A new £1m cycling and walking route is to be constructed in Strabane.

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee approved the project on Thursday.

The project will see the district connected with Buncrana, Lifford and Muff

It will involve a 3.5km route connecting the A5, Derry Road, Canal Basin, River Mourne Flood Wall and Strabane Retail Park.

The project is being funded by Stormont departments, the Irish government and the Special EU Programmes Body.

Jonathan Henderson, Programme Manager for the North West Greenway Network, said it is “fantastic that planning has now been approved”.

“Council will now proceed to appoint a construction company with the aim of completing the project this year.”

The council says the project is a ‘key aspect’ of the Strabane-Lifford greenway which will help connect the district with Buncrana, Lifford and Muff in County Donegal.

Councillor Christopher Jackson, chair of the council’s planning committee said: “The completed project will offer cyclists and walkers a wider, safer and more user friendly experience and can play a key role in encouraging the public to get out into the fresh air and reap the health and wellbeing benefits of physical activity.”

There is a growing sense of optimism among Derry City fans after Declan Devine’s return to the Brandywell hot seat yielded a fourth place League of Ireland Premier Division finish last month and with it European football for 2020.

The club were at one of their lowest ever ebbs when the former goalkeeper returned for a second spell in charge at the end of the 2018 season having narrowly avoided relegation with an eighth place finish in the ten team league.

With a limited budget, the persuasive Creggan man made some shrewd pre-season signings including UCD midfielder Greg Slockett and the return of Ramelton man Barry McNamee.

They were expected to struggle though following Aaron McEneff’s switch to Shamrock Rovers and the departure of long term custodian and club captain Gerard Doherty.

The new look side rallied however and, playing a high tempo brand of possession football, they got their fight back, conceding just 34 goals in 36 games and netting 56 with striker Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe bagging 34 goals in 34 games.

The lure of bigger wages from clubs south of the border, and indeed the Irish League, means it has been a losing battle to keep the best local players at the club and it is hard to see them challenging for a league title until they can offer local talent a competitive remuneration.

Last month’s FAI Cup Final between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk was a case in point where North West players McEneff, Danny Lafferty, Michael Duffy and Georgie Kelly all had pivitol roles.

What City can offer however is a proven gateway for younger players to move to full time football in England and Scotland and the chance to emulate the likes of James McClean, Stephen McLaughlin and Ronan Curtis.

With participation numbers strong in the Youth Leagues of Derry and Donegal and Devine’s experience in nurturing emerging young talent, a higher league position and a group stage win in Europe is within their grasp in 2020.

We’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of some of the finest things to enjoy in Derry and Strabane this festive season. Whether you’re returning from overseas or based here, we’ve got Christmas wrapped up for you.

To buy

Made Here – You’ll find beautiful creations from some of the district’s most innovative designers in Made Here on Shipquay Street, Derry-Londonderry, including In Chlomo, from Strabane’s Chloe McColgan.

Velveteen Handmade – Rachel Kelly’s beautiful embroideries – from storybook-inspired pictures to appliqued cotton purses – make excellent Christmas gifts. View her pieces at the Craft Village’s Walled City Crafters.

Little Acorns Bookstore – Jenni Doherty’s independent book shop in Derry-Londonderry’s Society Street is a treasure trove of new and old books. You’ll also find local arts and crafts, literary gifts and must-have Derry Girls mugs.

To eat

With Love Recipes – Overindulged this festive season? Strabane woman Sharron McCormick’s range of guilt-free desserts, sauces and more are a delicious, healthier way to continue the celebrations.

Dart Mountain Cheese – Julie and Kevin Hickey’s award-winning range of artisan cheeses are handcrafted in the Sperrins and include the Banagher Bold local ale washed cheese and the creamy, flavoursome Sperrin Blue.

Grainola Goddess granola – Made using upcycled spent grain from the Walled City Brewery, Grainola Goddess’ delectable range includes Bountiful Berry (with dried cranberries, apricots and cherries), Scrumptious Spice, and Gorgeous Gluten Free.

Ukulele Chocolate – This Derry-based chocolate, from husband and wife team Donal and Sinead, is organic, melt-in-the-mouth, and oh so moreish. Even better, it’s made from sustainable, planet-friendly ingredients. Guilt-free chocolate… What’s not to love?

To drink

Foyster – This creamy new oyster stout showcases our native, sought after, Lough Foyle Irish Flat Oyster. A collaboration between the LegenDerry Food and Drink Network’s Walled City Brewery and Sippy Fest, it uses leftover oyster shells to make a delicious, old-style stout with a hint of saltiness.

