Derry’s Millennium Forum is to stage a special cultural showcase – featuring snapshots of the region’s music, literature and art – for returning expats later this month.

The event – sponsored by the new diaspora association, Futureproof Northwest, which is made up of expats from Derry, Donegal and Tyrone – will take place at the Forum on October 28.

It will include a choral recital, hosted by Maurice Kelly (Allegri) and guests; a new exhibition of paintings of Derry street-scenes from the last century, by Bridget Murray; and the launch of the late John Bryson’s definitive historical reference guide to the city, ‘Derry’s Streets: 521-2021’.

Futureproof chair Sean Downey said the diaspora group, which was inaugurated at Dublin’s Mansion House in 2019, aims to support conversations that will help the region.

Mr Downey explained: ‘We want to encourage the diaspora of the North West to connect, share ideas and experience, exchange contacts and create opportunities

‘As part of this, we plan to organise activities and events to promote networking and relationship-building and strengthen the community of Northwesterners across the islands and further afield.

‘We also hope to provide support through the network to people in the North West and the diaspora across these islands and further afield seeking to develop business, promote culture and foster educational opportunities.’

Futureproof North West has previously held events at the Mansion House and the Bank of Ireland Exhibition Centre in Dublin.

Further information on the group, is available at futureproofnorthwest.com.

To register for the event click here

Female entrepreneurs have just one week left to apply for a spot on a new accelerator-lite programme from AwakenHub which aims to provide support for women who are interested in starting their own business. 

SheGenerate is open to women from across the island of Ireland who have recently started a new business venture or who have an idea but are struggling to access the tools, information and support needed to get the business off the ground. 

35 spaces will be available (15 of which are being targeted at women in Northern Ireland) and the programme will be made up of a series of workshops, tailored to meet the needs of those enrolled, along with access to community events and advice and signposting from the programme founders and a hand picked group of Big Sisters who are company builders, innovators, investors and serial entrepreneurs. 

SheGenerate is the latest in a long line of innovations delivered by AwakenHub which have all been aimed at driving and securing economic investment and opportunities in the North West. It’s founders include Angel Investor, Mary McKenna; Business Growth Enabler, Clare McGee; Leadership Consultant Sinead Crowley; and Entrepreneur, Mary Carty. The foursome bring a wealth of knowledge and real life experience of growing and starting a business to SheGenerate and can offer successful applicants hugely sought after mentorship opportunities. 

Co-Founders Mary McKenna and Clare McGee  urged anyone interested in learning more about the event to come along to an Expression of Interest event on Tuesday September 28. 

“We know that many women have been inspired or impacted by Covid-19 to start or grow a new business venture but noticed that many struggled to find the right level of support to help them take ideas to the next level. 

“SheGenerate is open to women from across the island of Ireland working in any background or sector who are prepared to take the plunge, do the work and get trading within the next 12 months. 

“Thanks to our programme funders, Ulster Bank and Rethink Ireland, we can offer a place to 35 female entrepreneurs who will have access to mentorship, peer support and workshops to get their business up and running and create all of the positive economic and social change which comes along with this.”

John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager with Ulster Bank, which has supported SheGenerate through its Enterprise Funding Grants, said it was important these programmes were available to existing and potential entrepreneurs. 

“At Ulster Bank we are committed to supporting female entrepreneurs and providing them with the tools and networks they need to start or scale a business. This partnership with SheGenerate has the potential to deliver transformative change for women; particularly those in the North West, and we are pleased to have been able to play a role in bringing female entrepreneurs even closer to potential investors through the Enterprise Partner Funding grant. 

“We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the project and wish each of the participants well as they make the most of this exciting opportunity and take the next step of their business journey.”

Applications will close at 5pm on Friday October 8 and those unable to attend the Expression of Interest event can register their details here . 

For more information about the programme and it’s founders, visit www.awakenhub.com  

Nicola Hunter had a successful career in investment banking, working as a consultant in London’s Canary Wharf before landing a place at Ulster University’s brand-new School of Medicine at Magee – the first graduate entry medical school in Northern Ireland.

