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Derry City & Strabane

Mayor Congratulates Local Winners of My NI Climate Heroes

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, has congratulated a local family after they won the My NI Climate Heroes competition for their efforts in helping the environment.

After an online poll where the public had to vote for their favourite Climate Hero, mother and son, Aine and John Kivlehan, emerged victorious and will receive a National Trust voucher to the value of £150.

Aine and John began growing their own food this year after signing up to the National Lottery funded Acorn Farm ‘I can grow’ project which involves 250 local families being mentored by a horticulturalist in growing their own fruit and vegetables over an 18 month period. Participants have received raised beds, seedlings and guidance on how to nurture their plants. The project is delivered by the Community Foundation NI in partnership with The Conservation Volunteers and Co​uncil.

Mayor Warke congratulated the pair, saying, “It fills me with pride to see a local family like the Kivlehans doing their bit for the environment and turning their hand to growing their own food.

“Not only is this a lovely bonding activity for families, but it saves money and helps our environment too, reducing our reliance on importing fruit and vegetables from farther afield. This helps cut carbon emissions and eases the pressures on nature.

“One of the positive things about the pandemic is how it has prompted people to connect to nature and start thinking about the journey of food and how we can become more self-sufficient and sustainable.

“I’d like to commend all those involved in these types of initiatives, particularly the team behind the Acorn Farm ‘I can grow’ project which will continue to have huge benefits for families across our District.”

Acorn Farmer, Aine Kivlehan, said: “We’ve never won anything before, so this is a lovely surprise!

“It’s incredibly satisfying eating a meal with ingredients grown in your garden. My son John really enjoys it too and we both find it’s a great way to relax.

“I’m hoping to set up a little gardening club for some local children in the coming months to pass on some of the lessons we’ve learned as part of the wonderful Acorn Farm ‘I can grow’ project. We are just so delighted to be part of this and to be given the opportunity to do something so positive for our environment.”

As a Primary 1 Teacher and mum of an energetic 9-year-old, Aine has a great grasp of the positive impact that growing your own can have on children and family life.

Having done a little bit of growing in the past, Aine was so excited to see the Acorn Farm ‘I can grow’ project’s call out for interest to people in the Derry City and Strabane District area and signed up to be part of it. Since then, Aine and her son John have really embraced growing together – reusing old wiring and containers to nurture their very own fruit and vegetables and taking great care of the seeds in the raised bed supplied by the project horticulturalist.

“John really loves checking on the veg and watering the plants and I’ve enjoyed getting some tips from the horticulturalist which I’ve passed onto friends. It’s lovely being able to lift something from your back garden and bring it into the kitchen to cook for dinner.

“It has been catching too with neighbours popping over to have a look and being inspired to give growing a go themselves.”

Aine looks forward to the time when, as a community, they can begin to come together, share produce and have little tasting sessions in each other’s gardens.

“We have to take care of our community and ‘I can grow’ is empowering us to be more self-sufficient while cutting out all the pollution involved in transporting food. We hope that it’s the start of a wider movement saving families money, helping them eat a bit healthier while caring for our environment and instilling that ethos within our children.”

Derry City & Strabane

Return of St Patrick’s Parade Plans Welcomed by Councillors

Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee approved plans for the return of the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade, after a two year break due to the pandemic.

The proposals for the on street celebration, which will go ahead subject to Covid guidance, were brought before the committee at the Guildhall, and were warmly welcomed by members.

Council’s Head of Culture, Aeidin McCarter, told members it was the next stage in the phasing in of public events and that measures will be in place to ensure the safe delivery of the programme. It follows the successful delivery of the City’s annual Halloween celebrations, which were redesigned this year with a major focus on public safety.

The Committee heard that Council’s Festival and Events team would now progress plans in partnership with the North West Carnival Initiative as part of their Service Level Agreement with Council. The parade event will involve 500 participants from throughout the city’s neighbourhood areas, with an open call and targeted engagement programmes aimed at supporting local communities.