Quiet Man Irish Whiskey – This award-winning, Derry-Londonderry based craft whiskey is expertly distilled in small batches and the ideal tipple to relax with on a cold winter’s night.

Rough Brothers – This handmade beer is brewed in Derry-Londonderry and the product range includes pale ale and red ale. You can also try its specially created Mekong Street Beer at Mekong Street Food (and a Beer 57, for Pyke ‘N’ Pommes, is also in the pipeline).

To do

Christmas Winterland Markets – Soak up the atmosphere, meet artisan traders selling local arts and crafts, taste seasonal delights and relax over a mulled wine at these markets in Derry-Londonderry’s Guildhall Square. Dec 12th to Dec 15th.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs pantomime – Enjoy the classic fairytale with some modern local twists – and plenty of gags for the grown-ups – at the Millennium Forum from December 4th to 29th.

The Snowman and Other Christmas favourites – Join the Allegri choirs and the recently formed Orchestra North West symphony orchestra as they present The Snowman and a host of Christmas classics. The Guildhall, December 15th.

Far and Wild Adventures – Treat yourself or an adventurous loved one to a moonlight kayak tour, archery, a foodie cycling tour, boom board adventure or urban mountain biking with Derry-Londonderry’s Far and Wild Adventures. Gift vouchers are also available.

Christmas Day dips – Feeling brave? Why not unpeel yourself from the sofa (and get out of Christmas dinner duties) and take part in one of the Christmas Day charity swims taking place on beaches around the North West.

A Women in Tech-themed event and startup pitching competition have been announced as part of the upcoming Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week 2020.

The 5th March event, hosted by leading startup community and platform Startacus, will focus on the wider themes of diversity and inclusion, and aims to inspire and motivate attendees through discussions, key-note speakers, workshops, a women in tech startup pitch competition and an evening social and networking event.

The pitch competition will invite shortlisted female-led tech startups from across Ireland to the stage to pitch their businesses to a panel of industry leaders and enterprise experts. The overall winner will be announced at the evening social event and the winning startup will receive a prize package.

Alastair Cameron, Startacus co-founder, said: “As well as inspiring and empowering attendees, we see this as a great opportunity to showcase innovative startups in the local area, bring standout keynote speakers to the city, and in turn encourage more people to embark on their own entrepreneurial journeys.”

Enterprise Week 2020 runs from 2nd March to 6th March. For full programme details, go to www.derrystrabane.com/enterpriseweek

If you are interested in getting involved or sponsoring the Women in Tech event, please contact Alastair@startacus.net

North West Regional College (NWRC) has secured a huge €1.6 million of Erasmus+ funding, giving staff and students opportunities to study and work across Europe during the next 24 months.

The funding will be used for staff and students from many of the college’s curriculum areas to travel to partner countries including Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Italy and even Reunion Island, and undertake training and development programmes designed around specific curriculum, entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation and creativity.

Staff will also participate in strategic partnership projects collaborating on innovative practices for vocational training and education with a number of key European partners.

Bronagh Fikri, NWRC European and International Projects Officer, said the college was also pleased to announce its success in obtaining the Erasmus+ VET Mobility Charter. Currently held by just 14 organisations in the UK, the charter is awarded to organisations with a track record in organising and delivering high-quality mobility projects.

The €1.6 funding boost was revealed at a special event celebrating the success of the college’s Erasmus+ training mobilities and collaborations across European networks in 2018/2019.

During the event, students who have taken part in a range of different mobilities across the world received awards recognising their various achievements.

A local delegation of commercial, educational and local government leaders have attended a seminar in London to discuss the factors shaping business growth as we enter 2020.

The event, hosted by the Mayor of London’s official promotional agency, London & Partners, brought together leaders in financial and professional services and technology to debate how innovation is reshaping the business environment.

Attendees heard from a panel of specialist industry speakers including Danny Corrigan, CEO, ED&F Man Capital Markets CEEMA Ltd Cyprus, John Healy, MD, Allstate NI, and Brendan Bradley, Co-founder, Seismic Foundry.

They addressed a range of business challenges including Future Technologies and Skills, and the Global View, considering the impact of new megatrends in technology and data.

The event is the latest in a series of networking opportunities reflecting the close local links with the City of London.

Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Kelpie, headed up the delegation and said he was confident this close collaboration would continue for years to come.