The Antrim woman, who has a degree in accountancy from Jordanstown, is one of 70 post-graduate students training to become a doctor on the four-year course. Alongside her studies, the 25-year-old is also still employed part-time as a consultant with Vox Financial Partners in Belfast.

Congratulations on being part of the new medical school’s first intake! How is the course going so far?

There was so much excitement on the first day. Walking up towards the library and the medical school building, there were news reporters and TV cameras everywhere. I got interviewed by the BBC on my way in – I still haven’t brought myself to watch that back yet!

The facilities are amazing and they’ve set the course out very well – especially for me coming from a non-science background. There are quite a lot of courses where for the first two years you’re just learning the scientific aspects, whereas at Ulster we were straight in with a case to work on immediately. So, you’re getting the clinical side of it along with the science. You’re very much working off real-life examples, which keeps it interesting.

One of the main reasons I chose this course was that, yes you need to know the scientific background to be a confident doctor, but you also need to know how to talk to people. We have clinical skills groups every week for a full afternoon where you’re going through those core communication skills of how to treat a person, not just whatever disease or illness is in front of you. 

Why did you make the switch from accountancy to medicine?

I’d always wanted to do medicine, but it’s so competitive to get into. I was always very good at maths, so it was sort of a spur of the moment decision during my A levels to give accountancy a go. It turned out to not be my cup of tea, but I knew it was a good degree to have. By the time I got to final year, I knew I didn’t want to train to be an accountant, but I needed a break from exams.

I worked in investment banking in Belfast for a while, did some travelling in Vancouver, then took a job working in investment banking in Canary Wharf. I was project manager on a Brexit team while I was studying for the Gamsat (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test). The hours were crazy – you were getting up, working all day until God knows what time, revising at lunchtime, and then having to revise for hours at night. But by some miracle, I passed!

How was the move from London to Derry?

London is such a fast-paced life, you’re out every night doing different things, but it’s nice to be home and get a bit of a breath back. I moved from London on the Friday and started uni on the Monday. The first day home I was straight to the beach. Getting out and being able to walk in the fresh air, and not be surrounded by traffic and skyscrapers, is fantastic.

Derry has that homely feeling. People here actually want to stop and speak to you in shops and cafes, they’ll chat away to you, so it was really nice to come back to that. I’m looking forward to exploring the beaches up here properly and going to the bars and restaurants here.

Will you bring any skills from your previous career into medicine?

In consultancy, you’re used to working in an environment that is high pressure and long hours. I think time management and knowing how to balance those things will help massively. I’m still working part time for Vox, they’ve been very encouraging and accommodating. letting me work very flexibly. 

How do you find studying medicine during a global pandemic?

You want to be able to help; I suppose that’s one of the main reasons for wanting to be a doctor. So Covid didn’t really put me off in any way. I’m looking forward to being out on the GP placement and even in the hospital. 

What are the other students like on the course?

It’s very diverse, and the age range is broad too. There are people from quite a scientific background – biomedicine, pharmacy, a few nursing students and physios, and then we have people who’ve done social work, and people me who did something completely different like accountancy or business. It means when you’re in a group looking at a case, there are so many different ways of thinking that you just wouldn’t get on an undergraduate course, where everyone’s done science A-Levels and they’re all starting fresh.

Have you thought about what type of medicine you’d like to specialise in?

I’d be leaning towards something like emergency medicine, A and E. I clearly love to be stressed! Or some sort of surgery perhaps – Ear, Nose and Throat surgery has always appealed to me. 

https://www.ulster.ac.uk/faculties/life-and-health-sciences/medicine

Congratulations have poured in for “sensational” Eglinton sprinter Jason Smyth, who took home gold at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Smyth, 34, won the men’s 100m – T13 on day five of the games, in a time of 10.53 seconds.

This brings his total gold medal haul to six, having previously won golds for Ireland at the Beijing, London and Rio Paralympics.

Graham Warke paid tribute to “another sensational performance” by Smyth, who is visually impaired.

