identify their own strengths and interests, relative to those that are in demand by different sectors.

“4C UR Future LIVE was designed from the very beginning to be at-scale and to be inclusive, with as many businesses and sectors as possible represented throughout.

“We’re encouraging young people, before they make their GCSE choices, to look at the vast range of companies working in Northern Ireland today, look at the wide range of sectors, and by playing games explore their own strengths and attributes.”

The 4C UR Future LIVE events are a departure from typical employment and careers seminars and instead embrace a more interactive, hands-on approach. Pupils have the opportunity to participate in an exciting range of skills games and work-based activities, each of which is co-designed with and facilitated by local employers. 

“Some games they will like, some games they will dislike, some they’ll find easy and some they’ll find hard,” explained Rose Mary, adding: “It is important that they try out the games and as a result will have a better understanding of their own aptitudes and capabilities, and how that relates to what they might like to do in the future.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Paul Greenfield said it was “fantastic” to see the venue filled with students from the borough and the vast range of businesses represented from around the area.

He said, “In this day and age, it’s all about interaction with the children and certainly this morning’s event is absolutely fantastic to give them information to help them make the right career choices and choose the right path for them. 

“As we see new sectors emerging in our economy, it’s really important that kids are given information to help them make informed choices as they head forward in their future career.”

The unique format of the 4C UR Future LIVE events not only focus on Year 9 pupils, but also on the wide range of companies who help to facilitate the games and activities, offering young people an insight into the wide range of sectors and different roles available. 

“I think it is absolutely fantastic that companies do get involved. We have a massive amount of businesses across our borough and it’s essential that they do come to these events and that young people see what’s out there” said the Lord Mayor, adding: “Sometimes we don’t realise what’s on our doorstep, what type of businesses there are, how they affect the global market. It really is great to see how the kids are getting involved and thinking about something they may never have thought about before.”

The activities are varied and cover multiple sectors, giving students the opportunity to discover and develop an insight into potential careers they may not have previously considered.

4C UR Future Managing Director, Rachel Doherty, is keen to get the message across, that it is crucial to reach students at the right age and raise their awareness to help them navigate the complex careers landscape.

“Through 4C UR Future LIVE events and our first-generation CAREERS PORTAL, which is launching in September, we aim to inform young people of the wide range of opportunities available to them, help them navigate the complex careers landscape, and inspire them to achieve their ambitions and become the best version of themselves.”

On how these events are different from traditional careers fairs, Rachel said: “It’s the energy. It’s the buzz. There’s live music, it’s fast paced, the pupils are engaged and playing games. They’re finding out what they’re good at, there’s a little healthy competition, and they’re supporting each other. 

Almost 700 students from five local schools attended the careers inspiration event, accompanied by teachers and school staff members, who praised the event.

The participatory nature promised an engaging experience for the students, giving them a break from the usual classroom learning and a chance to consider their future career paths in an interactive manner. 

“They’re not just sitting in a room and listening to things,” said Sinead McCartan, Home Economics Teacher from St John the Baptist College, adding: “They’re moving around and doing things.”

The event and the information about different industries that it provides students with, has prompted students to consider different career paths, said Miss McCartan. 

“Some are saying, ‘I’ve never thought about working in the food industry’,” she said. “The information about different industries has been fantastic.”   

David Adams, Head of PE at Banbridge High School, highlighted the positive impact that 4C UR Future’s alternative approach to the usual career fair has had on his students.

“Normally they’re lethargic because they’re coming to the end of term, but here they’re buzzing. You can see within the groups there will be a few team leaders in years to come. Some pupils are very hands on and some have really taken to the tasks.” 

With the job market constantly changing as society develops and becomes increasingly more digitalised, it is vitally important that schools and industries work together to ensure that students are well-informed of the career opportunities available to them. 

This is a sentiment echoed by Brian Doran, Chief Executive of Southern Regional College, who praised 4C UR Future for enabling students to interact with employees from various companies across the country. 

“I think the one message I’ve picked up on over the last few years is that a job isn’t for life,” said Mr Doran, adding: “Young people are going to move from job to job. The role of industry is instrumental in this.”

Mr Doran agreed that events like 4C UR Future would help to create relationships between schools and businesses, to allow young people to stay informed about and connected with the world of work. 

“One of the strengths of events like this is that companies can better inform young people about their prospects,” he said. 

With the impact of the pandemic still making itself known in an already highly competitive job market, it has never been as important for students to have opportunities to develop skills that are highly sought after in the workplace. The 4C UR Future event gave students the power to interact with employers from various sectors, giving them an insight into the roles and responsibilities of different careers. 

4C UR Future is running a calendar of LIVE events in different councils across Northern Ireland during the month of June. The full schedule can be found on 4C UR Future’s website. 

To find out more, or if you’d like to get involved, visit or email

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Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

Local Makeup Artist Celebrates New Studio With Empowering Event

County Armagh professional Makeup Artist Aisling O’Connor hosted an afternoon to remember at the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown to celebrate the launch of her new Dream Beauty Studio.

The all-female event, ‘Look Good, Feel Fabulous’, took place on November 14 and showcased empowering motivational speakers, a Fashion show featuring local boutiques, a live makeup demo, a cocktail reception and afternoon tea.

During lockdown, Aisling hosted a “Makeup and Mindset” Zoom makeup tutorial alongside guest speaker Claire O’Hanlon which focused on strengthening the mindset – something Aisling based her own event on. 

Launching her own business in 2018, with a website and new branding launched 2020 before the pandemic began.

Aisling spent the majority of lockdown developing her brand and then launched her custom beauty space, Dream Beauty Studio in September 2021.

Aisling said: “The main concept underpinning my business is that of ‘The Lipstick Effect’, the psychological phenomenon where putting on your makeup is proven to increase self confidence, and boost self esteem.

“I just love what I do and love empowering women to feel better about themselves.” 

The mum-of-three is a strong advocate of encouraging women to use makeup as a powerful tool to enhance self-confidence which was the inspiration behind her in-person event.

“My main goal was to get a room full of women and have them leave that afternoon feeling uplifted, encouraged and above all, realising that it’s ok, and in fact of extreme importance, to put themselves first every once in a while.” she said.

The sellout event featured an impressive lineup of inspiring speakers including Life Coach Michelle McAuley, personal stylist Samara of Evolve By Samara and fashion blogger Caroline Currie of ‘Principal of Fashion’ who hosted the uplifting masterclass. 

Besides giving confidence, on the day £1000 was raised through raffle prizes for Little Forget Me Nots Trust, a local charity dedicated to helping families cope with child loss.

“I advocate strongly supporting local and female owned businesses. I believe in empowering others, which is what sets Dream Beauty apart. It’s more than just makeup, it’s all about leaving you feeling like you on a really good day.”

Currently, Dream Beauty studio offers a variety of beauty and cosmetic treatments including makeup, brows, nails, lashes, sugaring, tanning and massages and the studio is also big enough to offer group workshops and lessons.

To book a visit to the Dream Beauty Studio go to or Follow @Dreambeautybyaoc on Facebook and Instagram.

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