He added: “We want to get across the message that the NW City Region is open for business with an exceptional offering of skills and talent that is second to none.”

The event pre-empted a special visit to Derry by a group from the City of London, led by newly vested Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman William Russell.

A Health Innovation Hub promoting innovative solutions to support living well independently has been launched at the North West Regional College (NWRC).

The Design Innovation Assisted Living Centre (DIAL) in the heart of the college’s Strand Road campus, is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and provides a space where education, business, and the health and social care sector can work together.

The state-of-the-art facility is also home to NWRC’s Academy of Enhanced Care and Clinical Skills providing flexible and bespoke learning for the professional workforce, informal carers, and the community.

Geraldine Lavery, Department Head of Health and Social Care at NWRC, said the DIAL centre will make a significant impact to the lives of local people and their carers who are facing the challenge of living independently at home.

She added: “DIAL is a health innovation hub with a focus to promote collaboration, learning and innovation so that improved practice models and solutions are developed that will support independence and a quality of life for greater numbers of people to live well at home.” 

The opening of DIAL comes with the news that NWRC has been designated as Health & Social Care ‘Curriculum Hub’ for the further education sector in Northern Ireland. As the leadership College for NI, NWRC will lead the HSC sector in curriculum development for Health & Social Care from level 1 to 5.

With a high spec home simulation centre, DIAL will operate as a demonstration centre for solutions to support independence, ranging from specialised equipment, e-health, and smart bespoke digital including Alexa and Eye Gaze. It also contains a dissemination and conference facility with leading edge video/audio capture technology, external live streaming capability, product demonstrations and regional learning networks

DIAL, which launched in November, has been developed by the college in partnership with the Department for the Economy and Connected NI. It also offers advice clinics for clients, carers and businesses, as well as live modelling of design guidelines, standards and principles (e.g. design for dementia).

A Bump Along the Way, the hit comedy drama filmed entirely in Derry-Londonderry, has continued its run of success with nominations at the prestigious British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs).

The film, which stars local actress Bronagh Gallagher as Pamela, a single mother who becomes pregnant after a one-night-stand, has received glowing reviews since its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

The BIFAs, which celebrate the best of UK independent filmmaking, named A Bump Along The Way in its shortlist for the Raindance Discovery Award. It also gave longlist breakthrough nominations to director Shelly Love, screenwriter Tess McGowan, producer (and sister of Bronagh) Louise Gallagher, and newcomer Lola Petticrew, who plays Pamela’s teenage daughter.

And while the film missed out on any gongs at the BIFAs on December 1, its trophy cabinet includes the New Talent Award (for Petticrew) and First Irish Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, and Best Feature Film at the Irish Film Festival London.

Critics, meanwhile, have described it as a “charming story” (The Irish Times) with Bronagh Gallagher “terrific” in the lead role (The Guardian).

Philadelphia native Emily McCorkell moved to Derry in 2005. After marrying a local man, relocating to Dublin, and having two children, the family were left devastated when a sudden illness struck her husband. They returned to Derry to rebuild their lives and Emily, inspired by flavours from home, began developing her own hot sauce. Lo & Slo launched in 2018 and in addition to its award-winning Barbecue Sauce and Vinegar Mop, now produces delicious dry rubs and hot street food. You can try Lo & Slo, a member of the LegenDerry Food and Drink Network, for yourself at the Christmas Winterland Market in Derry’s Guildhall Square from December 12th to 15th.

You created Lo & Slo sauces during a very difficult time for you and your family. What were those early days like?

I was stress cooking and force-feeding people! I had a lot of insomnia and I was either baking or cooking or making sauces – anything with food – to take the chaos of our lives and bring a sense of peace and control. My brother visited from the States and saw there was a gap in the market here for an American doing BBQ. With investment help from him, I was able to take it to the Foodovation Centre (in Derry’s North West Regional College), and buy packaging and ingredients. I also got lots of advice at council events and would go and speak to different chefs and butchers with my notebook. I don’t have a business background, so it’s been such a learning curve.

How did it feel to see the finished product for the first time?

It was very, very surreal. Especially because we came out of such a tumultuous time for the family. To see something tangible I could hold, it felt like the key to our future. But it was also really scary. When we took the sauces to last year’s Slow Food Festival, it was incredible. My favourite memory was watching people’s faces as they tasted them. These were strangers who believed in me, my sauce and my business.

How has the business grown since then?