The Parade will happen in tandem with a major outdoor event already confirmed for the City taking place over a week in mid-March. About Us, which is created by 59 Productions Collective as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, will be a large-scale public event that takes audiences on a journey through 13.8 billion years of history from the Big Bang to the present day. The live show will transform the area in and around the city centre into a vast canvas featuring bespoke animations, cutting-edge projection mapping live shows and multimedia installations with animation, poetry, original music and live performance. More information can be found by visiting

Welcoming the plans, Chair of the Business and Culture Committee, Councillor Conor Heaney, said it would be a major boost for local businesses. “If we look back at 2019, St Patrick’s was the first major event to be postponed due to the pandemic and I think people then began to realise the seriousness of the situation. The tragic events as they were unfolding around the world had reached our shores, and local businesses and Council responded swiftly to protect the public, with the postponement of the Spring Carnival and the closure of local venues. Looking back no one could have imagined that we would still be impacted by Covid19 as we near the end of 2021.

“Those same businesses will be delighted to see the return of our annual events programme, and to see two major events running in tandem throughout the week of St Patrick’s is an additional bonus and very positive news for the local economy. I am confident following the successful delivery of our Halloween celebrations last weekend that safety will be prioritised and that this event can be delivered safely and responsibly in an outdoor setting. I look more to hearing more about the programme as the details are finalised in the coming weeks and months.”

The Committee were reassured that About Us would complement the Spring Carnival events, and would not affect the main parade route through the City Centre. Members approved the allocation of £106,000 for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, £30,000 of which will go towards festivities in Strabane.

Later in the meeting the Committee also approved the wider Festival and Events programme for 2022, which features several milestone events, including the Illuminating the Walled City project in February, the innovative Our Place in Space trail in April designed by Oliver Jeffers as part of UNBOXED, the City of Derry Jazz Festival in May, Summer Jamm in June and the Foyle Maritime Festival in July.

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Derry City & Strabane

Kickstart IT Course to Give Students the Edge in the Software Industry

Local IT companies are partnering with Council and the North West Regional College to boost employment opportunities within the software industry through a special fast track course beginning in the New Year.

The Kickstart IT course, which is funded by the Department for the Economy, is a 16 week, industry led course aimed at students at HNC/D level and above. Participants will benefit from specialist training to enable them to successfully apply for IT software roles.

The full time course will begin on January 10th, and offers students a placement of at least four weeks with a local software company and a guaranteed job interview at the end with participating companies.

Head of Business with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Kevin O’Connor, said the course would offer students the chance to get the competitive edge in the local job market.

“We are delighted to be working with the North West Regional College and local IT companies to provide a specially tailored course which will that will help address a shortage of computer programmers in our region.

“The course has employability sessions integrated into it which aim to enhance the candidates’ personal development to give the best possible chance during the job application process.

“These include assistance with completing the application form, advice on improving interview skills, mock interview feedback and help with delivering presentations. These are skills that participants can use regardless of whether or not they choose to pursue a career in IT at the end of the course.”

Candidates must be fully available for the entire duration of the training schedule which will delivered through a blended approach of classroom and online learning. Successful students will gain qualifications in ISTQB Foundation Certificate in Software Testing, a City and Guilds Diploma for Software Developers and a City and Guilds Certificate of Unit Credit in relation to SQL module.

Lecturer in Computing at North West Regional College, Kevin McLaughlin, revealed that, despite the short nature of the course, students will learn a wide range of programming functions.

“This software fundamentals course will allow students with no background in IT to quickly learn a range of skills and programming languages that they can put into practise in the workplace,” he said.

“It includes Java, SQL and UX Fundamentals modules as well as software testing and design.

“The local software industry is a growing one, particularly in the current climate, and the successful completion of this course can leave candidates strongly equipped to successfully gain employment and thrive in it.”

For an application packs Contact Eileen McGrinder on  07595216249 or by email  Applications must be submitted by November 19th.

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