First Minister Paul Givan said: “It is once again my pleasure to be applauding an athlete who ranks among the best we have ever produced.”

The Carnival of Colours returned in September to brighten up Derry city centre with acrobatics, circus performers, graffiti art, live music and much more.

Check out the highlights:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p–gCDpsHWE

Derry’s Walled City Brewery has beat hundreds of other taprooms to be crowned the best in the UK.

The Ebrington Square business, which has created more than 200 beers and received multiple accolades since it opened in 2015, was named Taproom of the Year at the nationwide Pub and Bar Awards.

WCB fought off competition from an estimated 600 other UK taprooms to win the top prize, with organisers called it “a cracking operation”.

The brewery, run by James and Louise Huey, is also planning a major expansion which will see it open a standalone Taproom and Experience Centre in 2022.

LegenDerry Food has given its seal of approval to 17 more eateries and local producers this year, bringing the total number of members to 70.

The network was established to celebrate high-quality produce and the food heritage of the city and region, from street food trucks and award-winning fine dining, to craft brewers and artisan producers.

Last year saw the development and launch of the LegenDerry brand, complete with a new website providing a central hub for accessing unique food, drink and taste experiences in Derry, Strabane and the surrounding area.

As a certified LegenDerry provider, businesses are showcased on the LegenDerry website and receive a suite of marketing material to signpost their venues or produce with the ‘LegenDerry – Great Place, Great Taste’ stamp of approval.

LegenDerry Food was the result of a Food and Drink Strategy launched in February 2019 by Derry City and Strabane District Council, as part of its wider plan to drive tourism and place the region on the map as Ireland’s top food location by 2025.

Selina Horshi, new Chair of the LegenDerry Food and Drink Network, said: “We are always happy to welcome new businesses onboard this exciting and innovative project and we look forward with anticipation to continued development in the weeks and months ahead.”

To find out more, visit www.legenderryfood.com

One of Ireland’s leading diaspora initiatives has launched a new network of regional partners to connect people of Irish heritage abroad with their places of origin.

Ireland Reaching Out is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organisation connecting people of Irish heritage with the local community in their place of origin in Ireland and online through its platform, www.IrelandXO.com.

It has established an Irish Partner Network to improve the service offered to diaspora as they visit Ireland, north and south. One of the first organisations to join the network is the Tower Museum, which will cover Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh and Antrim.

Ireland Reaching Out plans to build on the increase in people tracing their Irish roots during the lockdowns, and who wish to travel to Ireland as the country begins to reopen. As well as the Tower Museum, Visit Castlebar and Ballyhoura Development CLG, Ireland Reaching Out is now seeking other interested regional heritage and tourism groups to join.

Derry has been named “a perfect base for road tripping”, and praised for its fantastic festivals and historic walls, in a list of the UK’s most hidden gem cities.

Travel writer Monica Stott, of The Travel Hack blog, included Derry as one of 10 ‘underrated’ cities she believes do not get the attention they deserve.

Stott said: “Derry is one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe and is the only intact walled city in Ireland. Derry’s Craft Village is a small but perfect ‘village’ within the walls with a quaint charm and boutique stores and creative crafters selling their wares.                 

“Keep an eye out for an array of festivals in the city, particularly the Halloween festival which was voted the best in the world by USA Today! Derry is also a perfect base for road tripping and from here you can explore the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coastal Route.”

Ulster University’s Pro Vice Chancellor of Research Liam Maguire was joined by colleagues from the Derry-based Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC) at a Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Showcase in London.

Representatives from the university’s Engineering Composites Research Centre and Research and Impact Directorate also attended the event, which featured the best of Northern Ireland’s innovative businesses, start-ups and universities, showcasing what the region offers as an inward investment location and as a trade partner.

The Northern Ireland Office, the Department for International Trade and Invest NI partnered to host the September showcase, which Dr Alexander Chacko, UU’s head of Innovation and Impact, said “spread the message that Northern Ireland’s innovators, tech start-ups, and universities are leading the way in post-pandemic recovery.”