We now have a production unit, rubs and a seasoning blend (with local dulse seaweed). And we’ve moved into hot food catering – I opened up Gumtree one day and stumbled across a food truck for sale locally, all kitted out, so we bought it. After making some small changes, we took it to the LegenDerry Street Food Festival this July. I couldn’t have anticipated how well we did there. I’m also looking into exporting the sauces.

Tell us about the LegenDerry Food and Drink Network?

It’s fabulous. It links up producers of food and drink, chefs, people in hospitality, and tourism. It’s also championing something unique in our city, the Lough Foyle Irish Flat Oyster. It’s about how the food network will benefit the city, and when the city does well, businesses do well.

How has Derry changed since you moved here 14 years ago?

My dad is from New York and I grew up in Philadelphia. In Derry, everything closed at 5pm and I didn’t know how people got anything done! Things have changed now. The only evening option then was to go out drinking, but now there are things like late night coffee shops and more exercise clubs. And there’s so much great food now; there’s an inverse diaspora where local people like Stephen Forbes (from Mekong Street Food) have come back with flavours from their travels. And there are places like La Tia Juana’s, and 2 North, where people who’ve made Derry their home are sharing cuisine from their own countries.

What are your go-to places for food here?

My dad knew all the alleyways to go down for really good Chinese food in New York, so whenever I get stressed or tired, those are the flavours I crave and I go to Mekong Street Food. The Walled City Brewery does probably the best pork burger I’ve ever had. Sean Harrigan at the Sooty Olive is doing really cool things, and 9ine Hostages on Waterloo Street does really good coffee – I like their pour-over coffee. And I love Doherty’s stew with special mince. I don’t try and make it myself, they do it so well.

What was Christmas like growing up in Philadelphia?

It was really normal to get at least two feet of snow. We would have cleared the snow from the grill outside and just cooked on it. It was cold but it was fun. We didn’t have lots of traditions so my memories are different from every year, but my mom always made cookies. When I moved here, she used to send me parcels full of different cookies.

What are your plans this Christmas?

We’re spending it here. We’ll have the Christmas boxes with pyjamas, and hot chocolate the night before. On Christmas Day we’re cooking dinner and bringing it over to my in-laws – I’m making some special stuffing with cranberries, chestnuts and orange zest but otherwise it will be the traditional Christmas dinner.

What would you say to someone thinking of moving to Derry?

Pack warm clothes! No, I think if anybody has moved away, I would definitely encourage them to give it a second chance. The warmth of the people has stayed the same, but the place has changed so much.

Technical fire engineering services specialist, Joule Group is winning new business in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar following R&D investment. The new contracts are being delivered by the team in Northern Ireland, creating 16 new jobs at its Londonderry headquarters.

The company offers consultancy expertise on fire engineering design, construction and operational processes. Its digital technology platform, Total Fire Solutions (TFS), improves fire safety in buildings such as airports, hotels, retail and sports venues.

It has recently secured fire engineering consultancy services on two major infrastructure projects with a stadium project in Doha and airport development in the UAE. These are multi-year deals for complex engineering projects.

The company already has a portfolio of prestigious projects across 10 different countries from Europe to Middle East and North Africa. This includes working on 10 of the signature super high rise towers in King Abdullah Financial District in Saudi Arabia which will host the G20 Summit in 2020.

John Noone, co-founder and director of Joule Group, said: “We are striving to create a safer world through our transformational technology and are committed to digital fire safety globally. The continual support we have received from Invest NI has been invaluable to the growth of our business.

“By undertaking R&D we have been able to develop our TFS product and secure innovative export deals with globally renowned companies. Business is developing rapidly so we have created a specialist team in the North West to focus on growing in international markets.”

Invest Northern Ireland has offered the company support of over £200,000 to innovate through R&D and to expand its workforce, as well as support towards export market visits. Job opportunities at the company include software engineers, fire engineers, a business support manager and business director. Recruitment is underway, with seven of the 16 roles in place.

Des Gartland, North West Regional Office Manager, Invest NI, said: “Joule Group is a perfect example of how, when a business invests in R&D and in exploring new export markets, it can grow its business and lead to new job creation.

“Our support, both financial and advisory, has helped the company to reach its full potential and we are delighted to see the team grow here. The company’s specialist expertise in the fire engineering sector is already delivering success in international markets, and we look forward to seeing them continue their growth.”

Joule Group’s innovation has been recognised nationally with the Disruptor of the Year award at the Ulster Bank Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards 2019.

The company also has offices in Belfast, London, Doha and Dubai.