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Mid and East Antrim

Changing Children’s Lives Through the Wonder of Play

Play therapy and creativity are making big differences to little people’s mental health and wellbeing, thanks to the work of a not-for-profit social enterprise spearheaded by Ballymena woman, Eileen Russell.

Eileen has thanked Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for its support at every step of her business journey, and recently invited Mayor, Councillor William McCaughey, to the company’s premises in Kells.

With 15 years of public sector experience under her belt, Eileen set up WayMaker Child Therapy C.I.C. in 2019.

Since then, the ever-increasing pressures and child mental health waiting lists across Northern Ireland have only further cemented her commitment that every child should have access to highly qualified help when they need it, regardless of a family’s financial situation.

To support the growth of the business, Council’s Business Escalator Plus Programme initially provided expert mentoring to assist with web and ecommerce development.

This unlocked a wider pathway of supports, which included the InnovateUs Programme to develop a Virtual Learning Environment online, delivered by South West Regional College’s InnoTech Centre, and funded by the Department for the Economy.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, said:

“I was delighted to meet Eileen and the WayMaker Child Therapy team to hear how their work is making a real difference to children and families all over Northern Ireland.

“Eileen spoke very highly of the business and mentoring support she has received from Council, and it was fantastic to see the results of that in such a successful and important social enterprise.

“I would encourage all businesses, and even any individual who is just thinking about starting out on their own, to find out what help they can avail of through Council’s Economic Development Team at

Eileen added:

“From the first step, I have felt very supported throughout my business journey by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

“The council’s Business Client Manager, Ally McGarry, keeps in touch regularly to share opportunities that are relevant to the business. As he has developed an in-depth knowledge of our business, he can advise and provide wrap-around support to keep us moving forward.

“I am very thankful for all their support and expertise and look forward to continuing my journey. If you are a business in the Mid and East Antrim area, please get in touch and let their expertise help your business think strategically to develop and grow.”

Mid and East Antrim

Support your Local Craftspeople this Christmas

Support our local #MEArtists and craftspeople this Christmas  – that’s the message from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council as the Borough prepares for the busy Christmas shopping period in the weeks ahead.

Following a motion which was brought to Council by Alderman Audrey Wales MBE, Council is encouraging shoppers to consider purchasing handmade arts and craft produce as gifts for friends and family this year.

Alderman Wales said: “In Mid and East Antrim we are blessed with a wonderful array of exceptionally talented artists and craftspeople, each producing exquisite, artisan crafts and produce.

“Their wares make for the most thoughtful gifts for any occasion – be it a special ‘piece of home’ for friends or family living abroad, or simply a beautiful display of intricate craftmanship, often using materials sourced from across the Borough.

“Our local artists and craftspeople are crucial to the culture and heritage of Mid and East Antrim and, as they continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic, we are encouraging local shoppers this Christmas to show their support by giving the gift of local craft,” she continued.

“Council, too, remains strongly committed to doing everything we possibly can to support our local artists and craftspeople, and to encouraging a thriving arts scene in Mid and East Antrim.”

The work of several local craftspeople is exhibited and available to purchase in the Visitor Information Centre at Council’s Ballymena headquarters at The Braid, including:

  • Vera McCullough Jewellery – bespoke jewellery inspired by Slemish Mountain, the surrounding Antrim Hills and the lush Northern Irish countryside. Vera was commissioned to design a brooch and cufflinks to be presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Mid and East Antrim in 2019.
  • WB Woodcraft –items crafted from local, exotic and reclaimed wood and materialsThe range includes birdhouses and feeders, fairy doors and houses, wooden bells, Christmas decorations and postboxes.
  • Lucy Craig Textiles – heritage items such as letters, photographs and other memorabilia preserved onto textiles and combined with hand embroidery to enhance and personalise the work.
  • Country Slate Gifts –unique handmade slate gifts for the home and garden, all of which can be tailored to specific customer requirements.
  • Precious Pebble Art – custom made art and gifts for every occasion, made using local pebbles collected from the North Coast.

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Mid and East Antrim

Carrickfergus Castle Children’s Book Depicts its History through the Eyes of a Child

A Carrickfergus grandfather’s adventures with his grandson have inspired the release of a new book called ‘Danny’s Visit to Carrickfergus Castle’.

Bob Harper, from the town, has written the book after many visits to the castle with his grandson prompted questions about its history.

The book details interesting facts and also is beautifully illustrated by Bob.

It takes children on a journey through the castle allowing them to learn as they go.

Speaking about its launch, Bob said he wanted to depict the history of the castle through a child’s eyes and make it an easy, enjoyable learning experience.

“I enjoy many adventures with my grandson around Carrickfergus which is steeped in history, none more so than the stunning Carrickfergus Castle,” Bob said.

“I wanted to create a book for children that would make it enjoyable for them to learn and give them facts that they would always remember.”

The book talks about how Carrickfergus was named after the Rock of Fergus and about the famous knight, John de Courcy, who built the majestic castle which proudly sits on Belfast Lough.

Alderman Billy Ashe MBE congratulated Bob on the publication said it was an “excellent concept for a story and a great way to educate our children on the history of the borough”.

“We are always trying to promote civic engagement for our younger generation and this book is a perfect way to do that,” he added.

‘Danny’s Visit to Carrickfergus Castle’ will be available for purchase in Visitor Centres across the borough at a cost of £5.

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